Book Reviews

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

39863405

Released: April 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 352
Rating: 5/5


Ah, the age old story of daughter-in-law pitted against mother-in-law. It’s a tale as old as the institution of marriage. Well whatever you think you know about this dynamic, you’d be best to leave it all at the door when you read this intense domestic thriller. 

synopsis

When Lucy falls in love with Ollie, she is over the moon not just about her relationship but also about her future family. Having lost her mother at a young age, she yearns for a close relationship with her new mother-in-law, the crisp and even-tempered Diana. Diana comes across as someone with very little emotion or regard for others, including her own family,  but Lucy is determined. That is until Diana is found dead of a suspicious suicide. As the secrets and lies of this seemingly picture perfect family are suddenly unwound, all of them become suspects in Diana’s shocking death.

review
Until recently, I hadn’t read very much fiction based in Australia. This and 55 by James Delargy (review to come soon) are my first forays into Australian thrillers. I have to say that based on these two novels, I’m pretty impressed.

I read The Mother-in-Law in only two days because I just couldn’t put it down. I even read it while standing in line at the market! Every time I thought I knew what was going on I quickly found out I was completely wrong – a rarity for me when it comes to these types of thrillers. I was kept guessing right till the startling end. 

The book shifts from the points of view of most of the family, really giving us insight into everyone’s motivations. Sometimes that can get a bit tedious, especially when you don’t care about what a certain character has to say, but the plot device worked well within this story. After nearly every chapter my assumptions and feelings about the characters did an about-face as we learned more about their pasts. 

Aside from the ending, the most surprising part of this for me was how strongly I started to feel about the titular character. As we learn more about Diana through flashbacks you begin to realise why Diana is the way she is and start to feel sympathy and attachment toward this outwardly standoffish woman. Despite how her actions made her seem, her intentions were usually pure. So many times I wanted to shake Diana and yell “JUST SAY WHAT YOU MEAN, YOU’RE ACTUALLY DOING A NICE THING WHEN IT’S IN CONTEXT” 

The only niggling thing about this book for me were the decisions Diana made toward the end. They were really questionable and didn’t seem to fit with her persona at all, however it would be Spoiler City to go any further into this. So I’ll just leave it for you to read and if you feel the same way I did, let me know in the comments.

 

thoughts
By the end of The Mother-in-Law, I was utterly brokenhearted and wanted to scream in that amazing way only the best of books can make you feel. Fellow readers will understand what I mean: “This book totally destroyed me, you have to read it.”

Honestly, five stars aren’t even enough. I read The Mother-in-Law a few months ago when I was sent an ARC from the publisher, but I still often find myself thinking about this book. It wasn’t just a suspense novel, it was an emotional one too that did a deep dive into the complexities of blended families.

I think Sally Hepworth captured it best when writing about why mothers and daughters-in-law have tougher relationships than their male counterparts:

“Sons-in-law and fathers-in-law don’t care enough to have issues.”
“So we have issues because we care?”
“We have issues because we care too much.” 

 

this-book-was-received-through-netgalley

 

Book Reviews

The Flavors of Other Worlds: 13 Science Fiction Tales from a Master Storyteller by Alan Dean Foster

7c289fb6e4c9418ec1481f71e27277658d79ac60

Released: March 2019
Publisher: WordFire Press LLC
Pages: 188
Rating: 4/5


An impressive collection of science fiction short stories that take place both here on Earth and in the far flung reaches of the universe. All but the final one have previously appeared in other publications, but this was the first time I had read any of them (or anything by this author).

synopsis

The book’s official synopsis sums this collection up better than I could:

From fighting giant bugs to defeating an interstellar empire without firing a shot; from scientific idiot savants toying with the universe to how the robots will really win the robot apocalypse, these thirteen flavorful tales are guaranteed to entertain, amuse, awe, and maybe even enlighten.

Includes the first appearance in print of the Icerigger novellete “Chilling” and a new novelette, “Valentin Sharffen and the Code of Doom.”
review

Up until recently, short fiction wasn’t a genre I really spent much time with. I have so many full length books on my never ending TBR that I didn’t really see the point. I had tried reading some in the past, but found I preferred novels more. Clearly, I was reading the wrong short stories.

In the past year, I’ve been trying to read more short stories and novellas, including Strange Weather by Joe Hill and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. Both were amazing! So slowly but surely I’m becoming a convert and Flavors of Other Worlds is only cementing that fact. I haven’t read anything by this author before, but he has been on my radar for awhile and I think this was a great introduction to his writing. If these stories are any indication, he’s not only hilarious but an extremely talented science fiction writer.

Each story has a short introduction from the author explaining the thought processes or inspirations behind it. This sounds like it could ruin the stride of the book but actually it’s really endearing and made me appreciate the stories all the more.

Inevitably with these types of collections, some stories are better than others. Within Flavors, the first and last were my favorites but to be honest I enjoyed all of them. The first, “Unvasion,” had me laughing so much I ended up reading it aloud to my family. Aliens take over Earth not through lasers or bombs, but by acquiring all our businesses- starting with a McDonald’s franchise in Arizona. The theme is brought up again later through the humorously titled, “Pardon Our Conquest,” where we’re the alien invaders, albeit seemingly polite ones.

The final story, “Valentin Sharffen and The Code of Doom” was the longest but also one of the best. We talk a lot about robots gaining sentience, but what would happen if video game characters did as well?

Quite a few were more what I would call speculative fiction, really shining a spotlight on humanity. “Seasonings” was a great example of this: the robot apocalypse taking a more subtle form through the automation of the food industry. Humans are basically dulled into submission through the luxuries of automation as well as through additives the robots have added to the food to make us more complacent. No one much cares though because life is just so easy now, why shake things up? As someone who has an (irrational?) fear of robots, this was far more terrifying than the more violent uprisings we see in the movies.

thoughts
Flavors of Other Worlds was released last month, but I only got my hands on it a few days ago. It’s a quick and ridiculously fun read. Despite their length, the stories were all very detailed and immersive, aided by the brief introductions the author had for each one. Even if you aren’t that big of a science fiction enthusiast, the stories are clever enough that I think they would appeal to a wider audience. I’m really glad that I finally read something by Alan Dean Foster and if these stories are anything to go by, I’ve really been missing out.

 

this-book-was-received-through-netgalley

Book Reviews

Music and Malice in Hurricane Town by Alex Bell

Released: April 2019
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Pages: 384
Rating: 4/5

“There are no angels in Baton Noir. Only devils.”


Music and Malice in Hurricane Town is a fantastical blend of folklore, magic, and mystery. It took a couple chapters for me to get drawn in, but once I did I lost two nights of sleep telling myself “Just one more chapter…”

synopsis

Baton Noir is essentially a mirror universe New Orleans teeming with witches, vampires, and Louisiana style Voodoo. The mythical beings inhabiting the city rule the land while regular humans (the lowly “Subjects”) struggle to get by in an increasingly corrupt and dangerous world.

Jude Lomax, a trumpet player in one of the city’s numerous jazz bands, is a frustrated young woman sick of the cards life have dealt her. She loves Baton Noir but wishes she could do something to stop its moral and physical decay. The city’s heyday as a cultural and architectural marvel are long gone due to the dark magic forces that now control it.

Despite being surrounded by magic, Jude vehemently avoids it. That is, until the day her band leads the funeral procession of the murdered Cajou Queen, Ivory Monette. After being possessed by the infamous Queen’s spirit, Jude unwittingly finds herself right at the pulsing heart of Baton Noir’s magical underbelly.

By about 50 pages in, I was intrigued. By 150, I was fully hooked. By 250, I had to come to grips with the fact that I would not be sleeping that night because there was no way I was putting the book down.

The world building in this was breathtakingly atmospheric. From the Gothic streets of Baton Noir to the cursed and eerie bayous, I was thoroughly drawn into the world of Jude Lomax. Alex Bell did well to describe it all because despite some of the more mind boggling things Jude saw, you could actually picture it. I often felt as if I was standing right there with her.

The characters within this enchanting setting were varied, rich and compelling. I truly cared about all of them (even the evil ones) and wanted to know what would happen to them next. Especially since as soon as I thought I knew what was coming, I quickly found out I was completely wrong. The mysteries cleverly intertwined within Music & Malice were as twisty as the Cajou Queen’s magical snakes.

And can we talk about the title and that cover? I try not to judge a book by its title or its cover, but with this one it’s really hard not to. Honestly, you don’t even need to read any blurbs about the book. Just look at that amazing cover and that’s all you need to know before diving in.

The only reason this isn’t rated 5 stars is because the book felt really white. With so much incorporation of the culture and religious practices of predominantly black peoples, there was a glaring lack of melanin in Baton Noir. Even the gods, who were clearly based on Voodoo religious figures, seemed to be described as being white. This is just not what you would expect in a book so deeply entrenched with New Orleans and Afro-Caribbean culture. It really felt like it was close to crossing the border from incorporation to appropriation.

Like I said before, it was hard for me to get into this at first. Jude was just so… angry at the beginning I had no idea why. It also took some time to come to grips with the incredible setting the reader is immediately thrust into. However, once the book got going, it got going. I had two very unproductive days at work because of this novel and I regret nothing.

When I finished Music & Malice, all I could think was, “Wait…that can’t be the end. Please tell me there will be more!” Luckily, according to a reply from the author on Twitter, this isn’t the last we will see of Jude. Thank goodness, because otherwise I was going to have to take some lessons in magic to conjure up a sequel.

Book Reviews

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

LIGHT-BRIGADE-FINAL-COVER-680x1027.jpg

Released: April 2019
Publisher: Angry Robot
Pages: 358
Rating: 5/5

Be prepared, this is going to be a long one because the book was that good. It’s Starship Troopers meets Edge of Tomorrow but without having to deal with Tom Cruise. It’s an astonishing achievement in military science fiction.


Science fiction is an unbeatable genre to lose yourself within. I often find the best sci-fi stories are ones that not only take us to another place, but take us to a place that creatively mirrors our own sociopolitical and cultural fears. The Light Brigade has done that better than any other book I’ve read in recent years. While this was a book that took place during a thoroughly gruesome futuristic war, it was the parallels to our current political climate that kept making me feel as if I had been pulse blasted in the gut.

synopsis
Our main character, Dietz, lives in a distant dystopian future that doesn’t seem all that unrealistic. The planet is already utterly destroyed before this war- both by climate change and by the corporations that now rule the world. The corporations have laid waste to the dying Earth and its remaining inhabitants as they go to increasingly greater and short-sighted lengths to consolidate power. Only those working within the corps are considered citizens, whilst the majority of people are left completely disenfranchised and forgotten in slums. Sound familiar? It should, because in many places this is already happening.

Dietz joins a corporate army after the human colonists on Mars destroy her hometown and everyone in it. To effectively battle insurgents both on Mars and around the world, the troops need to be able to move in a blink of an eye. Luckily, the military has developed transportation a la Star Trek transporters. Except it’s less “Beam me up, Scotty” and more “OH MY GOD MY ENTIRE BODY IS ON FIRE PLEASE KILL ME, SCOTTY!” It’s extremely dangerous, with many soldiers corporalizing as piles of steaming meat or stuck within nearby solid structures. The mortality rate is staggering, and this is before anyone even starts fighting.

Dietz survives the first “jump” but soon discovers she’s jumping out of order. She isn’t in her first ever battle- she’s in one in the future. There’s no time to deal with this as the fighting had already begun before her platoon materialized. Yet, even if she could figure out where she is and why, the 24/7 monitoring of every soldier by the corporation means she has to be careful about everything she says and does. Over the course of several jumps (and several different points in time), she eventually comes to learn the grim truth behind this war and that she is the only one who can stop the never ending cycle of annihilation.

review

Because this was a time travel book, it could have easily become confusing and hard to keep up with. However despite jumping around unpredictably throughout Dietz’s military career, it was a surprisingly coherent story. There were a few times I was a bit lost, but I think that was the point.

“Maybe you wanted a different story. One with more answers and less ambiguity. But that wasn’t how I experienced this war.”

By the end it all came together incredibly though. I had to re-read the last couple chapters several times because they absolutely floored me.

I also had to take a break from reading here and there because of the ultimate powerlessness Dietz felt about humanity’s endless cycles of self-destruction. With everything going on in the world right now, it really hit home.

“The power of corrupt governments and entrenched corporations feels inevitable. No doubt so did the rule of the kings and landowners before them.”

Don’t we all know it, sister.

I think Hurley turned the mirror on humans best with this one, though:

“People can always be convinced to turn on one another. All you have to do is convince them that their way of life is being attacked. Denounce all the pacifist liberal bleeding hearts and feel-good heretics, the social outcasts, the education. Call them elites and snobs. Say they’re out of touch with real patriots. Call these rabble-rousers terrorists. Say their very existence weakens the state. In the end, the government need not do anything to silent dissent. Their neighbors will do it for them.”

Often science fiction shows us as an egalitarian futuristic society that has overcome the “evils” of poverty and inequality. Yet, even with all that technology, would human nature really ever change? With everything going on in the world today, it sometimes doesn’t seem like we ever will. The Light Brigade captures this horrific truth within a brutal, bloody war that shows humans and corporations unchecked will only destroy everything in the end.

thoughts

Now, don’t go away thinking this book will just be a depressing, gritty read full of blood and despair. There is a lot of that, but there’s also the underlining theme that it only takes a few of us to bring everyone back into the “light.” I finished this book with a profound sense of hope for humanity because it reminded me that we certainly do have a lot of our own Light Brigade coming out of the dark.

After blowing us all away with The Stars are Legion, Kameron Hurley is one of the strongest voices in science fiction today. With this second novel, she proves that she has no intent on slowing down. I can’t recommend this or her previous book enough. It’s available now, so what are you waiting for?

 

 

this-book-was-received-through-netgalley

Travel

It’s not hoarding if it’s books, right? Right?!

So I just got back from an amazing vacation in Romania where I was able to visit Bran Castle with my well loved copy of Bram Stoker’s book in tow. Oh, my husband was there too.

Romania is a beautiful country filled with incredible people, food, and history. I already miss it.

When Book Nerds Go On Vacation

As I’m sure most of you can relate to, even though we were only there a week I packed several books and my Kindle. You can never be too careful after all.

We had a pretty busy trip planned because we wanted to see as much of the country as possible. There wasn’t a whole lot of downtime. But then I saw this store:

I mean, it would have just been rude to not go in.

Luckily, all the books were in English. I told my husband we were just going in to look but we both knew I was lying.

Back home, I’m drowning in my TBR piles so I tell myself I’ll catch up on some of the books I own before I buy more… yet I keep buying more books…

It’s a first world problem to be sure, and I suppose being surrounded by books isn’t a bad thing. Especially since I will get around to reading all these books.

I hope.

Tell me about your book nerd “problems” in the comments!

Book Reviews

Surgeons’ Hall by E.S. Thomson

Released March 2019
Publisher: Constable (an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group)
Pages: 368
Rating: 4/5


An extremely dark and atmospheric novel that evokes the same sense of macabre as the grisly Jack the Ripper killings.

synopsis
The setting was incredible: the gruesome beginnings of surgery and dissection amidst gritty Victorian London during the Great Exhibition. Our main character, the apothecary Jem Flockhart, is a woman who has posed her entire life as a man and moves about her social and professional circles undetected. After a casual visit to the Crystal Palace where she stumbles upon a shocking discovery, she is swept up in a grotesque murder that leads her down a path filled with even more horrifying secrets.

review

The book was delightfully ghastly and definitely not for the weak of heart. The author perfectly captured this period of history and filled Jem’s dark, gory world with a wonderful set of characters, namely the enigmatic Crowe sisters. Jem was very compelling as well.

Since I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, I’m not sure I identified as much with some of the supporting characters I suspect I was meant to be familiar with. At times not having read the other books did make me feel like I was at a disadvantage which is why I’m probably one of the few readers to rate this less than 5 stars.

I also wish more of the book had taken place at the Great Exhibition. It’s such a fascinating event in British history that has lent itself to many fantastical stories. So what a disappointment that it didn’t really feature much within this book.

thoughts

I really liked this dark and devilish read. It’s gory, but fun too. Do yourself a favor and pick this up, but make sure you’ve eaten your lunch first.

 

 

this-book-was-received-through-netgalley

Book Reviews

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

image001

Released: March 2019
Publisher: Berkley Books (an imprint of Penguin)
Pages: 377
Rating: 5/5


Every marriage is different…

Okay, maybe not quite THIS different.

Right from the start you know that this seemingly average suburban couple have a dark secret under their shiny exterior, but you don’t discover how truly dark it is until the book’s shocking ending.

review

I was intrigued by the premise: a husband and wife serial killer team operating under the facade of a perfectly happy and normal family out in the Florida suburbs. I mean who doesn’t want to find out what goes on behind the closed doors of those who seem to have it all?

My Lovely Wife was well written and believable (to a point), and had me turning the pages late into the night. I completely devoured this in only a few sittings. Some of the twists you could see coming from a mile off, but quite a few I definitely didn’t see coming. For someone who reads a lot of books in this genre, that’s really saying something. I’ve been telling everyone and their mother about this one- it’s a really good read.

I teetered between 3 and 4 stars simply because I had a really hard time understanding how a milquetoast middle aged dad went from not being a murderer to suddenly finding in his 40’s that murder is “sexy.” There just wasn’t enough there for me to buy that he made the massive leap from not ever wanting to murder anyone to happily stalking women he has no qualms about killing. Millicent though- wow, what a piece of work. I completely buy her deviousness. She was a thoroughly terrifying villain.

thoughts

Overall this was a wickedly fun read even if I had some issues with it. The latter half of the book was stronger, full of nail biting tension before coming to its explosive conclusion. I recommend it for anyone who is a fan of this genre, especially with vacation season coming up. Just be prepared to be questioning the secret lives of all your neighbors once you’re done!

(FYI during the month of April you can snag yourself a copy of the eBook for only .99p at Amazon)

this-book-was-received-through-netgalley

Uncategorized

Here we go!

Hello world!

I’ve been reviewing books for a few months now and figured it was time to have somewhere to keep them all.

I’m an avid reader who usually has an eBook, an audio book, and a physical book going. If I leave the house without something to read I have a mild panic attack. Science fiction is my jam, but I love most genres, especially historical fiction, mystery, and fantasy. Some of my favorite books of all time:

  • Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
  • Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

So, yeah, a few different genres there!

I’m also a pretty big Trekkie thanks to my mother who is an even bigger one. She’s also the person who introduced me to the wonderful world of science fiction and instilled a passion for reading in me from a young age.

This will mostly be a book review blog but from time to time you’ll probably hear about my other nerdy exploits, usually with my dog Zorro in tow. We tend to get up to quite a few!

Live long and prosper, y’all.