Friday Face-Off: Tentacles

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“The sea brought you.  The sea shall have you back”
~ a cover featuring TENTACLES

Mogsy’s Pick:

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

I’ve picked a recent read for today’s topic, the delightfully dark and whimsical undersea adventure Deeplight by Frances Hardinge!

From left to right:
Macmillan Children’s Books HC (2019)  – Macmillan Children’s Books PB (2020) – Amulet Books (2020)

Winner:

Although the Amulet version is the one I’m most familiar with and it’s also the cover with the brightest colors (and biggest tentacles), I’m going to have to go with one of the moodier UK Macmillan editions. I think my favorite is the paperback, for a couple reasons. First of all, I love jellyfish! And second, I think the stylized typeface really gives it the edge.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

Audiobook Review: The Shadows by Alex North

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Shadows by Alex North

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (July 7, 2020)

Length: 9 hrs and 5 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrators: Hannah Arterton, John Heffernan

As someone who had mixed feelings for The Whisper Man, I’m pleased to say The Shadows worked better for me on almost every level. Alex North has ratcheted up the atmosphere, the spookiness, and the originality, and it definitely shows on every page.

The story follows Paul Adams, who returns to his hometown after receiving word that his elderly mother had taken a bad fall and will not be long for this world. It has been twenty-five years since he’s been back—twenty-five years since the heinous murder that shocked the small village, leaving deep scars on Paul’s soul. But it’s been so long now; he’s trying to put the past behind him and forget. Plus, his mom, who also has dementia, desperately needs him to be there in her final moments.

Unfortunately, history has a way of repeating itself. Not long after Paul’s return, the town is rocked again by news of a copycat murder, forcing him to relive memories of the brutal ritualistic killing that took the life of his childhood friend. Thing is though, not only had Paul been close to the victim, he was also friends with the perpetrators—and one of them, the ringleader of the group named Charlie Crabtree, was never brought to justice because he vanished without a trace following the incident. A disturbed teenager, Charlie had been known to exhibit a dark imagination, violent and extreme views, and a manipulative personality—a deadly combination. He’d also had some strange beliefs about the supernatural and lucid dreaming, which made his mysterious disappearance all the more unnerving. Paul thought he had gotten away from all of that, but now his mother, her mind slipping away, keeps raving about Charlie and something in the house. While it’s the last thing Paul wants to do, he knows he must reopen old wounds and bring some of the worst memories of his past to the surface if he is to find some answers.

Wow, so where do I start? The Shadows was intense. I enjoyed the first half of the book, which gradually ramped up the mystery and suspense. The author managed to accomplish by weaving together past and present, delving into Paul’s memories of his youth through flashbacks. Through these, we got to learn more about Charlie, whose every act and utterance gave me the creeps. He’s the sort of kid you’d expect to make headlines one day, and definitely not the good kind. As a result, readers will be disturbed but probably not all that surprised when what he did is revealed, though I’m guessing for many the true horror will be in the leadup. Charlie had some pretty wild ideas about dream states and being able to cause certain things to manifest in the real world, and the more he tried to push his plans on Paul and his friends, the more this sense of dread increased.

Meanwhile in the present, we also get to see the story unfold through the eyes of local detective Amanda Beck, who becomes interested in Paul after linking his involvement with Charlie Crabtree to the recent copycat murder in a nearby town. Admittedly, other than the fact she was a character in The Whisper Man and that her investigation provided a “crime drama” element to the story, I didn’t really see why her POV was needed…that is, until closer to the end. And if the first half of the book was good, the second half was even better. There are twists galore, some of them even more heartbreaking than shocking.

In terms of criticisms, any time you are dealing with multiple timelines, things can get a little bit muddled. Throw in lucid dreaming, and the potential for confusion is even greater, though to be fair, I some of this vagueness was by design, creating perfect opportunities for the author to drop unsuspecting plot bombshells on us. All I’ll say is well played, Alex North, well played.

All told, The Shadows was a satisfying read. As a mystery, it’s more of a slow-burn, though the mood and intensity was off the charts. And while the story is more dark and unsettling than truly creepy, there’s also a touch of the supernatural which is also just vague enough that it will make this novel appeal to a wide audience. I recommend this book if you’re looking for a well-balanced thriller-mystery with lots of atmosphere, and I’m excited to see what the author does next.

Audiobook Comments: I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of the audiobook of The Shadows, narrated by Hannah Arterton and John Heffernan, who read Amanda and Paul’s chapters respectively. Unsurprisingly, as both are accomplished theater and screen actors, the voices in this audiobook were performed very well. I would recommend it.

Waiting on Wednesday 07/01/20

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick (January 19, 2021 by Orbit)

Putting together my most-anticipated list the other day and going through my past Waiting on Wednesdays, I realized I hadn’t featured this one yet, which would have been a huge omission as it’s one of the books I’m most excited to check out in early 2021. It sounds intriguing, and the cover is gorgeous.

“Darkly magical and intricately imagined, The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a rich and dazzling fantasy adventure in which a con artist, a vigilante, and a crime lord must unite to save their city.

Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams…

Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadezra — the city of dreams — with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister’s future.

But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupt magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled — with Ren at their heart.”

Most Anticipated Releases of 2020: July to September

As June comes to a close, it’s time to look ahead to the Science Fiction and Fantasy reads I’m most excited about in the months of July to September. Not only do I enjoy making these lists, they also help me organize my reading by focusing my attention to the highly anticipated releases that I’d like to check out. This year, the pandemic has really done a number on book release dates, so hopefully most of these are accurate!

As always, I’m under no illusions that I’ll be able to read everything here all, but I will try – and hopefully I still got to put some new books on people’s radars.

So what are your most anticipated releases for the third quarter of 2020? Do you have any of these books on your list? What’s missing that I should be checking out?

July

 

 

July 7 – The Shadows by Alex North, The Damned by Renée Ahdieh, The Bright Lands by John Fram, Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay, Every Sky A Grave by Jay Posey, Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power, Unravel The Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

July 14 – The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

July 21 – The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan, Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler, Malorie by Josh Malerman, The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson, He Started It by Samantha Downing, Savage Legion by Matt Wallace

July 28 – Afterland by Lauren Beukes, Automatic Reload by Ferrett Steinmetz, Deal With the Devil by Kit Rocha, The End of Her by Shari Lapena

August

August 4 – A Chorus of Fire by Brian D. Anderson, Harrow The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, The Night Swim by Megan Goldin, The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis, The Living Dead by George A. Romero & Daniel Kraus, Seven Devils by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May

August 11 – It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan, The Last Uncharted Sky by Curtis Craddock

August 14 – Driftwood by Marie Brennan

August 18 – Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho

August 25 – Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare, Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne, The Woods by Vanessa Savage, Final Cut by S.J. Watson

September

September 1 – Fable by Adrienne Young, A Dance With Fate by Juliet Marillier, Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn, The Residence by Andrew Pyper, Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

September 8 – The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry, The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

September 15 – The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie, They Threw Us Away by Daniel Kraus, To Sleep in A Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini, The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey

September 22 – The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

September 29 – Battle Ground by Jim Butcher, The Nesting by C.J. Cooke, The Cabin on Souder Hill by Lonnie Busch, A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Audiobook Challenge 2020: 2nd Quarter Update

It’s that time again! Summer is in full swing, and that means as the 2nd quarter of the 2020 Audiobook Challenge comes to a close, we’re ready for another update on my progress in the year thus far along with a rundown of the list of audiobooks I’ve completed in the last three months. But first, here’s a quick refresher on what the challenge is all about:

Challenge Details

  • Runs January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020. You can join at anytime.
  • The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2020 than you did in 2019.
  • Books must be in audio format (CD, MP3, etc.)
  • ANY genres count.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads, Facebook, LibraryThing, etc.
  • If you’re a blogger grab the button and do a quick post about the challenge to help spread the word. If you’re not a blogger you can help by posting on Facebook or Tweeting about the challenge.
  • Updates plus a giveaway will be posted twice during the year. First update in June 30, 2020 and last update in December 15, 2020.

Levels

  • Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
  • Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
  • Stenographer (can listen while multi-tasking) 10-15
  • Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
  • Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
  • My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+
  • Marathoner (Look Ma No Hands) 50+
  • The 100 Club (Audiobook Elite) 100+

Because of the pandemic shutdown, my reading shifted heavily towards the digital so I ended the second quarter with 20 audiobooks under my belt, making that a combined total of 37 so far for the year. At this rate, I’m definitely going to crush the Marathoner level, but will still be well short of The 100 Club. However, my personal goal of 75 audiobooks is still possible, and I’m just going to have to keep it up!

Are you doing the Audiobook Challenge this year? If so, how are you doing?

Book Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror, Historical Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Del Rey (June 30, 2020)

Length: 352 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

The word “Gothic” is like catnip for me these days, I just can’t resist. So is it any wonder that I was all over this new novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia? I mean, leaving aside the fact I’m also a huge fan of hers. All the books I’ve read by her have been so unique, wonderful and creative, I just couldn’t wait to see what new tale she’ll spin next.

In Mexican Gothic, readers follow young socialite Noemí Taboada as she lives it up in glamorous Mexico City in the 1950s. Everything is turned upside down, however, when our protagonist receives an ominous letter from her cousin Catalina. Recently married, Catalina used to be very close with Noemí until she moved away to live with her husband Virgil at High House, his family mansion. But according to the letter now, Catalina appears to be afflicted with a mysterious illness and her words are filled with worry and fear about living in her new home.

Concerned for her cousin, Noemí agrees to go check up on her and makes the journey to High House. Immediately upon her arrival though, she could sense something very wrong with the place. The mansion is old, dilapidated and unwelcoming. The servants within are listless and withdrawn. Virgil and his family members are cold and stern, obsessed with etiquette and following strict rules. In this stifling environment, Noemí can understand why Catalina would be unhappy, but one look at her cousin and it’s clear that something more happening here. The once vibrant young woman now seems confused, frightened, and not at all like herself. Refusing to believe it’s all due to illness, Noemí decides to do some digging around for herself, uncovering a disturbing history of madness and tragedy behind High House.

Needless to say, there’s a doozy of a mystery behind Mexican Gothic, and it’s one best left for prospective readers to find out for themselves. But just a heads up—this story goes nowhere fast, which is perhaps to be expected with the “Gothic” element in its equation. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean the plot itself feels slow, since the author uses that time to gradually and effectively to build up suspense and atmosphere.

Her descriptions of the setting, for example, are incredible. High House is written to feel like a bubble trapped in time, with its crumbling façade and residents restrained by antiquated rules and beliefs. Vivacious, larger-than-life Noemí, who comes from a life of glamor and glitz, feels like a flower transplanted into the wrong pot—which in fact is a metaphor used frequently in the book. Then there are the other people in the house: handsome and charming Virgil, who is clearly hiding something behind that perfect smile; his stony cousin Florence who keeps everyone in line; her son Francis, close in age to Noemí but is timid and sheltered to the extreme; and finally, the patriarch of High House himself, Howard Doyle, an aged man practically on his death bed. It’s all enough to give you the heebie-jeebies.

And if the atmosphere alone doesn’t set your heart a-pounding, then the things Noemí experiences certainly will. Whatever’s wrong with High House also plays tricks with the mind, making our protagonist doubt what she sees and hears. The reader is left wondering what’s real and what’s not, and that’s a mind trip that will surely make your skin crawl.

If you like rooting for a strong and capable heroine though, a clever protagonist who refuses to back down from adversity, then you’ll really enjoy this book. Without Noemí, this novel might have become too dreary and uncomfortable, but her personality is the spark this story needed to keep things sharp and entertaining.

Overall, I really enjoyed Mexican Gothic, and a job well done to Silvia Moreno-Garcia for writing another winner! She’s constantly amazing me with her talent and versatility, the way she seems to excel at whatever genre or style of story she’s telling. So whatever she writes next, you can count on me being there.

Bookshelf Roundup 06/27/20: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Well, a nice surprise in the mail this week, from the kind folks at Saga Press: The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell! I really enjoyed this book, so it was cool to get a finished copy. You can check out my review here if you missed it.

With thanks also to Tachyon Publications for an ARC of The Midnight Circus by Jane Yolen! A collection of darkly weird and wonderful poems and tales, it’s due out later this fall and seems perfect for the Halloween season.

 

 My weekly digital hauls are getting bigger again, now that books whose release dates were pushed back by the pandemic are slowly but surely trickling in. From Penguin Random House Audio, I picked up quite a few titles, including Star Wars: Shadow Fall by Alexander Freed, the next Alphabet Squadron novel; Malorie by Josh Malerman, the followup to Bird Box (which I haven’t read but I’m hearing this can be enjoyed as a standalone); Shadow Garden by Alexandra Burt, a psychological suspense whose creepy cover intrigued me, and the description sounded pretty awesome too; and finally from their YA imprint I also picked up The Unleashed by Danielle Vega, the sequel to The Haunted which I had originally thought was a standalone, so this should be interesting.

With thanks to Hachette Audio, I also picked up advance listening copies of Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air by Jackson Ford, sequel to The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind, as well as Wonderland by Zoje Stage, which sounds like a different but awesome kind of horror.

My thanks also to Brilliance Audio for a listening copy of The House Guest by Mark Edwards, a suspense-thriller I could hardly resist.

And finally, thank you Sourcebooks Fire for Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards. I had put in a request for this one on NetGalley so long ago I had almost forgotten about it, so that was a nice surprise.

Reviews

Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold (4 of 5 stars)
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (4 of 5 stars)
The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison (3.5 of 5 stars)
Devolution by Max Brooks (3 of 5 stars)

This Week’s Reads

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Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read! Let me know what you plan on checking out. Until next time, see you next Roundup!:)

Friday Face-Off: Window

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“Windows to the soul?”
~ a cover featuring a WINDOW

Mogsy’s Pick:

The Night Before by Wendy Walker

If you’re nervous about online dating, The Night Before is definitely not the book to read. Pretty much every nightmare scenario you can think of is covered in this suspenseful thriller that will leave you guessing at every turn. If only more covers for the book reflect this nerve-wracking energy, but then maybe they just don’t want to give anything away…

From left to right:
St. Martin’s Press (2019)  – Orion (2019)

Italian Edition (2020)  – German Edition (2020)

Winner:

My pick this week is the Italian edition “Window” cover because…well, look how creepy it is! Seriously!

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

Novella Review: Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 4.5 of The Sharing Knife

Publisher: Subterranean Press (February 29, 2020)

Length: 208 pages

Author Information: Website

This review was a long time coming. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to Knife Children, but I suppose I was saving it for when I needed a comfy read. This novella is part of The Sharing Knife sequence, which has long been a favorite of mine from Lois McMaster Bujold, and I have to say it felt wonderful to be back in the world of Lakewalkers and malices after so many years.

Fortunately, Knife Children is also a standalone, so even if you have not read the previous books you can still jump right in and enjoy it, though of course the experience would be even better if you have. In any case, the book does a pretty good job catching you up with the important details. In the world of The Sharing Knife, inhuman magical creatures called malices prey on people and causes a blight on the land. This is where the Lakewalkers come in. Soldier-sorcerers of a sort, they make it their life’s work to hunt malices and keep the surrounding farms safe.

Our protagonist in this book is Barr Foxbrush, and he’s a Lakewalker. Years ago, he had been shocked to discover he was a father, the result of a brief tryst with a farmer’s daughter. Since then though, he would take the time to check in on the child, named Lily, whenever his patrols would take him near the area. But on his most recent visit, he learns that Lily had disappeared—run away, if what her family says is true. Concerned about what this might mean for the girl, Barr sets off on a mission to find her and learn what it is that made her leave.

I’ll be honest, there’s not much that goes on in this book. At the same time though, there is a place for quieter, more heartwarming stories such as these. It was also by complete accident that I read this on Father’s Day, which turned out to be very appropriate, since much of its themes revolve around fatherhood and Barr’s relationship with Lily. As someone who has always watched out for her from afar, Barr has never really gotten a chance to truly know his daughter. But by spending more time with and her learning about her life, hopes, and dreams, eventually he’s able to see her for the capable and intelligent young woman she has become.

There’s also some light expansion on the world-building, but it’s mostly incidental to the main story which explores the bonds of family and meaning of duty. Still, it felt nice to be wrapped up in the warm glow of this setting once more, and to revisit the magic of the Lakewalkers. It was sweet and touching to read about these characters, and it has also been long enough since I read main novels that in many ways, it was like I was discovering this world all over again.

Bottom line, regardless of whether you’re familiar with The Sharing Knife series, it’s Bujold, so you know you’re in for some amazing writing. I’m not really one for short stories or novellas, but I’ll always gladly read hers because she’s such a master of storytelling and developing meaningful relationships between characters. Poignant and honest, Knife Children was an unexpected joy and I would highly recommend it for fans of the author.

Waiting on Wednesday 06/24/20

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Tales From the Hinterland by by Melissa Albert (January 12, 2021 by Flatiron Books)

I rarely look forward to a short story collection with such excitement, but I loved Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood, a story about a girl who discovers her roots in a book of fairy tales, supposedly penned by her elusive grandmother Althea Proserpine. Snippets of the stories from this book have been scattered throughout The Hazel Wood and its sequel The Night Country, but readers will finally get to explore this entire collection in all its glory with Tales from the Hinterland which contains the twelve stories that provide the foundation for the whole series.

“A gorgeously illustrated collection of the twelve original stories that frame Melissa Albert’s New York Times bestsellers The Hazel Wood and The Night Country.

Before The Hazel Wood, there was Althea Proserpine’s Tales from the Hinterland…

Journey into the Hinterland, a brutal and beautiful world where a young woman spends a night with Death, brides are wed to a mysterious house in the trees, and an enchantress is killed twice—and still lives.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated Hinterland fans alike, Tales from the Hinterland features full-page illustrations by Jim Tierney, foil stamping, two-color interior printing, and printed endpapers.”