The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

36697848The Wicked Deep
By Shea Ernshaw
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
ISBN: 9781471166136
Pages: 320
Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal


Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Two centuries ago, in the small, isolated town, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return from the depths, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them down to their watery deaths.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into or the fact that his arrival will change everything…

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

My Thoughts

I happen to be a huge fan of witches and all stories surrounding them. I also love the ocean and settings centered around small seaside towns. Living in Oregon, I hold a certain appreciation for these things and feel a deeper connection when reading about them. I have to admit that The Wicked Deep felt a bit like kismet as I picked it up.

The skinny..

200 years ago, the Swan sisters were accused of witchcraft and sent to meet their watery fate with stones tied around their ankles. Now, each summer in the town of Sparrow, the sisters return to claim their vengeance by inhabiting the body of the young, local female residents and luring boys to a watery grave. Penny Talbot is no stranger to the town’s curse. But when young Bo Carter arrives in town, unsuspecting and disbelieving of the current dangers, she quickly finds herself surrounded by mistrust and difficult choices. Will she be forced to choose between saving herself and this new stranger?

“We wait for death. We hold our breath. We know it’s coming, and still we flinch when it claws at our throats and pulls us under.”


What I appreciated..

  • Lumiere Island and the atmospheric seaside setting that felt authentic and familiar.
  • Stunning and fluid prose with a successful first-person narrative that carries the story with incredible ease. This will be a one sit read for many.
  • The mysterious lore of the Swan sisters and town’s darker history was well balanced and complex enough to feel viable.
  • Relatable characters with individualized conflicts.
  • The unexpected turn of events and a satisfying conclusion.

Challenges some may encounter..

  • The somewhat rushed element of romance (although the twists throughout make it appealing in its own right).
  • Sometimes one-dimensional feeling characters due to being shrouded in mystery.

“There are legends of mermaids who fall in love with sailors, their devotion granting them a human form. I read about the Irish tales of selkies shedding their sealskins, marrying a human man, and staying on land forever.” 

The Wicked Deep is a fantastic and unsettling tale that the author brilliantly weaves into something tangible and almost natural. It supplies the reader with a magical experience enveloped in paranormal mystery and the end result is genuinely unique and gratifying.

tea cup
Pairs well with a cup of loose leaf white tea.

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Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

35035160The Merry Spinistery: Tales of Everyday Horror
By Mallory Ortberg
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
ISBN: 9781250113429
Pages: 240
Genre: Retellings/Horror/Short Stories


From Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from her beloved “Children’s Stories Made Horrific” series, “The Merry Spinster” takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and her best-selling debut Texts From Jane Eyre. The feature become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a perfect vehicle for Ortberg’s eye for deconstruction and destabilization. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children’s stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.

Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg’s boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg’s oeuvre will delight in her unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface.

Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.

Bed time will never be the same.

My Thoughts

The Merry Spinster is a collection of short stories in the form of retellings. Each is presented in a unique manner with an often unsettling or brooding twist. Some are easily recognizable while others are not so familiar.

It is immediately evident that Ortberg offers each story with a distinct prose that is graceful and laden with metaphors. Her writing entices the reader and promises an experience that will be hard to compare to any other. For that alone, I found some appreciation within. But that is not to say I did not struggle with certain elements in the grim and often strange collection.

What I appreciated..

  • The elegant prose and truly original re-imagings of childhood classics.
  • The author’s ability to find a common ground between the often over the top joyous portrayal of fairy tales we encounter today and their darker, more disturbing origins.
  • A set of morally defined tales with an often feministic approach.
  • A psychological tactic to presenting discomfort and the unsettling that was refreshing in this genre that is usually riddled with horror of late.

Challenges I encountered..

  • At times the symbolism was muddled and bordered confusing. I struggled to make sense out of some portions.
  • The brevity of each story frankly limited their impact.
  • Stories were a hit and miss. Enjoy one and be tempted to skim the next.

A few of my favorites:

The Daughter Cells
The Six Boy Coffins
The Rabbit

Overall, this was an engaging and fast-paced read that offers a nice reprieve from the usual. Ideal for busting up some of the monotony and combatting a slump. Fans will appreciate the familiar and savor the unfamiliar. However, do not expect a significant amount of depth, as brevity is likely to be an issue.

*I would like to thank Henry Holt & Company and Netgalley for this copy. The above review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

tea cup

Serves well with a nice cup of chamomile to settle in for an easy, evening read.

Grab a Copy: Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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Nod by Adrian Barnes

By Adrian Barnes
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN13: 9781783298228
Pages: 271
Genre: Dystopian/Horror


Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand, can still sleep, and they’ve all shared the same golden dream.

After six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis will set in. After four weeks, the body will die. In the interim, panic ensues and a bizarre new world arises in which those previously on the fringes of society take the lead.

Paul, a writer, continues to sleep while his partner Tanya disintegrates before his eyes, and the new world swallows the old one whole.

(New) Thoughts

The synopsis for Nod is pretty inclusive so I am omitting a thorough recap. The story simply follows the events ensuing a cataclysmic but unexplained occurrence that has stripped the world’s occupants of sleep. Only the smallest handful of mankind now retain the ability.

I want to begin by exploring the one element that sets Nod apart from other dystopian stories. That would be its fictional prose that sets the stage for a read that is more literary in tone than one might expect. For this very reason, you will either discover a profound appreciation or dislike for Nod within a matter or mere chapters. The experience is unique, and I believe will find the same in its following.

Paul, our main character suffers an affliction in the most unlikely forms. He retains the ability to sleep while those around him fail to do so. Within this, he discovers isolation and desperation as humanity slowly unravels around him in the form of sleep deprivation. It will begin as generalized fatigue and then unfold until psychosis and death eventually claim all he knows of humanity. The approach Barnes has taken is simple and highly effective. It was reminiscent of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend in the fact that I found it to be raw and quick look at humanity (or the loss of) through the eyes of an outsider.

The setting is as expected. A turmoil is brewing beneath the surface as mankind struggles with loss of sleep and sense. What begins as small encounters of aggression and oddities soon evolve into episodes of delirium, leading to a state of maddening incoherence and violence. Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of Nod is the pacing. It takes the human body approximately 4 weeks to die without sleep and there in lies the rate at which this story transpires. It is unsettling on a multitude of levels.

“Hell is time, isn’t that obvious? Take your greatest pleasure or your greatest fantasy and let it come continuously true—for a day, a week, a year, a decade. And that’s hell.” 

Nod is a highly successful approach to a time old tale of the downfall of civilization. The abrupt onset and pacing of an unusual malady combined with a dry and darkened sense of humor fuel a fast and consistent  read that creates an inventive and original encounter that fans of horror and dystopia will not want to miss.

Untitled designEnjoyed with a cup of chocolate pu-erh tea and cocoa.


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