Franny, Jet, and Vincent Owens take special joy in disobeying their mother’s rules. They wear red shoes and black clothes. They read books about magic. They fall in love.
It’s the Lower East Side in the 60s. Who can blame them?
I didn’t realize this was a prequel. I just picked it up at an airport bookstore when I had 3 hours to kill and a low phone battery.
I’m grateful this is the only book that called out to me.
I’m always drawn to books about family curses. It’s probably not good for me, because most of the tells I’m in a depressive episode revolve around thinking I’m cursed, but I simply can’t resist!
Hoffman makes it sound okay though. Almost romantic.
All she has to do is stay in this house for a month while the owners are at a couple’s retreat. It’s a big gorgeous old house, which should make it easy. It’s secluded in the woods, which means no one to bother her. (It also means she’ll have to take a cab to the grocery store, but she’s trying to think positive.) It’s a welcome reprieve from her shared apartment on a noisy block.
Except, there are noises. And a locked door.
You know on shows like MasterChef or the Great Pottery Throwdown, where a contestant decides to go for something simple but classic, and they get eliminated because their execution wasn’t perfect?
That’s what’s happening for me here. It’s…. fine. It doesn’t scratch an itch for me, or tell me anything more about the world or my taste in fiction. If you’re just getting into ghost stories, it might be a good entry since it’s short and to the point. The writing and characters aren’t anything to write home about. I don’t think I’ll be picking up anything more from Coates.
He has questions, you see. Questions no one will ever answer properly when he asks. So he kidnaps an astronaut, a former congressman, his elementary school teacher, and a couple others. To get answers. Really, it was easier than you’d think. All you have to do is answer his questions.
It’s kind of an uncomfortable feeling when you realize you have the same questions and the same burning anger when they’re not answered. I, at least, haven’t kidnapped anyone over it.
The format (pure dialogue, without tags, but each chapter only has two characters speaking so it doesn’t get confusing) was offputting at first, but after a chapter or two it was fine.
Did it make me feel even more desolate about the state of America’s goverment and societal priorities? Yes. But everything does that these days.
Easter dinners rarely end in a double homicide. Sometimes they do. Which of the three adult children are responsible for their parents’ deaths? Was it someone else? What are they hiding?
Eh, kind of forgettable. The characters were uninteresting, the pacing was jerky and not compelling, and the ending felt unearned.
I read Lapena’s An Unwanted Guest last year and found the vibes (a bunch of guests are snowed in at a B&B when they start getting picked off) good enough to overlook the meh plot, but there was no such saving grace here.
If Lapena comes out with a setting I can’t resist, I might pick it up, but otherwise I don’t think she’s for me.
Mattie has lived with her husband William on the mountain for as long as she can remember. She tries her best to be a good wife: she cleans, and darns, and cooks. She tries so hard. She knows what happens when she fails.
One day she finds an impossibly large footprint and a dead fox, torn apart but uneaten. The forest is silent. Something is wrong.
Oooh, this was so tasty. Fast paced, scary, dread-inducing. I love horror set in the woods, and horror where you don’t actually know what’s coming for you.
I wonder if this was the vibe Max Brooks was going for when he wrote Devolution. It’s certainly the vibe I was hoping for when I read Devolution.
Ahrens walks us through Zettelkasten, a method of taking notes on everything that helps you tie together your thoughts and produce writing more efficiently.
The system is based on allocating one card for one thought, but addressing each card such that it’s connected to other thoughts, allowing you to put disparate ideas in conversation with one another and keep track of the evolution of your theories.
I read this a while ago, just forgot to add it to my spreadsheet to write a review for. Therefore my thoughts will be brief and not all-encompassing.
This seemed fairly focused at academic writing, as opposed to general writing.
It also, from what I am remembering 3-4 months later, was focused on the theory of the system and the physical attributes of the system, but less so on how to apply and maintain the system. Maybe I’m just looking for a critical thinking class. Who knows.
Olivia is trying to find her father at the Buddhist Boot Camp for Bad Girls. Which isn’t what it’s called, but whatever. It’s at the Levitation Center, way up on a mountain, and it’s the last place she knows he went before he disappeared a year ago. It’s also not called the Levitation Center, but whatever.
Her mission is interrupted slightly by the camp’s insistence on actually participating in the activities, and by a trio of girls who seem the perfect amount of aloof. They have been to this camp before, and they’ve done all the meditation and calming and centering activities. They’re trying to levitate.
I was craving some Secret History vibes without having to read all 500 pages of The Secret History again, and I got it! Delicious fraught friendships, recognizing that something is wrong but not being able to articulate it, the veneer of structure and expertise broken by a swift kick. Is it perspective-shifting, like The Secret History? No, but it didn’t need to be.
Ava is an engineer at STADA. She designs storage solutions, from boxes to chests to bins. Her Passion Project is the Very Nice Box, which is a box that’s very nice. Her life is orderly and measured, until Mat Putnam is placed in charge of her division.
Mat Putnam just graduated with his MBA from Wharton. He talks a lot about the intersection of marketing and engineering. He institutes wellness initiatives, creates new office traditions, says hello to everyone he meets. He’s insufferable.
And yet, somehow, Ava is drawn to him. He shakes up her neatly organized life, and when it’s too much for her, she just needs to get better at going with the flow. Right?
People did not tell me much about this book going in, which is a good thing, I think, and I will try not to reveal too much here.
I will say that it was a good book, with a weak moment or two that I think could have been reimagined, but those don’t bring it down.
Also, as an engineer, I felt very close to Ava and very grateful that I work in an industry that’s allergic to any kind of modern marketing or branding attempts.
Nella is the only Black woman working at Wagner Publishing. The only Black person, period, aside from some of the custodial and mailroom staff. She’s worked her ass off for two years, stuck as an editorial assistant. She is trying so hard to play the game by the rules that were not written for her to win.
And then Hazel sweeps in. Incredible Hazel, who’s simultaneously more Black than Nella, with her childhood in Harlem and her knowledge of natural hair care, and better at the job than Nella, breaking all the rules but still getting the assignments and recognition Nella has been seeking for two years within 3 months.
Something is wrong.
My favorite horror novels are those that make you question if you’re reading too much into things. That make you feel just a liiiiiitle bit crazy. That describe your real world anxieties made manifest. This is one of those books.
Harris has a killer voice and I will be picking up anything more she writes. She revealed the correct amount without worrying about details, created a main character that’s relatable and still real, let the plot play out with layers of social commentary. Killer.
A gaggle of children are forced to accompany their parents to a month-long reunion, as though the world were not ending. Granted, when a massive storm rips through the area, the world seems to be coming to an end much faster than they were expecting, and the parents don’t seem interested in noticing. Armed with a copy of a children’s bible and a youthful pragmatism, the children will survive floods, plagues, and assailants.
It’s more gentle and introspective than I am making it sound.
I feel very represented by this end-of-the-world media. I wish I had the pragmatism and the sense of these kids. I fear I am closer to the parents. This is one of those books that will be assigned in high school English classes, I think. I don’t remember if they swear, but I remember a kid getting to yell “Whore!” while reading The Crucible in junior year, so I figure it’ll be fine.
Jack Wolcott disappeared through her door to the Moors once, holding the body of her twin sister Jill. Now she is the one being held as a stranger steps through a door in the basement of Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, and she will need help from some of those Wayward Children if she is to restore balance.
An accidental re-read! I couldn’t remember which novella in the Wayward Children series I was up to, and although I apparently read this in July of last year, I didn’t remember it at all. So I went ahead and knocked it out in a night.
Seanan McGuire is an interesting writer for me; similar authors tend to veer too far into fantasy for my taste. McGuire has the right amount of structure and the brevity to keep my attention. I’m looking forward to both the Middlegame sequel and the Wayward Children box set I assume will be published one day.
The Owens women have been beautiful, gray-eyed, and strange for as long as anyone can remember. Sally and Gillian moved to the ancestral home in Massachusetts as children, orphaned and slightly afraid of their aunts. The aunts are unused to children and leave them to their own devices while they grow strange herbs and supply strange remedies for the women of the town.
Now adults, Sally has moved to a small suburb in New York to raise her own two daughters, Antonia and Kylie, and Gillian refuses to return east of the Mississippi. They are still beautiful, gray-eyed, and strange, no matter how hard they try. When Gillian arrives at Sally’s door one night in June asking for help, all three sets of sisters are forced to reckon with their heritage and embrace their strangeness.
Alice Hoffman makes me want to fall in love. There’s something about the way she lets us live in these women’s heads for 300 pages that thaws my icy heart and, as my therapist would say, removes the cloak of shame from my very tender innards.
Hoffman is another writer who you can tell loves her characters for all their flaws, and loves people in general. They’re completely different genres, but Frederik Backman falls into that category for me as well.
Also I read this after the prequel Rules of Magic (see earlier in this review) and am frankly amazed that I’d never heard of it, or at least given it serious thought, before this year. I think I’ll watch the movie tonight.