Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburb—pitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.
Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.
Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.
Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder—a lonely community college professor repressing her own dark past—welcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.
As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.
“We had a problem on the block and the cops wouldn’t solve it. So we solved our own problem.”
The residents of Maple Street only look perfect on the outside, of course. There’s also the giant sinkhole that opened up in the neighborhood park that kind of mars things. When the Wilde’s moved into the neighborhood, they knew they didn’t belong (Gertie an ex-beauty queen with breast implants, her husband Arlo an ex-rocker with tattoos covering his track marks) but they had hoped to find their own place amongst the impeccable families. Rhea Schroeder, the undisputed Queen of Maple Street, decides to look past her differences and befriend Gertie. One night, dark secrets are shared and Rhea misinterprets Gertie’s reaction and decides to turn on her instead, telling the neighborhood everything that Gertie didn’t want getting out. When Rhea’s daughter Shelley falls into the sinkhole, she blames Gertie and her family for her death and sets in motion irreparable devastation.
The story is set in a world much like our own in the year 2028 where it’s clear the current climate has deteriorated rapidly. The sinkhole spews oil, somehow causes the residents to have patchy phone connections, and it continues to expand at a seemingly alarming rate. On top of the timely climate narrative, there’s also the inclusion of newspaper and academic articles from 15-years into the future that reference “the Maple Street Murders” which give the story a true-crime feel. Personally, I think the climax would’ve been much more shocking without the articles providing the bleak foreshadowing of what’s to come.
The whole thing is a very unsettling type of dark. It’s a plausible story about the power of a lie and their abilities to destroy regardless of authenticity. It also shows how terrifyingly quick things can escalate and get out of hand. Sarah Langan is known for writing horror and she certainly transitioned well into suburban horror, but everything was severe and over the top to the point where the heavy-handedness became oppressive. Some of her phrasing and the way she chose to describe things was needless too, much like this line:
“The man’s expression was animalistic and ugly. A sweaty sex face on the verge of completion.”
Good Neighbors is a laborious and unnerving study on the perfection of suburban America: just because everything looks perfect doesn’t mean it is.
Red Sparrow is now a major motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton!
The pulse-pounding sequel to the bestselling, Edgar Award-winning Red Sparrow that The New York Times Book Review called “terrifically good”: star-crossed spies Dominika Egorova and CIA agent Nate Nash return in a cat-and-mouse race to the finish.
Captain Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service (SVR) has returned from the West to Moscow and the Center, the headquarters of her service. She finds things worse than when she left. She despises the men she must serve, the oligarchs, and crooks, and thugs of Putin’s Russia. What no one knows is that Dominika is working for the CIA as Washington’s most sensitive penetration of SVR and the Kremlin.
As she expertly dodges exposure, Dominika deals with a murderously psychotic boss; survives an Iranian assassination attempt; escapes a counterintelligence ambush; rescues an arrested agent and exfiltrates him out of Russia; and has a chilling midnight conversation in her nightgown with President Putin in one of the Tsar’s palaces. Complicating the risks is the fact that Dominika is in love with her CIA handler, Nate Nash, and their lust is as dangerous to both of them as committing espionage in Moscow. And when a mole in the SVR finds Dominika’s name on a restricted list of sources, it is a virtual death sentence. She must face off alone against her psycho boss, who’s got an eight-inch knife up his sleeve…
Just as fast-paced, heart-pounding, and action-packed as Red Sparrow, Jason Matthews’s second novel proves he is “an insider’s insider…and a masterful storyteller” (Vince Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author).
“Dvorets v Izmene,” said Dominika under her breath. Benford looked over at Nate, one eyebrow raised. “Palace of Treason,” Nate said. “Works for me,” said Gable.”
Palace of Treason, the thrilling follow up to Red Sparrow, places Captain Dominika Egorova in a place both advantageous and dangerous. She’s in a position of great importance within Moscow and is able to provide vital intelligence to the CIA, however, she isn’t beloved by all and a few alarming individuals suspect her of wrongdoing. To make matters even more precarious, she’s caught the eye of the Russian president and one misstep will destroy everything she’s worked for.
Matthews continues to excel at the multitude of characters in these stories that all manage to be meticulously described without becoming excessive. The storyteller’s tendency to fall back on stereotypes, primarily when it comes to the Russians, is a bit of a low point. The lack of depth and distinction, fortunately, didn’t take away from the strength of the plot itself. Egorova fights throughout the story to keep her cover and to quietly take out anyone who could destroy it. She survives through so many assassination attempts that it was both incredible and unbelievable, but then again, she trained for years to survive this kind of life. She’s a woman on a mission, intent on getting payback for what she was forced to do for so many years in the name of Russia, but the one thing that she seems to be willing to risk it all for is love. A bit of a contradiction, but much like the seemingly odd inclusion of recipes at the end of each chapter, it still manages to work out nicely.
“You remember what I told you both in Vienna?” […] “That someday you’re gonna have to make a decision that’ll make you taste your stomach behind your teeth, but you got no choice, and maybe it even means hurting someone you respect and trust. Well, it happened today and it’ll happen again tomorrow, and the next day.”
I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
In the final, thrilling New York Times bestselling installment of the Red Sparrow Trilogy, Russian counterintelligence chief Dominika Egorova and her lover, CIA agent Nate Nash, must find a Russian agent about to be appointed to a very high office in the US government.
With a plot ripped from tomorrow’s headlines, Jason Matthews’s high-powered, seductive third novel not only continues the dangerous entanglements of Dominika and Nate but reveals with chilling authenticity how Russian espionage can place agents in the most sensitive positions of power. The novel opens with Russian president Vladimir Putin planning the covert assassination of a high-ranking US official with the intention of replacing him with a mole whom Russian intelligence has cultivated for more than fifteen years.
Catching wind of this plot, Dominika, Nate, and their CIA colleagues must unmask the traitor before he or she is able to reveal that Dominika has been spying for years on behalf of the CIA. Any leak, any misstep, will expose her as a CIA asset and result in a one-way trip to a Moscow execution cellar. Along the way, Matthews, a thirty-three-year veteran of the CIA and winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, sets vivid, unforgettable scenes in Moscow; Washington, DC; Hong Kong; New York; the Sudan; and Turkey, and introduces two cold-blooded killers: Iosip Blokhin, a brilliant Spetsnaz military officer, and Grace Gao, ravishing Chinese spy, master of Kundalini yoga, and Beijing-trained seductress.
Ultimately, the lines of danger converge on the spectacular billion-dollar presidential palace on the Black Sea during a power weekend with Putin’s inner circle. Does Nate sacrifice himself to save Dominika? Does she forfeit herself to protect Nate? Do they go down together?
This dazzling finale to Jason Matthews’s New York Times bestselling Red Sparrow Trilogy, called “a primer in twenty-first-century spying...terrifically good” (The New York Times Book Review), confirms the critical acclaim he received for the first two novels, praise that compared Matthews to John le Carré and Ian Fleming.
“The tenets of espionage were immutable—go forth and steal secrets—but technology was changing the Game.”
In The Kremlin’s Candidate, the race is on to identify the Russian spy who is one of three individuals currently in the running to become the next CIA director. This was hands down my favorite plot line of the trilogy and is by far the most thrilling in how Matthews brought everything full circle. Retelling Dominika’s time when she was still just a Sparrow, she was instructed to compromise U.S. Navy lieutenant Audrey Rowland and get her to agree to work with the Russians back in 2005. The mission was a success and Audrey’s been feeding information to them ever since. Flash forward back to the present, Audrey is in place to become the next CIA director and if she gains that position, she’ll be able to obtain the name of the Russian mole, Diva, who she knows intimately well as Dominika Egorova.
Matthews doesn’t settle for that one, immense plot, unfortunately, and it ends up far more convoluted than necessary. In addition to American and Russian spies, North Korean and Chinese spies are also thrown into the mix. There’s even mention of the Chinese version of the Russian “Sparrow” and while I understand we’ve been drilled on assassin and seductresses going hand in hand for three novels, this bit of added detail came off as cheesy more than anything. Sections certainly could have been omitted for a more streamlined story. The build-up to the grand finale does, in retrospect, feel like something I should have anticipated but it still managed to astonish. A lot of the details makes you question whether Matthews is including his actual knowledge from his own personal spying days, or if it’s simply randomly added detail. Either way, it was most convincing. This is the third and final story of the Red Sparrow trilogy and while it is obvious that Matthews has developed a formula by this point, it doesn’t matter, because it’s exciting and it works. In looking back on the near 60 hours I spent listening to the ordeals of Dominika Egorova and Nathaniel Nash, it was easy to lose yourself in the intricate web of the spy world. It was a most enjoyable thrill ride and I’ve never laughed harder at my new favorite insult: “I don’t know what’s wrong with you but I bet it’s hard to pronounce.”
An impossible to put down, highly commercial espionage thriller written by a CIA insider.
In today’s Russia, dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the cast-iron bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the CIA’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service. Dominika and Nathaniel’s impossible love affair and twisted spy game come to a deadly conclusion in the shocking climax of this electrifying, up-to-the minute spy thriller.
In a not so fictional world, moles have infiltrated both the U.S. and Russian governments and it’s often difficult to determine what side anyone is on. Nathaniel Nash is a CIA officer in charge of handling CIA assets, most important of those is MARBLE, a Russian mole that is a high-ranking foreign intelligence officer that has been selling secrets to the United States for years. Dominika Egorova is a Russian intelligence officer, recruited by her uncle the deputy director of the foreign intelligence service, but is forced into attending Sparrow school where she’s taught the art of seducing her enemies. She’s also gifted with synesthesia which allows her to see emotions as colors — quite helpful when it comes to detecting whether someone is lying or not. When Dominika is instructed by Russian officials to use her Sparrow skills on Nate Nash in order to uncover the mole he was hiding, it quickly becomes more than just an assignment.
“Trouble is the beginning of disaster.”
Red Sparrow is Jason Matthews’ first novel but it certainly reads like it was penned by someone with a skilled hand, likely due to his own 33-years of experience as a CIA operative. Red Sparrow reads like a far more sophisticated version of the majority of spy novels, undeniably missing the pulse-pounding action sequences but instead is a nuanced psychological game of chess. He details what would easily be considered the superfluous minutiae of what it means to be a spy but these details effectively build up rather than diminish the complexity of the story as a whole. His experience in the intelligence world certainly shows and this textbook guide on how to be a spy is cloaked with the cover of a fiction novel. Just in case you were worried this was going to be too serious, Matthews includes a recipe at the end of each chapter (the recipe for the Creamed Horseradish sauce had me drooling.)
Red Sparrow, as I stated, certainly lacks the standard pulse-pounding action sequences, but the espionage being conducted for almost 18 hours in this thrilling audiobook concludes with higher than before stakes in the most dangerous of games. I’m even more excited for the film now.
Short Summary: Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to his small hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend who is accused of murdering his family and then committing suicide, but this small town is full of terrible secrets and shocking surprises.
Thoughts: This mystery is one of the most impressive debuts that I’ve read in a very long time, intertwining a past vs. present story, a captivating writing style, and a tangled mystery that was most thrilling when all is revealed.
Verdict: Whether or not this needed to be the start of a series, Jane Harper impressed me so much I’ll be reading anything and everything she writes.
Short Summary: A camera that slowly eats your soul with each picture, a mall security guard is believed to have prevented a mass shooting, a man on his first skydiving adventure lands on a seemingly sentient cloud, and a sudden apocalyptic event in Boulder, Colorado causes the clouds to rain deadly nails.
Thoughts: Strange Weather is an indelible collection of four short stories about vastly different topics that relate in some way to weather but all leave you with that unsettled feeling that Hill is oh so good at.
Verdict: While this was an impressive collection, it wasn’t consistent and I hoped for a little more from certain tales; however, it is apparent that Hill is just as talented in short story form as he is in novels.
I received this book free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Short Summary: Petra Dee won’t let a little thing like cancer stop her from finding her husband who she fears is lost to the darkness that lies under her town, but the Tree of Life is growing strong again and the power behind it won’t be stopped.
Thoughts: Petra’s perseverance to find her husband was admirable, but quitting chemo halfway through to go in search of him was fairly asinine and this installment, the weakest so far, could and should have been more about her search for Gabriel.
Verdict: I love this magical series and despite this weak installment, the cliffhanger means there are more installments to come and I’m still definitely on board for more Petra (and 100% more of her coyote side-kick Sig.)
I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Short Summary: After a nuclear war and a devastating pandemic, Lynn McBride and her family are surviving in the wilds of Canada, but secrets her parents kept hidden are suddenly seeing the light of day and those secrets endanger everyone.
Thoughts: This can easily be compared to all the big names: The Road, The Passage, Ashfall, etc. because despite my continued love for the genre, it’s been done to death; however, Johnson manages to still make this a worthwhile tale (especially with the added help of narrator Jayme Mattler).
Verdict: As a debut author, Johnson’s pick of genre may be overdone but his writing skills shine with possibility for future novels.
I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Fall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.
Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.
Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.
Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.
From the warm and funny Amy E. Reichert, The Simplicity of Cider is a charming love story with a touch of magic, perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Gayle Forman.
DNF @ 20%
I adore Magical Realism and I adored Reichert’s debut The Coincidence of Coconut Cake but this one just didn’t do it for me. I’ve had a rollercoaster of a reading year and being very much a mood reader it seemed like every time I picked this one up, it never felt like the right time. Alas, I’m making this my last attempt (my fifth attempt, for the record) and calling it quits. This book possessed a lovely, heartwarming feel to it as you learn about the orchard and see all these special touches of magic throughout but as the summary states, Sanna is most prickly indeed. Her character was so completely off-putting to me that it lessened my interest in everything else. Did she redeem herself in the end? Possibly. But if I’ve restarted a book five times in a single year and still can’t get through it, honestly, that was more time spent trying than should be necessary.
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Meet Tess, a brave new heroine from beloved epic fantasy author Rachel Hartman.
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.
Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl—a subspecies of dragon—who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.
Returning to the fascinating world she created in the award-winning and New York Times bestselling Seraphina, Rachel Hartman introduces readers to a new character and a new quest, pushing the boundaries of genre once again in this wholly original fantasy.
DNF @ 15%
Blogger Problem #74: Being blinded by the excitement surrounding an ARC that you accept it without completely thinking it through.
Seraphina was a real struggle for me to get through, especially when all my blogger friends were raving about it. Despite this, I still picked up Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) and ended up DNF-ing. Even though Tess of the Road is not classified as Seraphina #3, it really is. It’s set in the same world, most of the same characters, just focusing on a different main character. Same series, spin-off series, either way… I really should have skipped over this one. Hartman’s world building is spectacular but I continue to struggle with the pacing of her stories.
I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
They said that the first generation of man was brought low by its appetites: for knowledge, for wealth, for power. They said mankind’s voracity was so great, the Lord sent his own Daughter to bring fire and devastation to the world.
The survivors were few, but over the course of centuries, they banded together to form a new civilization—the Descendancy—founded on the belief that the mistakes of the past must never be repeated.
Brothers Clive and Clover Hamill, the sons of a well-respected Descendant minister, have spent their lives spreading that gospel. But when their traveling ministry discovers a community intent on rediscovering the blasphemous technologies of the past, a chain of events will be set in motion that will pit city against city…and brother against brother.
Along with Gemma Poplin, Clive’s childhood sweetheart, and Paz Dedios, a revolutionary who dreams of overthrowing the Descendancy, Clive and Clover will each play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of this holy war, and the fate of humanity itself.
DNF @ 10%
I understand that the whole purpose of a blurb is to quickly encourage readers to pick it up, but when you do, and the blurb is nothing like it promised, that’s mighty disappointing. Oregon Trail meets Westworld was what hooked me and caused me so much excitement I admittedly didn’t even read the rest of the blurb (although this is a rampant problem for me.) If I had read the entire blurb I would have been immediately put off by the excessive religiousness and would’ve skipped this. But nooooo…. my 10-year-old brain started daydreaming of Oregon Trail instead.
Strange Fire is told from the point of view of two brothers from a religious society that views technology to be the root of all evil. It’s less fantasy and more futuristic dystopian but possessed an essence of more popular dystopian novels (Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Handmaid’s Tale, as well as the more recent Blood Red Road.) The writing was well done but the plot was slow to build which makes more sense when you consider it’s the start of a series. I tried to keep an open mind regarding the religious aspects but this ultimately just failed to capture my interest.
A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
“Why do we desire, above all other things, that which has the greatest power to destroy us?”
In a town named Whimsy, humans practice “Craft” to satisfy the “fair folk” that reside in the forests which border the town. Isobel is a master of her craft, despite her young age, and her portrait art is widely spoken of which she uses to trade for various enchantments to keep her and her family safe. When she’s hired by an autumn prince, her practiced eyed detects a mysterious sorrow in his eyes, something found in ordinary humans but never in the fair folk. She adds this final touch to his portrait and bids farewell to him, thinking she’ll never see him again, but knowing that she was absolutely falling in love with him. Surprisingly, he shows up on her doorstep weeks later but only because he plans to take her back to his court to stand trial for her crimes: painting his face with a weakness.
Isobel was an impassioned character and easy to like… at first. As soon as we’re introduced to the obvious love interest though, the story and her character take a bit of an adverse turn. It quickly became less of a fantasy with romantic elements and more a romance with fantasy elements. And she started thinking things like:
“Walking on a blade’s edge every time we exchanged a curtsy and a bow, knowing one misstep could topple me into mortal peril, made the blood sing in my veins.”
Yeah, thinking I might die any second always gets me excited too. It reminded me immensely of A Court of Thorns and Roses both in story and characterization but where An Enchantment of Ravens fell short was in creating an equally fascinating world and a story that didn’t revolve around a romance that was predictable and lacking in any real passion. I felt the “you must stand trial for your crimes!” storyline was a weak excuse to throw the duo together again and it was easy to foretell they would fall in love. The Romeo and Juliet spin on things making it forbidden for the fair folk to fall in love with humans just added more of a dramatic spin on things. The outside cover is absolutely spectacular but the insides are disappointingly mediocre.
In this spectacular father-son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?
In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing.
“The elms made him think of brothers, of sisters, of husbands and wives—he was sure that, beneath the ground, their roots were mortally entwined.”
What would happen to the world if all the women fell asleep?
In rural Appalachia, the Aurora Sleeping Sickness only affects individuals with the XX chromosome. When women drift off to sleep they begin growing tendrils of webbing that cocoon their bodies completely and while they remain alive in this world they wake up in a different one entirely. In this world though, there’s one single woman named Eve Black that remains able to still sleep and wake up but she possesses mysterious powers and seems to be the reason why all other women are in the state they’re in.
This started off so incredibly fascinating and reminded me strongly of The Stand with this mysterious sickness slowly infecting the world. The Aurora Sleeping Sickness was chilling in its descriptions, affecting only women and the reverberations throughout the community that results from their absence was brilliant and no doubt made any woman reader leary about putting the book down and going to sleep. I especially loved the inclusion regarding the “Mother’s Instinct” described as such:
‘This phenomenon proved to be one of the most curious and most analyzed enigmas of Aurora – the so-called “Mother’s Instinct” or “Foster Reflex.” While reports of violent interactions between sleepers and other adults ultimately numbered in the millions, and unreported interactions millions more, few if any occurrences of aggression between a sleeper and her pre-adolescent child were ever confirmed. Sleepers handed over their male infants and toddlers to the closest person they could find, or simply put them out of doors. They then returned to their places of slumber.’
The story starts off unhurriedly as the authors build up the intensity but it ended up being my favorite part of the story (aside from the narration itself; Marin Ireland knocked this one out of the park. 5 stars.) The slow, steady pace building up this world where such a thing could possibly occur was all necessary to make this as credible as it could be. The most problematic bit was the vast array of characters that we were expected to keep track of. When reading stories that include far too many characters to keep straight, I’ll occasionally write myself little bullet point lists or draw family trees just to keep things straight. If I had even attempted something like that with this story my desk (and myself) would have ended up looking something like this:
One of the main female characters, Lila, resulted in some great passages from her point of view. Ironically though, her husband Clint ends up taking over as the main act in the final half of the book. Not only does he take over as the main character but he ends up playing an important role in the vast scheme of things and wait, wasn’t this supposed to be about the females? How come a dude once again gets to take center stage? I had worried about this possibility before I even picked this one up, but alas, the book is definitely less about what would happen to the females and more about what would happen to the men. They resort to violence and guns and explosions and everything in between, surprising no one. The authors also seem to miss making any solid point regarding why this happened and what was learned from the experience. Suffice it to say, the descriptions of the sickness and the infected were eerie and great to read but when it came down to breaking any gender stereotypes there’s certainly nothing new here.
Never before on audio! A #1 national bestseller about a man who wakes up from a five-year coma able to see people’s futures and the terrible fate awaiting mankind in The Dead Zone—a “compulsive page-turner” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
Johnny Smith awakens from a five-year coma after his car accident and discovers that he can see people’s futures and pasts when he touches them. Many consider his talent a gift; Johnny feels cursed. His fiancé married another man during his coma and people clamor for him to solve their problems.
When Johnny has a disturbing vision after he shakes the hand of an ambitious and amoral politician, he must decide if he should take drastic action to change the future. The Dead Zone is a “faultlessly paced…continuously engrossing” (Los Angeles Times) novel of second sight.
*First published in 1979, this is my first time reading The Dead Zone. Better late than never.
Johnny Smith has lived with physic abilities his entire life but it isn’t until the car accident in his 20s that they become an undeniable ability. He lay in a coma before waking to discover that his girlfriend at the time is now married, that he’s lost four years of his life, and that he now possesses the ability to witness the future of any individual (and sometimes even objects) he touches. Sometimes the future he sees is only a few minutes ahead of the present time but sometimes it’s years ahead. The truth of his abilities are revealed to the public after the highly publicized account of him waking after a four-year coma, and the limelight changes his life irrevocably. He sequesters himself from the public after the demands for his assistance in finding lost loved ones/missing persons, despite his mother, Vera Smith, and her insistence that he was brought back “to do God’s work.” When news of a high-profile serial killer hits his radar, he begins to feel morally obligated to at least try to help. And when he shakes the hand of an up and coming politician and foresees not just his future but the future of the human race, Johnny has to decide what is “right” and if he’s now duty-bound to changing the future so it never becomes our present.
“We all do what we can, and it has to be good enough, and if it isn’t good enough, it has to do.”
First published in 1979, The Dead Zone ended up being far more relevant to today’s time than I ever would have predicted. The future of the dirty politician that Johnny foresaw is a man by the name of Greg Stillson who started off as a nobody yet rose up in the ranks and quickly became the popular vote for the next President of the United States. His political platform and personal style were aimed towards the working class and he was prided on his honesty but had a definite lack of tact. He completely lacks any political knowledge, has big plans for America (albeit most of them beyond ludicrous), and is a devoutly religious man. Stillson is first introduced almost as a caricature of a real villain, someone that can’t possibly be taken seriously, but you slowly realize his influence on the vast population is something that cannot be brushed off as having little consequence. The ludicrousness didn’t last long after realization dawned. As I said… most relevant, right?
The Dead Zone is many stories in one. The beginning is a long drawn out section detailing Johnny’s recuperation in the hospital and the subsequent surgeries that were required for him to ever be able to walk again. Once he’s back on his feet, literally, the story switches focus to catching the serial killer, and you begin to think that that’s the plot except that story finds resolution and hundreds of pages remain. It came off slightly clunky, almost like we were being left out on parts of Johnny’s life that weren’t interesting enough for the page, but at least in this instance, James Franco’s narration gives these characters life. His acting skills are on full display to helpfully differentiate the characters, making Johnny a mellow smooth-talker, and giving Stillson a villainous voice that accurately matches his vile actions. Despite the definite lack of any type of horror (unless you count the potentially horrific reality of it all) and the obvious backpedaling done on that ending, The Dead Zone ended up being a vastly different King than I’ve come to expect but was still no doubt a thrilling story.
A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.
As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.
By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.
We meet Wavonna “Wavy” Quinn when she’s only five years old and she’s already experienced far more than any five year old should. Her father Liam is a meth dealer and her mother Val is an addict. Val possesses more than a few neurosis about cleanliness (she tells her she has germs, sticks her fingers down her throat telling her food is dirty, occasionally even throws food out completely forcing Wavy and her younger brother Donal to dig from the trash for their dinners) and subsequently passes these same neurosis onto Wavy. She refuses to eat when others are looking, she doesn’t touch anyone, and refuses to be touched. Until Jesse Joe Kellen. Kellen is a drug runner for Liam but he begins the only one that takes care of Wavy and her brother. As Wavy grows up in her unstable environment, we’re told her story from her point-of-view and various others in her life and we see how her and Kellen’s relationship transforms into something, well, both ugly and wonderful.
I’ve read some questionable books in my time but the idea of romanticizing a relationship between an extremely young girl (they met when she was just 5) with a twenty-something-year-old man had me saying
For good reason, but damn did Greenwood make it work. The story unfolds over the course of 15 years or so of Wavy’s life and through it all we see the trauma she underwent in her household and how her and Kellen’s relationship ultimately saved them both. I appreciated how much we got to see from Wavy’s point of view because it gave the reader the ability to develop some much needed tolerance. While it may be deemed wrong in the eyes of the law, Wavy had a complete understanding of their less than perfect romance. Setting aside the squick factor that I know is a definite issue, this was a beautiful tale of hard-fought love.
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Jack Sparks died while writing this book. This is the account of his final days.
In 2014, Jack Sparks - the controversial pop culture journalist - died in mysterious circumstances.
To his fans, Jack was a fearless rebel; to his detractors, he was a talentless hack. Either way, his death came as a shock to everyone.
It was no secret that Jack had been researching the occult for his new book. He'd already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed in rural Italy.
Then there was that video: thirty-six seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.
Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed - until now. This book, compiled from the files found after his death, reveals the chilling details of Jack's final hours.
The Last Days of Jack Sparks is about, well, the last days of Jack Sparks. While researching the occult for his most recent book, he had some mysterious incidents that even he couldn’t explain away. See, even though he was researching the occult, he was actually a professed non-believer of it all and sought to discredit everyone. He attended an actual exorcism and laughed at the experience and then there was the mysterious video that was added onto his personal YouTube channel showing possible proof of an actual ghost. It was a bit downhill for him from there on out.
This story was, for the most part, a mystery and the horror would sneak up on you reminding you of its true genre, but there was quite a lot of humor to balance things out. For the record, I read a lot of horror and this story often left me with my jaw on the ground. Once things really got going and you’re dealing with various different storylines that were confusing yet still managed to make sense, then Arnopp hits you with the twist.
Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.
But Ren has been living a double life.
Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.
But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.
Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.
Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.
Renard Grant is a popular transgender vlogger who is also a vigilante saving terrorized women in his spare time. If your immediate thought is “that’s a bit of a mouthful” you would be right. Grant’s story is a rousing tale of discovering your true identity; something that Wake can speak from the heart about because his emotions shown clearly through the delivery. The transformation process is discussed in much detail and it’s enlightening and informative, shedding light on something with many pre-conceived notions.
I adored Unteachable and while Black Iris and Cam Girl both had their fair share of flaws, there was still much to love and the writing style is something to behold. The issue I had with Bad Boy is there’s simply far too much going on in the few pages there are. There was already enough of a story recounting the experience of transitioning without adding in the concept of a masked vigilante group protecting women. It’s a great concept, the only problem is the transition story View Spoiler » and the revenge story on the man that raped Renard when he was still known as Sofie « Hide Spoiler was a far more compelling one and the superfluous addition only caused it to pale in comparison. On top of that, the combination of many of Wake’s previous characters from Black Iris and Cam Girl was overwhelming. Each of her characters can hold their own as the star of the show and having them all grouped together, battling for attention, felt like some sort of all-consuming motley (and not in the best way). Bad Boy is still no doubt well worth the read for the edifying aspect alone.
In this deeply scary and intensely unnerving debut novel, Jake and a woman known only as “The Girlfriend” are on a drive to visit his parents at their secluded farm. But when Jake leaves “The Girlfriend” stranded at an abandoned high school, what follows is a twisted unraveling of the darkest unease, an exploration into psychological frailty, and an ending as suspenseful as The Usual Suspects and as haunting as Misery.
Deeply scary and intensely unnerving, Iain Reid’s debut novel is a tightening spiral of a story about a woman’s uncertainty of her relationship with her boyfriend, Jake. After an uncomfortable and confusing trip to meet Jake’s parents at their isolated farmhouse, reality unravels and events spin out of control when Jake and “The Girlfriend” make an unscheduled stop at an abandoned high school. Part murder mystery, part psychological thriller, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is about doubt, psychological fragility, and the lengths we’ll go to avoid the truth. Twisted as Shutter Island, as suspenseful as Under the Skin and as atmospheric as The Sisters Brothers, Reid’s breakout literary thriller is sure to keep readers guessing until the last page.
‘Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.’
Jake and his girlfriend are traveling to visit his parents, whom she’s meeting for the first time, but on the way there she realizes that she’s thinking of ending things with Jake. Throughout the entirety of the trip, she contemplates her decision, wondering if she should truly go through with it. Her internal monologue remains ambivalent while describing their supposed rare and intense attachment. What exactly would make her suddenly think about ending things remains a mystery. She also touches on strange events from her childhood and a recent individual who has been leaving eerie voicemails that she isn’t sure how to handle. In addition to this are sections interspersed which imply that a crime took place but no clear answer is given. This rehashing of events is an unsettling build-up to a truly baffling finish.
This story had such diverging ratings that I HAD to try this, even if it turned out to be horrendous. Sometimes you just gotta see for yourself because you never really know. Well, my rating pretty much speaks for itself. I didn’t hate it but I clearly didn’t love it. The narration of this audiobook succeeded in making this one a manageable read and bumped up my rating from a mere 1 star. Her character voices were easily able to differentiate including Jack’s male voice. The individual that was leaving the eerie voicemails was described as having an effeminate voice and while the voicemails themselves were meant to spook the reader, Candace Thaxton’s production of these particular scenes were the most eerie part. (See below for an audio clip.) In terms of the “mystery”, it relies heavily on creating a build up of intrigue (and an immense amount of bait-and-switch tactics) to get you to the twist of an ending. Enough is revealed by our narrator via her stream of conscious depiction of events, but you can tell from early on that she’s not being exactly forthcoming in the details. Something is being omitted; there’s a missing piece of the puzzle. If you didn’t already detect the cryptic nature of our narrator, the fact that she isn’t ever identified, she remains nameless the entirety of the novel, should be a flashing warning sign.
‘Both fictions and memories are recalled and retold. They’re both forms of stories. Stories are the way we learn. Stories are how we understand each other.’
Admittedly, the beginning was fairly adequate even though there was that feeling of a forced air of mystery. As more is revealed, it’s hard to see what direction this story is headed in but it’s enough to still leave you curious. But then the weirdness sets in. She asks Jake questions which he ignores completely as if she never even spoke, he gives her a tour of the farm View Spoiler »which included a delightful story about a dead pig filled with maggots « Hide Spoiler instead of going immediately into the house to see his parents whom they traveled hours to see, his idea to stop at a Dairy Queen while there’s an ongoing blizzard outside, and most especially was his insistence that they detour down an unplowed road because he thinks there’s a school down there with most likely a trash can because he has to throw away his melting lemonade cup before the cup holders get sticky.
This sudden lack of sense was an immediate disconnect from the mystery because I knew that something fishy was going on. Nothing seemed logical and clearly everything that was happening had to be questioned to the nth degree. Regardless of my confusion, the ending could have delivered a spectacular twist that had me praising the authors ingenuity… but not in this case. The ending clears up all questions without being thrown some curve ball twist you never saw coming. Thinking back over the entirety of this short novel, you can see hints at the reveal that was to come, but that doesn’t make it any more satisfying. In truth, the ending is a bit too orderly for how convoluted this novel is presented and while the introductory build-up had me immediately hooked, the end result was anticlimactic.
‘Maybe the end was written right from the beginning.’