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

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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: Amazon.com Book Depository

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Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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Child of Nod by C.W. Snyder

35131743Child of Nod (The Balance #1)
By C.W. Snyder
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
ISBN: 9781975981143
Pages: 274
Genre: Retelling/Fantasy/Horror

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Alice wakes one day to find herself on the other side of death, in the corrupted fairy tale land of Nod. Unable to remember much of the events leading to her demise, she sets out on a journey to discover her memory and the reason for her presence in Nod. Unknown to her, the man responsible for her death, Jack, is on a mission to find her spirit and end her second life.

Alice takes flight, only to find herself drawn into the lives of those around her and the mystery permeating that place. From the humble streets of Elysium to the mirrored spires of Memoria, her journey takes her on a path that leads to a decision that will affect the fate of Nod.

Along the way, she meets a cast of characters that include a madman with a dark secret, her faithful companion, Dog, and woman made of memory. Together, they help her on her journey as she uncovers the truth of Nod and the woman behind it all, the Red Queen.


My Thoughts

I shamelessly admit, that the cover originally attracted me to Child of Nod. When I read the blurb and realized it was a reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, it was a done deal. Anyone who knows me or half follows the blog is well aware of my passion for retellings, particularly of my favorite classic. But this very fact also means that I hold some seriously high expectations when approaching such titles.

Alice awakes in the land of Nod to find she has met her end but cannot recall how. Her memories seem to be missing. She does the only thing she can and sets out to retrieve them. However, she is not alone. She is being followed, this much becomes clear. What she does not know it that her pursuer is someone very significant. Meeting an eccentric and at times terrifying group of individuals, she soon finds that she will bring about a revelation that could forever alter the land.

Was that vague enough? I do hope so. I almost feel like this is a story best entered blindly.  So I am keeping this review light and highlighting what worked so well for me.

Boasting an ensemble unlike any I have ever encountered and offering a completely original take on a timeless tale, Child of Nod delivers something I feel I rarely experience as a reader. Not be confused with a child’s tale, this not so friendly rendition is unnervingly dark at times and brilliantly pieced together in all facets.

There is a feeling that we remember when we look at childhood favorites. It is as enchanting as it is inviting but often not without a bit of fear. Many favorites such as Alice in Wonderland or the Wizard of Oz offered some frightening moments for young readers. Here were are returned to those familiar emotions through clever narration and beautiful character development that manages to encompass the very elements we have come to love in such stories while successfully tailoring them to suit an adult audience with an added flair that will feel reminiscent of mythology while embracing the supernatural.

Multilayered, Child of Nod cleverly offers stories within a story through the process of character exploration and revelations. The result is a rich and complex read that is at times unsettling but also impossible to put down. Nothing is to be expected but the unexpected.

Fans of Wonderland, dark fairy tales and elements of horror will find this to be a surprisingly rewarding read!

*I would like to thank Curiosity Quills Press & Netgalley for my copy. The above review is my own, honest & unbiased opinion.

tea cupPairs well with a nice cup of double spiced chai.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

the hazel woodbkreviewtemp1 (3)
The Hazel Wood
By Melissa Albert
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 9781250147905
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale

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Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

thoughts

The Hazel Wood seems to have generated a lot of buzz this year. There is this great divide between the love and dislike (hate is such a strong word).  I started off eagerly adding this one to my TBR with great enthusiasm that slowly began to waiver as reviews rolled out. Fortunately, in my case, my fears were unwarranted and this was a success! I lean heavily into the group of readers who embrace this darker tale with open arms.

Alice is a 17-year-old girl who has spent her entire life on the road with her mother Ella.  A life clouded with bad luck, they hurriedly pick up and relocate each time things go wrong. She also happens to be the granddaughter of Althea Prosperine, an author known for an elusive and famous collection of dark fairy tales entitled Tales from the Hinterland. But after her mother receives notice that Althea has passed and then mysteriously vanishes, Alice soon discovers that there is much to her grandmother’s collection. With the help of a young fan and classmate Ellery Finch, she sets out for her grandmother’s estate, The Hazel Wood, in search of her mother. But she finds more than she could ever bargain for.

I will be the first to admit that The Hazel Wood unfolds at a somewhat leisurely pace for nearly 70% of the book. Character development is slow and challenging. We are presented with a protagonist that is difficult to like but not hard to appreciate. While I struggled to “love” Alice’s rough attitude, I also found myself unable to fault her. I found the fact that she referred to her mother by name to be irritating and also often felt she was overly aggressive. But when reflecting on her disheveled life and lack of roots, it was still relatable or at least understandable at its core. It works. You do not have to like characters for them to be viable and rewarding. Alice is a prime example of this. I also found great appreciation in supporting characters such as Ellery and those she encounters during their journey that offered a complimentary balance to Alice’s flaws and shortcomings.

The storyline was where I found complete satisfaction with The Hazel Wood. Albert’s decision to incorporate the stories from Althea Prosperine’s book into the narrative was brilliant and countered the pacing issues I was facing. I thoroughly loved reading the dark and twisted fairytales. I think I may have favored them over the actual plot though so I can see how some found disappointment within depending on expectations. For myself, I was entirely okay with this fact and the brief tales drove me to want to explore Alice and her mother’s disappearance more. They were cleverly placed throughout, providing the necessary momentum and turning what might have otherwise been another YA fantasy into something special, a new collection of fairy tales.

My love he wooed me
My love he slew me
My love he buried my bones
His love he married
His love I buried
My love now wanders alone 

The writing is engaging and detailed while remaining plot oriented and forgoing the typical frivolities. The fairytales unfold with a poetic prose. There is an admirable lack of the normal tropes one would expect to encounter, and the end experience is hauntingly smooth and lingering. It has been a week since I completed the book, and I do not find myself struggling to review it. It remains as vivid now as the very night I completed it. That alone speaks volumes. Fans of those traditionally bleaker fairytales who enjoy a good mystery will want to sink their teeth into this one.

*I would like to thank the publisher for my copy. The above review is my own, honest and unbiased opinion.

tea cupPairs well with a nice cup of oolong and ginger.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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