Book Review

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Every so often, a book comes along that haunts me long after the last page. As a voracious reader, I feel like it takes a lot to impress me, but I recently had the opportunity to read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and I was absolutely blown away!

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I can confidently say that this book is one that I’ll have to reread multiple times. At it’s heart, this is a character-driven narrative about a girl who grows up in near-isolation in a marsh. But it’s so much more than that. This close character study is a heart-wrenching coming-of-age tale mixed with a love story entangled within a murder mystery. Here’s a breakdown of the major elements:

Character – Kya is a dynamic character. Watching her grow up on these pages was amazing. The characterization was heartfelt and I shared in her joys and sorrows. The way the author builds this empathy was fantastic and allowed the character-building to be a main driving force in this story.

Plot – While a secondary characteristic, there was still enough plot that this book didn’t feel aimless. The murder mystery in the story is not a typical whodunnit that builds escalating suspense, but it does provide a needed structure. Since the book jumps around between time periods, it also acts as an anchor to the “present.”

Writing Style – Owens’ writing style is hauntingly beautiful. Her lyrical words and expert metaphors made me want to reread sentences over again and continually experience the poetic beauty of her prose. While also a research scientist, this is Owens’ first novel, and her love of nature is absolutely evident. Her descriptions of the setting make it come alive as if it is a character in its own rights.

I can’t say enough good things about this book! I’ve already purchased two copies because I want to lend them out to everyone I know. If you’re in a book club, this would also be a great (easy to discuss) selection.

Have you read this one? If so, please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

 

Personal, Update

Making Progress…Slowly but Surely

It’s already June! It’s crazy to think about how quickly this year is flying by, but it’s been a great one so far.

Regarding writing, I’ve had three acceptances so far this year: two short stories and one poem. The more I try to write longer works, the more it seems apparent that writing shorter things just comes more naturally. So, I think that’s what I’m going to focus on for a while.

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Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

Anyway, I just wanted to check in and share a bit:

Here’s one of the short stories from this year – “Appendix A

And here’s a poem that won’t be in print until February but is available online already – “The Vanishing Act

And stay tuned for July 8th when my short story “St. Isabelle’s Downfall” comes out in that issue of Fiction on the Web. It’s one of my favorites of all the stories I’ve written, and it’s taken literally 7 years to find it a home!

Thanks for reading!

-Tiffany

Book Review

Book Review: Pet Sematary

I recently saw some previews for the new film adaptation of Pet Sematary and it made me realize I had never actually read it. I have a huge amount of respect for Stephen King and all that he’s done for the horror genre, but his writing style isn’t always my favorite, especially in his longer, more recent books. Still, since this one is Classic King, I thought I’d give it a try before seeing the movie!

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I truly believe that this is one of King’s best! It doesn’t quite reach the level of my top three favorite King stories: It, The Shining, and ‘Salem’s Lot – but it was still a very enjoyable reading experience. Generally, the premise is about a young family that moves to a small town shrouded in local legend about a Native American cemetery with powers to raise the dead. I’ll avoid giving too many details because I abhor spoilers.

Overall, this novel proves that King is a master of suspense and foreshadowing. Coming in at about 400 pages, this book was much longer than it needed to be (which is another trademark of Stephen King), yet just when the story was seeming to drag too much, hints of future horror were dropped in expert fashion. It was absolutely enough to keep the momentum and intrigue.

I was surprised at how long the buildup took before we got to the crux of the story. Much of the beginning half is devoted to intricate character development, which I did like (but which I know many will not). When we finally get to the story’s climax, the rest of the book felt rushed compared to the slow pacing of the beginning, but it still left me with that great eerie feeling long after the last page. Now, I’m super excited to see the two film adaptations as I know this plot really lends itself to a more visual medium!

I definitely recommend this one to readers looking for Classic King nostalgia (before his books became all 600+ pages) and to those who like moderately frightening horror with strong character development!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany Renee Harmon

Book Review

My Favorite Horror Novels

Halloween is about a month away. To celebrate, I’ll be doing a “31 Days of Halloween” series where I talk about my 31 favorite Halloween movies. Since that’s going to be taking up all of October, I thought I’d end September with mentioning some of my favorite horror novels:

 

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‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

This is King’s take on vampires, and it’s for sure one of his best works. I love that he took the traditional vampire mythos and allusions to Dracula while still putting his original spin on it. It feels very familiar to those who like classic vampires, but there’s still a whole second layer.

 

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Ring by Koji Suzuki

It’s commonly known that the Ring movie franchise was inspired by the Japanese movie, but that movie was actually inspired by a book series! This is the first in an excellent series of Japanese horror novels (which deviate quite a bit from the films). I just couldn’t put them down.

 

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We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

While this may not traditionally be considered horror, it talks about a realistic horror: school shootings. This is one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read, and it deals a lot with the psychology of evil, specifically nature versus nurture.

 

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The Ruins by Scott Smith

In this unique horror story, some vacationers encounter killer plants in the Mexican jungle. Yes, I admit that that sounds ridiculous, but this was actually a super interesting book about much more than external horror. It had a surprising amount of character development too.

 

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Help for the Haunted by John Searles

This book is classified as both mystery and horror. It’s about a girl named Sylvie whose parents were traveling paranormal investigators who helped spirits cross over. After their deaths, Sylvie copes with their loss as well as the loss of her own childhood. As she tries to come to terms with everything that has happened, she must discover whether her parents were truly gifted or were just clever con artists. Is she being haunted by something otherworldly or hunted by someone very much alive?

 

Well, I’ll be back tomorrow with the start of “31 Days of Halloween” so stay tuned for more spooky recommendations!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

Book Review

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

Autumn is coming, and with the cooling of the season comes the realization that Halloween is fast approaching too. This year, I plan on doing a “31 Days of Halloween” blog-a-thon where I’ll be reviewing a horror movie daily in October. But until then, I’ve been revisiting some of my favorite supernatural-themed books. One of my favorites is A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

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A Discovery of Witches is the first in a supernatural trilogy that follows the witch Diana Bishop as she comes to terms with what she is and learns the history of both her family as well as other supernatural creatures like vampires and daemons. There are so many things to love about this book:

  • Diana is a fascinating main character. She has a lot of depth and is a very strong woman. Even though she falls in love (and there is some compromise in her relationship as there is in all relationships), she retains her agency. She’s even flawed in believable ways that makes her seem like a real person. Her growth throughout this book and the rest of the trilogy is compelling.
  • The romance here is bittersweet but satisfying. I dislike when a book’s romance feels too easy. Here, there are obstacles to be overcome, and both characters grow as the relationship develops.
  • There is some fascinating world-building in this book. From a supernatural perspective, the folklore here about witches, daemons, and vampires felt like a really fresh and unique take on creatures that are so common in fiction these days.
  • Harkness is a historian by trade, and it really shows. She’s an academic (as is her main character), and I loved the details about history, science, alchemy, genetics, and more. You can tell that everything in this book was meticulously planned and researched.

I absolutely loved this book (and the whole trilogy). I’m so excited that this universe is expanding and there is going to be another book about a supporting character – Marcus. That book is called Time’s Convert, and it comes out on Tuesday!! My copy has been pre-ordered since the announcement!

Have you read this book, or do you have a favorite supernatural book you want to share? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

Thanks for reading!

-Tiffany

 

Book Review

My Favorite Cozy Mysteries

I love reading and write cozy mysteries. There’s something so charming about their idyllic settings, and often they have a lot of humor and a dash of romance as well. There are puzzles to be solved, but they’re not going to keep you awake at night. Cozies are probably my very favorite type of mystery, so I wanted to share a list of my favorites:

 

Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton

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Agatha Raisin is a retired PR Maven who moves to the English countryside for a peaceful life. Once there, she gets entangled in local gossip and ends up solving murder after murder. Agatha is a prickly but endearing character, and these short books are so fun. The setting of the Cotswolds is also fantastic.

 

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

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When I discovered this series, I just couldn’t stop reading them, and now I anxiously await each new book. Georgie, the main character, is a distant relative to the monarchy of England. She discovers a passion for detecting and often helps her royal relatives when they get caught up in murder plots. These books are really fun, and the historical setting is very engrossing.

 

Jaine Austen Mysteries by Laura Levine

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This is another funny cozy series. In this one, Jaine Austen (named for the acclaimed Classic author) works as a freelance writer and often stumbles upon murders as she does her writing jobs. This series has a whole cast of funny characters, including her cat Prozac. Jaine’s humorous exploits and her unlucky-in-love storylines make this a really interesting and relatable series.

 

Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries by Ellery Adams 

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This cozy series has a splash of magic, which is extra fun. These books follow baker and witch Ella Mae LaFaye as she navigates the world of magic and her own baking business. I was so impressed by the world building in this series, and the magical moments really enhanced the story. There are five books in this series, and I really hope another one comes out soon!

 

Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett

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This last series stars Tricia Miles who owns a mystery book store in a small New England Town filled with niche bookstores. I adore the setting for this series, and I love that there are so many characters that grow from book to book. The mysteries are also a bit more complicated than some other cozy series.

 

Do you have a favorite cozy series? If so, be sure to let me know in the comment section! I’d love to check it out.

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Hate U Give

I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This is a teen fiction novel that has just exploded in popularity due to its excellent writing and timely theme. In this book, a 16-year-old girl Starr is in a car with her friend Khalil, who is stopped by a cop and shot and killed during the event. The title comes from Tupac lyrics and reference the racial tensions currently happening in this country.

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I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s powerful and painful and something that we all need to read. My experiences in life have been a lot different than the narrators, and that’s exactly why I needed to read this book. Fiction has this amazing power to build empathy and understanding for cultures different than your own.

On a technical level, this book is so well-writing. It’s engaging and flows at a rapid pace. Even though it’s marketed as a teen book, it will definitely appeal to a much wider audience than that. Starr is an engaging protagonist who struggles with her feelings. She is caught in two different worlds – the rough part of town where she lives and the prep school that her parents pay for her to go to in a different neighborhood. When this tragic event happens, her two lives intersect and she has a bit of an identity struggle.

The theme is also something that is very timely. If you’ve watched the news over the past year, chances are you’ve heard several stories about unwarranted police brutality against young African American males. This book handles this topic very respectfully. It doesn’t come across as preachy, but it does shed light on the larger ramifications of this phenomenon.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to pretty much everyone, especially those who haven’t had to directly experience anything like this. I think that this book is going to really help continue the conversation of fixing racial discrimination in this country. You should definitely read this one!