The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

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(My amazing friend Amy gave this to me as a birthday gift!) 💕

“Nothing ever truly faded. Time only dulled the edges.”

Friends, I’m going to be real with you all upfront; this is a really fucked up book. Before I even start my review, I’m going to list all the content and trigger warnings: graphic rape, pedophilia, penetration using an object, graphic deaths, mention of suicide, loss of a loved one, police brutality, racist comments, hurtful ableist comments, misgendering, arson, a school shooting, extreme bullying, miscarriages, grey-area cheating, and a lot of violence. Please use caution and make sure you are in a safe mindset before picking this story up, and before reading my review.

I also want to state that I haven’t been reading thrillers lately. This has been my first crime thriller in a few years, actually. But regardless, Karin Slaughter really blew me away. I knew going in that she is a very beloved thriller author, and now I can totally see why. This story, as dark as it is, is so intelligently and expertly crafted. The twists were hard to see coming, the parallels left me haunted, and the ending was so very brutal.

This is a story about two sisters who are still grieving from a harrowing, unspeakable, horrible event that happened to them twenty-eight years ago. The book starts out with a flashback chapter, where we quickly learn that a home invasion is happening, because the girls’ father is a very liberal lawyer in a very conservative and small town.

Charlie – Has stayed close to her father and is still living in the town that has never made her feel welcome, but especially after that dark day. Charlie is a lawyer, currently separated from her husband, while grieving so many losses, and just happened to have her first one-night stand.

Sam – Moved far away from the town that hurt her and her family. Sam is a very successful lawyer in New York, but she keeps a great distance from her sister and father. She is also disabled, uses a cane at times, really has to focus on her speech, and has limited vision. Sam is grieving all alone, while trying to forget everything she has left behind.

These two sisters haven’t seen each other in a decade, but a new terrible event in their small hometown brings them both back together. And they both, unwillingly, become completely tangled up in a new case that could send a possibly innocent girl to death row. I loved both of these sisters so very much. I will say that I probably enjoyed Charlie’s point of view a little more, but I liked Sam’s character more.

Another thing I want to briefly touch on is that Charlie and Sam’s father’s best friend, Lenore, is a transwoman. There are flashbacks to before Lenore had transitioned, and her deadname is used. I don’t remember any “hurtful” comments, but there are a few careless comments, that do involve misgendering, so please use caution. I really did love this character so much, and I was happy with the inclusion, but it could have been done a lot more respectfully. Also, I am cis, but I would love to hear from trans reviewers about how they feel.

I don’t want to give anything away, because the secrets and mysteries are what make thrillers so much fun to read, but I’m going to try to tell you why this ended up being a four star read, but I’m going to be very vague. But maybe skip over this paragraph if you want to go completely blind into this story. Rusty actually irritated me throughout the novel, but he did have his redeeming parts where I actually started to like him. But the ending, and his secret really pissed me off. Like, infuriated me. I get he thought what he was doing was protecting, but it wasn’t, it was fucked up. The other thing was I really didn’t like the way Kelly’s story ended. It just left me feeling depressed, and heartbroken, and I really wish Charlie would have taken her under her wing or something. I hate seeing sad cycles continue to be sad, and I just wish I could have gotten a little more happiness, especially for a character who needed happiness so badly. Basically, the first 80% of this book is an easy five star read, but the ending left me a little too sad to give it.

Overall, I really loved my first Karin Slaughter book. I think this book would be perfect for the spooky, Halloween season (as long as you are in a safe mindset)! I think this was expertly crafted and it really did keep me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I fell so hard in love with these two main characters, even though my heart was breaking constantly for them. But this story blew me away, left me breathless, and I can’t wait to pick up another book by this author!


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Buddy Read with Paloma, Stephanie, & BookishBotanist! ❤

Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction edited by Irene Gallo

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ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

Tor is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year and are coming out with this anthology that showcases some of the best short stories written this decade! Happy birthday, Tor! Tor is my personal favorite publishing house. Not only have they always been amazing to me, they are putting out some of the most diverse, important, world changing literature on the market right now. I’m honored to help them celebrate with this beautiful anthology!

Many of these stories I have already read throughout the year, but many were completely new to me! My personal favorites were from N. K. Jemisin, Tina Connolly, Marie Brennan, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Wong, and Haralambi Markov! But my absolute favorite of the entire collection was The Devil in America by Kai Ashante Wilson.

Since this is a massive collection of forty stories, I’m going to try to only do brief breakdowns with my thoughts!

“Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders – ★★
Lord, I feel so bad doing this. But I really didn’t like the first story of the collection. It’s about two clairvoyants who are thinking about dating. Yet, Doug and Judy know all the possible outcomes for what is yet to come. But, like, I really didn’t like some of the cultural references in this, and… I just hated Doug if I’m really being honest here. I sort of appreciate the message of “fate vs actions and the fall out from them” but I just really didn’t like this one.

“Damage” by David D. Levine – ★★★
I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest military sci-fi fan in general. But this story is told from an AI ship’s point of view during a space war, and I thought it was pretty unique.

“The Best We Can” by Carrie Vaughn – ★★★★

“The greatest discovery in all of human history and funding held it hostage.”

This is such a sad, but honest, look at what could happen if we truly found other life in our galaxy. The discussion in this is so important, and I was honestly in awe while reading this from first to last page. I completely recommend this first contact story with extraterrestrial intelligence, as depressing as it is.

“The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin – ★★★★★

“…poor kid, should’ve eaten more organic; should’ve taken it easy and not been so angry; the world can’t hurt you if you just ignore everything that’s wrong with it; well, not until it kills you anyway.”

All the stars, always, to every masterpiece that my SFF queen creates. This is a story about a young, homeless, queer, black boy in New York City, doing everything in his power to survive. But the cities in this world? They are actually born, and sometimes even born anew. And the cops? They are for sure the villains. You all, this story is important and speak volumes, just like everything Jemisin writes. She seamless weaves topics that need to be heard today into her fantasy. And I loved this. And like, I need more from this world and from this character. And the time skip at the end has given me hope.

“A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel” by Yoon Ha Lee – ★★★★★
I have loved everything I’ve read by Yoon Ha Lee, and this was no different. I loved reading all these brief vignettes, describing different cultures that have developed different ways to travel intergalactically. I loved the different species, I loved the short glimpses, and I honestly just love Yoon Ha Lee and his beautiful mind! And the ending was perfection.

“Waiting on a Bright Moon” by JY Yang – ★★★★★
Friends, I loved this. This is a tale about a group of magical women (ansibles) that are able to create portals and send magical messages, but they are forced to serve the government. But this is a story about rebellion, and fighting back, and doing whatever it takes to protect yourself and the ones you love. Also, there is a f/f romance in here that actually gave me life. This story goes from so heartbreaking to so heartwarming in a mere instant, and it just feels so perfectly balanced and woven. Also, the incorporation of Chinese language was a perfect addition, in my opinion.

“Elephants and Corpses” by Kameron Hurley – ★★
I’ll be honest, I didn’t like how some of the gender aspects of this were handled. Especially when it comes to people who literary jump into other bodies to live. I don’t know, it just made me uncomfortable, honestly.

“About Fairies” by Pat Murphy – ★★★★★

“My name is Jennifer. I am on my way to a toy company in Redwood City to have a meeting about fairies.”

I went into this thinking it was going to be a really fun read about fae, but it ended up being a really harrowing tale about death and illness of one’s parents. This was unexpectedly hard hitting, and it really made me feel a lot of unexpected emotions. Plus, Peter Pan, cats, magic, and fae? It’s always going to be a good combo.

“The Hanging Game” by Helen Marshall – ★
TW for death and miscarrying. This is about a girl who reminisces about “the hanging game” she used to play with her neighbors when she was young, which is exactly what it sounds like. And one of them was killed. Then we get to see her ten years later, paying for it. But, like, also paying for all the other adults that would kill bears? I get that we have to “pay for the sins of our fathers” but this was just too much for me. You all, I don’t know. I just hated this one, honestly.

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu – ★★★

“The water that falls on you from nowhere is freezing cold. I slip on the couch, but it just follows me. When it’s this much water, it numbs you to the bone.”

This is about a Chinese man trying to come out to his family before marrying his boyfriend. I didn’t dislike it, even though I hated the sister with a fiery passion, but it just felt a little bit pointless. And it didn’t feel SFF-like to me whatsoever. But the writing was so very beautiful.

“A Cup of Salt Tears” by Isabel Yap – ★★★
This was a sad little story, centered around grief and the different stages we go through trying to fill the void of loss. And how every generation will go through the feeling of loss, inevitably. And one day in a hot tub, our main character is greeted by a mythical river spirit that has done some pretty terrible things, yet still has found room for love.

“The Litany of Earth” by Ruthanna Emrys – ★★★
I’ve never read, nor do I know a lot about Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, but I think if I did I would have appreciated this a lot more. Yet, I still thought this was really well written and I did enjoy it, and really thought it had a lot of important things to say about xenophobia.

“Brimstone and Marmalade” by Aaron Corwin – ★★★★

“All Mathilde wanted for her birthday was a pony. Instead, she got a demon.”

This is the perfect Halloween read! And this was also hilarious! But this is also just a story about growing up, getting new responsibilities, and sometimes getting a lot more than you bargained for. I did finish it feeling a little sad, though, and very much in need of my own personal demon.

“Reborn” by Ken Liu – ★★★
This is the first in a series that Ken Liu has started based off illustrations by Richard Anderson. This entire story poses the scary question are we ourselves because of who we just are or is it based of the memories of everything that has happened to us?

“Please Undo This Hurt” by Seth Dickinson – ★★★

“So much hurt to try to heal. And the healing hurts too much.”

This is a story about an EMT that has to see some pretty heartbreaking things every single day. Yet, this story is also about breaking up, moving on, and seeing the person you shared a piece of your heart with moving on, too. This is also a story about people who feel like no one cares about them at all.

“The Language of Knives” by Haralambi Markov – ★★★★★

“You hold your breath, aching to lean over and kiss him one more time—but that is forbidden. His body is now sacred, and you are not.”

I’ll be honest with you, this one was a little strange for me. It is also told in second person, which is always a tiny bit jarring for me, especially when “you” are preparing your husband’s dead body, and your daughter is helping. This is a story about honoring and loving your culture, but it’s also a story about death and getting older and realizing that your kids are their own humans. And this was easily one of the most beautifully written short stories in the entire collection.

“The Shape of My Name” by Nino Cipri – ★★★★

“Two small words could never encompass everything you have to apologize for.”

This is going to be considered a spoiler, but this story stars a transman and it’s used as a plot device. I still really enjoyed the story, but it needs to be said. This is a story about love and acceptance and how sometimes it’s very hard to get those two things from your family. This is a sad story, but also a beautiful one about identity, and I really did enjoy it a lot.

“Eros, Philia, Agape” by Rachel Swirsky – ★
I’m going to be brief but – being single in your thirties is completely fine. But instead this woman, who had been sexually abused by her father, builds an android and then they have a child together. Oh, and then the android has a midlife crisis and leaves them. And the rest of the story starts to not even make sense. This just wasn’t for me. I would have preferred this story to just be about Ben and Lawrence.

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal – ★★★★
This won the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, so I was a little excited and nervous to read it, but I was overall super impressed. This was able to evoke so much emotion from me in 20 pages too. This is a wonderful little sci-fi tale about the love between two people, but also the love that they have for their separate passions.

“Last Son of Tomorrow” by Greg van Eekhout – ★★
I’ve said it before, but I’m just not a big superhero fan, especially in my literature. This is a new take on Superman, it just wasn’t for me. I’m sorry.

“Ponies” by Kij Johnson – ★★★★
I can’t believe I’m giving a My Little Pony story a glowing review, but here we are. In this world, the little girls go to a party where they have to cut two of three things off their pony if they want to be part of the group, but our main character soon realizes that the more you give in to peer pressure, the more and more people will take from you. This is a story about conformity and doing what you know is right inside your heart and soul, not what people in power tell you is right. Damn, this really does feel like a My Little Pony episode.

“La beauté sans vertu” by Genevieve Valentine – ★★★
Oh man, this was a loud message to the fashion industry, because this is a story about models who routinely go under the knife to replace their limbs from younger people. We follow a nineteen-year-old girl, who really shines a spotlight on trends and the things we will do for the sake of what is considered beauty by society.

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong – ★★★★★

“If I could knit you a crown of potential futures like the daisies you braided together for me when we were young, I would. None of them would end with you burning to death at the edge of our property, beaten senseless in the wash behind the house by drunken college boys, slowly cut to pieces at home by parents who wanted you only in one shape, the one crafted in their image.”

Full disclosure: Alyssa Wong is my short story queen. I think I have five starred every single thing I’ve read by her. This is about two sisters (one named Melanie *fangirls forever* and one named Hannah) who harness the power to turn back time. Yet, Hannah can’t seem to use it to save her sister. This is a story about how her sister dies each time, regardless of what is different. But all the TW for death, suicide, parental abuse, one misgendering comment, and sexual assault/rape. Also, it is very subtly written, but I’m very confident that Melanie was a transwoman. So, obviously that can be really hard for people to read, so please make sure you are in the right headspace. But this is a story about trauma and grief and how sometimes you can’t save people, no matter how much you feel like losing them is literally feeling like ending your own world. This short story holds so much heartbreak in its pages, but its such an important tale about feeling responsible for things that are not in our control. Alyssa’s prose is nothing short of magic, I fall in love with every character she crafts, and each story means more to me than the rest. I loved this with my entire heart and soul.

“A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone – ★
This story was so difficult for me to read. I didn’t connect with the writing style whatsoever, and it felt ungodly longer than the rest of the stories in this collection. This story focuses on a modern-day version of Vlad the Impaler, where he is trying to live a normal life, and raise a normal son, while also trying to control his urge to function as a vampire. He becomes obsessed with his son’s teacher and begins to literally stalk her. To drink from? To kill? To fuck? Who knows, but it is supposed to be a “you can work out your problems if you love each other enough, while still being able to be who you are” story, but it didn’t work in the slightest for me. Also, I’m just personally so sick of Vlad the Impaler retellings.

“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly – ★★★★★
Saffron is an official food taster for a Duke who everyone wants dead. Yeah, not an ideal job. But the Duke makes her take it because her husband, Danny, is the pastry chef! And no good husband would poison his wife, right? But the Duke soon sees that Danny puts magic in every bite. I loved this, and I loved the shining light on memories and not only what they mean to us, but how they also impact our lives forever.

“The End of the End of Everything” by Dale Bailey – ★★
This was a gross one! Like, I’m surprised at how much horror is in this collection, honestly. But basically, this is a short about the wealthy seeing impending doom coming, so they go to a lavish party each night, where the host will end the evening by killing themselves. And since it’s the apocalypse, people are leaving the world in some really graphic and mortifying ways. I was completely captivated while reading, and I do think the meaning of the story, about value and the price we place on things, was good. But, this was a little too much (sexual and dark) for me.

“Breaking Water” by Indrapramit Das – ★★★
I loved so many things about this but was also bored with so many things about this. I honestly just felt like it went on too long. But I love that it’s set in India, and I love the fresh take on zombies, when our main character finds a body in the river. And I loved the discussion on our responsibility to humankind.

“Your Orisons May Be Recorded” by Laurie Penny – ★★★
This was VERY different! Angels and demons coming together after a merger. And we get to see prayers get answered through a call center, even! And I for sure think this is trying to be funny, which it was, but wanting to sleep only with human men? In 2018? I’m about to phone in a prayer.

“The Tallest Doll in New York City” by Maria Dahvana Headley – ★★★★★
Be still, my heart! This was so amazingly unique! I loved it! This story is set in New York, where the tall buildings and structures move on their own. This tale is told on Valentine’s Day, and the storyteller is a waiter in a club that works high up inside one of these moving buildings. I loved seeing all these iconic structures choose one another and pair up for Valentine’s Day. And the story is told so beautifully, whimsically, and romantically, that you can’t help but fall in love with it.

“The Cage” by A.M. Dellamonica – ★★★★
I loved this f/f story! This is a sapphic romance between two humans, but this is for sure set in a paranormal world with werewolves, and evil monster hunters. Jude meets Paige while she is newly raising her sister’s baby, who just happens to be part werewolf! And the two girls come together to not only defeat evil, but to establish a found family and find love.

“In the Sight of Akresa” by Ray Wood – ★
I hated this f/f story! Also, this story is about a slave girl who gets their tongue taken, and I had a really visceral reading experience while reading the opening scene, so use caution, friends. Then, her “owner’s” daughter starts to have feelings for her and puts her fingers in her mouth like constantly (ew). And the entire story is told in second person about their relationship through the slave owner’s daughter’s eyes. And… it’s just depressing and wasn’t enjoyable to read at all.

“Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar – ★★★
This is a story about people who choose to take a one-way trip to Mars, because they are dying. But this book is about the journey going to Mars, where we see different people and what they are leaving behind. This is emotional and powerful, but it left me feeling helpless and hollow.

“The Witch of Duva: A Ravkan Folk Tale” by Leigh Bardugo – ★★★★★

“There was a time when the woods near Duva ate girls.”

I can’t recommend you read it enough, because this short story actually shook my entire world. This is such a perfectly woven and absolutely haunting tale about a village who is mourning their lost girls, while also trying to endure very hard winters. And the ending of this story is beyond words, and turned me into a crying, melted, weeping, puddle on the floor. Also, this one should probably have a few trigger warnings for abuse (physical/sexual) and just violence in general, even though these things are very vague in the story they are still there, just woven in quietly.

“Daughter of Necessity” by Marie Brennan – ★★★★★

“He is on the island of Kalypso, prisoner and guest. The nymph sings as she walks to and fro across her loom, weaving with a shuttle of gold.”

In case you didn’t read my review for Circe, Greek mythology is my actual kink and I will always have the softest spot for Odysseus. This is a short story about Penelope, alone, raising her son, all while Odysseus is missing. And, friends, I loved this with the sum of my being.

“Among the Thorns” by Veronica Schanoes – ★★★★

“They made my father dance in thorns before they killed him. I used to think that this was a metaphor, that they beat him with thorny vines, perhaps. But I was wrong about that. They made him dance.”

This wasn’t an easy read, but it’s now one of my favorite tales of vengeance. This story is a retelling of the Grimm Brother’s “The Jew in the Thorns”. But this is also a story about love, and Itte’s character is one that will stick with me for quite some time.

“These Deathless Bones” by Cassandra Khaw – ★★
Heavy TW for animal abuse with this one. This is horror short story about a little boy growing up and his stepmother, who is a witch and is the only one that sees him for what he really is. I think this is an eerie, spooky, unique read, but I never enjoyed reading it.

“Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch” by Kelly Barnhill – ★★★
Never did I ever think I would read a story about a Sasquatch wearing a fedora, but here we are. But this was a wonderful story about what it means to be happy and how everyone has a different idea of what happiness is. And how some people will live their entire lives living other’s happiness and never their own. After the death of Mrs. Sorensen’s husband, she is in search of the happiness she was ignoring while she was married. And even though her husband was a good man, he wasn’t the right man for her and she was never able to accomplish her dreams. And now she has a chance to live her life for herself and her own happiness, regardless of what a judgmental town of people think. And this entire story is told from the point of view of the town’s priest, who is also questioning his life and his happiness.

“This World Is Full of Monsters” by Jeff VanderMeer – ★★★★★

“I had not been alone. The story-creature had always been there, silent beside me, breathing beneath me, waiting for me to wake to its presence, to understand where I really was. But I would never understand. How could I? I had not understood the story to begin with.”

I’ve never read anything by Vandermeer before, but this made me instantly want to rectify that. This writing isn’t going to be for everyone, but it was completely and wholeheartedly for me. It’s so strange, and so out there, but so beautiful. This story feels like a spell is being cast, like pure magic is being woven, and I really loved it.

“The Devil in America” by Kai Ashante Wilson – ★★★★★
Use care going into this one, friends. This is a very dark and horrific tale, but if you are in the right mindset, please give this one a read. This story accurately depicts American slavery, and is set right after The Civil War, and Easter is a black child living during the horrors. This story will leave you unsettled, and even though this is fiction and set in the 1870s, filled with magic and the paranormal, it still shines a light still on what it means to be black in America today. The author said what sparked their inspiration for this story was an interview with Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother: ”Trayvon Martin’s murder was only the latest iteration of a very old pattern: someone in America, black and innocent, killed by someone else, white and manifestly guilty of unjustified murder. Of course I’d seen it before, and we all know how this thing works.” If you can read only one short story from this collection, please pick this one. This is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read in my entire life.

“A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star” by Kathleen Ann Goonan – ★★★
This was a nice closing story about a girl wanting to become an astronaut and rocket scientist, while growing up in a world that doesn’t believe she can. And I really did enjoy this one, but I kind of feel like there was too much going on, and her dad started stealing the show a bit. And, it didn’t necessary feeling like an SFF story, but more a literary science one.

Out of a possible 200 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 40 stories) this collection accumulated 138 stars (69% *winky face*).

Overall, I completely recommend it! And if you’ve stayed this long – 1.) I love you and 2.) you can read most of these stories for free on Tor.com! Seriously, just type the title in the search engine if any of these intrigue you! But I really do think that this is a collection worth purchasing, and I believe with my whole heart that Tor is a company worth supporting.


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“I fell in love with the forest. And the forest loved me back. And so we traded hearts. Mine is here, larger and stronger than it could have been in the small cavern of my body”

I’ve read over one-hundred books so far in 2018, and Strange Grace is easily my absolute favorite. And I anticipate that it will be my favorite book of 2018 come December 31st, too. What a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Literally perfection. A true gift to the literary world. Friends, if you’re looking for a spooky book, with a dark fairy-tale vibe, that heavily talks about society’s gender expectations, while being a love letter to gender fluidity, with the most heartwarming polyamorous relationship, look no further than this masterpiece.

“The old god and the youngest Grace witch. The story says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all?”

In Three Graces, no harm comes to anyone. Babies are born safe, and parents deliver in less pain. Crops are perfect and produce an abundance. Animals never get sick. People heal from cuts overnight and broken bones in a few days. This village is magical, and the community is able to thrive without fear, except for one thing. That one thing? Oh, the devil in the forest that surrounds the village.

Long ago, there were three witches. And the youngest one fell in love with the devil in the village and chose to give him her heart. And together, they made a deal. Every seventh year, when the slaughter moon comes, and the red from the Bone Tree releases, the best boy from the village will run into the forest, willing to sacrifice his life to protect his village for another seven years.

Except this year, the forest is requesting another boy, even though the village should be safe for another three years. The village has to come together and decide what to do. Should they sacrifice their newest best boy, in hopes that the devil that dwells in the forest will accept the offering?

“He was bold and powerful, beautiful and dangerous, but he loved the first Grace witch, and it was from that love the bargain blossomed. This valley is made on love, little bird. Find love. Seek it, always. That is where our power resides.”

We get to follow three characters, who all are tied to the sacrifices by just being born. We get to watch them deal with the safety of their village being removed, and we get to see how each reacts. And they are willing to rise up, they are ready to fight, but they are also so very willing to sacrifice.

Mairwen – White, half witch (from her mother), half saint (from her father that was sacrificed while her mother was pregnant), but wholly called to the forest. The youngest witch, and maybe the most powerful. And shares her heart with two people, and one best friend, that make up her entire universe.

“She is a piece of the wild forest: tangled vines of hair; beautiful dress torn and heavy at the hem with mud and water; insistent, dangerous eyes; lips parted; cheeks flushed. An ax loose in one hand like she’s the vengeful spirit in a terrible story.”

Arthur – White, was raised as a girl, because his mother couldn’t bear the thought of him being sacrificed, but the secret came out. And Arthur has felt trapped between the two worlds ever since, while wishing people could understand that there is more than just two genders. Yet, Arthur feels the need to prove themself as the best boy in the village, not just for the rest of the men to see, but to save the true best boy.

“Nobody can change who he is except for himself, not any saint ritual, not an ignorant, terrified town, not a night spent in the forest, not a dress or a kiss”

Rhun – Black, and the boy that completes this beautiful triad. Good, pure, kind, caring, and truly, above all else, the best boy in the village. But his goodness made it so that he was always literally raised for the slaughter.

“If love can protect anybody, it will protect Rhun Sayer.”

And these three have completely captured my soul and I’ve never shipped or loved a fictional relationship more. This story is a masterpiece, the discussions are life changing, and the writing feels like it comes from some sort of higher-power and/or magical deity. I promise you all, this story is now embedded in my very DNA. If you could only pick up one book that I recommend in 2018, please have it be Strange Grace.

Gender roles and the constructs that every society places on them is a constant theme in this book. Arthur’s character is so wonderful, and even though it was painful at times, was such a breath of fresh air to read about. We get to see Arthur feel ostracized from “girl things” but also never being able to fit in with the “boy things”, and we get to see Arthur realize how toxic that way of thinking truly is.

“What hurt him was the rule change. Being forced out of girlhood into boyhood, as if it were only an either/ or, as if to make any other choice was unnatural.”

And in general, the sexual representation is amazing. Like, everyone in this book is queer. Mairwen states attraction to different/no genders, obviously Rhun and Arthur are attracted to different/no genders, Arthur is (in my opinion) non-binary, Mairwen’s mom has a woman partner; this book has a whole lot of gay. And you all know how much the polyamorous rep meant to me, and how much I was living for it, while turning every page of this book. And I’m just going to pretend like they are all pansexual and go to sleep with a smile on my face each night. Thanks.

“It’s fear. Not of the devil, but fear of change. Fear of doing anything different that might cause a ripple and bring it all down. Fear of a little boy in a dress, because he didn’t fit into the structure of town, the rules. There was never anything wrong with Arthur.”

And this entire book is a love letter to found families everywhere. Mairwen, Rhun, and Arthur have created something so beautiful and their friendship is honestly goals. Unconditional love is always at the forefront of their relationship and of this story. And this entire book feels like a bright light that celebrates that the family you create and choose will always be superior than the once you are born into without any saying. Also, I haven’t talked about her yet, but Haf, Mairwen’s other best friend, is the sweetest soul in the book. I loved her. I’m happy the town believe in their misogynistic hearts that they had to sacrifice only their best boys, instead of their best human, because Haf is truly the best character in Three Graces. Like, I would totally sacrifice myself for her, Mairween, Rhun, and Arthur. Like, I’m walking into the forest now, because I love them all so much. Bye.

“I love you,” […] “Both of you, and all of you. Hold on to my heart and I’ll be fine.”

And I honestly feel like, somehow, this forest crept into my home and crept into me. This was so spooky and so atmospheric, but I couldn’t put it down. No matter how scary or how dark it got; I was so completely addicted. Some of these passages left me feeling like I was on my own alter, deep in the forest, chest open, ribs cracked, leaving my heart bared for all to see. Yeah, that good. I don’t have words.

I truly believe that sometimes you just completely connect with an author’s writing and it will wholeheartedly teleport you into that story. I read the anthology Three Sides of a Heart , and I fell so completely hard for Tessa Gratton’s writing. I always pick a favorite short story in anthologies, but normally it’s a hard choice, yet Tessa made that anthology’s pick so easy. And then I fell in love with another short story by her in All Out, and I knew I had to read a full-length book from this author. And friends, it was like picking a book up for the first and time and realize that power that books can hold. Tessa’s writing is on another tier all by itself, and I am still, days later, left in awe of it. If you like lyrical writing, with captivating stories that are completely transportive, you need to give Strange Grace a read. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

But this being said, I went into Strange Grace only expecting good writing and nothing more. But I can’t believe I found probably the best book of 2018. And this might be the best written book I’ve ever read in my entire life. I honestly had goosebumps while read at least 75% of this book. And even though this is a dark and spooky read, those goosebumps where completely from Tessa Gratton’s writing completely piercing my soul.

“You can break it all, or remake it.”

Overall, I recommend this with my heart and soul. Not only is this probably going to be my favorite book of 2018, it also has the best polyamorous relationship I’ve read ever. I’m not sure my heart has ever beat so fast, broken so painfully, or warmed so much, for any fictional relationship. The woods, the writing, the spell this book placed on me, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experience. Please, friend, pick this book up. Not only is it going to make the perfect autumnal read, it just feels like the book of my heart. Thank you so much, Tessa, for this once in a lifetime book that I’ll cherish forever.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for animal death, bullying, trauma, grief, murder, torture, human sacrifice, abandonment, and just in general, this is a spooky book that I would for sure classify as horror. Please use caution, friends.

Buddy read with Candance at Literary Dust, Lilly at Lair of Books, & Julie at Pages and Pens! ❤

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

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ARC provided by Random House in exchange for an honest review.

“Some nights, when even my child’s heart knew that what I had been asked to endure was too much, I would stand on the edge of the lake, lift my face to the stars, and scream. Nothing ever called back. Even among the creeping things of the lake’s night, I was alone. Until Victor.”

Kiersten White wrote this book to honor the fact that 2018 is the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley! It has been ten years since I picked up Frankenstein, and even though I didn’t completely love this with my whole heart, Emily May’s review not only made me want to pick it up again this fall, but it also made me realize that I probably missed a ton of beautiful homages within these pages!

So, my review is coming to you from someone that’s no longer familiar with the source material. My rating is pretty much strictly based off the story that Kiersten White crafted. And even though I loved how beautifully feminist this was, and I was completely enthralled with the writing, tone, and setting, I just didn’t love the actual story.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein stars young Elizabeth who finally feels safe living in the Frankenstein home. And she will do anything to ensure he place in the family, so she can continue to have that safety. And she does this by getting close to the oldest son of the manor, Victor Frankenstein himself. Victor is prone to outbursts of anger, and Elizabeth is the only one that can keep him calm. But Victor has been away for a while, and Elizabeth is scared to lose her place in the family. Therefore, her and the governess, who is also her good friend, go on a hunt to find Victor and bring him back home!

“I have waded through hell to deliver you heaven.”

And that governess? Justine Moritz is honestly the star of this book. I love her with the sum of my being. Kiersten White did such a wonderful job really fleshing out her character and making me feel even more for her. I truly think Mary Shelley would be so damn proud. My other favorite is the bookseller that is cutely and conveniently named Mary! These two girls were easily my favorite and probably the reason this book is getting three stars instead of two. And if I were Elizabeth I would have been doing everything in my power to date either or both of them.

“I do not fear to die. I do not want to live in a world where devils can take such perfect, beautiful innocence without punishment.”

But them going to retrieve Victor is truly only the first part of this story. There are two others that hold within them the events that take place when they return back home. Also, this story is told with constant flashbacks to events from the past, so you are kind of able to see why everyone acts the way they do.

Sadly, I just feel like the biggest problem with this novel was the predictability. Again, it has been a hot second since I’ve read Frankenstein, but I don’t even remember everything being as obvious as it was in this. And again, I know this is an homage to the book, but I feel like the book still has to sort of hold up on its own for today’s audience, regardless of their familiarity to the original source material.

“I dreaded another flash of lightning for what it might reveal of the person in the trees watching me. He stood at least seven feet tall, a hulking and unnatural creature. Fear drained my fury…”

And that truly is the biggest problem with the book, for me. I really enjoyed the rest, and I feel like the setting of this book was completely mastered. And the writing? It’s wonderful. This is a relatively short book, but I was able to pull over twenty quotes that I could have used for that review. That’s seriously impressive. Kiersten White’s beautiful prose really shines through, and I think she really is a master crafter of words.

And as I touched upon before, the feminism in this book is so very beautiful and so very unapologetic. In general, I think the inclusion of just creating Elizabeth, and making her the star of this tale, was genius. But, I mean, women still aren’t truly considered equal to men in 2018, but in the 1800s? Lord, help me. Elizabeth goes from one abusive home to another, but they are just very different kinds of abuse. This story constantly shows how women are only truly safe with protection from a man. Yet, even then, a woman can be institutionalized and put away in an asylum if they do anything to cross the man that is supposed to protect them.

I feel like this story really shines a spotlight on toxic love, and how it can be the most destructive thing on Earth. The cycles of abuse that Victor shows, is something that I wish I could highlight for all young kids to see. Sometimes it’s very hard for the person being abused to see, acknowledge, and realize that they are being abused. This story really showcases that and gaslighting and how hard it is to break the cycle and those abusive relationships, in the 1800s and in the 2000s.

“You are mine, Elizabeth Lavenza, and nothing will take you from me. Not even death.”

Trigger and content warnings for child abuse and abuse in general, medical experimentation, murder, death, heavy dictions of surgical practices especially different cutting and sewing procedures, animal abuse, animal cruelty, animal death, and talk of suicide.

Overall, I was a little let down by this, because I truly did expect to love this. Yet, I think there is something here for every human to appreciate reading this retelling. Also, I think big fans of Frankenstein will probably really appreciate this rendition even more. Lastly, I just want to remind you all how much of a badass Mary Shelley, the queen of horror and science fiction, really was. What a damn blessing to literature, 200 years later, and for all the rest of time.


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Elise (My French Spider Queen)! ❤

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“Decades of dead girls. Poor girls and rich girls. Black and brown and white girls. All of them Sawkill girls.”

Sawkill Girls is going to be such an amazing, atmospheric, spooky Halloween read for so many. The start of this book was phenomenal, and the first half was five star worthy in my opinion. I just, didn’t love the ending of this, but I think many of you will. And overall, I completely recommend this, and I had such an amazing time reading this creepy tale.

Sawkill Island has never been safe for young girls. More and more frequently young girls have gone missing, without their bodies ever being found. There is a local legend about a paranormal beast called The Collector, who hunts and feasts on these young girls, while simultaneously growing stronger himself. But we also soon find out, there is no way that the Collector is capturing these girls on his own.

We are introduced to three girls, whose stories and fates interweave, regardless of what they have to say about it. And only these three girls have the power to save the island. That is, if they are willing to come together and try.

“A girl with incredible strength. A girl who can vanish. A girl who burns.”

Zoey – Black, bi (not on page but stated attraction to boys and girls), and asexual. Also, such a damn blessing. Recently lost her best friend to the tragedy of the island. Her father is the local sheriff.

Marion – Plus sized, likes girls, but I don’t believe Lesbian, pan, bi, or any other label is said or implied. But she does start a relationship with a girl in this book (and holy shit, it’s so good)! She is also dealing with the loss of her father, while trying to be the support system for her mother and her sister while they move to this island.

Val – Queen bee of the island and hiding a dark secret that she shares with her family. Also, her sexuality is never stated on page, but she talks about relationships with boys and has a relationship with a girl.

Honorable mention and honorary fourth member:
Grayson – Zoey’s best friend and ex. My favorite character in the entire book. I would honestly die for this boy.

“Tragedy had touched Sawkill, again and again and again, but after each girl’s disappearance, once a respectable amount of time had passed, everyone seemed to stop caring.”

These three girls come together and try to figure out what is killing these girls and if there is anyway to stop it from happening to them. At first, this book feels like you’re reading it through a fog, where you aren’t sure what exactly is going on. But mystery after mystery is eventually answered, and a beautiful tale of friendship, womanhood, and love is unfolded. I mean, it is unfolded after and during some really dark, gory, and violent scenes. This is for sure a horror book.

I really want to emphasize that this is a dark book. Please use caution and make sure you are in the right mindset while reading. Trigger and content warnings for loss of a loved one, somewhat detailed murders, violence, gore, a lot of talk of blood, grief, abuse, parental abuse, underage drinking, talk of miscarrying, sexual abuse (unwanted kissing, and maybe touching), animal death, scene with a girl purposely cutting open her palm, use of the word “fat’ negatively, and a really acephobic comment that is completely challenged and apologized for (but I know that it can still be really hurtful to read).

And just to talk a bit more about it, Sawkill Girls centers around grief, trauma, and loss. It also heavily talks about how we are not the mistakes or the problems of our parents, even though they could heavily impact our own lives. Each girl has their own heartache. Marion, being forced to keep her mother and sister safe after losing their father, while never allowing herself to grieve. Zoey, for learning how to live after pushing someone who loves you away and after losing your best friend. Val, for struggling to please her mother, while being abused by her mother, while never being able to leave her mother.

“There was a magnetism to the Mortimer women, and they knew it, and they used it. It was their right, this witchery; they’d given up their souls for it.”

And Claire Legrand is blessing us with sexual representation in this book. Not only do we have a swoon worthy f/f romance that I was so there for from the very start, but she also gives us the best asexuality representation I’ve read in a book to date! And the word asexuality is used on page, the stigmas and stereotypes are discussed very thoughtfully, and my heart is so full. Also, full disclosure: I do not ID on the ace spectrum, but I did at one point in my life.

This story also heavily discusses how girls are raised in a world that is constantly pitting us against one another. How this competitiveness is instilled in our blood, and bones, and very being by society. How men make gross jokes like “this is why girls can’t work together” and other disgusting comments along those lines, because it helps reinforce these stereotypes. How we are born to waste time trying to raise ourselves above other girls, when we could come together and raise each other up equally.

“Girls hunger. And we’re taught, from the moment our brains can take it, that there isn’t enough food for us all.”

And this story is so very feminist, and Claire weaves the undertones, flawlessly, in every scene. I mean, this is a story about three girls, from very different backgrounds, all harboring their own individual pains and hurts, coming together to defeat a monster. But it is also about how we view girls as both the most vulnerable prey, but also the most sacrificable objects. And how if a problem doesn’t impact white, cis, dudes, the problem isn’t going to gain priority to get fixed.

I won’t lie, and I said it above, but I didn’t love the ending of this book, but (just like reading) I think it will be subjective. I was really hoping for a certain ending, and I was a little disappointed when it didn’t come to fruition. I also wasn’t in love with The Collector. I mean, you’re not supposed to be in love with him, but once we learned more about him, I just wasn’t impressed. Which, again, is why I think I fell so in love with the first half of this book, because the mystery surrounding him was so good!

Overall, I really enjoyed this standalone! Also, at this point, I think I’ll just preorder what Claire Legrand does next, because she’s an author that just keeps impressing me, and my queer self. Seriously, the sexuality representation in this book is such a blessing. Also, there is a moth that reminds me of Sarai, and I felt personally attacked in the best way possible. I love the entire vibe and aesthetic of this book, and I truly think it’s going to have such an impressive impact come October!


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

❤ Buddy Read with: AmyJulieJulesImogenEllieLauraNatashaWren, & Alexis

The Barrow Will Send What it May (Danielle Cain #2) by Margaret Killjoy

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ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

1.) The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion ★★★★

This series means so much to me, and I think these are some of the best novellas that Tor has to offer. Friends, please, stop sleeping on these books and give this awesome series about a group of racially diverse, LGBTQIAP+, modern day Scooby-Doo-like (but instead of the Mystery Machine they have a bookmobile), demon hunting, punk rock, anarchists, a try! I’m honestly begging.

And in this second installment, Danielle and her brand-new friends are on the run after the events that took place in The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion with a certain demonic deer that was summoned. Now, they are half demon hunters looking for their next mission, and half just laying low from the law.

“Also I guess I kind of fed an anarchist to a deer a couple days ago but that’s beside the point.”

And the crew? They are pretty much my favorite crew of all time:
Danielle – 28, has been traveling for ten years, now has a precarious hand bite!
Brynn – Tattoo artist, and half of the sweetest, most wonderful, slow-burn romance with Danielle.
Vulture – My favorite, and the funniest member of the group. He is a transman, black, gay, and Instagram obsessed.
Thursday – I loved getting to know him more in this novella. We knew he uses he/him pronouns and is a PoC from book one, but we found out he is also pretty funny in this book. He is also the protector of the group, and is such a heartwarming character.
Doomsday – She is in a relationship with Thursday and was part of the original summoning from book one.

But they have stumbled upon a new town in Montana, that happens to have a squatter owned building, turned library, that specializes in occult books! Oh, and there may or may not be a necromancer that is raising the dead because of a certain spell in a spell book. #myaesthetic

“Pendleton Library. Still free. Still open to the public. 10 a.m.—4 p.m. Run by anarchists.”

But with necromancy, there is always a price to be paid. And this new, somewhat abandoned tourist town, ends up being a brand-new mystery for Danielle and her new friends. And there is so much good within these magical 160 pages. This book really talks about power imbalances and how people will constantly abuse the power dynamic if you allow it. This book talks about how physical contact can not only comfort but can actually heal. There is always a heavy emphasis on pronouns and correctly using them. This book also completely celebrates the importance of found family. And this book has one of the sweetest and most rewarding friends to lovers, f/f relationships I’ve read about in a long while.

“We don’t get to choose how we die, only how we live, and I like you and I’m glad I got to know you.”

And as diverse as this cast is, there is mention of a gender fluid character, there is talk of polya relationships, and this is probably the only book(s) I’ve ever read that normalizes people not conforming to society and choosing to be homeless and travel around. Also, the author themselves is a transwoman. I also feel like these books are very personal to the author, and the love for these characters truly bleeds onto the page. I couldn’t help but fall in love with them too, and all of their realness and all their rawness.

And Margaret Killjoy has written the most realistic depiction of anxiety and panic attacks that I’ve ever read in my entire life. And I have never even seen another author mention a medical panic attack before. This whole series means a lot to me, but I don’t even have words for how seen I felt seeing Danielle dealing with something I deal with at least once a week.

Content Warnings for a car crash, death of a friend, death of a loved one, murder, talk of cancer, and mild violence.

Overall, I wish I could put these books in everyone’s hands. I know so many of my friends would love them, if they only gave them a try. These are such amazing little horror novellas, that have so much representation just shining brightly constantly. I hope that the world gets so many more books in this series. And I’ll read them all with the biggest smile on my face!

“I’ll stay down here, keep an eye on the door. If I’m going to die again, I’d rather be first and I’d rather be surrounded by books.”

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion (Danielle Cain #1) by Margaret Killjoy

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ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

“The revolution is about taking power away from the oppressors, not becoming them ourselves.”

Friends, pick up this so underhyped, yet so deserving of more hype, novella. I am blown away. Within 100 pages, this book was able to create a beautifully diverse cast, talk about some pretty important issues, showcases a homeless main character, show the beauty of unconditional-loving found families, and it even gave me some pretty gothic spooky animals. This was amazing, and I think truly believe so many of my book friends would love it.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion follows Danielle Cain entering a new town of squatters, who have turned this little town in Iowa into something so damn special. In Freedom, Iowa these people have come together and created a community that truly believes in helping everyone and making sure everyone is treated equally and equally giving and taking from the community. Danielle is twenty-eight and has been moving from place to place for the last ten years. But Danielle sought-after this town specifically, because it was the last place her best friend lived before committing suicide.

“No cops, no bosses, no landlords. No poverty. No laws. Hard work and community and freedom and all the shit that we ought to have.”

And right off the bat, when Danielle meets Vulture, he asks her which pronouns she prefers, and then tells Danielle which pronouns he uses. It was so easy, but so important, and I wish we lived in a world where this was the standard when meeting someone. And it started the book off in such a great way for me.

Yet, on the first day Danielle comes to town, a man dies, pretty brutally, from a monster deer demon, named Uliksi, that was summoned to kill anyone in the town that tries to gain power over anyone. Yeah, you read that sentence right. And this tale quickly turns into a mystery of if Uliksi has turned against the town, or if this mystical deer is still only after those who have committed evil acts.

“Uliksi hunts the vengeful, the hateful. As Clay put it, Uliksi hunts those who wield power over others.”

These 100 pages hold such a magical story, but like I said above, they also hold such important themes and discussions. This book talks about the importance of pronouns. This book has an almost full queer cast, with a lot of racial diversity, too. Then, there are discussions to be had about how we live in the most powerful country in the world, but we give some citizens nothing, and others everything. And at the heart of this novella, it is a book about power imbalances, and how people misuse that power for the good of only themselves. Different power dynamics are always at the forefront of this book. Danielle has a panic attack in this book, and it is written exactly how mine feel. This was probably the most accurate description to my personal feelings when having (and starting) one, that I’ve ever read. Also, this book starts by Danielle wanting to go to the last lived in town of her best friend who killed themselves. And there is absolutely no suicide shaming in this book. There is a part where someone asks Danielle if she is upset and she says something like, “only at the world” and I was weeping. Perfection.

“We do good things too, but you don’t get props for not hurting people.”

Trigger/Content Warnings: mention of suicide, mention of rape, animal death, death of a friend/loved one, abuse, violence, and gore. Also, just in case I did a sub-par job at explaining it: this is a horror novel, so it’s a tad bit on the spooky side, so use caution.

“For the past year, we’ve had this benevolent, murderous spirit watching over us. Which is weird, but it’s gone fine.”

This is such a unique story too, because even though it is set in modern day times, with Instagram, the internet, and iPhones, it still feels and reads dystopian. But I loved this, I loved the aesthetic, I loved every emotion this short book was able to evoke from me. This was nothing short of a treat to read. Also, give me all the books about summoning demons, especially monster deer. Thanks.

Danielle finds herself trusting strangers and entering this beautiful found family who truly cares about the members, even though society has turned their backs on them. From witch’s huts, to towns built on trust, to undead animals, to secret notes left in books, I fell in love with this story. And I loved Danielle, but these side characters? Vulture, Thursday, Doomsday, and Brynn have all carved out a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to read more about them and their adventures in The Barrow Will Send What it May! Also, nothing warmed my heart more than Vulture and his Instagram! But please stop sleeping on this book and give this important and wonderful little book a try! I promise, you won’t regret it.

“There’s only a small handful of things in this world that make me happy, and coffee is one of them.”

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