Review: Here We Lie

Instagram: @suspensethrill

Book Title: Here We Lie
Author: Paula Treick DeBoard
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: None
Genres: Psychological Suspense, Domestic Fiction
Goodreads
Pub Date: 01/30/18
4 STARS

Megan Mazeros and Lauren Mabrey are complete opposites on paper. Megan is a girl from a modest Midwest background, and Lauren is the daughter of a senator from an esteemed New England family. But in 1999, Megan and Lauren become college roommates and, as two young women struggling to find their place on campus, they forge a strong, albeit unlikely, friendship. The two quickly become inseparable, sharing clothes, advice and their most intimate secrets.

The summer before their senior year, Megan joins Lauren and her family on their private island off the coast of Maine. The weeks go by, filled with fun and relaxation, until late one night at the end of the vacation, something unspeakable happens, searing through the framework of the girls’ friendship and tearing them apart. Many years later, in the midst of a political scandal, Megan finally comes forward about what happened that fateful night, revealing a horrible truth about Lauren’s family and threatening to expose their long-buried secrets.

**********

Paula is one of my go-to authors; after devouring The Drowning Girls last year I immediately consumed The Fragile World and The Mourning Hours in quick succession. I find her writing to be one of the finest examples of flawless character study around. While each book has a different theme, she manages to keep a tight reign on her cast, always ensuring that, what could be construed as the everyday mundane, is in fact transformed into a tense, unstoppable freight train of suspense. Last year’s The Drowning Girls was a domestic drama full of tension and suspense, and DeBoard hits us again with another tale of power struggles, this time in the woefully relevant arena of political scandal and sexual assault.

We’re dropped in the first chapter at a press conference where we are about to be hit with some truth bombs… But obviously not right away. That wouldn’t make for a very suspenseful story, now would it? 😉 We are immediately whisked away back (14 years or so if I recall) to where it all started, the beginning of Lauren and Megan’s friendship. These two couldn’t be more different, yet somehow their lack of similarities drive them closer than imaginable as they attempt to support each other through their own tragedies. If you’ve read the blurb then you can hazard a guess at where the story is going, which gives the book less of a mystery feel and more of a “tension accelerating toward a breaking point” experience.

The plot most definitely takes a backseat to the characterization, as it should; in books that have a widely written about plot, there needs to be detail in the flow of the writing that sets it apart from all the others like it. Here, and honestly in every book she’s written, the author does an exquisite job of connecting reader and leading cast. The girl’s relationship is relatable in the sense that us women have all been in a friendship that didn’t go the way we expected. There are a good number of friends I’ve made over the years that, for one reason or another, didn’t end up being the lifelong companions I expected us to be, and that is the minor theme that struck me the hardest here.

If you enjoy deep, well-defined, and gloriously flawed characters, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Here We Lie. I can’t express what a privilege it is to pick up DeBoard’s books and feel as if I’m chomping at the bit already to get my hands on another one of her delectable stories. They are the type of juicy, compulsive reads that aren’t cheapened by cliches and meaningless drama, yet make me feel as if I’ve bettered myself upon completing them. Highly recommended to women and men alike, and bravo to the author for creating such a well needed narrative for our country where the timing couldn’t be better.

*Many thanks to the author for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here. 

Advertisements
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dennis Reviews: 12/11/17

Instagram: @scared_str8

Book Title: Best Friends Forever
Author: Margot Hunt
Series: None
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Goodreads
Pub Date: 01/23/18
4 STARS

How well do you really know your best friend?

Kat Grant and Alice Campbell have a friendship forged in shared confidences and long lunches lubricated by expensive wine. Though they’re very different women—the artsy socialite and the struggling suburbanite—they’re each other’s rocks. But even rocks crumble under pressure. Like when Kat’s financier husband, Howard, plunges to his death from the second-floor balcony of their South Florida mansion.

Howard was a jerk, a drunk, a bully and, police say, a murder victim. The questions begin piling up. Like why Kat has suddenly gone dark: no calls, no texts and no chance her wealthy family will let Alice see her. Why investigators are looking so hard in Alice’s direction. Who stands to get hurt next. And who is the cool liar—the masterful manipulator behind it all.

**********

Margot Hunt’s Best Friends Forever is a deeply engaging, light mystery surrounding the unorthodox friendship between Alice Campbell and Kat Grant. Alice is a logician and former teacher turned children’s logic book writer, with a husband and two kids living in a modest household in Jupiter, Florida. On her way back from a family trip in New York, Alice meets Kat Grant, an extremely flamboyant, welcoming, and insanely rich construction empire heiress. The two women immediately hit it off and forge a friendship. Flash-forward to the present day, Alice is greeted by two detectives wanting to speak with her in regards to the mysterious death of Kat’s husband Howard. Howard was an abusive alcoholic, and a womanizing disgrace of a husband to Kat, so was his death a consequence of foul play?

Alice sits down with police and discusses her friendship with Kat, her marriage to Howard, and the background information that the police may find pertinent to the investigation. Afterwards, Alice is shunned and immediately ghosted by Kat and her family. Why has her best friend so able to immediately cut her from her life? Are the Grants hiding something? Alice quickly questions her friendship with Kat and everything she’s come to understand about the Grant family crashes into turmoil. How far will people go to manipulate the lives of others to get what they want?

Best Friends Forever is a fun read that is not only interesting, but also very easy to follow. It’s definitely not the most original story by any means, and I immediately knew how the story was going to unfold, but I kept churning through to the end. I just needed to know how it unfolded and if my suspicions are correct. Best Friends Forever intelligently portrays the depth of how low some people will go to prey on the weaknesses of others, while also showing the the facets of the human psyche. If you are ready for a light story for a rainy/lazy day, this book may be a good contender to pick up.

Instagram: @scared_str8

Book Title: UNSUB
Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: UNSUB #1
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Crime Fiction
Goodreads
Pub Date: 06/27/17
5 STARS

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?

**********

There comes a point in every bibliophile’s life where you find a book that is so unsettling, dark, and scary that it completely changes your perspective on how you view a normal thriller/horror read and how you view a masterpiece in action. Ladies and gentlemen, UNSUB is this masterpiece! Wow… I hope I can give this review any justice, but let’s see.

UNSUB initiates the story with father and police officer Mack Hendrix running a mission to capture San Francisco’s deranged serial killer, nicknamed The Prophet. The Prophet has been known to leave riddles to justify the murder and torture of people and has never been caught. Hmm… sounds like the Zodiac killer? Flash-forward to the present day, 20 years after Mack’s investigation has gone cold, young Caitlin Hendrix has followed in her father’s footsteps and has begun to pick up the pieces. After coming across a murder that is eerily similar to the plethora of murders done by The Prophet, the Bay Area police initiate a once-cold, now super-hot investigation for him. Caitlin’s life is completely engulfed in The Prophet’s sinister and wicked games, but can she crack the code and stop this sick and twisted madman before it’s too late?

As Caitlin gets closer and closer to the case, questions arise that need answers. Is this a copycat case? How and why has The Prophet returned after decades of tranquility? What do these riddles and clues mean? This killer tortures his victims before killing them, calls/contacts the victims’ families repeatedly to taunt and torment them, and speaks with the press—he has no conscience. What can Caitlin do that hasn’t already been done? Time is against her this time around and she needs to solve this case before it consumes her.

UNSUB is my first read by Meg Gardiner and I’m telling you now, Ms. Gardiner I AM AT YOUR MERCY. #queen #slay. I have never been so frightened by a book before—so frightened that I had trouble walking around my residence yesterday and ran to bed and shut the door! UNSUB is the type of book that not only resonates with any thriller book junkie, but will have a lasting impact on you. People are comparing this book to the tv series Criminal Minds, but I’ve never watched it. I can see people comparing this novel to The Saw Series, because it’s not only a crime-fiction horror, but also one big puzzle that you need to solve while reading. Forget about my 2017 favorite reads, UNSUB is the most intelligently written crime fiction novel I’ve ever read.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Dennis Reviews: The Naturalist

Instagram: @scared_str8

Book Title: The Naturalist
Author: Andrew Mayne
REVIEWED BY: DENNIS
Series: Naturalist #1
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Crime Fiction
Goodreads
Pub Date: 10/01/17
3.5 STARS

Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.

As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?

**********

If you enjoy the tv channel Investigation Discovery or shows like Forensic Files, then Andrew Mayne’s The Naturalist is the perfect read for you! It is a quick, dark read that doesn’t sugar coat the plot, while not explicitly getting too grotesque. The story starts off with Dr. Theo Cray being questioned about the disappearance of one of his past students, Juniper, who police claim has a direct link to Dr. Cray. After routine questioning, police confirm Juniper’s death as an accidental bear attack in the nearby woods. Dr. Cray, professor and biologist, can’t leave well enough alone because if Juniper was a dedicated student of his, she would know how to react to a bear in the woods. As Dr. Cray investigates the small Montana town that he’s visiting, he begins to see how a town crippled by drugs, poverty, and a lack of education can only continue on by keeping their darkest secrets hidden. Through Dr. Cray’s investigation, he realizes that things aren’t always what it may seem.

The Naturalist was very different read for me—it had a lot of science background in it that I was not familiar (nor really wanted to be familiar) with, while keeping me on the edge of my seat by keeping the mystery at bay. Dr. Cray was sarcastic, witty, and a profound protagonist for me. This book is approximately 400 pages, but the dialogue isn’t overtly sophisticated so you can easily brush through this read quickly. The Naturalist ‘s storyline was very original in a sense that it took key common themes (i.e.: drugs, town corruption, crime), and interweaving it into a robust plot development. I would also recommend anyone who enjoys anything by David Bell or Noah Hawley to definitely pick this one up. I immediately got Bring Her Home and Before The Fall vibes as I was trekking on with the story although neither book is similar in terms of content.

This book will not be for everyone—I’m telling you now. If you really aren’t into the multifaceted world of biology, genetics, DNA, etc; this isn’t the read for you. At points The Naturalist can be a little too technical and I had to catch myself from skipping through those sections. Once I was about 1/3 of the way into the story, I actually began to care more about the characters and was focused on finishing.

I was provided a copy of The Naturalist in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Wunderbooks PR, it was a pleasure.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Review: The Hazel Wood

Instagram: @suspensethrill

Book Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: None
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Goodreads
Pub Date: 01/30/18
5 STARS

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

**********

“Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”

You know those Disney princess fairytales, the ones where the damsel in distress is saved by Prince Charming and they get married and live happily ever after? Yeah, this isn’t that story. Think of the old school Brother’s Grimm fairytales, and then imagine something even darker and you’ll have a clear picture of what this book holds for you. That’s not a criticism; one of the surest ways to get me to commit to reading a book is to tell me it’s an old school fairytale. I am a hardcore sucker for these wicked little snippets into an alternate world, and this debut felt like it was written by a seasoned pro with all the bells and whistles you could ask for.

When Alice was born, her eyes were black from end to end, and the midwife didn’t stay long enough to wash her.

We’re dropped into the story about midway; the first few chapters are meant to give us some background on Alice, her mother Ella, and her grandmother Althea Prosperine, who became famous by writing a book of fairytales. This book was titled Tales From The Hinterland and it contained a total of twelve brief stories. The cool part about The Hazel Wood is that we get to read a couple of these first hand within the story (Three Times Alice and The Door That Wasn’t There), while also getting brief snippets from most of the rest of them toward the end. This aspect was so unique and compelling that I felt a little breathless at the end. I wanted every story verbatim! I feel like, if the author so chose, she could write Tales From The Hinterland, binding and fully fleshing out all twelve stories in a volume to sell as a companion novel and we the people would EAT. IT. UP. Seriously, please please pretty please?

So Alice remembers being kidnapped at the age of six by a strange man with red hair claiming to take her to visit her recluse of a grandmother, but she was never harmed and never laid eyes on Althea. Strange things begin to happen, such as Alice spotting the mysterious redheaded man a decade after her last sighting of him, her mother and herself receiving a letter stating Althea has passed away, and finally, Ella disappearing under very strange circumstances. Alice has no one to turn to other than a recently made acquaintance named Ellery Finch, who is a mega super borderline stalker fan of Althea’s work. His money and affluent nature allow them to forge a shaky bond and they decide to set off on a journey to do the very thing Alice’s mother warned her not to do-visit the Hazel Wood. <—Name of Althea Prosperine’s vast estate in upstate New York

I hated needing something from someone when I had absolutely nothing to offer back. You’d think, after the upbringing I’d had, I’d at least be used to it.

I wouldn’t call Alice a likable character, but she was certainly a compelling lead. I felt just as befuddled as she did along this journey; I honestly had no clue where this story would take us and was just as shocked as Alice at every twist and turn. While there was no sexual content whatsoever in this book (at least that I remember), it still made me give pause to what age range this book would be most appropriate for. Certainly the older side of the spectrum, as this was disturbing, unsettling, and contained a good bit of graphic violence/horror within the stories. I was warned many times over about how truly dark this book is, but I didn’t think it was something I’d blink an eye at, not with all the graphic murder mystery/thrillers I read, but this was different. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly provoked this sense of unease I felt; perhaps it was the not so light way the story was wrapped up? There isn’t much levity to be found here; if you’re the type of reader looking for a happy ending you most certainly have come to the wrong place.

Originally I gave this book 4 stars, but I’ve decided to bump it up to a full 5, seeing as it’s been almost a full week since I finished it and I cannot stop thinking about it. This quirky little novel has been jostling other stories I am currently reading, vying for attention in my head and further pondering, so for that reason, I think I need to give credit where credit is due. This book certainly won’t be for everyone, but I think the fans of dark fairytales and things that go bump in the night will wholly appreciate the author’s ability to conjure up such a complex tale that was detailed and, quite frankly, brilliant. Highly recommended!

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy.

Book #4 in my Nebulous November challenge!

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dennis Reviews: 12/04/17

Book Title: Sometimes I Lie
Author: Alice Feeney
Series: Sometimes I Lie #1
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction
Goodreads
Pub Date: 03/13/18
4.5 STARS

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

**********

Hold up, let me pick my jaw up from the floor please. Wow.

Alice Feeney’s Sometimes I Lie is a prime example of how unreliable narrators should be! We start the story with Amber Reynolds in a coma fighting for her life and confused as to how she got there. Her sister Claire and husband Paul are both extremely worried for her and can’t provide any additional information on how Amber ended up in the hospital. The points of view for Sometimes I Lie balance between current day comatose state Amber, the events leading up to how she ended up in the hospital, and a series of diary entries from the early 1990s. Together, each storyline compiles together to provide you with a robust, deeply rooted, and engaging narrative.

I really can’t go into the plot more than I already have and trust me, you’ll thank me for that later. One of the best unreliable narrators that has ever been provided to me is in this story. There were moments where I was completely shocked, confused, and engaged—all because this story is just one big puzzle, slowly giving you puzzle pieces as the story moves on. I enjoyed trying to follow the story, while being given a new sliver of information along the way. Sometimes I Lie started a little slow and disjointed for me which is why I cannot give this a full 5 star rating, but once the story began to unfold I was hooked! Sometimes I Lie can provide you all the similar characteristics that you’ve come to love about a psychological thriller, but without all the unnecessary secondary plot lines that are regurgitated from past novels to elongate the narrative. It’s a quick read, but also very enchantingly dark.

Thank you Netgalley and Flatiron Books for this advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book Title: Bad Girls With Perfect Faces
Author: Lynn Weingarten
Series: None
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Goodreads
Pub Date: 10/31/17
5 STARS

When Sasha’s best friend Xavier gets back together with his cheating ex, Ivy, Sasha knows she needs to protect him. So she poses as a guy online to lure Ivy away.

But Sasha’s plan goes sickeningly wrong. And she soon learns to be careful of who you pretend to be because you might be surprised by who you become…

Told in multiple points of view, Bad Girls with Perfect Faces is sexy and twisted with shocks at every turn.

**********

I really didn’t think I’d find a YA novel before the new year to give 5 stars to, but I’m pleasantly surprised! Lynn Weingarten’s Bad Girls with Perfect Faces is the perfect YA quick-read to pick up this year. Main character, high school student Sasha, has a platonic friendship with fellow student Xavier, but dreams to one day make the next step towards having a romantic relationship with him. Sasha sets the perfect night to reveal her true feelings for Xavier—his birthday celebration. Sasha and Xavier have a low key celebration, partying at the local dive bar, and everything is set in motion, until Xavier’s ex-girlfriend Ivy shows up. Ivy is a manipulative, impulsive, and a somewhat sociopathic foil to Sasha’s plans. Xavier and Ivy end up rekindling their romance that night—spiraling Sasha to the point of no return.

Sasha arrives back at her place and plots her revenge. To prove Ivy’s disloyal behavior, Sasha poses as a guy on Instagram and sets up the account perfectly. She plans on catfishing Ivy and showing Xavier exactly what kind of person he is dealing with. That is, until something horribly goes wrong.

Guys and gals, it’s happened. I fell in love with a YA novel. Bad Girls with Perfect Faces is campy, dark, dramatic, and the ending is CHILLING. Honestly no tea/no shade, but this is everything that There’s Someone Inside Your House tried to be and failed. Sure, the level of campiness here may not be suitable for everyone, but it really is a contemporary piece of a dramatic love story that is not only raw, but captivating (who knew?).

I really enjoyed that this book didn’t carry on for longer than it needed to. At less than 300 pages, Ms. Weingarten covers the entire story, throwing twists that you will not see coming along the way. I was happy that this could be finished in either one or two sittings easily. Now what’s my next read by Lynn Weingarten?

 

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Dreadful December

Hey guys! Another month has come and gone, and I’m pleased to announce that I’ve stuck with my ongoing WEIRD, WAY-OUT WINTER reading challenge. Nebulous November was so much fun; I ended up enjoying all four books that I read, but going into December I’m going to lighten the number as we are moving this month and the holidays are just nuts in general. I’m aiming for three books but will be satisfied if I make it through two. This month the theme is…… DREADFUL DECEMBER!

dreadful • extremely bad or serious; fearful and unhappy

So this month I’m focusing on books that are “scary”, unnerving, and unhappy. Only one book is a review copy, so let’s see which books made the cut. The last one is the potential third, as I’m not committed enough to purchase it and our library copy seems to have been permanently confiscated.

**********

It’s late Thursday night, and Inspector Ross Carver is at a crime scene in one of the city’s last luxury homes. The dead man on the floor is covered by an unknown substance that’s eating through his skin. Before Carver can identify it, six FBI agents burst in and remove him from the premises. He’s pushed into a disinfectant trailer, forced to drink a liquid that sends him into seizures, and is shocked unconscious. On Sunday he wakes in his bed to find his neighbor, Mia—who he’s barely ever spoken to—reading aloud to him. He can’t remember the crime scene or how he got home; he has no idea two days have passed. Mia says she saw him being carried into their building by plainclothes police officers, who told her he’d been poisoned. Carver doesn’t really know this woman and has no way of disproving her, but his gut says to keep her close.

 

Cata Cordova suffers from such debilitating insomnia that she agreed to take part in an experimental new procedure. She thought things couldn’t get any worse…but she was terribly wrong.

Soon after the experiment begins, there’s a malfunction with the lab equipment, and Cata and six other teen patients are plunged into a shared dreamworld with no memory of how they got there. Even worse, they come to the chilling realization that they are trapped in a place where their worst nightmares have come to life. Hunted by creatures from their darkest imaginations and tormented by secrets they’d rather keep buried, Cata and the others will be forced to band together to face their biggest fears. And if they can’t find a way to defeat their dreams, they will never wake up. 

 

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. 

Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?

Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery… who makes you want to kiss back. 

Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

That’s it for me guys! What about you? What would be your dreadful picks for December? Anyone is welcome to join in who needs accountability clearing their shelves! ❤

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Review: The Rending And The Nest

Book Title: The Rending And The Nest
Author: Kaethe Schwehn
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: None
Genres: Dystopian, Speculative Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
Goodreads
Pub Date: 02/20/18
3.5 STARS

When ninety-five percent of the world’s population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can’t afford to lose. Four years after the Rending, Mira has everything under control. Almost. 

Then Mira’s best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first in this strange world and a new source of hope for Mira. But Lana gives birth to an inanimate object—and soon other women of Zion do, too—and the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new world begins to fray. As the community wrestles with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world outside Zion. He lures Lana away and when she doesn’t return, Mira has to decide how much she’s willing to let go in order to save her friend, her community, and her own fraught pregnancy.

**********

This is another one of those books best going in blind; the less you know the better and you should probably come back to this review after you’ve read the book yourself. If you’re wanting more detail minus overt spoilers, continue at your own risk. 

How do you write a review of one of the most complex books you’ve read to date? Technically this one isn’t out until the end of February, but I wanted to include it in my Nebulous November challenge (where it fit the bill nicely I might add) so I moved it up my TBR. There is a lot of meat to this story; the plot is intensely intelligent and I’m still wrestling to grasp all the depths of the narrative. For a debut novel, the writing is excellent and almost poetic. I can truly see Schwehn making a name for herself in speculative fiction and being beloved by regular readers of the genre.

“I gave my love a cherry that had no stone
I gave my love a chicken that had no bone

I gave my love a baby with no crying
I gave my love a story that had no end
How can there by a cherry that has no stone?
How can there be a chicken that has no bone?
How can there be a baby with no crying?
How can there be a story with no end?”
– “The Riddle Song”

I feel like it’s ok to mention the following, as it is presented to the reader in the prologue, but this is a very open-ended narrative. There is no explanation given for why the earth is in it’s post-apocalyptic state; we are just told that 95% of the earth’s population has disappeared and since these folks were left without an explanation, so are we. Personally, I enjoyed this set up and found it unique to have this dystopian world where we really don’t know what happened. This added an additional level of suspense and tension as events began to unfold. I hate being so vague, but if you’ve read the blurb then you know as much as you should about the plot going in and will find out for yourself the rest, should you choose to read this book.

Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?
– Romans 8:24

While I did have a few issues with the ending, and there were definitely a few spots along the way that lagged for me, the writing was so solid that I never considered giving up. This book touches on themes of motherhood, survival, and community in a way that makes you ponder not only whether it’s truly impossible for us to find ourselves in this place in the future, but also how we could apply these lessons learned in our very real communities. I think most readers would admit to enjoying a plot that centers around a rag tag band of misfits joining together and overcoming hardships, and while this contains elements of that message for sure, it was so much more than that, yet not quite as upbeat.

My struggles with the book were just personal preference on formatting, inclusion/exclusion of information, and pacing. I found nowhere in this book a reason to not highly recommend it to others; this is perhaps just not my most well suited genre and I feel those who favor the philosophical fiction will be blown away by it’s beautiful, heartbreaking ways. I really appreciate how well the cover art ties into the story, and I think if you give it a try, you too will find enjoyment from this odd little book.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy.

*This was book #3 in my Nebulous November challenge.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments