The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu (audio)

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Audible, 2+ hrs.
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It’s been a Grimm’s Brothers kind of month of reading for me.

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu, narrated by Jim Boeven, weaves in myth from Germanic folklore about wolves and sets it just nearing the end of WWII.

Even as Berlin tries to tell its people that the war is not over, even the villages outside the cities can sense the tide is not in the motherland’s favor.

Uwe Fuchs has always considered himself a weakling and unworthy as he was unable to serve for the Reich and stayed behind to care for his own ailing mother. Despite his lot, he cared for his daughter and loved to share with her the dark fairy tales of the wood and wolves, though he feared she missed the point that the wolves represented the bad in the world. But in many ways it seems he missed the point as well.

The narration by Boeven was a bit stilted in the audio, which kept me from really falling into Katsu’s story fully. That was a real drawback for me. But the story itself is definitely a reaction to the political climate we find ourselves in and how it mirrors that of Nazi Germany with its fervor and us vs. them focus. The story itself is a cautionary tale that has roots in reality.

Katsu has knack for creating characters who are flawed and find themselves in otherworldly situations. Uwe is definitely flawed and those flaws are amplified by what happens to him, especially when he takes matters into his hands with the village fighters against the Allies in an effort to be part of the community. Will he be a man who cannot return to his former life?

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu, narrated by Jim Boeven, is a short story set in a historical period that highlighted much of the worst in humanity from eugenics to mass extinction efforts. Uwe is a man who is struggling with his own place in society and his community until he finds his pack. But will his one decision to join those working against the allies at the end of the war ruin his life forever?

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband.

Fairy Tale by Stephen King (audio)

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Audible, 24+ hrs.
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Fairy Tale by Stephen King, narrated by Seth Numrich and a bit by King himself, is a dark Gothic story in the tradition of the Brothers Grimm. In a parallel world beneath an Howard Bowditch‘s shed, Charlie Reade‘s worldview and his promise to be a better man if only his father would stop drinking alcohol. Reade’s blossoming relationship with Mr. Bowditch is touching and odd all at once, but I expect nothing less. But the fairy tale doesn’t begin until Reade learns about what’s in the shed and what it could possibly mean for the dog, Radar, they love.

In an adventure that Reade never expected to have when he sought to save the life of an old dog, he learns a great deal about human frailty and how dreams and ideals do little in times of crisis. Even Mr. Bowditch was aware of those failings, noting that cowards bring gifts. King is so adept at creating flawed characters and adventures to strange worlds where young men must test their metal against the deep dark evil of an unknown and scary place.

Reade comes of age in this story and he is not as too-good-to-be-true as he seems. He faces untenable situations and tough choices throughout his travels. I don’t want to give too much away, but the character not only evolves but even more clearly understands his own limitations. Dark and horrible things happen here, and are their moments of crassness from the evil characters that make you cringe, of course. These elements make this dark world seem even more real.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love reading Stephen King’s books. Not all of them capture my full attention, even if I love them. I even conned my friend Anna (aka Diary of an Eccentric) to read my favorite King book (IT) in a read-a-long. But some of King’s books have not totally absorbed me from start to finish like IT. Fairy Tale is an exception and has entered the pantheon of King favorites.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Summonings by Raena Shirali

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 122 pgs.
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Summonings by Raena Shirali is an urgent calling of female personas in an effort to highlight the continued practice of daayan (witch) hunting in India. But even as Shirali conjures the spirits of these women, she is also summoning her own power as a westernized Indian woman to empathize and call attention to this practice and the unfair targeting of women.

As she points out in the foreword, “India is the world’s most dangerous country for women … The only Western nation in the top 10 was the United States…”

Shirali is fully aware that as a westernized Indian woman there is “distance/between self & subject.” (“on projection,” pg. 12) Her poems aim to bring these women into full-bodied poems based on what she knows about these “witches,” but it is hard to be a spirit without the lens of one’s own culture and upbringing. This mirrors her poem “ojha : rituals” where she questions what “truth” is, especially when it becomes subjective.

These poems are multi-layered and the longer you sit with these lines and images, the more you realize these stories are a conjuring of female power from ancestors and modern women who face oppression. Even as there is a reach for feminine power, there’s also a self-hatred Shirali struggles with: “i was shit & wanted/to be shit. & then i swallowed pretense. swallowed/countries” (“at first, trying to reach those accused” pg. 27) and in “summoning : retreat” (pg. 31) “digging in/the old-world soil/for common root.”

Shirali offers a “different way to look at the same/old face.” (“daayan gets her name” pg. 35) In summoning the spirits of these women, these so-called witches, she’s rewriting the narrative to include their truth, not just the stories that have been told about them. Her poems are when “the earth began to shift”(“daayan & the mountains : ii pg. 58-9). Summonings by Raena Shirali is asking us to reexamine who gets to ask, who answers, and who tells the story.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Raena Shirali is the author of two collections of poetry. Her first book, GILT (YesYes Books, 2017), won the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award, and her second, summonings (Black Lawrence Press, 2022), won the 2021 Hudson Prize. Winner of a Pushcart Prize & a former Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University, Shirali is also the recipient of prizes and honors from VIDA, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, & Cosmonauts Avenue. Formerly a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Muzzle Magazine, Shirali now serves as Faculty Advisor for Folio—a literary magazine dedicated to publishing works by undergraduate students at the national level. She holds an MFA in Poetry from The Ohio State University and is an Assistant Professor of English at Holy Family University. The Indian American poet was raised in Charleston, South Carolina, and now lives in Philadelphia.

The Attic on Queen Street by Karen White

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Paperback, 416 pgs.
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**don’t read this one until you’ve read the others**

The Attic on Queen Street by Karen White is the seventh and last book in this ghostly mystery series. Melanie and Jack Trenholm are not in a good place at the start of this one. He’s no longer living in the Tradd Street home and they are sharing custody of their twins, while his daughter, Nola, stayed with Melanie. It’s clear that there is some tension between them, but the love they share and the heat are still present, even if they choose to ignore it.

“…faces of my children and Jack stared out at me from the computer’s background wallpaper, a reminder of everything we had lost. Or maybe we had just misplaced it.” (from ARC)

In this story, Melanie is trying to help Veronica, an old friend, solve the murder of her sister, which has been a cold case since their college days. Veronica’s husband, however, is eager to move out of their house and into a new place, as well as close the book on his sister-in-law’s unsolved murder. As with all other books, ghosts are showing up, leaving things in places they shouldn’t, and making things a little difficult for Melanie who is a reluctant communicator with the dead.

In the midst of this mystery, Marc Longo makes another appearance, and desperation has Jack and Melanie agreeing to be under the same roof and allow filming on the book Marc stole from Jack to begin in their house. You can imagine what kind of tension there will be.

The Attic on Queen Street by Karen White has everything I’ve loved about this series from the beginning – ghosts, mysteries, and complicated relationships. I’m so glad this ended happily, and I cannot wait for the New Orleans spinoff series to begin.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews of the Series:

Other Books by Karen White:

About the Author:

Karen White is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and currently writes what she refers to as ‘grit lit’—Southern women’s fiction—and has also expanded her horizons into writing a mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina. Karen hails from a long line of Southerners but spent most of her growing up years in London, England and is a graduate of the American School in London. When not writing, she spends her time reading, scrapbooking, playing piano, and avoiding cooking. She currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children, and two spoiled Havanese dogs.

More Bedtime Stories for Cynics Presented by Nick Offerman (Audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 3+ hrs.
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More Bedtime Stories for Cynics Presented by Nick Offerman is a collection of bed time stories based on fairy tales and twists them toward tragic endings. These stories are innovative. One story looks at what it would be like to be a princess turned into a frog who is unsure if she would even know how to be human if she found her prince. Another story looks at the veterinary tasks from a dog’s point of view and the story that results is creepy. Not all of these stories are creepy, but many of them look at the darker side of fairy tales.

I enjoyed the multitude of narrators for the stories – Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Elliot Page, Jane Lynch, John Waters, Anjelica Huston, Wendell Pierce, Mike Birbiglia, Rachel Dratch, Matt Walsh, Nicole Byer, Harry Goaz, Aisling Bea, and Gary Anthony Williams.Yes, you read that correctly, the lead of NAILED IT!, Patrick Stewart aka Captain Picard, and John Waters! Nick Offerman is a delight with his asides and conversational style when introducing these stories.

Would you want to listen to these at bedtime? You might; nothing is overly horrifying. What these cemented for me is that I have a dark sense of humor sometimes. Yes, I chuckled at some of these stories.

More Bedtime Stories for Cynics Presented by Nick Offerman is a fun collection of stories that will leave you guessing. I really enjoyed these and will probably pick up the next collection of these stories.

RATING: Quatrain