Some books coming out this month that I thought looked good.
The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude
Publication: May 3
Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.
Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
Publication: May 17
All the world forgets me. First my face, then my voice, then the consequences of my deeds.
So listen. Remember me.
My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. We’ve met before – a thousand times. But I am the girl the world forgets.
It started when I was sixteen years old. A slow declining, an isolation, one piece at a time.
A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher who forgets to chase my missing homework. A friend who looks straight through me and sees a stranger.
No matter what I do, the words I say, the people I hurt, the crimes I commit – you will never remember who I am.
That makes my life tricky. But it also makes me dangerous . . .
The Sudden Appearance of Hope is the tale of the girl no one remembers. But this gripping story – of love and loss, of hope and despair, of living in the moment and dying to leave a mark – is novel that will stay with you for ever.
Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Publication: May 17
From the author of The Art of Lainey and Liars, Inc. comes a fresh, contemporary story about one girl’s tragic past and a boy who convinces her that maybe her luck is about to change. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen or Jenny Han.
Maguire knows she’s bad luck. No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch. But then on her way out of her therapist’s office, she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star, who wants to help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away, but staying away may be harder than she thought.
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Publication: May 24
San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.
On April 18, an historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the ‘bossy’ cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Publication: May 31
Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.
Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults’ lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.
Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.
A good mix for the month of May! Most of these are large books, near or over 400 pages. The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North is 480 pages. I hope all these big books are worth reading.
Girls? Are you listening? I’m here with a bit of advice. Now, I apologize for sounding like a bitch. I’m well aware this isn’t any of my business but this seems to be happening to everyone I know lately and I’m honestly convinced that nobody has told you flat out to just stop it. What am I talking about? Well, two things actually.
First a little background; I have a friend of a friend who is suffering the consequences of her bad choices. The first bad choice was that she smoked during her pregnancy. The second bad choice is that she got pregnant with her boyfriend. Why am I calling the latter a bad choice? Because that boyfriend abandoned her when the baby was a month old.
Now, that boyfriend is a dick. A grade A asshole. That’s on him. He’s scum. That is in no way her fault. But I see it happening time after time. This friend of a friend has a 9 year old daughter whose father also skipped out. So, I guess my first piece of advice is you better be absolutely fucking sure your baby daddy is going to stay. Honestly, no babies until you have a ring on your finger. Use birth control when you fuck your boyfriends, ladies. Get the Pill. Make him wear a condom. Have your own condoms so you are sure about them. Use both the Pill and a condom. You make sure you have that man’s balls nailed to the floor before you go popping out any kids.
Yes, kids are amazing and awesome and fulfilling and all that bullshit but single parenthood sucks. Being on food stamps sucks. Being on welfare sucks. Trying to raise a kid on your own, child support or no, sucks. Do everything in your power to avoid it. You make sure that the dick in the relationship is going to stay there after playtime is over.
Now back to the first piece of advice. Do you smoke? Stop it! We all know that smoking is unhealthy. Why are you still smoking? Quit. Quit now. Did you just say it’s too hard? You’re under a lot of stress? It helps you relax? Tough. Suck it up, you piece of shit, and quit. Do you want to be dead by the age of 65, like my Mother? Do you want to be dragging an oxygen tube around the house, like my Father? No, you fucking do not. Quit.
Are you pregnant and smoking? Here, let me apply my boot to your face. What the hell would possess you to smoke while pregnant? Do you want to know what happens when you smoke while pregnant? You get a month long stay in the hospital, a tiny preemie baby that needs special care, and medical bills up the wahoo. Because you are a fucking idiot.
Friend of a friend’s water broke about 9 weeks early and she was rushed to the hospital. Luckily, baby appeared to be fine and what followed was about a month long stay in the hospital trying to keep the bun in the oven as long as possible. She kept losing amniotic fluid the whole time. She would sneak out in her wheelchair to smoke in the hospital courtyard. Her work place basically just fired her. (Don’t sign shit, people.) Then baby appeared to be in distress and there was an emergency C-section done. That was at just 33 weeks and she came out into the world septic and needing special care. The mother’s C-section wound then got an infection and is still not healing right, even a month later. She has a wound pump and has been out of work for about 3 months now.
And then her boyfriend leaves her. So, when I say you better lock down the dick in the relationship, I damn well mean it.
Don’t smoke while pregnant. Don’t smoke at all. Quit. Right now. Save yourself the money and a world of pain. Fucking stop smoking.
And, of course, there is no telling what problems the baby might have later in life because of this.
Stop it. Just… stop it.
Do not be the friend of a friend.
Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Published: March 22nd 2016 by Dial Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 247 pages
Genre: Paranormal, Magical Realism, Messed-up Teenagers, Mystery
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.
What really happened?
Someone is lying.
There is a Wicked Witch, a Wolf, and a Hero in Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke, in that order. Wink Poppy Midnight is a small book at 247 pages and POV jumps between the three characters named in the book’s title. Yes, they all have weird names. We never settle into one character for long and I found this kept me from really sinking into the story. I was never able to connect with the story or the characters. I also find it hard to really care about characters that are just all over nasty and Poppy’s cruel, manipulative, and sexualized behavior irritated me. I tend to not care about characters that have no redeeming qualities and thus didn’t really care if she was dead or not or what she was doing with her apparent cryptic letter writing. I found Poppy childish, like a toddler having an embarrassing tantrum in the middle of a store, and unappealing as a character. I also found it annoying that she was so obsessed with Leaf while he seemed to not care anything for her and was so ugly to Midnight, who might have genuinely cared about her if she hadn’t been so horrible to him.
I liked Wink, up until the end. She is just the type of witchy and interesting character I tend to like in stories. I don’t want to reveal too much but I was unhappy with the evolution of Wink’s character. Her motives turned out to be more selfish than I thought. Midnight is a little spineless and honestly needs to stop letting girls lead him around by the ‘you know what’. I was happy with the actions he takes at the end. Midnight needed to become his own person, away from Wink and Poppy. I loved the structure of the plot and the use of fairytales. Of course, every time I came across a new fairytale, I had to write it down so I could look it up later. I’m weak. The lyrical style to the writing was lovely and the imagery was whimsical and chilling. If the author had stuck with one POV or written third person omniscient, I would have probably loved this.
I don’t remember teenagers being such psychos – even when I was one! – but everyone in Wink Poppy Midnight is crazy cakes. I understand Poppy’s parents treat her like a doll, left up on a shelf until wanted, but her extremely destructive and hurtful behavior really makes me dislike her as a character. Wink’s manipulative actions are just the flip of the same awful coin. The only smart action Midnight takes is leaving; otherwise he is an uninspiring character. The plot was interesting but the constant jumps in POV kept me from really enjoying the story. The more the book progressed, the more scattered it became, leaving me slightly confused as to what was happening or why. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke was quirky and unnerving with hints of paranormal but was mostly just a bunch of kids whose parents really need to pay closer attention to what their off-spring are doing before the little nutters actually manage to kill someone.
“Aerity…” Her father paused as if the words he was forming pained him. “I must ask you to sacrifice the promise of love for the sake of our kingdom.”
She could only stare back, frozen.
When a strange beast terrorizes the kingdom of Lochlanach, fear stirs revolt. In an act of desperation, a proclamation is sent to all of Eurona—kill the creature and win the ultimate prize: the daughter of King Lochson’s hand in marriage.
Princess Aerity knows her duty to the kingdom but cannot bear the idea of marrying a stranger…until a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention. There’s no denying the unspoken lure between them…or his mysterious resentment.
Paxton is not the marrying type. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He’s determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast—but the princess continues to surprise him, and the perilous secrets he’s buried begin to surface.
Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ tale “The Singing Bone,” New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins delivers a dark fantasy filled with rugged hunters, romantic tension, and a princess willing to risk all to save her kingdom.
I’m going to start screaming and I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop. I really wanted to love The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins but it commits one of my biggest pet peeves in the YA genre. Nothing drives me up the wall like a male love interest who is an asshole to the female main character but the girl still has feelings for him because, oh my god!, he’s just the hottest thing ever! This type of bullshit belittles women and I hate it. No woman should put up with any type of abuse and the fact that this type of trope relationship is used so much in YA books frankly sickens me. I don’t care how handsome, how mysterious, or how fuckable a man is, if he’s a jerk, for whatever reason, that is it. Knee to the nuts, drop dead you asshole. Crap like this just perpetuates the idea that men can do whatever they want and women should just accept it and not complain and, gag me, even find it appealing. #notromantic #notsexy #stopit
Beyond that, The Great Hunt is bland and a slog to get through. It is repetitive and dull. We all know where the story is going and Higgins’ attempt to use sexual tension between freaking everyone to spice things up is just painful. The more interesting characters are kind of underdeveloped. I would have loved to see more about the Amazonian like Zandalee but they drop out of the story just when it could have gotten interesting. Aerity, our resident princess and prize, is lackluster. There is some attempt to make her interesting but it just comes across as weird. The king, Aerity’s father, fell in love and married a commoner, a circus performer. When she has children… she teaches them circus tricks? (It’s Cirque du Soleil in Scotland!) Aerity’s little sister, Vixie, does horseback tricks and Aerity does aerial gymnastics. It was just off putting and out of place. It’s used as a plot device at the end to allow Aerity to do her part to kill the beast but, honestly, it wasn’t needed.
Every man in this story is an asshole and the ones who aren’t, are background noise. This book is plagued by cardboard characters and predictable plot. It had an interesting concept but I was expecting more. I did enjoy some of the world building. I always find magical systems in fantasy books interesting and Higgins’ Lashed were a fun concept. But most of the book is spent languishing around the castle and I never feel the urgency of the threat of the beast or any of the dark atmosphere we were teased with in the blurb. What little action there is, is short lived and then we return to the castle so our characters can wallow in their emotions and lust. The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins had some potential but was derailed by slow pace and irritating romance tropes.
A couple of the books I noticed are coming out soon and look fairly interesting.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Publication: April 5
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
No matter the cost.
Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner
Publication: April 5
Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren have lived together since they were children. They are called sisters. They are not. They are called equals. They are not. They are princesses…and they are enemies.
Not long ago, a brutal war ravaged their kingdoms, and Rhea’s father was the victor. As a gesture of peace, King Declan brought the daughters of his rivals to live under his protection—and his ever-watchful eye. For ten years the girls have trained together as diplomats and warriors, raised to accept their thrones and unite their kingdoms in peace.
But there is rarely peace among sisters. Sheltered Rhea was raised to rule everyone—including her “sisters”—but she’s cracking under pressure. The charismatic Cadis is desperately trying to redeem her people from their actions during the war. Suki guards deep family secrets that isolate her, and quiet Iren’s meekness is not what it seems.
All plans for peace are shattered when the palace is attacked. As their intended futures lie in ashes, Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren must decide where their loyalties lie: to their nations, or to each other.
Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw
Publication: April 19
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.
When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. Scarlett never considers what might happen if they were to find out what she truly thinks about them…until a dramatic series of events exposes a very different reality than Scarlett’s stories, forever transforming her approach to relationships—both online and off.
Love, Lies, and Spies by Cindy Anstey
Publication: April 19
Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.
Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.
Down With The Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Publication: April 26
There’s a reason they say “be careful what you wish for.” Just ask the girl who wished to be thinner and ended up smaller than Thumbelina, or the boy who asked for “balls of steel” and got them-literally. And never wish for your party to go on forever. Not unless you want your guests to be struck down by debilitating pain if they try to leave.
These are things Lennie only learns when it’s too late-after she brings some of her uncles’ moonshine to a party and toasts to dozens of wishes, including a big wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was abducted and murdered six months ago.
Lennie didn’t mean to cause so much chaos. She always thought her uncles’ moonshine toast was just a tradition. And when they talked about carrying on their “important family legacy,” she thought they meant good old-fashioned bootlegging.
As it turns out, they meant granting wishes. And Lennie has just granted more in one night than her uncles would grant in a year.
Now she has to find a way to undo the damage. But once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…
So many good books coming out in April. I’m especially looking forward to Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here because of the fanfiction. I like seeing fanfiction writers in my books because I are one! (I said that one on purpose. It’s not a grammar mistake.) Down With The Shine also looks really interesting.
The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary
Published: January 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Format: Paper Book
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Spiritualism, Mythology, Religion, Japan, Journey
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.
But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked… and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth – or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.
I adore Japanese culture and was very excited to read The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary. Spiritualism for Asian cultures is a bit different than anything Western society usually deals with. For them, spirits are close at hand and a part of everyday life. It’s hard to explain the duality of the world in Asian cultures and how they see the spirit world and the human world very close together. Modern society and the youth are a bit removed from this but their spirituality is much closer to their daily lives than Western society would experience. It helps if you watch a lot of anime. (points at self) I’m rather surprised Tanquary did not use the word ‘yōkai’ to describe the spirits. Yōkai is a blanket term for the spirits like the ones found in The Night Parade, although it loosely translates into ‘demon’ or ‘monster’. Other Japanese vocabulary is sprinkled around the text, so it seems odd to me that ‘yōkai’ wasn’t used. The foreign vocabulary is probably going to confuse younger readers. No young kid is going to be culturally savvy enough to know what a torii gate is but I digress.
The Night Parade is your standard ‘journey’ plotline. The main character goes on a journey and becomes a better person for it. Saki is a brat and just the type of kid I would have smacked across the mouth if I meet them. It’s with her journey through the spirit world and dealings with the creatures there that she is able to grow up and overcome her selfishness and gain respect for others. My real enjoyment of The Night Parade came from the Japanese mythology and creatures. I adored the imagery and the descriptions of the spirits. Most of the reviews I’ve read compare The Night Parade to Spirited Away, and I guess if that is your only source of Japanese culture, then it’s pretty accurate. I much prefer xxxHolic or Mushishi or even Natsume Yuujinchou. All of them deal with the spirit world interacting with the human world and how each affects the other.
The plot is familiar and unoriginal. It is the Japanese setting and culture that elevates The Night Parade above merely mediocre for me. Our main character can be annoying but the supporting cast, especially the three guides and the other spirits, are interesting and appealing. The Japanese setting and culture is fascinating and beautiful. The book’s atmosphere and environment were better than its execution, in my opinion. The novel feels slow in parts and I really wanted to know how Saki was going to handle the return to Tokyo after defying her horrible best friend Hana but we are left hanging in that respect. Most of my enjoyment of The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary came from the Asian culture, rather than the characters or the writing. It’s nice to see more diversity but the story still felt kind of jumbled.
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Published: March 1st 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Romance, Retelling
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.
From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.
A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy.
I have a love for all things Sherlock Holmes. You can thank PBS and Jeremey Brett for that. I spent many a Saturday morning watching Holmes reruns when I was a teenager. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is not the first time I’ve come across a book inspired by the great detective and his faithful doctor or even the first time I’ve read one that changed one character’s sex to female. I always dread when this happens because, inevitably, the author uses it to create some sort of awkward and unappealing romance between the pair. Such happens in A study in Charlotte.
In this world, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were real. Arthur Conan Doyle was Watson’s literary agent. Both of the men have descendants and those (poor) descendants are where our story focuses. First of all, the characters themselves. I adored our female Holmes. Charlotte is everything you might want in a Holmes character and I love how Cavallaro works with young Charlotte, how growing up under the shade of THE Sherlock Holmes can leave a person worse for wear. The Holmes family grooms their children to be like Sherlock. For Sherlock, it was nature, but for Charlotte is was nurture. She was forced into this and that abuse (let’s face it, it’s abuse) has molded her into a strange homage to her ancestor but has left Charlotte herself with a bevy of mental problems. Can Charlotte deduce and reason crimes and murders? Yes. Is she mentally sound? No.
The Watson character has it no easier. James (for some reason his nickname is Jamie but it’s barely used in the text, confusing more than a couple of people reading the book jacket blurb) is basically manipulated into meeting Charlotte , has anger issues, and has the unfortunate fate of trying to save the heroine with the power of his love. (gag) James is really brainwashed into loving Charlotte by his father, who himself is obsessed with the Holmes family. Seriously obsessed. Watson Sr. is crazy cakes, people. Charlotte and James are two very troubled kids drowning under the weight of their famous predecessors. They are both so broken that it’s hard to look away.
I was enjoying A Study in Charlotte immensely until it became clear that Cavallaro was angling to have them end up in a relationship. Because a boy and a girl have no ability to be anything other than romantic lovers. (That was sarcasm right there.) I liked Charlotte and James’ friendship. They are both trying so hard (and mostly failing) to cope, that finding a kindred spirit is surprising to both of them. Then it derailed into relationship land. I did enjoy the rest of the book. The use of actual Sherlock Holmes stories to pattern the murders after was fun. The tongue in cheek bashing the characters do over the inaccuracies in the original stories was entertaining.
The actual mystery is so-so. It started out really tight and griping and then sort of peters out. Charlotte is touted as being really good at solving crimes, Scotland Yard asks her to solve crimes even though she’s a teenager, but then it turns out she’s really not all that great at it here. I don’t know. Maybe I was just frustrated and annoyed that the plot didn’t seem to be going anywhere about 3/4 of the way through the book. I don’t know how a non-Holmes fan will take this book. If you don’t know what to expect with a Holmes character, Charlotte will come across as unlikeable. Most of the draw here is the Sherlock Holmes angle. Other readers might not like this as much. I think most of my enjoyment of A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro was derived from my fondness for the Sherlock Holmes stories rather than any quality of this book.
For fans of Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, a beguiling and disarming debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor, and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.
In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up.
Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan’s lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan’s library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan’s past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan’s mind.
The Children’s Home is a genre-defying, utterly bewitching masterwork, an inversion of modern fairy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, in which children visit faraway lands to accomplish elusive tasks. Lambert writes from the perspective of the visited, weaving elements of psychological suspense, Jamesian stream of consciousness, and neo-gothic horror, to reveal the inescapable effects of abandonment, isolation, and the grotesque – as well as the glimmers of goodness – buried deep within the soul.
Have you ever felt like you’re are just too dumb to understand a book? The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert made me feel like that. The first half was interesting. A disfigured recluse, Morgan, suddenly finds his home full of mysterious children, who come to him in ways he can’t quite figure out. They offer Morgan acceptance through their innocence and a connection to the world beyond his estate and the high walls that surround it. But the children are peculiar and seem to have an objective that Morgan cannot figure out. They do not act as he thinks children should act and have an uncanny ability to know when their noise is not wanted and when danger is near. Then the story takes a sharp left into weirdville and lost me.
The Children’s Home had a lot of elements that I enjoyed. I really loved Morgan. He is an interesting main character. He drifts through the house like a ghost until events force him to reattach to the world. The kids are creepy. We’re not sure if they are or aren’t a product of Morgan’s lonely imagination. It has a gothic setting in a world apparently ravaged by some disaster or war, a world we’re not sure still exists outside the estate’s walls. There was a period where I thought the world had ended and Morgan was the last person alive, everyone in the manor a product of his mind. The tense and eerie atmosphere is chilling and a delight. But the second half is incomprehensible.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out what the second half is supposed to mean. Is there a wider meaning to the vague World War 2 gas chamber reference? Is it commentary on how we are (literally in this case) sucking the life out of the younger generations just to keep functioning as a society? Is there something with parallel universes going on that is in no way explained at all? Is David some sort of messiah? Are the children some work of a magical source? As Morgan asked himself many times in the story, who are these children?
The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert has some compelling and violent imagery. The events are unsettling and memorable. It is a sinister gothic horror but lacks resolution into a satisfying whole. The reader becomes impatient with the children’s evasiveness and we have no resolution by the end. We are left just as clueless as we started. We are given no context during the story and learn no details of the state of the world or the source or purpose of the puzzling children. In all, The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert left me confused and unsettled, wondering, like the characters, if I had somehow missed the point.
Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
Published: January 26th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 360 pages
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery, Monsters, Zombie
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.
Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.
Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.
Debut author Kali Wallace interweaves folklore and myths from all over the world in this stunning novel about the heartbreaking trauma of a girl’s life cut short and her struggle to reconcile her humanity with the monster she’s become.
I don’t really like zombie books. I usually end up bored. (And have nightmares. Not because the books are scary but because my subconscious is a little shit. “Oh, you read about zombies today? Well, let me destroy the world and kill your family and friends in graphic color and full surround sound!” Yeah.) But I was pleasantly surprised with Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace. Right off the bat we see that this is not going to be your normal zombie story. Breezy Lin may have risen from the grave but she’s not the shambling rot we normally see in zombie stories. Instead we get an interesting character with the unique ability to spot murders and give them the punishment they deserve.
As with YA books, our main character is a bit too put together to really believe. If I had woken up buried in the earth and then killed a man with only a touch, I would be in hysterics and a gibbering mess. Even if Breezy’s parents are scientists that taught their daughter to be rational and calm, a teenager is going to lose their shit. Breezy deals with her awakening rather calmly but such is the nature of YA books. Wouldn’t be much of a story if the main character freaked out first thing. My only real complaint is the direction the plot veers off to. When Breezy leaves after waking, I thought we were going to get a plot where she hunts down her killer and figures out the strange circumstances of her zombification. Instead, these events are kind of not dealt with. Maybe it was because of the guy she killed when she woke up, who might have been a magician or might not have been, we never know for sure and then the reveal of her killer is kind of tacked on at the end, like an afterthought. The majority of the plot revolves around the world of monsters that Breezy finds herself in and the wacko cult of hunters she runs afoul of. There isn’t a lot of world building and I would have liked to know more details of the monsters Breezy discovers.
Kali Wallace says there is no sequel to Shallow Graves, which is a shame since I think there is so much to work with here and Breezy’s story is left so open that a lot more could be done with it. I’m not usually one to advocate sequels but Shallow Graves feels like there is more to tell. I hope Wallace decides to write more. There is a vagueness to the whole novel that could be better dealt with by a sequel or two but, if left as a standalone like Wallace said, just means it feels incomplete and messy. Secondary characters are a little light on detail and pretty cardboard feeling but Breezy is an interesting and compelling main character. Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace is a unique take on the zombie story and is a creepy atmospheric read I think people will really enjoy.
WHO KILLED GRETCHEN MEYER?
Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information…could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?
At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement, and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus, the artist, the screwup, the boy she might be falling for have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night…who could it have been?
With a friend like Gretchen Meyer, who needs enemies?
We have another murder mystery with Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth. We start the story off with our heroine running for her life from some unseen attacker and it goes kind of downhill from there. The beginning is exciting and interesting but the rest of the plot is repetitive and monotonous. It was frustrating and annoying. I was not impressed with Sonia’s lackluster Nancy Drew impression. The more we learned of Gretchen, the less I cared about her death. It seemed she’d fucked her way through every male in town and had blackmail material on everyone else. As more of Gretchen’s horrid personality was revealed, I was wondering why everybody was bothering to investigate her murder. The whole town was probably thinking “good riddance”.
So many freaking characters. Several times, somebody would pop up and I’d be like “Wait? Who was that again?” I had a theory about who the killer was before the half way point and was disappointed to find I was right. Hainsworth was trying for shock factor and originality but fell short. I had no sympathy for Gretchen and thus had no problem figuring out the killer. If Gretchen had not been so universally horrid to everybody in Hidden Falls, including her own sister and best friend, I might have been more mislead.
The first half of Take The Fall was enjoyable to read but as the book progressed, the plot became too circular and I became bored. An unsympathetic murder victim left me uncaring about finding the perpetrator. I did like the use of POC characters, including a Latina main character and a Middle Eastern supporting character. Take The Fall was dark and twisted, showcasing the worst of teenage humanity. Some may find the open-ended conclusion disappointing. I was fine with it but others disliked it. I didn’t love Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth, it lacked a spark to really make it fantastic, but it was an entertaining read. If you really like murder mysteries, you should give it a try.