Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Rating: 4 of 5

Completely wrecked after her older sister’s suicide, Jenna makes a life-shattering decision and, ever since, has been slowly working her way to – wherever, whenever – her sister may be.

Synopsis: “When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.

But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.” (source)

My thoughts: Beneath its “urban fantasy” exterior Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day digs deep into real-world issues to tackle the solemn themes of suicide, grief, and survivor’s guilt.

The story sets itself apart through its exploration of time, death, hope, and what it means to be alive. The reason for why mirrors are covered after a death in the family, what and who ghosts really are, how and why they “haunt” the living… offer an inventive, fresh look at the concept of ghosts. I loved the witches as potential allies or enemies of ghosts. But my favorite is how Seanan McGuire played with time — its meaning, its effects, its boundaries… what an imaginative perspective!

Highly recommended for an experience both entertaining and cathartic.

Read an excerpt on Tor.com | Add on LibraryThing | Add on Goodreads

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

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A few passages I bookmarked:

Scent is very much a part of memory, and memory is a form of time travel. It takes us back, whether or not we want to go.” (Jenna)

Ghosts are the nails in the coffin of eternity, and they keep the lid from flying off.” (Brenda)

These days, everyone wants to eat, but no one wants to take the time and care needed to coax the land into giving up its glories. People don’t change. We’re always selfish, and we’re always hungry. We’ve just gotten better at looking at greed and saying ‘Oh, that’s self-interest, that’s all right.’ We’ve forgotten the way the word ‘enough’ feels on the tongue.” (Brenda)

Reprinted the poem “Widow” by Martha Keller from which this book’s title was inspired.

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Rating: 4 of 5

Completely wrecked after her older sister’s suicide, Jenna makes a life-shattering decision and, ever since, has been slowly working her way to – wherever, whenever – her sister may be.

Synopsis: “When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.

But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.” (source)

My thoughts: Beneath its “urban fantasy” exterior Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day digs deep into real-world issues to tackle the solemn themes of suicide, grief, and survivor’s guilt.

The story sets itself apart through its exploration of time, death, hope, and what it means to be alive. The reason for why mirrors are covered after a death in the family, what and who ghosts really are, how and why they “haunt” the living… offer an inventive, fresh look at the concept of ghosts. I loved the witches as potential allies or enemies of ghosts. But my favorite is how Seanan McGuire played with time — its meaning, its effects, its boundaries… what an imaginative perspective!

Highly recommended for an experience both entertaining and cathartic.

Read an excerpt on Tor.com | Add on LibraryThing | Add on Goodreads

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

———————————————
A few passages I bookmarked:

Scent is very much a part of memory, and memory is a form of time travel. It takes us back, whether or not we want to go.” (Jenna)

Ghosts are the nails in the coffin of eternity, and they keep the lid from flying off.” (Brenda)

These days, everyone wants to eat, but no one wants to take the time and care needed to coax the land into giving up its glories. People don’t change. We’re always selfish, and we’re always hungry. We’ve just gotten better at looking at greed and saying ‘Oh, that’s self-interest, that’s all right.’ We’ve forgotten the way the word ‘enough’ feels on the tongue.” (Brenda)

Reprinted the poem “Widow” by Martha Keller from which this book’s title was inspired.

The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson

Rating: 3.5 of 5

A fox falls in love with a human and does everything in her power to win him for herself, no matter what. The biggest problem, other than her being a fox and him human, is that he’s already married to a woman he loves. She ignores her grandfather’s warnings and the numerous times she’s chased off or outright attacked by the humans. She’s in love and doesn’t care the cost.

But Yoshifuji, the object of her love, is equally fixated on the foxes. And his wife, Shikujo, who believes that foxes are evil tricksters dangerous to humans, watches as the obsession consumes her husband. All three are caught in a web of dishonesty, guilt and forbidden desires, and all three must find their own way out.

One of the best endings I’ve read in recent memory.

Recommended if you enjoy historically accurate retellings based on Japanese fairy tales told in diary form.

Official website | Add on LibraryThing | Add on Goodreads

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

———————————————
A few passages I bookmarked:

I didn’t wish I were still a mere fox, but I wished being a woman were less of a burden.” (Kitsune)

But perhaps there is something more correct even than elegance. My father owns a set of sake cups, a treasure that has been in his family for a thousand years (or so he says). They are hand-formed of rough pottery randomly splashed with black and green and silver. There is nothing delicate, nothing elegant, about them…As a child, I liked them better than the facile perfection of porcelain. ‘They are honest,’ my father said then. ‘They do not break when you drink wine.’ Perhaps honesty could be stronger, more beautiful than elegance and correctness.” (Shikujo)

…and so instead I take my tiny steps toward honesty and whisper the great truth here in my pillow book, and perhaps someday into my husband’s ear (whether Yoshifuji or another). Perhaps there is a Pure Land where we go when we die. But perhaps there is not. And either way, it is wise to live well, here and now. I will not run. I will be alive. The fox woman, my husband and I. Of us all, she understood this best.” (Shikujo)

If he sees the ball rolled across the snow, I will be so happy, but it does not matter; I will still build a world of the best of all these things.” (Kitsune)

(SPOILER)[spoiler]My favorite part was when Yoshifuji goes to live with Kitsune in the fox world. I loved how time was different in their world within a world. How the fox magic manifested all around them – in the house, ladies-in-waiting, clothes, etc. Like a magical bubble in the backyard. “I think I wouldn’t have seen my fox wife’s illusion if I hadn’t wanted it so much. That was a world where no one aged. My fox wife was eternally beautiful.”[/spoiler](END SPOILER)

Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter

Rating: 4.5 of 5

9780765385260But I remember all too well that one cannot put an old head on young shoulders.”

Have truer words ever been written? Or thought by just about any parent, teacher, mentor, adult? We so want to impart the hard-earned wisdom of our life experience and mistakes, and every time hope our young will, maybe this time, listen.

Of Sorrow and Such, my first experience with Angela Slatter, proved enthralling. The world of Edda’s Meadow was immediately believable — from its natural beauty to its residents’ secrets to the undercover witches who healed people they suspected might at any moment betray their trust.

I instantly respected Patience and Selke; both intelligent, strong women who didn’t have to sell each other out to exist. Gilly, even with her youthful arrogance and selfishness, won me over. The villains were equally dynamic, though I would’ve liked to see at least one man use his power for good. As it was, the only “good guys” were portrayed as dimwitted or timid. That, for me, was too black and white. The ending was a welcome surprise.

Highly recommended to anyone who loves dark fantasy starring witches or the feel of historical fiction with witches and magic.

Author’s website | Read excerpts on Tor.com | Buy online

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Recommended by fellow Goodreads member Margaret Kingsbury.