Always the Almost by Edward Underhill – Review

A trans pianist makes a New Year’s resolution on a frozen Wisconsin night to win regionals and win back his ex, but a new boy complicates things in Edward Underhill’s heartfelt debut YA rom-dram, Always the Almost.

Sixteen-year-old trans boy Miles Jacobson has two New Year’s resolutions: 1) win back his ex-boyfriend (and star of the football team) Shane McIntyre, and 2) finally beat his slimy arch-nemesis at the Midwest’s biggest classical piano competition. But that’s not going to be so easy. For one thing, Shane broke up with Miles two weeks after Miles came out as trans, and now Shane’s stubbornly ignoring him, even when they literally bump into each other. Plus, Miles’ new, slightly terrifying piano teacher keeps telling him that he’s playing like he “doesn’t know who he is”—whatever that means.

Then Miles meets the new boy in town, Eric Mendez, a proudly queer cartoonist from Seattle who asks his pronouns, cares about art as much as he does—and makes his stomach flutter. Not what he needs to be focusing on right now. But after Eric and Miles pretend to date so they can score an invite to a couples-only Valentine’s party, the ruse turns real with a kiss, which is also definitely not in the plan. If only Miles could figure out why Eric likes him so much. After all, it’s not like he’s cool or confident or comfortable in his own skin. He’s not even good enough at piano to get his fellow competitors to respect him, especially now, as Miles. Nothing’s ever been as easy for him as for other people—other boys. He’s only ever been almost enough.

So why, when he’s with Eric, does it feel like the only person he’s ever really not been enough for…is himself?

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the advance copy of this joyful debut novel from Edward Underhill. I feel like I have learned so much about the trans experience by taking in the prose in these pages. Edward has put his whole heart into Miles– and you can feel the raw, still-beating heart pulsing between the two. In addition to being a window into the soul of this transmasc teen– the story was insightful, funny, and romantic. I fell in love with the characters immediately and truly cared about each of their journeys.

We meet Miles as he is gearing up for the Midwest’s biggest piano competition. However, that’s not the only glaring problem that he has. He is also finding himself– and that endeavor all started when he transitioned. Thankfully, he has a wonderful support system on his side, but even that isn’t enough to staunch the ache of losing his boyfriend Shane. That is… not until Eric falls into his life. The artist sees the beauty of the pianist, and as their love story begins, so too does Miles’ voyage into introspection. With the help of his new piano teacher, he finds out what it means to be himself and what he wants from his ‘new’ life. He says goodbye to Almost and just Is.

I have made so many changes in the past couple of years. I realized I was pansexual during the pandemic, and I’m now exploring what it means to be nonbinary. So I very much related to Miles and his search for himself. It’s comforting to see characters that aren’t comfortable in their skins and make strides to change it. Many of us stick to what’s comfortable because it’s easier, but then we wind up being terribly unhappy. And that’s the thing I loved most about this novel. It truly was a tale of trans joy. The road there for Miles was bumpy and full of starts and stops– but it ended on such a happy note that I found myself smiling at the very last page. Growing up is hard. Books like this will make it so much less so for people of all ages who really need the representation.

5/5 stars

Such Pretty Flowers by K.L. Cerra – Review

“Get it out of me.”

It was the last message Holly received from her brother, Dane, before he was found cleaved open in his fiancée’s lavish Savannah townhouse. Police ruled his death a suicide sparked by psychosis, but Holly can’t shake the idea that something else must have happened… Something involving another message he sent that night, the one that mentioned a “game” his fiancée, Maura, wanted to play…

Determined to discover the truth, Holly begins to stalk Maura—a magnetic, black-eyed florist with a penchant for carnivorous plants. But what begins as an investigation quickly veers into a darker fixation, one that lures Holly into the depths of Maura’s world: Savannah high society, eerie black roses, and a whisper of something more sinister. Soon, Holly is feeling a dark attraction to the one woman she shouldn’t trust. As Holly falls deeper for Maura and her secrets, she’s left with only one choice: find out what happened to Dane… before she meets the same fate.

A woman investigating her brother’s apparent suicide finds herself falling for her prime suspect—his darkly mysterious girlfriend—in this edgy Southern gothic thriller.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House for the advance copy of this southern gothic tale rife with carnivorous plants and even deadlier humans. If I’m not mistaken, I believe this is K.L. Cerra’s debut novel– and it absolutely stuns. Not only is it written in an easily digested prose (I literally read it in a night), but it is completely original and edge-of-your-seat thriller. Even with the title, I was not expecting the amount of botany knowledge– which after some digging makes complete sense: the author herself is a fan of our leafier species. I was enraptured by the detail of each petal, and that coupled with the immersion in historical Savannah, Georgia brought the book to blooming life.

Inside these pages, we meet Holly. She has just lost her brother Dane to suicide, but something just doesn’t feel right. Holly gets an inkling that she should take a closer look at Dane’s girlfriend of five months, Maura, who had become the focus of his life until his strange illness had taken complete hold of him. It caused him to exhibit mental issues as well as neurological symptoms, and no one could explain its origin. With these mysteries in mind, Holly moves in with Maura and is immediately in way over her head. Maura is intoxicating and despite Holly’s best efforts– she falls for her and lets her guard down just enough for Maura to get under her skin.

This novel takes a look at grief and how desperate it can make you– and how misguided other’s attempts to ‘help’ can be. I really related to Holly and how out of place she felt. Her brother was one of the only things tethering her to the world, and when he left it so unexpectedly and horribly, it left her unmoored and searching for answers. Even as she tries to find them, she is also looking for someone else to ground her. This flaw brings Holly from the frying pan and into the fire– and yet she never loses sight of her goal. This tenacity is the only thing that can save her in the end, and is a message to never stop searching for the truth.

5/5 stars

Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott – Review

A captivating novel about two sisters fighting for survival in male-dominated Dark Ages Britain that weaves a thrilling spell of magic and myth—from a bestselling author and historian.

In Dark Ages Britain, sisters Isla and Blue live in the shadows of the Ghost City, the abandoned ruins of the once-glorious, mile-wide Roman settlement Londinium on the north bank of the Thames. The native Britons and the new migrants from the East who scratch out a living in small wooden camps in its hinterland fear that the crumbling stone ruins are haunted by vengeful spirits. 

But the small island they call home is also a place of exile for Isla, Blue, and their father, a legendary blacksmith accused of using dark magic to make his firetongue swords. The local warlord, Osric, has put the Great Smith under close guard and ruled that he make his magnificent swords only for him so that he can use them to build alliances and extend his kingdom. 

For years, the sisters have been running wild, Blue communing with animals and plants and Isla secretly learning her father’s trade, which is forbidden to women. But when their father suddenly dies, they find themselves facing enslavement by Osric and his cruel, power-hungry son Vort. Their only option is to escape to the Ghost City, where they discover an underworld of rebel women living secretly amid the ruins. As Blue and Isla settle into their new life, they find both refuge and community with the women around them. But it is all too fragile. With the ruins collapsing all around them, Blue and Isla realize they can’t elude the men who hunt them forever. If they are to survive, they will need to use all their skill and ingenuity—as well as the magic of their foremothers—to fight back. 

With cinematic intimacy, Rebecca Stott skillfully recreates an ancient world steeped in myth and folklore, and the vibrant women who fight back against their patriarchal society. A heart-in-mouth adventure full of moments of tenderness, this is a beautiful, profound novel about oppression and power that puts a female perspective on a historical period dominated by men’s stories.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House for the digital copy of this captivating and feministic novel! It was written by an author who is also a historian, and this expertise really shows within the pages. Rebecca shows an accurate description of Dark Ages Britain, but also puts her own magical spin on it. She brings to life a bygone era, but injects into it living myth and folklore, and it creates a world that you cannot help but fall in love with. You will also instantly connect with the sisters who are fighting so hard to be heard and seen here.

Isla and Blue are our protagonists, and they live in the exile encampment of The Ghost City with their father, who is a blacksmith accused of using dark magic to create his metalworks. He is controlled by the local warlord to only make weapons for him. The girls, however, lived a childhood where they ran amuck– Blue finding her calling within nature, and Isla silently learning smithing from her father; which was, of course, forbidden to women. Everything changes when their father suddenly dies, and then they themselves are enslaved by the cruel warlord himself. Hope seems to be lost until they find bands of rebels like themselves, and these brave women decide to fight back against the system that has pushed them to the shadows all these years.

This is a beautiful and inspiring read– and it has a deep root in history as well as folklore. These elements weaved together create a lyrical but factual fantasy that is not too far from the world we know. As such, it is easy to get lost in. The magical realism gives enough of an escape that it doesn’t feel bogged down by the patriarchy, and Rebecca gives us a group of women to cheer for and relate to. I really enjoyed this novel. It was hard to put down, and a very quick and easy read. I also enjoyed that actual artifacts and dig sites inspired bits of the lore– so I was learning as I went along! I recommend this to Medievalists of all ages!

5/5 stars

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett – Review

A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love, in this heartwarming and enchanting fantasy.

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.

Thank you so much to Random House and NetGalley for this scholastic and intimate eARC! One of my favorite literary chestnuts is books that are written in a diary format; and this novel captures the uninhibited and intelligent voice of Emily Wilde so well that you may feel like you’re listening to the musings of an incredibly close friend who asked you to proofread their memoir. It is also chock full of unique lore about the Fae– and it combines that fictional history element with a cozy mystery that was hard to put down.

We meet Emily as she is settling into her place in a remote spot in Scandinavia to continue her research on faeries and the like. At first, the scholar seems aloof; her interactions with the locals not doing her any favors. However, as her writing goes on– she settles into herself and lets her true feelings fly… especially about a certain academic rival. Wendell is Emily’s perfect foil, and their will-they-won’t-they is a much appreciated romantic aspect in an otherwise dark fantasy novel. As Emily gets closer to her favored subject, the more dangerous things get. The story ramps up in a wonderful way; and the climax will leave you absolutely breathless.

I can’t say too much without delving into the mystery elements of the plot, but that’s okay– because the characters really drive the story here. You get to watch Emily grow through her own words, take a backseat journey into the slow burn romance between she and Wendell, and revel in Fawcett’s prose that will send you straight into the snug, snowy location that Emily finds herself in. It’s a story you can truly lose yourself in; and I very much appreciated that. With the holidays having just ended– it was nice to have a reprieve that felt like an actual escape. Definitely pick up this book if you need to be transported into whimsy and absurdity. If you’re like me, books are your faeries, and sometimes it’s all that makes sense in the world. Let Emily whisk you away; and be comfortable with being a stranger in a strange land.

5/5 stars

Into the Forest by Lindy Ryan (editor) – Review

A collection of new and exclusive short stories inspired by the Baba Yaga. Featuring Gwendolyn Kiste, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Mercedes M. Yardley, Monique Snyman, Donna Lynch, Lisa Quigley, and R. J. Joseph, with a foreword by Christina Henry. Deep in the dark forest, in a cottage that spins on birds’ legs behind a fence topped with human skulls, lives the baba yaga. A guardian of the water of life, she lives with her sisters and takes to the skies in a giant mortar and pestle, creating tempests as she goes. Those who come across the baba yaga may find help, or hinderance, or horror. She is wild, she is woman, she is witch—and these are her tales.

Edited by Lindy Ryan, this collection brings together some of today’s leading voices of women-in-horror as they pay tribute to the baba yaga, and go Into the Forest.

Thank you so much to Black Spot Books and Netgalley for the eARC of this horrifically inviting anthology series starring the Baba Yaga. I am currently playing Wild Beyond the Witchlight, a Wizards of the Coast Dungeons and Dragons adventure, and it features Baba Yaga and her daughters quite heavily. As such, I was already excited to dive into all of these stories, but I had no idea the creativity and magic I’d find between the pages. Each story was a completely unique look into the witch, the grandmother, the crone that is Baba Yaga. 

Every girl is born with teeth and with claws. Society demands that we trim the latter and hide the former, and as such, we are stripped of our ferocity. Baba Yaga is a cautionary tale because she was able to escape; keeping her feral nature and becoming a figurehead of horrific deeds– likely due to those who cannot handle unbridled female spirit. However, there are many sides to the Baba Yaga– and those are all displayed beautifully in this collection of stories. We do see the child-eating, soul-stealing, and ruthless woman whose ugly exterior matches her blackened insides. We also see the matronly savior of wayward girls, the voice of the forest, and the reluctant harbinger of doom.

Every side of a lady, stunning or frightening, can be found while reading Into the Forest. It is not just a deep dive into the fairy tale of Baba Yaga, but into womanhood. We are all Baba Yaga in our own ways– just waiting to run into the forest and never come back. I loved these tales, told by women and for all those that care to heed the cautionary tales of not respecting the fairer sex. Each story was lovingly chosen and readers will be able to see the heart that went into crafting each one. I very much recommend this book, both as a woman myself and as a horror aficionado. You will fall in love with Baba Yaga’s sharp grin and clawed embrace.

5/5 stars

Ferryman by Claire McFall – Review

Dylan has escaped a horrific train crash unscathed.

Except she hasn’t.

The bleak landscape around her isn’t Scotland. It’s a wasteland haunted by wraiths searching for human souls. 

And the stranger waiting for her isn’t an ordinary boy. Tristan is a Ferryman, tasked with transporting her soul safely to the afterlife, a journey he’s made a thousand times before. 

Except this time, something’s different.

Torn between love and destiny, Dylan realises she can’t let Tristan go, nor can she stay with him. Eventually, inevitably, the wraiths would capture her soul and she would be lost forever. 

Can true love overcome the boundaries of death?

Ferryman is a thought-provoking and truly original story of a love that refuses to be limited by death. This stunning, award-winning debut novel is being reissued to coincide with the publication of the eagerly-anticipated sequel, Trespassers.

Thank you so much to Edelweiss for the copy of this rerelease, which is the first in the Ferryman series! When I started the novel, I had no idea there would be a continuation, but I am so excited to see where these characters go next. Ferryman has the potential to be a Twilight for the new age of readers– what with the ageless Tristan and the born-again Dylan. Their love story crosses planes and will leave you absolutely breathless. 

We meet our protagonist, Dylan, as she goes about her life– though it’s all about to change. She has recently found her birth father and has made plans to go and meet him. However, when she gets on the train to make it to him; it crashes. At first, she wakes up and walks out, thinking she is a survivor. Dylan meets Tristan and he tells her to follow him and she does, assuming he’s taking her toward help. It doesn’t take long for her to realize something is very wrong. Not only are they trekking through what looks like the Scottish countryside with no other humans in sight, but dark, howling figures follow the two travelers when night falls. Dylan finally acknowledges the fact she’s dead and then interests herself in her caretaker, who turns out to be a ferryman for the dead.

Through their journey, Dylan falls deeper and deeper for the boy who has transferred so many lives to the other side. What’s more– Tristan finds himself falling for this ‘pure soul’ that makes him feel human for the first time. What ensues is an engrossing tale about how far one will and can go for a love that transcends life, death, and in-between. Readers will find themselves unable to set this book down; needing to know what Dylan will do next. In addition, the sneak peek of the second in the series will whet their whistles for the fate of Tristan. I recommend this book to any fan of Stephanie Meyer or Cassandra Clare. You’ll come for the romance but stay for the absolutely unique lore!

5/5 stars

I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers – Review

The new groundbreaking queer thriller from New York Times bestselling and Edgar-award Winning author Courtney Summers.

When sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis discovers the dead body of thirteen-year-old Ashley James, she teams up with Ashley’s older sister, Nora, to find and bring the killer to justice before he strikes again. But their investigation throws Georgia into a world of unimaginable privilege and wealth, without conscience or consequence, and as Ashley’s killer closes in, Georgia will discover when money, power and beauty rule, it might not be a matter of who is guilty—but who is guiltiest.

A spiritual successor to the 2018 breakout hit, Sadie, I’m the Girl is a masterfully written, bold, and unflinching account of how one young woman feels in her body as she struggles to navigate a deadly and predatory power structure while asking readers one question: if this is the way the world is, do you accept it? 

Thank you to NetGalley for the copy of this evocative, mysterious, and clandestine eARC. I have read all of Courtney Summers’ work up to this novel, and she has never disappointed. It seems as though with every release, the subject matter gets more and more raw, and readers can absolutely feel every emotion within I’m the Girl as though they’re living it themselves. A spiritual sequel to Sadie (even having a nod to the novel in passing), this work is a long and hard look at manipulation, its consequences, the forms it comes in, and its aftermath. The narrative is a warning, but also a testament of the strength required to overcome.

Our protagonist here is Georgia Avis, who has had a lengthy and varied history with the road that leads to Aspera, a local lodge. When she was young, she came across the owner, Matthew Hayes, there– who told her she was beautiful. It was the first time she had heard such and believed it. This refrain played in her head for the rest of her life, prompting her to aspire to be a model; an endeavor that would leave her broken and bruised on the same fateful road… this time not alone. Georgia discovers Ashley James’ lifeless body, and even as her life gets indescribably complicated, her dreams begin to come true. She is found by Matthew’s beautiful wife, Cleo, and winds up on the radar of Ashley’s alluring sister, Nora.

As Georgia attempts to unravel the puzzle of Ashley’s untimely demise with Nora and rises in the ranks at the Aspera with Cleo at her back– she also struggles with her burgeoning lust and love for both women. The queer aspect of this novel hits home for me as a pansexual woman, and so did hearing the line ‘the sight of a beautiful woman could be more for me than anyone’. Georgia being so scared to use her own power at first also invoked a kinship between myself and the protagonist; especially as she was being instructed as follows: “Don’t put a ceiling on what you’re meant to receive, Georgia.” By the end of the book, Georgia has seen the way the world is and is unafraid to push the limits of her place in it. I would recommend this book to anyone in need of empowerment, all lovers of whodunnits, and especially to young women finding their way in life.

5/5 stars

Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade by Nancy Springer – Review

Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of Sherlock, is now living independently in London and working as a scientific perditorian (a finder of persons and things). But that is not the normal lot of young women in Victorian England. They are under the near absolute control of their nearest male relative until adulthood. Such is the case of Enola’s friend, Lady Cecily Alastair. Twice before Enola has rescued Lady Cecily from unpleasant designs of her caddish father, Sir Eustace Alastair, Baronet. And when Enola is brusquely turned away at the door of the Alastair home it soons becomes apparent that Lady Cecily once again needs her help.

Affecting a bold escape, Enola takes Lady Cecily to her secret office only to be quickly found by the person hired by Lady Cecily’s mother to find the missing girl—Sherlock Holmes himself. But the girl has already disappeared again, now loose on her own in the unforgiving city of London.

Even worse, Lady Cecily has a secret that few know. She has dual personalities—one, which is left-handed, is independent and competent; the other, which is right-handed is meek and mild. Now Enola must find Lady Cecily again—before one of her personalities gets her into more trouble than she can handle and before Sherlock can find her and return her to her father. Once again, for Enola, the game is afoot.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the eARC of the delightful and intriguing second installment of the brand new Enola Homes series. Just like the first, it is an empowering and feministic view of the mysteries of Sherlock Holmes’ time. Through Enola’s eyes, we see the progression of women as the series goes on; such as with clothing or securing employment. Despite this, there’s a long way to go, but our protagonist pays no mind to the difference. She is bound and determined to make her way in the world, and help everyone she can while she’s at it.

In this novel, we follow the plight of Enola’s best friend, Cecily. She has been imprisoned by her own father in her family home, and once the young detective learns of her predicament– Enola breaks her out. What ensues from there is a sibling rivalry (with Sherlock having been contracted by Cecily’s mother to find her), the mystery of the ever flighty lady (as Cecily runs from the prospect of being thrown back to her father), and questions regarding Cecily’s mental health.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is as follows: “My dear lady, to be oneself is not misbehavior, unless one is criminally inclined.” Sherlock recites this to Cecily as she fears being left-handed will cause her to be reprimanded. Because of this panic, the lady’s mind splits, but her support system works hard to find a way back to normalcy. It’s a heartwarming tale about finding and being yourself, and taking every avenue to do so– no matter who stands in your way. Told from Enola’s spunky narration, readers will enjoy laughs as well as tenderness. I can’t wait for the next in the series!

5/5 stars

Darling by Mercedes M. Yardley – Review

Darling has its demons.
Cherry LaRouche escaped the claws of Darling, Louisiana at sixteen. When she is forced to return after her mother’s death, Cherry and her children move back into her childhood home where the walls whisper and something sinister skitters across the roof at night.
While Cherry tries to settle back into a town where evil spreads like infection, the bodies of several murdered children turn up. When Cherry’s own daughter goes missing, she’s forced to confront the true monsters of Darling. 

Thank you so much to Black Spot Books for the ARC of this novel that gives new meaning to the phrase ‘you can’t go home again’. Darling is anything but– and I mean this in the vein of the story as well as the town it’s named for. What Mercedes has created is an evocative peek into monstrous people and the places that make them. In these pages, we meet characters that pull your heartstrings; including some of the best representation I’ve seen for autistic children. We encounter broken people trying their best, and some who are trying to drag others down with them. There’s bullies, first loves, mysteries, killers, and bystanders. At the center of it all, there’s Cherry.

We meet our protagonist as she has received a haunting phone call from the city she grew up in, letting her know that her mother has passed away. This fact leaves Cherry unchanged; her maternal figure was unkind to her in her youth and they had not had a close relationship in some time. However, the news that Iris had left her daughter her childhood home rocked her world. Cherry has two children, and the house in Darling has been paid for in full (including all the bills) until five years time. She can’t say no to this prospect of giving her kids a better life as they are barely scraping by. Cherry runs into old friends, old enemies, and haunting memories once she’s back in Darling. The dark of the town doesn’t take long to seep into every nook and cranny of her home as children are going missing from all over– and one night, Cherry’s daughter joins them.

This whirlwind of a tale has so much heart and ferocity. Cherry has teeth and claws, and it is her strength that drives the plot. She endures so much between these pages, and it is a testament to a mother’s love, and the survival of spirit in the midst of trauma. Darling, the namesake, is a snapshot of how suffering can effect a person. Some, like Cherry, grow tougher for it. Others yearn for the taste of blood and to continue the cycle of hurt. In the end, it is those types that are the true fiends. I think that’s what Darling, the book, showcases best. You are not your anguish, but your reaction to it. The infection doesn’t waste any time infecting those around you.

5/5 stars

Trick or Treat, Alistair Gray by Lindy Ryan – Review

Award-winning picture book now an award-winning animated short film featuring narration by Mister Sam Shearon.
Alistair Gray loves Halloween.
When Alistair Gray attends his school Halloween carnival, he is disappointed to see his favorite night of the year has turned more silly than scary—all treats and no tricks.
But when he wanders alone into the dark the night before Hallow’s Eve, Alistair meets a spooky new friend that teaches him the holiday is about fun and fright…and that there’s more than one way to celebrate Halloween.

Thank you so much to Black Spot Books for offering me this eARC in exchange for an honest review, and to Edelweiss for providing me with a copy! I am well past my childhood days and have not had children of my own yet, but these factors did not hinder my enjoyment of Lindy Ryan’s spooky prose and Timea Gazdag’s haunting illustrations. I’m as much of a lover of Halloween as Alistair is, and often feel his pain once the season arises and the cutesy fall decor of hobby shops overwhelm the scares supplied in Spirit Halloween. It’s easy to forget that everyone celebrates differently, and sometimes it takes a lumbering specter with a jack o’ lantern for a face to remind you of it.

Alistair is taken aback by the many princesses and fairies roaming the halls of his school’s Halloween carnival, and begins to feel stuffy in his mummy attire. He wants the creepy vibes in his heart to be seen and realized on this day that feels like home to him. I relate to his plight; I have always been the ‘weird kid’ who enjoyed horror movies and gore, and was dressed as a vampire in elementary school for five years while all the girls around me were cheerleaders and humanoid cats. I saw my young self in Alistair, and this is a story that I hope to share with the younger generation to show them that it’s okay to be different– and more than okay to accept everyone else’s ways of being.

This tale winds the spine-tingling landscape of a Tim Burton work and the elegiac lyricsms you would expect to find under Lemony Snicket’s pen– making a story that children and adults alike can enjoy. I love the repeating of the phrase “fun AND fright”, reminding us all what Halloween… and LIFE… is about. I can’t speak enough good things about Alistair, and I will treasure the experience of reading it for a long time to come. Thank goodness it’s already August, because I am desperate for October’s coming.

5/5 stars