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review 2018-07-15 20:44
Literary horror novel 'The Grip of It' leaves me with too many questions...or does it?
The Grip of It: A Novel - Jac Jemc

This book was a pick for my Litsy horror postal book club, and the second in a row that had the theme of a haunted house (this came on the back of the classic 'The Haunting of Hill House', which almost isn't fair, since that book is so well-known, and it was hard not to think of it).
'The Grip of It' was on my radar for a while after I noticed its cover, which is covered in the 'drawings' that show up mysteriously inside the house that the young couple, Julie and James, buy when they move to a small town outside of the city. There are lots of things that mysteriously go on inside the house (or do they?), after they move in, and the couple learns of the family that used to live there (or was it next door?), and they have so many questions that they start to run together...and largely are unanswered. ALL the way through to the end of the book. That was ultimately my biggest problem with 'The Grip of It': not ever feeling like questions were answered. The two main characters were also so similar (and weak, in my opinion), that their perspectives ran together, so the storytelling device of different chapters being their alternating different voices was ineffective. Whether or not this was intentional or not as a device to show that they were becoming of 'one mind' as the house took over, it was very confusing to read as the book continued.
I mostly enjoyed the literary prose and new approach to a 'horror' novel but occasionally I was a annoyed with the short sentences, which broke up some very beautiful writing, and very quotable prose.
And like most horror stories, the couple, Julie and James do frustratingly keep going back to this house that is obviously causing them to drift apart and for Julie to become ill (ergot poisoning? seizures?), yet the house sells quickly, so even though it seems that in general we have a no-nonsense 'literary' horror novel, we still have these silly tropes that don't make sense after all.
And what on earth happened to Rolf? ?
Still, I read this quickly, and it was a page-turner, it kept me engaged. It just could've been so much better.

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review 2018-04-29 07:50
Heart-wrenching book about a young Lithuanian girl during WWII; describes a forgotten chapter we should not rush to forget
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

I read this as one of the picks for the Litsy (Team YA) Postal Book Club I am in, and am glad it was chosen, even though I often do not choose historical fiction much these days to read. Especially when I expect it to bring me to tears (or remind me how little I know about how the Soviets and Stalin played their dastardly part in WWII).

Given that this book is several years old now, has won countless awards, and it seems as though everyone else who reads YA has already read it, I barely need to say much about the premise.

Young Lina is deported by the Soviets from Lithuania, along with her brother and mother, but her father gets separated from them to elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The book tells of their long long train ride bringing them to outer Siberia and the horrific trials that her family and other deportees go through. They are emblematic of a past that has been covered up and forgotten among war stories, probably due to so many other horrors (particularly due to Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust).

What Sepetys has written here though, is very relatable account, that I think many younger readers will be drawn to, and have been already; Lina develops a relationship with a teenage boy while deported, has the regular range of emotions you would expect from a teenager, and her love for her family, especially her missing Papa, is fierce.

And while I did not expect the full horrific descriptions I might see in an adult novel on this matter (for example, deaths, burials, etc.), there is enough here to make the reader feel angry, revolted, and incredibly heartbroken at many things that went on.

Since this novel is based on actual people and events (and Sepetys mentions the research and journeys she went on at the end), it is especially thought-provoking and meaningful. There were so very many people affected by the first and second world wars, particularly across Europe, I can hardly imagine how many individual stories like this exist. At least go and read one of them and remember what happened.

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review 2018-04-19 22:10
A ghost story set in the Arctic landscape of fictional Gruhuken; the darkness and frigid cold alone are nightmarish enough!
Dark Matter - Michelle Paver

I’m now (finally) done with Dark Matter, my latest read for my #ScreamsByMail #HorrorPostalBookClub on Litsy. When I was actually reading it, it sped by, but I took a MASSIVE break in the middle of it because of animal death (yes, I know it’s par for the course in the Arctic circle but I couldn’t deal with it at the time). It reads as a journal, so it’s fast reading, but honestly being stuck on a polar ice cap in the dark sounds like a horror story to me anyway! I can’t think of anything more lonely or terrifying...
I was distracted for a good part of the book by the dogs’ well-being (the main character Jack luckily had huskies for company), as well as how animals are spoken about. This sort of thing trips me up in novels quite a bit (see above). It pulled me out of the actual story, and away from the ‘ghost story’.
Since we are writing in a journal (funnily enough) for the postal book club, and mailing that around too, I won’t write too much here. I will say though, that the writing by Michelle Paver is remarkable and fits very well with the time period and the character she writes for. I was very struck by this. She also obviously did extensive research into the area she writes about (although Gruhuken is fictional), and this is key to the effectiveness of the atmosphere of the novel. It will also ensure that you never, ever find me going near these parts. And it reminded me how much I hate the snow!

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review 2018-03-23 15:07
A dystopian novel that really seemed like a glimpse into the future: global warming has taken its toll at last, but is there any slice of hope? Fascinating read!
Pills and Starships - Lydia Millet

I really enjoyed this ‘glimpse into the future’, because while this is indeed a dystopian novel, it sure seemed like I was reading a real journal (that of the main character, Nat, who writes it in the week leading up to her parent’s planned death). I chose this book for a group read on Litsy, where we send a book, marked up with our notes, along to the next person, and the other three do the same with their picks, so that we have a book mailing circle.
This first caught my eye in my local indie bookstore, where it had a recommendation tag (and an awesome cover), and the premise is this: teen siblings named Nat and Sam, accompany their parents to Hawaii who together have decided to spend their ‘Final Week’ before the contract for their deaths is carried out. Nat and Sam are long to say their goodbyes. That’s right, in this imagined future, where global warming has finally made the world so unbearable and everyone gets through their days by taking moodpharms (ie happy pills because the world is so depressing), you can take out a contract for your death when you get old enough, and you can pay for assisted suicide on the Big Island (it’s not illegal anymore and quite encouraged, and rather embraced).
The world that is in this dystopian future is so sadly believable that I read it as if I had some sort of special peek into what was going to happen if we continued with what we are already doing to this planet, and I have a feeling author Lydia Millet has distinct opinions on what’s to blame for the ruin to come (I tended to agree!); it’s not hard to imagine much of our wildlife gone, whole states like Florida under water, a whole garbage vortex in the ocean....
I can’t say too much about the plot but this was a great, thought-provoking, interesting story, and I will say there was some hope at the end. It’s not a long book but it packs in a lot to think about. I hope for everyone reading it, that it makes them think a little bit more about their carbon footprint and about how we really are lucky to have this Earth.
*And I don’t care too much about a future without pet cats. That will be a sad day.

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review 2018-01-16 09:17
Powerful and beautiful collection of adult fairytales, that would have impressed the Brothers Grimm
The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic - Sara Kipin,Leigh Bardugo

This is a powerful collection of fairytales, and it would have made the Brothers Grimm incredibly impressed. Leigh Bardugo has such a disctinctive ‘voice’ when it comes to her writing, and it lends itself well to allegorical tales such as these, with vivid imagery, and vibrant characters, some frightening, and some beautiful.

You can’t help but be drawn into even the most scary stories, just like you did when you heard Little Red Riding Hood’ for the first time, but this you realize is on a much grander and more lavish scale.
The book itself is a delight to hold and read, and the illustrations by Sara Kipin make it a keepsake you’ll want to treasure. It’s not a book to rush through and the stories are definitely ones that make you think. Thorny, sumptuous and very clever.

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