Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia | Book Review

★★★☆☆
January 23rd – 24th

This is the third book that I’ve read by Francesca Zappia, and to be honest, after this one I’m thinking that my love for her second book may have been an anomaly.

In theory, this book has everything that I like. Mystery, paranormal powers, ghosts, and a distinct lack of romance (though it did have an annoying amount of mentioning it). In reality, I felt that the book fell flat with many of these elements, and I’m wondering if that’s because of the age range it was written for, or due to the writing.

Mysteries are supposed to be creepy. They should make the hair on the back of your arms stand up, and leave you with a sense of unease. At best, I found the setting for Now Entering Addamsville a type of surface level horror setting that I was not a huge fan of.

The main plot is that Zora Novak has been framed for starting a fire and killing a man. Things only go worse for Zora from there, as she’s outcast and blamed for a series of crimes that she didn’t commit. Zora, who can see ghosts and is hunting a creature called a firestarter, has the whole town against her. She teams up with her cousin Artemis, and the two attempt to clear her name and stop the monster causing havoc in their spooky Indiana town.

The most interesting mystery in the book actually happened five years prior to the events we’re given, when Zora’s mother disappeared without a trace and left her car, and her firestarter hunting to Zora. Through the book, there is a constant reminder that Zora’s mom disappeared, and that Zora doesn’t believe her to be dead. Though some of the other character mysteries had satisfying endings, I felt that this one was left far too open for any satisfaction.

I did like the some of the characters, mainly Zora’s cousin Artemis, and a “good” firestarter named Bach who helps her along the way. I thought that their characters were more interesting, and less angry, than our main character. I think that I have a hard time with angry main characters in general though, so I don’t fault the book for that.

I also appreciated that at the end the book definitely didn’t shy away from gore, and Zora’s fear of fire was written very well. This, combined with the good pacing of the book is what kept it at a three for my rating.

I hope that if Zappia writes in this genre again, we get to see more of a creepy setting. This low rating hasn’t dissuaded me from reading her future books, because I know what her writing is like when she’s touching upon heavier subjects like the schizophrenia in Made You Up, or the anxiety and perfectionism she dictates so beautifully in Eliza and her Monsters. Whenever she announces a new book, I’ll still check it out.

-Siobhan

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence | Book Review

★★★★☆
January 18th – 20th

I put off reading the finale to this series for a very long time. Most of that was because I didn’t want the series to end, but I was also very apprehensive about how I would feel about the ending. From a few reviews I read, people felt just okay, and that concerned me. The first book was such an unexpected surprise, and after feeling like the second book was building up to something large, I couldn’t help but be scared that it would all be for nothing.

I liked this ending a lot. Mark Lawrence set up a lot of questions to be answered, most of which I won’t go into here for spoiler reasons. Seventy pages from the end, I was concerned about the ending. I was afraid of my favorite characters not making it, my favorite plot points going unanswered, and my favorite locations getting burned to the ground. Only some of those things happened.

I have to commend Lawrence for his attention to detail in this series. This is one of the rare cases where I couldn’t find myself wondering why a character didn’t do x thing which seemed slightly more obvious to me. I was constantly surprised by the setup and payoff that he was able to produce, and he’s a master at hinting at things in the beginning which will be needed at the end.

Following the events of the second book, as well as the novella, Nona Grey is back at Sweet Mercy, finishing up her training. This book bounces between present day and three years earlier, when Nona and Zole were escaping from the final events of the previous book. I liked the chance in pace between the two, and the time jumps were crafted so that the lessons learned in each were relevant to the other without it feeling forced.

My favorite part of all three books has always been the combination of the setting and the relationships, and this book was no different. The world building in this series is some of my favorite that I’ve ever read, and I loved seeing Nona’s friendships and what they mean to her grow and continue to expand over the course of the three books. I think that Mark Lawrence did a great job writing a character who grows and changes and becomes an adult from a young kid. It’s also great to see that type of growth in a very dark setting.

I think that for people who were invested in the romantic side of the relationships, this book may have been a slight letdown. Romance is always my least favorite part of books, so I was more than okay with the way the book ended on that front. I honestly wish more books would have hints of romance in the background without feeling the need to pull it into the main plot of the story.

That’s a whole other topic that I won’t get into though.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who likes fantasy and science fiction, and who likes combat and a bit of magic.

I was really excited to learn that Abeth, the planet that the Book of the Ancestor series takes place on, is being returned to in Mark Lawrence’s next series, Book of the Ice. the first book comes out in April. I’m excited to see where that series takes place, and what else Mark Lawrence has in store for me. There are three other series of his which I can also check out in the meantime.

-Siobhan

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli | Book Review

★★★☆☆
January 16th – 17th

I’ve had this book on my TBR since the beginning of 2018 when I finished Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. This was supposed to come shortly after that, so I could continue to dip my toes back into the only subject in science that really interested me in school. I didn’t get around to it then, but two years later my extremely base-level interest in physics remains, and I figured I’d give this a try.

This is very flowery. It takes seven (though I’d argue it’s really six) concepts in physics, and provides a base-level overview of what they are and how they interact with each other. I think that Rovelli does a great job with his metaphors, but the overall tone is very high level and not very specific. As with the last of this type of book I’ve read, I’m left wanting more.

This was put together as a collection of several articles which were originally published by Rovelli in an Italian newspaper, but slightly expanded on to be bound together. I think that these would work better as articles, and they’re definitely written this way. Only the last “lesson” is different, and this is the one that I found myself the most bored with. That last lesson deals with the philosophy of physics and how science as a whole interplays with human beings. While fundamentally interesting, philosophy isn’t a huge interest of mine, and I found it a strange note to end on.

Most of Rovelli’s other work is much denser and focused solely on one aspect of physics, which I’d be reluctant to give a try. Still, this has done it’s job in that I’m craving more non-fiction, and may look to read books slightly more challenging than this in the future.

-Siobhan

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire | Book Review

★★★☆☆
January 12th – 15th

I was so excited for this book. This is the fifth installment in the Wayward Children series, and seems to be a direct sequel to the third and first books (which I didn’t like) containing the characters from the second book (which are my favorites). I’m I’m unfortunately finding a pattern with this series that I only like every other book, which isn’t fun.

Luckily, they’re short enough that I can get through them, but we’ll get into what’s actually happening here.

Following the events of the first book, Jack and Jill return to the Moors. At the start of this book, we see Jack return, passed out in the arms of Alexis, her reanimated girlfriend. But Jack doesn’t seem to be fully Jack. Instead, she’s in Jill’s body.

Part of my problem with this book is that it had a quest storyline, similar to the third book, that takes place in one of the worlds. While the quests sound fun in theory, there just isn’t enough time to flesh out the stakes and consequences, and as a result there are no stakes or consequences. The people she brings along to help her don’t even end up helping her, as she does all of the work themselves. The most they do is act against her and make it more difficult for her to continue. Even the culmination of the book, the final battle which will help Jack get her body back, is wrapped up within a few pages.

This book also contains characters I find very hard to deal with, and McGuire’s style of bouncing around to what each character is feeling can be hard to follow. The characters repeat themselves, or justify their actions verbally, because there isn’t enough time for their character arcs to do it for them. In addition, we’re constantly met with “back when she saved her world” or “when he defeated the monster in his own world”, and it feels a lot like we’ve missed out on some really fun adventure stories and are stuck.

At the end of the book, we barely get a reaction from the characters once they’ve returned to the school. Cora especially, who you actually saw struggle with being in another world and returning, doesn’t even say or do anything at the end, and we’re left to wonder if she’s going to be okay mentally after the toll The Moors took on her.

My favorite of these books have been the second and fourth books, which concentrated on one character finding their doors and going into their world. McGuire seems to do better with a smaller scope, and I hope she’ll give us more of these prequel stories in the future, as the quest storylines at the school aren’t doing it for me.

-Siobhan

Wilder Girls by Rory Power | Book Review

★★★★☆
October 31st – November 8th

I’ve heard about this book a lot. I’ve heard it described as a female Lord of the Flies, but spookier and weird. I guess if you aren’t super familiar with a more speculative horror genre, and you’re in the YA demographic that this book is aimed at, that’s a fair comparison. To me, a more apt comparison is Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, a book which I was not a huge fan of.

This book was different enough from that in ways that I liked, but also still had the atmosphere and descriptions which were my favorite part of Annihilation. I think Rory Power did a great job bringing a different type of horror genre to a young adult audience, and I hope that this introduces a lot of YA readers to horror books as something they can continue to enjoy.

This book takes place on Raxter, an island off the coast of Maine and home to an all girls boarding school by the same name. The island has always been slightly strange, with blue crabs and flowers that turn black after being picked. Now, there’s the Tox, a sickness which changes the girls and makes them wild. Hetty has her eye sealed shut and blooms over it. Byatt has a second spine. Reese has a hand with silver scales.

There are others, girls with two hearts, silver hair that glows, each one unique and slightly stranger than the last. The island is twisted too, with trees that grow too fast, and animals that are far more feral than they used to be.

This book reads almost as a slice of life into the strange world that these girls live in. It takes place a year and a half after the Tox began, as their numbers continue to dwindle and a cure seems less and less likely. Secrets are uncovered and things begin to change again. This book is about friendship and more than friendship. It’s about relationships with parents, and closing people out, and letting people in. It’s a slow burn, a slow story, and a slow progression.

I liked this book a lot. It was weird, and cool, and ominous, and gory. It’s a book that I would recommend to people who like horror and not having all the answers to all the questions, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

Rory Power has another book coming out next year, and if it’s anything like this I think I’ll really enjoy it.

-Siobhan

2020 Review Goals

Typically, my goal is to have reviews come out on Fridays. I have one review left from the end of 2019, which will come out next week, but this week I wanted to go over my website and review goals for the year.

They’re very simple, I’d like to try and do one review every week for all of 2020 (this week excluded). Ideally, on Fridays I’ll be having reviews for the books I’ve read so far that year. On Mondays, I’m looking into different types of content. TBRs and Recaps will be moving to Mondays, and I’ll also be doing some more favorites, list-type entries, and content other than reviews.

I’m excited to see how this format works for me this year, but it’s a work in progress. I may move back to only posting on Fridays, or I may stick with it all year. Only time will tell, but I’m excited!

-Siobhan

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens | Book Review

★★★★★
October 30th

This book has been on the top of every list since it came out at the end of August last year. It’s received extremely high praise, and I’ve been on the list to loan this book from the library for about 30 weeks.

At first glance, this isn’t my type of book. I’m not usually into historical fiction, the cover screamed that it would be a somewhat slow-paced read, and I couldn’t figure out a time where I would be in the mood to try it. But the description hinted at a mystery, and I just can’t resist a good mystery.

I’m so glad that I read this book. It was heartbreaking, and beautiful, and dark, and scientific, and showed me that I can love historical fiction, I just have to find the ones right for me.

The novel is told in two timelines, one starting in 1952, following Kya, a young woman who is slowly abandoned by her Mother, siblings, and Father until she is living alone at the age of seven in a shack at the edge of a swamp in North Carolina. She learns to take care of herself, never going to school, and dodging any police or social services who come to try and take her away.

Kya is locally known as a bit of an urban legend, the Marsh Girl. The town believes she’s dirty, crazed, and won’t go near her, or help her for that matter. Kya eventually makes some friends, Tate, a boy a few years older than her who teaches her to read, write, and some basic math, and eventually a boy named Chase. At some point though, everyone seems to leave Kya. Though she’s a bit immature as a character from the amount of time spent alone, there’s a maturity to her actions and to her love of nature that’s really beautiful to read about.

In 1969, Chase is found dead and the local police force (and town) begin to suspect that Kya had something to do with it. The investigation is very one-sided, and the town seems more hellbent on pinning the death as a murder than in finding out the truth about what happened to him.

This book hurt to read. It was heavy and sometimes hard to get through, but the scientific aspects were a good way to pull the reader out of the hard-hitting plot. Delia Owens love of nature and animals definitely came through the page, and I wasn’t surprised at all to find that she had spent a good amount of time studying in Africa. Her fondness of the nature in the south is just as present in this book, and it quietly shows the importance of marshland to the reader, not just to those Kya interacts with in the book.

I would definitely recommend the audiobook. I listened to about half of the book this way, and it was a great way to get some of the pronunciations and slang that I was unfamiliar with.

I’m in awe that this is Delia Owens’ debut. I can’t wait to see what else she writes, and to also check out some of her non-fiction work.

-Siobhan