A young boy's mother goes away in the night without saying a word, leaving him under the care of a stern housekeeper. But so much time passes that Samuel begins to think she didn't leave him at all, but rather something more nefarious happened—and someone is covering it up.
I love the idea of this book, but it didn't work for me. The good news is that it is a very quick, one-sitting type read that doesn't ask to be drawn out.
The comparisons to Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier lean solely on the fact that this is a gothic novel in a spooky old house. There is none of Jackson's deft character work and precise observations or du Maurier's florid and overwhelmingly beautiful prose. Don't go into this book expecting an interesting, classic, or stylistic tale like those authors offer.
The story stumbles repetitively along to a conclusion that is ultimately disappointing, not to mention confusing. The whole point of the book is to put the reader in Samuel's shoes and have us wondering along with him whether his mother is dead, who is involved, or whether everything is just as the housekeeper says. But Samuel is a child and is not a quick at putting together clues as any reader will be. This takes a lot of the tension out of the plot, and as any good reader knows, the person who seems the most likely suspect usually didn't do it.
My thanks to Hanover Square Press for sending me an advance copy of this book to read and review.
There is something lurking in the darkness and Andrew Cull has captured it.
The four stories in Bones all deal with death in different ways. The sudden, untimely death of a childhood friend and how that might haunt someone years later, a small town murder and how it affects a young girl, the chilling outcome of visitations from some unknown thing in the woods, and the death of a father and the haunting consequences for a mother of three.
All of these stories weave in and out of the supernatural in that masterful way that makes you check the locks on your own door and take an extra glance at the dark shadows in the night. Here, the dead walk along another plane of existence and they aren't the people you remember.
Cull creates believable situations and characters that you want to hear from. Each story brings something new: ghosts, monsters, a different kind of narrator, but it is obvious that Cull excels at stories about family dynamics.
At the very end, there is an extra short story of just a few pages that might have actually been my favorite piece of writing in the whole book. Very impactful and such a brilliant spooky story in just a few pages.
I can't wait for more from this author! Highly recommended!
An apocalyptic coming-of-age novel for millennials.
With themes of anti-consumerism, the immigrant experience, the meaninglessness of office jobs, and a darkly satirical tongue-in-cheek narrative style poking fun at the lackadaisical nature of our generation, Ling Ma manages to write a compelling story that still has a lot to say about the nature of our modern day society.
Candace is your everyday twenty-something who has little ambition but strives to do great at her fairly meaningless job, even when the world around her starts falling to pieces.
The more I think about this book the more brilliant I think it is. It is definitely a slower-paced read, and you want to take your time with it because the wit is seriously deadpan and easy to miss. At the same time, Ma is banging you over the head with her themes (in the best way): the zombie-like people cycling through rote, everyday tasks once they are infected with the fever? We didn't really need a fever for that. That is what we all do every day. Candace was one of them before they even existed and this story is her awakening, her slow realization of what is important and how to stand up and claim it.
Candace is a perfect representation of our generation. Her parents immigrated from China, so she grew up in the middle of two cultures—always feeling a bit of an outsider. She halfheartedly takes photographs for a blog, but doesn't have any real passion for anything. Everything in her life seems to have fallen in her lap, including her boyfriend and her job—she doesn't take action. She just lets things come to her.
The narrative moves back and forth between her pre-apocalyptic life and what happened as the fever began to spread, and her current situation, which has her traveling with a rag-tag band of survivors under the command and rules of one man.
I loved the nod to the anti-capitalist ideal of Romero's zombie film Dawn of the Dead brought into this book in its own completely and fiercely original way. This isn't fully realized until the end and it is so worth it.
The flashbacks give a lot of insight into how Candace became who she is. Her (breathtakingly dull) job, insights from her parents, interactions with her boyfriend—all of it sums up her connections with the world. But what do these connections mean? Do they really define us and tether us to reality? Who are we without them? And how can we redefine ourselves? These are some of the questions this book is asking.
A truly wonderful book that speaks directly about our modern age to the people who will soon be in charge of running the place.
My thanks to FSG for sending me a finished copy of this book to read and review.
Here is a horror offering for those interested in weirdness that can go over the top and the intrigue of hidden worlds beneath our own.
At it's core, this is a story of a father searching for his daughter and discovering a truth about his past that he's kept repressed.
For me, the narrative didn't keep me fully involved the way I expect a great story to. I found myself wandering off, thinking about other things; I wasn't invested in Jayce's narration and I found him to be a bit unrealistic.
For example, at the very beginning of the book, he is confronted with a strange and dangerous situation that should have been (1) downright terrifying and (2) extremely confusing to someone (like Jayce) who didn't have any knowledge of this other world. Instead, he brushes it off fairly easily. Later on, he accepts what is going on with almost no questioning.
Personally, I found it difficult to suspend disbelief about what was going on and I thought Jayce should have struggled with it more. It could have just been my mindset while reading, but the book never really picked up speed for me.
I don't tend to be too squeamish, but I found the strange sex scenes a bit off-putting. Jayce's sudden romance with one of the other characters struck me as so unlikely I found it almost absurd, and it seemed like it was only in the story for their weird amorous encounter that occurs at a really unfortunate and unpropitious time. I just want relationships in books to serve a purpose, not to be there just for a sex scene.
I think there is a certain type of horror reader that will really enjoy this book. Personally, I want something that I connect with more, characters that feel real, worlds that I can almost touch, not just weirdness and grossness. While this was a quick read, it just didn't check all the horror boxes for me.
My thanks to Flame Tree Press for sending me an advance copy of this book.
This is an important collection, and a hugely successful one in my opinion. I have already been sharing my love for it and will definitely be recommending it to people who want a good horror anthology, are interested in trying out some new authors they might not have heard of, or just can't get enough of the ladies of horror fiction!
One of the main reasons I was itching to get my hands on this book is because of the King curated collection of the same theme that didn't feature a single female author. Well, Amber Fallon was like, we don't need any smelly invitation to be in your collection, we will just make our own. And so she did. BAM.
There are some women who have already made a name in the horror community in this collection as well as some I'd never read before. I loved the diversity of the stories, the different styles, settings, and voices that were brought to the table.
These three were my favorites:
Damien Angelica Walters's story that opens the collection, "The Floating Girls: A Documentary"—someone remind me to go buy her new book IMMEDIATELY. What a brilliant, inventive story, one I will definitely read again.
"Wilderness" by Leticia Trent has major Shirley Jackson vibes mixed with Trent's effortless prose. Creeping dread levels high!
Nadia Bulkin's "And When She Was Bad" has me moving her books up on my TBR list. I've not yet read any of her books and if this story is any indication, I need to get started!
I am grateful, impressed, and overjoyed that Fallon curated such a great collection. In social and political times like what we are currently going through, it is even more important than ever to support artists, especially women. Writers get to the truth. Stories show us our fears, our weaknesses, and how we might persevere.
The horror genre tends to be male-dominated, but this is an in-your-face reminder that ladies have something to say too, and it's just as badass and downright terrifying as anything that men are bringing to the table.
I can't say enough good things about this book. It is one that horror fans should definitely collect and take note of—these writers are damn talented and I can't wait to uncover their backlists and see what they might come out with next.
My huge thanks to WordHorde for sending me a copy of this one to read and review.
Eleanor has a crap life. But I immediately was drawn into her self-deprecating commentary, her often impolite bordering on straight-up offensive behavior, and her startlingly clear insights into herself and human nature (though these thoughts rarely stop her from making bad decisions). She is a great character.
This book definitely lives on the speculative side of the tracks, though I'm not sure I would classify it as horror. For me, it didn't hit that point of creeping dread or terror that I reserve for horror novels. Instead it stays on the humorous side and slips into the weird with potentially a bit supernatural.
I am not quite sure how to interpret this book, and that's something I like about it. The book is set up as though you are reading Eleanor's private blog entries, and at the beginning they seem fairly normal, but as the book progresses and strangeness ensues, I wasn't quite sure if what was going on was what was really happening, if Eleanor was beginning to break away from reality, or if it was something more supernatural altogether.
Holding the reader suspended like this is one of my favorite techniques in fiction and I thought it was done superbly here, with a slow descent into the weirdness that, like the frog in water that's beginning to boil, you aren't fully cognizant what's happening of until it's scalding your skin.
The book is definitely a rumination on cancer, personal (and/or real) demons, expectations, and the paths our choices take us down. It has something of an allegorical feel to it, but I can't quite put my finger on what it all means. It is one I will be contemplating for a while!
Mostly I was just along for the ride. Eleanor is such a unique and interesting voice, and the narrative of the weird and creepy small town of Talbingo kept me involved and wanting to know what was coming next. This story won't give you all the answers and it definitely doesn't stick to a paint-by-numbers sort of narrative. You won't find conclusive endings here but you will find something completely worth reading.
Thank you to FSGxMCD for my copy of this one to read and review.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.