A Focused Kind of Madness: Reviewing The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Hello everybody! I am here, writing this review, instead of sleeping. I have always been a bit of a night owl anyways. Besides, who among us hasn’t stayed up to finish a good book? I may or may not have mentioned this before but I am actually quite a big fan of horror literature. Weirdly enough, I don’t like horror movies, though. I will happily read gory details but won’t watch anything with blood. I feel like that is a “me” problem, though. Let’s get into my latest spooky read, The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling.

Jane Shoringfield is a practical and quiet young woman with a fascination for numbers who knows the best way to secure her future is through marriage. She approaches the timid Dr. Augustine Lawrence with her unusual proposal for a marriage of convenience. He agrees but with one condition: she must never stay in his family home of Lindridge Hall. Jane agrees, but a freak storm leaves her with no choice but to stay in the crumbling manor. On that night, she has a frightening encounter with Augustine and quickly realizes that he is not the man she thought he would be.

This was a lovely homage to the gothic romances which I have studied over the years. I loved Caitlin Starling’s elegant, yet gruesome, take on the horror genre. The novel slowly becomes something that I absolutely did not expect and I enjoyed every twist and turn. Jane is a captivating heroine who utilizes her strengths in the face of the unknown. Like I said, I loved Starling’s unflinching look at some of the gorier moments of the novels and how they are not just bloody for the sake of blood. With that being said, if you do have a weak stomach then this novel might not be for you. If you are, however, looking for chilling experience then I would definitely recommend The Death of Jane Lawrence.

Yesterday a Dream; Tomorrow Dust: Reviewing Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno – Garcia

Hello everybody! I hope you are all doing well. I’ve been in a better mood lately. I have actually found the motivation to write again, which I haven’t done in a hot minute. Something broke down my writer’s block. I don’t know what but I am not going to question it. Before I start this review, I should mention that I reviewed Mexican Gothic, which is another novel by Silvia Moreno – Garcia. Feel free to check it out if you please. Now, it’s time to talk about Gods of Jade and Shadow.

Casiopea Tun lives a hard life, forced to work for her cruel grandfather and equally cruel cousin. She is certain that she will never be free from her dismal town until curiosity compels her to open a strange wooden chest. In doing so, she unleashes the Lord of Death and inadvertently ties herself to him. Now, Casiopea is on a journey where she must face all kinds of supernatural threats with only her strength and wits.

In the best way, I would describe this novel as a fairy tale for adults. The writing shifted beautifully from the dazzling world of 1920s Mexico to the deep and mysterious Mayan Underworld. You don’t have to be super familiar with Mayan mythology to appreciate the full extent of this novel. As someone with an interest in different mythologies, I did appreciate what I learned from this novel. It is a relatively short read but captures a spell-binding journey through fantastical places. At the heart of it all is a surprising love story. I should also note that Casiopea is a fantastic protagonist. In a way, I found this novel reminiscent of Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I really enjoyed Gods of Jade and Shadow as a fresh take on a classic hero’s journey. I will definitely be looking forward to reading more by Silvia Moreno – Garcia in the future.

Let There be Light: Reviewing The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

Hello everybody! I have to be up early but I am writing a review instead. Now, I have a soft spot for Loki as a character. Admittedly, it all started with the Marvel movies, but I was lucky enough to take a course on Norse mythology. I now have a newfound love of Norse mythology and definitely want to read more interpretations of it. So let’s talk about The Gospel of Loki.

Loki has been known by many names: the Trickster, Wildfire, Silver-tongue, the Light Bringer. There is much more to him than his tricks and exploits. Told from the point of view of Yours Truly, The Gospel of Loki sheds light on the side of the story that others don’t often hear and there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to the God of Chaos.

This certainly was a fun read. Harris lets Loki’s complex nature shine through in this retelling of classic Norse myths. The narrative is equal parts humorous, thoughtful, and thought – provoking. I really enjoyed Harris’ take on Loki as he was equal parts sympathetic and rather questionable. My biggest gripe with the book was the use of modern terminology. I get why Harris wanted to use modern slang but it just took me out of the narrative. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a quick read with a fun twist on familiar stories.

May the Force Be With You: Reviewing The Last Command (Book Three of the Thrawn Trilogy) by Timothy Zahn

Hi everyone! The snow is starting to melt here, but you can’t really trust the weather. I am in a marginally better mood, however, I hope to see some change in my future. I am still very much in the mood for Star Wars after finishing The Book of Boba Fett. I personally enjoyed it quite a bit. A die hard Star Wars fan might disagree with me, though. I digress. Let’s talk about the final book in the Thrawn trilogy.

Grand Admiral Thrawn continues his ruthless attacks against the New Republic with a new weapon at hand: an army of clone troopers. Han Solo and Chewbacca struggle to recruit their fellow smugglers as a last ditch effort to defend against Thrawn’s attacks. Princess Leia must seek out an enemy in the Alliance while also preparing for the birth of her twins. The last hope the New Republic has is in destroying the dark Jedi Master C’baoth and he has only one goal in mind: to bring Luke Skywalker to the dark side or kill him.

This was a pretty satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. My biggest gripe is with the focus on some of the new characters. I personally didn’t get very attached to the some of the new characters that Zahn created but I do respect how these characters helped build the world further. Zahn did do a great job handling the established characters like Luke, Leia, and Han. It felt like a natural progression for them after the original trilogy and they got to have more time to shine. Thrawn is also just a great character to read about. Arguably, he is one of the best Star Wars villains and I would like to see him in live action. I would still recommend this trilogy to any Star Wars fan and I am definitely going to check out more Star Wars novels in the future.

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged: Reviewing Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Hi everybody! I could be asleep right now but it’s a snow storm and it has motivated me to shrink my ever-growing TBR list. If you know me, you know I like science fiction but I am no expert in science. I wish I could know more and I am trying to know more. Thankfully, Andy Weir knows how to make science more exciting through these exciting adventures. Let’s talk about Project Hail Mary.

Ryland Grace wakes up from a coma to find himself the sole survivor on a spaceship. He can barely remember his own name, let alone the purpose of his mission. Ryland soon realizes he must do the impossible to save Earth on his own. Or maybe he isn’t alone after all.

I just want to give a huge shoutout to Andy Weir for presenting complicated scientific principles in a way that someone like me, a book nerd, can properly understand. Not only that, it was wrapped in an exciting and suspenseful adventure that kept me reading. It is certainly comparable to Weir’s first breakout novel, The Martian, but this one had some added elements that really played into my love of science fiction. You don’t have to read The Martian or even be a scientist to enjoy the thrilling ride that is Project Hail Mary.

What is hell but the life I had lived?: Reviewing The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor

Hi everyone! I hope February is at least a slight improvement over January for you all as well. I am continuing to cope with stress by reading books in rapid succession. When I am not reading or working, I am most likely napping. Thankfully, I have two little dogs who love to take naps. That has nothing to do with this review, though. Let’s talk about The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home: A Welcome to Night Vale novel.

The faceless old woman who secretly lives in everyone’s home has been a longtime resident of Night Vale. Her current fixation is on a man named Craig, who she sabotages and loves in equal parts. She was not always this not – ghost, however. Before coming to Night Vale, she was a girl who rose from tragedy to the top of a criminal empire. Now, the faceless old woman reflects on the swashbuckling adventures and twisted paths over the decades that eventually took her to Night Vale where she has discovered her true purpose.

Much like the podcast this novel was based off of, I never knew what to expect and that was probably the best part of this novel. Each chapter was a completely new experience. I love an adventure based – novel and this delivered. It was also an excellently crafted tale of revenger with some heart to it. It certainly delivered on the existentialism and overall weirdness that is a trademark in anything related to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. I don’t want to spoil anything so I will simply give my most sincere recommendation of this book if you are a fan of Welcome to Night Vale.

Sing, Muse, he said, and I have sung: Reviewing A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

Hello everybody! I am out here trying not to be too whiney about the cold but I really hate winter, especially a late winter. What better to get my mind off the weather than a good book and this is a good one. In case you didn’t know, I am a big fan of mythology particularly Greek myths. I have studied Latin for quite a few years and have done my fair share of translating the classics like The Illiad and The Odyssey. It is always nice to have a fresh take on these tried and true classics, so let’s talk about A Thousand Ships.

After ten long years of fighting, Troy is destroyed in a single night and the women of the city are left at the mercy of the Greeks. Their stories are often pushed off to the side in favor of their male counterparts. This epic, however, focuses on the women, both Trojan and Greek, and their side of the story. From the three goddesses who had a hand in starting the war, to Hecuba watching her kingdom fall, and Penelope waiting patiently for her husband, these women among many had their lives shaped forever by the ten year war.

I am all here for a feminist retelling of the Illiad and Odyssey, which Natalie Haynes certainly delivers. Haynes dives deep into layered emotions, complicated situations, and trauma throughout the various stories. The writing varies with some stories being brief and poignant and others being longer and contemplative. Many of these characters that Haynes brings to light are often just footnotes in the epics. This novel makes a powerful statement about the often neglected female characters and is delivered with intelligent and provocative writing. It should come to no surprise then when I say that I highly recommend A Thousand Ships to any fans of Homer’s original epics.

I was quiet, but I was not blind: Reviewing Mary B. by Katherine J. Chen

Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well and staying warm. I have always hated snow, personally. This is my second “retelling” novel I am reviewing and I have a third in my TBR list. Funny enough, this particular book was actually a gift from my aunt. Most people assume that, when you are a woman in a literary field, you must love Jane Austen. As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, I am not a die hard Jane Austen fan but I would like to be one day, admittedly. So, let’s talk about the often forgotten Bennet sister, Mary. (Note: I will leave a content warning at the very bottom of this post. It is also somewhat of a spoiler but I wanted to include it regardless.)

As the middle child of the Bennet family, Mary is often forgotten. Unlike her sisters, she is not renowned for her beauty or charm. Mary, though, is painfully aware that it is convention that she find a husband in order to have a secure life. In her despair, however, she finds solace through writing her own fictional novels. As tragedy and scandal strike the Bennet family, Mary must learn to come into her own as a woman in a time of strict social boundaries.

I am a bit biased towards this book as I deeply related to Mary as a bookish woman in her twenties. Chen’s overall take on the Bennett family shows in a more realistic light, creating and taking away sympathy. Mary is well fleshed out as a protagonist as she tries to figure out where she wants to be in life. The novel is honest in its depiction of women trying to navigate their ways in a time where options were limited. It is even rather heart- breaking in its truthfulness. Chen does not diminish any of the hope that Austen initially created. She simply shows a different side of the romantic notions which endeared us to Pride and Prejudice. Mary B is a fully fleshed out portrait of the lesser known Bennett sister’s journey of self – discovery and I highly recommend this to any Austen fan.

Content Warning: The novel does contain a graphic scene involving the loss of an infant and further discussion of the topic.

Borne ceaselessly back into the past…: Reviewing Nick by Michael Farris Smith

Hello everyone! January is becoming a bit of a drag and fiction has become a much needed escape in this dreary month. I naturally gravitated towards Nick because The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels. I have read it countless times since I was in high school, jokingly calling my friends “old sport.” Eventually, I’d love to do an in-depth analysis of The Great Gatsby but I will start by reviewing the unofficial prequel.

Before meeting the enigmatic Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway was caught up in the horrors of World War 1. In an attempt to escape his nightmares, Nick embarks on a journey from across Europe and America. On his journey of self-discovery, Nick gets caught up in whirlwind romance in Paris and a scandalous mystery in New Orleans which forever changes his life.

I really wanted to like this novel going into it. I truly enjoyed the first half when Nick is in Paris. Farris Smith delves into the trauma of war and how Nick is forced to cope with little to no help. The second half in New Orleans kind of lost me. Nick was kind of displaced more and more as the novel went on, becoming a passive and messy presence in the corner. Writing any sort of tie – in to a classic novel is certainly a tricky undertaking so I am going to give Farris Smith where credit is due because I did enjoy his unique and melodic writing style. I honestly cannot recommend this novel, nor am I saying to avoid. Instead, I would suggest just reading The Great Gatsby.

Be careful what you ask for, be willing to pay the price: Reviewing The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Hello everyone! As always, I hope you are doing well. I am on a serious reading kick right now. Maybe it’s because I have stumbled across a bunch of YouTube videos of people reading up to 100 books in year. I wish I could be that productive but we will settle on a few for now. This is not my first time reviewing a book by V.E. Schwab and you are welcome to read my reviews of her other novels. Let’s add another to the list then, shall we?

In a moment of desperation, Addie LaRue made a deal with a devil. She will live forever but she will never be remembered. For three hundred years, Addie has survived and traveled with the devil at her heals. Everything changes when she meets Henry, who remembers her. Now, Addie seeks to uncover the truth of her curse and to try to undo it at all costs.

If you want a slow burn romance, then this is the novel for you. V.E. Schwab always takes great care when it comes to fantastical details while still keeping a focus on the relationships between the characters. The magical realism made this novel all the more enjoyable. While romance is normally not my jam, the relationship between Henry and Addie was endearing as they were both fleshed out on their own. When they came together, their relationship was endearing. The book is fairly long but the pacing is steady, with most of the chapters being between one to five pages long. It is certainly reminiscent of a fairy tale, which made the novel all the more appealing. Overall, this is another winner from Schwab when I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy this novel as much as I did.