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Best of 2021 (so far)

I could pinch myself! This year is proving to be one of my favorites in terms of reading, based on the quality of books stacked on my 2021 completed shelf thus far. Usually, I’m thrilled by one or two. This year, I’ve been over-the-moon on almost all of them!!! In fact, I’ve added MEXICAN GOTHIC, COME WITH ME, and now BIRD BOX to my all-time favorites list! And SHARP OBJECTS, THE DROWNING KIND, and LAYLA were so close as well!

So let’s get to the most recent gem…

BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman is an amazing eye-opener…both disturbing and heart pounding. Add these effects to an against-all-odds apocalyptic survival story that’s told with a simplistic yet riveting style, and you’ll understand why BIRD BOX is my favorite book of 2021. Bottomline, I could not look away from its pages. I was completely mesmerized by this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

MY TEASE…

The outside world can no longer be seen. Creatures have arrived—those which have never been described because if visibly seen, the eyewitness will go mad. Insane. Berserk; as in, violently killing those in close proximity before committing suicide.

In order to survive while outdoors, people need to be blindfolded from the indiscernible evil. Inside, they must take precautions by covering windows and becoming shut-ins. But let’s face it: Survivors can only last so long in isolation, with limited food. (Think…birds confined inside a box.)

Pregnant and tragically alone, Malorie finds her way to a safe house (a home whose owner had advertised in the newspaper as a “sanctuary” before civilization had completely shut down).

“A place for strangers to meet, to pool their resources, gather in numbers, to face the impossible, changing world outside.”

Strangers, of course, can harbor their own evils. But Malorie has no plans of cowering to danger. Her unborn baby depends on her. Come Hell or high water, she will survive…

Right?

THOUGHTS…

Tension…BIRD BOX is stuffed with it. Every single page is basted with tension. The intensity, in fact, slices through each chapter like a knife. (See what I did there? LOL!)

In my opinion, the level of tension achieved is phenomenal. It isn’t captured in a few sentences or within several scenes. Tension drips from every page while not seeming forced or over baked. It just wafts in the air like aromas ahead of Thanksgiving dinner.

What I found interesting was that the first line of the book stands in opposition to everything authors are warned not to do when starting a book: Don’t begin your book with your character…thinking (or dreaming). Here’s the first line:

“Malorie stands in the kitchen, thinking.”

This is literally what I thought about this beginning: Wow. This book must really be good for Josh Malerman to start his novel this way. Talk about confidence…

And BIRD BOX delivered!

If I was to look closely for a criticism, I would say that I found one scene unbelievable. The one where Malorie drives “blind” for 4-miles to a bar she remembered (in search of food), albeit driving slooooowly. Then she drives blind to return to the house. However, the hook in this book was so deep for me, that no way was I going to take a detour!!! I rolled with it 😉 !

Next, I’m going to move on to the sequel: MALORIE. And I hope to see the movie soon! LOVED THIS BOOK!

QUICKFIRE RATINGS from 1 (ugh) to 5 (woo-hoo)…

Plot (the story): 5

Main character’s likability: 5

Development of supporting character(s): 5

Settings/Atmosphere: 5+ (Crushed it!)

Pacing (how fast did I turn the pages): 5+ (Crushed it!)

Believability (in the context of the story): 4

Satisfying ending: 5

Tension of the story: 5+ (Crushed it!)

Stirs the heart (romantic elements): N/A

Did I solve the mystery/guess the ending before the reveal? Yes

OVERALL:

BIRD BOX is my favorite, BEST read for 2021 thus far! The book is outstanding.

Happy Reading,

COME WITH ME Hits All The Marks!

COME WITH ME by Ronald Malfi has everything I hope for in a book…emotionally impactful, page-turning, complex, thrilling, scary/tension-filled, well crafted, atmospheric, and satisfying.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

MY TEASE…

Aaron Decker’s wife wrote a column for a neighborhood paper called Allison’s A-List which highlighted local Maryland teens and their accomplishments. Nothing hard hitting, just feel good stories about young people doing good things.

Ironically, kids from Allison’s childhood town wouldn’t have made the cut for her positive newspaper articles, including Allison herself. Apparently, doing good things wasn’t commonplace in the refinery town called Woodvine, Pennsylvania, where even fresh snow was greyed with soot. Maybe the shroud of despair was fueled by the town’s urban legend: Gas Head Will Make You Dead. No wonder Aaron’s wife had rarely talked about her years growing up in Woodvine. Anyway, her family was dead. In fact, dying was the only thing the residents of Woodvine seemed to do well.

Aaron and Allison had enjoyed five years of marriage in Maryland. But it all came to a tragic end one December morning when Allison left to go shopping at a strip mall and a crazed gunman opened fire, killing his ex-girlfriend and three random people, including Allison Decker.

After his wife’s death, Aaron soon learns he might not have known Allison as well as he thought.

First clue? He discovers his wife had padlocked her hope chest. Oh Allison. What kind of secrets have you been keeping in the files stuffed within your hope chest?

Now Aaron has even more questions. Where will Allison’s secrets lead him? And at what cost?

THOUGHTS…

Wow. I was thoroughly engaged in this story which was an eclectic mix of mystery and suspense, complemented by the haunting tension of restless spirits and the vividness of light horror. And of course, a story of grief. COME WITH ME is one of my favorite reads for 2021 and will be shelved within my top tier of all-time favorites. It was THAT good!

The story was written in third person from Aaron’s point of view, with emotionally gripping insertions of second person when he speaks directly to his wife. I found this combination so fresh, feeling about as close to Aaron’s intimate thoughts as I could get. This approach really worked for me!

The writing was excellent. Here are two samples:

“Directly overhead, the moon was a fat pearl wreathed in smoky black clouds.”

And then…

“Bits of gravel and sand slid out from beneath my shoes and bustled in compact little avalanches down the slope.”

If I was looking hard for some criticism, I would say that sometimes parts of the book could’ve been trimmed back (and would’ve been just as powerful). And every now and then, believability slipped. Even still, I loved this book so much!

QUICKFIRE RATINGS from 1 (ugh) to 5 (woo-hoo) …

Plot (the story): 5

Main character’s likability: 5

Development of supporting character(s): 5

Settings/Atmosphere: 5

Pacing (how fast did I turn the pages): 5

Believability (in the context of the story): 4

Satisfying ending: 5

Tension of the story: 5

Stirs the heart (romantic elements): N/A

Did I solve the mystery/guess the ending before the reveal? No

Cover: 5

OVERALL:

COME WITH ME was an enthralling, 5-star read that refused to let me go. I highly recommend this book!

Happy Reading,

Open the Door and See Where it Leads …

HOUSE WITH ONE HUNDRED DOORS by Travis Brown is an anthology of short stories that aims to unhinge its readers. The book earned 5 goose-bumpy stars from me!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

MY TEASE…

This collection of stories is like opening a door into the Twilight Zone where the disturbing, eccentric, and ghastly are hungry to ensnare you. And no matter what your tastes are within the dimension of terror, Brown’s anthology offers a little of everything on its eclectic menu.

After partaking, the question is: Will you be full, or will you be…filling?

THOUGHTS…

This is a great book to nibble on. Meaning, that depending on your time restraints, you can select a longer story to read or choose one that is only a page-and-a-half. Better still, you can devour the entire book in one sitting!

My favorite story is, in fact, the longest: HOUSE WITH 100 DOORS. This is a story about Aaron who, along with three other people, is invited to tour a house that is constantly shifting its floorplan, as well as its rules for visitors who wish to advance from room to room. Is the tour merely an adventure of mind games or is there a sinister purpose aimed at the unsuspecting players?

Thoughts about this read: I wish the author would develop this short story into a novel or novella! This story has so much to offer! In fact, HOUSE WITH 100 DOORS weighed heavily on my 5 star rating. I loved it!!!

In terms of writing, I really appreciated when I came across the many fresh figures-of-speech. Here are a few samples (I’ve made bold the figures-of-speech that made me say…wow!):

“All of the noise stopped at the same instant. We were left in the clearing, ears still aching, in a hangover of silence.”

Or how about…

“It was like painting a portrait in reverse. Every time I hit him, his features lost a little detail, began to blur and smudge.”

Then there’s…

“Her words were like little wasps crawling into my ears. Too distracting. Too much pain on the way.”

OVERALL:

HOUSE WITH ONE HUNDRED DOORS is a highly creative anthology that is both entertaining and scary! Enter through its doors and see where it leads!!!

Happy Reading!

Atmospheric Tension with a Splash of the Supernatural

THE DROWNING KIND by Jennifer McMahon earns 5 shooting stars!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

MY TEASE…

The stories of Ethel Monroe (1929) and Jackie Metcalf (2019) are about a legacy, one born from wishes-come-true, impacting generation after generation. Maybe you’re thinking about the kind of wishes made before blowing out a candle or after glimpsing a shooting star. Or the kind of wishes attached to a penny tossed into a fountain. If so, you’d be wrong. These are the kind of wishes whispered to a spring-fed pool possessing supernatural powers. The kind that, if granted, come with a price.

Take 37-year-old Ethel who has been trying to conceive but hasn’t gotten pregnant. When she visits the Brandenburg Springs Hotel and Resort, her wish to the pool is obvious. And the mysterious water delivers.

If Ethel had been the only one who ever whispered her wish to the pool, perhaps her “payment” might have remained an isolated mystery. But Ethel was one of hundreds over the decades. In fact, the misfortunes which followed granted-wishes have been no secret to the town. Everyone knows that after the spring water gives, it will take something in return.

Ninety years later, the hotel is long gone. The pool remains on what’s been renamed the Sparrow Crest property, once owned by Jackie’s grandmother. Tragically, Jackie’s sister has drowned in the pool and “Jax” must return to the estate to make funeral arrangements and find answers to her sister’s strange and unsettling death.

Unfortunately, distraught over her sister’s drowning, Jackie makes her own wish; the kind that will surely require a hefty price.

THOUGHTS…

I really enjoyed the two storylines narrated by Jackie and Ethel and was eager to continue reading both. The fact that Ethel’s story related to Jackie’s (in terms of shared relatives and friends) also added depth to each story.

The writing was excellent, and McMahon expertly developed atmospheric tension in a subtle but effective style! Here’s an example:

“There were no houses up here—only trees and rocks, low stone walls that had toppled in places. The air got cooler as the trees grew thicker, seemed to almost overtake the road.”

And then…

“The dirt road grew narrower and narrower, more and more rutted and muddy from spring floods.”

And then… “

“We crept along at a snail’s pace, the trees thickening, the forest seeming to swallow us deeper and deeper.”

QUICKFIRE RATINGS from 1 (ugh) to 5 (woo-hoo)…

Plot (the story): 4.5

Main character’s likability: 4.5

Development of supporting character(s): 4

Settings/Atmosphere: 5

Pacing (how fast did I turn the pages): 5

Believability (in the context of the story): 4

Satisfying ending: 4.5

Tension of the story: 5

Stirs the heart (romantic elements): N/A

Did I solve the mystery/guess the ending before the reveal? Yes

Cover: 5

OVERALL:

THE DROWNING KIND was an enjoyable ghost-fiction read that combined atmospheric tension with splashes of the supernatural.

Happy Reading!

“The Shining” Meets Zombies

Rating: 3 out of 5.

MY TEASE…

As an apocalyptic event spreads—turning whole cities and towns into isolated “quiet zones,” Clare risks driving in a worsening snowstorm. She can’t deviate from the plan: After picking up her aunt, she’ll head to her sister’s house. Together, maybe they can survive “the stillness” in her sister’s fortified bunker.

Trouble is, Clare’s aunt lives on the other side of Banksy Forest. Trouble is, something in the forest doesn’t want her to make it through.

Clare wakes up in Winterbourne Hall, a massive estate hidden deep within the forest. The Morthorne family owns the century-old mansion and their youngest son has remained for the winter. In fact, Dorran is attending to Clare’s strange wounds. 

“The stillness” has not spared the estate and Clare is about to learn that the house and grounds are anything but quiet.

Is survival even in her grasp?

THOUGHTS…

Things to use a cheerful voice about:

If I were to make up a comp mash-up to describe this story, I would say it’s: THE SHINING (minus ghosts) meets zombies. In other words, this story held a lot of promise. Who doesn’t like a gargantuan mansion that’s isolated in a blizzard with strange things happening?

Also, this book’s first chapter is one of the BEST hooks I’ve read in a long, long time. After Chapter 1, I was not going to put this book down. Kudos to the author!

Things to use a whiny voice about:

Have you seen the GEICO commercials that make a spoof about horror movies? Example: Teens are being chased by something evil on the grounds of a scary mansion. To get away, one teen suggests hopping into the idling car and driving to safety. But the majority says going into the basement or hiding in the cemetery would be safer! LOL!

Okay, so that’s Clare…running into the basement or attic or out into the snowstorm underdressed and injured. Yeah, those are great ideas when something is hunting you!

Things to use a snarly voice about:

I purchased this book because I wanted to read ghost fiction. On Amazon, VOICES IN THE SNOW is listed and rated in three genres, one of which is GHOST THRILLERS (where it’s ranked #38). Yet, there is NOT ONE GHOST in this story. Not even a strange mist drifts across the snow that might resemble a ghost. I was not happy. I kept thinking…okay, maybe Clare is really a ghost. Or maybe her sidekick Dorran is. Or maybe a ghost is going to show up! Nope!

Hear me loud and clear about the voices: They do not belong to GHOSTS!!!

One more…grrrrrr!

I prefer reading about the aftermath of an apocalypse versus the events that led up to it. Having said that, I do want some understanding of what precipitated “the stillness” or “quiet zones” or turned some humans into “hollows.”

The explanation was as prominent as….wait for it….GHOSTS 🙂

QUICKFIRE RATINGS from 1 (ugh) to 5 (woo-hoo)…

Plot (the story): 3.5

Main character’s likability: 3

Development of supporting character(s): 3

Settings/Atmosphere: 5

Pacing (how fast did I turn the pages): 3.5

Believability of the story: 2

Satisfying ending: 3

Tension of the story: 3

Stirs the heart (romantic elements): 3

Did I solve the mystery/guess the ending before the reveal? Yes

OVERALL:

VOICES IN THE SNOW had SUCH potential. It was definitely enjoyable, but for me, it fell short of being so much more. I was disappointed. And let’s not forget: I thought I was getting GHOSTS!

Five High-Caliber Stars!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

MY TEASE…

As an LA undercover deputy sheriff, all Bruno Johnson really wants is to enforce “blood and bone” (lethal retribution) on the thug named Derek Sams. As his daughter Olivia’s former boyfriend and father of her two sons, Derek knows more than he’s saying about Olivia’s death and her missing son Albert. Bruno’s gut tells him Derek had a hand in both. And now with Derek’s release from prison for a different crime, the thug is threatening to get custody of Bruno’s only surviving grandson Alonzo.

The thought of blood and bone is what keeps Bruno out of the crosshairs of depression.

If only the criminals in LA would ease up and let Bruno focus on his directed target (Derek). But dealers keep dealing. Killers keep killing. And the street’s “eye for an eye” mentality continues to settle scores with violence.

Will Bruno ever get his blood and bone on the thug who cost Bruno his daughter and grandson? And could the drive for retribution turn Bruno into a hardcore criminal—one of The Ruthless?

THOUGHTS…

Bruno Johnson is a protagonist to love. Although emotionally wounded, he is brave, extremely loyal, thoughtful, and mostly level-headed. In addition, I really enjoyed Bruno’s relationship with his father and dog!

The author was also an expert at developing Bruno’s sidekicks. While Bruno is the thoughtful and measured turtle, Putnam paired him with ramped-up rabbits, creating an engaging contrast. His sidekick on the streets, Nigel, is a meth addict who doesn’t know Bruno is an undercover cop. An oddly endearing character, Nigel is beyond fidgety, never able to sit still or stay focused. Then there is Wicks, Bruno’s old boss in the violent crimes division. Wicks is a loose cannon, as well as an adrenaline junkie, who typifies…shoot first and ask questions later.

I really appreciated the “voices” in this story. They felt so authentic.

One observation: There were many names in this book! I easily remembered the core characters. The criminals, however, had a real name and a street name so sometimes I was like…wait…is Sammy Ray…Little Genie or Jumbo? Even Bruno had an undercover name: Karl Higgins. I’m guessing this practice is authentic to the streets, but double names in the story made it challenging sometimes. For criminals who were secondary characters, their street name would’ve been sufficient for me.

In terms of the ending, closure for some elements was implied versus acted out and wrapped up. I’m thinking this style might be consistent with other endings in the series. For example, the details (I was seeking at the end) might be part of the opening to the next book?

By the way, I did not feel at a disadvantage by not having read the series installments before THE RUTHLESS (sorry for the double negative!). However, wanting those “closure details” serves as a motivator for continuing with the series! Well done!

QUICKFIRE RATINGS from 1 (ugh) to 5 (woo-hoo)…

Plot (the story): 4

Main character’s likability: 5

Development of supporting character(s): 5

Settings/Atmosphere: 5

Pacing (how fast did I turn the pages): 4

Believability of the story: 5

Satisfying ending: 3

Tension of the story: 4

Stirs the heart (romantic elements): NA

Did I solve the mystery/guess the ending before the reveal? No (5)

OVERALL:

THE RUTHLESS was a well-written, insightful, emotionally-intimate, and authentic-feeling journey into the dangerous world of undercover policing. I highly recommend this 5-star police procedural/crime thriller!

One of My Favorites!

MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia earned 5 golden, glittering stars and will be shelved as one of my favorites!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

MY TEASE…

Noemí Taboada is a beautiful, twenty-two-year-old socialite whose esteemed father bankrolls her upscale leisure and shifting fancies. Naturally, pampered Noemí is completely unaware that there are dark forces in the world, those beyond her control.

That is, until her father sends her on a trip through the Mexican countryside to unravel the mystery involving Noemí’s cousin, Catalina. A year ago, Catalina married into a once prominent family, the Doyles, who owned and operated a lucrative silver mine before it shut down. Now living with generations of Doyles, Catalina has sent a disturbing letter to Noemí’s father. She writes of bizarre and supernatural happenings. Fearful Catalina is losing her mind, Noemí is tasked with learning the truth.

Noemí’s arrival at High Place—the deteriorating mansion located on a secluded mountain-top, fails to conjure a warm family welcome, as the Doyles make it clear she isn’t one of them. With the perpetual chill and fog on the grounds, the ignored mold and dust inside the dwelling, and the house’s unfriendly stewards, Noemí hopes her stay will be brief.

However, as Catalina’s condition worsens and Noemí’s visit lengthens, the peculiar embraces her. Noemí begins to learn the secrets behind the Doyle legacy and her disposition turns gloomy. If she isn’t careful, Noemí may find herself in even more danger than Catalina.

Legacies, after all, are meant to be passed on.

THOUGHTS…

First and foremost, the writing is elegant. Fabulously refined. For gothic fiction (a.k.a. horror), the writing quality elevates the entire story, to the level of a classic. LOL, that’s seriously how I felt. And I enjoyed the application of words that aren’t used often but remain impactful: insectivorous, spasmodically, and tincture. The author’s mastery of craft is inspiring!

On to the main villain (whom I won’t name). The author perfectly executes the villain. Think of a flame flickering in complete darkness. The moth knows it represents danger, knows death is likely if it gives into desires, yet, the moth has difficulty resisting the magnetic pull—the false promise—of the sensual flame. Yup, that’s how Silvia Moreno-Garcia made the main villain.

Like a classic, the action wasn’t firing on all cylinders in every chapter. But the promise was there—the promise that when everything converged, the ride was going to be heart-pounding. MEXICAN GOTHIC delivered.

In my quickfire ratings, the only deduction was in believability. However, Noemí’s journey hooked me from the get-go, so honestly, I was all in.

QUICKFIRE RATINGS from 1 (ugh) to 5 (woo-hoo)…

Plot (the story): 5

Main character’s likability: 5

Development of supporting character(s): 5

Settings/Atmosphere: 5

Pacing (how fast did I turn the pages): 5

Believability of story: 3

Satisfying ending: 5

Tension of story: 5

Stirs the heart (romantic elements): 5

Did I solve the mystery/guess the ending before the reveal? No (4)

OVERALL:

No surprises that MEXICAN GOTHIC is a bestseller!!!

I’ve added MEXICAN GOTHIC to my favorites shelf! I highly recommend this fabulous work of literary artistry!!!

The Turning Point Earns Another Accolade!

The Turning Point, the third and final installment in The ELI Chronicles, was awarded Honorable Mention from Writer’s Digest in its 2020 Self-Published E-Book Awards! WD recognizes a Winner and two Honorable Mentions in each genre category. The Turning Point was entered in the Fantasy category. (Each category Winner continues to compete for the Grand Prize Winner.)

“An incredibly original story I escaped into easily!”

— Judge, 8th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards

As an Honorable Mention, The Turning Point earned a book sticker, certificate, $50 gift certificate to the Writer’s Digest Shop, and an announcement on WritersDigest.com in June 2021. In addition, contestants receive category evaluations (shown numerically, from 1 to 5), as well as written feedback from a judge. In category feedback, “1” indicates “needs improvements” up to “5” which is “outstanding.”

Below is feedback from the judge who reviewed The Turning Point:

Woo-hoo!!! I was so thrilled by the judge’s feedback. It’s affirmation that my hardwork to improve my craft and storytelling is paying off! YAY!!! Learning is an ongoing commitment and I have every intention of continuing to expand my knowledge as a writer and storyteller. Thank you for sticking with me in this journey!!!

Note: I will provide a link when Writer’s Digest posts all award winners on its website in June!

LAYLA Earned 4.5 Crazy-town Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

WARNING…

If you take a trip and wind up in Crazy-town, you’re not even halfway to the twisted destination titled Layla.

Seriously. Consider yourself warned!

MY TEASE…

Twenty-two-year-old Layla is a free spirit—unafraid and uninhibited. So when the band at her sister’s wedding, located in Kansas at a rural bed and breakfast, inspires absolutely no one to dance, she doesn’t care. Layla dances anyway. By herself.

Who would have guessed that her awful dancing would be the catalyst to finding musician Leeds Gabriel, her possible soulmate? And that their one night of passion would turn into several inseparable weeks?

Sadly, dreams can turn into nightmares quickly.

When Layla answers the door at Leeds’s home, his ex shoots her in the head. During her slow recovery plagued with amnesia and cognitive confusion, she learns that Leeds was also shot before he managed to kill his former girlfriend.

To rekindle all they have lost between them since the horrid event, Layla agrees to let Leeds take her back to the B and B (now empty and for sale) where they fell in love. But instead of growing together, Layla is growing more and more afraid. Terrified. Desperate. Nothing is making sense at the B and B. And the cuts on her wrists from being tied to the bed warn her that her life is still in grave danger.

THOUGHTS…

For those of you who have read this book, you may be wondering why my tease wasn’t written from Leeds’s perspective, since he is the protagonist and narrator of this story. Well, Layla was the only character driving me to finish this book! For me, the character of Leeds Gabriel was that despicable! In my opinion, Leeds is the worst kind of partner someone could have—the kind who would hurt a person to get what he wants and thinks he deserves. 

Why the deduction of a half star?

Instead, maybe I should explain why I rated Layla so high.

I place the greatest weight (when awarding stars) with how compelled I am to learn the answers to a book’s lingering questions and to discover the root causes of the conflicts within the pages. And Layla certainly delivered. I wasn’t going to put this crazy book down until I learned what the heck was going on!!!

The half-star deduction was associated with Leeds’s repetition of his internal thoughts. The decision-making pattern for this character was obvious early-on: the reader learns that he never changes his mind about taking a course of action, even though he goes through the process of analyzing the pros and cons. Yet, as a reader, I’m forced to listen to his internal whining and his pity-party guilt trips, knowing full well he’s going to do the “very bad thing” anyway! This drawn-out analyzing (because Leeds does MANY bad things) slowed the book down a bit.

QUICKFIRE RATINGS from 1 (ugh) to 5 (woo-hoo)…

Plot (the story): 5

Main character’s likability: 1

Development of supporting character(s): 4

Settings: 5

Pacing (how fast did I turn the pages): 4

Believability of story: 4

Satisfying ending: 3

Tension of story: 5

Stirs the heart (romantic elements): N/A (To me, this wasn’t a love story)

Did I solve the mystery/guess the ending before the reveal? No (5)

OVERALL:

I can’t really say that all the elements of this book were believable, but they were compelling enough to keep me turning the pages. As a result, I recommend this freakish ride! The book leaves Crazy-town in the dust!

Five Brilliant (but Raunchy) Stars

MY TEASE…

Thirty-year-old Camille Preaker had left her miserable hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, the first chance she got. She moved north to Chicago and became a reporter for the Daily Post. She had always been a writer of sorts, cutting words with sharp objects into her skin as a permanent record. Each word tingled with the memory of a painful childhood scar, like the death of her sickly and beloved younger sister, Marian.

Turns out, not a lot had changed in Wind Gap since Camille left. Young girls were still dying.

With Camille’s connection to the small town, her newspaper sends her back “home” in hopes she will break the story that leads to the serial killer’s identity.

Dormant words on Camille’s skin awake with her return because the darkest of secrets hide behind the Victorian, Southern charm of Wind Gap. Will Camille unravel their truth before another girl dies or the past ensnares her?

THOUGHTS…

I gave SHARP OBJECTS five stars because of its amazing plot. I did not accurately guess the murderer! Kudos to the author for that!

Without the twisty plot that kept me glued to learning the truth, the book probably wouldn’t have worked for me. Personally, I want to like a story’s protagonist and unfortunately, I didn’t really like anyone in this story.

Take Camille: the author made her narrative so raunchy and crude at times, that it threw me out of the story, and I don’t consider myself a prude.

Here’s an example. Camille went to interview the father of one of the murdered girls. The house is a mess, as one might expect after a tragedy. The only clean room left is a bedroom, so the father takes Camille there to talk. Here’s Camille’s internal thoughts:

“We could have been day players in an amateur porn flick.”

And then…

“He needed no foreplay for the interview, and I was grateful. It’s like sweet-talking your date when you both know you’re about to get laid.”

Really? Camille’s thinking about porn when interviewing a grieving father whose child had been murdered and all of her teeth had been removed? Seriously?

And the author could not resist the foreign pubic hair tactic to incite a gag.

“Someone else’s pubic hair floated by.”

Well, thank you very much for sharing.

Finally, there’s a lot of stickiness, vomiting, and lingering smells in this book. I was like … Gillian Flynn, PLEASE let Camille take a normal shower/bath to clean herself for once! LOL!!!

QUICKFIRE RATINGS from 1 (ugh) to 5 (woo-hoo)…

Plot (the story): 5

Main character’s likability: 2

Development of supporting character(s): 2

Setting(s): 5

Pacing (how fast did I turn the pages): 5

Believability of story: 5

Satisfying ending: 5

Tension of story: 5

Stirs the heart (romantic elements): 1

Did I solve the mystery/guess the ending before the reveal? No (5)

OVERALL:

In the end, the plot, not the characters, won me over. A brilliant execution of a dark psychological thriller!