May 23, 2024

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #50 Quinn Diacon-Furtado, Henry Herz et al., Carlie St. George


Intro


Hello beauties!

Welcome again to my own brand of mini reviews! I never thought I'd do minis, until I recapped a few of my long reviews in some digest post in 2014, and then guest-posted some shorties for a blogging event in 2015. And Karen from For What It's Worth started praising my short recs/recaps 😊. Just to be clear,  I'm NOT taking a break from writing long reviews - no such luck LOL (though for anthologies, shorter books or books that I didn't enjoy/I don't have enough to say about, I decided to stick to minis). But while I'm making up my mind about a new book I've read, I might as well give you the short version 😉. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

Note: all the mini blurbs (in italics) are of my own creation.

The Lilies by Quinn Diacon-Furtado (ARC Review)

★★★

After the disappearance of a sophomore, four students at an exclusive all-female academy are forced to relive again and again the dreadful night in which she vanished, and to share their most shameful secrets in the process - but ultimately, the loop has its roots in a more distant past...

***

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Edelweiss. Thanks to Harper Collins for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

There were elements of The Lilies that I really enjoyed, while others not so much - but I'll admit that this is one of those books that work better for their age demographic than for adults who like YA, so take my review with a grain of salt.
The mystery and the time-travel aspects were intriguing, though a bit confusing for reasons that I'll come back to in a moment. There was a great amount of (often intersectional) representation in the gender/sexual orientation/ethnicity/mental health departments (e.g.: NB protagonist, assigned female at birth, who likes girls; Black lesbian protagonist with PTSD; a couple of transgender female characters, though only one of them with agency; etc.), and the story featured/touched upon a number of issues, namely misgendering, transphobia, parental abuse, generational trauma, drug addiction, ADHD, kid molestation. The four protagonists started a bit too much like dark academia teen prototypes for my tastes, and their voices tended to sound a bit similar, but I appreciated their coming-of-age arcs. I'm not sure if the supposed parallel between the past and present Lilies' erasures (I use this word for a reason) held, except for the practical circumstances, and how cruelty and shame tied in with all that, since the two characters who disappeared didn't have those in common (though they were both impacted by them). Last but not least, I found the ending a bit simplistic, if uplifting, and as a long-time reader and watcher of time-travel stories, I thought that the outcome's impact on the protagonists was underplayed. Then again, I'm happy this book exists for all the teens who feel invisible and "wrong", and I'm sure it will find its people, which is the most important thing at stake 🙂.

Note: definitive review (I don't have enough to say to justify writing a full-length one later).

Wink by Henry Herz et al. (ARC Review)

★★

Fifteen tales drawing inspiration from/reimagining/subverting a selection of classic tales for children (mostly upgrading them to YA) and offering some unexpected twists.

***

Rated 2.5 really.

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Brigids Gate Press for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

When I saw Seanan McGuire's name in this anthology's line-up, I did what I always do...I clicked on the "request" button - despite not being familiar with a number of the tales that inspired these ones (keep in mind I'm from Italy). Then I got afraid this would dampen my appreciation of these stories, so when the publisher approved my request, I went and looked up the originals online. It turned out that, regardless of my familiarity with the source material, I might not be the best fit for this book. (Also, please note: I didn't read Wulf Moon's story because high fantasy is not my jam, and that include the tale it winks at...The Hobbit, that I've never read nor I have any desire to).
Most of these stories are on the shorter side and some feel a bit incomplete, or end a tad too abruptly for my taste. Some of them I found to be a tad simplistic in style (Follow the Shattered-Brick Road - though it's a nice exploration of grief), scope (My Science Project - though it's amusing) or resolution (Other Earth - though I appreciated the environmental sensibility). My favourite ones include The Scent of Cotton Candy (a darker rendition of Mary Poppins with an interesting sibling dynamic), Waii-Chan and Sparklepony (a tale of toys becoming alive out of love on the backdrop of innocence lost, with a vein of philosophy) and of course Specials by Seanan McGuire (unsurprisingly, the darkest- and most satirical - of the bunch, taking a jab at the adults' hypocrisy and their counterintuitive capacity to create monsters). All in all, these stories were a mixed bag for me, but my bar for anthologies is especially high, so I recommend that you read a range of reviews before you decide if this collection is for you.

Note: definitive review (I don't have enough to say to justify writing a full-length one later, and of course I don't plan to reread this book; also, due to time commitments, I've decided not to write full-length reviews anymore for short stories, novellas and anthologies, except in special cases or unless they're part of a series).

You Fed Us to the Roses by Carlie St. George

★★★★

Ten imaginative, mostly queer, pull-no-punches, blood-soaked, yet tender stories providing a twist on classic fairy tale/horror tropes.

***

Rated 4.5 really.

I fell in love with Carlie St. George's writing after reading her contribution to the Classic Monster Unleashed anthology (a book that didn't do much for me as whole, but her story absolutely shone). That's why I sought out other books she might have written, and found this collection, full of final girls, ghost girls (and boys), dead girls, (maybe)-wolf girls, and many other archetypes who have one thing in common: they're all survivors - even when they've been offed (I swear this will make sense if you read the book). Trauma survivors, slasher survivors, monster survivors, and in most cases, male violence/abuse survivors. St. George pays homage to, and at the same time subverts, a number of movie/tv/fairy tale tropes, sometimes blurring the line between reality and fantasy (like in Every Day Is the Full Moon, where a girl may or may not be a literal werewolf), always peppering her horror with compassion and humour - but most of all, giving back to her (mostly) teen protagonists the agency and self-determination they've been robbed of by their tormentors. My personal favourite: If We Survive the Night, in which a group of final girls is forced to repeat their deaths again and again and to repent for their "sins" - an imaginative, visceral story (in more than one sense 😂) that has a lot to say about gender roles and our society's habit to held women responsible for the mistakes (and violence) of men. But as I said, bad things incur those who mess with Carlie St. George's heroines 😈. This is a great collection, only half a star shy of five because I found a couple of the stories to be a tad confusing and I had to reread some passages in order to get my bearings. Kudos for the occasional use of the second person singular (a breath of fresh air) and the ace/bi/lesbian rep.

Note: definitive review (due to time commitments, I've decided not to write full-length reviews anymore for short stories, novellas and anthologies, except in special cases or unless they're part of a series).

So, have you read/are you planning to read any of the above? And if you have, what do you think of them? Do you post mini reviews? Do you like to read them?

10 comments:

  1. The Lilies does sound very much within the dark academia realm- interesting!

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    1. It is dark academia, but with a woke angle that's probably its best asset (though the mystery was intriguing).

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  2. Those are some interesting stories they tried to retell in Wink. Short stories usually leave me wanting. That's why it's rare I read them, and anthologies featuring multiple authors are usually not great for me either. At least The Roses came through for you.

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    1. I can't resist an anthology that features a Seanan McGuire story, but I think I've only loved one of them so far. Yep, exactly - short stories often leave me wanting too...

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  3. I'm not familiar with any of these books. Sounds like a mixed bag. I enjoy the short reviews!

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    1. I expected more from The Lilies, but I realised that it's clearly geared to a younger audience, so it may be my fault. Anthologies can be hit or miss for me...but the St. George one is remarkable.

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  4. Having to repeat your death sounds awful.

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    Replies
    1. Funnily enough, there are lots of coming-of-age stories involving dead people - who may or may not have to die again in the process - and while they're devastating for the deceased, they make for wonderful reads...😅

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  5. I do agree about The Lilies- it definitely took some suspension of disbelief for me, but I think it was super important for the representation, like you said. And sometimes I think that the more simplistic plot can be appealing to younger folks who are just starting to explore other genres, so for that it is good too. Sorry that the Wink anthology didn't work, that is a bummer! But at least the other was a winner! It sounds really unique!

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    Replies
    1. Exactly - I had to rate The Lilies 3 stars because I didn't enjoy it as much I did other books, but I hope people won't stop at the rating and will read the review and its caveats, because I want it to find its crowd.

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