Thursday 20 July 2023

A couple of reviews, one fantasy, one horror.

Two books to review today, an unusual fantasy involving The Fae and a horror story with a nice touch of humour.

First up, Emily Wilde's Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett.

The events of this book take place around 1909 to 1910. Emily Wilde is a Cambridge professor (so we're talking alt. universe here) specialising in faeries, who, in this reality, are very much real. They exist all over the world but there are different races with different ways of life and culture. Emily is utterly obsessed with them. The most secretive race of faeries are The Hidden Ones who live in Norway. Emily travels to an island off the coast of that country in order to try and find out more for their entry in the encyclopedia she's writing. It doesn't go well at first because Emily's independent and prickly nature does not encourage the villagers to be helpful. Things change when someone else joins her... Wendell Bambleby... a colleague and rival of sorts but also one of her few friends. Much to her annoyance he soon sorts out the villagers, freeing Emily to concentrate on her investigations... and get herself into heaps of trouble! So, this was a lot of fun. I adored the snowy Norwegian setting first of all. Also the academic 'feel' to the story as Emily tells us, in diary form, about various kinds of faeries and how they interact, or don't, with humans. I was reminded a bit of Marie Brennan's 'Memoirs of Lady Trent' series where Lady Trent goes about studying dragons. There's a bit of reluctant romance in the book but it's a small part and the book concentrates mainly on what happens to Emily in the frozen wastes of Norway and whether or not she finds her 'Hidden Ones'. This is to be a trilogy, the next book out next January. Can't wait. 

Lastly, The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix.

The setting for this book is a village near Charleston, South Carolina in the 1980s and 90s. Patricia Campbell is married to Carter, a psychologist working in a hospital, and they have two teenage children. Also living in the house is Miss Mary, Carter's elderly and failing mother. Patricia looks after them all, pretty much unappreciated, but just gets on with it. She starts a new book club with four other refugees from another club and they read and enjoy a lot of true crime books. Their regular lives begin to change when James Harris moves into the neighbourhood. When Patricia hires Mrs. Greene to help look after Miss Mary, she discovers that children are disappearing from the black community that Mrs. Greene belongs to. By this time James has insinuated himself into her family's life and is especially close to her young son. Is the book club reading too much frightening true crime, or is there something really terrifying going on in their once safe and peaceful village? So, this one started out really quite light-hearted with a lot of comments and situations which made me laugh a lot. But I also really felt for Patricia whose husband clearly thinks she has too much time on her hands when in reality she never stops. The story slowly shifts from a narrative of 'southern moms' and their busy 'at home' lives to one of real horror. It was doubly shocking as the first few chapters were so benign. I believe Grady Hendrix is an author who is in vogue at the moment and I can see why. The writing is superb and although I don't know any southern moms it struck me that he'd got them down pat. I must emphasize that this is not a book for the faint of heart. There is real humour and real life in the story but gosh is it a scary read. And frustrating too, the husbands in this are not a pleasant lot in that they can't seem to take their wives' concerns seriously, turning this into a 'girl power' sort of book, or, more accurately, 'middle-aged moms' power'. As the author says:

"With this book I wanted to pit a man freed from all responsibilities but his appetite against women whose lives are shaped by their endless responsibilities. I wanted to pit Dracula against my mom.

As you'll see, it's not a fair fight."

I hope you're all well and finding some good books to read in July. I also hope no one is being too affected by the awful heat in places such as southern Europe and the southern USA.


Margot Kinberg said...

Those are both interesting ideas for plots, Cath. Neither genre is very much my thing, but I really do respect authors who can draw the reader in, regardless of genre! I'm glad you enjoyed these.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Two very diverse books, neither of which would probably catch my eye on the bookshop shelves.

However, I have been known to read the occasional horror story and having checked out the writing of Grady Hendrix, I was tempted enough to add 'The Southern Book Club's...' to my wish list, with your version of the cover art being much more appealing than that featured over at Fantastic Fiction

The Heather Fawcett book has a cover very reminiscent of 'The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady'

Luckily so far, with fingers crossed going forwards, the weather here has been much more bearable than most other places in the world right now, and long may that continue. The rain every weekend is a pain as we have a couple of big garden projects underway which keep getting water-logged, but I still wouldn't want to change it for a heatwave!!

Happy Reading :)

Cath said...

Margot: I thought they were both quite different, plot-wise. Not unique but different enough to draw me in. The vampire book took me by surprise though as it seemed quite harmless when I started it. LOL Both beautifully written though and that helps.

Cath said...

Yvonne: No, I hadn't got either of these pegged as your sort of thing. LOL But yes, the Grady Hendrix one is definitely intriguing but a strong stomach is required. The Faerie book was delightful and I would happily recommend that if it was your sort of thing.

Yes, the heatwaves can keep well away thanks. Horrendous scenes on the news. It must be awful for the people living there. I think we're due a lot of rain again this weekend, there's even a weather warning out I think. Take care and have a good weekend.

Sam said...

Both of these sound like fun, Cath, and are well worth a second look. I meant to read that Southern Book Club one a while back, and actually had to check to make sure that I hadn't. I suppose it dropped with me through that black hole I entered when health issues dominated life around here for a long time. I definitely need to revisit that one. And the "encyclopedia" one is precisely the kind of fantasy books I still enjoy reading every once in a while - not into the Lord of the Rings style fantasies at all.

TracyK said...

Both of those books sound good. I don't know if the horror book by Grady Hendrix is too much for me or not, have to think about it. I would like to check out his picture of Southern moms though. We have a book by Hendrix, Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction.

Emily Wilde's Encyclopedia of Faeries might be more accessible to me, and I would not mind trying Marie Brennan's series either.

Lark said...

I haven't read either of these, but they both sound very good. I've loved two of the books by Hendrix, and really didn't like the last one I tried. If you try any of his other books I recommend Horrorstor (just because the idea of it is so funny) and The Final Girl Support Group. :D

Cath said...

Sam: If you do ever get to the Grady Hendrix I would be really interested in your opinion. Lot to discuss in the book. The Faerie book is not at all a Lord of the Rings type fantasy, it's completely different to that. I too am bored with tradtional fantasies and no longer read very many. The one author I do read, Robin Hobb, her books are not traditional fantasy, they're more in the line of family sagas.

Cath said...

Tracy: The Hendrix book was almost too much for 'me'. If I'd had any idea I might not have started it. The other thing about it was how awful all the hubands were, which got me quite angry. Absolutely the best thing about the book was the southern moms, it's worth reading just for them.

The Faerie book and the Lady Trent series are both very accessible and fun to read. I have no trouble recommending those.

Cath said...

Lark: Many thanks for the hints about which Hendrix books are worth reading. I appreciate that a lot! He does have an excellent way with humour.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Hi Cath, stopping by to check what you've been reading and as always I find a few that go on my list. Been updating my 2023 reads on the blog but haven't felt like reviewing or blogging. I am keeping quite busy though with friends, lunches out and a new houseplant obsession. Take care and enjoy life.

Cath said...

Hi Diane! So nice to hear from you. Very pleased to hear that you've been keeping busy seeing friends and so on, I hope that means that your health has improved? Take care!

Romance Reader said...

Thanks for the reviews and introducing me to these books.