The Merry Spinster


Review #40: Fiction

The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg


This collection of stories will feel at once familiar and darkly, deliciously fresh.

Though fairytales and fables, these stories carry such a refreshing air of reality. They drip with a dark, sinister unpredictability that flows through our real lives. Ortberg forces the reader to see each retelling and re-imagination through a new lens, one that refocuses the otherworldly and fantastic as real. Remove the preconceived idea that mermaids aren’t real, that animals don’t talk or interact with each other in friendships, or that little boys don’t turn into swans; what do their lives look like? They are as complex and flawed as our own. And they can be similarly heartbreaking and cruel.

With every story, we are given a new glimpse into worlds and situations we thought we already knew. Readers will feel the heart-string tugs of the stories that inspired this collection, nostalgia working to convince us that we know how each story ends. But Ortberg rewrites the script, opening our narrow perceptions to something more – cruel realities of these fairytales we’ve come to love. What may be expected to tarnish the memory of beloved fairytales and fables ultimately elevates them, allowing these stories to grow and mature with the audience.

Ortberg does not shy away from the harsh and unfair or unsavory elements of life, and allows these aspects to shine in this collection. She has given us our favorite stories, with an honest, relatable tone that is unencumbered by preconceived notions of a “happily ever after” ending. We, and our stories, are better for it.

4 out of 5 stars

*Cover image from Amazon



Grimm’s American Macabre


Review #35: Fiction

Short Story Collection #1


Grimm’s American Macabre compiled by Lizbeth Grimm

This is a collection of short stories that grabs you from the very opening line, piking your curiosity the moment you open the cover. Each story will draw you in, keep you wondering what will come next.

Lizbeth Grimm utilizes foreshadowing cleverly with each story, often using one story to foreshadow another. This collection truly comes together as a cohesive text, the stories intertwining and playing off each other as you read. Considering Grimm has woven the stories of other authors into this collection – from story to story and author to author – the consistency of the flow and arc of the book is a feat. The voices are blended well; they’re different, but complimentary. Among the collected authors, Grimm includes her three children, which truly bring the Grimm lineage and tradition of storytelling full circle.

Each story is filled with subtle messages, giving the collection an overall unified theme, that readers will pick up on in their own way. Throughout, the collection provides a takeaway lesson for all, but not one definitive lesson that feels forced on the audience. It shines a spotlight on the unpredictability of nature and the cruelty of the modern world, playing up the conflict between technology and modern-day progress and innovation, and the simple, savage nature of survival instincts and the natural world.

Readers will feel a deeper connection to these stories because they seem familiar. The tales are new in their specifics, but will feel like coming home to old friends. There is just enough similarity to draw on the nostalgia felt for the old Brothers Grimm tales.

Though not every story will speak to every reader, every reader will take something away from this collection. It starts with a bang and continues the pace through most of the text, however, the collection closes on a softer note, losing a bit of the overall steam created.

This is a diverse and modern take on Brothers Grimm-esque fairy tales, and is a unique edition to the family tradition of storytellers.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

*Cover art from

** I received an advanced copy of this collection in return for an honest review.




My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry


Review #34: Fiction

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman


This is probably one of my favorite novels about loss (close second is Lily and the Octopus). Backman beautifully and simply captures a special bond between grandparent and grandchild. He then knits the heart-wrenching loss of this bond into the fabric of fairy tales allowing the reader to dive completely into the mind of a child processing something so adult.

The way Backman uses these fairy tales, these stories Elsa’s grandmother would tell her, is such a unique way to bring adult readers into the world of young characters. This is not a children’s book, but the main character is a child, and these stories bridge the generational gap between her and the reader. Plus, the fairy tales themselves are fantastically interesting. A book of just these stories would capture the imagination of most readers.

Another genius element of Backman’s writing is his use of supporting characters. Just as in his first novel (A Man Called Ove), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry truly intertwines the lives of every character to build one complete work.The supporting characters all have their own side stories that seamlessly blend into Elsa’s main arch. Each character is so well rounded and real (and interesting in and of themselves) that Backman’s third novel (Britt-Marie Was Here) is the continuation of the story of Britt-Marie, a supporting character in this novel.

In the end, this book is about loss, enduring it, coping with it, and moving forward. Plus rebuilding broken relationships and realizing what truly matters in life. In telling this tale, Backman weaves a beautiful portrait of life, of the struggles we all face, of the idea that our assumptions about people aren’t always correct — that sometimes it’s the fairy tales that are true and our perceived reality that is fiction.

If you’re a big kid not ready to let go of fairy tales, this book is for you. If you have ever lost a loved one, this book is for you. If you have ever lost touch with someone, sometimes not even remembering why, this book is for you. And if you don’t mind crying your eyes out, this book is for you. Or if you simply like an unbelievably well-written book, this one’s for you.

Every character is important, fully formed, and relatable. Every story is imaginative, purposeful, transforming. Backman creates a support system and manual for dealing with grief with this novel. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry holds your hand through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance — and in the end, both you and this new fictional family you’ve gained, are better for it.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

*Cover art from