July Short Reviews

Here are a few things that I’ve been reading:

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Quincy Carpenter is one of only three “final girls”, each of which survived a massacre in different areas of the country.  While Quincy survived her ordeal, her memory did not and she has no recollection of most of what happened that terrifying night. However, at the beginning of this book, she is not doing too badly. She has a fiance and a successful cooking blog. But when one of the final girls, Lisa, commits suicide, it seems so out of character that Quincy becomes determined to figure out what really happened. The appearance of the third final girl, Sam, further complicates matters, and soon Quincy is struggling to figure out not only who she can trust, but also the truth of what happened to her that night, and it soon becomes clear that her life is depending on her figuring out the answers.

This book has a great thriller pacing to it, and I found the story to be engaging. Sager drew me in quickly with the idea of playing with the final girl trope. I know it’s something that’s been done a lot at this point, but Sager works to keep this fresh and different. The story kept me guessing until the end and it was definitely a fun read!

What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

Maisie Cothay grows up with an unusual curse: anything she touches dies – or is revived. She lives on an estate at the edge of a mysterious forest, isolated from the world around her because of her condition. Her father, and pretty much everyone, has warned her not to go into the forest, and there are many legends of local men who have gone missing over the years. What Maisie additionally learns, though, is that many of the women in her family – ancestors from years gone by – have also gone missing in that forest. However, when Maisie’s father goes missing, she dares to venture into the forest in search of him, and she finds much more than she had bargained for.

I love the fairy-tale feel of this book, but it is not soft and pretty, there is definitely an edginess to it. It is frightening in some areas, and the fantasy elements have a darkness that I always enjoy. The resolution of this book, is interesting, but I think I mostly enjoyed the telling of the story itself. Maisie has an interesting viewpoint and her struggles with her condition and those around her lend a loneliness that makes the story even more haunting. Recommended for those that like Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Constable Peter Grant is just starting his career and hoping that he won’t be assigned to what is basically desk duty. However, his fortune changes when while assisting with a murder investigation he is approached by a ghost – offering him information. This odd interaction leads to him being assigned to work with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightengale, who works on those sorts of cases, and who also happens to be a wizard. Peter and Nightengale team up to investigate a mysterious string of murders. Along the way, they are assisted by a variety of water elementals, each of whom is a different river that flows through the city. Throughout it all, Peter struggles to master his own growing magical skills, and become acclimated to his new role.

I loved this book and will probably devour the series! This would probably fall more into the urban fantasy genre, and readers of Jim Butcher’s Dresden series will probably enjoy this, as well. As the story developed and I learned more about the case, I was pleasantly surprised at how very original this idea was!

Check back in for more posts soon! I’ve been reading and watching some great stuff, and there are some new releases that will be coming out soon that are going to make for some excellent reading!

Check Your Head: Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts Will Haunt You

AHeadFullOfGhostsAfter spending most of the summer working on a writing project, I decided to reward myself with the book that everyone on Facebook has been talking about – A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay. I’m often leery when there’s a lot of hype about something, but in this case I have to agree that the book definitely delivers.

The main character of this book is Merry, who recounts the experience from childhood that significantly changed her life. At the age of fourteen, Merry’s older sister, Marjorie, began going insane, and when their parents couldn’t find any medical solutions, their father turned to a priest for help. The priest suggested an exorcism, and the family subsequently became the focus of a reality TV show tracking the progress of the situation.

At face value you might be inclined to dismiss this as just another exorcism story, but you would be wrong. Tremblay knows his genre and he knows how to tell a story. There are layers and layers in this book and often more questions than answers are raised. For example, how reliable are our memories from our childhood? What are the myriad ways that financial difficulties can affect a family? And, most importantly, who gets to decide what the truth really is, and when and how do they get to tell it?

Tremblay uses several successful techniques in the book, one of which is integrating blog posts following the reality TV show. These posts critique the situation as it unfolds and are paced in such a manner that they somehow manage to both foreshadow and explain without giving much away. This is also a remarkable way for Tremblay to address any “holes” that the reader might be attempting to poke in the story and has the effect of saying, “Nope, wait – I thought of that!” The integration of the blog posts works to further engage the reader and keeps them turning the pages to see how Tremblay will address these aspects. It’s pretty genius.

Additionally, as an avid reader of the works by a certain circle of authors I was delighted beyond reason to come across several Easter eggs in the book – places where Tremblay refers to a familiar author by name, or uses a phrase or tagline from another author’s work. I loved this and thought it was such an unbelievably cool addition!

The thing with this book, though, is that you just have to keep reading it until the end. And, as good as the book is overall, the ending is simply killer – you will never see it coming. Even better, once you get there and the whole story is laid out in front of you, you may see another of those little Easter eggs … a twist and a turn and then you see that it was placed, so perfectly, throughout the rest of the book without you even realizing it.

It’s been a really, really long time since I found a book that I wanted to just read until I was finished – I didn’t want to stop to eat, or sleep, or go to work, or get a drink, or anything until I got to the end. This is that book. You should go get it. And, while you’re there, maybe check out some of the other stuff that Paul Tremblay has done.