The Saint of Bright Doors Review

Book: The Saint of Bright Doors
Author: Bajra Chandrasekera
Publisher: Tor Dot Com
Year: 2023
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: “Fetter was raised to kill, honed as a knife to cut down his sainted father. This gave him plenty to talk about in therapy. He walked among invisible powers: devils and antigods that mock the shape of man. He learned a lethal catechism, lost his shadow, and gained a habit for secrecy. After a blood-soaked childhood, Fetter escaped his rural hometown for the big city and fell into a broader world where divine destinies are a dime a dozen.”

Review: Before I sat down to write this review, I made the mistake of reading some of the GoodReads reviews on The Saint of Bright Doors. The average review was 3.5 stars and they were littered with “did not finish” (DNF) reviews from people calling this book pretentious and confusing. Before I had even finished Saint, I vehemently told my partner this book needs to be a summer reading book for AP English students. NEEDS TO BE. I have to assume that those who were DNFing this book have never read Catch-22 or One Hundred Years of Solitude (and if they have, I would hate to see their impending reviews about how terrible they are), but I think that’s probably a rant for another time.

It has taken me several days since finishing Saint to finally get the nerve to sit down and write this. Chandrasekera has written an absolute masterpiece; it’s hard to know where to begin. The Saint of Bright Doors weaves a web of myth and legend, beginning with our protagonist, Fetter, losing his shadow as a newborn. His mother, Mother-of-Glory, in an attempt to make Fetter her perfect killing machine, rips his shadow from his body with a nail. This loss finds Fetter no longer tied to the laws of gravity, able to simply float upward at the slightest unclenching of a muscle in his abdomen. Mother-of-Glory spends the first twelve years of Fetter’s life preparing him to kill his estranged father, The Perfect and Kind, a mystical holy-person and the leader of a cult-like religion called The Path Above (not to be confused with The Path Behind or any of the other offshoots of The Path Above, each as convoluted as the next, professing completely opposing beliefs, assured they are each the correct way forward).

Spoilers Below

When Fetter is twelve, Mother-of-Glory throws him out of the house, assuming the world would make him hard, perfecting the process she has already begun. Fetter, however, finds his way to an island called Luriat, rejects the killing lifestyle, and attempts to live his life in a new way. We spend the remainder of the book in Luriat, for the most part, and watch as Fetter grows to love this strange and mixed up island. The political and religious system of the world Chandrasekera has created are confusing and complicated, often convoluted, and always at odds with whatever political or religious system has recently been overthrown, often seeing buildings and streets renamed for the new political or religious system in place, thus leaving spaces to be named and renamed and renamed over again, sometimes bouncing back and forth between names when one system overthrows another and is then overthrown by the previous system. It’s complex, I understand why some people found this difficult to process, but it only serves to show how strange the world Fetter lives in is.

We spend most of the book assuming that Fetter’s parents are otherworldly in some way because they’re both, seemingly, hundreds or thousands of years old. What we come to learn, though, is that, around the time of Fetter’s birth, The Perfect and Kind simply reshapes the world and in doing so creates thousands of years of political and religious systems in the memories of those alive, throwing Mother-of-Glory into a space where, though only 15-20 years old, she remembers her original homeland but also remembers all that has come to pass since then – false memories that were created with the reshaping of the world. In this reshaping, the island of Luriat comes into existence for the first time. I find this reshaping to be a fascinating part of this tale and I’ll tell you why! As I read through Saint, I kept thinking “this is an epic”, though it’s not necessarily an epic in the traditional sense. It covers a span of time, it’s a decently long book, but realistically we’re only spending about 30 years with Fetter from the start of the book, at his birth, to the end of the book. It doesn’t quite make it an epic, and yet…it’s an epic. Chandrasekera has created an epic in the same way that The Perfect and Kind has recreated the world, building history into something that is thousands of years younger than it seems. It’s nothing short of masterful.

The Saint of Bright Doors is a book about choosing our own destinies despite the destinies we may often find thrust upon us. It’s about autonomy in the face of somewhat mystical forces. Fetter joins a group of people in Luriat, a self help group if you will, called the Unchosen. People who come from all kinds of different mystical and mythical backgrounds, those with equally magical and powerful families and family members, people who came close to being the chosen ones, but just didn’t quite make it. Each person in the group has their own story and their own magical abilities, and they each set out to become something else. I suspect that at least one person in the group actually is a chosen one, but the story of their legacy is so muddled by the time it makes its way to them, that they are unable to fulfill their particular destiny. Fetter, similarly, has a legacy he is unable to fulfill at the time he finds the group because he’s never been introduced to his father and is unable to A) become the heir to The Perfect and Kind or B) kill is father as Mother-of-Glory has raised him to do.

Fetter spends much of the book wondering who he is, exactly. He slips into different personas in order to fit into the caste system of Luriat and do the work he wants to do, which is studying the bright doors around the city – doors which, if closed for too long and put under the right amount of pressure, will turn into something magical. No one knows or understands what the doors do, but Fetter can see that they are actually open doorways to other worlds and realities, through which devils can cross and enter the world Luriat exists in.

Fetter, appropriately named for one who is tied down, spends his life in this book attempting to escape the destinies that his parents see for him, to escape the destinies that are thrust upon him by institutions, political and religious systems, or even by those he considers his friends. He wonders who he is in relation to the secrets and lies he’s constructed in order to fit in, and I can’t think it’s a coincidence that he finds himself most at home on an island that shouldn’t even exist – an island that has simply chosen it’s own destiny. Fetter finds himself drawn to bright doors, turning into magical portals when given the time or attention to become what they want to be, again spending his time with creations that have chosen their own destinies. In the end, Fetter leaves us with this :
“‘Every lost past is a world,’ Fetter says. ‘I learned that from my…from the Perfect and Kind himself. I think it might be the only thing I learned from him that matters. Behind every bright door is a world full of lost hearts. It matters.’ […] “‘I need you to understand me, here. I know this isn’t your politics, and I swear to every devil I know I’m not turning my back on that, because I’m fucking here, aren’t I? I’m here, this time But I need you to understand what I mean when I say I am the world.’ Koel laughs, shortly. ‘And you’ve changed it?’ ‘And I’ve changed it,’ Fetter says.”

Advice: If you read One Hundred Years of Solitude and found it easy to keep track of the timeline, you will have absolutely no trouble keeping track of the intricacies of The Saint of Bright Doors. If you read Catch-22 and found the politics laughable and relatable, you will have absolutely no trouble seeing the politics in The Saint of Bright Doors for what they are. If you enjoy an epic, world building, myths, and strangeness, this is the book for you. If you can read critically and analyze what you’re consuming, dive the heck in! You don’t want to miss this one.

Into the Light Review

Book: Into the Light
Author: Mark Oshiro
Publisher: Tor Teen
Year: 2023
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: “It’s been one year since Manny was cast out of his family and driven into the wilderness of the American Southwest. Since then, Manny lives by self-taught rules that keep him moving – and keep him alive. Now, he’s taking a chance on a traveling situation with the Varela family, whose attractive but surly son, Carlos, seems to promise a new future.

Eli abides by the rules of his family, living in a secluded community that raised him to believe his obedience will be rewarded. But an unsettling question slowly eats away at Eli’s once unwavering faith in Reconciliation: why can’t he remember his past?

But the reported discovery of an unidentified body found in the hills of Idylwild, California, will draw both of these young men into facing their biggest fears and confronting their own identity – and who ethyl are allowed to be.

For fans of Courtney Summers and Tiffany D. Jackson, Into the Light is a ripped-from-the-headlines story with Oshiro’s signature mix of raw emotions and visceral prose…but with a startling twist you’ll have to read to believe.”

Review: In both the ARC pamphlet I received with this book and the author’s note at the end of the book, Oshiro alludes to a childhood trauma that inspired and birthed this book, what I suspect, based on little tidbits throughout Into the Light, was conversion camp. The air of conversion, of being forced to undergo something dangerous, something heartless, and cruel at the hands of the people who should be the most loving and protective forces in your life, runs throughout this book. While it isn’t at all about that type of conversion, it is about the damage that the church causes at the hands of people who have no business holding positions of power.

Into the Light follows Manny, a young adult who grew up with his sister Elena, bouncing from foster home to foster home, seeing the worst of the worst, and finding that as he gets older the likelihood of seeing a real adoption happen grows smaller and smaller. Manny and Elena, however, find themselves being adopted blindly into a family with direct ties to a cult-ish christian community called Christ’s Dominion. The family quickly decides that Manny needs to participate in something called Reconciliation and sends both he and his sister to a three-day “retreat” in the Californian mountains. What Manny experiences at Reconciliation is not quite conversion camp, but it is detrimental, traumatic, and extremely dangerous. He arrives to find that all the families in attendance are white with adoptive children who are not, across the board, most have come directly from other countries, several from within the foster system, and all with something deemed wrong with them – whether that be their gender identity, their sexual preferences, or the color of their skin.

Into the Light is told from Manny’s perspective, jumping from the present, as he lives his life with the newly found Varela family traveling the country trying to find his sister Elena, to the past as he experiences Reconciliation, and yet from a third time period as he (known as Eli, having succeeded in Reconciliation in some ambiguous, nebulous way) lives his life at the compound in the mountains, sharing his success story with newcomers and their “wrong” children. I found this style to be confusing, as the chapters had no headings to tell you what point of view you would be reading – the perspective shift was shown by a slight change in font that got more confusing as the story ramped up and all three perspectives were being shared closer together than they had previously in order to get to the climax of Manny’s journey with Christ’s Dominion. I think some headers would have been a huge help particularly as the book wrapped up, jumping quickly from one perspective to another in order to round out the entirety of the narrative.

My biggest issue with this book is the plot twist at the end, I think it detracted from the weight of the story, took away from the very real issues being discussed in the book, and didn’t serve a function. We read through 90% of the novel as a realistic fiction book, yes quite troubling and pointed, but not a horror novel in that sense. With about 10% of the book remaining, the “truth” is revealed and the book becomes sci-fi or horror in an unrealistic kind of way, which I tend to enjoy but not when it shifts the entirety of the book into a new genre with no time to spare. I felt like there were some many important aspects of this book, so many important things being discussed in a first-person narrative that need to be spoken, that need to have a light shed on them, that when Oshiro changed the book with a strange plot twist that took Manny’s separation from Eli from being explainable as trauma, which he absolutely endured, to being explainable as a sci-fi impossibility it lessoned the weight of what Oshiro was trying to get across. Suddenly we have nothing more than a science fiction book with a weird ending that’s so disjointed from the majority of the book that I don’t know how to reconcile the two, and frankly I think that does a huge disservice to what Oshiro could have achieved.

With a rise in anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, a rise in christian nationalism, and a rise in spoken hatred, books like Into the Light that share what children are really experiencing at the hands of people who should be doing their best to protect them are incredibly important. I found it disappointing that this book shifted in the way it did, that the twist wasn’t more seamlessly included throughout the rest of the book, and I left it thinking more about how disjointed it was than I did thinking about how realistic the rest of it was for thousands of teens and young adults across the country. Manny’s story, and by proxy, Oshiro’s personal story, deserve to be told and heard and believed with compassion and care and love. I fear that the twist has only served to detract from something so important.

Advice: This book contains depictions of the foster care system, of sexual harassment of a minor, of religious trauma, of conversion, of racism, of parental abandonment, of physical assault, and of very real trauma and ptsd experiences following. It is, however, a great read that moves swiftly and keeps you reading to see what’s going to happen. I think if you like a singular viewpoint told from multiple timeframes, you’ll probably read through this and really enjoy it. If you find that style to be confusing, this might not be the best or easiest book to read. If you have experienced religious trauma or conversion, this may be a pretty intense and difficult read for you as well.

The Spite House Reveiw

Book: The Spite House
Author: Johnny Compton
Publisher: Nightfire
Year: 2023
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: “Eric Ross is on the run from a mysterious past with his two daughters in tow. When he comes across a strange ad for the Masson House in Degener, Texas, Eric thinks they may have finally caught a lucky break. The “most haunted place in Texas” needs a caretaker. All they need to do is stay in the house and keep a detailed record of everything that happens there. Provided the house’s horrors don’t drive them all mad, like the caretakers before them.
A terrifying Gothic thriller about grief and death and the depths of a father’s love, Johnny Compton’s The Spite House is a stunning debut by a horror master in the making.”

Review:

The Spite House is Johnny Compton’s first novel and does a heck of a lot of work to lay the foundation for further moving novels in the future. While this book may not lend itself to sequels, the heart of the book gives me great hope for future works by Compton. Though the synopsis refers to this work as being about the “depths of a father’s love”, I think this book does so much more than that – I’m not sure it’s the theme I would point out for a review. This book is about the spite that drives and fuels us; the privilege and rage that keep us embittered and sour; the fear that turns each day into a waking nightmare of our own creation; perhaps this book is even about generational trauma that, when left unattended, may slowly poison an entire town. Yes, a father’s love knows no bounds, and Eric Ross, our protagonist, shows us just how far a father will go to protect his children and find answers, but it is not the theme of this book.


I’m finding myself having a hard time reviewing this book without writing what keeps turning into a book report. Due to the sheer strangeness of The Spite House, it’s a little hard to review without getting into the details of what happened. Eric Ross is a protagonist with a secret: when he was a child, he experienced the energetic imprint of a fire that had burned down most of his grandparents house long before he was born. The townspeople grew to have a healthy fear of his grandfather, a man they believed died in the fire and was reborn out of spite. As a Black man in a small southern town, Eric’s grandfather Fred, a man who had a tendency to say the wrong thing around the wrong people, found himself ticking off his neighbors. In the middle of the night, after making the wrong people mad, Fred’s house was burned to the ground by a group of white men from the neighboring town. After passing out in the burning house, Fred awoke to find himself safe, unharmed, and free of the house. The neighbors, rightfully so, began to fear that Fred possessed a paranormal ability to survive. In the years that followed the fire, every single one of the men who set fire to his house all met untimely deaths that could not be connected to Fred. Compton doles out little bits of Eric’s secret throughout the book, unraveling it in the best possible way. Not only do we not know that Eric’s secret runs much deeper than this, we don’t find out the totality of what that secret entails until nearly the end.

I found Spite House to be a compelling read, keeping me guessing through the entirety. It wasn’t predictable, it didn’t pander to the reader, and while it was technically a thriller, it didn’t keep me awake at night either. Compton has mastered the art of suspense with this book, weaving a tale that spans multiple generations, intertwining them with each other in ways that you don’t see coming. In my mind, this book was a clear success. My greatest criticism comes from the layout of the actual spite house that the tale centers around. I’d never heard of a spite house prior to this book, and upon a quick google search found that most spite houses share a similar style: tall, thin, and imposing. Built to be a visual representation of the spite someone feels toward their neighbors, spite houses are often built tall enough that they may actually block out the sun from the neighboring properties. I found myself wishing on multiple occasions that there was a drawn map showing the layout of the spite house in this book as I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the exact specifications. There’s an addition to this spite house on the second floor that comes in the form of a small hallway that I was never quite clear on. Where does it run between? I’m not sure.

For logistical reasons, The Spite House has earned 4 stars rather than 5, but for a first novel I found it excellent! I want to also note that in several advanced reader copies I’ve received, it’s turned out that there have been maps and other small additions missing that were included in the final copy, so it is possible this book will be published with some additional information regarding the layout of the house.

Advice: If you like a good mystery, a ghost story, or a slow burning suspenseful thriller, this is the perfect book for you! This book would likely not be a good fit for you if you are easily frightened, disinterested in ghosts, or have anxiety that makes suspenseful novels hard to read.

Things We Do in the Dark Review

Book: Things We Do in the Dark
Author: Jennifer Hillier
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Year: 2022
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: “In the dark, monsters are real. When Paris Peralta is arrested in her own bathroom – covered in blood, holding a straight razor, her celebrity husband dead in the bathtub – she knows she’s in serious trouble.
In the dark, it never happened. But as bad as it looks, the arrest is not what worries her the most. With the unwanted media attention now surrounding her, it’s only a matter of time before someone from her old life recognizes her and destroys everything she’s worked so hard to build.
In the dark, she could be anyone. Because Paris has a dark past. And she’ll do anything to keep it hidden.”

Review: Things We Do in the Dark has a promising synopsis, it sounds intriguing and dark, mysterious and interesting. To say it falls flat is an understatement. To be completely honest, I found myself bored reading this book. There was a tiny section where I grew more interested somewhere around 3/4 of the way through, but it was short lived and the book returned to it’s dull story-telling for it’s finale. Hillier skirts the more graphic details of Paris’ previous life, stopping short of telling you what’s really going on, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination. I personally think if you’re going to tell a story that requires some content warnings, and this does, you might as well go all in and embrace what you’re telling rather than apologize for it by simply not describing or naming the thing. So let’s talk about the content warnings: Things We Do in the Dark contains implications of pedopohelia, assault, domestic violence, and PTSD. It references harm to a minor, incest, and contains racist language. While all of the above sounds fairly graphic, this book would likely receive a PG-13 rating as a movie, do with that what you will.

Though this book has little to nothing to do with music, each chapter begins with a quote from a popular song. The song lyrics rarely, if ever, tie into the chapter, and the effect is meaningless. It adds to my distaste for how this book was put together, giving the impression that perhaps there are places in the book that should have been highlighted in order to tie in with the chapter lyrics. Why go through the trouble of choosing lyrics for each chapter of a book that has nothing to do with music? I believe it’s referenced one, maybe two times through the entire 397 page book. This is the least of my issues, however. While the writing was fine and I found almost no grammatical errors that seem to be common in ARCs, it lacked that thing that makes you want to keep turning pages. It took me much longer to read this book than the past few ARCs simply because I didn’t care what happened. Not only did I figure out what was going on long before it was revealed because it was glaringly obvious, the “twists” were revealed much too early to give the reader any incentive to keep going. I’ve said it many times before, you don’t have to be a good writer to write a compelling story. I’ve read many books that were poorly executed but I kept turning the pages because I needed to know what was going to happen. What We Do in the Dark is simply not that book.

Hillier doesn’t stay true to her character, Paris, toward the end stating “[she] had been trained not to cry.” But by this point, we’ve seen the main character cry several times. This might seem small, but this sentence was 301 pages into the book and by this time the main character has cried no less than five times that we know of. Hillier tells Paris’ story by jumping back and forth between Paris’ point of view in the present, her point of view in the past, and the point of view of her former best friend / roommate, Drew. Paris has lived a hard life full of oppression, abuse, and trauma, yet when she reconnects with Drew, supposedly the best person in her life, potentially the love of her life, he is condescending, offensive, and patronizing. While she stands up for herself, she doesn’t demand apology or change from Drew, she simply allows him to continue to be the bully he has always been. I’m not sure why he’s painted to be a savior figure here, but he becomes someone she relies upon once again as her perspective jumps back to the future (she relied on him a great deal in her younger years, before she had the wherewithal to stand up for herself), and I found myself feeling completely disgusted as I read.

Things We Do in the Dark, lastly, is entitled far too closely to the hit TV show What We Do in the Shadows and contains names of characters that share names of characters in other TV shows. While none are related, and I suspect are just coincidence, I couldn’t read through the book without making the connections and I have to wonder why an editor wouldn’t suggest some name changes. Least of all, the title of the book should be at least slightly more different, as What We Do in the Shadows is a current, and wildly popular show that has absolutely nothing in common with this book. These are semantics, I suppose, but added to my pile of issues with reading through this book, end up being more than small irritants I could look past.

Advice: Skip this book. There are no surprises, there are no twists that you won’t see coming a mile away, there’s nothing interesting here. While it may be sort of unique in plot, it’s not wholly unique and could be supplemented with several other suspense novels, including any of the past suspense novels I’ve read and criticized for being cookie cutter versions of each other. This one is not worth the read.

The Grimrose Girls Review

Book: The Grimrose Girls
Author: Laura Pohl
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Year: 2021
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: “After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Primrose Academie. The police ruled Ariane’s death as a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.
When Nana Estes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events that no one could have predicted. As the girls retrace their friend’s final days, they discover a dark secret about Grimrose – Ariane wasn’t the first dead girl.
They soon learn that all the past murders are connected to ancient fairy-tale curses…and that their own fates are tied to the stories, dooming the girls to brutal and gruesome endings unless they can break the cycle for good.”

Review: This book left me frustrated. The cover is compelling and interesting and the synopsis sounds like this will be an enjoyable YA read, but frankly it was none of the above. Covering themes that are played out and tired in a way that is not fresh or new feels like a waste of time. How many times can we reread or re-watch Cinderella before we find that we no longer need to engage in the latest adaptation? The fact is, we already know how that story goes. Pohl crafted a story that revolved around fairytale stories, which could be interesting especially knowing that the fairytale stories she’s referencing in the book are the original versions and not the Disneyfied ‘happily ever after’ versions. But, sadly, we meet yet another character named Ella who lives with an evil step mother and two terrible stepsister. She’s literally covered in ash at one point, and spends her weekends cleaning the house – to the extent that her hands are covered in scars. There’s nothing new to this retelling other than the fact that the remainder of the characters barely resemble the fairytales they’re based on and there’s no continuity between them.
I’m not sure where Pohl was going with this book and I’m not sure we’ll know until the second (of how many?) book comes out. There’s a slow buildup followed by a quick and confusing falling action at the end, leaving me googling whether or not there would be a second book because honestly, it’s not clear. Pohl ties up enough of the loose ends to assume the end could truly be the end, but leaves just a few strings untied – instead of feeling like a cliffhanger that I need to see resolved, it feels like the mark of poor writing to leave just a few pieces untouched while the rest finds itself resolved. In fact, yes, there will be a second book to tie up the few remaining loose ends and, I assume, create new ones. I’m frustrated with how disappointing this book turned out to be, and I’m tempted to say “even for a YA read” but the fact of the matter is, a YA read does not have to be disappointing or poorly written. A fantasy YA read, for that matter, doesn’t need to be disappointing or poorly written! Where’s the precedent for a higher standard of book? Nowhere to be found in The Grimrose Girls, sadly, though the opportunity did exist. The challenge was simply not risen to, and I find myself yet again let down by poor writing.

Advice: The phrasing throughout this book was off, the pacing was slow, and the characters were shallow and lackluster. This book seemed like it had the potential to be engaging and interesting and it fell flat. There are better YA fantasy books out there. If you’re looking for something light where you won’t have to think much, if at all, this is going to do the trick. If you’re looking for compelling, interesting, and/or challenging, this is not it.

The Other Black Girl Review

Book : The Other Black Girl
Author : Zakiya Dalila Harris
Publisher : Atria Books
Year : 2021
Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis : “Nella Rogers is an ambitious young Black woman trying to make her mark at the legendary Wagner Books. Needless to say, she is thrilled when Hazel joins the team and is eager for the friendship she assumes will be just around the corner, easy, and immediate. but when a moment of support goes horribly wrong (in a very public way), Nella retreats and finds herself watching and questioning Hazel’s every move. Urgent, propulsive, brilliant, and hilarious, The Other Black Girl is a psychological masterpiece, where micro aggressions and gaslighting turn a company’s “civilized” atmosphere into a slowly unraveling horror.”

Review : The Other Black Girl was a slow burning, psychologically thrilling, completely haunting novel. I’m torn, generally, between love and hate for a book who jumps between characters; it’s either done well or it’s not, there’s very little middle ground. Harris nearly-perfectly executes this technique (nearly, hence the .5 rating) throughout the entirety of the novel but lost me briefly at the end with a chapter that was not entitled and left me trying to guess who the character was supposed to be – probably the point of the chapter, but ultimately it felt disjointed. Aside from the minor disjointedness from the final chapter, the rest of the book read easily and enjoyably. Finally, a thriller that doesn’t follow the same, old, stale routine. It’s a miracle.
I loved the pacing of this book. It’s not clear it’s even entering into the world of thrillers and horror until you’re well into it, setting the stage for a deeply personal encounter. All of the build up had a point, it all lead to a conclusion that was surprisingly twisty, and I never once felt like there was story just for the sake of filling pages. I’m grateful when I find a book that engages details that further the plot rather than a book I come away from wondering why I read half of what I read.
Harris leaves us wanting more as she wraps the book up and for that I’m both frustrated and glad. I wish there was more! I still have questions and there are characters I was hoping to hear more from, but it doesn’t feel empty or come across as incomplete. It reads like a good book should: realistically (as much as can be expected from a thriller / horror novel). Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t always want a book to tie up a story into a neat little bow, they read as stilted and unlikely. Harris proves that you can have an unlikely story without creating a book that feels unlikely.

Advice : If you like thrillers, psychological movies, or an unexpected ending, you’ll love The Other Black Girl. It is a truly well written novel that will suck you in and keep you coming back for more. I highly recommend this book!

Five Midnights Review

Book: Five Midnights
Author: Ann Dávila Cardinal
Publisher: Tor Teen
Year: 2019
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: “Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.
If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping through Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they’ll have to step into the shadows to see what’s lurking there — murderer, or monster?”

Review: Five Midnights is the forthcoming debut YA novel from Dávila Cardinal, a Puerto Rican who currently lives in Vermont. What Dávila Cardinal has created is a riveting story of a 16-year-old girl, Lupe, coming of age while visiting a country she has allegiance to, being half Puerto Rican by descent. Over the backdrop of a YA fantasy novel, Lupe struggles with her own heritage as a half Puerto Rican, half Irish girl hailing from the mainland United States (Dávila Cardinal’s own Vermont) who doesn’t feel that either location is quite “home”. As she struggles with the idea of being light skinned and light haired, a trait she inherited from a mother who left several years ago, she tries to move into her role as a Puerto Rican but finds to her dismay that she is identified as “other” to native Puerto Ricans.
Dávila Cardinal’s novel is an engrossing tale of cultural heritage, Island myths, and young teenage love. Lupe, spending the summer in PR with her extended family, shares a love for true crime with her Tío who happens to be the local police chief. When she arrives on the island she quickly finds her way into the middle of his investigation into the strange deaths of two young men who died on the eve of their 18th birthdays. The following story is quick moving, enjoyable, and peppered with just enough mythology to spark interest without overwhelming the story with fantastic beasts or creatures.
As someone who has a vague knowledge of the Spanish language, I found this book to be fun to read as it’s filled with Puerto Rican jargon and often challenged my understanding of the context in which it was written. The dialogue is quick and believable, the characters are relatable, and while the story errs on the fantasy side, it is grounded in reality. I had a hard time putting the book down and ended up plowing through it in just under 48 hours – the mark of a quality novel.

My Advice: Do you enjoy the YA genre? If you said yes, this is the book for you. It’s a quick read, perfect for summer with a release date in early June of 2019, and it introduces the reader to an interesting Latin American myth that proves just spooky enough without giving nightmares. Other reviews call this novel “unputdownable” (Paul Tremblay) and they’re correct. It’s a great dive back into YA fiction and with the personal and profession knowledge possessed by Dávila Cardinal being both Puerto Rican and VCFA’s leader of a Puerto Rican residency, it reads with an air of authenticity that can’t be beat.