Owl Crate is a young adult book subscription box where every month you receive one new hardcover book and an assortment of bookish goodies connected to the monthly theme. Some of these items are very practical and some are better suited as décor or for a pin/bulletin board. March’s theme is Of Witches and Wonder.
Each box includes different bookish goodies that fit the theme of the month and are connected to other books. This months items include a sketchbook, a fabric bookmark holder, a springtime travel mug which is the first in a new seasonal collection of drinkware, a ceramic tea bag rest aka a trinket dish, and a roll on perfume.
Every month Owl Crate has a new young adult hardback book that has an exclusive cover, is signed and comes with a letter from the author. The enamel pin that is in every box is also inspired by that months book. This months book is Sweet and Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley and has light purple sprayed edges. We follow Tamsin who is the most powerful witch in her generation but she commits a crime where her punishment is to never feel love unless she steels it from others. Wren is a person who is made of magic but when her father falls ill she makes a bargain with Tamsin where if she helps catch the witch who made her father sick Wren will give Tamsin the love she feels for her father.
Chopping Spree by Angela Sylvaie is a short horror story set in an 1980s inspired fashion mall. This book is part of the Rewind or Die horror series which is a series of unconnected stories that are meant to invoke the 70s and 80s slasher movies. The title and cover where enough that I wanted to read this book before reading the synopsis. I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
We follow Penny, a high schooler who works at the mall her dad built with her best friend Yelena. When Penny arrives at the mall one day she runs into a guy wearing a wolf mask and talking about hunting pigs and the evils of capitalism but ends up not thinking much about it and going to work. At the end of the shift she and the others are staying late to do inventory and party some. Penny hears a scream and finds a guy who works at another store stabbed and talking about the wolf.
The group realizes that the guy dressed in the wolf mask plans to kill the workers at the mall and blow the mall up. While all this is going on Penny has noticed that many of the people she works with are all wearing a strange symbol and they tell her that it has to do with working at the mall.
The group ends up capturing the guy in the wolf mask and bring him down to a hidden room where Penny’s father is and some of the others parents. They tell Penny that they’re in a cult that worships the god Plutus, who they give sacrifices to become wealthy. They tell Penny that she has to kill the man in the wolf mask, Howard Gregory, and it come out that they killed his daughter and that’s why he is trying to destroy the mall. Penny doesn’t want to kill him and helps him escape during this her father confesses that he killed he mother and Penny decides that she will help Howard blow up the mall.
The story ends with Penny waking up in the hospital with the new that she was the only one who survived the mall bombing but finding out that there are other members of the Order of Plutus still out there.
I like the concept of this book and the horror elements but I felt like the twist with the cult came to fast. If the book was even twenty pages longer I would have liked the twist more. It felt like slasher movie set in a mall and then all of a sudden everyone’s in a cult that uses human sacrifices. The story does remind me of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books and works by Christopher Pike, and I would recommend this story to fans of those books.
Fairyloot is a Young Adult book subscription box focusing on fantasy based out of the UK. Each month you receive a new Young Adult hardback book and 5-6 bookish goodies. Like most book boxes the hardback are special editions and the items are a combination of both practical things and more decorative items. February’s theme is What the Future Holds.
The bookish items included this month are a Lunar Chronicles inspired candle, a set of moon shaped fairy lights, an enamel pin, a Red Rising inspired pillow case, a cutlery set, and the monthly tarot cards.
All Fairyloot books come with exclusive covers and are signed by the author. The book also has sprayed edges, a roil design on the hardcover, art work on the reverse of the dust jacket and an author letter. This months book is This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria. A fantasy adventure where Karis is searching for her brother and ends up waking up a hidden automaton, Alix. Karis and Alix must find her brother and may find out the secret that the country is trying to hide.
February was a very good reading month for me. I read eight books and watched several documentaries but I don’t plan to discus those. The winter storm that came through Texas helped with how much I read as my family kept loosing power and trying to watch TV or use the internet just wasn’t worth it but thankfully nothing was damaged.
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers was the first book I finished. This is the second book in the Wayfarers series though each book after the first can be read in any order. We follow Lovelace who was the main ships AI in the first book and who lost her memories at the end of that story being put in a human looking body and has to learn how to survive and live in this new form. We also follow Pepper who was created by others to be used and then discarded. Pepper story is from the time she is a kid learning what freedom is to an adult who has her own path and is trying to find the ship with the AI that basically raised her. This is a feel good science fiction series that is very optimistic about the future and how different species could get along. I love this series and how Becky Chambers writes characters.
Dying With Her Cheer Pants On: Stories of the Fighting Pumpkins by Seanan McGuire is a short story collection that focuses on the Fighting Pumpkins cheerleading squad as they fight the forces of darkness and save the world. I love Seanan McGuire’s stories and writing style and this collection is no different. More light hearted then some of her work each short story focuses mainly on one member of the cheer squad and why they have been called to join but all members are showcased. Great for fans of Buffy, supernatural creatures or cheerleading I have a feeling that we might see more of these characters in the future.
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore is a nonfiction book about the Radium Girls, women who painted watch dials with luminescent paint that contained radium. This book tells the story of these women who damaged their own health to paint watches used during World War I not just through the lens of history and what happened to them but through their own words and writings. No one told these women how dangerous the work they were doing could be and it took years for an justice to be given to these women. This book was very well written and I feel like I know these women at least a little bit now.
The Tangleroot Place by Marjorie M. Liu is the first ever short story collection of Marjorie Liu’s work that include stories about dangerous magic and dangerous women though its also about hope and making your own destiny. I received a advanced reader copy through NetGalley and I also have a full review posted. This collection contains six previously published stories and one new novella length story. Each story made me love the characters and the different worlds and I often wanted more but they also ended at a good place.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw is a horror novella that follows a group of friends going to an abandoned Japanese mansion for two of them to get married. However, as the night continues its clear that the ghost and spirits that inhabit the house are coming out to play. I received an advanced reader copy though NetGalley and have a full review posted. This is a beautifully written novella that still has horrifying elements and also focuses on how friendship can fall apart.
Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Editon Volume 5 by Hiromu Arakawa is the next volume in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga series. I’ve mentioned before that I’m collecting these editions and rereading as I buy them. This volume gives more information on the Homunculus and how they are involved in controlling the government. Not my favorite volume but I do love Greed’s interactions with Al.
Hellsing Deluxe Volume 1 by Kohta Hirano is the first volume in this edition of the Hellsing manga series. I’ve read many manga throughout the years and have kept only the series I really loved. However, when new editions come out there are some series that I want the new nicer editions of and Hellsing is one of those. The Hellsing series follows the Hellsing Organization and the vampire Alucard in their fight against monsters and vampires in England. The biggest threat comes from Millennium a Nazi organization that uses monsters to try to take over the world. This is still one of my favorite manga series.
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson is another book I received through NetGalley and have a full review for. This is a retelling and reimagining of Dracula’s brides. Told through a long letter to Dracula who is never named Constanta tell both her story and the story of the other brides. This is mostly a story about toxic and codependent relationship using vampires. I loved the idea of this book but I found the letter format allowed for more telling then showing and often made me fell like the relationship were moving too fast. I think anyone who loves vampires or Dracula should give this story a try.
Owl Crate is a young adult book subscription box where every month you receive one new hardcover book and an assortment of bookish goodies connected to the monthly theme. Some of these items are very practical and some are better suited as décor or for a pin/bulletin board. February’s theme is Magic Unleashed.
Each box includes different bookish goodies that fit the theme of the month and are connected to other books. This months items include the first in a new collectible book tin series with four book tins inspired by the different London’s in the Shades of Magic series, an enamel keychain, a hairbrush, a zipper pouch, and some bath salts.
Every month Owl Crate has a new young adult hardback book that has an exclusive cover, is signed and comes with a letter from the author. The enamel pin that is in every box is also inspired by that months book. This months book is The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. The story follows Deka who is about to undergo the blood ceremony to determine whether she becomes a member of her village or not. If she has read blood she will be fine but if her blood runs gold she will be sacrificed to the gods. Deka is given the choice to either submit to fate or fight in the emperors army to help save the world.
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson is a new reimagining and retelling of the story of Dracula’s vampire brides. I received an early review copy from the published through NetGalley. The story follows Constanta, Dracula’s first bride, through her transformation, new brides Madalena and Alexi arriving, and the end of her relationship with Dracula himself. The story is told through a long letter Constanta is writing to Dracula though he is never named in the text. Constanta tells her story and the story of the other brides and how Dracula changed them.
Personally, I felt the letter format to weaken the story being told. There is often more telling of events then seeing the events unfold and the growth of the relationships feel very abrupt. There are several time jumps through out the story to save on length and the time the story encompasses but this caused me to feel like I didn’t know the characters enough and progresses the feelings of the characters faster then is realistic.
My biggest disappointment with the story came about two thirds through the book. At this point I believed that this was a Dracula retelling that didn’t have anything to due with the original Dracula story. Due to the fact that Dracula dies at the end of the novel Bram Stoker wrote and the time periods referenced this felt Dracula inspired but not Dracula. However, the Harkers are mentioned in a throw away line that I feel is the biggest missed opportunity of this book. After reading that line all I wanted was to have read Constanta’s story and point of view during the events that took place during Dracula. Even with this disappointment I loved how right the ending felt.
Ultimately, this is a story about toxic and codependent relationship told through vampires. I feel like this will be a very polarizing book where your either going to love it or hate it. I’m in the middle as Dracula is my favorite classic and I like the ideas just not the execution.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a horror novella that combines haunted houses, Japanese folklore, and the break down of old friendships. I received an early review copy from the publisher through NetGalley. When a group of five friends rent an old Heian era mansion in Japan that is supposed to be haunted for two of them to get married in old conflicts between the friends cause tensions to rise and things end up not going to plan. The premise of the book pulled me in but it was the cover that convinced me that I needed to read this book.
The story is told from Cat’s perspective and she is their with Phillip, the only white guy in the group, fiancées Nadia and Faiz, and best friend, Lin. Its clear from the start that Cat had some short of metal health episode prior to the story that has greatly impacted her relationships with her friends and Nadia only invited her because others wanted her there. Phillip the riches of all of them helped rent this location because Nadia always wanted to be married in a haunted house and Faiz agreed to do it before their main wedding. The ghost story associated with the mansion is that a wedding was supposed to take place their but the groom died before arriving so the bride told the wedding guest to bury her alive in the foundation of the house. The bride would keep the house standing until her grooms ghost come home and every year after they would bury a new girl in the walls so the ghost won’t get lonely.
Everything seems to be going fine just drinking and partying until Nadia suggests that they play Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai which is translated as A Gathering of One Hundred Ghost Stories. Where everyone in a room would tell a ghost story and then extinguishing a candle and who ever could survive without flinching won the game. Cat ends up being the one to tell the last story which she tell their story of the night and mentions that the house knows that they are there and she saw a girl earlier. They go searching for the ghost and Nadia ends up disappearing and a ohaguro-bettari (a female yokai dressed as a bride) pretending to be her. They have awakened the spirits of the house.
As a group they end up finding a book that tells them how to get Nadia back but Faiz and Phillip end up arguing and Faiz stabs Philip. With Phillip dead Cat suggest that they make his death count for something and complete ritual to save Nadia. They burn down the mansion to cover it up and stop anyone else making the same mistakes. The book ends with everyone having gone their seprate ways and not really being friends anymore.
In many ways this is a story about how friendship fall apart told through a horror story and ghost. I loved this story but did wish I knew a little more about the groups past as I didn’t completely understand how they got to this point at the start of the book. Great for horror fans or anyone intrigued by the cover. Currently, Nothing But Blackened Teeth is scheduled to be released in October 2021.