In this novel, we follow Tamon, a dog displaced by the earthquake and resulting Tsunami that hit Japan in 2013. Each section he has a new person who needs to help Tamon and also needs Tamon's help. Seishu Hase has written a tale about the hard journey it takes to come back from tragedy, the sacrifice and will, and the knowledge that what’s happened will never be erased, but family helps.
This a bloody and violent history of the struggle of power in Scandinavia and England around the 10th century. This period has few actual records that are completely trustworthy, yet Tore Skeie brilliantly uses the poems of the Skalds to help craft his tale. This is a page-turning burner of a history tale that will reshape your understanding of this time period.
Vaca Vale is a wasteland in the Midwest, rundown and abandoned like so many towns. Focusing on an apartment complex called the Rabbit Hutch, Tess Gunty brilliantly takes us on a three-day journey through the occupants living there. The story of lives of Blandine (the central character we keep coming back to) and others is told in a non-chronological fashion as we wind through the days and history that brings everyone to the Rabbit Hutch during this time. The writing is mind-boggling, balanced and structured so that you go down every winding character's story as if you had overhead it while gossiping about the neighbors. Read this now!
Now we get Bobby Western's sisters tale. Alicia commits herself to a psychiatric hospital because, as we know from The Passenger, she has had delusions for most of her life. In a series of discussions with her psychiatrist, we are dazzled by clever wordplay, math, and the relationship between a sister and brother. This is a fast and challenging read. Cormac McCarthy has deftly fleshed out a brilliant mathematician in Alicia, who struggles with the world and how it works.
Erin's on-again-off-again boyfriend Silas finds a drug that allows him to see the dead. When he suddenly dies one day, Erin and her friends attempt to contact him. Clay McLeod Chapman amps up the anxiety and suspense in this drug-fueled horror novel about love and loss. Both Erin's friends and the Richmond scenery that they inhabit have storied pasts with sins in abundance. When the end came, it leveled me - such a great book!
American refugee Ron Patterson fled the country as the U.S. descended into civil war. Kalfus doesn't expound upon the causes or the specifics of the conflict; rather, he boils it down to us versus them, which seems like what is ready to happen about a million times every year. No other nation wants America's castoffs, so Ron has to keep his head down and not draw attention to himself. It's a very uncomfortable turning of the tables, seeing our emigrants treated the way we treat the immigrants coming into our country. There is a very unfinished quality to the book that I loved. Nothing is overly detailed, Ron could be any American, and we are left wondering what becomes of him at the end. An interesting thought experiment that casts American exceptionalism in its true colors.
Graham Robb combines decades of experience into this interesting pairing of travelogue with French history. Each chapter in France is a self-contained story, focusing on a region or tale that Robb goes to explore. Some of my favorite sections included the inquisition and a map that details one specific tree. I learned a lot from this book on France that I had not known but found utterly fascinating. A fun read that makes me want to, well, not bike France, but perhaps ride the rails through France.
Bobby Western is at a crossroads when we meet him, diving in the Gulf of Mexico and trying to find a sunken airplane. He is haunted by the memories of his sister, who committed suicide some time ago, and whom he harbors some unbrotherly feelings for. Cormac McCarthy introduces us to a plethora ingenious and complex characters that philosophically propel Bobby towards making a decision that he can't bear to consider. This is an amazingly original story that McCarthy weaves together, one that will have me thinking for quite a long time.
Candace Millard delves into the history of the expeditions of Burton and Speke as they try to discover the source of the White Nile. The logistics were mind-boggling, and the amount of supplies and the number of people it took to make the trek seemed like overkill - until it wasn't. And then the food began to run out. The amount of illness and its severity visited upon everyone made me wonder what form of insanity these explorers had to have suffered. The individual personalities and vistas are fascinating. Candace Millard follows the fortunes of these two British fellows along with Sidi Mubarak Bombay, who was brought in to handle working with local African groups. Bombay is the real reason this expedition didn't fail spectacularly as the two Europeans worked against each other. Another great historical adventure that opens our eyes to an era that I just don't understand anymore but found amazing.
Bill Bear lives in a future that has gone through several Covids and Ukraine War-like instances. The US is a bit of a disaster, and Bill makes a living as a courier. He mostly moves people and objects and does the odd cleanup and assassinations if called upon. He is a master of living on the fringes, outside the system, a ghost with no real identity. So, when he is in the middle of a contract job and one of his burner phones goes off, it freaks him out. Nobody should have any of the numbers of his phone at this point, but that's when more of them go off, with a very insistent person on the other end about to change Bill's outlook on life and royally piss off Bill’s employer. Dan Chaon provides a road novel, a rundown, and a harsh future world. While I don't want to live there, I loved reading this bleak future of ours.
Claire Kohda has written a coming-of-age story, but it's about a vampire. Lydia is a young vampire living on her own for the first time, having just put her mother in home for her signs of dementia. Lydia doesn't know any vampires except her mother, so that is where all instruction has come from. Her mother taught her the vampire side of them was evil and needed to be suppressed. Their food of choice: pigs blood, never human. Out into the world, by herself for the first time, Lydia navigates a new job at the Otter, a new studio that she has all to herself. She befriends new people awkwardly. As it becomes harder to source her food, and her job becomes less interesting than hoped for, Lydia struggles with her human half versus her vampire half; her constant hunger versus social conventions. A brilliant book about an outsider trying to fit into a community that doesn't exactly fit who they are or who they hope to become.
Todd, a high school teacher and single Dad, runs into Jack; his high school bully. Todd is hesitant to interact with him, but his son really takes to Jack. Remembering his high school days, Todd begins to seethe with pent-up emotions and feelings. His ex-wife is attempting to get a hold him (she misses her son and wants to reconnect), Jack reminds him of the humiliations and uncomfortable situations of the past, and his son is bonding with the man who made his life miserable. It's all too much, and what comes next is dark and horrific but only takes a moment. The spiral of the story whips the reader down and down until the final resting place is revealed in all its shocking and damaged depths. Hawk Mountain consumed me with its brutality and wonder.
A good portion of my youth was spent playing D&D and reading Dragonlance and Forgetten Realms novels. I went to Gen Con and ate up all that was RPG culture at the time. Before reading this book, all I ever knew of TSR was their initials on the spines of their products. Ben Riggs has done a deep and extensive dive into TSR history, charting their beginnings in Gary Gygax's basement all the way to Wizards of the Coast rescuing their legacy with an epic buyout. He discovered that it was not just one mistake or symptom that caused the unraveling of the Lake Geneva gaming company but a series of them that over time trapped them in a corner with no way to free themselves. First, though, Riggs tells the story of the rise of TSR, how they broke ground and started something that people desperately wanted. Then TSR doubled down on their ingenuity to start a publishing book line to help deepen the lore of their products, which brought us some of the greatest writers in their genre and era. That small town in Wisconsin housed some of the greatest creatives and artists working in the gaming industry. Riggs does an amazing job of highlighting both the success and failure of one of the great iconic gaming companies.
Logan Ramsey is attempting to live a life that makes up for his Mom's ultimate failure, which caused a massive famine and killed millions. Twenty years later, he is part of a government organization that hunts down scientists and others modifying DNA. On a mission to recover an illegal package which they think contains altered DNA of some form, Logan is caught in a bomb blast. The blast introduces a virus into his system that begins changing his DNA. Logan's life is about to turn upside down as he must flee from family and friends for their safety. Blake Crouch uses this novel as a platform to express our collective anxiety of the future of homo sapiens and Earth. The science is fascinating as always with his books, and the dire warnings are completely well researched and accurate. Another blast of a book from Blake Crouch.
Anne Heltzel has put a disturbing ring to the term Mother in this book. Maeve is born into a cult called The Mother Collective, which has extreme views on motherhood. Maeve’s best friend is her cousin, Andrea, who makes Maeve promise she will never leave. When Maeve is caught in a tight spot, she flees and enters foster care. Years later, Andrea reaches out to reconnect with Maeve, and that is when some real creepiness reintroduces itself. There are some very graphic scenes that left me squeamish, but Heltzel does an amazingly dark job of weaving a perfect trap for her character and not triggering it until Maeve is almost too far inside. Really looking forward to what twisted ideas she can come up with for what should be normal, comforting life experiences. Mother will never mean the same thing to me.
WOW - this was one amazing flashback of a read. I got hooked into Chuck Klosterman's prose as he walked us all through the decade's touchstones: from Nirvana to Garth Brooks (my Mom was a huge fan), from Reality Bites to American Beauty, from George HW Bush to, um... George W Bush, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the fall of the Twin Towers. It's that and so much more. Klosterman really delves into what it meant to live during the Nineties, an era with virtually no internet, no cell phones, or cable choices, and why so many things are impossible to happen again. I learned so much I ignored on my first go around through the decade! Such a great read!
Ashley Hutson's absurd debut novel is a revelation. Bonnie wins the lottery, and not just a little win - think the biggest win you can remember, then triple it. She suffered some major trauma which has blended into the background of her life. Upon winning the lottery, she buys a remote piece of land and builds a replica of her dream sitcom show, Three's Company. Bonnie wants to disappear so completely into the sitcom, and she has every little detail replicated that she possible can. From the decor to the TV shows, Bonnie spares no expense for historical accuracy. This book is a deep dive into a person's mental illness brought on by life's many dangers and her attempt to escape from them.
Art Barbara, not the real name of the protagonist, is a bit of an outsider growing up. How much of one? Well, he decides that a good extracurricular activity for his college applications would be to start a community service to help funeral homes with individuals that don't have anyone to mourn them. They will perform the role of the pallbearer. A bit odd. Not getting many other students to join, he almost has to shut it down when Mercy walks in. A friendship forms between them - a bit dysfunctional, also a bit odd - that follows them through their life. While reading Art Barbara's ‘memoir,’ Mercy adds her own notes into the margins that makes the reader question the validity of the memoir itself. This book will give you the creeps and make you question what everybody's reality really adds up to. Who actually witnesses the truth, or is it just our own truth that works for us? Another fantastic book by Paul Tremblay!
I never know what I’ll get when reading a Sjon novel, and this was no exception - a perfect book for our political times. Sjon starts at the end, with Gunnar Kampen, founder of the New-Nazi movement, dead on a train. Looking back at Gunnar’s life, we can see how his life opened him up to such horrible and dangerous ideals. The banality of evil lures Gunnar in and completely envelops him. Sjon doesn’t hammer you over the head with his themes, but he quietly demonstrates how insidious fascism can be and how it lures people to its cause. A perfect read.
Not an easy read, especially right now. Kalani Pickhart tells the devasting story of Russia's last incursion into Ukraine in 2014. Alternating between four characters in a non-linear fashion, we experience the tragic history that Russia has influenced over Ukraine. What's lost in all the madness of history are the stories of the individuals lost to events bigger than themselves; Pickhart has given us a glimpse into these four fictional characters that represent their lost voices. Lyrical and haunting, I learned so much reading this amazing novel.
After terrorist attacks quiet and travel bans are lifted, Bertie and Kate take a trip to Paris to see the Louvre. They meet a stranger who tells them he can get them into the Louvre on a day that it is closed. So they enter the museum and are soon stuck in a time loop. They lose each other, but only Bertie realizes it. This is a quiet and disturbing view of how relationships change, happen, and end. A really brilliant novel.
This book was thrilling, crazy, and pure fun. Using COVID as the starting point, we follow Jamie Gray as he’s ousted from his tech job only to become a delivery person for that same company. Then he delivers to an old friend who offers him a job of a lifetime - a dangerous and unbelievable job. An easy choice for Jamie; he takes it! I couldn't put this book down - it was exactly the book I needed right now.
January Cole works at the Paradox Hotel across the way from a time terminal. Yes, the super-rich can now travel back in time (though not to the future, for various reasons). January used to monitor the timeline to make sure that nobody tried anything disruptive, like maybe trying to kill or help Hitler. Or bring dinosaurs back. She had to stop when she began displaying symptoms of becoming 'unstuck,' meaning at random times she would be thrown back into her own timeline to relive random events. So now she runs security at the hotel, while the government is trying to sell it. Sadly, her disease ramping up, she thinks there is a dead body that only she can see. So many moving parts, this was one fantastic time travel mystery.
I am a relative newcomer to Andrew McMahon's music career. I only discovered his amazing music when “Cecilia and the Satellite” was released. I was hooked, listening to everything he produced, from his earlier bands to his newest stuff on constant repeat. Now I’ve seen him in concert at least a dozen times, and while the music has some difficult material being sung about, Three Pianos really gives the fans a backdoor glimpse at what he experienced in his life while the music was happening. Take a dive with Andrew and experience this heart-wrenching and painful memoir of a life that led to such inspirational music.
You knew that teaching climate change in America wouldn't be a pretty picture, but I am more disturbed than ever before. Climate change deniers are working the old Big Tobacco playbook, and unfortunately we don't have time to mess around with them. Earth doesn't have the time. Katie Worth found out that the textbooks that even discuss climate change at all don't teach it as fact but as something that can be “discussed.” Science isn't real, if you haven't been paying attention to the news. Big money is masking the elephant in the room, but at some point the elephant will sit and smoosh us all. I think they are hoping to be gone before that happens and push it onto the next generation to clean up their mess. Such an eye-opening and frustrating book.
Winston Barnes, Sheriff of a tiny North Carolina community, is awoken one night in 1984 to news of an unknown airplane coming in at the local airport. Upon investigating, he finds the plane is empty, barely contained to the runway, and there’s a dead body near it. Wiley Cash spins his tale out from this tight moment in time to explore everything from racial tensions to drug smuggling to families being upended by tragedies. This is more than just a mystery or whodunit, it’s a story about relationships between fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters. This seven-layer salad of a novel surprises with each unfolding scene, and the last layer has the punch to your gut that will leave you mute. I am such a fan of Wiley Cash, and you should be too.
An entertaining yet sobering look at how climate change has affected our world - not in some coming-soon-to-you preview, but how people, animals and environments are forever changing right now. More than once, the book left me feeling very dejected and terrified at what we face in the coming decades. This is not a new argument; this is not something that has snuck up on civilization, and we are past the time for turning away from the stark realization that we are losing glaciers and snow (and the important melt that comes from snow that keeps areas from drought in the coming summer). Porter Fox introduces the reader to some amazing people, some of whom have lived through horrible experiences like wild fires, and some who are trying to geoengineer the earth (think floating sea walls) to help protect our shores. Is it too late - will we completely lose our winters? Only if we don’t at least try to help those on the front lines deal with climate change.
Miranda’s brilliant career as a stage actor was halted by a fall that broke her hip. After surgeries and therapy, she is still in chronic pain. Hobbled, she has become a teacher for a theater department, and they put on a Shakespeare play every year. Everyone seems to have written off Miranda’s pain as in her head, and they (her ex-husband, her best friend, and her physical therapist) can barely hide their disbelief that she has any pain. After a mutiny lead by student who wants a different Shakespeare play, Miranda is distraught and in pain. She drowns her sorrows at the pub, where she meets three mysterious men who know all about her and her pain. After a golden drink, Miranda is able to start transferring her pain to others, and her life takes on a new light. Much like Mona Awad’s Bunny, All’s Well starts to get more and more surreal and fantastical. I loved every minute of this crazy, amazing novel - Mona Awad is madly creative and inventive. Bravo.
This story was amazing. Told through three alternating timelines: 1) In the 1790’s with a pair of brothers (one is a faun) trying to make their fortune by planting apple orchards ahead the coming expansion of humanity into the Ohio Valley; 2) one of the founders of a corporation attempting to save the planet from humanity basically cooking it to death, attempting to stop said corporation from playing god; 3) and way in the future, most of North America is covered in ice, there is a lonely person keeping watch and ready to reprint the world. Have we gone too far down the climate change path that our only option is to store up the natural world in computers in hopes of one day being able to repopulate? Have we ignored all the warnings that the world has sent us? I loved the way each of the stories played off the others, thematically and directly. It was pure brilliance. This will be on my list as one of my favorite reads of the year.
Christopher Buehlman hasn’t just written a really good epic fantasy; he has taken the reader and dunked them into a world full of joy, wonder, heartbreak, foulness, horror, and hope. Once I started the book, I couldn’t put it down. The prose! And the dialogue was so perfect, I was laughing out loud from the snark that Kinch Na Shannack narrated his story with, and I was cringing from vicious, nasty goblin attacks or towering giants tossing trees. Kinch owes the Takers Guild for his education, and when they tell him to accompany a knight on her quest, he has no other option – he must go. Know that there is so much to this book; Buehlman will take you down crazy paths that will delight and fright, but I will not say any more about the surprises that are in the book. Go read it now!
Okay, so Stephen Graham Jones has written his love story to slasher films. This has it all: gore, suspense, red herrings, and a Final Girl. However, this book has more in it than just another horror novel - it has underlining message about trust. Who is safe to trust? Are they trustworthy? Is there anyone to open up to and trust? Because trust has been shattered and is never able to be reformed. Jade is a half-Indigenous girl of 17 who is obsessed with slasher films. She knows them all, knows their individual story arcs. And now she feels like she is living in one and knows who the Final Girl is. Her job is to prepare her for the bloodbath that is destined to come. Perhaps. I've come late to the Stephen Graham Jones game, but his last two books have been real gems.
Mirin Fader lays out the unlikely, hollywood-esque story of the rise of Giannis, from living in poverty in Greece to the top of the NBA as a two-time MVP of the league. This is a look at how Giannis is Giannis. How Milwaukee was the perfect city to fit his blue collar work ethic and humbleness. It's about how family is the most important thing to him, and where you come from doesn't define you but can be a spring board to fight for a better life. Mirin Fader did hundreds of interviews, far and wide, to cast the largest possible net. Reading some sections of the games Giannis played, I remember being there, sitting in my seat, cheering and watching it unfold. Now, though, I have more perspective. I am even more in awe of Giannis and his family. At the end of it all, one major takeaway for me from this book is that nothing else matters if your family is not there supporting you and you lifting them up, too.
Did you like Mark Watney? Then, you will absolutely love Ryland Grace. Who is he? Waking up in a strange environment, Ryland can remember little about his life other than his name. He’s in a bed with tubes running into pretty much every bodily opening he has, and the other two other beds have dead people in them. In short order, he figures out that he is humanity’s last hope to save Earth. The writing is funny and pitch perfect, the science is wildly creative and carefully explained. This is the book I was not expecting to be blown away, by and I loved every second of it.
Nate and Mads move to rural Pennsylvania with their son, Olly, after he has some unfortunate breakdowns at his school in Philadelphia. Not so bad until you find out that they are moving into the house where Nate grew up with an abusive, evil father. On top of that, this area has some real scary history - serial killers, a haunted tunnel, an old mine disaster, and a park filled with weird moving boulders. Olly meets an older kid named Jake, and from there stuff starts to get real creepy as the past starts to catch up to the family. So much happens in this twisty tale - I loved this book, it took me back to horror of the eighties, from King to McCammon to Koontz.
One day, four Native Americans go off hunting where they shouldn't have been. They slaughter a bunch of elk. One was pregnant at the wrong time of year, and Lewis has a hard time of it. He moves off the rez and tries to leave the past behind. He finds out the past is never too far away and that it can hold grudge forever - even off the rez. The other hunters have similar fates in-store that befall Lewis. They all see the Elk-Head Woman and know what it means. Stephen Graham Jones depicts Native Americans on and off the rez; the hardness, the bleakness and briefness of life there. There's some beauty in there, too. The sweat lodge scene and the meaning behind it was really engaging and great, until the killing started. This book will kick out at you when you least expect it to, and you will love it.
After a virus put animals on the brink of extinction (humanity helped by killing all animals they thought could get them sick, too!), you would think we would become Vegans. Guess again. Cannibalism has become state sanctioned, and Marcos heads up one of the meat processing plants. Agustina Bazterrica takes us brutally by the hand and drags us through the entire process, from the ranchers that raise the ‘cattle’ to the meat processors and tanneries. To say that some of the descriptions are disturbing is putting it mildly. The story really kicks off when Marcos gets a gift from El Gringo, a female FGP. Not understanding what to do with her (as he says, 'he kills head, he doesn't breed them'), he ties her up in the barn and goes off to work. Through Marco's eyes we see and hear all the horrific ways humanity has created 'special meat' for the world to eat, and how that meat is treated, hunted, and used. This book is not for the squeamish - I LOVED IT!
Here’s a story of two best friends who are attempting to move beyond the bubble they have kept themselves inside with the same routines ruling them. Leonard’s mother has passed away, and he is caught a bit off guard when he realizes a woman has taken an interest in him. Hungry Paul is comfortably still living with his parents, though his sister is getting married and attempting to get him to move on with his life. Through their friendship with each other (and Hungry Paul’s parents and sister) these two socially insecure men are able to move onward without changing who they are or what they believe. A heartwarming tale that will cause you to smile and laugh as you read. It did for me.
The third book in the Lady Astronaut series turns its focus from Elma York, who was hurtling toward Mars in the last book and still is in this one, to Nicole Wargin. Married to the Governor of Kansas, which is where the capital is located due to the meteor strike in the first book, she is a fierce astronaut in her own right living on the moon colony. With the climate starting to heat up, the stakes in this book do as well. The Earth Firsters are up in arms about the space program eating the money up and being used to save the few, when the many will never get off the planet. Shouldn't the focus be to save as many people as possible? When extinction is on the table, then all bets are off. Nicole Wargin is trapped on the moon with at least one member of the Earth Firsters, who is bent on sabotaging the space program at any cost. Mary Robinette Kowal does an amazing job at looking at the personal ramifications as well as the political and social ones of a world hurtling towards disaster. Can't wait for the next volume!
Anna in a hench. She just doesn't have an evil boss to work for, but that soon changes after she uses a special temp agency that places henches with villains. The work she does for her super-villain doesn't involve anything physical (they have special skills people who they called Meat for that) or require driving or proficiency in IT; nope, Anna is particularly skill at boring office work - excel sheets and whatnot are her forte. After a run-in with Supercollider (think Superman), she's sent to the hospital with a messed up leg and a termination notice from her employer. That's when she starts down a path to scrutinize Heroes and what they actually do for the world. Broken down but not out, Anna starts to gather her life together again, and for the first time, people start to take notice of her. Natalie Zina Walschot created a world where all our assumptions are turned on their heads, and the villains are hiding in plain sight with a smile on their faces.
There are instances in this book that make you cringe, that make you want to toss the book to the side and scream, and for all that Jeannie Vanasco tells us, I still couldn't put down her story of confronting the person who sexually assaulted her in college. It was person she trusted, a person she counted on as a friend. It wouldn't be the last time. Yet, Jeannie does an amazing and courageous feat of contacting him years later and engaging him in a meaningful dialogue. She examines her own feelings around the assault, and she sees with more clarity as time has given her space. She's not giving him a voice but rather making him own up to what he did and finding out what his motives were. He destroyed more than trust and more than friendship. Jeannie's writing grabbed me as few memoirs ever do, and it brings such strength to her story.
There's a cafe, and in that cafe there's a seat, and from that seat a person can travel in time. There are a lot of rules (you can't leave your seat or you are instantly transported back), a time limit (you must finish your coffee before it gets cold) and you must except that you can't change the present, no matter what you do. Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a story told in four parts, four different people have a desire to travel in time for various reasons. There are some seriously sad moments in this book, but overall it's really a story about these characters having a moment they wanted back just so they can move on in their life without the a huge what-if weighing on them. The story is simple, the emotions complex, and I really enjoyed my time spent in the hole-in-the-wall cafe.
We could learn a lot about the times we live in (while dealing with Russia and Putin) if we took the time to read about Stalin. Stalin was playing the long game in the 1930s and balancing his schemes on what he was seeing in Nazi Germany, France, and Britain. His goal was never to get into a war to just win it, but to gain as much political advantage as he could while forcing the other powers to battle each other. We know about the antisemitism that plagued Germany at this time, however we gloss over how much Stalin purged his own ranks throughout the 30s. Letting Hitler run amok in Europe was, as Sean McMeekin details, allowed by Stalin (or at least Stalin didn’t care to get involved, see the non-aggression pact signed between Hitler and him) to stir up as much turmoil as possible. In the end, it worked. World War II causalities were huge on the Russian population, but Stalin would be fine with that (in fact, he was good at killing his own people in the large amounts as well). It helped Stalin secured enough political capital, slave labor and new territories to grow the Soviet Union into a world power.
Wow - this book sneaks up on you. I thought it was one thing, then the story turns and barges off in another thrilling direction. Vern has fled from Cainland, a commune led by her cultish husband, Reverend Sherman. She is pregnant as she flees into the woods, and she will stay there for the next four years. As long and as far as Vern gets from Cainland, its tentacles have latched onto her and won’t let go. She begins to transform because of her life lived there. She is hunted because of what she might become and fears for her children. It’s enough to get her moving back into civilization to rejoin the world. It’s not easy, as the hunt is quick to pick up again as soon as she leaves her forest home. Rivers Solomon has written a magical novel that is steeped in so much hard history to acknowledge: from American government sanctioning cruel experiments on black citizens to general hatred of the unknown or different. This is a book of transformation and redemption.
Anthony Doerr intricately weaves together three story lines, scattered throughout time, in a brilliant tapestry of wonder. What holds this all together is an ancient Greek text that should’ve been lost to time. As we bob in and out of the different characters’ stories, we see how the text moves and influences their decisions and actions. We see the power of a written text and how people will devote resources and lives to the discovery and protection of the written word. There is so much to talk about in this book; please read it so I can discuss it with you. An amazing, epic novel!
James Kennedy bent my brain into odd shapes with his stellar novel, Dare to Know. The protagonist works for a company that can tell you when you are going to die. Down to the minute. It takes a lot of math and an understanding of physics, particularly of thanatons, a particle that is present when each person dies. The big no-no in the company is looking up your own time of death – but when the protagonist is stuck in a situation where he thinks he has the potential to die, he runs the assessment to find his death date, only to find out that he already passed it and died minutes ago. Which can’t happen; the math is never wrong. Except that it is. This knowledge leads the reader down the rabbit hole of how this death-telling business came to be. We follow the protagonist through his life in flashbacks, from his summer with Renard in science camp to his girlfriend, Julia, in college, and on to his early days at the company. They have puzzling, bizarre effects on him as he makes his way through a new non-death world. I couldn’t put this book down, and I had to reread the end twice to figure out the mind melting conclusion that the author spun.
Tales from the Café takes us back to the time traveling of Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Familiar faces bustle about the café, and one in particular still haunts the time traveling chair. Four stories again weave together to further the myth of the café, and so many questions I had at the end of the first one are answered here. There's a bit of calm and patience that permeates the stories, which unfold through various characters’ empathy towards others that they can't connect with in the here and now. Such an amazing story - I really hope the last book will be translated as well.
The behind the scenes of Shaun of the Dead! Such a great movie deserves a great book about it. And does this one pay off! Reliving the movie chapter by chapter was amazing – seeing the inspiration and the dedication to create a movie that was by no means a sure money maker was enthralling. Finding out that Simon Pegg and crew were nervous it wouldn't make it overseas or a big splash in general at the theaters seems weird in hindsight. You’ll delight in all the nuggets of information that come to light in these pages. You will rush to rewatch Shaun of the Dead and replay scenes again after reading various sections in this book. Pick up this book right away!
K is fascinated about coincidences and random facts that continually pop up. Enter Rabbits - a game you only know you are playing when you are already neck deep into it. K meets the legendary, Alan Scarpio, who is reported to have won the sixth iteration of the game. Why? He tells K the game is broken and needs to be fixed before the next iteration starts or there could be deadly consequences. Before more can be discussed, Alan ends up missing and K starts finding clues everywhere. When the game begins, people start disappearing and dying all over the world. The world, the human civilization depends on this game, even though nobody knows who started it or how old it really is. A brilliant idea that kept me plowing through the book looking for clues trying to see how or if K could save the world. So many twists and mind games going on in this one, I feel like the Terry Miles really can surprise everyone who reads this.
Max Barry's take on a first encounter with aliens is quite brutal but fantastic. This book is a perfect mix of Aliens meets Enders' Game, with a bit of 2001 thrown in for good measure. Four human crew members travel on the ship Providence Five. Their only job is to make sure the AI runs the ship smoothly as they jump to battles with aliens who are out to murder every last one of us. As things begin to go awry, and the humans are cut off from communication with Earth, the aliens become smarter and the AI becomes bolder; each of the crew becomes isolated by their own beliefs and mission objectives. Everything is battling each other, and in the end there's an awakening and retribution of sorts among the crew and AI. This is one of the most interesting, philosophical science fiction romps that I've read in a long time!
Noah Turner's family has been haunted by a monster since before he was born. It has been around since his grandmother and has been keeping track of his father and his family for quite awhile. His father attempts to come to terms with feeling of being watched and haunted. He's a horror connoisseur, introducing his wife to the best horror has to offer: from movies to books to haunted houses. When things start going really weird with him, he begins building a haunted house at their home. Along the way the family suffers many set backs. Noah, though, befriends the monster and learns to be friends with it. This book is the ultimate homage to classic horror like H.P. Lovecraft and his kind. Shaun Hamill brilliantly unravels the story over the course of many encounters, which caused me to doubt what I thought I knew about the story. The end of the story was sucker punch for me as well as for others. Can't wait to see what comes next from this author!
Willis Wu has aspirations to become Kung-Fu Guy on a cop show called Black and White. He's not Kung-Fu Guy yet, but maybe someday, if he can move up the ranks of bit Asian roles given to him. Willis wants this so bad that reality has blurred a bit for him and his real life shows signs of being a scripted as well. I started to question whether Willis really knew what he wanted or if he was presetting himself a path that would be difficult for him to veer away from. Charles Yu made this book look so easy, smooth and fun to read, which he's demonstrated in all his past works as well. This book is dripping with pop culture references, stereotypes and lots of lots of humor. Interior Chinatown delivers several knock out punches at our culture and society.
A green utopian community, Greenloop, is nestled out in the wilderness not too far from Mt. Rainier. The story unfolds via a journal found in the aftermath of a volcanic explosion. The demise of the community is not linked to the volcanic activity but to an ancient myth that becomes frighteningly real to the residents. The strength of this novel lies with the characters. Max Brook built a complex cast that leaves you reeling when the Sasquatch arrive. As the group is surrounded, they must come to terms with what must be done if they are going to survive. A seat-of-your-pants reading experience - brilliant!
This book starts off Zachary and his master attending a traveling show called Nicholas Fox's Exhibition of Medical Curiosities, it sets the stage for everything that is to come. Women who are with child are encouraged to leave the tent in case what they see interferes with the development of their unborn child. We are in a time when science and medicine are still beholden to myths and folklore. Soon enough, Zachary and his master, who is the town surgeon, are called away to the bed of Mary Toft. She has recently had a miscarriage, so they are quite surprises by the news she is in the midst of labor. No human child comes forth, only parts of rabbits, and then more rabbit parts show up every couple of days after. When confronted with the impossible or the horrific, how do you react to it.? Would you consider real? A miracle? Would it even occur to you that it could be a hoax? Dexter Palmer leads us along these paths where Zachary is exposed to all sorts of unfamiliar, mysterious and dark facets of human life at the time. Eventually, Mary Tofts condition catches the attention of London and she is carted off there for closer observation. London brings all it's own complications and horrors to contend with Mary and her rabbits. A marvelous and unexpected new novel from Dexter Palmer!
Massachusetts is overrun by hyper form of rabies that moves super-fast - it takes just hours instead of weeks for the virus to move from the wound to the infected's brain. After that it's lights out, but first they will try to bite whatever is near them to spread the virus on. This is the world that Nats lives in right now. After an infected barged their way into her home, she has been bitten and needs to make it to where there are vaccines. Time is ticking. Did I mention she's also very pregnant? Attempting to survive in the chaotic nightmare, Nats picks up her longtime friend, Rams, who's a doctor and can help get through the crush of people at the hospitals. Rams does everything she can for Nats, but will she be able to help her when she really needs it? Paul Tremblay has delivered another pulse-pounding, jet-fueled story that whips by in a blur and left me out of breath.
From the opening pages, Stephen Chbosky hooked me like few horror novels do nowadays. This is classic horror, where the author builds the suspense, provides misdirection and makes the extraordinary seem possible in our world. I had flashes for Stephen King or Victor LaValle here. Christopher and his mom move to a remote town after they fled in the night to get away from the latest belligerent boyfriend. Everything seems to be going okay (though they have little to no money, friends or really good job opportunities) when Christopher goes missing for six days in the woods. Nobody can find him, they scour everywhere. He shows up, saying his friend helped him find the way out. When he tries to describe him, no one recognizes it and they chalk it up to Christopher's imagination. However, this is when things get very strange and interesting with surprises and chills coming at you from all directions. Just watch out for the deer. An amazing novel that was well worth a 20-year wait.
John Chu is for hire - only in the online gaming world of Call to Wizardry. For people who don't want to waste time leveling up characters and doing mundane tasks to create armor and weapons, there's sherpas like John Chu who will do all the hard work on character creation. They just have to pay for it. It's a nice cheat that gamers are always looking for. Matt Ruff is brilliant in the setup of the MMORPG world. At first, I think he's going to explore the VR world that is coming down the pipeline, but then it opens up as a thriller, spy story, and then it pivots again and again. If it leaves you a bit confused and lonely, then Matt Ruff has made his point.
After Manfall, a time when the world's male population has been decimated by a virus, Cole and her 12-year-old son Miles, who's immune to the virus, are on the run from the U.S. government and more desperately from her sister, Billie. Cole's only desire is to get her son back to South Africa. The only problem is how to get over the border and away from U.S. without getting picked up. Hiding out and keeping low, Cole and Miles figure different ways to move across the country, elluding her sister and her associates. A very dark world, where the adage power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is front and center. Much like the issues we are going through recently, there isn't an answer to the pandemic - that's not this book. Some of the issues in this book outline how we fill in the holes of a society when a significant portion of the population dies off. What becomes important then? Miles being immune is like a lake filled with gold, for some see salvation while others see money. Greed moves them to make dangerous choices and alliances. Well worth the long wait between novels by one of South Africa's best novelists.
Los Verticales was more than a tower, it was a huge monument to a self-sustaining society; a form of Utopia. Like all Utopias, it collapsed, quite literally, killing everyone. Well, almost everyone. Bernard starts transmitting over the radio station that he worked for, and the whole world starts listening and calling in. His brother, Orville, has joined the dig to attempt to unearth him. Orville phones into Bernard's studio every night, which has been a ratings boost for the station. When the head of marketing attempts to recruit Orville to sprinkle in some product placement while in conversation with Bernard, Orville gets a bit indignant. From there the story starts to gather momentum into crazy coincidences and some amazing characters. This is the first book in 2020 to read - you won't be able to put it down.
Seventeen years after what transpired in Bird Box, Malorie, Olympia, and Tom are living by themselves in a camp in the middle of nowhere. When a man knocks on the door claiming to be from the census and wants to collect everybody's names and stories, Malorie snaps back into fierce mother-mode. She tells them to be quiet, but Tom asks if he could leave a copy of what he has accumulated. Thus does Josh Malerman open Pandora's box for this family. Malorie picks up on the themes of the title character being controlling, cold, and strict as she raises her kids. Having grown up, they both start to rebel in their own ways that could lead to danger - and danger comes from more than just the creatures you can't look at. A worthy successor to the first book.
When shadows start to disappear from the people in The Book of M, their memories are not far behind. They forget how to read, drive, and possibly all their family. The world gets thrown into chaos as people become desperate to find out how not to lose their shadow. Max and Ory are at a wedding in a mountain resort when the worst hits (all of Boston loses their shadow at once). They attempt to stay put, away from the madness of civilization. Max loses her shadow and flees when Ory is out foraging, not wanting to be around when she would forget about him. Max goes out looking for her. Both of their stories branch off and Peng Shepherd brilliantly develops a world balanced upon sanity and distress. A world that ties together memory and experience to make up who we are. What happens when memory fails and slips away? Do we care less about the people in our life or do we hold on to them tighter? Such an amazingly crafted novel.
Yes, this book is another dystopic look at the future, but it is so much more than that. Humanity has been pushed behind salt lines to keep away from a deadly tick infestation. As in every society, there are the haves and the have-nots, so you have people who live behind the salt lines in relative safety, while the unprotected live in fear of being bitten by a tick. Holly Goddard Jones does a superb job of describing the consequences of such a bite happening in many, many ways. Plus the stamping of the ticks out of the skin was both disgusting and great. There are great, flawed, and well-meaning characters that are stuck in horrible circumstances. A group of Zoners (that is what the people living behind the salt line are referred as) travel outside to see the natural world. Precautions are taken, rules are set, and the group pays a crazy price to go on this mini trip. Of course, that is when everything goes wrong. At the end, I wanted to continue the journey, perhaps one day I will have the opportunity.
Reed King paints a bleak, dystopic portrait of our future, and he will make you cry and laugh about it all at once. The journey that Truckee embarks upon is full of danger and wonder, and in his pursuits, he picks up a ragtag group of individuals that are perfect companions to go on this treacherous path. Reed King thinks of all ways our country and society could mess things up and rip apart at the seams: political instability, environmental catastrophe, corporate greed, foreign invaders, and just plan complacency are here in spades. The world building is smart and detailed, and it left me blown away by how King slowly unveiled his world through twists and turns in the plot. Pick this book up - it's jaw-dropping brilliant!
Such a raw, festering wound kind of read--when it got really bad, you just wanted to itch it away. Fourteen-year-old Turtle lives with her father, Martin, outside of town, in a remote area. Only her Grandpa lives anywhere near them, and she only sees him occasionally for a game of Cribbage. This is where Martin is able to craft Turtle the way he sees the world. He doesn't see much in the world that is good, except for Turtle, and she is everything to him. Or so he will lead you to believe with his words, his actions are a completely different matter. You will end up hating her father, but also, you will see the true paranoid brilliance in the monster that Gabriel Tallent created. As the Turtle unfolds the story for us, we are treated to brutal events that shape her life and we witness her survival instincts kick in as she begins understanding what the world could be as opposed to the one she knows. This is a gripping story I will never forget, not one single scene.
It’s senior year of college and Stephen Florida plans, big plans He was to go out at the top of his weight class in wrestling at the end of the season to solidify his legacy. But with one collapse, one injury, those plans go awry. The book becomes more disturbing as Stephen falls down a very black hole that has him performing crazy antics and driving away his only two friends. He's self-destructive and nuclear to all those around him, and yet I still rooted for him to rebound, get healthy, and win. Habash's writing locked me into the character's mind set, speeding along with his dangerous ideas - I couldn't put the book down! At the end, Stephen Florida is just a kid who is looking to make sense of the world that doesn't make sense. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Parts of this book made me squeamish, which is hard to do. Jessa is a taxidermist, just like her father - he taught her everything he knows. She takes care of the dead animals and gives them new ‘life,’ and at the same time, she is struggling to exist in hers. The love of her life, Brynn (she’s had an intense love for her since they were kids) has left her and her brother, who is Brynn’s husband, and their two kids. The family is run down, literally and figuratively, when her father commits suicide and leaves everything to Jessa to keep the family going. Jessa can’t cope with any of the gaping holes in her life without large amounts of alcohol to harden her resolve at dealing with anything in her life. When her mother starts to act out using stuffed animals in art installation, Jessa loses control of everything and spirals even further out. Kristen Arnett uses flashbacks between the chapters expertly, demonstrating how this family got to where it is, and how the family could possibly make it to some sort of safe zone. Perhaps? A real gut-wrenching novel that had me sweating in the middle of winter (Florida sounds awfully hot and humid all the time) and wondering just how many people still want taxidermy done. A great read!
I was floored by this book - Karen Thompson Walker has outdone herself with this gem. In Santa Lora, college students begin to fall asleep and can't be woken up. It spreads to the surrounding town, which is then quarantined. We follow several people as they live through this phenomenon, and most, if not all, succumb to the sleeping sickness. Their dreams are enlightening, frightening, mystifying, and perfect for pondering about long after I finished the book. Were their dreams real, did they tell the future, were they happy, or were they terrifying? Walker dissects the lives and dreams like a surgeon and leaves us to frame our own conclusions. I loved this book!
Candace finds a group of travelers leaving the New York area after a fever has taken hold of the world and reduced it to tatters. The story unfolds in the present, run by a religious man with a plan that everybody has to adhere to, and in a series of flashbacks to before the apocalypse. Ling Ma has created an incredible character to tell this dystopic unraveling of civilization and to, at the same time, make some sly observations about the current world we live in. Are we truly free? How do we know if we are? Candace has to make hard decisions that in the past she was not up to, but the future is ever changing. In the end, Ling Ma provides a lot of answers for the reader, but she says the most by what she leaves for us to imagine on our own.
Laura van den Berg's The Third Hotel has a dreamy, suspenseful quality that lulled me into an other-worldly state. Clare, who recently lost her husband to a freak accident, goes to Havana for a horror film festival he was signed up to attend. While she takes in the sights and goes to film parties, she thinks she spies her husband. At that point, Laura van den Berg took me on a metaphysical journey of grief, loss, and regret as Clare stalks him and remembers their relationship. She has to question what is real and what really matters. A haunting, lovely novel that is worth a second reading.
Christina Dalcher has given us a warning. A very compelling and significant warning, taken in light of our current political climate. In the world of Vox, women are only allowed 100 words a day. Go over and the counter on their wrist will give them a nice shock. Go over a lot and it will be more than a little shock. The religious right have taken over the ear of the U.S. president and started something called the Pure Movement. Women are not expected to work, they are expected to stay at home and keep it going for all the men. Women not conforming to that stereotype will be sent away. Yet when an accident happens to the brother of the President, it is a woman they need help from. This book has a lot to say about inaction and the consequences of doing nothing. An impressive and amazing debut novel.
Joyce Carol Oates juxtaposes two periods of time, 1959 and about 80 years later, in this ingenious new novel that depicts both societies having the same kind of anxieties from differing sources. Adriane commits a form of treason in the future and is sentenced to spend four years in the past, starting in 1959 Wisconsin. She is to attend University and blend into the environment, while having no real meaningful contact with anybody. This is a stressful situation to stick anybody in, and Adriane is socially handicapped by being from the future and not understanding how to talk to other people until she finds another prisoner from the future. Does she dare speak to him? Does she dare acknowledge to him that she is not from this time? Could he be a spy, and if so, will she be "deleted?" She is so lonely and desperate to go back to her family, and those two conflicting sides will seal her fate. A masterful story.
This book takes the pulse of our world, with corporations trying to eat each other up to make new mega corporations, and then pushes the envelope even further in that direction. Mal is such a person, who looks at the world of Goliath-shaped entities and throws the stone in hopes of making a better world. Not a perfect world, as climate change has warped Mal’s world, but at least it’s a world where friendships matter. Where the small things in life make a difference. Such a fun read!
Morningside Heights chronicles a family’s attempt to make their life work through an unexpected curveball. There is real love between the parents, Spence and Pru, and their child Sarah, and even for Arlo, Spence’s child from a previous, short-lived marriage. When Spence is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, everyone’s life is turned upside down. While this story centers around Spence’s decline, it really is Pru who shines. She loves her husband, though she never conceived of becoming a caregiver and slowly dissolves into his disease. It’s heartbreaking and uplifting all at once. A great testament that life continues to evolve and rebuild in the face of adversity.