Publication date: September 1st, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment....

Review || Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham

Publication date: September 1st, 2021

Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment. Everyone has wished to meet their favorite characters, if only for a day. But be careful in that wish, for even a history laid in ink can be repaid in flesh and blood, and reality is far deadlier than fiction . . . especially on Addington Isle. Winterset Hollow follows a group of friends to the place that inspired their favorite book - a timeless tale about a tribe of animals preparing for their yearly end-of-summer festival. But after a series of shocking discoveries, they find that much of what the world believes to be fiction is actually fact, and that the truth behind their beloved story is darker and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It's Barley Day . . . and you're invited to the hunt.

Winterset Hollow is as thrilling as it is terrifying and as smart as it is surprising. A uniquely original story filled with properly unexpected twists and turns, Winterset Hollow delivers complex, indelible characters and pulse-pounding action as it storms toward an unforgettable climax that will leave you reeling. How do you celebrate Barley Day? You run, friend. You run.

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I want you to picture for a moment the characters of your favorite childhood novel. Do you have a good grasp of that in your mind? Now imagine that they are real, live, breathing things that you see and touch. Wouldn't that be incredible? That's exactly how Winterset Hollow begins. Eamon, Caroline, and Mark take a sabbatical to the home of their favorite author to see the place where it all began. To see where the creation of the one thing that molded their very beings occurred. They practically have a hero complex constructed of the author. Why wouldn't they—as the story and characters gave them a reprieve from their own lives and stressors?

It's difficult to remember while riding the wonderment of the opening pages that this is a dark fantasy. As the awe slowly starts to fade, trepidation and that feeling of wrongness slowly start bleeding in—bringing a wave of unease. The moment it all changes is palpable. From there, it's a veritable sea of crashing confrontations and revelations. The tension is high and once it begins, it doesn't let up until the very end. 

Durham's prose is certainly on the more literary side. Interspersed with poetry taken from Addington's version of Winterset Hollow, the verbiage is resinous and thick. The expansive depictions elevated the novel from what could have been a simple slash and hack.  I found the language selections meticulous and beautiful. I think a lot of readers might consider it is overreaching and perhaps even pretentious but it worked so well for me. 

I truly did not expect the emotional rawness of Winterset Hollow. The wonderment of the beginning when they are meeting the characters, the shock when it all goes south, the fear and anxiety, and in the end, the bitterness of heartache. This was a completely unanticipated emotional rollercoaster of a book. There's no succor as the reader is ricocheted from one blow to another, whether physical, emotional, or mental. Was I happy with the ending? Honestly, I couldn't imagine a more flawless conclusion. It was like the sun setting on the perfect day—Barley Day.

Publication date: August 25th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads A  compelling gothic fairytale by bruja and award-winning writer Maria DeBl...

Review || Weep, Woman, Weep by Maria DeBlassie

Publication date: August 25th, 2021

A compelling gothic fairytale by bruja and award-winning writer Maria DeBlassie.

The women of Sueño, New Mexico don’t know how to live a life without sorrows. That’s La Llorona’s doing. She roams the waterways looking for the next generation of girls to baptize, filling them with more tears than any woman should have to hold. And there’s not much they can do about the Weeping Woman except to avoid walking along the riverbank at night and to try to keep their sadness in check. That’s what attracts her to them: the pain and heartache that gets passed down from one generation of women to the next.

Mercy knows this, probably better than anyone. She lost her best friend to La Llorona and almost found a watery grave herself. But she survived. Only she didn’t come back quite right and she knows La Llorona won’t be satisfied until she drags the one soul that got away back to the bottom of the river.

In a battle for her life, Mercy fights to break the chains of generational trauma and reclaim her soul free from ancestral hauntings by turning to the only things that she knows can save her: plant medicine, pulp books, and the promise of a love so strong not even La Llorona can stop it from happening. What unfolds is a stunning tale of one woman’s journey into magic, healing, and rebirth.

CW: assault, domestic violence, racism, colorism
Centered around La Llorona, the gothic fairytale is a feminist treat. If you are not acquainted with the story of La Llorona, the most common version is of a woman who marries a rich rancher. After bearing his children, she witnesses him with another woman and in a fit of jealous rage, drowns their children in the river. Unable to live with the grief, she spends eternity pacing the shores of the river, weeping and wailing. Weep, Woman, Weep takes this story and bestows upon it a fresh face and name. 

Mercy's life has never been easy. Generations of sorrow have tormented Sueño, New Mexico and La Llorona waits by the riverbank to drag the next generation down. The town and its people are well depicted but even here, bigotry is nevertheless alive and well. Ever present is the shade of La Llorona as the girls of Sueño are taught to conceal their sorrows and never, ever walk by the river at night. Mercy and her best friend, Sherry, have bigger dreams of leaving this little small-minded town but one day Sherry is touched by La Llorona and nothing is ever the same again. Mercy is determined that she will not lose her own vitality to the watery depths. She's been marked but won't give in.

Even with the heavy burden of grief on her shoulders, she finds quiet rebellion in her day-to-day life on the farm. She's jaded and wary but strength comes from within and Mercy has it in spades. She avoids the river, even standing the standing water of baths, and secretes her tears in jars so they will not be used to cause pain. Through it all, she perseveres.  The addition of a new neighbor leads Mercydown a path to another way of thinking. Mercy takes her roots that could entangle her, waters them with her tears, and lets them flourish into something beautiful. 

Choosing to have Mercy speak from the pages makes Weep, Woman, Weep more of a confessional than impassive story.  There are times that she stops herself from saying more than she means to say.  The use of first person makes Mercy's tale more intimate and believable. She's cutting and genuine and that's what makes her story all the more heart-wrenching.

Weep, Woman, Weep easily conveys the folklore vibe while still managing to be well-rooted in Mercy's world. At times, it's uncertain if La Llorona is merely in Mercy's head. Is she truly a supernatural spook? Whether or not La Llorona exists or is a convenient excuse for Mercy's stoicism is anyone's guess. One could look at it as a view of the role of women. How we are taught to swallow down our sorrow and put on a brave face to the world. How showing emotion is frequently viewed as negative and how our own hopes and dreams are put on the back burner sacrificially for others. This gothic fairytale is so beautifully written. Its haunting goes far beyond the grasp of La Llorona and weaves a beautiful story of endurance, fortitude, and love. 

I can't believe that we are already in the month of December.  I'm not ready for the cold and the dark, but I'm always ready for...

This Month in Horror: December 2021

I can't believe that we are already in the month of December. 
I'm not ready for the cold and the dark, but I'm always ready for a read to keep me up all night under the blankets. December is an odd month for horror releases but that doesn't mean there aren't still some great stories being released. 
See if there's anything on the list you'd like to ask Santa for! 

(If you plan on purchasing any of the books on this page, it would be awesome if you’d use the affiliate links. This helps to support the blog and doesn’t cost you a thing. Thanks!)