Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Sometimes, there are books that you read that you really don’t know what to say. Not in a bad way, but in a good way. I am sitting here, trying to figure out what to say about a story that is very powerful and deep. That has a lot to say…..But says it in a different way. Riot Baby does this and much much more. Thank you to Tor.com for sending me a review copy!!

Synopsis: In contemporary America there is a brother and sister. The sister has powers.

What I liked: With his writing Onyebuchi gives a voice to so many who don’t have voices. His writing is strong and powerful. His characterizations are amazing. I appreciate how he took many aspects of modern America and twisted them into a contemporary dystopian society. I loved how he used the supernatural aspects of the sister’s travels to look through American history and the idea of true freedom.

What I didn’t like: Nothing

Star Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: OHHHH there is so much to unpack in this story. So much sadness and hurt. It questions, the idea of true freedom. It questions the trajectory of America. The thing that I really appreciated was Onyebuchi showed the brutal reality of the American prison system. Here is something that I thought about while I was reading, was the aftercare that prisoners who are released from the system receive. How, do we care for individuals who have been in the prison system during their formative years? What do we do for those people who are vulnerable or who have been institutionalized. Are people really free then? There was something that struck me when he was talking about the box that felons have to check. When you have to check a box to announce that you have been in prison there is not the freedom that is many might think is there.

There are aspects of the book that I can’t personally, speak to as I am not a POC and I don’t want to speak from a place of privilege. I am super excited as Onyebuchi is going to be at the Tucson Festival of Books!!!

Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer

In about 1726 there was a woman named Mary Toft who, lived in Goldaming Surrey in England, with her husband and three children. In the Spring of 1726 Mary had had a stillborn delivery. However, at that time she stated that she had seen a rabbit and chased it. She didn’t catch the rabbit at that time. There was a second rabbit in the same place as the first rabbit. She wasn’t able to catch that one either. From that time forward the only thing on Mary’s mind was rabbit. The only thing that Mary wanted to eat was rabbit. This went on until the family was not able to financial support Mary’s rabbit habit.

It was during the time that Mary began to have what can only described as labor pains. She was attended to by her Mother-in-law who was a midwife. Mary delivered parts of a tabby cat and rabbit parts. Her mother-in-law sent the parts that were delivered to a physician in Guilford, named John Howard. John Howard himself didn’t believe that the animal parts that he received had been delivered by Mary. He was called to her home two days later where under his gaze Mary again delivered rabbit parts.

This went on for around two months. Mary’s story was heard by the King who requested that she be brought to London and watched day and night by courtiers and eminent surgeons. On December 7th, after being in bed for close to three months Mary admitted that she and her mother in law had perpetuated the hoax.

This story is so amazing. So when I was offered a review copy of Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen I jumped at the chance. Thank you Pantheon for my review copy.

Synopsis: The fictionalized account of Mary Toft and her rabbit births.

What I liked: Holy crap I loved this book. Palmer took what could have been a very dry story and made it a story that I didn’t want to stop. His writing is lyrical and lends itself beautifully to the time and space that he is writing about. I was very impressed with how he worked Ann’s character into the story. It always worries me when there is someone that has bodily differences in a story. But her character was well written and her bodily difference actually didn’t make her character. It was in addition to her character. Palmer was able to weave a very dark part of London history into a moral lesson. Which was very impressive.

What I didn’t like: There was nothing I didn’t like in this story.

Star Rating: 5 stars

My thoughts: Again I loved loved this book. The liberties that Palmer took fit so well into the narrative that you would have thought that they were actually part of the historical story. That is the sign of a very talented author. One that can weave two time frames together with no issues. Palmer’s research into the time period and the nuances of English culture during this time period shows how much he cared about the book and the story that he was writing.

The Yellow Wall-Paper, Herland and Selected Writings by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Welcome to the first review of the year!!! 2020 has started out to be an excellent reading year at this point. I participated in #ladiesfirst20 again this year. For my first book of the year I read Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It was included in a new edition from Penguin Classics Women’s series. Which I am totally here for. In this edition there are poems and other short stories from Gilman. Many of which I hadn’t read before, and I am so glad that I have. A BIG Thank you to Penguin Classics for sending me a review copy!! This review is going to cover Herland specifically.

Synopsis: Three men end up in a isolated country which has no men.

What I liked: What can I say. It is Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I love her writing style. The pacing of the story was a bit slower then what I expected but the build up was perfect. I really enjoyed the slower pace it allowed me to immerse myself in the story and the characters. It wasn’t really horror but some of the themes within the story are horror adjacent. I really enjoyed Gilman’s characterizations. She took three different types of men (which she must have known) and wrote them so well. The poetry and the other short stories are amazing.

What I didn’t like: There was nothing that I didn’t like about this book.

Star Rating: 5 Stars

My thoughts: This was the perfect book to start off the New Year. I had read The Yellow Wall-Paper multiple times. There are things that I notice every time I read it. I am pretty sure that Herland is going to be one of those stories as well. What I found truly interesting here was the how the women evolved without having men around. I think for the stories time it was subversive. That women would be able to think beyond fashion and home would have been novel.

Non-Fiction: The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

Because I am a big dork. If you haven’t figured that out by now I am sorry but now you know. I have watched a ridiculous amount of documentaries regarding asylums. I got interested a few years ago when I came across an article about a woman who had herself committed to document the treatment of people that were in asylums. This led me to a news report that Geraldo (when he was still doing real news) had recorded. I have always wondered about where many of our mental health diagnosis have come from. With this in mind when I received The Great Pretender I was so excited to read it. Thank you Grand Central Publishing for my review copy.

Synopsis: An in-depth study of the David Rosenhan study regarding asylums and madness.

What I liked: Cahalan’s writing is engaging and conversational which made what could have been very dry material engaging. I loved the way she approached the history of asylums and psychiatry. I appreciated the way she brought her own issues into the story and expanded upon on what could have happened to her. The pacing of the book was perfect for the story that Calahan was telling.

What I didn’t like: Nothing

Star Rating: 5 Stars

My thoughts: Holy Moly!!! I loved this amazing non-fiction book. I devoured it in a couple of days. The material was engaging and not dry at all. What I found really interesting through the story was how her opinion of Rosenhan changed. She didn’t condemn him as some researchers would have but rather she was empathetic to what he was trying to show the world. I also really enjoyed the fact that she explored how the results of his study caused ripples throughout psychiatry.

The Cult Called Freedom House by Stephanie Evelyn

I love a book about cults. I find cults super interesting. I have probably said this before somewhere. But the part that I really find interesting is when cults are up to no good. When you think about it, that is the only time that large cults are in the news. Something crazy happens and it gets splashed about the front page (or the internet). So when the opportunity to review The Cult Called Freedom House was offered I couldn’t pass it up.

Synopsis: A girl joins a cult and a detective starts looking for missing people.

What I liked: I really love the premise of the book. Especially, after reading the opening scene. I think that there are aspects of this story that I truly enjoyed. The cult really peeked my interest and the throw back to another cult is an interesting twist that I really wanted more of. The backstory for the detective really peaked my interest and I enjoyed her character. I also enjoyed many of the scenes that took place within the cult.

What I didn’t like: I liked the story itself but I had some issues with a couple of different aspects which I will discuss in my thoughts.

Star Rating: 3

My Thoughts: I had really high hopes for this book. I had seen some amazing reviews. However, I had some issues with the story. One of my main issues was with the timeline jumps that seemed to happen. One minute we are at a funeral and the next minute it is two months later. That type of jumping around without context pulled me out of the story. There are a couple of other time jumps in the story which didn’t work for me. This is a promising start for the series. However, other readers may not have the same issues. If you don’t I would pick it up .

True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik

Nature vs. nurture….I think about this a lot. Yes, I probably watch too many true crime documentaries. I recently read a book on this history of mental health and there was a running theme through the book which was how is insanity defined. What makes one insane? Is it something that happened in our childhood or is it something that we are born with? True Crime explores this and much more. Thank you for the review copy Samantha and Grindhouse press.

Synopsis: The story of an abused girl and the fall out from the abuse.

What I liked: I really enjoyed Kolesnik’s writing. The pacing of the book made it a quick one sitting read. Kolensik’s characterizations are really well written. I personally felt all the feelings for the characters. When I say all the feelings I mean all the feelings. Hate, sadness and empathy. The story was very well written and I truly enjoyed the story. I would be interested in knowing what happened to Suzy. LOL. I feel like the story just kind of cut off.

What I didn’t like: There was a time jump that didn’t get explained until a little bit later after then. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it but rather it slightly confused me for a couple of minutes.

Star Rating: 4.5 stars

My thoughts: I finished this book last night and it is still on my mind. The themes that run through it are truly disturbing and I am here for it. As I was reading the entire time I was thinking about the nature vs. nurture question. Would things have been different for the characters IF their parents had treated them better? Or were the characters just born broken? True Crime made me sad LOL.

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley

I didn’t like mushrooms on my pizza until I was about 15 years old. At that point I wanted to try all the different types of mushrooms that we have on this amazing planet of ours. I still love mushrooms. I kinda am not sure I want to eat them anymore after reading The Beauty. Who am I trying to kid I still love mushrooms but I will never look at a chicken of the forest mushroom the same again.

Synopsis: Women died and in their place grew yellow mushrooms.

What I liked: Whiteley’s writing is very straight to the point and I am here for it. This isn’t my first of Whiteley’s books that I have reviewed. But I have to say it is my favorite. It is the weird quotient that I loved about the book. Whiteley’s imagination is amazing. The pacing of the story was spot on for me. It was a fast read that as a reader I needed to know what happened next. There weren’t any unneeded scenes to fill the story out. The flow was perfect and the emotion of the characters shine through the story.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like.

Star Rating: 4.5 stars

My thoughts: When I finished The Beauty I had a few minutes of what the hell did I just read. Over the last few weeks I really have come to have enjoyed and loved the story. It is really beautiful and frightening at the same time. One thing I took away from it is that men and women have a symbiotic relationship with one another. I also enjoyed the strength that the “mushrooms” had. I think that there is a lot to unpack in this story. It is such an odd little story but could have a lot of meaning when you look between the lines. I know that there have been some mixed reviews regarding this lovely book.

Cover Reveal: The Cipher by Kathe Koja!!

I am really pleased to be a part of the cover reveal for the re-release of The Cipher by Kathe Koja!! This cover is beautiful folks!!! The cover artist is Keith Rosson. He did an amazing job on this re-release. The Cipher releases on 09/15/2020 by Meerkat Press.

Provided by Meerkat Press

Kathe Koja’s classic novel of fear, obsession, creation, and destruction, The Cipher, which reopens the door on the Funhole with this brand new and long-awaited print edition. It is the winner of the Bram Stoker Award, Locus Award, and a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award.  

Nicholas is a would-be poet and video-store clerk with a weeping hole in his hand – weeping not blood, but a plasma of tears…

It began with Nakota and her crooked grin. She had to see the dark hole in the storage room down the hall. She had to make love to Nicholas beside it, and stare into its secretive, promising depths. Then Nakota began her experiments: First, she put an insect into the hole. Then a mouse…

Now from down the hall, the black hole calls out to Nicholas every day and every night. And he will go to it. Because it has already seared his flesh, infected his soul, and started him on a journey of obsession – through its soothing, blank darkness into the blinding core of terror.


From Author’s Goodreads

Kathe Koja is a writer, director and independent producer. Her work combines and plays with genres, from YA to contemporary to historical to horror. Her novels–including THE CIPHER, SKIN, BUDDHA BOY, TALK, and the UNDER THE POPPY trilogy–have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She creates immersive fiction with a rotating ensemble of video artists, dancers, musicians and performers.

Her latest novel is CHRISTOPHER WILD. VELOCITIES, her second short fiction collection, is upcoming in 2020 from Meerkat Press, along with a reprint of her classic novel THE CIPHER. 

She’s globally minded, and based in Detroit USA.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

There are movies that really make an impression on you. I had seen the remake with Nicole Kidman multiple times. There wasn’t anything unsettling about this version of the movie. However, the 1975 movie is very dark and disturbing. I hadn’t read the book so I figured it was time to read it. As I read I felt more and more uncomfortable. You can see so much of today’s society in this book and it is gut churning.

What I liked: In 123 pages Levin accomplishes so much. He packs all the horror and the creepy in. That gut wrenching feeling that something just isn’t right. Maybe the main character is going crazy. Maybe you are going crazy along with her. Levin chooses his words carefully to deliver a punch. the story comes together very quickly. The dread builds very quickly throughout the story. Even with the story being short, the characters are three dimensional and believable.

What I didn’t like: The only thing that was missing was knowing exactly what happened to the women. It is hinted at but the story never actually says what happened.

Star Rating: 4 stars

My thoughts: This was a hard little novella to read. Levin would have a lot of fodder to write about if he were to have written this today. The idea of perfection run deep in through the story. What makes a perfect woman? What makes a perfect marriage? What would you give up to have perfection? Personally, it was a hard one to read. We all question ourselves on a daily basis and have our own insecurities. I am not perfect nor would I give up anything in my life to be perfect. The idea that a woman has to give herself up to be a perfect mother or wife truly terrifies me. There is a lot to unpack in this novella and it is frightening.

Women in Translation: The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani trans. by Sam Taylor

Millions of women go to work everyday; leaving their children in the care of a nanny or day care center. Leaving your small child in the care of someone else is anxiety inducing. But, what would happen if your in home help, started to run your life. What would you do? Would you worry about the nannies feelings or would you cut bait and run? The Perfect Nanny explores this and so much more.

Synopsis: A nanny does the unthinkable.

What I liked: The way the Slimani structured the book was clever. It started with the ending first and then moved into the story. Slimani pulls you into this story kicking and screaming. The interesting thing about Slimani’s writing is that she is able to provide snippets of the nanny’s life without reveling everything. There are two POVs in the story which are done so very well. As a reader you know who’s POV you are reading.

What I didn’t like: I wanted a bit more in the ending. I wanted to know all the things.

Star Rating: 4 stars

My thoughts: I really loved this book. However, if you have an aversion to child death I would suggest you skip it. It is only in the first page of the book but it would still be distressing for some readers. Slimani’s writing is complex. This is a very quick read but it is a complex read that will make you have all the feels. As you read the story you fall down the rabbit hole of the nanny’s psyche. One question this raised for me was the idea of perfection. What makes someone perfect? Is there something hiding in a perfect person that causes them to snap one day or is there something brewing underneath that cool and calm exterior.