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The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

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From Daniel Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from their beloved "Children's Stories Made Horrific" series, The Merry Spinster takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and their best-selling debut Texts from Jane Eyre. The feature become among the most popular on the s From Daniel Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from their beloved "Children's Stories Made Horrific" series, The Merry Spinster takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and their best-selling debut Texts from Jane Eyre. The feature become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a perfect vehicle for Ortberg’s eye for deconstruction and destabilization. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children's stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief. Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg's boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg's oeuvre will delight in their unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface. Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night. Bedtime will never be the same.


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From Daniel Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from their beloved "Children's Stories Made Horrific" series, The Merry Spinster takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and their best-selling debut Texts from Jane Eyre. The feature become among the most popular on the s From Daniel Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from their beloved "Children's Stories Made Horrific" series, The Merry Spinster takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and their best-selling debut Texts from Jane Eyre. The feature become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a perfect vehicle for Ortberg’s eye for deconstruction and destabilization. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children's stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief. Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg's boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg's oeuvre will delight in their unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface. Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night. Bedtime will never be the same.

30 review for The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    There are two really great stories here, a couple of okay ones, many pages of beautiful/whimsical/amusing writing, several interesting ideas, and a whole lot of codswallop. Let's call it a 2.5. As with many other short story collections, like Machado's Her Body and Other Parties, The Merry Spinster is a mixed bag. With this one, though, I'm leaning more towards declaring it a negative reading experience. There were just too many nonsensical things, too many abrupt and weird endings, too many stor There are two really great stories here, a couple of okay ones, many pages of beautiful/whimsical/amusing writing, several interesting ideas, and a whole lot of codswallop. Let's call it a 2.5. As with many other short story collections, like Machado's Her Body and Other Parties, The Merry Spinster is a mixed bag. With this one, though, I'm leaning more towards declaring it a negative reading experience. There were just too many nonsensical things, too many abrupt and weird endings, too many stories that felt pointless. By far the best, for me, were "The Rabbit" and "Six Boy Coffins". The first is a retelling of The Velveteen Rabbit and it is the stuff of nightmares. Gone is the sob-inducing rabbit of the original and, in his place, is one seriously murderous bunny. In the excitement of looking at all the new presents the Velveteen Rabbit was put aside, and he learned for the first time what it was to be ignored, and he did not forget it. "Six Boy Coffins" is more of a traditional fairy tale with kings, queens, princesses, curses and punishments. The story arc was the most satisfying, and I couldn't look away right from the horrific opening to the very end. "The Daughter Cells" was also pretty good. This is a Little Mermaid retelling and the narrator had such a snarky, weird and strangely likable voice. It's a perfectly dark and gory opening to the collection. She had kissed him, and she had kept his lungs from getting wet; this made him hers according to the laws of most commonsensical people. Some others read well and were engaging, but felt like they were building towards something important only to peter out at the end. You think something dramatic or twisty is going to happen and you wait and wait and it ends with the characters sat around drinking tea (or whatever). The titular "The Merry Spinster" is like this-- an enjoyable Beauty and the Beast retelling that gets to the end and I had no idea what the point was. I felt like I was supposed to “get” something that I didn’t. "The Frog Princess", too, is an easy read, but feels pointless in the end-- no message, no twist, no climax. Nothing. Pretty much all the others did nothing for me. I was intrigued by the gender fluid Cinderella retelling in "The Thankless Child" but I genuinely have no idea what the hell that story was even about. "The Wedding Party" is another that left me clueless. Overall, The Merry Spinster was pretty disappointing. I'm glad I was able to find a couple of stand-out stories, but given that they account for less than 20% of the collection, it doesn't make sense to rate this any higher. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    "Had my own brothers lived," the king said, "they should certainly have tried to harm our own children and stifle our peace." His own brothers, however, had not lived. It was an important task of kingship, determining when brothers and sons were no longer necessary. I was really looking forward to this collection of fairy tale retellings, but it proved to be a something of a let down. Ortberg's versions are somber and bleak, but really no darker than the original stories. Perhaps going grimmer wa "Had my own brothers lived," the king said, "they should certainly have tried to harm our own children and stifle our peace." His own brothers, however, had not lived. It was an important task of kingship, determining when brothers and sons were no longer necessary. I was really looking forward to this collection of fairy tale retellings, but it proved to be a something of a let down. Ortberg's versions are somber and bleak, but really no darker than the original stories. Perhaps going grimmer was never the author's intention, but that was my expectation, and I was disappointed. I liked three of the eleven tales, but all of them are already fading from memory. I thought the first story in the collection, The Daughter Cells, was the best of the lot, but any tale about carnivorous mermaids has the power to turn me into a quivering bowlful of algae. Perhaps the most unusual element to Ortberg's stories was the fluid sexual identities of some of the characters - male princesses, and daughters named Paul. There really is a lot of talent on display here, and in the future, I'd like to read something that is not based on another's ideas, but created solely from the author's imagination

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jaksen

    I read the first few, skimmed the rest. I don't get any of it. Seems written by a writer who luxuriates in her own overblown cleverness. I don't mean to be unnecessarily cruel in my review, and the writing itself is superb. That is, how one word meets the next; how metaphors fly out like gnats, biting and surprising you; how carefully each story is composed; and even, how repetition of phrases create a sort of innate rhythm to each tale. Yep, this writer can write. But the stories are obtuse, stra I read the first few, skimmed the rest. I don't get any of it. Seems written by a writer who luxuriates in her own overblown cleverness. I don't mean to be unnecessarily cruel in my review, and the writing itself is superb. That is, how one word meets the next; how metaphors fly out like gnats, biting and surprising you; how carefully each story is composed; and even, how repetition of phrases create a sort of innate rhythm to each tale. Yep, this writer can write. But the stories are obtuse, strange, contorted - and not in the sense I, a horror and mystery reader - usually like. I must also add I was a great reader of fairy tales in my younger years - up and through my twenties. I read the red, green, blue, etc., fairy tale books and often had to justify borrowing them from the local library. (My mother thought it was nuts I loved these books.) But these short tales, obviously the black sheep offshoots of 'regular' folk and fairy tales, are not to my fancy. My mind was everywhere as I read them - I had to concentrate to keep on reading. So, two stars, both for skill in the actual writing. I won this book through Goodreads, which I fully support and appreciate.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tori (InToriLex)

    Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex Actual Rating 2.5 You should be a fan of the Grimm' Fairy Tales, in order to appreciate these short stories. I am really familiar with Disney's feel good fairy tales but didn't feel familiar enough with the source material to appreciate the adaptions. These horrific short stories pay homage to their original sources while adding elements of horror and surprise. The characters don't behave according to established gender norms although most of the stories Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex Actual Rating 2.5 You should be a fan of the Grimm' Fairy Tales, in order to appreciate these short stories. I am really familiar with Disney's feel good fairy tales but didn't feel familiar enough with the source material to appreciate the adaptions. These horrific short stories pay homage to their original sources while adding elements of horror and surprise. The characters don't behave according to established gender norms although most of the stories take place in the distant past. I appreciated non gender conforming characters, but found it more confusing than enlightening. There were characters who had names typically associated with one gender, but they were referred to as another. It didn't work well because in the brief stories there was no context to ever address the gender bending elements. "They are stuffed in boxes and hidden in the dirt , or else set on fire and turned into cinders, so no one else can make any use of them; they are a prodigiously selfish race and consider themselves their own private property even in death ." The stories included surprising twists, villains and humor but none of the elements worked together as enjoyable whole. The writing was engaging but the retelling didn't make sense. The endings of these stories don't give any sort of resolution, but serve as devices to shock the reader. This is the kind of book that will work for fans of horror and original fairy tales, however it didn't resonate well with me. Recommended for readers who: -enjoy horror themed fairy tales -are fans of Brother Grimm Fairy Tales -appreciate non-traditional gender representation I received this book from Henry Holt/ Holt Paperbacks in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Oriana

    Oh Mallory, oh Daniel Mallory, oh my goodness gracious how I adore you. This book tho... I don't know. It is incredibly well done, but that is not at all the same as saying I enjoyed it. Each tale starts out familiar, like a song you love redone in a minor key — the mermaid who trades her voice for legs, the king who banishes his sons, the put-upon stepsister who goes to live with a beast-creature — but quickly they twist and wrench. Each unfurls with a sickly sweet beauty and a pitch-perfect fa Oh Mallory, oh Daniel Mallory, oh my goodness gracious how I adore you. This book tho... I don't know. It is incredibly well done, but that is not at all the same as saying I enjoyed it. Each tale starts out familiar, like a song you love redone in a minor key — the mermaid who trades her voice for legs, the king who banishes his sons, the put-upon stepsister who goes to live with a beast-creature — but quickly they twist and wrench. Each unfurls with a sickly sweet beauty and a pitch-perfect fairytale tone, but it's impossible to ignore the oily, crawly dread roiling your stomach as they all lurch into a new kind of deeply, deeply disturbing darkness. What terrors will the stuffed rabbit visit upon the sweaty little boy who clutches him too tightly at night? What horrors will the muted, gangly-legged former mermaid cause for her dehumanizing aggro prince and his blushing airhead bride? You want to know, but you also kind of really, really don't. I don't know how to rate or really even review a book like this, which is beautiful and strange and horrible horrible horrible. It's hauntingly lovely but oh god, most of the time I hated it. There is only so much darkness I can bear, and this proffers about twice that. So much bloodletting, so much sorrow, so much arch potent destruction, of people and places and love and trust and hope. So much rending of flesh and plucking out of eyes. So much grief and tragedy. So many new kinds of devastation and despair. I could not have been more relieved to be finished with it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    ❀⊱Rory⊰❀

    4 Stars! Review to follow.

  7. 4 out of 5

    ak

    Received an ARC for free blah blah whatever disclosure. These stories are weird and queer and horrifying and are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but if you like Mallory’s writing especially her “children’s stories made horrifying” you won’t be disappointed. Also The Rabbit is going to haunt me forever.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Anders

    I blurbed this book, so just to add to what I already said ---- this is really something special, even after the other fairytale retellings I've read lately. I wasn't really prepared for quite how creepy and intense, and endleslsy inventive, this book is. Unsettling and powerful, and it'll totally make you look at the stories that formed us in a whole new way.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tiff (fictionaltiff)

    Mallory Ortberg, author of Texts From Jane Eyre, has created another wonderfully unique book. This compilation of short stories retelling a variety of everyone's most beloved fairy and folk tales is not one the reader will soon forget. The main reason I would love a hard copy of this book and perceive it as a valuable read is I like that this book changes my perspective on classic stories. I will never think of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and the other classic stories t Mallory Ortberg, author of Texts From Jane Eyre, has created another wonderfully unique book. This compilation of short stories retelling a variety of everyone's most beloved fairy and folk tales is not one the reader will soon forget. The main reason I would love a hard copy of this book and perceive it as a valuable read is I like that this book changes my perspective on classic stories. I will never think of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and the other classic stories the author reinvents, the same way again. Ortberg gives her horror twist on stories, such as The Velveteen Rabbit, and also includes with that, some gender-neutral characters (The Frog Prince) and feminist scenarios (Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, The Six Swans, etc.), where the damsel in distress pretty much just kills everyone (not really -- well...). If you have a dark sense of humor, you will get a kick out of this book. If you don't (which I don't think I do -- but every avid reader gets used to reading gory and horror scenes, right? Have I become immune?), you'll probably enjoy this because of the different perspective the book provides. I can't leave this review without a complaint because I'm sure you're wondering (okay, maybe not, but here I go anyway) why only the four stars? This story sounds amazing, so why isn't it a five-star read? Mallory Ortberg is a terrific writer and I thoroughly enjoyed each short story -- which is why I'm really upset that each story was so short. Some parts lacked enough detail and I had to read it a few times to make sure I understood what was happening. I didn't want each story to end. I think that each story could have been elaborated more and maybe made into a series of short books instead of just compiling them into stories with not enough story. I understand it fits with the theme of keeping them like the children's versions, but still, some parts were left wanting. Otherwise, a great read and will recommend this as a fun read. I received this as an ARC from NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley!

  10. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Netgalley #56 Many thanks go to Mallory Ortberg, Holt Paperback, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I admit it. I have a soft spot for fairy tale retellings. Ortberg was definitely original here. She melded two or more tales, nursery rhymes, prayers, and ballads to create one-of-a-kind stories with a cynical twist. If anyone has difficulty identifying what's being used, there is a table at the end. I think my favorite was "The Wedding Party", which re Netgalley #56 Many thanks go to Mallory Ortberg, Holt Paperback, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I admit it. I have a soft spot for fairy tale retellings. Ortberg was definitely original here. She melded two or more tales, nursery rhymes, prayers, and ballads to create one-of-a-kind stories with a cynical twist. If anyone has difficulty identifying what's being used, there is a table at the end. I think my favorite was "The Wedding Party", which read like a first rate British sitcom. It makes me want to read some chick lit by Ortberg. It would be quite good I'm sure similar to Kinsella but much more snarky. I just loved this book. It's a quick read, really entertaining and clever. I loved how she gained inspiration. Can't wait for her next work!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sara Saif

    I'm officially tired of reading retelling anthologies. They get odder and weirder and more befuddling with each story and by the time I'm done I feel like banging my head against a wall. I understand that part of it has to do with the fact that I have no ducking clue about the original stories themselves, most of the stories the writers pick to retell are not the usual disney ones. But then, how the heck am I supposed to get what part was retold and how cleverly it was done? A short summary of th I'm officially tired of reading retelling anthologies. They get odder and weirder and more befuddling with each story and by the time I'm done I feel like banging my head against a wall. I understand that part of it has to do with the fact that I have no ducking clue about the original stories themselves, most of the stories the writers pick to retell are not the usual disney ones. But then, how the heck am I supposed to get what part was retold and how cleverly it was done? A short summary of the originals beforehand would be nice. Like really, really nice. It would help me give a modicum of understanding and I wouldn't WTF all over the place. That's one. The second thing is, even when I know the story, I'm still compelled to wtf all over the place because: a) the writers (all 8359385738 of them from the 4+ anthologies I've read so far) insist on sounding really poetic and mysterious and vague. It drives me nuts. b) it gets confusing with every word. I literally have no idea what is going on. c) it gets weirder beyond limit, hence the WTFing. There were 11 stories in this and I found only 3 to my liking. The rest were so bad. The Daughter Cells: Retelling of The Little Mermaid. I liked it. By comparison. But even this had some much weirdness thrown in it. I get that these are short stories and you add bits and pieces in it that you don't have the room to explain but Lord in Heaven I wanted to scream because these little 'bits' did not add mystique and intrigue to the story. They just added randomness and bizarreness, in a horrible and confounding way. The Thankless Child: These were the sources and inspirations for this story: -Cinderella -King Lear, Shakespeare -The Ladder of Divine Ascent -Lorica of St. Patrick, Irish-Christian prayer -The Divine Praises, Catholic Prayer -Psalm 139 So you'll excuse me if I don't have the first shitting clue about what even happened here. Fear Not: An Incident Log: Inspired by the Book I've never read of Genesis. The Six Coffins & The Rabbit: Now these two, these two were good. Properly horrifying and enthralling. The Merry Spinster: The absolute worst Beauty and the Beast retelling in the universe. The Wedding Party: Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad: Psychopathic rodents. How, er, interesting. Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters: Psychopathic grannies... The Frog's Princess: LOL? And the next time someone calls a daughter a "he", I will find the nearest possible cliff and jump off from it. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Psychopathic neighbors... In conclusion, I am so done.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    With sorrowful honesty, closer to 2.5 stars. I adore Ortberg, and as a mournful fan of the late, great The Toast, there was a special feverish rush holding Ortberg's book in my hands--it's like a part of The Toast became sentient and came over to my house for tea/drinks. It was thrilling and a tiny bit sad. That being said... auuugh. I love Ortberg turning fairy tales on their heads. I love the playing with gender and history and narrative and...everything he's doing. Still, my personal reading e With sorrowful honesty, closer to 2.5 stars. I adore Ortberg, and as a mournful fan of the late, great The Toast, there was a special feverish rush holding Ortberg's book in my hands--it's like a part of The Toast became sentient and came over to my house for tea/drinks. It was thrilling and a tiny bit sad. That being said... auuugh. I love Ortberg turning fairy tales on their heads. I love the playing with gender and history and narrative and...everything he's doing. Still, my personal reading experience felt a bit like I was being held at arm's length: I felt like a I needed a much better education in both fairy tales and religion to truly grok every story. There's an archness to some of them that feels like Ortberg is making himeself crack up enormously, but I'm somehow missing the joke. (I also (reluctantly) feel a few of the stories which I recognize from their first forays on The Toast worked better in a much shorter format.) But to criticize this book as a whole feels like a total betrayal! It hurts to say anything even remotely faintly, negative. The failings, I feel, are on my part.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Trin

    I'm sad to say I was very disappointed by this. Fairytale retellings are difficult, because they've just been done so many times before (Atwood, Carter, Donoghue, Gaiman...); still, I sort of hoped that if anyone could pull them off, it would be Ortberg, whose humorous writings and sharp takes on literature have always amused me a great deal. He does get in some very funny lines here and there in this collection, but overall, the ideas just didn't seem that creative or new. The writing felt rath I'm sad to say I was very disappointed by this. Fairytale retellings are difficult, because they've just been done so many times before (Atwood, Carter, Donoghue, Gaiman...); still, I sort of hoped that if anyone could pull them off, it would be Ortberg, whose humorous writings and sharp takes on literature have always amused me a great deal. He does get in some very funny lines here and there in this collection, but overall, the ideas just didn't seem that creative or new. The writing felt rather self-conscious. And frankly...it was just an unpleasant, grimdark sort of read -- without being clever in a way that a) I was expecting and b) would, for me, make up for that. Like, there are at least three lengthy stories all about gaslighting -- none of which really said anything about gaslighting; they merely depicted it. It's 2018: I get enough of that "everyday horror" already, thanks.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Marie

    The Merry Spinster: Tales for Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg 3.75 stars Mallory Ortberg’s short story collection focuses on the fairy tales of the past or beloved children stories and twists them into horrifying and shocking heights. I will admit not all the stories in this collection are perfect, but I can’t remember the last time I read so many 5-star short stories in a collection. Ortberg is skilled at telling the story in a way familiar to the reader and then leaving the story with a mouth The Merry Spinster: Tales for Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg 3.75 stars Mallory Ortberg’s short story collection focuses on the fairy tales of the past or beloved children stories and twists them into horrifying and shocking heights. I will admit not all the stories in this collection are perfect, but I can’t remember the last time I read so many 5-star short stories in a collection. Ortberg is skilled at telling the story in a way familiar to the reader and then leaving the story with a mouth-dropping ending. The majority of the endings are not horrifying in the usual slasher film sense, but they are creepy in the same way that one knows that something far worse is to come, but it cuts off at just the right time Ortberg is strongest in this suite, but she is also weak in several other areas. I will review each story briefly to better clarify my exact meaning because overall, I think she is a strong writer, but she struggles to gain footing with certain stories and I think this is because she was trying a new approach to writing or a different writing style to emulate the original tales. Whimsical Writing Scale: 3.75 The Daughter Cells – 3.5 stars “I can think of a dozen better things I could do with a soul.” The story of “The Little Mermaid” is famous and beloved my many ‘90s children who experienced the Disney adaptation. However, the original tale is quite dark and I would consider it to border on horror and it is definitely a tragedy. This story takes a delightful turn and the mermaid has more Ursula-like qualities that are quite bone-chilling. I love a good soulless mermaid. My biggest problem with this that it takes a while to gain its footing. The narrative is a little wonky and it isn’t until the mermaid talks to the sea-witch that the story takes a dark turn and was able to capture my attention and make me excited about where it could end. It ends on a high note if you were wondering. The Thankless Child – 1.5 stars “To be grateful is to be wakeful and watchful.” This is a “Cinderella” retelling and I say that very loosely. There is a Godmother who acts as a deity for a household and if I’m being honest, this story is all over the place. I was struggling to follow the plot, the characters, and the point. The purpose of the overall story failed to go anywhere at the end and I was severely letdown. I dislike Cinderella anyway and I generally hold retellings at a higher standard, but this was not well-done. To say the least, I was underwhelmed. Fear Not: An Incident Log – 5 stars “The Voice of God, once heard, is not easily unheard.” This is a retelling of Genesis from the point of the view of the Lord’s Angel. The main focal point is the wrestling match that occurred between Jacob and the Lord’s Angel before he became Israel and the horror and guilt this angel feels even though he swears he feels nothing of the sort. I absolutely loved this story. The writing was superb and I felt like Ortberg’s writing style was shining through. I love Genesis in general, but I really liked seeing a new perspective on it. Highly recommend! The Six-Boy Coffin – >b>5 stars “If the next child you bear me is a girl, then let the six others die, so that our wealth need not be divided and that she alone may inherit the kingdom.” I was destined to love this story because it is based off of “The Six Swans” and my favorite fantasy novel is Daughter of the Forest. This story is so very reminiscent of Sorcha’s plight and her quest to restore her brothers back to humans while being forced into silence that it made me long to reread that wonderful story. However, this is a horror collection and while elements of “The Six Swans” are a little scary this took a delightfully satisfying turn with the last lines and the subtle shift in the main character. I was incredibly impressed by this one and I absolutely loved it. The Rabbit – 5 stars “Can you take the Real out of a boy, then? Can you take his heart into your own self and leave him stuffed with sawdust on the nursery floor in your place?” This is based off the beloved children’s story “The Velveteen Rabbit” and it is hands down my favorite in this collection. “The Rabbit” is easily the most horrifying story in this collection as we see the rabbit’s obsession with becoming Real and taking the life force from a child who loves him. The illnesses the boy faces are horrifying and my stomach was churning thinking about all the toys I’ve owned as a little girl. I was definitely left feeling scared and creeped out. The Merry Spinster –3.5 stars “Everyone belongs to someone. You’re not allowed to belong to yourself.” This is a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling and focuses on a girl who is called Beauty for ironic reasons. She’s plain, unremarkable and insights no inspiration in those around her. Her mother ends up being the one to have her daughter a captor of the Beast or Mr. Beale, a businessman of sorts. This was really promising, but the ending ruined it for me. The Wedding Party – 1 star Honestly, I can’t tell you what this story is about. They were talking about “The Goose Girl” at one point and I’m sure it is reminiscent of it in some aspect, but this was just bad. The main character was a complete misogynist who had a strong entitlement and I just couldn’t with him as a narrator. I get that some men are just insufferable and that this was commentary, but I didn’t get the story as a whole so I feel like the social commentary went over my head a bit since I couldn’t see the whole scope of the narrative. Some of Us Had Been Threatening Mr. Toad – 3.25 stars “We’ll rescue the poor, unhappy animal! We’ll convert him—why, he’ll be the most converted Toad there ever was by the time we’re done with him.” This was a unique story with a gruesome twist. It follows a bunch of your average sweet, fluffy talking animals and they are not happy with their friend Mr. Toad. See, Mr. Toad has been stealing things and feeling entitled and they have had enough, so what better way to show him that he needs to repent than by torturing him. The concept was scary, but it is a little off-putting to read from the perspective of this narrator. I feel like it was just easy to get confused about plot points and it took me out the story. Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters – 4.5 stars “For our story, it all led to sin in the end, and it all began with the listlessness and self-forgetting that comes not from God.” This story follows an old mother as she recounts her son’s greatest sin— falling in love with a siren. They struck a bargain that the mother was fine with, but when it started to impose upon her grandchildren she took matters into her own hands. Matthew 5:29-30 “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” The mother definitely stuck to this verse and it was scary. The Frog Princess – 3 stars “Beauty is a public good and you are responsible for it.” This is based off “The Princess and the Frog” and it is an interesting twist, but it is not horrifying by any means. In fact, it felt very out of place in this collection. It was scary or intimidating and I was confused by Ortberg’s pronoun usage because it is never explained or specified and this lead to me thinking there was another character when there wasn’t it. It was a bit of a mess. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors – 2 stars This was a frustrating story. I honestly just can’t wrap my head around it being this collection because it wasn’t horrifying. It was frustrating. Human manipulation and being the brunt of someone’s tactics for power is scary, but it needed more. Overall, The Merry Spinster is a strong collection. It has some fantastic tales, but it also has some complete busts. It’s your typical hit-and-miss short story collection. I just personally found there were more hits than misses for me. Cover Thoughts: I’m living for this cover. When I saw it on Netgalley I was blown away! I love it so much. Thank you, Netgalley and Holt Paperbacks, for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    thefourthvine

    I am definitely not the right audience for this book. I read this on easy mode, skipping two stories that were mostly about animals (and I should have skipped the third, but I didn’t realize in time), and the book still left me feeling slimed and poked in bruised places. It’s just grim, unrelentingly grim, unrelentingly saying, “Hey, did you know there are awful things in the world? There are! And they are so very, very awful.” Many of the stories cover the same (grim) territory, and some of the I am definitely not the right audience for this book. I read this on easy mode, skipping two stories that were mostly about animals (and I should have skipped the third, but I didn’t realize in time), and the book still left me feeling slimed and poked in bruised places. It’s just grim, unrelentingly grim, unrelentingly saying, “Hey, did you know there are awful things in the world? There are! And they are so very, very awful.” Many of the stories cover the same (grim) territory, and some of them have no resolution, and I finished most of them sort of regretting I’d read them. (The two exceptions were “Daughter Cells” and “The Six Boy-Coffins.”) I do like fairytale fic, and that’s what these stories are, but I don’t like one-note stories, let alone one-note collections — and I really don’t like it when that one note is a long, sustained moan of pain. I think I might have liked at least half of these stories if I’d encountered them mixed with other kinds of stories, or on their own, but all together they were at least 12 times too much. But! If you like grimdark and you like fairytales, this is definitely the collection for you. It’s just so very very much not for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Conor

    I love Mallory Ortberg. I even love apples, but his "Apples Are Bullshit" article from The Toast is one of my favorite articles of all time. It's just so well written. Mmmm. This is also well written. But I didn't really get this book. I guess it's a take on some fairytales. I must not know them as well as I think I do; or maybe I do, and just didn't find these to be very interesting or clever takes on said fairytales. Either way, I bet DMO is one of the coolest people to hang out with. I just don I love Mallory Ortberg. I even love apples, but his "Apples Are Bullshit" article from The Toast is one of my favorite articles of all time. It's just so well written. Mmmm. This is also well written. But I didn't really get this book. I guess it's a take on some fairytales. I must not know them as well as I think I do; or maybe I do, and just didn't find these to be very interesting or clever takes on said fairytales. Either way, I bet DMO is one of the coolest people to hang out with. I just don't hope that he keeps writing this kind of affected, particular book without much humor. His feminist fairytales and food trolling exploits are way funnier. Also--how weird is this? I apparently went to college (and am on a GroupMe??) with his editor for this book? Strange.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    I am an unapologetic (Daniel*) Mallory Ortberg fangirl. I've followed his work since the Toast, was overcome with glee when he took over Dear Prudence and basically think he can do no wrong. I also love faerie tales and hate short stories, so that's pretty much the context for where I'm coming from. Ortberg is a master of language and it shines here. His wit is subtle, but biting, and each story quickly comes into focus with a clear tone and setting, in a way that many short stories authors strug I am an unapologetic (Daniel*) Mallory Ortberg fangirl. I've followed his work since the Toast, was overcome with glee when he took over Dear Prudence and basically think he can do no wrong. I also love faerie tales and hate short stories, so that's pretty much the context for where I'm coming from. Ortberg is a master of language and it shines here. His wit is subtle, but biting, and each story quickly comes into focus with a clear tone and setting, in a way that many short stories authors struggle with. In a lot of ways, the book reminded me of Kelly Link's work -- designed as an intellectual puzzle that left you feeling something, without necessarily understanding why or what was literally happening in the story. Which is a super cool effect. But sometimes, a girl just wants to get what's happening, so by the end of the book the impact of that had kind of worn off. My favorite stories was the first, a really atmospheric retelling of The Little Mermaid, perhaps because many of the conceits that Ortberg used throughout the book were new and shiny still then. I loved the way Ortberg played with my expectations of "mermaid" by introducing radial symmetry, and the administrative humor of the Rules of the Fae. The siren/selkie tale later on used a lot of the same tricks, but just felt less cool. The two Frog & Toad-based stories stood out. Both because I don't consider Frog & Toad a faerie tale, but also they both had the same tone of passive aggressive/gaslighting horror. (Which was kind of also present in the Merry Spinster -- where Beauty basically just bullied everyone by "never thinking of herself") And yes, that is my personal bogeyman, but at the same time, I kind of wanted to be like "who hurt you?" *Daniel Mallory Orbterg came out as a transman and changed his name coincident to the publishing of this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

    Thanks to Disney's whimsical remakes of capital "R" Romantic folklore, my only childhood exposure to fairytales was cheerful princesses singing their way to happy endings surrounded by industrious animal friends. But we're all adults here. I think by now, we all know these are just sugar-coated versions of some pretty gnarly source material. The Merry Spinster meets us somewhere in the middle with 11 twisted versions of well known fables and fairy tales that are somehow as playful as they are sin Thanks to Disney's whimsical remakes of capital "R" Romantic folklore, my only childhood exposure to fairytales was cheerful princesses singing their way to happy endings surrounded by industrious animal friends. But we're all adults here. I think by now, we all know these are just sugar-coated versions of some pretty gnarly source material. The Merry Spinster meets us somewhere in the middle with 11 twisted versions of well known fables and fairy tales that are somehow as playful as they are sinister. The shorts are adapted from Daniel Mallory's series Children's Stories Made Horrific from the temporarily offline The-Toast.net1. It's certainly not required that you know the OG classical versions of the stories to understand what's going on, but it can't hurt (so here they are!) As with any sort of parody, the better the grasp you have on what is being referenced, the more you'll get to wryly smirk to yourself as you read along. If scary stories aren't really your jam, just know that these aren't necessarily as gruesome as fairy tales of yore (...okay, maybe some are). Rather, they're well-crafted and sly in their horror-- the truly chilling undercurrents are the social mores, the patriarchy, and what we endure in the name of love. This is where Ortberg's particular brand of dry dark comedy really shines through. Much like his debut book, Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters, the language and style remain faithful to originals, a truly gritty homage. Reading through past interviews, I feel like Ortberg's love for the title might be what willed the rest of the book into existence. It's super fitting too: the Merry Spinster archetype may be the only uplifting motif running through these bleak pages. So on that note, here's a quote from the author explaining the concept beautifully: "I would always love for my next book to be a light comic novella called The Merry Spinster and to explore those themes of glorious female solitude. I think female solitude is a mental condition as well as a physical state. You can be married and a spinster. I think spinster is an identity every woman can claim, if she will. … I feel like a lot of women, or a lot of feminists, joke about taking to the sea or living alone in a cottage as this kind of fun freedom." // I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes are taken from an advanced readers copy and may not be final. Please refer to a finished copy. // 1. The Toast is dead, long live The Toast...You'd better believe as soon as it's back online I'm linking the shit out of it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    If you already know Ortberg, you know what you're getting into with this collection and it will be even more delightful than you expect. If you don't already know Ortberg, well, this is a book that's going to defy your expectations at every turn. It tweaks tropes and genders and just about everything else over and over again, slowly lulling you into a glorious openness.

  20. 5 out of 5

    just.one.more.paige

    This review originally appeared on the book review blog: Just One More Pa(i)ge. I am a huge fan of a retelling. So, seeing this collection of retellings of fairy tales, folk tales and other well-known/traditional stories available for request on NetGalley had me super interested. Needless to say, I was psyched when I got chosen and sent the ARC. I was a little nervous starting to read, because “everyday horror” could mean a lot of things (I totally overlooked that subtitle when originally reques This review originally appeared on the book review blog: Just One More Pa(i)ge. I am a huge fan of a retelling. So, seeing this collection of retellings of fairy tales, folk tales and other well-known/traditional stories available for request on NetGalley had me super interested. Needless to say, I was psyched when I got chosen and sent the ARC. I was a little nervous starting to read, because “everyday horror” could mean a lot of things (I totally overlooked that subtitle when originally requesting, as the rest of the description jumped at me first) and I am a giant baby when it comes to scary stories. But these are the perfect type of creepy for me: twisted and dark, instead of full on scary. And I got to read them right in time for Halloween! Here are some short thoughts on each of the stories: The Daughter Cells: The way the differences in perspective (between the original Little Mermaid and this retelling) are captured is on point. In general, this was an awesomely gory story to start the collection with. The Thankless Child: The gender fluidity in the Cinderella retelling was really interesting and I thought that was a fascinating new take. And the uncomfortable focus of the fairy godmother on Paul (our Cinderella character) definitely made this tale a little horrific to read. However, beyond that I am not sure that understood the religious undertones (that were somehow related to salt?) or what the ending meant. Fear Not: An Incident Log: The angel voice/monologue was a creative point of view. There was definitely a dark humor in carrying out God’s orders as a sort of mundane check the boxes/HR sort of job position. Very original and probably my favorite use of religion in any of the stories. The Six Boy-Coffins: With details from a couple well known fairy tales (even if you cannot name them, you’ll recognize the elements, like nettle shirts and brothers turned into swans), this was probably my favorite story of the collection! This is a wonderfully horrifying take on the normal “handsome prince marries fair maiden” fairy tale trope, with a lovely feminist commentary on the lack of a no not meaning a yes. And the [well-deserved] lady revenge at the end was awesome! Love this quote: “She was beginning to learn the danger of silence, and that someone who wishes to hear a yes will not go out of his way to listen for a yes.” The Rabbit: This one likely scared me the most. A sociopathic version of the Velveteen Rabbit, with a very succubus take on what being “Real” in the eyes of a child means. It felt a little like I was reading a stuffed animal version of a pathological killer storyline on a crime show. Yikes! But it was very creative, both in that I’ve never seen this story retold anywhere before, and to be fair it’s not an unreasonable (if still totally dark) reimagining of the original. The Merry Spinster: The titular story. And sadly not my favorite considering it being based on my favorite ever, Beauty and the Beast. It started out super promising, but by the end I was really confused by the progression of the relationship between Beauty and the “Beast” and the ending. So when I finished I was pretty unsatisfied. However, this quote is pretty much my life: “Instead, she reads books, which did her no good whatever. She was twenty-eight and mostly useless.” The Wedding Party: The dialogue between the main characters in this story was superb. It was witty, and authentic and creative and I loved it. I also thought the couple unsettling moments between them were well written examples of “everyday” horror. Unfortunately, the rest of the story, like the plot, made very little sense to me. I mean I understood what was happening on the surface, but I don’t think I recognized any of the original tales they were retellings of, which meant I wasn’t getting anything deeper from the story. Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad: Whoa. What a sick and twisted story about messing with someone’s head. So much manipulation at the hands of supposed friends – the mind games and intimidation in this story were definitely a bit terrifying. Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters: Probably my second favorite story overall. This was a cool take on the many siren/mermaid/selkie myths. Really entertaining, with a great gory ending and a big dash of over-righteous father (I mean really, you have to be pretty zealous to do what he did to his own son…yeesh). The Frog’s Princess: This one definitely had some humor too, like an exaggerated warning story to children about making promises they don’t intend to keep. I also feel like there was a chance something deeper was going on, some kind of societal commentary on the importance we place on beauty (“Beauty is never private.”), but I think exactly what that was went over my head. Regardless, this was a lighthearted sort of gross. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: This was a strange amalgamation of a Grimm fairy tale and Frog and Toad. Both of which I like. But the way they are combined here is done very creepily – another really “horrifying in a depressing way” story of manipulation by someone who is supposed to be a friend. It’s well done though and a good way to close the collection. Finally, a few of my thoughts on the collection as a whole. As I already mentioned, the “everyday horror” was the perfect amount for me: off-putting, but not enough to keep me awake at night. There were religious undertones in a number of the stories and some I enjoyed, but I felt like it happened too often for my enjoyment (keep in mind that I am super atheist and take that with a grain of salt). On the other hand, there were lots of real life phrases dropped in pretty much all the stories, everything from “financial portfolio” to “metal alloys” to “oil-modified urethane finish” and I thought that the jarring juxtaposition of that language with the fairy tale tone used throughout was a great touch. It gave a different sort of spin on the idea of “everyday horror.” One other thing I noticed was that many of the stories had some serious pronoun fluidity and confusion, which I am generally be ok with, but I felt like I couldn’t ever figure out why, what it added to the stories or what message it was supposed to be sending, so I’m not sure how I feel about it in these cases (as far as actually/truly reviewing it). Unless the goal was to just normalize non-traditional pronoun use....in that case - hell yea! Overall, an entertaining collection of super weird retellings and stories inspired from popular tales! Thanks to NetGalley and that publisher, Henry Holt & Co, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Devann

    I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley This was a really great book of fairytale retellings. I like how she often took inspiration from more than one story at a time [all the source stories are listed at the end of the book] instead of just doing a straight retelling but with dark elements added. It definitely helped keep my interest because I didn't always know where the story was going, which I find is the problem with a lot of fairytale retellings these days. These are definitely d I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley This was a really great book of fairytale retellings. I like how she often took inspiration from more than one story at a time [all the source stories are listed at the end of the book] instead of just doing a straight retelling but with dark elements added. It definitely helped keep my interest because I didn't always know where the story was going, which I find is the problem with a lot of fairytale retellings these days. These are definitely darker than the Disney versions you are probably familiar with and also have a lot of feminist undertones that set them apart from the originals as well. There were a few at the end that I wasn't as into, but for the most part these were very enjoyable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brook

    “Daughters are as good a thing as any…” begins The Merry Spinster by Danny Ortberg’s wild reimagining of the Little Mermaid that ends in such grim fashion as to make the reader nod solemnly and intone, “truly, these are the end of times.” And yet, what a romp of a dark timeline. (visit https://medium.com/@brookshelley/a-re... for the rest)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Audacia Ray

    Wow, this book was evilly delightful. Fairytales are meant to be dark and the twists in these stories made me gleeful with with their darkness. Vengeance, gaslighting, plenty of death, characters getting what they deserve, with some interesting gender stuff in play. So great.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Enjoyed this a lot more than I anticipated, these are fairy tale re-tellings, but slightly dark and twisted. I don't think any really pushed through to full on horror, which was fine by me, I liked the creepy level. There is also an interesting element in several of the stories, where gender versus social role is upturned a bit. This is never really explained, but it's made somewhat clear in the first to use this, a Cinderella based story, when the step sisters are discussing whether they will b Enjoyed this a lot more than I anticipated, these are fairy tale re-tellings, but slightly dark and twisted. I don't think any really pushed through to full on horror, which was fine by me, I liked the creepy level. There is also an interesting element in several of the stories, where gender versus social role is upturned a bit. This is never really explained, but it's made somewhat clear in the first to use this, a Cinderella based story, when the step sisters are discussing whether they will be a bride or a groom based on the role they plan to have in the marriage. You also can have someone who is both daughter and he. I liked the added thought this put in, obviously I can see that not being the case for everyone. My favorite of the stories was probably the Wind in the Willows re-telling where everyone is constantly gaslighting Toad.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lauren James

    Just as weird and odd and delicious as you'd hope for, from the creator of The Toast. My favourite was the serial killer Velveteen Rabbit.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Vivek Tejuja

    Fairy Tales were never meant for children, I suppose. Over the years, and along the way, they became for children. No wonder there are so many retellings and translations of the true fairy tales from different regions of the world, in order to maintain them for what they were: sinister. “The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror” by Mallory Ortberg is one such book of dark and playful stories based on classic folk and fairy tales, each one told with a twist of feminism, gender fluidity (at le Fairy Tales were never meant for children, I suppose. Over the years, and along the way, they became for children. No wonder there are so many retellings and translations of the true fairy tales from different regions of the world, in order to maintain them for what they were: sinister. “The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror” by Mallory Ortberg is one such book of dark and playful stories based on classic folk and fairy tales, each one told with a twist of feminism, gender fluidity (at least from what I could make out for some of them) and more. This is not a parody on fairy tales. This is what I thought when I picked it up but it turned out to be way ahead and progressive than that. Mallory not only understands these fairy tales in great detail and with an amazing insight, but she also is aware that cultures, time, and tellers shape the story and hence her stories do not at any time seem jaded. Moreover, her stories seem more real, given the times we live in and rightly so. Again, might I add: not meant for children. I cannot even discuss these stories without giving away anything, so I will not. What I will say though is that “A Thankless Child” is one story that has stuck in my mind (a retelling of Cinderella if you please) and a very strange one at that. What I loved is that Ortberg is not here to shock you. The stories are to break stereotypes, to get away from the prejudice and bias we create and above all to be able to think and feel the way you want to. There is also a sense of humour which is evident in the retelling of The Beauty and the Beast. I could go on and on about this one, but all I must say is that you just have to read this collection of stories.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bunny

    Can you take the Real out of a boy, then? Can you take his heart into your own self and leave him stuffed with sawdust on the nursery floor in your place? The Velveteen Rabbit story is the golden star of this book. Good god. I have a certain affection for fairy tales. I love them all, from the dark original versions to the colorful and happy Disney films all the way to the retellings, like The Lunar Chronicles. The stories are so familiar, but each has their own tiny spin. I can't ever really get Can you take the Real out of a boy, then? Can you take his heart into your own self and leave him stuffed with sawdust on the nursery floor in your place? The Velveteen Rabbit story is the golden star of this book. Good god. I have a certain affection for fairy tales. I love them all, from the dark original versions to the colorful and happy Disney films all the way to the retellings, like The Lunar Chronicles. The stories are so familiar, but each has their own tiny spin. I can't ever really get enough of them. The stories in this book are their own retellings, but they're dark retellings of the original dark stories. Unfortunately, they're not all winners. Most....are not winners, actually. We start with The Little Mermaid and end with The Fisherman and the Fish. Both of these are favorites of mine (Disney version of the former, original of the latter), and I am especially disappointed that the last is so intensely disappointing. It...there's no magic here. There's no witty turn on the classic tale. And that happens a lot throughout. And at least one, I have literally no idea what fairy tale it's based off of. Seemingly it's The Goose Girl, but the ending...makes no sense? I've googled the tale repeatedly and still can't figure out WTF is happening here. I'm so disappointed. Especially because The Rabbit is so fucking creepy, it deserves an award of its own. I would give that story 5 stars, but the rest of the book has dragged the overall rating down to a 2. Received via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

  28. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    I can’t even. I have no coherent things to say because I am too busy gushing. But seriously, guys: READ THIS. It takes a whole bunch of stories that we all know well and makes them dark(er) and (more) strange. Also queer. It is brilliant. And while I’m saying bossy things, go visit the way back machine and find yourself the-toast.net and maybe start with the two monks invent art history. If you are not already familiar with this, you can thank me later. Maybe if you have happy feelings about The I can’t even. I have no coherent things to say because I am too busy gushing. But seriously, guys: READ THIS. It takes a whole bunch of stories that we all know well and makes them dark(er) and (more) strange. Also queer. It is brilliant. And while I’m saying bossy things, go visit the way back machine and find yourself the-toast.net and maybe start with the two monks invent art history. If you are not already familiar with this, you can thank me later. Maybe if you have happy feelings about The Wind in the Willows, skip the one about Mister Toad? I got a lot of sick glee out of that one, because I could never figure out why I found The Wind in the Willows just a little creepy. But Daniel Mallory Ortberg knew why.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    There were three and a half good stories out of the eleven in this book. I loathed the rest, which were unrelentingly and uncleverly dark and creepy. Fairy tales lose their power when they commit the sin of being wholly hopeless, or when a collection piles unhappy ending on top of unhappy ending to the extent the morals are lost. Telling readers to “imagine childhood faves - but EXPLICITLY AND GRAPHICALLY EVIL!” is not actually a nuanced premise, especially when that’s the plot of almost every s There were three and a half good stories out of the eleven in this book. I loathed the rest, which were unrelentingly and uncleverly dark and creepy. Fairy tales lose their power when they commit the sin of being wholly hopeless, or when a collection piles unhappy ending on top of unhappy ending to the extent the morals are lost. Telling readers to “imagine childhood faves - but EXPLICITLY AND GRAPHICALLY EVIL!” is not actually a nuanced premise, especially when that’s the plot of almost every story in this book. Hoped for more. Viscerally disappointed.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    The Daughter Cells - 3/5 - I wish it was longer and filled with more gore and horror. I'd love to see this story explored as a full-length novel. The Thankless Child - 2/5 - I may not have the necessary smarts to really get this story, but I found it boring and not all that horrific. There are elements of it, but this definitely needed to be a couple more pages to really flesh it out fully. Fear Not: An Incident Log - 1/5 - Religious retellings are usually not my cuppa tea to begin with, but I alw The Daughter Cells - 3/5 - I wish it was longer and filled with more gore and horror. I'd love to see this story explored as a full-length novel. The Thankless Child - 2/5 - I may not have the necessary smarts to really get this story, but I found it boring and not all that horrific. There are elements of it, but this definitely needed to be a couple more pages to really flesh it out fully. Fear Not: An Incident Log - 1/5 - Religious retellings are usually not my cuppa tea to begin with, but I always try keeping an open mind. I read recently on Twitter to avoid using "boring" to describe books, so I'll try to explain why I disliked this so much outside of that word. I didn't feel like there was any depth to the narrator, and since this is called Tales of Everyday Horror, this story is probably the most lacking in horror. It wasn't horrific. It wasn't depressing. It didn't make me think. It just left me unimpressed. The Six Boy-Coffins - 5/5 - The Merry Spinster may be the catchier title, but this IS the book. It's got the horror, it's got great characters, awesome narrative, and it's all in all some fantastic storytelling. This is the story I wish all the others were like. The Rabbit - 5/5 - Easily the second best story in this collection, following The Six Boy-Coffins. Oh, the rabbit is one of the creepiest characters I've met in books/short stories/movies/what have you. The Merry Spinster - 3/5 - A bland retelling that once again needed more pages to develop fully, and it needed probably better placement in the collection. It followed to fantastic stories, and it was completely lackluster compared to them. The Wedding Party - 1/5 - I can't remember this story, and that's not a good thing. Most unremarkable story in this collection. Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad - 3/5 - I don't know the original story/inspiration for this, but it was OK. Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters - 4/5 - The characters, mainly the mother, absolutely made this story. The plot and whatnot isn't great, but she's fantastic. The Frog's Princess - 2/5 - Very disturbing, and I don't normally have issues with stories like this, but this one bothered me a bit. I'd say it could even be triggering for some people. Without spoiling anything, if you want to know, I can talk about it in DMs. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors - 3/5 - Another meh, not so horror-y story. I really wish this wasn't labeled as Horror, because it's what I was expecting going into it. Ortberg can tell tales, but not always that convincing.

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