Review: THE FACELESS OLD WOMAN WHO SECRETLY LIVES IN YOUR HOME by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult paranormal
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

Of the three Welcome to Night Vale books so far,  this book is the furthest from the spirit of the podcast in the best way. We get a full a thorough backstory on an iconic and terrifying character, The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home.

If you’re expecting the regular eerieness of the desert town, you won’t find any here. Instead, you’ll be in fictional and real countries all across Europe on a swashbuckling adventure of crime and vengeance. It’s a lot of fun to watch the different and intricate plots play out as the (Not Yet) Faceless Old Woman tries to get revenge on the man who killed her father. The twists are something out of a classic like The Count of Monte Cristo or a Shakespeare play.

There are flashbacks to the present, where she terrorizes a man named Craig. The second person perspective in these snippets are effective and instill in readers a genuine fear of our protagonist.

An entire book dedicated to a backstory which had me enraptured from start to finish.

ARC Review: THE FIERY CROWN (Forgotten Empires #2) by Jeffe Kennedy (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Fantasy Romance
Year Release: May 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC
Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Barnes and Noble

Read an ARC granted through NetGalley

When we last left Con and Lia, these two had gone from rivals to spouses, and this dynamic continuous throughout this sequel to The Orchid Throne.

Anure is still a big problem, but most of the political tensions in this fantasy stem from Con and Lia’s fundamental mistrust of each other. They are, after all, in a marriage of opportunity, rather than convenience. This especially comes to a head when they both learn that those in their  inner circles also can’t be trusted. At least these reluctant spouses can trust in their own political selfishness and it works so well.

I also really like the growth journey Lia went through. She’s not only a badass in that way where she’s a stern, but just leader. The entire last quarter of the book has her going through some shit. She shifts from defensive to offensive, especially when it’s shown just how monstrous the false emperor can be.

In addition, I absolutely cannot wait to see how the truth about Calanthe, the tropical paradise island, comes to fruition.

Review: IT DEVOURS! by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor (2017)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult paranormal
Year Release: 2017
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

It was to return to the world of Night Vale, even if just one contained arc of a story. In the desert town of Night Vale, various rumblings might actually be the work of the Smiling God. A tale of science and religion in a race against time to stop Night Vale’s certain demise.

As mentioned above, this book feels far more self-contained than the first. There is little, if anything, you need to know about the lore of Night Vale to get into this book. However, you may want to read the first to get context for some of the characters. Largely these reintroductions worked on their own.

The romance between Nilanjana and Darryl worked really well to both drive the plot forward and show different facets of folks at Night Vale. Nilanjana had not even considered her a citizen, while Darryl seemed to be more established. The tension between logic and belief played a big role, but true to Night Vale’s form, enough strangeness goes on that defies either line of thinking.

Joyfully (and unsettingly), it devours.

ARC Review: THE UNCONQUERED CITY (Chronicles of Ghadid #3) by K.A. Doore (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Adult LGBT+ Fantasy
Year Release: June 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC
Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Barnes and Noble

Read an ARC granted through NetGalley

The Chronicles of Ghadid comes to a close with an epic story of community mourning, healing, and recovery as Illi is tasked with going away to Hathage get rid of the sajaami which is preventing all other restless spirits from passing on. There’s an f/enby romance, the lesbians are back, and all that assassination goodness we’ve come to love.

The guul continue to be the absolutely scariest things, but I really loved how Doore gave everyone–from cousin to captain to guard to marab–the agency and ability to face them. The fear was still there but it wasn’t insurmountable, especially as the threat takes over all those living in the Wastes.

Though this book introduces a third narrator, there are so many call-backs to the first book and dealing with the consequences of The Impossible Contract that make those necessary reads. The reader leans about the terrifying creatures at the same pace the characters do. Such a slow burn of conveying information is hard to pull off, and yet Doore has mastered it.

The romance between Illi and Canthem was such a delight. There was only one caravan! Their flirtations were so on point (who doesn’t love throwing knives and training sequences as a vehicle for chemistry). More over, I really liked how that relationship and others (namely between Illi and Heru) played a major role in the finale and the emotional arc of The Chronicles of Ghadid as a whole. No person is an island and the theme of community coming together for mutually assured survival was so good throughout.

A fabulous end to a wonderful queernorm trilogy about found family and community coming together to solve a major undead problem.

Review: SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik (2018)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning for physical abuse and descriptions of antisemitism

Part Rumpelstiltskin, part Persephone and Hades, all Eastern Europe fantasy with its world-building, characterizations, and societies, Spinning Silver is an enchantment from start to finish. We have Miryem who takes her family’s money-lending business from her father, Wanda her assistant, dukes’s daughter Irina, and the cursed prince Minatius.

The way Novik nimbly balances so many POVs throughout needs to be witnessed. Each one had enough voice and their own unique motifs and struggles to be distinct, but all worked together towards a common goal which doesn’t become salient until past the book’s middle. Otherwise, we are fully steeped in their interconnected, but separate struggles, and I found myself interested in how it all comes together as much as I had been interested in the outcomes.

In addition, the world-building and placement is so specific. There are attitudes, biases, etc. that can only be placed in Eastern Europe. The cross-cultural misunderstandings between humans and other-worldly beings were also carefully crafted. Throughout, there necessarily wasn’t a “right” and a “wrong,” only difference and the morality stemmed from reactions to those differences. It was great to read a European fantasy from the perspective of Jewish characters that focused on joys and traditions, rather than oppression (though it isn’t ignored in the text).

If you love resilient female characters, fairy tales, and non-Christian fantasies, definitely pick up Spinning Silver.

 

Review: CATCH AND KILL: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow (2019)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning for descriptions of sexual assault, rape, stalking, and gaslighting, and for audio from a sound bite of Harvey Weinstein propositioning someone

I had been glued to this audiobook from the very first minute. Told by the journalist himself who tried to break the Harvey Weinstein story, Farrow finds himself at odds with NBC and eventually followed by operatives of Black Cube to make sure he didn’t succeed.

Farrow expertly weaves together a narrative that not only covers . At times, it read more like a fiction thriller because of how many layers of deceit and cover-up there had been. It is outrageous and insidious in a way that cannot be crafted. The apparent integrity, however, keeps the story firmly grounded. So many risks had beent aken to get this story of decades of sexual predation out to the public. But it was the level of corruption and mutual cover-up which really got my blood curdling. The scope is nigh unfathomable, but Farrow takes the reader on an unforgettable and harrowing journey of investigative journalism.

The stories of harassment and assault, however, as handled with much necessary empathy and sensitivity. That being said, however, I would not recommend anyone read or listen to this book if that is a trigger.

 

Review: SILVER IN THE WOOD by Emily Tesh (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2019
Source: My own hard copy

This romance between a four-hundred-year-old forest being and the twenty-three-year-old proprietor is as lush as a primordial forest. The imagery was lovely, as soft as moss. There isn’t too much more I can say without giving away the whole story, but if you also want revenants and evil ex-boyfriends, Greenhollow is the place for you.

This book also features a formidable mom, a very good cat, and an angry dryad.