Book Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Rating:  ★★★★

I read SGJ’s Mapping the Interior late last year and was very impressed.  So impressed in fact, that I went through and added just about everything he’d ever written to my TBR.  So of course I was very excited to read this.

The premise is this: ten years ago, four friends embarked on an illegal hunting trip.  They knew what they did was wrong.  They did it anyway.  Now, something evil is hunting them back.

The story started out very strong.  I heard the term literary horror for the first time last year in reference to another book, and that phrase kept popping up over and over again in my head while I was reading this.  There was symbolism, biting social commentary, the imagery and tone were perfect.

There were times in reading this I was genuinely unsure if I wanted to continue- not because the book was bad, but because it was just that dark.  I cherished every single word I read in that first fifty percent.  I cared about the characters, I cared about Lewis’s marriage.  I cared about their friendships and their pets.  If this had been a novella, and had ended after Lewis’s part, I think it would have been damn near perfect.

However, after Lewis’s part, we shift POVs.  And while I enjoyed those parts too, I think the problem was that I was already so attached to Lewis I wasn’t ready to leave him.  I do wonder if I would have enjoyed this a little more if those parts had been switched around.  I don’t think either Gabe or Cass came across as sympathetic as Lewis did, so it was difficult to become reinvested in their story lines after finishing Lewis’s.

There’s a lot of basketball in this story – so the parts of this that talked about basketball I sometimes drifted off.  I’m less than five feet tall and have always been more inclined towards mental gymnastics then physcial ones, so it’s just not my thing, though I think it was used very well here.  Basketball seemed to make up a decent chunk of the second half, so the pace felt inevitably slower, hence the 4 stars instead of 5.

This is very much a supernatural story with a very supernatural ending, so if that’s not your thing this may not be for you.  The horror aspect is brutal and visceral – so consider yourself warned.  It won’t be for everyone.

But if you think you can cope with it- I highly recommend trying this out.  I was even more impressed with this than the last SGJ book I read, and I’m eager to read his other works.

The Only Good Indians released on July 14, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.

Have you read The Only Good Indians?  What did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: My Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I missed this topic a few weeks back, but there are SO MANY amazing books to be released this year.  I keep finding new ones to gawk at and feeling overwhelmed at the amount of reading I have to do to catch up.

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett (Sept 15, 2020)- This is the prequel I never knew I needed.  It’s a Kingsbridge novel set during the Viking Age.  A KINGSBRIDGE NOVEL SET IN THE VIKING AGE!!!  A favorite series by a beloved author during my favorite time period.  It’s like Follett wrote it just for me.

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell (Nov 24, 2020) – I’m sorry to start this list with two pieces mostly unrelated to my blog content- but when I found out about this title just a couple weeks after Follett’s, it felt like Christmas was coming early. I’ll probably sob my whole way through this book because I know it’s the last but I have never loved any fictional character as much as I love Uhtred.  I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (Oct 13, 2020) – I’ve been eager for this too, since I first heard about it in spring.  Although her Sixth World series (that starts with Trail of Lightning) wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I loved her short story, Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience and I’m hoping to see more of what drew me in about that story here.

The Trials of Koli by MR Carey

The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey (Sept. 15, 2020) – The Book of Koli has undoubtedly been my favorite read so far this year, so I can’t leave it’s sequel off the list.

The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski (Oct 27, 2020) – I can’t tell if this is set in the same world as The Witcher, but regardless I’m thrilled to see this.  It’s been around for quite some time, but it’s never been translated before. I’ve seen some reviews that said this is Sapkowski’s best, so even though there’s no Geralt, I’ll be there with bells on.

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (Oct 6, 2020) – We all know how much I love horror, and while I still haven’t had a chance to try Kingfisher, I’m super excited for this.  The blurb reminded me of House of Leaves and also like the Horror version of Ten Thousand Doors of January.  No idea how that would work exactly but I’m there for it.

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones (Sep 1, 2020) – After the most excellent Mapping the Interior, and the even more excellent The Only Good Indians (RTC), consider me an official fan of Stephen Graham Jones.  This is what I think of when I hear the term literary horror and it’s brilliant.

Beowulf A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley (Aug 25, 2020) – According to the author’s twitter, the first word of this book is “Bro” and Grendel’s mother “is a warrior woman, not an ugly troll woman”.  I was thrilled with her modern contemporary retelling- The Mere Wife, and I am so excited for this modern feminist translation of Beowulf.

Confessions on the 745 by Lisa Unger

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger (Oct 6, 2020) – I’m in love with the premise of this – two strangers confess their problems to each other on a train. A few days later, one of those problems mysteriously disappears…

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Relentless Moon (The Lady Astronaut #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal (Jul 14, 2020) – Okay, so this one is cheating, since it’s already been released, but I haven’t read it yet. It is on hold at my library though!  If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend checking it out (starting with the short story The Lady Astronaut of Mars).

I’ve been out of the loop – so I’m curious, which new releases are you most looking forward to?

 

Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Rating:  ★★★★

This is my second time reading Hendrix and it did not disappoint. The first time I read Horrorstor, and it felt fun and a little campy, and I listened to it on audio. I read a physical copy of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and it was a very different experience.

The premise is that Patricia, a housewife in South Carolina, gave up her career to be a wife and mother. She takes up reading in a book club with five friends. They read true crime novels. When a new neighbor moves in down the street, and fishy things start happening around him, Patricia starts to suspect the new neighbor may be up to no good, but everyone agrees Patricia is just letting her reading get to her head.

There aren’t any real twists or turns in the plot. Everything is pretty much as it seems. Which works in this instance because it allows the author to build suspense. There were several scenes where I felt like I was holding my breath. Is there such a thing as white knuckle reading?  I was doing that.  A good portion of my reading is comprised of horror and thriller books, so that’s probably one of the highest compliments I could pay this.

The characters aren’t the most robust I’ve ever encountered, but the author does a good job of fleshing them out. They each have their own little quirks and idiosyncrasies, different relationships with each other and with their husbands. Warning: the way women are treated in this book will make you want to scream. They are discounted as silly. Their thoughts, opinions and feelings meaningless, and treated like objects.  I don’t think Hendrix was endorsing this behavior – I think it was more based on what he read and observed growing up (afterall, he said the inspiration for this book was his own mother).

There are some graphic scenes, and there are things that happen off page involving children under the age of 10 which are terrible. I’m putting it here as a warning for people who would rather avoid it. I think the beginning of the book is a little misleading in that it’s fun and campy, like Horrorstor, but ultimately takes a very dark turn.

I thoroughly enjoyed this in the end, despite the semi depressing ending, and look forward to reading the next book from Hendrix.  The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires released on April 7, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher who sent a free review copy!

Book Review: The Deep by Alma Katsu

The Deep by Alma Katsu

Rating:  ★★★

The Deep is a dark fantasy that explores the sinking of both the Titanic, and it’s sister ship the Brittanic.  We follow several characters but primarily we follow the story of one of the ship’s maids, Annie Hebley.

The story is told in two timelines, following the past of events on the Titanic prior to its sinking, and the current events leading up to the sinking of the Britannic.  The transition between the two timelines felt very natural with flashbacks seeming to come to Annie and leading us on to another piece of the Titanic’s history.

Technically speaking, I think Katsu writes very well.  Things never felt awkward or overly descriptive.  All the scenes were clear with no confusion about the action taking place in the scene.  However I often felt like there was a lot of unnecessary filler content when it came to the Titanic’s timeline.

There were many characters that held view points that didn’t seem so out of place while reading, but in retrospect, knowing where the story was going and seeing the whole picture, felt a little wasted.  I feel bad saying that because a couple of the unnecessary POVs were some of my favorite characters.  I just think ultimately the novel would have benefited from having a narrower focus on Catherine, Mark, and Annie’s story.

There is a mystery at the core of The Deep: who is Annie?  What happened in her past that led her to leave home and board the ship in the first place?  Who is Mark and what is he hiding?  How are all of these things connected?

It’s a mystery that doesn’t disappoint and I genuinely think that if I hadn’t had to trudge through some of those other POVs to get at the heart of it, I would have given this book a higher rating.

In the end, it’s not a bad book, worth checking out if the topic is of interest to you.  The Deep can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for supplying an electronic copy of this book for review.

Book Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Rating:  ★★★★

This was a pretty awesome read. I’m glad I took a chance on it. I was worried it would upset me (abducted children is the main plotline, and not something I really want to cope with). While it is a central theme, there was nothing too graphic in regards to the abducted children. Other content warnings: attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts, drug overdose, and self harm.

The plot is pretty straightforward.  Marin is out shopping one day with her son in a busy market.  She stops to take a phone call and by the time she turns around her son is gone.  The police don’t have any leads and one year later he is still missing.  Marin hires a private investigator to continue searching for him, since the police have given up.

The book wastes no time getting to the story. I was sucked in from the moment I started and finished it in less than 24 hours. I could not stop turning the pages. The prose isn’t overly flowery or descriptive.

Marin is mostly a compelling character. I will say it’s hard to relate to a millionaire and sometimes I was frustrated with how much focus there was on Marin’s stuff or keeping her status. (Of course she can’t divorce her husband, he’s so much richer than her and what would that leave her with? Three successful celebrity hair salons? Pfft.) There is another POV character- Kenzie, who is supposed to be struggling, but I honestly didn’t understand how.. and it made me wonder more than once if the author was a little out of touch with us mere mortals but I digress.

I will say I had the whodunnit pegged fairly early. I actually didn’t mind that so much because I was so curious to see how we’d arrive at that conclusion. If everything else in the book is entertaining (and it was) I don’t mind when I guess parts of the plot. I did not know how it would end.

The other thing that frustrated me was the girl on girl hate, so if that’s something that bothers you steer clear. Overall I enjoyed it and will definitely look for more from Hillier in the future.

Little Secrets releases on April 21, 2020 from Minotaur Books, and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon. Thank you to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

Book Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Rating:  ★★★★

I am not going to give you either a blurb or a summary of events here.  I think the blurb is super spoilerific – so if you can go in blind, please go in blind.  I’m going to avoid spoilers here as much as possible.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with The Glass Hotel.  I read Station Eleven last year via audiobook and it was one of the few audiobooks that managed to capture my attention for the full eleven hours.  For an untrained audiobook listener, that was a big deal. I was even more amazed that I could so completely enjoy a book that lacked any serious plot direction.  It was the characters and the snapshots of their lives driving me onward, and I’m happy to report The Glass Hotel is structured similarly.

The book meanders from one POV to the next and back again.  For the most part, I enjoyed all the perspectives, even if I enjoyed some a smidge more.  These are fully realized characters.  We follow them through the high and low points of their lives.  We bear witness to all their ugly sins and fatal flaws.

Reading print instead of listening, I had the opportunity to appreciate Mandel’s writing in a way I previously hadn’t.  It is compulsive. It flows beautifully.  It’s accessible and literary all at the same time.  It convinced me that I need to read pretty much everything she has ever written.

As for the story, well, I found it to be a good bit darker than I remembered Station Eleven being, despite the fact that this contains no apocalypse inducing pandemics.  Most of the characters aren’t the sort you’d want to be friends with, and they leave other characters devastated in their wake.  Especially haunting considering parts of this were based on a true story.

The are some speculative, supernatural elements to this story – but ultimately I’d categorize it under contemporary literature.  It’s not a significant part of the book.  In retrospect, I wish she’d done a little more with that piece, fleshed it out just a bit, given us more of a reason for it’s inclusion.

The ending for some characters is slightly ambiguous. Not so much that it annoyed me but it just felt a little anticlimactic.  Despite the darkness of some events, Mandel still manages to end it on what feels like a hopeful note. Ultimately, my complaints are minor  and I found most of the novel completely engrossing, and ultimately difficult to put down.

Despite my numerous comparisons to Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel stands on its own, and I highly recommend picking up if you enjoy Mandel’s writing.   It releases on tomorrow, March 24, 2020, and can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Can’t Wait Wednesday: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: Phoenix Extravagant  Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Author:  Yoon Ha Lee

Publisher: Rebellion / Solaris

Genre: Fantasy

Length: 416 Pages

Release Date: June 9, 2020

Blurb: For generations the empire has spread across the world, nigh-unstoppable in their advance. Its power depends on its automata, magically animated and programmed with sigils and patterns painted in mystical pigments.

A symbol-painter – themselves a colonial subject – is frustrated in their work when their supply of Phoenix Extravagant dries up, and sets out to find the source. What they’ll discover is darker than anything they could have imagined…

Why I’m Excited for it:  Despite the difficult learning curve in Ninefox Gambit, I absolutely fell in love with the unique and complex world building and the flawed and yet weirdly lovable characters.  Though I am also eager to return to The Machineries of the Empire, I’m also excited to see what Lee does with a new world and new characters.

It also sounds like another fantastic blend of science fiction and fantasy with magic powered robot (dragons?).  Either way- I absolutely can’t wait for this!

Which new releases are you looking forward to?

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Someday, when I bust out of this reading slump, or conquer all these ARCS, I’m going to read whatever strikes my fancy for a month.  So there’s likely no sticking to this list.  Here’s what I’m excited about, ARCs or No.

11-22-63 Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King – Planned buddy read with the fabulous Nicole @ Book-Wyrm-Knits!  I’m holding you to it. End of May.

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi – This was gifted to me by the equally fabulous Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy!  Thank you!  I can’t wait to read it.

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway – Gnomon was a mind bender that made me work for it.  While I think I’ll put this off until my reading slump is definitely over- I’m eager to get back to his work.

Full Throttle by Joe Hill

Full Throttle by Joe Hill – Now that I’m thinking about it, a Joe Hill anthology is probably exactly what I need to dump the slump.  Short attention spans aren’t really an issue in a book of short stories.

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee The Machineries of Empire

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee – I want to get this read before I forget what happened in Nine Fox Gambit!  (For a review that explains the Machineries of the Empire better than I ever could, please check out Ola’s review at Re-enchantment of the World.)

Killing Gravity by Corey J White

Killing Gravity by Corey J. White – This was a Tor Freebie not too long ago.  It’s a novella so perfect for the amount of attention I seem willing to give books lately, and one that’s been on my radar for awhile.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel – This is one of the few ARCs I have that I am still super excited for!  It also is neither fantasy or sci-fi, so it will give me a much needed break from the genre.

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon

Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon – This is another that falls outside my usual genre, but I’m eager to get to it.  I’ve heard great things about Lawhon and historical fiction usually makes me all happy inside.

The Last Kingdom Saxon Stories 1 by Bernard Cornwell

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell – Keeping with the theme of Historical Fiction (and in my desperation to seek out comforting reads in turbulent times) I’m eager to reread this.  Especially since the final book in the Saxon Stories was recently announced.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones – Because Horror.  That’s it.

 

We all know I’m not likely to stick to this TBR… and there are probably 30 other books I could put here.  What have you got planned for the spring?

Can’t Wait Wednesday: The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: The Evening and the Morning The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

Author:  Ken Follett

Publisher: Viking

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 720 Pages

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Blurb: It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages, and in England one man’s ambition to make his abbey a centre of learning will take the reader on an epic journey into a historical past rich with ambition and rivalry, death and birth, love and hate.

Thirty years ago, Ken Follett published his most popular novel, The Pillars of The Earth, which has sold over 27 million copies worldwide.

Now, this novel, the prequel, will take the readers on an epic journey that will end where The Pillars of The Earth begins…

Why I’m Excited For It:  This week I discovered that there are not one, but two new books in beloved series that are releasing this fall (the other one I’m saving for a future post).  The Pillars of the Earth and its sequels are some of my favorite books of all time.

They feature large casts swept up in endless drama, romance, scheming villains, the roller coaster ride of the character’s triumphs and defeats… I’ve often described these books as medieval soap operas, all centered around the same fictional church and town.

Now it seems this book is set during the Viking age, and you already know how I feel about that.  It’s the prequel I didn’t know I needed.

Have you read any of The Pillars of the Earth books?  Are you as excited for this as I am?

Month in Review: February 2020

Hello friends!  This wasn’t a great month for me blog wise- I had trouble not only getting my posts written on Sundays for the week, but keeping up with all of you.  Work has been relatively hectic and by the time I get home and get the kiddo ready for bed, I’m exhausted.  I’m aiming for a better March.  Reading wise- I did pretty okay considering it’s a short month and I wasn’t even reading on my lunch breaks.

Novels/Novellas Read: 10

Short Stories: 0

Pages Read: 3,076

Average Rating: 3.2

Female Authors: 5

Favorite Reads:

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier (RTC)

Other Reads Completed:

The Chill by Scott Carson

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Grit by Angela Duckworth

The Resisters by Gish Jen

The Bear by Andrew Krivak

The Wolf of Oren-yaro by K.S. Villoso

Surrender by Ray Loriga

I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll review the backlist titles.  Grit was technically a DNF.  I read about 200 pages for work and just couldn’t stomach part three I was so tired of it by then.  My review for Surrender should be up later this week.

ARCs Received:

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – I haven’t even read the blurb because the title seems pretty self explanatory.  Now that I’ve read Horrorstor and understand the author’s style, I’m very much looking forward to it!

Devolution by Max Brooks – A mockumentary style telling of a Sasquatch attack.  Which ya’ll already know I’m super excited for.

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey – I’m also thrilled to have received this! It has a very strong man vs. nature vibe which I’ve been enjoying a lot lately.

I also received Little Secrets, pictured above, but ended up reading it sooner than expected.  It’s about a woman whose son was abducted, her marriage in the aftermath, and the mystery surrounding her son long after the trail has gone cold.

PopSugar Challenge 2020 Prompts Completed: 

A book with a made up language: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins (greed, envy): Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

A fiction or non-fiction book about a world leader: The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez (I’m not really sure I interpreted this prompt correctly, but I don’t foresee myself reading a fiction or non-fiction book about an actual world leader any time soon.)

A book by or about a journalist: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

A book with a main character in their 20s: The Chill by Scott Carson

Other Posts for February:

Favorite SciFi Sub-genres

Book Review: The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Coming Up:

I’m hopeful this month will be better for me in terms of enjoying what I’m reading.  There weren’t many titles I walked away from in February feeling excited about.  I recently started A Time of Dread and it’s exactly what I’d been hoping for when I started reading Abercrombie a few months ago. Dark and bloody.

How was your February?