I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was the other week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about.
First up, I’d like to talk about White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson. Thank you so much to Harper 360 for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.
The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its . . . secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.
But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right?
As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks.
Publication Date: 30th September
TW: drug use, death, grief, fire, addiction, mentions of child murder, invasie thoughts, bug phobia
White Smoke captures that whisper in the dark and that unexplainable chill on your arm. Jackson keeps you on your toes all the way through with this atmospheric, unnerving and endlessly surprising offering.
Tiffany D. Jackson is an auto-buy author of mine. Every single time, she just knocks it out of the park with thrilling writing, compelling and complex characters and twist for the history books. White Smoke is no exception to this rule. This is a modern horror story that plays with the tropes of the genre, specifically that of Gothic novels, to create a whole new beast.
I found this book incredibly vivid and Jackson’s writing got into my head and refused to leave. This is the perfect book to read in the build up to spooky season, or if you just fancy a gloriously unsettling read that delves into racism, gentrification and the secrets we try to keep buried. Jackson’s writing is just brilliant. Every time you think you have it all figured out, you don’t as another horrifying moment slithers onto the page. I was constantly theorising, only to become obsessed with another minor detail.
Jackson drops you straight in with a creepy, unnerving and honestly unsettling opening. I got shivers down my spine from reading these few pages. It sets tone perfectly and this atmosphere of horror and suspense is created that Jackson keeps sustained for the rest of the book. For me, this was intensely thrilling and so I absolutely sped through the remaining pages. I was buddy reading this and found it increasingly difficult to stop at the assigned chapters. I just was craving what happened next.
White Smoke lives up to its name with an uniquely shadowy mystery enclosed in smoke and Gothic atmosphere reframed for this modern horror story.
Next up, I’d like to talk about The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros. Thank you so much to Justine Sha at Inkyard Press for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.
But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.
Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next.
Publication Date: 5th October
TW: anti-Semitism, body horror, blood, gore, violence, murder, drowning, vomiting, fire, immolation, death, drowning, rape, sexual assault
The City Beautiful is a heartfelt Gothic historical fantasy that utilises its Own Voices representation perfectly to weave a mystery that’s packed with heart and a gorgeous exploration of identity and found family.
I absolutely adored the Own Voices elements and the way Jewish identity and anti Semitism is explored. You can just feel the love Polydoros has for his culture and identity radiate off the page. Despite the awfulness of their situation, there’s still a sense of pride and hope enmeshed in the character’s hearts. Personally, I wasn’t familiar with many of the elements of Jewish culture explored here, but I found it fascinating to learn more. On top of this, the twists and turns the mystery takes opens up some thought-provoking discussions about revenge, justice and love. Where can you draw the line between justice and vengeance?
The way Polydoros intertwines Jewish culture and mythology into a gripping murder mystery is mind-blowing to witness. Polydoros has created such a compelling mystery that your whole heart is invested in. The pacing is just exquisite, making me race through the pages. The cruelty of the situation and the way society as a whole ignores the mistreatment, injustice and ultimately horrendous acts of violence and death is sickening. However, you can easily see the modern day parallels in anti-Semetic behaviour and ideology.
This book is just wonderfully written. I found myself savouring every page, eyes hanging onto every delectable word. The descriptions are so immersive and vividly imagined that you can practically feel your surroundings disappear and those that Polydoros has conjured surround you instead. Of course, it helps that our characters are so relatable and lovable. You can’t help but root for them to succeed and feel every inch of their pain alongside them.
The City Beautiful pulls on your heartstrings in a wonderfully emotional and gorgeously crafted mystery that combines elements of horror, Jewish culture and a swoon worthy romance.
Finally, I’d like to delve into Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone. Thank you so much to Titan Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
There are monsters in the world.
When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.
There are monsters in the woods.
As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn…
There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.
Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.
Publication Date: 12th October
TW: grief, physical abuse, religious trauma, self harm for magic, blood, drowning, suicidal thoughts, previous attempt
Lakesedge is an exceptional read to pair with nights when the darkness sneaks up on you and the wintry touch of the cold air grips your throat. It captures the autumnal essence of that luminal time of year where boundaries are blurred and anything seems possible.
Right from the start, Clipstone expertly weaves this web of death, darkness and paradoxical beauty that captures every one of your senses. Lakesedge opens with this compelling and strangely beautiful scene. It’s an entrancing opening that sets the tone perfectly. Already, you are drawn into this web of this lilting beauty, with a haunting edge of darkness, abuse and this possession like experience. From then on, you are utterly ensnared. Everywhere you look, there are dark deals and this all-consuming, haunting magic clutching at everything in its midst. The magic system here is brutal but in a way that you can’t look away from. It’s darkly gorgeous and addictive, seeping under your skin.
I just adored the writing style. It’s no exaggeration to say that I flew through the pages. There was just twist after twist in a way that felt so natural, but heart-racing at the same time. All the way through, you have this sense of foreboding and awful events to come. Clipstone plays with those dangers lurking in the shadows and the monsters just out of sight. This is a story where there is no easy way out and actions always have consequences. All this culminates in an explosive ending and an intriguing cliffhanger that left me desperate to know what happens next.
Lakesedge is a darkly Gothic and supernatural exploration of family, power and magic that will haunt your dreams.