Reviews

The Invited // Jennifer McMahon

Do you ever getting blogging paralysis? I do. I feel like I don’t have anything to say, when really, given how much I read and think about books, I’m sure I can come up with something. Apparently I suffer from internet shyness, is that a thing?

I’ve been reading and enjoying Jennifer McMahon books for years now. When I was working on my MLIS (over a decade ago… yikes.), I had to take a young adult fiction class and create a database of recommended fiction. I included Promise Not to Tell as part of my adult/young adult crossover category. I remember thinking McMahon was an author to watch. Then I read The Winter People, followed by The Night Sister, and I became a loyal reader.

The Invited takes us to Vermont, where Connecticut school teachers Helen and Nick have moved to build their dream home. Soon after arriving, strange things begin to happen. Initially they ignore the ominous incidents, as one does, but a ghostly apparition finally forces Helen to investigate. With the help of two town residents, she lurks deeper into the dark past of her new home, inviting a danger she never imagined.

McMahon is a solid writer, and while her prose isn’t necessarily poetic, it keeps the pages turning quite well. Her characters are interesting and well realized, and I particularly love Olive in this novel. I love how the author dips her toe into the supernatural realm without moving into outright horror, as the result is an evocative, gothic ghost story. It would be an excellent autumn read, but I did thoroughly enjoy it in the middle of spring. It’s an easy book to recommend to anyone who loves a good ghost story.

Reviews

Honor Roll // Vol. 3

I’m certainly not one to declare the book review dead, but I do think it’s the type of post that’s less engaging, less likely to be clicked on, less likely to be read… You get the idea. And, dear readers, I’m secure enough in my insecurity to admit I do want people to read what I write, if only to continue to share my love of whatever wonderful/quirky/clever/delightful/daunting/terrible book I just read. These are a few that made my honor roll, and here are the ones I don’t think you should miss.

Wicked Saints // Emily A. Duncan. How great is that title? This book will work for the right person. I was not that person. Although I hesitate to describe it as such – because I have my own negative connotations with the word – this book is trendy. It has all the right elements – blood magic, ancient enemies, and attractive boys – for the right person.

Downfall // Jay Crownover. I am a nightmare to fly with, so I usually try to pick a book that’s light, easy, and doesn’t require my full concentration. This one fits that bill perfectly. It’s got a little bit of grit, a little bit of angst, but they live happily ever after.

Cape May // Chip Creek. Cape May is a complex look at getting married when you’re both too young and too naive (the novel is set in the 1950s). Henry and Effie are newlyweds from rural Georgia and they’re in Cape May, New Jersey for their honeymoon, only it’s the off season and they’re bored. They stop by a neighbor’s house when they see a light on, only to get sucked into a world of debauchery and drinking. Both are easily manipulated, and soon Henry and Effie are barely recognizable to each other. Cape May, though a bit steamy and explicit, is a well done character study looking at the ramifications of betrayal and remorse.

When the Sky Fell on Splendor // Emily Henry. I recently included this one my what to read if you love Stranger Things, and that still stands. Franny and her friends – The Ordinary – investigate paranormal activity and legends near their small Ohio town. One night, a bright light comes hurtling from the sky, and after that, things aren’t quite the same. Much like Stranger Things, this isn’t a book just about the unique abilities that develop, but much more about the meaning of friendship and family.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely // Brigid Kemmerer. This is absolutely a situation of “it’s not you, it’s me.” Brigid Kemmerer’s retelling of Beauty and the Beast is well done and I’d recommend it to the right person. It just wasn’t for me.

Daisy Jones and the Six // Taylor Jenkins Reid. I started this in book format, but switched to the audio version and it was AMAZING. When a book is told through so many different perspectives, actually hearing the characters is so helpful to me, otherwise their “voices” tend to blend together in my mind (I find myself going back to the beginning of the chapter to find out whose perspective it is). Given the huge amount of coverage this novel has received, there’s no need for me to say anymore than “it’s a good one.”

Reviews

The River // Peter Heller

“They got hot. They paddled hard. Almost thirty miles on a flat-water current was a long way even for them. Because the river slowed and expended itself in unexpected wide coves. From which loons called as they passed – the rising wail that cracked the afternoon with irrepressible longing and seemed to darken the sky. The ululant laughter that followed. Mirthless and sad. And from across the slough or from far downstream the cry that answered.”

Jack and Wynn meet during their freshman orientation at Dartmouth. Brought together by their mutual love of literature and the outdoors, a deep friendship develops. A few years into university, they take a semester off and pursue their dream of taking an extended canoe trip down the Maskwa River in Northern Canada. What begins as a leisurely trip takes on a sense of urgency when they see a wildfire bearing down on them from a distance. Things intensify when they meet two drunk rednecks and try to warn them, and get even worse when they begin to search for a man’s missing wife. Soon their idyllic paddle through the wilderness becomes a painful lesson in the perils of both man and nature.

Full of elegance and foreboding, Peter Heller has written an outstanding novel that’s part love letter, part warning label for the natural world. From pragmatic Jack to the introspective Wynn to mercurial mother nature, the character development is excellent. As the boys move from the calm lake waters to the swift whitewater of the Maskwa River, the pace of the story moves with them. Heller, a former contributing editor to Outdoor magazine and National Outdoor Book Award Winner, is adept at describing the terrifying beauty of the world around us and, for me, it’s where the novel really shines.

“Across the river and downstream, high up, somewhere over where the fire should be there was a pale cloud that drifted and elongated and accordioned into a high curtain of softest light, and as he watched, it spread silently across the northern sky. It pulsed with inner radiance as if alive and then poured itself like a cascade to the horizon and shimmered with green. A pale green cataract of something scintillant that spread across an entire quadrant and sang as it fell with total absence: of sound, of substance, of water or air… It was like a portent–more: a preview–and it was an if every cantlet and breath of the night was filled with song–and silent. It was terrifying and unutterably beautiful.”

As the novel unfolds, it becomes many things: a heart-pounding mystery of a missing woman, a tale two boys taking an adventurous trip downriver, a story of deep friendship in the face of adversity. It’s a wonderfully written story of desperation, of danger, of nature, and of tragedy. It will be one of the best books I read in 2019. Nearly flawless.

Miscellanea

Lately

Making: I would figuratively kill for some homemade macaroni and cheese on real pasta, but I am making this roasted red pepper chickpea pasta recipe instead.
Drinking: Water, today. I finished an entire bottle of rose last night (not entirely by myself).
Reading: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
Listening: Sudden Prey by John Sandford
Organizing: Everything!
Coveting: Babaa knitwear. I don’t need another cardigan, but I also do.
Watching: I’ve been wanting to catch up on American Gods, after finishing the audio.
Wishing: That I was still young enough that I could eat and drink what I want, when I want.
Planning: We have a trip to Asia coming up. I’m trying to plan how to pack for the whole thing. It feels overwhelming.
Fearing: I’ve probably mentioned I hate air travel. It would be better if someone would just sedate me before I got on the plane.
Accomplishing: Not this blog. I’m still here. I still want to write. I’m just so TIRED. It’s all those kids, I tell you.
Needing: One of my biggest failing as an adult, from a health perspective, is my inability to establish healthy sleep habits.
Considering: What to wear to an ’80s fundraiser this weekend. I’m thinking there will be tulle.
Wondering: I didn’t publish this post before my trip as planned, so this is slightly out of date: This upcoming trip to Texas is our first backpack only trip. Everyone gets on small backpack to pack their week’s worth of stuff in. The real question is can everyone do it?
Feeling: Cheap. The backpack idea came from my unwillingness to pay airline baggage fees for everyone.
Thinking: About eBags. Are they worth it?
Celebrating: My oldest just turned 11!

Image found here.

Like This, Read That

What To Read if You Love Stranger Things

It’s probably no surprise that I love Stranger Things. I love it enough that I’ve watched it twice, once with my husband and once with my son (because I thought he would love it too (he did)). With season three not releasing until July 4th, 2019, I thought a list of books that are reminiscent of Stranger Things** was in order*. A few of these will be of no surprise to anyone even remotely acquainted with the show (IT, anyone?), but I hope there will be a few new books to tide you over – if, like me, you’re impatiently waiting for July.

IT // Stephen King. Possibly the most obvious of the bunch, IT follows a group of boys and one girl as they are terrorized by, and later fight against, an evil entity living (essentially) underground.

American Elsewhere // Robert Jackson Bennett. One the surface, Wink, New Mexico is a normal town and the residents are normal people. A government building sits outside and above the town, and their work has influenced the town in…unique ways.

Christine // Stephen King. Christine may be a less obvious choice, but if you’ve seen season two, I think it’s a good, very applicable one in regard to Will. Because sometimes, even when you’re trying to do the right thing, you’re taken over by someone else entirely.

Summer of Night // Dan Simmons. Goodreads sums it up better than I could: ”
It’s the summer of 1960 in Elm Haven, Illinois, and five 12-year old boys are forming the bonds that a lifetime of changes will never erase. But then a dark cloud threatens the bright promise of summer vacation: on the last day of school, their classmate Tubby Cooke vanishes. Soon, the group discovers stories of other children who once disappeared from Elm Haven. And there are other strange things happening in town: unexplained holes in the ground, a stranger dressed as a World War I soldier, and a rendering-plant truck that seems to be following the five boys. The friends realize that there is a terrible evil lurking in Elm Haven…and they must be the ones to stop it.”

Beast of Extraordinary Circumstance // Ruth Emmie Lang. This one is the most heartwarming selection on the list, but I couldn’t resist including Weylyn’s story. Weylyn is different. Raised by wolves, eccentric by nature, and possessing unique abilities, he is quite the curiosity. From stopping storm in its tracks to living in a decrepit house filled with spiders, he always has good intentions, even when he’s not quite brave enough to execute them.

When the Sky Fell on Splendor // Emily Henry. Franny and her friends – The Ordinary – investigate paranormal activity and legends near their small Ohio town. One night, a bright light comes hurtling from the same, and after that, things aren’t quite the same. Much like Stranger Things, this isn’t a book just about the unique abilities that develop, but much more about the meaning of friendship and family.

The Boys of Summer // Richard Cox. In 1979, a tornado strikes a small town in Texas. In 1983, Todd finally wakes from his coma, only he’s not quite the same. Struggling to separate fact from fiction, Todd and group of friends come of age in a mysterious summer, discovering a secret so terrible they can’t speak of it. But secrets can’t stay hidden.

The Disappearance at Devil’s Rock // Paul Tremblay. “But Tommy isn’t a ghost. He can’t be, because right now Tommy is the opposite of a ghost. He is nowhere.” Out with his friends one night, Tommy disappears without a trace. But he’s not really gone, is he? And what it the town’s history hiding?

*I am not the first, and likely not the last, to make a list like this. I do hope to offer a unique suggestion or two though.
**I am not a fan of tv shows turned book, so you won’t find those on this list.

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