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?

Book Review: Follow Me To Ground by Sue Rainsford

Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford

Rating:  ★★★★

This book is so weird.  I mean that in the best way possible.  I don’t even know how to go about describing it, because it’s just that weird.  Witchy healer does witchy things?  Witchy healer starts an affair with a guy who might not be so upstanding himself and chaos ensues?  Is she good?  Is she not so good?  No one knows.  Certainly not this reader.

It’s like this: Ada starts out seeming like a perfectly sweet, innocent young girl, with some peculiar abilities.  She cures illnesses, which she learned to do from her father.  A man named Samson from the village begins an affair with her.  Her father is not enthused.  Neither, it seems, is his sister.  Throughout this affair, we begin catching glimpses into something darker lurking beneath the surface.  Maybe Ada is not so innocent as she seems.  Maybe Samson’s not either.  Maybe it’s both of them.  Maybe it’s everyone else.  I’m still not sure.

But I think that’s what makes it interesting.  I’ve put off writing this review for probably two weeks now because I still don’t know how I feel about it except to say that I mostly enjoyed it.  The writing is strong and the pages breeze by.  The plot is meandering- not always my favorite- but I think it works here because it’s only 200 or so pages long to begin with.

The magic is confounding, and not too in your face.  It seems like a subtle but necessary element.  If you’re squeamish (like myself), I’m just giving you a heads up, this book is no picnic.  The way the healing is done… it gets graphic.

I read Imaginary Friend not too long ago, and complained that literary horror wasn’t something I wanted to revisit.  Well, I feel like I did accidentally revisit it here, and apparently it does work in small doses.

The ending is ambiguous- we’re left to draw our own conclusions about everything that takes place in those last few pages.  It annoyed me upon finishing, but it’s also the reason I’ve found this so haunting.

Follow Me To Ground releases on January 21, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the digital ARC.

Book Review: Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer

Dead Astronauts Borne 2 Jeff VanderMeer

Rating:  ★★

I have a very self deprecating sense of humor.  But trust me when I say: it’s no joke that I am neither intelligent enough or creative enough or abstract-thinking enough to appreciate this book.  I don’t want to trash it completely- because I can appreciate this for the literary experiment that it is.  I just don’t know that it’s a literary experiment that works.

VanderMeer can string words together on a page better than most, but hot damn, this was a total slog for me.  It took me longer than I care to admit, to realize this is a non-linear story, and on top of it’s non-linearness it’s also very repetitive in parts.  We explore many different realities and alternative timelines in separate parts, never coming together to add up to anything.

I think this is supposed to be the story of Charlie X, the rise and fall of the Company introduced in Borne.  But if I’m being honest, I don’t remember Charlie X all that well from Borne, and I didn’t think anything about the Company that was revealed really contributed any additional understanding.  I guess the questions I cared about, like what happened to humanity and what was the purpose of the Company, weren’t explored enough in any detail to make me care.

We also don’t get to spend enough time with any of the many characters to grow to care about them.  Astronaut dies.  Astronaut dies.  Astronaut dies again.  Blue fox sneaks in and says some clever foxy stuff.  I just don’t know what the point was.  Maybe for some there doesn’t need to be a point.  For me- there needs to be a point.

If, like me, you were hoping for more of Borne, if you were hoping for an origin story to the villain (villain being the company or the sorceress), I think this is safe to skip.  If you’re looking for something to bend your brain and make you work for it, by all means, pick this up.  The writing is beautiful.  Unfortunately that’s the only thing to leave an impression on me.

Dead Astronauts releases on December 3, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley who sent me an eARC in exchange for a review.

Bookish gifts for the bibliophile in your life. Or you know, for yourself.

Happy turkey day friends!  Eat lots of food, watch lots of football, and take a nap.  Or do like I do and ignore your family and curl up in the corner with a good book.  That works too.

Anyway, with Thanksgiving upon us, in America our heads all turn to another major holiday: Christmas!  So I put together a list of gift ideas for all the book lovers in your life.

Candles – You don’t have to be a book lover to appreciate a good candle, but being a reader might help you appreciate these candles just a tad more than others.

Library Candle by Homesick

Old Books by Frostbeard

Bubbling Potions by From the Page

Vintage book purses – Which unfortunately don’t look big enough to hold another book, but are still really cool!

Great Gatsby purse by Kathleen Scranton

Harry Potter handbag by Bookarelli

The Hobbit handbag by Novel Creations

Posters – I thought this was a fun idea for readers across all age groups!  All these posters were found on the shopping site Uncommon Goods.

Shakespearean Insults Poster

100 Books Scratch Off Poster

Heroic Girls in Literature Poster

Book inspired Tea – Okay so I’m not a tea drinker- I’m a coffee drinker.  But I’m in the minority.  This could be a really fun and affordable option for the tea lovers in your life.

HG Wells Inspired Tea by Literary Tea Co.

Ketterdam Inspired Tea by The Simply Bookish

Mary Shelley Inspired Tea by Literary Tea Company

eReader Covers – Because who doesn’t want their ebook to look like a physical book!

Pride & Prejudice Kindle Case by KleverCase

Game of Thrones Case from SuperBook

Beauty and the Beast by ChickLitDesigns

Of course- you could just give your bookish friend what they really want, which is more books!

Book Review: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Rating:  ★★★★

I have no idea how to even begin describing this.  The publisher’s described as Orwellian and I suppose it is very Orwellian in tone, but the plot and world building are very different than 1984.

The premise is this: on an unnamed island, things sometimes “disappear”.  If the islanders don’t rid themselves of the things that disappear, the Memory Police may raid their house to take the items away.  Eventually the people forget all about the disappeared-thing (for example, if flowers disappear people stop remembering that flowers ever existed and don’t even know the meaning of the word).  But some people don’t forget.  Those people are eventually discovered by the Memory Police and taken away, never to be seen or heard again.

So we follow an unnamed protagonist as she navigates this surreal landscape and things and people disappear around her.  It’s a meandering sort of story that ultimately feels largely allegorical, but no matter how hard I think about what the story might mean I keep coming up empty handed (aside from the obvious message about memories).

The writing and the translation (done, I believe, by Stephen Snyder) are beautifully done.  It doesn’t seem like anything special at first, and I don’t recall any passages that made me think: ‘I need to save this for my review!’.  But at the same time it kept me consistently engaged despite the slow pacing and plot.  It whisked me away and offered me an escape.  Albeit, to a rather depressing sort of place, but I often had a hard time putting it down and found myself eager to keep going.

The characters will also stick with me for quite awhile.  This is fairly impressive considering the amount of distance placed between them and the reader.  None of them have names.  One is Old Man.  The other is simply R.  Other characters are identified by their professions.  The hatmaker.  The neighbors.  Mother or Father.

The main character is a novelist, and we are given glimpses of her WIP through out.  To be honest, I didn’t feel these parts added much to the overall novel.  The story itself largely mirrors what our protagonist is going through and didn’t reveal much else about the story.

I also will say I wasn’t a fan of the ending.  I can’t really expand on this without spoilers so I’ll avoid discussing it too much, but as I approached the end I remember thinking there weren’t enough pages to wrap up the story and while there is definite closure it was a disappointing sort of closure without much explanation.

The entire novel is ambiguous which is why I think I’m taking less issue with it than the last few ambiguously ended books I’ve read.  Everything is sort of surreal and dreamlike and the reader is just expected to take it at face value.  *shrugs*

For the most part I really enjoyed this and will likely check out other works by this author in the future.  I don’t think it will be a book for everyone and I don’t foresee myself recommending it often – but I think for some readers it could be an enjoyable literary diversion.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC for review.  The Memory Police can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

Can’t Wait Wednesday: Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

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: Imaginary Friend Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

Author: Stephen Chbosky

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Genre: Horror

Length: 720 pages

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Blurb (from GoodReads): We can swallow our fear or let our fear swallow us.

Single mother Kate Reese is on the run. Determined to improve life for her and her son, Christopher, she flees an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with Christopher at her side. Together, they find themselves drawn to the tight-knit community of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. It’s as far off the beaten track as they can get. Just one highway in, one highway out.

At first, it seems like the perfect place to finally settle down. Then Christopher vanishes. For six awful days, no one can find him. Until Christopher emerges from the woods at the edge of town, unharmed but not unchanged. He returns with a voice in his head only he can hear, with a mission only he can complete: Build a tree house in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again.

Soon Kate and Christopher find themselves in the fight of their lives, caught in the middle of a war playing out between good and evil, with their small town as the battleground.

Why I’m Excited For It:  I was curious, when I read that this is the same author who wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  These seem like two very different books, (unless I have a gross misunderstanding of what Perks..of a Wallflower is about- please do let me know).

Aside from being a new-to-me author, this story is exactly the kind of story I love.  An epic fight between good and evil in a small town and (maybe?) a kid to save the day.  It sounds an awful lot like something King could have written, and you all know how I feel about King.

What new releases are you looking forward to?