To rend and tear the world apart: Reviewing The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

Hi everyone! I hope you are not too chilly as the winter slowly creeps its way in. I’ve just been up to the usual; reading books and listening to the same five songs over and over until I get sick of them. I have two books that I definitely want to finish before December as well as before I publish my annual favorites list. I like to think at least someone enjoys that list. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I tend to always forget what media I have consumed by the end of the year. Anyway, that’s enough rambling for now. Let’s talk about The Lights of Prague. (Content warnings will be at the bottom).

At night, the streets of Prague are haunted by spirits and monsters of all sorts who are out for blood. Lamplighters are the ones tasked with protecting the citizens from such supernatural threats. Domek Myska has spent most of his life fighting against the pijavice, ruthless vampiric creatures. One night, Domek encounters a spirit known as the White Lady. This leads him to a will-o-the-wisp, a powerful and sentient being, that has been trapped in a strange jar. This discovery leads Domek to a conspiracy amongst the pijavice to walk in daylight and unleash terror on the world. With the help of the beautiful and mysterious Lady Ora Fischerova, Domek must race against time to stop the conspirators from using science and alchemy for their own twisted gain.

Dark and atmospheric, The Lights of Prague is a gripping historical, supernatural thriller with plenty of twists and turns. Nicole Jarvis does an excellent job of creating tension through all parts of the narrative. You don’t have to be an expert in Czech folklore to appreciate how Nicole Jarvis incorporates these stories into her novel. (I do recommend doing some research if you do read this novel. It was very interesting.) I have a soft spot for the vampire genre, particularly vampire novels set in the past. This novel nails the best parts of what makes a good vampire story, while still setting itself in a unique perspective by incorporating different folk tales. Any fan of vampire novels or supernatural stories will be sure to love The Lights of Prague.

Content Warning: Blood and Some Gore, Violence, Sexual Content, Mentions of Domestic Violence, Some Harsh Language

These bloody thoughts, from what are they born?: Reviewing The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Hi everyone! Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate it. I continue to be thankful for every book I have ever read. Some notes before I start this review: I have re-joined Tumblr since Twitter is going downhill and will also post my reviews there. If you want to, you can follow me @please-consider-me-a-dream on Tumblr. Second note, I am cheating a little bit with this review because I did watch the tv adaptation (also called The Alienist) before reading this book. I still recommend checking out the show, though; you can find it on HBO Max. There will be some trigger warnings and then we can get into The Alienist.

Trigger Warnings: Graphic Descriptions of Death, Violence, Harm Against Children, Discussion and Depiction of Sexual Assault, Discussion of Domestic Violence, Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Use of Racist and Homophobic Language, Depictions of Sex Trafficking

1896, New York City. John Schuyler Moore is a newspaper reporter who is summoned by his friend and famous psychologist, or “alienist,” Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, to view the mutilated body of a young boy found on the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge. When more young boys are killed in a similarly horrific manner, the two men decide to do something revolutionary to catch the killer – they create a psychological profile of the criminal based on the details of his crimes. With the help of some unlikely friends, Moore and Kreizler find themselves up against many dangerous men and must face down these threats in order to stop this murderer.

This was quite an intense and interesting mystery. My favorite thing about this novel is just how committed it was to historical accuracy, including the worst parts of history. I appreciate the honest and gritty depiction of New York City that Carr lays out in this narrative. The characters themselves are as remarkable as they are flawed in the most human ways. This is a rather long read and sometimes tends to ramble on a bit about history, so if you don’t like that then you have been warned. However, if you want an exciting and gritty historical mystery, then I am going to go ahead and recommend The Alienist, particularly if you like history regarding psychology and criminology.

There’s a magic there, something that haunts the far woods: Reviewing Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by Christina Henry

Hello everyone! I hope you are all enjoy the chilly fall weather that has befallen us. I don’t know if I have mentioned this before but Sleepy Hollow has been one of my favorite stories since I was kid. I loved the animated Disney version and watched that every year. Later on, I fell in love with the movie “Sleepy Hollow,” with Johnny Depp. There was a tv show, also called “Sleepy Hollow,” that I loved. I have even visited the actual town around Halloween and it was awesome. I would highly recommend a visit. Anyway, I think the story is ripe for the adaptation so, without further introduction, let’s talk about Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow.

Trigger Warning: Gore, Violence, Misogynistic Language

Ben Van Brunt, the grandchild of Brom Bones and Katrina Van Tassel, has always been fascinated with the legend of the Headless Horseman. Even though Brom insists it’s just a tale, Ben has always believed that there is magic in Sleepy Hollow, One day, while playing in the woods, Ben and a friend stumble across the gruesome sight of the headless body of a boy from the village. Ben begins to believe there is more truth to the legend of the Horseman than Brom and Katrina let on. As Ben investigates, it becomes clear that something far more sinister may be lurking in Sleepy Hollow.

This was very interesting take on the story when compared to the other adaptations I have seen of Washington Irving’s most famous ghost story. Christina Henry reshapes the tale while keeping true to many iconic aspects of it. There were certainly plenty of chilling moments along with more emotional moments that I did not initially expect. I don’t want to go on too much longer because I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything. Definitely check this one out if you want a historical horror novel with plenty of supernatural elements that are perfect if you are in the mood for something a little more on the classic side.

Nature Does Not Make Leaps: Reviewing The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno – Garcia

Hello everyone! I hope you are all getting through your TBR pile as I am. I am not going to ramble on for too long as I stayed up far too late to finish this review. If you are interested, I have reviewed two other books by Silvia Moreno – Garcia, so you are welcome to check those out. Let’s talk about her latest novel, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, a retelling of H.G. Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Carlota Moreau lives an idyllic life on a beautiful estate in the Yucatan peninsula. Under the guidance of her eccentric yet brilliant father, Carlota studies diligently and prays constantly. She is not alone on this island as she lives alongside her father’s creations: half-animal, half-human hybrids who were created to be workers. With the assistance of Montgomery Laughton, an Englishman with a dark past, their little community exists in harmony. Everything is upended when Eduardo Lizalde, the son of Moreau’s patron, comes bearing news of his father’s frustrations at Moreau’s lack of progress. Soon, secrets are brought to light that force Carlota to confront the horrifying truth about her father. Now, with the help of Montgomery and the hybrids, Carlota must take a stand and fight to protect everything she holds dear.

I really enjoyed Silvia Moreno – Garcia’s take on this rather classic tale of man trying to control nature, only to have nature fight back in some way. I appreciated the carefully woven motifs about rebellion and what family truly is. The characters are complex and seem to move through the story of their own volition. I also appreciated the feminist undertones woven throughout the novel. Moreno – Garcia does an excellent job with character development, which has been my favorite thing about her novels. If you want a novel that harkens back to classic sci-fi while also putting a new spin on the genre, then I would definitely recommend giving this novel a read. (Read her other books too. They’re really good)

Trust me, the nature of men is fickle: Reviewing The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Hi everyone! I hope you are doing well and thank you for continuing to read my reviews. I’ve been on a roll lately with no intention of stopping any time soon. So, in case I never told any of you, I have studied Latin for eight years in total. I fell in love with it in high school and went on to earn a minor in undergrad. In the process of learning Latin, I became fascinated with ancient Rome. With all that being said, I was naturally drawn to this particular novel set in Pompeii. Now, let’s get into The Wolf Den.

Amara began life as the beloved only daughter of a Greek doctor. When her father passed, Amara’s mother sold her into slavery in a desperate attempt to get out of poverty. Now, Amara works for the infamous brothel, the Wolf Den, run by a ruthless and cruel man named Felix. She is not completely alone though, as she has formed strong bonds with her fellow she-wolves. Amara is determined to earn her own freedom using her intelligence. When she finds the perfect opportunity, Amara can work her way up to the highest rungs of Pompeiian society. She soon discovers that everything has a cost and she must be willing to pay, one way or another.

Major content warning: the novel does contain scenes of sexual assault, self-harm, and harsh language. With that being said, this was a well-crafted and carefully-paced drama. I love the careful attention to detail that Elodie Harper puts into this novel. Historical novels can be rather tricky, but this one captures the spirit of Pompeii with great accuracy, for better or worse. Harper does handle the subject matter of women working in a brothel with care and honesty. I was initially worried that the book was going to be gratuitous with sex, but Harper does not focus on the more graphic parts. Nor does she hide the reality of what life was like for a prostitute in Ancient Rome. The female characters are fully fleshed out and complex in their own unique ways. While this novel might not be everyone’s “cup of tea,” if you are looking for a compelling historical drama with strong female leads, then I would highly recommend The Wolf Den.

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.

Something Severed and Something Joined: Reviewing The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Hi (again) everyone! Wow, another book review so soon after the last one. I’m not sure how that happened but, sometimes, determination wins. There’s nothing that gets me quite like the drive to finish a book when I have other things that need to be done. You know that whole struggle. This book has been sitting with me for a while now and I have wanted to finish it so badly. I have also wanted to discuss it so let’s talk about The Essex Serpent.

After the untimely death of her husband, Cora Seaborne decides to journey to the Essex coast. While there, she begins to hear rumors that the legendary and fearsome Essex Serpent has returned. Cora become determined to find proof of the creature’s existence with the help of the skeptical vicar, William Ransome. As the two search for the truth behind the legend, they find themselves drawn closer together and, soon, Cora must make a difficult choice as her past catches up with her.

For a while, I have been looking for a good historical fiction novel and this one definitely fit the bill. Perry’s writing is an ode to authors like the Brontes. It is a loving ode to Victorian era literature while also subverting many of the tropes. The novel certainly carries feminist undertones and rebels against how Victorian society is normally depicted while also being historically accurate. The novel is about human connection overall, which I greatly appreciated. I was pleasantly surprised by The Essex Serpent and would definitely recommend as a slow burn read for the cold weather.

All Desperate and Dark Things…: Reviewing The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Hi everybody! So here’s the thing: I can either finish a book in a day or it takes me several months to read a book. There is no in-between. I am sure a good majority of you can relate. This is not because I don’t like the book or anything, but it is simply because my brain is just weird like that. I am always, however, a sucker for a good mystery novel. They rarely fail me. If you want to, you can check out my review of Stuart Turton’s first novel, The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Now, I shall review Turton’s sophomore novel, The Devil and the Dark Sea.

It’s 1643 and Arent Hayes, former mercenary and soldier turned bodyguard, is about to board a ship that may or may not be leading to his friend, Samuel Pipps’ execution. Arent is determined to prove his friend’s innocence and save Pipps’ reputation as the world’s greatest detective. Among the other passengers is Sara Wessel, a noblewoman determined to escape her cruel husband. As soon as the ship sets sail, strange events begin to occur. A demonic symbol begins to appear all over the ship, a leper stalks the crew, and passengers claim to hear an evil voice. Once people begin to die mysteriously, it is up to Arent and Sara to unravel the mystery themselves and come face to face with evil, from both past and the present.

I love mystery and I love historical fiction, so this book was a perfect combo for me. Though the novel is rather long, the pace is fast. The writing is atmospheric and every chapter leaves you wondering what the heck could possibly happen next. I love the way Turton endears you to the characters so quickly. The stakes are high right from the beginning, which only makes the read that much more satisfying when you get to the end. The book, fortunately, did not become too convoluted as some mystery novels tend to do. If you need a good mystery to hunker down with as the weather gets chilly, I would definitely recommend this one as it is very difficult to put down.