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.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Rating: 4.5 of 5

All the Birds in the Sky was the first 2016 release I absolutely did not want to put down until I was finished. It was so weird, in that brilliant way I always hope to find in a new-to-me author’s work. The seamless blending of magic and science, the absolutely believable relationship between Patricia and Laurence, the ethical dilemmas of their gifts and those effects on the world… How does one review a book that itself refuses to be crammed into one neat little “normal” box? Loved it!

Highly recommended if you’re looking for something different, something simultaneously imaginary and realistic.

One of my favorite quotes from the book, spoken by my absolute LEAST favorite character, Patricia’s sister:

You never learned the secret,” said Roberta. “How to be a crazy motherf***ker and get away with it. Everybody else does it. What, you didn’t think they were all sane, did you? Not a one of them. They’re all crazier than you and me put together. They just know how to fake it. You could too, but you’ve chosen to torture all of us instead. That’s the definition of evil right there: not faking it like everybody else. Because all of us crazy f***kers can’t stand it when someone else lets their crazy show. It’s like bugs under the skin. We have to destroy you. It’s nothing personal.

My only nitpick was that, once again, during childhood and young adulthood both characters had absolutely NO adults (including and especially their parents) who believed them, supported them, got them. I guess “us against the world” is a great way to bond two people, but it’s a pet peeve of mine with a lot of the fiction I read.

Book’s website | Read excerpts on Tor.com | Add on LibraryThing | Add on Goodreads

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

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.