Photographer, book reviewer, mama, cat-lover in Seattle. Originally from England.
You can find my reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Edelweiss+.
School library volunteer at my son's K8 school. Member of ALA and YALSA.
Review requests ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes I'll go out on a limb and read a book that wasn't necessarily on my radar, by an author who's new to me, and even within a genre (or crosses several genres) that I don't read often. I like reading outside of my comfort zone because this is often where I'll find the shiniest gems of books that may otherwise pass me by. 'The Lost Power' is one of those books; touted as 'Da Vinci Code meets Tomb Raider' (both of which I know of, but haven't read or seen, and probably just as well), I knew that others had found popular works to compare it to, but I'm glad I went in blind.
A family get-together in Napa, ruined by sniper's gunshots, is the opening setting for this exciting novel; app designer and Aikido instructor Maddy Marshall meets up with her estranged twin brother Will, go there to meet their elderly father, who reveals a dark, family secret, as he takes his last breaths. They then meet up with an old classmate, Bear, who accompanies them on their adventure across the globe, perhaps not so coincidentally.
The trio set out on a quest to discover a secret ‘Lost Power’ (with some dangerous people trying to beat them to it), before it can possibly endanger millions. It’s something of a quest to find the Holy Grail, filled with encounters in Spain, Jerusalem, and flying in a hot-air balloon.
What is so captivating about this novel, and what I didn’t expect, is the way that author Avanti Centrae has created a story about a brother and sister, with a rich family history, and made their relationship relatable, endearing, and it drives a lot of the action through. By having their friend Bear along for the adventure, he acts as the perfect buffer for the twins’ rough spots and develops into a fuller character than I expected. Rather than Will and Bear taking the lead with all the action in this book, it was completely refreshing to have Maddy be the person who ends up kicking butt, and it makes a change to have both the male and female characters airing their fears and showing their weaknesses.
Like any action adventure, there are many sequences that seem implausible (Spielberg and authors like Dan Brown say it can be done though), but it felt really good to read a book that was just one crazy ride.
This is a heart-pounding action thriller that makes you feel like you have stepped into an adventure movie, where your every move will have you moving from one exotic locale to another, looking over your shoulder for who is chasing you, and tapping into the author’s vast knowledge of history and world religions and cultures, to solve an international mystery with unbelievably high stakes.
Thank you so much to Booktasters for the chance to read this; I powered through it during a recent readathon, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
RELEASES TUESDAY AUGUST 6, 2019!
This is the sophomore novel from the immensely talented and wildly unique Derek Milman, who previously gave us the quirky and brilliant YA novel, ‘Scream All Night.’
Milman steps it up a notch in this one, bringing readers something close to the anxiety-fueled capers of Hitchcock, but with an emotionally-fueled story at its core, something he seriously does best.
‘Swipe Right’ is a high-stakes genre-bending murder mystery, with classic elements like a case of mistaken identity, running from the good guys (the FBI) and being targeted by the bad guys (a crazy, murderous cult). There are dead bodies, accusations of cyber-terrorism, and it all starts with a deadly DirtyPaws hookup in a hotel room.
What makes this incredibly fresh and compelling for readers of YA, is the fantastically honest character portrayal of a young gay man, the main character Aidan Jamison. He is flawed, and arrogant, funny, charming, and he is struggling with his independence from his family, while receiving warnings from friends who seriously are worried about his recklessness. Amid all the action, and dark comedy that’s packed into this book (one of my favorite things about Derek’s writing), Aidan is forced to face his disturbing past and relationships.
‘Swipe Right’ moves at a break-neck speed as Aidan races to solve the crime that he’s implicated in, without getting killed or arrested, and finds out a lot about himself while he’s ‘on the lam.’ His character arc is natural and necessary and kept you rooting for him. Derek just knows how to write compelling, flawed characters and knows how to really get you to feel.
It’s exciting, funny, relatable, and it’s hard not to get wrapped up in Aidan’s story of emotional highs and lows as well as Milman’s writing really quickly. I swooped in quickly on Derek’s first book and became a fast fan of his, and now I’m already wondering what he will be doing next. This must be your summer thriller read for 2019!
IT IS FINALLY HERE.
When it comes to 'must-read' authors for me, Riley Sager is one of them. I was fortunate enough to be one of the early readers for his first thriller FINAL GIRLS, and I suddenly had found a new favorite author.
I was then lucky enough to be an early reader and be the blog tour for his second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, and I was a certified obsessed fan of Sager's writing.
My biggest problem is that I read his books too quickly.
His books, which are fast-paced thrillers with gutsy young women as protagonists, have quickly made him a best-selling novelist and a three-time Book Of The Month (BOTM) author.
His new book, 'LOCK EVERY DOOR’ is said to be inspired by his love of the old Gothic apartment buildings in Manhattan, and from the opening dedication to the great Ira Levin, who wrote the brilliant 'Rosemary's Baby' (a favorite of mine, which was adapted into the one of the most iconic horror films of all time), the scene is set and you WILL be sucked in.
Read ahead to find out more about Riley’s newest exciting thriller, reminiscent of the classic horror movie, but with a decidedly modern twist.
ABOUT THE BOOK: LOCK EVERY DOOR
Release Date: July 2nd, 2019
Dutton Books, Hardcover, 371 pages
Find it on Goodreads
No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen's new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.
As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.
Searching for the truth about Ingrid's disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew's dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building's hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.
LOCK EVERY DOOR REVIEW
It probably comes as no surprise that I’m going to say that this is a must-read. It’s a little hard to talk about it without giving too much away but I’ll do my best.
‘LOCK EVERY DOOR’ starts with twenty five-year old Jules experiencing some kind of emergency and frantic that she not return to the Bartholomew.
We then transition to six days earlier to when she first is shown the huge, exclusive, and very private apartment inside that very building that she will end up living in, as an apartment-sitter, and being PAID to do so. For someone who was basically homeless, jobless, and penniless when you compare her to the residents of the opulent Bartholomew, this seems too good to be true. Usually when you suspect that’s the case, you’re probably right.
Jules Larsen is relatable to anyone who has been in a position where they would consider taking on the responsibility of apartment-sitting in exchange for having contact with the outside world; just having a decent place to live can be a great motivator in these times so I found myself completely understanding why Jules would do this. Shedding her old life and being willing to try something new feels hopeful but a bit naive, but blameless. It would probably be pretty bloody hard to resist living in a huge apartment in one of the oldest buildings in Manhattan overlooking Central Park, no matter the circumstances (or gargoyles outside your window). Cutting yourself from the real world, except for access to the internet, when things go badly feels so 2019.
Sager moves on from setting the stage for Jules’ exciting new chapter to presenting the reader with a cast of characters, all with unforgettable personalities and quirks. The Bartholomew itself is an undeniable presence as well, with its dumbwaiters, patterned wallpaper, old-fashioned elevators, iron floor vents, spiral staircases, and complete with front doorman, and it’s hard not to picture the infamous Dakota building in New York City (which inspired Sager, and is where ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was filmed). Such a building seems like it would be a marvel, as well as terrifying.
The building changes from being a refuge and a place that fascinates, to somewhere that Jules feels trapped, and the other occupants either end up missing or are acting strangely. Her isolation suddenly becomes suffocating, she realizes she must discover the truth, uncover the secrets of the Bartholomew, and fight like a ‘final girl’ to get herself out. Like Rosemary, she experiences moments of clarity interspersed with those abject fear, and sometimes has to question her own sanity because of the environment she is in.
There is real genius to creating a quiet atmosphere of dread that can felt on every page, one of panic, suffocation and confusion, and it’s why this psychological thriller is perfect horror. When the real world takes away your safety nets, it can be terrifying, and this book made me think about that, maybe because I’m going through similar things right now; as humans, we need basics like a home, food, as well as connection to others. When the rug is pulled out from underneath you, it really can be terrifying. You don’t have to have someone chasing you with a knife for you to want to scream and cry and run.
‘LOCK EVERY DOOR’ is quite unlike his other two books, this time paying distinct homage to an iconic horror story, but needless to say, this is trademark Sager. He has a distinct voice that makes you want to devour his books in one sitting, and unlike when I read his first book and was encouraging fellow readers to pick it up, having not heard of him yet, I’m sure this one will fly off the shelves. Plus it’s pink and black, so it’s utterly perfect, you can’t miss it.
YOUR CHANCE TO WIN: BOOK GIVEAWAY
There is an amazing giveaway to go along with this blog tour; there are SEVEN COPIES of LOCK EVERY DOOR by RILEY SAGER up for grabs, so make sure to enter. US ONLY.
Click on THIS LINK TO ENTER!
ABOUT AUTHOR RILEY SAGER
Riley Sager is the award-winning pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.
Now a full-time author, Riley's first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called "the first great thriller of 2017" by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries and a film version is being developed by Universal Pictures.
Riley's second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was published in 2018 and became an instant New York Times bestseller. It was inspired by the classic novel and film "Picnic at Hanging Rock" and one horrible week Riley spent at summer camp when he was ten. A television adaptation is being developed by Amazon Studios.
His next book, LOCK EVERY DOOR, inspired by a lifelong fascination with the grand apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, will be published in July.
A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he's not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is "Rear Window." Or maybe "Jaws." But probably, if he's being honest, "Mary Poppins."
If you are lucky enough to be near any of these bookstores next week (7/8- - 7/11/19), Riley Sager is ON TOUR. I'm sad he won't be anywhere near me, so don't you dare pass this up if you are close! You can still call the stores and order the books for signing.
Thanks for having me on the blog tour again, Fantastic Flying Book Club!
*Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an early copy of the book for review.
The Kingdom is the ultimate fantasy theme park, with its thrilling rides and coasters, set among safari grasslands, mermaid pools, and tropical forests, a monorail, and the magical Princess Palace. Long-extinct animal species have been bioengineered and now roam free, along with hybrid animals like horseflies as well as virtual dragons.
And what’s this Kingdom without princesses? Ana is one of seven Fantasists - half-human, half-android princesses, who are engineered to make park visitors' fantasies come true. Her programming dictates that her behavior is predictable, and she is not complicated with the vast array of human emotions. So when Ana does start experiencing emotions, questioning what she's been told to think and say, her whole world inside this surreal futuristic amusement park changes. It also leads to the most controversial trial of the century and to a surprise romance.
Author Jess Rothenberg isn't new to the YA scene, having been both the editor of the popular 'Vampire Academy' series, and writer of 'The Catastrophic History of You & Me.' But this is a genre-bending departure from vampires and paranormal romance for Rothenberg, bringing us a mash-up between sci-fi and fantasy, Westworld crossed with Disney World. The Kingdom is set in Lewis County, WA, 2096, a future that comes across as incredibly eerie, the kind of ‘too good to be true’ that is undeniably unsettling from the very beginning.
Ana, being half-human, has deep questions about the role she is supposed to play in the theme park, as it becomes clear that it’s far from ‘normal’; most importantly, the question of whether she actually committed the highest crime of all - murder - pushes the story through twists and turns all the way through. The confusion Ana feels over her romantic feelings and friendships are also fantastically exaggerated examples of how the teenage years can be a minefield to deal with anyway, and the way she questions the treatment of animals hit me at my core.
This book is the perfect combination of fantasy and sci-fi, with the twist of mystery, romance and good dose of a fairytale mixed in, and it brings up so many profound questions about humanity and how we treat others. It felt like nothing else I had read lately and so I loved this deeply original book.
*Thank you to Christian Trimmer for introducing me to this delight, and Henry Holt Books for Young Readers for treating me to an early copy.
What a sad, depressing, and eye-opening read. It’s interesting that the author calls this his ‘death-penalty’ book, but I’ll definitely agree with it also being a book about friendship and loyalty, as well as one about child abuse, alcoholism, and neglect. So much is also about poverty and as a result, the loss of hope. The two teens in the story, Luke and Toby, don’t have much to look forward to in their lives, or ways to cope, and this feels very desperate and is difficult at times to read. It paints a very grim portrait of impoverished middle America.
I commend the author on writing a book about two teen boys, which doesn’t happen often within the young adult genre. But it’s ultimately heartbreaking. I’m grateful to my Litsy Postal Book Club group for picking this, otherwise I may not have read this emotional YA novel.
I can already say that this will be on my list as one of my top and most impactful reads of the year (and it’s only May). I’ve not read too many books lately that can bring me to shed both happy and sad tears, as well as make me drop my jaw, and cause me to put the book down for moments so I could collect my thoughts. And although the title would suggest that ‘The Grief Keeper’ is filled with sadness, it also brings with it a bright message of love and hope.
The novel opens with seventeen-year old Marisol being interviewed in a federal border detention center, having just crossed into the U.S., after fleeing El Salvador with her younger sister Gabi, afraid for their lives after the death of their brother Pablo. She has dreamed for years for a life in the States, perfecting her English, and getting lost in the imaginary world of her favorite TV show ‘Cedar Hollow.’ When it looks like her asylum request will be denied, and a new and curious opportunity to have it granted arises, Marisol will do just about anything for her and her sister to make that happen. And that’s by becoming a ‘grief keeper.’
Debut author Alexandra Villasante has written an expertly crafted novel about the complexities of immigration, grief, sexual orientation, PTSD, depression, and, new love. There are even more nuanced topics woven in such as attitudes towards immigrants (legal and otherwise) being hired to do menial jobs in this country, our political climate, and how the LGBTQ community suffers in other countries (ie which would cause a young girl like Marisol to flee her home).
This story gives so many deep, complex topics to talk and think about but at the core there is this beautiful story about Marisol and Rey (grieving her own brother) who are discovering their relationship with each other, including Marisol who would never have been allowed to explore this part of her back in the country she has fled. Persecution of LGBTQ youth and ‘conversion by rape’ is brought into the spotlight and from this story of family and migration, I was enlightened and educated.
This is a novel about connections as well as grief, and Villasante sheds light on PTSD, and gives new meaning to the idea of taking someone else’s pain away so they don’t have to suffer. There are serious moral and ethical questions to the procedure that’s used so that Marisol will absorb Rey’s grief and pain (this actually brings quite a futuristic aspect to a very realistic story, which I really liked) and shows the extent that Marisol will go to gain entry to the U.S., and it’s heartbreaking.
I read this book and I felt so many different emotions, and the very fact that it’s able to envelope immigration criticism, discussion on sexual identity, loss, classism, plus a loving sister relationship, AND a sci-fi twist, make it a VERY special book. I think it belongs on every school and YA library shelf everywhere and I hope many people will pick it up, even if it’s initially because of the insanely gorgeous cover (thanks to Kaethe Butcher and Kelley Brady), and that they end up holding it close to their hearts.
*Trigger warnings/mentions: sexual assault, suicidal ideation, violence, bombing, PTSD
RELEASE DATE: 6.11.19
I love horror novels. I also love horror movies (probably not a secret by now, if you’ve read any of my reviews, and know of my film background). So this slim but powerful volume of poetry dedicated to the final girls of horror cinema reminded me exactly why I love them both.
Women have always played vital and shocking roles in horror movies, but in the wake of all of horror’s hapless victims, Holland’s poems pay homage to the countless survivors, warriors, and fighters among the ranks of our favorite films in the horror genre; the slasher flicks, the hauntings, the violent exorcisms.
The poems are about everyone from the unforgettable 'Carrie', to the original ‘Scream Queen’ Laurie in ‘Halloween,’ to Selena in '28 Days Later.' There may well be a high body count of women in these films, but the ones who fight and thrash and scream bloody murder, even if they don't make it to the end, are the ones who make their mark on our memories.
Claire C. Holland goes further than just to shine a spotlight on the most well-known celluloid superstars like Rosemary from Roman Polanski's 'Rosemary's Baby' (a personal favorite of mine, played by the brilliant Mia Farrow), and Sally, who is tortured and brutalized in the horrific cult classic 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre,' (played by Marilyn Burns). She has also written poems about the horror ‘heroines’ (we will call them that even if some them don't survive), of many smaller, lesser-known, and independent films.
The poems are divided into four different sections: Assault, Possession, Destruction, and Possession, to reflect the role or type of hell that horror heroine goes through on screen. Holland hits the nail on the head with depicting the pain, the brutality, violence, and sheer terror that is inflicted on these characters in their respective roles on film, and at the core of every one of them is the spirit of a girl, a woman, who isn’t going to go down without a fight. These poems make you feel a certain discomfort, a frustration, an anger at the misfortunes and acts that are inflicted on them, and on women in general, and in so many of the poems, it’s clear that the violence or horror of the film mirrors acts that many females have to endure in real life. My own reaction on reading these poems, especially after having seen the respective films, was very visceral; I will have to read them more times now to fully absorb them. I also feel like Holland has made these characters even more real to me, some of whom I thought I already knew so well already, by giving them more of a ‘voice’ in this way.
I ordered the Night Worms 'Final Girls' Subscription Book Box partly because of this book being in it (along with Stephen Graham Jones' 'The Last Final Girl' and 'Tribesman' by Adam Cesare), and I'm so glad I did. I connected immediately with the poems because of my love of horror movies (I knew I would); but what I was most surprised and most affected by was the introduction by Holland, where she expresses her sentiments on the feminist stance she has taken with these poems. I was truly blown away by her powerful and heartfelt introduction. There has been a lot of talk about how this poetry collection connects to the state of ‘womanhood’ today; women NEED to read this empowering literature and poetry. If horror is not your bag of chips, this won’t be for you, BUT if you have a survivor or final girl in you, you will find these poems inspirational, horrifying, and thrilling.
**Thanks for adding a few more movies to my already long movie list, Claire C. Holland!
‘The Grace Year’ is the brutal and harrowing story about the young women of Garner County who are forced to spend their sixteenth year in a secluded encampment outside the town as they ‘embrace their magic.’ They must release their powers before they marry or go off to work in the fields or labor houses, before they return to civilization, that’s IF they return, surviving poachers who hunt them for their ‘magic’, and ultimately, surviving the time they spend with each other.
This is a feminist tale about survival, group dynamics (hysteria?), and the strength of spirit in the face of incredible adversity. The young women, teenagers, are faced with the odds stacked against them, in a patriarchal society that deems them as property, dangerous, basically as subservient pets. Many of them (all unforgettable characters) fall into the traps that are designed for them, but the main character Tierney, rails against them, questioning her predicament, and hopes for change. Over the course of the ‘Grace Year’ Tierney discovers as much about those around her as she does about herself, and draws on her own strength, of which she didn’t know she even had. It’s an amazing, albeit, often violent story about a young woman discovering herself and her own power against all odds.
This stunning novel from Kim Liggett will draw comparisons with ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, but it also made me think of both ‘Lord of The Flies’ and ‘The Crucible’, all classics, well-known for their controversy and hard-hitting subjects.
Themes of feminism, social hierarchies, group mechanics, religion, and flower and color imagery throughout the book are vivid and powerful; it’s easy to see why this is being adapted for television before it has even been published. I think it will be hard to read this and not have it resonate with the reader in a strong way; it’s dark and haunting and it honestly blew me away. I want to read it again before I see any TV adaptation because it was just THAT GOOD.
ON SALE: 9.17.19
Helena Smith and Barry Sutton are inextricably entwined and yet at the same time, haven’t even met yet. And the way it happens at the same moment is thanks to the astonishing memory technology that groundbreaking neuroscientist Helena develops, inspired by the desire to heal her mother’s Alzheimer’s, to preserve memories and relive them.
The very dangerous ability to alter memories and create new timelines leads countless people to suffer from False Memory Syndrome, and what was intended to be a gift for humanity ends up becoming a nightmare and perhaps spells the end of the world as everyone knows it.
‘Recursion’ is like reading ‘Back To The Future’ crossed with ‘Memento’ and ‘Minority Report’, with a splash of ‘Groundhog Day’ mixed in (except with none of the funny stuff). And it’s certainly not because Blake Crouch is rehashing old territory or that he’s written a book we’ve all read (or that it’s something we’ve seen) before. It’s because ‘Recursion’ recalls the essence of what made all those movies great, and it’s a gripping genre-bending cross of science-fiction and thriller. And he does it in a way that feels like nothing that’s been done before.
Just as he did with the mind-bending science-fiction (and the actual science) behind ‘Dark Matter,’ here in ‘Recursion’ he has tapped into our curiosity about the unknown, the basic human question we all have about our pasts, of how our lives could be different if we could ‘change just that one thing and do things over.’
How everything could be different if someone we loved hadn’t died so soon, or we could’ve stopped that death from happening.
That very scenario comes up for Barry in the book, and just as with the catastrophic repercussions of messing with nature, and the ethical questions behind genetic engineering (thank you, Michael Crichton), most of our instincts probably say we shouldn’t mess with time-travel, our memories, and therefore, our very existence. But science-fiction says we must.
Crouch has written yet another tightly-paced read; the book flits between different timelines and at the beginning of the book, it’s unclear as to the connection between our two main characters. But as the stories entwine, and the science starts to make more sense, the pace and the intensity pick up, the lines blur, and time and memory collide. The consequences of the decisions made by some of the characters, and by humanity as a whole, are emblematic of a whole host of problems and it becomes seriously frightening.
It’s a clear reminder of how our lives are merely made up of a series of memories, and when we stop living in the present, what else do we have? My own greatest fear is losing my memory, my ability to remember my past. But I definitely wouldn’t want to live moments over and over again either.
Ultimately ‘Recursion’ is another breakout novel by the amazing Blake Crouch. Thank you for making me question my whole existence (yet again).
*Thank you Crown Publishing for my early copy, received at ALA Midwinter, where I also got to MEET Blake Crouch, and have him sign my books!!
Hendricks is undoubtedly living in the house of many a person’s nightmares, and at least one little girl’s death, and as the new girl in town, she seems to be finding this out gradually through her friends at school. Steele House doesn't seem to be an ordinary house by any measure, and not only is it hiding a dark secret, so is Hendricks, one that sent her family packing from Philadelphia and to this tiny town of Drearford.
Once her family moves into Steele House, which is being renovated, she finds a new group of friends right away (to her surprise). Hendricks begins to craft a new social life out for herself, involving both the popular guy at school, but also the boy next door, who is also the brother of the little girl who died. She soon finds there are new and far more powerful ghosts than the ones in her past that she has to deal with.
This is a pretty basic horror novel, a classic haunting tale that author Danielle Vega has written for teens, and it's perfect for those who might be somewhat cautious about stepping into the genre.
The main character Hendricks embodies all those insecurities and anxieties felt when starting at a new high school and she has a lot of baggage from her past, the very reason the family has had to move. I appreciated these parts about the story, as well as the very real conflict she has with whether she should fall in with cliques at school, but because they couldn't be dealt with very deeply that conversely also frustrated me a bit. The parents also happen to be totally absent from Hendricks' world most of the time, which is pretty convenient (and actually pretty irresponsible).
As far as the very descriptive scenes that involve the haunted Steele House, these are vivid and full of horrible paranormal evil that will conjure up images that will stick with you. There's also a very deep-seated reason for the evil that resides in the house and it's actually very sad. I appreciate that Vega tied the narrative together at the end, even though it was quite an abrupt ending.
As an author, I think she has great instincts for what works well to both scare and satisfy, understanding that real life is a bit messy and not perfect. It's kind of why the ending left me with a punch to the gut.
I read a lot of horror fiction and love a great scare, so I love finding creepy books that suck me in; this is a quick YA 'haunted house' read, perfect for a spooky weekend.
*I also would have fallen victim to Steele house myself thanks to the cat at the beginning that draws little Meredith into the basement (even though everyone should know the first rule in horror is ‘don’t go into the basement’). But…kitty!!!!
I'm going to dare to reveal a bit of myself in this review because it absolutely affected my reading.
I had the early reader’s copy for this brilliant book for a few years before I could bring myself to read all the way through it, and I even started it once and couldn’t continue, shelving it for at least a year or so before picking it up a second time. It was an intense and very difficult read for me because of the subject matter, and I got through it after reading Kathleen Glasgow’s excellent second book ‘How to Make Friends with The Dark’ which was almost as difficult for me to read, and equally amazing. Together, these two books encompass so much of my own experience it’s heartbreakingly uncanny, and I was lucky enough to even let Kathleen know this when I met her at her own book signing here in Seattle recently.
I’ve been that ‘girl in pieces’ like Charlie, like the many young women out there hiding their scars from others, under clothing or bandages, caused by cutting, burning, or whatever ‘needed’ to be done in that painful moment. It was a long and very hard journey for me to heal enough from depression, grief, anxiety, self-harming behavior, and PTSD, to where I felt I could cope with life again. The book is honest and gritty, and since Kathleen knows exactly what this all feels like, she understood what I meant when I said it took me a few years to get around to reading this; in the author’s note, she writes that it took her nine years to get this book onto paper. But she’s here. I’m here.
This book is actually about hope, and that’s honestly why I really want many many young women, girls, to read this.
When I read ‘Girl In Pieces’ my journey and all sorts of things came back to me, and yes, this is why the book was so hard to read; it brought up thoughts and feelings I hadn’t had for years. I know that’s what will make it hard for others to read too. The cover is a trigger warning or just a plain trigger itself; I don’t know that anyone seeing that will have any doubt as to what this book is about. While the subjects within are difficult to read about, those who understand them stand to benefit the most.
It takes a boatload of talent to tackle all kinds of really difficult issues: drug abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, parental neglect, grief, suicide, self-harming (and foster kids in her next novel), but Glasgow does a lot in this one book. Some reviews point out that there’s 'too much' in this one book but that’s the point; self-harming is rooted in deep pain borne from many issues, it doesn’t happen out of a vacuum. Many of these issues collide and Glasgow writes about them from her depths of her soul, from her personal experience.
There are a number of different characters in the book (the deeply wounded Charlie, the toxic Riley, counselor Casper, Charlie’s mom, a number of different friends who play varied roles in Charlie’s life along the way), and they’re all memorable and painfully vivid, often uncomfortably so. And Charlie's awkwardness, fear, pain, and bravery can be felt on every page. It's hard and absolutely heart-wrenching to read but it's incredibly worth it.
I'll end this by saying that some readers won't 'get' this book at all, others desperately need to read it and will likely have a hard time with it. But this book will reach some people and it will resonate deeply with them. When a book can touch you deep down it can stay with you forever. But scars and memories stay with you forever too, no matter how far in the past, and this story is a reminder of that.
Thank you, Kathleen Glasgow, for writing this book. I wish I'd read this a long time ago, even if I'm not sure I would've been ready. But I'm glad it's out there in this big wide scary world.
This is a short stunner of a book and it's hard to believe that this is a debut novel. It's that good.
Set in the vibrant, noisy, dense city of Lagos, Nigeria, Korede is always cleaning up after her younger sister Ayoola, who is self-absorbed, entitled, and by most people's accounts, beautiful - at least on the outside. Ayoola has men, and women, fawning all over her, and worst of all, she's now stringing along the doctor that Korede has admired, and who she works with, for a long time.
Korede covers up her sister's lies all the time, and the biggest of all being that she's a serial killer - she has killed three men now - but how long can she do it? How can she NOT do it (it's her sister)??
Author Braithwaite has written a book that is darkly comic, feminist, thoughtful, and biting, and I couldn't read it fast enough. I wanted it to be longer although it was actually perfect in that it's a short book with concise chapters with clever titles. There is a lot of underlying commentary about beauty and its power, and also about deception, family, and denial.
I really hope to see more thrillers out of the talented author Oyinkan Braithwaite.
Becky would do anything to find out what is ailing her fourteen-year old daughter Meghan, who has been in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices with unexplained symptoms. She is also frustrated that her husband Carl isn’t nearly as dedicated to finding out what is so obviously wrong. It’s also not helpful when her sister Sabrina, who is caring for their dying mother Cora, isn’t supportive; she also believes that their dysfunctional upbringing has led Becky to act obsessively towards Meghan.
When Munchausen by proxy, a rare behavioral disorder where the primary caretaker constantly seeks medical attention for assumed symptoms, is suspected as the reason for all of Meghan’s mysterious ailments, the hospital administration steps in. And things heat up in all kinds of ways in this deftly-written page-turner of a book.
This is a fascinating exploration of a rare behavioral disorder, of family ties and relationships, of grief, and it’s also a tightly-written medical thriller. D.J. Palmer is a skilled writer; the pacing and tone kept me enthralled page after page with the different character perspectives shifting, with only Meghan’s being written in first-person, as she is the one experiencing the mental and physical anguish of the ‘disease,’ which I thought was a brilliant decision on Palmer’s part. Everything written from Becky’s perspective takes on a tone of anxiety, which fits perfectly with her character, proof of how well the characters are written and drive this novel.
It’s also ominous how dangerously symbiotic the mother-daughter relationship becomes; the relationship between Becky and Meghan then mirrors the one Becky had with her mom and that is pivotal to the story. I’m kind of in awe in how well Palmer psychologically weaves these characters together.
There are other plot threads that play a large part in the novel but I will let the reader discover them on their own. The overt exploration of Munchausen by proxy is so well done, and the underlying themes swept me away, so when the twists came out and grabbed me at the end, I was utterly surprised.
I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough; it has everything I love in a book: Complex relationships. Family dysfunction. Medical/psychological thriller. Interesting characters. Twists you don’t see coming. Expert writing.
*Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this book for review!
Millie is thirty years old and spends her days going to a thankless temp job at a designer furniture showroom, watching episodes of Forensic Files on her laptop, and fantasizing about what her new life would actually look like if she actually pulled herself together. She has a friend who is shallow and doesn’t really listen to her, an ex she thinks about too much, and all sorts of ideas for what her life will be like if the temp job becomes permanent.
‘The New Me’ is a perfect satiric send-up of all those little insecurities that have glimmered in the minds of many of us, and its glaring honesty is on every single page, and it’s also pretty funny. While the book is not an actual ‘stream of consciousness,’ it’s written in a way that demonstrates the way that Millie’s thoughts run from one to another, the way that one anxiety leads to another; this is the absolute genius of this short book, and it reads like the mind of a person trying to figure her crap out (and generally not managing to do so). Not everyone will jive will this style of writing though.
The situations Millie finds herself in, like standing in the break room at work, or being at a party, and dissecting what’s going on, it’s all written so well, and it’s startling and frustrating and even maddening. There are also times when she’s completely oblivious to what is going on around her and she has high hopes for her future; at one point she’s completely got her head in the clouds and gets it all wrong.
The banality of office work and modern life feature prominently and author Halle Butler paints a pretty depressing picture of it, and she does it so well it’s frightening. Fortunately for Millie, to balance out the uncertainty of work and the emptiness of a false friendship with Sarah, she has loving parents (the scenes with them are lovely) and they are very much her anchors.
In the past, back in my twenties in between freelance film gigs, I did some temp and call center work of my own; this book very much brought back some miserable memories of that time for me. No wonder Millie does so much drinking
This is such a clever little book, honest if depressing, funny although somewhat cautionary (shred the paper when you’re asked to). Definitely a dark comedy.
Les Misérables, the historical classic novel set during the French Revolution and written by Victor Hugo in 1862, may never be seen the same way again after you read this YA sci-fi re-imagining. Sky Without Stars is the first in a series of novels in the System Divine set on the planet Laterre, where the divide between wealthy and poor is massive, and signs of revolution are everywhere.
There is so much to say about this book that it’s hard to know where to start in describing it, especially without revealing too much. While the size of it is daunting, its pace is even and kept me enthralled throughout; I didn’t want to put it down at all over an entire weekend. You also don’t have to know the story of Les Misérables (and many readers will likely only know the story from the several films of the same name) so I'll be a heathen and say it doesn’t matter if you haven't read the original book this is based on.
This glorious epic novel follows the lives of Chatine, Alouette, and Marcellus, and we gradually find out how a thief, a guardian, and a general can have such desperately different lives but actually have a lot in common.
Within the Frets of the planet Laterre, Chatine survives as a thief, her parents run a gang, and she hides her identity by posing as a boy. Beneath the city in The Refuge, Alouette lives within the Sisterhood, protecting the only surviving library of the Old World and unbeknownst to her, has been living her life behind a web of lies. Meanwhile, Marcellus, grandson of General Bonnefaçon, struggles with the responsibilities of living up to the standards of his grandfather and doubts the government he is supposed to serve and stand by. The paths of these three characters intersect in a fascinating world that melds scenes from Hugo's epic novel with a space-age future where humans have inhabited multiple planets many centuries from now. I found all three of them to be multi-faceted and to constantly be in tune with what was going on around them, and even when they were struggling or seemingly at their worst, I found myself pulling for them.
I was easily drawn in with the excellent world-building, which has shades of rebellion that made me think of Star Wars, but the new planet that everyone has inhabited still feels very French, with Français used throughout the book, so it keeps the heart of Les Misérables close. The science fiction comes across as plausible and frighteningly realistic (the best kind to read, in my opinion!). I lapped up all the details in this world that was created for these characters: Everyone has electronic ‘Skins’ implanted in their arms, and audiochips in their ears, and the squalor that everyone lives in is hard to digest; it made me think of Bladerunner, that fusion of the old and new. The very fact that the written word has become extinct, that books have become extinct (and protected by the Sisterhood) is heartbreaking. Being able to actually read has also become a rare skill.
The planet is illuminated by three fake Sols and the moon has become a prison colony, even the use of fire has been banished. It seems there is some forest on the outskirts of the city and on the periphery of LeDome; all of these environments and areas are sketched out in a map in the front of the book. There are also other planets described in the System Divine and I really hope they are visited in subsequent novels in the series.
Authors Brody and Rendell have created an entire imagined parallel universe that I could’ve kept on reading about for hours longer, no matter how sobering and dark.
There is action, adventure, science-fiction, romance, the feeling of reading a history, as well as political intrigue, an underground revolutionary uprising called the Vanguarde. Based on one of the greatest novels of all time, ‘Sky Without Stars’ depicts a future where the chasm between classes has grown exponentially, but the layers in between make this novel irresistible.
Life as a young fox is scary, with so much to learn about the dangers out there in the woods. Little foxes learn about these dangers from their mama, a masterful storyteller, or the hard way, by facing the world.
This beautifully-written and illustrated middle-grade book invites the reader to step inside the minds of little foxes, and embark on an adventure, full of the real-life challenges that they often face:
Nasty humans, vicious woodland creatures like the Golgathursh and badgers, and dangerous territorial foxes. And especially the harsh Winter.
This is a tale within a tale, and just like scary stories told around a campfire, it has elements of horror and delight. Not only is it precautionary for fox kits, like foxes Mia and Uly, readers will recognize the themes of friendship, family, bravery, and the drive to push ahead when life is difficult.
Author Christian McKay Heidicker has a way with words too, and through his writing he has conveyed a very vivid picture of woodland life, describing objects as a fox would see them, and creating new words for things that wouldn’t make sense to them. He also doesn’t shy away from the brutality of nature, from the cycle of life and death, and the struggle for survival against the most difficult of odds. The young foxes in his story face hunters, painful separation from family members, and gruesome injuries and death. Heidicker draws inspiration from classic authors Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft, and weaves in a very well-known children’s book author into this very book; young readers who love a scary story will enjoy this, but it’s not for those who are easily upset by animals getting hurt or struggle with the harshness of nature.
The most wonderful part in my reading this (aside from enjoying the adventure and the amazing artwork by Junyi Wu) was how it reminded me of discovering books about animals in my childhood, such as ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ ‘The Wind in The Willows,’ and ‘Watership Down.’ I enjoyed these with my dad, and they fueled my love and compassion for animals. I expect many readers who will enjoy this book will be or are animal-lovers too, as Heidicker has embodied the curious and mischievous nature of foxes so well in this book, and it’s really hard not to love them because of it. This deserves to be a children’s animal classic!
**Thank so much to the editor, Christian Trimmer of Henry Holt Books, for my early copy and the chance to read and review this book.
Release date: 8.20.19