Review: Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

Alexis is wearing a yellow flannel and holding the UK copy of Unraveller in front of a black bookshelf.

Alexis:

I would read Frances Hardinge’s grocery list if she let me; she’s one of my auto-buy authors. I’m also obsessed with this spooky cover (despite my dislike of spiders!). ⁣

This was the perfect read to ease into autumn. In classic Hardinge fashion, Unraveller is beautifully and darkly atmospheric. I’ve always been obsessed with her writing style. And the world is unique and features a creepy forest/swamp called the Wilds and spider-like creatures called the Little Brothers. ⁣

The story follows Kellen, a rare unraveller of curses, and Nettle, a girl who was formerly cursed to become a heron, as they work to unravel nasty curses—and uncover plots and mysteries along the way. ⁣

Unraveller reads like part dark fairytale and part mystery, and of course it’s a 5 ⭐ read for me. ⁣

I bought the UK edition, but look out for Unraveller in the US on January 10, 2023! ⁣

Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

A library copy of Addie LaRue is being pulled out of a bookshelf, alongside a candle.

Alexis:

Look what I finally got from the library!

I was a little afraid to start Addie LaRue to be honest; it’s been hyped up so much that I was afraid to be disappointed.

However, I really enjoyed reading this book. Schwab’s writing is more poetic and lyrical than in other books I’ve read by her, and it sucked me into the story.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue follows, you guessed it, Addie LaRue. In France in 1714, Addie dreams of escaping her small village, but most of all, she’s desperate to avoid getting married. So she makes a deal with the devil. But the deal goes wrong, and not only is Addie now forgettable, she’s also immortal until she decides to give up her soul. 

While I’m not usually a huge fan of non-linear stories, including Vicious by Schwab herself, I think it actually worked well in this book. We jump back and forth between present time (2014 in this case) and Addie’s past escapades. Overall, this book is a slow-moving character study of Addie, and I enjoyed learning about her unique life. I appreciated the emphasis on art, and loved the overall atmosphere of the story.

There were a couple of things that kept this from being a 5 star read for me, however. While I like slow-moving, character-driven stories, I just couldn’t get over the fact that this book is devoid of basically any plot for the first ¾. And this book is a whopping 442 pages long. Instead, we spend most of the time following Addie as she suffers on the streets of different cities, and focusing on all the different lovers she takes up. 

There’s one sparse chapter about her being part of a war, which I feel like could’ve been a much more interesting part of Addie’s life, not to mention a much more interesting plot, yet we never see how it impacted her. Despite this being a highly character-driven story, I feel like Addie’s character never actually changes or evolves. And I guess that could be the point, couldn’t it? But not changing in 300 years?

It was also a little strange that Addie is alive for 300 years yet never makes it past Europe and the US. That, and the romance part of this book was subpar for me; the romantic interest was just not an interesting character to me. It didn’t help that the grandiose ending felt a little melodramatic.

Keep in mind that I can’t turn off the critical reader part of my brain. I guess getting your MFA and editing novels will do that to you! So even though there were parts of this book that I think could’ve been done differently, I still enjoyed the overall writing and the reading experience, and I think it’s worth a read.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: Mexican Goth by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Alexis:

This is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve read in a while. It reads like a gothic, psychedelic nightmare. Moreno-Garcia’s gross, creepy descriptions shine. High Place is dripping in mold, villainous characters, and ghost-like visions.

What I enjoyed:

The gothic feel of this novel. I love the homage to books like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I love the fairly upfront references to The Yellow Wallpaper.

Moreno-Garcia’s descriptions are wonderful (but in a horror type of way). And she describes everything in masterfully drawn descriptions with high amounts of detail. You’ll have no trouble visualizing High Place or its contents. The descriptions of the mold alone made my allergies want to flare up.

This book touches on a lot of the ideas of the 1950’s, even the unfavorable ones…like eugenics. But I enjoyed the discussions of anthropology and botany.

Francis’ character was definitely my favorite; he grew on me more as the book went along.

What I wasn’t a fan of:

The beginning of this book is so slow. The entire first chapter feels almost unnecessary. The first entire half of the book basically has no plot; it’s just Noemí trying to figure out what the heck is going on at High Place while also trying to comfort her cousin, Catalina. For that reason, I don’t think you can call this book “suspenseful.”

As for Catalina, there are reasons that pop up later as to why we don’t get to know her character that well, but at the same time, I don’t feel like I know her at all. We get Noemí’s perspective on her cousin, but I didn’t even get the notion that she even knows Catalina that well to begin with.

Overall, I wish the plot had been more solidified.

All in all, this book is split pretty much down the middle for me. The first half is slow moving and has a gothic atmosphere, while the second half is faster moving and leans more on horror.

If you want a lushly written, atmospheric, bizarre gothic story with a twist of horror, then this might be the book for you. Just be aware that it unravels slowly, but the descriptions and the twists at the end will stick with you.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Trigger warnings: Rape/sexual assault, violence, murder/death. Mentions of suicide, cannibalism, eugenics, incest, and miscarriage.