June 10, 2019

Book Review: Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss

A young woman hunts for her wayward shadow at the school where she  first learned magic—while another faces a test she never studied for as ice envelopes the world. The tasks assigned a bookish boy lead him to  fateful encounters with lizards, owls, trolls and a feisty, sarcastic cat. A bear wedding is cause for celebration, the spinning wheel and the tower in the briar hedge get to tell their own stories, and a kitchenmaid finds out that a lost princess is more than she seems. The sea witch reveals what she hoped to gain when  she took the mermaid’s voice. A wiser Snow White sets out to craft  herself a new tale.

In these eight stories and twenty-three poems, World Fantasy Award  winner Theodora Goss retells and recasts fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Oscar Wilde.  Sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious, always lyrical, the works  gathered in Snow White Learns Witchcraft re-center and empower  the women at the heart of these timeless narratives. Science Fiction  and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Jane Yolen, in her  introduction, proclaims that Goss “transposes, transforms, and  transcends times, eras, and old tales with ease. But also there is a  core of tough magic that runs through all her pieces like a river  through Faerie . . . I am ready to reread some of my new favorites.”

1. Prepare to read a lot about bears.  

2. Don't buy "Red as Blood and White as Bone" separately as it is included in this collection.

3. Theodora Goss's fairy tales are dark and precious and no one else writes like her. 

"I'll learn the words to spells out of old books, grow poisonous herbs and practice curdling milk, cast evil eyes.  I'll summon a familiar: black cat or toad.  I'll tell my grandchildren fairy tales in which princesses slay dragons or wicked fairies live happily ever after. I'll talk to birds, and they'll talk back to me."

"What else should women do when they grow old and useless?  Become witches. It's the only role you get to write yourself."

June 3, 2019

Book Review: The Friend by Teresa Driscoll

On a train with her husband, miles from home and their four-year-old son, Ben, Sophie receives a chilling phone call. Two boys are in hospital after a tragic accident. One of them is Ben.

She thought she could trust Emma, her new friend, to look after her little boy. After all, Emma’s a kindred spirit—someone Sophie was sure she could bare her soul to, despite the village rumours. But Sophie can’t shake the feeling that she’s made an unforgivable mistake and now her whole family is in danger.

Because how well does she know Emma, really? Should she have trusted her at all?

Time is running out. Powerless to help her child, still hours from home, Sophie is about to discover the truth. And her life will never be the same.

I will admit that my biggest issue with this book are the time jumps.  It goes from past to present.  Past as in a few months before or weeks before. Present as in right now or earlier in the day.  But even then they are not arranged chronologically.  To further complicate matters, the POV alternates between a handful of characters. Most of the chapters are from Sophie's POV, but the rest are split among her husband, a private investigator, one of her friends, and a detective.  The chapters are helpfully marked with "BEFORE" and "TODAY" (with time stamps).  I understand what the author was trying to do - heightening the suspense by contrasting the chaos of the present with the incremental revelations of the past. However, my overall experience was one of disorientation.  

My second biggest issue was with Sophie herself.  For most of the chapters, I found her to be a bit obtuse and annoying.  But that did change by the end and I was very much rooting for her.

All my issues went by the wayside by the time I got to the last third of the book.  The author's assured writing style promised that I would be rewarded and I certainly was by the last chapters.  Twist after twist took me by surprise and I could not turn the pages faster. Ultimately, a satisfying read.

May 27, 2019

Book Review: The Ex-Wife by Jess Ryde

Newly married Natasha has the perfect house, a loving husband and a beautiful little girl called Emily. She’d have it all if it wasn’t for Jen, her husband’s ex-wife who just won’t leave them alone …

Then Natasha returns home one day to find her husband and Emily gone without trace. Desperate to get her daughter back, Natasha will do anything even if it means accepting an offer of help from Jen. But can she trust her? And do either of them really know the man they married?

There are a couple of big twists in The Ex-Wife- which I did see coming.  This doesn't make me a genius since I was surprised by a plot development stated in the synopsis.  Forgetful, what can I say.  

Natasha starts out as a doormat, basically, which irritated me.  Kinda dumb and kinda helpless, plus she got her current man while he was still married.  So I did not have a lot of sympathy for her.  She seemed to get blind-sided a little too easily and then later on when things got squirelly, she did a lot of mental gymnastics - which only helped the plot, not her.  

However, The Ex-Wifewas compelling enough that I did not throw it aside in disgust.  On the contrary, I kept turning the pages with excited dread, thinking, "How bad can this get?" Natasha and the novel redeem themselves and the ending, especially the last chapter, gave me a long-awaited sense of satisfaction.