Cover Image: Small Favors

Small Favors

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Ellerie lives in Amity Falls, a town surrounded by forest - a forest populated by monsters. The monsters are real, and they are deadly - and they are targeting Amity Falls. When Ellerie's parents leave to seek medical care across the mountains, she is left in charge of the farm and her siblings. Join her as she finds that wishes can backfire, and not all monsters are visible.

This was an engrossing and enjoyable book - I recommend it for anyone from about middle school age and up who enjoys strong female protagonists, self-exploration, and characters who discover they can go beyond what they thought were their limits. I can only hope there will be a sequel.
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With a cover as pretty as this one, it is easy to forget that Erin A. Craig's sophomore novel Small Favors is a horror story.  Actually, I reacquainted myself with that fact just in time to read this YA novel for spooky season, and I am glad I did because it gave off just the right vibes for a Halloween read.  If you saw and enjoyed M. Night Shyamalan's 2004 thriller The Village, then pick up this book!  While the plot and twist are not the same, The Village and Small Favors have a similar look and feel.

Small Favors takes place in the fictional town of Amity Falls during an unidentified era that we can assume to be colonial times.  Amity Falls is quiet and quaint, and adheres to the Bible and "The Rules," which warn of the monsters lurking in the woods.  The residents of Amity Falls know not to venture in the forest alone because they may not make it out alive.  When a supply party goes missing and more strange occurrences begin happening around town, the citizens of Amity Falls become more fearful of the forces at play.   With winter closing in without supplies and living conditions becoming more perilous in Amity Falls, the townsfolk become desperate to survive.  Everyone knows that evil comes disguised as everything that you ever wanted, but will the people of Amity Falls recognize wicked when they are faced with it or will they fall prey to the darkness?

As a fan of both The Village and Twilight Zone's iconic episode, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, I appreciated Craig's Small Favors.  This novel is so atmospheric and portentous - while everything may seem fairly innocent on the surface, I couldn't help the goosebumps that appeared on my arms every time my guard went up due to strange happenings and people around town.  In fact, the setting and mood that Craig creates really takes the spotlight in this book, and kept me reeled in, even throughout the story's often languid plot.  

Additionally, I enjoyed Small Favors' narrator Ellerie Downing, and appreciated Craig writing her as both strong and womanly, courageous and suspicious, loving and resilient.  While she does have a romantic interest in the story, she doesn't become completely swept away as YA characters are so apt to do. Instead, she keeps her wits about her, and does what is necessary to protect her family as the oldest Downing daughter. 

As previously mentioned, the book reminded me of The Monsters are Due on Maple Street because, like in the episode, when unusual things begin happening in the community, the citizens point fingers at each other, instead of standing united against the intruding force.  This added an interesting level of conflict in the story, and enhanced the plot by introducing more than one adversary in the village.

Small Favors' downside is that the hook of the story - the monsters - do not play a huge role in this book.  Yes, they are always there, but they are not addressed head-on until nearly the end of this rather long novel.  I kept expecting them to make a major appearance on every page that I turned, but was disappointed to find their role to be not as significant as I initially thought.  The book is still good, mind you, I just expected more of a horror show.

Small Favors is a book all of its own, and will appeal to those who love atmospheric tales of old featuring strong female leads.
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Small Favors, much like House of Salt and Sorrows, opens
with an incredibly intriguing premise and group of
characters.
And then, much like House of Salt and Sorrows, a few
interesting events are tossed in with a whole bunch of
absolutely nothing happening to advance the plot, and
then it's over. 6
The plot moves along so slowly that I was beginning to
think we were never going to reach any sort of
conclusion. When we finally did, it was so
underwhelming that I honestly thought there had to be
some sort of mistake. That I was going to turn the
page and find that actually, it was the more exciting
outcome that I'd suspected all along. But nope. It was
not.
Despite that, I loved the spooky elements of this book,
even though they wound up not being terribly spooky
at all, in my opinion.
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Initial Thoughts 
I loved HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROWS so I knew I wanted to read Erin A. Craig’s next book. And, I knew I wanted to read it during spooky season!

Some Things I Liked 
Thought provoking and philosophical. It’s not often that YA literature leaves me thinking about humanity in a profound way but this book really did that for me. The idea that the evil our characters are working against is inherently inside of all people and all the bad guys did was bring it to the surface was a real 🤯 moment. 
Secrets, lies, and mysteries. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Ellorie an unreliable narrator but she often didn’t have the whole picture. I loved the way she puzzled out the mysteries at the same time as the reader. 
Romance. This book isn’t romantic. But I enjoyed the romance element here. It was dark and realistic. 

Series Value 
I don’t think I’d want a series here. The ominous note at the end of the book is best left undisturbed. 

Final Thoughts
I knew I’d like this book. I didn’t think I’d love it. I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time to come. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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This book was a really quick and easy read! I loved how whimsical the setting was. The romance was very sweet and the horror aspects were very unsettling. I will continue picking up anything this author writes, because it just keeps getting better and better.
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I LOVE Erin A. Craig's writing. It is immersive and detailed. I get lost in her world building and sentence structure. While I didn't love the plot as much as her previous novel I felt incredibly invested in her characters. I could have spent the entire book enjoying spending time in this village without anything ever happening. Her world is so creative and fresh. I cannot say enough good things about this up and coming author.
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Once again, Erin A. Craig hit this one out of the park! It was the perfect blend of romance and creepy. As always, will highly recommend any book Craig writes! Can't wait for the next one!
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This was such a creative story.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a good horror story or mystery with lots of twists and turns.  
The first and second half of the book are very different in a good way; it kept changing what I expected to be true so that I was surprised at the end.  With this, there were some story lines that got dropped or not seen through to the end which didn't take away from the story but I did notice.  
It kept me haunted and intrigued but with a good romance thrown in; all set in a colonial secluded town with the everyone knows everyone and their business issues and the ideals of we all stick together.  It's a true telling of be careful what you wish for!!
I very much enjoyed this read.  Thank you to Erin Craig and Random House Publishing for allowing me read and review this book.
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This book is great! Would definitely recommend. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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I really liked this book and how she got over someone. I enjoyed the romance and the friendships. I liked she came to enjoy her  family. I liked that she was able to get over a boy and move on with her life. Great story.
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An interesting slice of Americana life, set in colonial times. I quite enjoyed paying witness to the Downing's life, even though the ending wasn't my favorite and the ultimate confrontation felt underwhelming. This book could have really benefited from an epilogue, as the ending left me hanging on a lot of characters final interactions.
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This book was phenomenal.. I haven’t read any rumplestiltskin retellings and this did not disappoint. Do not be fooled by the cover. This book is dark, trippy but oh so good
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Creepy and atmospheric, this book is the secret lovechild of Needful Things and The Village that I never knew I wanted.
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This book was received as an ARC from Random House Children's - Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

I am a fan of unique Y Fantasy plots but for me, this was a bit too extreme and there were some scenes in the book that were unusually different which either could ruin the book or be a brilliant interpretation. In this case for Small Favors, I really wanted to enjoy this book and say that Erin A. Craig took the original unique approach but, it took me almost 3/4 of the way to fully understand the direction the plot was going and when I got to the end, that's when all the pieces of the puzzle came together and everything started to make sense. Myself being a librarian, my number one rule is when you start, you must finish so I am glad I did but, I do know some readers especially some YA readers that are not fans of stories trailing on until the end. They want the excitement right away. However, there are some YA readers I know that will admire the approach Erin Craig took and they'll be begging me to put this on the list for future teen book clubs. In the end, I did end up enjoying the book and I can't wait to see the feedback we will get from it.

We will consider adding this title to our YA collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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Atmospheric fantasy lite is clearly where Erin A Craig excels. I say fantasy “lite” because while magic exists in her books, it’s not the feature. Just like House of Salt and Sorrow, Small Favors is about the people, the setting, the relationships long before it’s about the magic. The magic simply is. It exists as both a known and unknown entity that gently weaves in and out of the story.

While Ellerie is our main character, it’s hard to pick just her out as the character to watch in this book. Creating a whole book of strong characters is also a strength of Erin’s. Even side characters never feel set aside or forgotten. Everyone is crucial to this story.

I loved Erin’s first book and had been looking forward to whatever she’d write next ever since. And she did not disappoint. Perfect for fans of Shea Ernshaw and Margaret Rogerson.

(4.5 stars, rounded up)

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for providing an eARC in exchange for and honest review.
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This is the first book I have read by this author, and let me tell you, she sure knows how to spin a tale. With descriptive prose and wonderful characters, this was a really good novel. 

The community aspect of Amity Falls was something I really liked. I grew up in a small town so know how they can be. I also like how she evolved the vibe that was going on there. Small towns can be a weird thing, everyone know everyone else business, no matter what. But, when strange things start happening, Ellery does what she can to try and make it through. 

This was an easy read, and one that is perfect for this time of year.
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Release Date: July 27 2021
Review Date: October 5 2021

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own.

Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range--five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned. As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents' deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

Holy Guacamole! where to begin. I wanted to read this one after really enjoying the author's first book House of Salt and Sorrows and this one was even better. Oh My Gosh. This book was so wonderfully creepy. October was the perfect time to read it. For me anyway, I'm actually a big chicken so other people might not think so. 
This book kept me guessing most of the time. Whenever I would pick it up, I couldn't put it down. This felt like super creepy Little House on the Prairie honestly. The setting definitely reminded me of Walnut Grove on some creepy steroids. I loved Ellerie as a main character. A lot of the stuff happening with her brother though made me mad. I wanted to punch him in the face. And the best friend. 
That ending was crazy. I want more.
This may be my favorite book of the year. There I said it. This was so good. Erin A Craig is definitely an automatic read/buy author from now on.
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"Were the stories true? Were the monsters real?"

^That is basically the whole book. Are the monsters real? Is the heroine crazy? Who believes her? Should she believe herself? Ever seen the movie "The Village"? This book basically takes place there.

While I really enjoyed the characters and their interwoven lives and the challenges newcomers bring to their community, I was told this was a Rumpelstiltskin retelling and it was....in a way. This book meanders...a lot. I really wish I'd known before going into it that the pacing would be so slow the whole way through. Don't get me wrong-it was never boring. I would have enjoyed it more if I'd known, though.

Would I recommend? If you're into creepy, meandering tales that take their time, yes!
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I enjoyed the creepiness and study on human behavior in this book. It can start some excellent conversations and the author leaves you to answer some questions which is an interesting way to do things. I will recommend it to readers.
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3.25 Stars. I did not connect with this one as much as Craig's other fantasy novel House of Salt and Sorrows. Oddly, I liked that one a little more than the consensus and this one less than the consensus. I think it was that it feels like it should be a shorter book. All the interesting bits of it were stretched out, especially in the beginning. This one is also a sort of retelling but gives it a horror twist. Craig certainly doesn't shy away from the darker bits of fairytales, and it shows with this book especially.

I like the characters for the most part, but they aren't all that distinct from each other. They pretty much range from bland but 'good' villagers, to the 'bitter and mean' villagers. Even Ellerie, the lead character isn't all that distinct, and much of the plot feels like it happens to her and she's just pulled along for the ride. Which is unfortunate, because she is smart, vivacious, and tenacious. Often the plot requires her to be less intelligent than she is just so she doesn't solve the mystery quickly. There are times were she is actually right on the verge of solving the problem, but then something dramatic happens and most of her progress is forgotten.

As for the horror/ thriller elements of the story, I really liked those parts. They are sufficiently creepy and kind of gross without going too graphic. The chaos near the end of the book was just a massive explosion of violence that had been threatening throughout the book. And that is where I can understand the slow build up that I talked about. So many different bad and unlucky events stretch out over the course of the book, to the final breaking point and the villagers finally snap. The dark undertones of at the beginning do pay off, but wow it takes a while to get there.

As for the fairytale retelling - this is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, the story about the miller's daughter who requests favors from the mischievous imp and has bad things happen to her until she is able to guess his name. Here, there are some twists as to how the Rumpelstiltskin stand in finds the village, but the showdown between the stand in and Ellerie is very similar to the original. I liked it, mostly because Rumpelstiltskin is basically a living monkey's paw, and the horror that comes from poorly worded wishes can be as varied as the imagination allows. It really fits Craig's willingness to throw in horror elements into her retellings.

If you're a fan of fairytale retellings that tackle fairytales that aren't targeted for retellings, then this is for you. I'd even say if you like some light spooky elements in your fantasy, this will be up your alley as well. I didn't enjoy how slow it was, and thought the villagers were a little to samey to make them interesting at all, or even care about them all that much, but I still thought there was some good payoffs at the end.

*I received this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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