Short Story Review: A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies

Apex Magazine Issue 105, February 2018

From; Apex Magazine Issue 105, February 2018 by Jason Sizemore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


My review is for A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix Harrow and Interview with Alix Harrow by Andrea Johnson only.

Enchanting

Really the only word that can be used to describe this longish short story. I entered the Witch Librarian’s library – and I didn’t want to leave.

Books can do magic, can create a world for the lost, bewildered and lonely. Ms Harrow understands this.

I’m excited by the depth and complexity of Ms Harrow’s imagination and look forward to reading more of her work.

It’s only September, but I am going to call this my best short story read of 2019.

Great interview by Andrea Johnson – which shows she also has a vivid imagination! Brief, but witty and informative. 5★

I’m a Librarian on Goodreads and I always feel a faint bit of dread when friends review online magazine stories individually on Goodreads. There is always much angst when the story is inevitably merged with the magazine.Want to change Goodreads policy on short stories? I don’t think there is much chance of that, but you need to contact staff rather than posting about it on your review. Here is the link. https://www.goodreads.com/about/contact_us

Librarians are volunteers – we have little to no influence on Goodreads policies. On the rare occasions that Goodreads backs down, you need Librarians prepared to do the reversals and there is usually a consequence where active Librarians either stop doing the edits or only do their own. Just saying.

More chance of success would be to ask if the authors concerned if they would put the short stories on their own website. If the story is on their website, it would have to be unconditionally available. (readers not required to join a mailing list for example) to be added to the Goodreads database.

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Book Review: Thornyhold

Thornyhold

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


2.5★

Well…it was better than Stormy Petrel, but still fell short of the mark for me.

The beginning, although sad and depressing was well written. I felt for the lonely child that Jilly was and loved the relationship with her “fairy godmother”, Geillis.

And as always, Lady Stewart creates a wonderful sense of place, vividly described people. I’m interested in life in post war Britain with all the frustrating hardships and food shortages.

I was fine with the magic realism element.

But this book shares the same major fault that Stormy Petrel has, where Lady Stewart seems to head towards a major plot point and then backs away. For me the instalove was extreme – and for a very anonymous hero. (who also appears to be a negligent father.)

I really liked Rose Cottage, but Lady Stewart’s other two cottage books aren’t for me. Even Rose Cottage I’m unlikely to reread.

It wasn’t really relevant to the story, but I’m glad that Lady S introduced me to the poet Sidney Keyes. Did she know him? Or as a well read woman, did she decide to use her influence with her readership to stop this young man, who was killed in WW2, from fading into obscurity.

A sample poem that Keyes wrote about the grandfather who raised him.

Elegy
(In memoriam SKK)

April again, and it’s a year again
Since you walked out and slammed the door
Leaving us tangled in your words. Your brain
Lives in the bank-book and your eyes look up
Laughing from the carpet on the floor:
And we still drink from your silver cup.

It is a year again since they poured
The dumb ground into your mouth:
And yet we know, by some recurring word
Or look caught unawares, that you still drive
Our thoughts like the smart cobs of your youth –
When you and the world were alive.

A year again, and we have fallen on bad times
Since they gave you to the worms.
I am ashamed to take delight in these rhymes
Without grief; but you need no tears.
We shall never forget nor escape you, nor make terms
With your enemies, the swift departing years.

Keyes was only 16 when he wrote this. Sixteen!

A remarkable talent was lost. Best poetry I have read this year. 5★

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The Ghost Bride

The Ghost Bride

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

“The problem with the dead was that they all wanted someone to listen to them.”


Now, I wouldn’t have thought this was my sort of read at all, but it shows how wrong you can be.

More than what I was expecting as I knew there would be the fantastic and paranormal,this was also a (somewhat tepid) romance and a murder mystery. Ms Choo’s use of evocative language is assured – quite amazing that this book was a debut. Ms Choo allows us to pick delicately through Li Lan’s complicated beliefs – every bit as complicated as life in nineteenth century Malaya would be. I just accepted everything I was shown.

Quite wonderful. I’m only knocking half a star off, because in the middle it dragged a bit & because I guessed the two twists quite easily.

Another quote from this very quotable book

“It was strange to think that power in this world belonged to old men and young women.” 

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