The Toll by Cherie Priest

I love fairytales. Some of my favorites are about trolls that live under a bridge that won’t let you pass until you pay a toll. Once that toll is paid you are allowed to pass. The Toll is slightly like that but with swamp witches and monsters. When I won The Toll I was super excited. However, this isn’t your grandmother’s fairytale.

Synopsis: A town where no one ever leaves until they do.

What I liked: I really enjoyed how Priest used Staywater as a character. Many times, towns are just used as a backdrop instead of an actual character. I also enjoyed the pacing. The beginning of the story is a slow burn which caused me to be slightly confused. But as the story went on it drew everything together. I really enjoyed the cousins….I always enjoy stories where little old ladies are strong willed.

What I didn’t like: There are a few things that I would have liked to understand about Staywater a bit more. Such as the doll house etc.

Star Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story so much. I did have a few issues where there were was something that was discussed in the story but there was npc background. For me, the dollhouse was one of those and why everyone could see ghosts. It seemed very natural but I wanted to understand why this was the case there. Personally, I would have like to understand that a bit more. Also I wanted to know more about Jess. How did she know. So for me there were a couple of things I wanted to know more about.

Hex Life Edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering

Autumn is my favorite season. It starts to cool down in the desert and makes me think of past autumns. When I was a kid I dressed up as a witch with the full green face makeup or the horrible plastic mask. I would ride around the house on a fake broom stick. I have a love of witches and everything witchy. So when I saw Hex Life being floated around I had to review it.

Synopsis: An anthology of witchy stories written by women.

What I liked: There were so many different takes on witches! There was a fairytale retelling which I enjoyed immensely and a take on Baba Yaga. I loved them all. I loved reading all the different takes on the witch theme. This is going to be an anthology that are going to be re-reads every year. I have also not read anything by Hillary Monaghan before but her witch story was fantastic. Every story stayed within the theme and were well paced.

What I didn’t like: Nada

Star Rating: 4.5 stars

My thoughts: I am so very very happy that I read this anthology. The stories were wonderful and I found some new authors to read. What makes an anthology really great is the stories within it. This is going to be a yearly re-read for me. So many different takes on witches. I can’t wait for everyone to start reading it!!

Big THANK YOU to Titan Books for a review copy!!!

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

In my personal opinion horror and folklore go hand in hand. Whether, we are talking about folk horror or just folklore that is used in a horror story. It meshes so well. I want more folk horror and horror that uses folklore. We all need more. So when I started the The Twisted Ones I was super excited.

Synopsis: A woman and her dog go to clean out her dead grandmother’s house with some interesting consequences.

What I like: There is a heavy folklore element to the story and I LOVE THAT. I really enjoyed Kingfisher’s characters. As a reader I cared about what happened to Mouse. The pacing was really well done and the folklore narrative was inserted in the story really well. I liked how Kingfisher was able to draw a linear line between folklore in Wales to folklore in NC. There was a great deal of Welsh migration to that area and I really enjoyed that little tidbit.

What I didn’t like: The story became slightly slow about 3/4s of the way in. I thought it would have picked up a bit during this climatic part of the story but it didn’t.

Star Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts: I really wish that more horror had folkloric parts to it. With the rise of folk horror I am hoping that we will get more of this in the future. For those of us the enjoy folklore it adds to the story and can bring a different element to the horror genre. I really enjoyed this book. If you really enjoy folk horror pick this one up.

Big Thanks to Saga Press for a review copy!!

Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson

If you haven’t realized that I am a bit of a nerd yet then you really haven’t been paying attention. As the host of a podcast you tend to do lots of research on whatever topic that you are talking about. I have been fortunate in that I talk about a lot of women horror authors. So when I saw this beauty floating around in the twitterverse I had to have it. The book itself is just beautiful!!

Synopsis: Each chapter deals with a influential women in the horror and speculative fiction genres.

What I liked: I loved that I was able to dip in and out of this book while I was reading it. The writing style was super accessible and I really enjoyed the information at the end of each profile. It tells you what to read by the author and other things to read if you enjoyed the author’s work. The illustrations through out the book are lovely.

What I didn’t like: Absolutely nothing

Star Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: I think that this is a really important book. Women have been a part of the horror genre since the beginning. Whether they were writing Gothic horror or are writing now. Women have been instrumental in shaping the horror genre. This is a very important work that lists the most influential women. If you support women in horror this is a book that you will want on your shelves.

Big Thank you to Quirk Books for sending me a review copy. AND A HUGE THANK YOU to Lisa and Melanie for mentioning the Ladies of Horror Fiction!!!

Women in Translation: Our Life in the Forest by Marie Darrieussecq trans by. Penny Hueston

There is so much out there. Honestly since starting women in translation for the Ladies of Horror Fiction I have absolutely been swept away by the amount of amazing fiction that is there by authors I would have never heard of otherwise. Darrieussecq for example is one of these. I was watching a video at the end of July and Text publishing had been brought up. I had a look at their catalog and this beautiful cover jumped out at me. I am so so glad I bought it because I think my brain melted just a little bit.

Synopsis: A women lives in a forest with her half. *you totally have to read the book to understand that*

What I liked: So I think my brain melted..just a little. I wasn’t expecting the ending at ALL. Darrieussecq was so skilled I had NO idea where the story was going to go. I mean literally my jaw dropped. The story is written very all over the place going backward and forward. It reminds me more of having a story told to you instead of written by an author. The synopsis on the back of the book doesn’t do it justice. It is a bit of a slow read because of the way it is written but I enjoyed slowing down and really reading the words.

What I didn’t like: Some of the back and forth in time was hard to follow in the middle of the book but that is fine.

Star Rating: 4.0 stars

My thoughts: I know I keep saying that there is so much to read out in the world. But there is…..Darrieussecq is a very well known French author who has had a very prolific publishing career but I have never heard of her. Darrieussecq falls more to the speculative fiction side of the house but there are some horrific elements through out the story. There are also some moral questions that this story really brings up. Which I can’t talk about or it will ruin the story. But all in all I really really enjoyed it.

Little Paranoias: Stories by Sonora Taylor

I love short stories. I use short stories as a palette cleanser when I have been reading a lot of novels. I needed some short stories this week to cleanse my palette before I started on some of the novels that I have lined up. I was lucky enough to have received a review copy of Little Paranoias: Stories from Sonora Taylor a couple of weeks ago and I thought this would be perfect.

Synopsis: Short stories that deal with everyday things……but in a different way.

What I liked: I really enjoy Taylor’s writing. She has a very informal style which lends to story telling. Instead of feeling like you are reading it is more like you are having the story told to you. The pacing of the stories where perfect. Some ranged from a few pages to a couple. Taylor really put some thought into the pacing of each story. I would have to say that there weren’t any stories which are too long nor too short. The stories where just the right length. I really appreciate this. This collection has so many different topics in the stories which is always fantastic when you are reading a collection. I also like how Taylor writes her female characters.

What I didn’t like: Nothing

Star Rating: 4 Stars

My thoughts: I really enjoyed the stories in this lovely collection. They range from stories which tug at your heart strings to stories that give you the shivers. One of my favorite stories made me really sad LOL. I want to talk about what the story was about but I can’t do that without giving away what the story is about. There are a couple of different ways you can look at the story itself. My take was more about how people treat other people. But I can’t say any more than that. If you haven’t checked out Taylor’s writing before I would suggest you pick this up and give it a read.

Women in Translation: The Vegetarian by Han Kang trans. by Deborah Smith

The last few years have seen a proliferation of odd fiction and movies and I am here for it. I had watched Braid on recommendation from my friend Emily. As part of Women in Translation month I came across a few reviews for The Vegetarian which sounded like an amazingly odd tale. Can I just say it scratch the odd fiction itch for me.

Synopsis: A woman becomes a vegetarian out of the blue and chaos ensues.

Things I liked: Kang really takes you on a roller coaster of a story. She actually fits three stories into one. I really appreciated how she approached the story of this woman from three different angles and how her choices actually affect her family. What I appreciated was how she spun the vegetarianism as a character in the story. Kang is a fantastic writer and the pacing of the three stories was perfect and really pushed towards the ending.

Things I didn’t like: There is a trope that is used that I am never too keen on being used but I can see why Kang used it.

Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

My Thoughts: I loved the weirdness of the three stories. The first story was amazing. I totally loved it. However, I felt like it was being used as a introduction to the rest of the book. Which was a shame. I did like the idea that Kang used three different stories to look at what was happening to the woman. However, they didn’t really tie together really well. The second story is set some time in the future but you don’t get that information. This is the same with the third story. I just feel like some details where missing.