A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson // Book Review

Vampires? Need I say more? Thanks to Orbit Books for the gifted read.

Here’s more about A Dowry of Blood

This is my last love letter to you, though some would call it a confession. . .

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things.

Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets. With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

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My thoughts

This book is very different from the vampire stories I’ve read before. It’s a Dracula retelling, but from the point of view of his first wife, Constanta. The story is written in letters to Dracula that Constanta writes about their life together. It’s also in the second POV since the letters are specifically addressed and it feels more natural to use “you” in a letter than their real name.

This story felt as if I opened up the scraggly spine of some lost letters to someone’s lover. Each chapter was a letter from Constanta to her lover, Dracula, who took her for his wife when she was dying many years ago. The letters span across the hundreds of years together filled with jealousy, blood, murder, sexual encounters with random strangers, and the two other partners in their poly-amorous relationship. It didn’t feel much like a story where there’s a central plot and conflict to follow, but as if I was reading the sorted diaries of a young wife who was in an abusive relationship with her husband.

This particular part lended well to the story. You were on the edge of your seat wondering how Constanta would get away. The reader wonders if she’ll finally see his abuse and realizes the worth she has before she makes her vengeful decision. I was captured by the letters wanting to learn more about their lives together and finding out if they figure out how to survive.

While there was only a few moments of on-page domestic violence, most of the abuse was through Dracula’s controlling nature. He kept everything close to the chest. He never let Constanta make friends with humans or leave the house without him. He would go on jealous rampages if she had any interest in anyone outside of himself. The atmospheric feel of this book was completely around this controlling nature Dracula portrayed throughout the book with very little explanation about it.

However, in many ways this story didn’t work for me as well. First off, the reader doesn’t get to know Dracula. What you read is the experiences Constanta and the others had while with him, but you rarely hear about his past before Constanta. You rarely hear about his experiments and scientific research. It was as if Dracula was on the periphery of your vision the entire time, but never a part of the main focus.

I had a hard time really connecting with the story. I think partly because it’s written in the epistolary style with a second POV. While I felt for the situation Constanta, Magdalena, and Alexi find themselves, I could never really fall deep into the story enough to care. It was as if I was reading the story second-hand from someone else. It felt flat with my interest waning as I continued to read. The ending was also a bit lackluster for me and again, I think this is because of the writing style. It moved so quickly and because it’s all from what Constanta experiences, there’s very little dimension and development. It just moves right into the ending without any explanation and I think what I wanted was a bit more story behind the characters.

Overall, this was a quick read and fantastic display of atmosphere. If you’re a fan of epistolary stories with vengeance plot lines, then I highly recommend this one to you. It just didn’t work for me.

Dead Flip by Sara Farizan // Book Review

Dead Flip by Sara Farizan // Book Review

This had all the vibes of Stranger Things and Ready Player One. If you’re a fan of video games, monsters looking to suck your life out, and teenagers really learning a little bit about themselves in the process, then this one is for you.

Here’s more about Dead Flip

Growing up, Cori, Maz, and Sam were inseparable best friends, sharing their love for Halloween, arcade games, and one another. Now it’s 1992, Sam has been missing for five years, and Cori and Maz aren’t speaking anymore. How could they be, when Cori is sure Sam is dead and Maz thinks he may have been kidnapped by a supernatural pinball machine?
These days, all Maz wants to do is party, buy CDs at Sam Goody, and run away from his past. Meanwhile, Cori is a homecoming queen, hiding her abiding love of horror movies and her queer self under the bubblegum veneer of a high school queen bee. But when Sam returns—still twelve years old while his best friends are now seventeen—Maz and Cori are thrown back together to solve the mystery of what really happened to Sam the night he went missing. Beneath the surface of that mystery lurk secrets the friends never told one another, then and now. And Sam’s is the darkest of all . . .
Award-winning author of If You Could Be Mine and Here to Stay Sara Farizan delivers edge-of-your-seat terror as well as her trademark referential humor, witty narration, and insightful characters.

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My thoughts

The fast pace of Dead Flip threw me off a little. Granted, this is my first YA book in a really long time, so it surprised me how quickly things were moving right at the beginning, but one thing was obvious: Sam, Cori, and Maz used to be best friends. They used to hang out with each other and for all intents and purposes, they were kind of misfits who found friendship through a mutual love of pinball. But something happens, as things do when you’re a teenager, and their threesome split. When Sam disappears one day, the group also splits. Cori and Maz are left to pick up the pieces of their life without one of their best friends. Cori becomes popular and nominated for the prom queen. Maz’s family starts to do better than before raising his status among the folks at school. They make their ways in separate directions until Sam suddenly returns; except that he’s still the same Sam that left, young and a little bit different.

The rest of the book is a whirlwind journey of how Sam came back and what it all means. I don’t want to spoil it, but Sam’s whereabouts really shook me. I love stories like this and it reminds me a little bit of Stranger Things in that Sam has been in some inter-dimension that exists within the real unieverse. As you keep reading, the truth behind where Sam has been is revealed. This also felt like thriller/horror lite. If you’re not invested in reading something too spooky, but has enough to give you the vibes, then this might be a book to add to your Halloween reading lists. I know I will because it was a lot of fun, actually has a super hopeful ending, and the supernatural elements were not surprising, but still entertaining.

Sam’s return also brings Maz and Cori back together and while the two of them have been in separate circles and learning how to cope, it seems almost like Sam brings them together. I really enjoyed the friendship between Maz, Cori, and Sam. Without Sam, it felt like they were parts to a whole that no longer fit into each other. But it’s obvious that Sam is the glue of their relationship and with his return, something reverts back for both Maz and Cori; to a simpler time when all they had were each other and that sparks the changes they face throughout the rest of the book.

Overall, this was a fun and fast-paced story that would make for a perfect spooky season read! If you’re looking to get the feel of Halloween without it being too gorey, then I suggest picking this one up!

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean // Book Review

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean // Book Review

Fairy tales are such an important part of a young reader’s journey. They provide moral support, share adventures, and also teach valuable lessons. But what happens when those fairy tales are all that you know? What if you’re expecting the knight to come save you only to realize that they are the enemy? What if the person who can rescue you is yourself? Thanks to Tor Books fort the gifted copy of this book.

Here’s more about The Book Eaters

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.

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My thoughts

I finished this book late on Sunday afternoon and as I closed the cover for the final time, I realized that this was such an incredible book with an incredible story. However, I needed time to “digest” (pun intended) my thoughts on this peculiar story before I could share my thoughts with you. It was way different than I imagined it would be, but I enjoyed it regardless. It’s a modern-day fairy tale where the princess saves herself!

This is the story of a young person named Devon. She’s not human. She’s a book eater who comes from a family of book eaters that somehow landed on Earth generations ago and never left. They are slowly going extinct with a lack of females being born, those females who are born can only birth two children before losing their ability to conceive all together, and they are prisoners to their families, bought and sold to different book eaters to perpetuate the species and they’re not allowed to see their children ever again after a few years post-birth.

I think that the world building in this book is cleverly done. While telling the story in alternating timelines (one of Devon’s past and the other of Devon’s present), you really get a feel for the unique world Devon comes from. Their main concern is survival: with the circumstances stacked against them, these book eater people are desperate and in desperation comes severe methods of continuing to survive. Those methods are wrapped into traditions that are passed down from generation to generation.

When it finally dawns on Devon that she would have to let go of her children and when her final child, Cai, is born a mind eater (they have long snake-like tongues that suck out brains instead of devour books), she does everything in her power to escape the cycle of abuse. Right away, I was rooting for Devon and Cai. Even without knowing exactly what happened to her yet, I knew that she had gone through something, fighting something, and I was patiently reading through her past trauma and rooting for her to break free of it. Different than the other book eater women who eat fairy tales of princesses waiting to be saved in big castles, Devon read and ate the stories of heroines who made a place for themselves, had the strength to push beyond their boundaries, and subvert the societal pressures to be unseen. Devon is your modern day heroine who will stop at nothing to protect her children and give them the life they deserve.

The themes of this book also touch on motherhood, conception, mother/child relationships, domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse. While set in the modern day, I couldn’t help but imagine these book eater families stuck in some 19th century time warp where marriages are advantageous and a woman is only as good as whom she births. It was jarring at some points, touching on my own personal triggers and pushing me to read beyond it to see what happens at the end.

I think the only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of in this book is that it became quite repetitive at some points. While I know a lot about the book eater world, it was from the constant reinforcement of some of these ideas. It’s a small detail, but I bring it up in case others don’t like that.

This was an action packed story with a lot of character development and interesting themes. If you’re a fan of fairy tales, fantasy books, or just good modern story focused on a young woman’s love of her children, then I highly recommend this one. I’m now a huge fan of Sunyi Dean and will be looking out for new work from her in the future.

Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw // Book Review

Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw // Book Review

This tiny novella packs a punch with ghostly brides, haunted houses, and human sacrifice. The perfect Halloween read (or any time of the year if you’re like me).

Here’s more about Nothing but Blackened Teeth

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends.

But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

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My thoughts

Ok this is a legit horror story perfect for Halloween weekend. Of course, I’m posting this review after Halloween, but if you’re looking for something for next Halloween, consider adding this one to your TBR. It’s a novella, so it’ll be a super quick, but super spooky read.

The story follows a group of tourists in town for a wedding and they rent out an old haunted house as a wedding gift for the happy couple. Creepy tastes, but we’re not here to judge the characters. The story follows Cat, one of the members of the group as she’s haunted by the ghost who lives in the house. She sees her from the corner of her eye or within the reflection of the mirror. But once you learn more about the ghost and why she haunts the house, then it starts to get really freaky.

The atmosphere alone will get you. With the decaying walls, dark vibes, even the scene when one of the characters put on the wedding dress of the dead person, so creepy. The darkness in the story, the anticipation of something hanging out in the corners, it really gave that shock value. I was bracing every single time Cat was seeing something she didn’t want to see. The action is quick-paced and the ending really surprised me.

I really liked this story, but there were many parts that I didn’t like. This story had so much potential. Honestly, I loved the spooky Japanese house and the aloof young people celebrating their marriage there. But the rest didn’t make sense and really didn’t add anything more to the story. I wasn’t really interested in the relationship Cat had with the rest of the people at the house. It almost didn’t make sense to include it unless it somehow would play a role in the story further down the line, but I didn’t get that either. I wish there was some relation because despite not making sense with the story, it does paint a view of who these people are and how they relate to each other. I wanted to dive into that, maybe have it come up as the hauntings got worse.

I felt like there was so much that needed to be explained or really explored to get the full horror scope. It was so quick-paced making little room for explanation. I’ll admit, it was spooky but it wasn’t enough for me to just be spooky. I really wanted there to be more.

Overall, this will definitely spook you and make you think you see things from the corner of your eye. Thanks to Netgalley for the gifted copy.

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton // Book Review

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton // Book Review

Have you ever read anything more hopeful and gorey at the same time? Well, then this unique little novel will definitely intrigue you because it’s pretty much The Secret Life of Pets meets The Walking Dead as the animals the humans leave behind after a zombie apocalypse try to gather their strength and survive. There are many animals that do die and the reason why the humans became zombies was because of an unknown virus spread through their phones, so just keep that in mind if you’re sensitive to animal death and the recent COVID pandemic.

Here’s More about Hollow Kingdom

One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.

Then Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn’t quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies–from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis–fail to cure Big Jim’s debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity’s extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.

Hollow Kingdom is a humorous, big-hearted, and boundlessly beautiful romp through the apocalypse and the world that comes after, where even a cowardly crow can become a hero.

My Thoughts

I wholeheartedly loved this one. It was unique, different, and one of thsoe books with some goregous prose to take you away from the rest of the world. The story follows main character, ST (short for Shit Turd). I kid you not, I’m so surprised that I could connect with a crow as a main character. Of course, I can’t fly and I can’t connect to the animal network like they do in the book, but the emotional and mental issues he goes through as he processes what’s happening to him, his murder, and the world around him were so close to human that you couldn’t help but to relate.

The writing is exquisite. You can honestly tell that Kira Jane Buxton is a huge fan of Seattle and this almost reads like a love letter to the city if it were also in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. I’ve never been to Seattle and this book made me really want to go. The depictions of nature, the beauty of the animals as they gather together to survive, and even some of the landmarks were really vivid throughout the story. However, Kira Jane Buxton is also one of those authors who uses her powers for evil and I will tell you now, there are some seriously gross parts in this book. The zombies were gross, the bodies were gross, the decay, the death, all of it was just really nasty. It didn’t bother me much because I’m used to this kind of thing, but I can imagine someone faint of heart having problems stomaching the descriptions in some places. I will warn you now, it gets graphic.

There were also some interesting characters like ST’s dog, Dennis, who’s a bloodhound with so much loyalty for the bird. Then there’s the different animals that get their own chapter. You read this book through the perspective of the animals and each of them has their own views from different parts of the world. I absolutely loved this perspective and reading it through their eyes really made me so happy.

the ending was super surprising as well. Of course I won’t go into detail about it, but it definitely changes course right at the end and for the better.

Overall, this was a good one and if you’re a fan of horror, then I suggest this one to you. I’s fast-paced and easy to read if you can stomach the gruesome descriptions. I loved ST’s mission to save all the domesticated animals who were stuck without help and how that makes ST grow into a much more evolved crow. I kind of wish I waited to read this in October, but maybe I’ll save the second book for then.

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas // Book Review

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas // Book Review

I’m going to be honest with you, I think I could write an entire research paper about this novel because it is so good with a lot of themes and complex in a way that will make you think. I’m extremely impressed in this debut author and her work. Her writing is eloquent, descriptive, and deceptively literary. Without being confusing or mundane, Elisabeth Thomas creates a utopian world based on transcendentalist philosophy, art, and a little bit of darkness. This is going to be a tough review to write because I don’t want to give the plot away. I feel like this entire book is a spoiler, so read it!

Continue reading “Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas // Book Review”

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia // Book Review

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia // Book Review

I’m a huge fan of gothic literature and horror stories, so when I heard an author combined both, set it in 1950s Mexico, and had it starring a creepy ass house, I was all over it. And let me tell you. It did NOT disappoint.

TW: domestic abuse and violence, attempted sexual assault and harassment, suicide, homicide, and lots of gorey bits and pieces.

mexican gothicThe story follows Noemi, a young socialite who’s days are filled with a pursuit for a degree in anthropology while her nights are filled with champagne and lavish parties and men fawning over her. When she hears her cousin, Catalina, is sick, she decides to take a trip to High Place, the home where Catalina lives with her husband and his family.

However, when Noemi arrives at High Place, things aren’t as they seemed. First off, the town is not like where Noemi came from. It was much smaller than the lights of Mexico City. The house itself is falling apart with mold covering the walls. There’s not enough light coming into the home giving off an ominous feel. Noemi isn’t allowed to leave on her own. She can’t smoke. She can’t speak with her cousin because Catalina is sleeping all the time. In Noemi’s boredom, she starts to figure out what’s happening to her cousin and why this opulent home has fallen into such disarray. When Noemi finally uncovers the secrets of High Place, it becomes more than just a creepy ghost story.

My thoughts

I’m a huge fan of horror stories like this where you think you see something from the corner of your eye, but then you ignore it because it’s probably just your brain. But then that thing starts moving and all of a sudden, you’re not in Kansas anymore. That’s what this book felt like; a scary roller-coaster that once you get down the first hill, you’re basically just along for the ride. Also, gothic is most definitely the right word to explain High Place. The foggy scenes in the graveyard gave me so much Bronte sisters vibes that I was eating it up.

I was really intrigued by Noemi. She’s such a complex character and I loved her dimensions. She was a socialite in many ways, but her studies in anthropology and her inquisitive nature both play major roles in the story as she uncovers the secrets of High Place. I love how her intelligence is always thwarted by someone; some dude coming at her trying to trip her up with eugenics or anthropological theories. With a background like hers and then having her explore High Place looking for answers really made me love Noemi so much more. Having the story centered on her experience brings the readers into the story learning alongside her. It was a good vehicle to keep secrets close to the chest and share SMG’s hand slowly while pacing the novel.

The other characters of this novel also play a huge role in the overall story. You’ve got the ambitious grandson who is waiting for his moment to take over the family business. You’ve got the dying grandfather who doesn’t want to die, but coming to terms with it. You’ve got the big old questions about their family and the house, which makes it so much more intriguing. And then on top of all that, you’ve got Noemi and her cousin Catalina and their role in this entire endeavor. The complexity of their family life was probably the big driver of this story because it was COMPLEX. I don’t know if I would ever want to spend a holiday with these folks. lol.

And I will admit, the pace is definitely a slow burn. However, I never felt bored. The story hints at a lot of different things and felt more like a giant puzzle where the pieces eventually all come together. I love an author that drops hints all throughout the story, but doesn’t make it so obvious so that it becomes a big surprise! I found myself going “omg that thing from before! YES! I GET IT!” which is a very fun feeling for me.

In terms of its spookiness, it’s up there. I will admit that I’ve read scarier in my life, but that doesn’t take away from the atmospheric and suspenseful nature of the story. SMG keeps you guessing all the way to the end and even then I feel like she leaves you questioning whether or not what happened actually happened. I love a good book that questions whether what you read was truth.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Books and their Movies: The Shining by Stephen King

Books and their Movies: The Shining by Stephen King

One of my all-time favorite things to do is read a book and compare it to its movie adaptation. Lately, it feels like many books being published are also being picked up for movies or tv series. I could rattle off a list of all the great books made into television or movie adaptations that came out this year.

With that in mind, I wanted to bring a new series to the blog where I compare and contrast the movie to its book. This series will discuss both the book and its subsequent movie or tv show. I won’t be bashing one or the other and I won’t be yelling “the book was better” from the rooftops. It will be spoiler-heavy, so keep that in mind when reading these essays. I just always find it fun to see how Hollywood breaks down a book and what makes it to the big screen.

We all know that the book is always better than the movie, but there are some movies that have been adapted that stand on their own. The first book and movie we’ll be discussing is The Shining by Stephen King.

I read The Shining for the first time this fall. I wanted to finally dive into Stephen King’s horror work and with Doctor Sleep coming out in theaters, I wanted to read this quintessential Stephen King and then watch its movie. Luckily, I had the opportunity to watch the movie on a flight I recently took and couldn’t believe what Stanley Kubrick kept and left out. There were some positive moments for me, but a lot of disappointing ones as well.

Here’s the synopsis of the book

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

Here’s the trailer for The Shining


I think The Shining movie gets a lot of flack around how little it actually adapts from the book. When watching the movie, it definitely felt more like Stanley Kubrick took the horror components of the book and extenuated them.

However, I don’t discount Stanley Kubrick and his way to build atmosphere. The movie builds suspense through high pitch noises and sudden cuts displaying horrific scenes. Despite it not being an exact adaptation of the book, the movie itself was pretty gruesome and scary at points. It definitely filled the quota of suspenseful thriller and if you watch the movie without reading the book, then you’ll see this as one of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpieces with his camera usage and editing skills.

I feel like if you don’t read the book before you watch the movie you’re going to be super lost. I think the one thing Stanley Kubrick left out that was vital to the story was that the Overlook Hotel feeds off shining energy. It wasn’t clear that Danny was the target here for his exceptional shining powers and I feel like if that was established more, then you would understand why the hotel went after Jack’s mind.

I can just imagine the folks watching this movie when it came out and being completely enamored by Stanley Kubrick’s work. The wall of blood, the completely naked woman, the appearance of ghosts and the edited cut scenes were all probably new and innovative back in the day. The lack of motive probably also lent to the scariness of this movie because watching Jack go from average human to completely mental is very apparent. I just wish it was explained.

But I did appreciate that Kubrick kept essential characters like Dick Halloran (who explains the shining to Danny) and Tony, Danny’s spirit friend. I was worried Dick would play a super small role, but I think Stanley Kubrick understood his importance. Not only in explaining the shining, but also being the person who eventually saves Wendy and Danny from Jack.

I wasn’t a fan of how Danny described Tony as a kid that lives in his mouth and accesses Danny’s finger and voice when he speaks. The book describes him as a voice Danny hears and Danny relays what he says to his parents. I think that I liked the book’s concept of this better because it made it more obvious that Tony is broadcasting directly into Danny’s brain. However, I can see how that can be difficult to display on screen especially when Danny is having conversations with Tony.

I loved how Wendy is portrayed in the movie as well. At first, she seems like a sheepish housewife, but when it came to protecting her son, she changed completely using weapons against her own husband. It was also really clear that Wendy struggled with loving her husband and protecting her son. Although, I felt Wendy was a much stronger character in the book, I really appreciated how strong she was on screen.

I also liked how Stanley Kubrick used a hedge maze instead of animal topiaries. To be honest, I think this was because they didn’t have the technology back then to make CGI topiaries come to life. The maze is also more menacing and the chase scene really built suspense.

Overall, I think both the movie and the book are great but for their separate reasons. The book because of its ability to really get into the mindset of all the characters. The movie because of its ability to artfully display horror in this secluded hotel and how that affects the family living within its walls.

What did you think? Did you like the movie or the book better?