I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I am absolutely late on this book. I have listened to the audiobook multiple times and watched the documentary a couple of times. However, I hadn’t read the book until my brain became unblocked toward the end of December. There seems to be a correlation between people who enjoy horror and people who enjoy true crime. I just happen to be one of those people. However, I’ll be Gone in the Dark isn’t just about the killer. It is also about the author and her obsession.

Synopsis: The true crime book outline the hunt for the Golden State Killer.

What I liked: I truly enjoyed the writing in this book. It was accessible and easy to read (for the subject matter). I also appreciated the editors notes through out the book. Even though many parts of the book were pieced together from her notes the voice never changed. It read like it was written in one continuous story. (This really says a lot to McNamara’s writing style). The book reads like you are having a conversation with a friend. Not like you are reading someone’s words posthumously. Her writing style is very much like a chat. In the documentary this is something that is mentioned. That people liked to talk to her. She seemed to get people to open up to her. That is very evident in her writing style. I normally have a hard time with time shifts, even in non-fiction. But McNamara’s time shift where perfect. Each time there was a chapter about the past it linked with the chapter immediately before it. It was a perfect way to tie the two together. The pacing was perfect. I really appreciated the last chapters about the use of DNA in the hunt as well as geo profiling. It is something that always fascinates me.

What I didn’t like: Nothing

Star Rating: 5

My Thoughts: This book was so much more than the hunt for a prolific killer. It was also about the author. Her thought process, her hunt and her life. That was the part of the book that made me sad. Her death. She didn’t live long enough to see the monster put into a cage of his own making. I always wonder if he was on the long list of suspects that she had. If somewhere in her notes there is a scribble about this man specifically. I feel badly for Patton Oswalt and her daughter as well. But there is a deeper sadness there. A sadness that I wonder if seeing this man caught would have ever gone away. There was a part in the documentary that discussed Michelle herself. She sounds like so many of us in the book community. We just want to get in our comfy clothes and read a good book. I might have been late to the party with this book, but what I experienced was one helluva a party.

The Dumb House by John Burnside

There has been a question throughout history as to how humans develop language. To my great astonishment there have been “experiments” performed on children to determine when speech is developed and what that language is actually going to be uttered first. This practice was used to try to prove a specific religious set or ethnicity was correct. While in todays world this sounds ridiculous and is abusive. These are things that have actually been done. I didn’t really believe it until I googled it and read about it. Before reading The Dumb House I think you should as well.

Synopsis: A man is fascinated with how language works…and conducts experiments to find out.

What I liked: It is such a bizarre story. But the writing is amazing and the story itself was brilliant. Luke’s story is chilling. The story itself unfolds like piece by piece. It is an amazing piece of psychological terror. The way that Luke is written is chilling. Burnside gives the reader a peek into the mind of a very disturbed individual. Burnside takes you on a trip into Luke’s present and past. In the past excepts there is no real clue as too why Luke decided to do the things that he did. I really enjoyed the fact that Burnsides’s story was passed on historical truth.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like about the story.

Star Rating: 4.5 stars

My thoughts: I read The Dumb House after an author and book tuber that I like recommended it. Honestly, I am so very very glad that I read it. It was bizarre and I was there for the story. The bizarreness of the story reminded me of Geek Love which is one of my favorite books ever. So if you enjoy really weird stories that have a historical twist I would highly recommend The Dumb House.

Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma

Over the last month, I noticed that I hadn’t really wanted to read. I didn’t want to read or write. I didn’t want to create anything. I wanted to do nothing but binge watch tv and work. Add to the that the stress of trying to homeschool and start a new position at work. I started to allow myself to get lost in my self wallowing. I am adult enough to acknowledge that I was wallowing and doing the best I could with the new normal. The new normal changes on a daily basis. This was the first week things felt normal. Were I was actually able to focus on something long enough to read. It feels like a break through. So I decided to strike while the iron is hot and get some reviews out into the world.

Synopsis: Family drama played out over a few years. With amazing legends thrown in.

What I liked: Sharma just killed me with this story. I loved it so much. It is the book that pulled me out of my life is too much funk. The writing is layered and perfect for the story that is being told. The legend aspect is woven into the narrative perfectly. There was a deep fairytale quality through the entire story. It was beautiful and familiar. It was really a story of resiliency that I really needed to read at this time.

What I didn’t Like: There is nothing that I didn’t like about the story.

Star Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: This is such an amazing story. The book isn’t long but the story feels and reads like an epic fantasy. Like a much longer story. It sucks you right in and keeps you wanting more. It was a fantastic distraction from a world that right now is hard to face. Thank you Priya!!

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Sometimes, there are books that you read that you really don’t know what to say. Not in a bad way, but in a good way. I am sitting here, trying to figure out what to say about a story that is very powerful and deep. That has a lot to say…..But says it in a different way. Riot Baby does this and much much more. Thank you to Tor.com for sending me a review copy!!

Synopsis: In contemporary America there is a brother and sister. The sister has powers.

What I liked: With his writing Onyebuchi gives a voice to so many who don’t have voices. His writing is strong and powerful. His characterizations are amazing. I appreciate how he took many aspects of modern America and twisted them into a contemporary dystopian society. I loved how he used the supernatural aspects of the sister’s travels to look through American history and the idea of true freedom.

What I didn’t like: Nothing

Star Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: OHHHH there is so much to unpack in this story. So much sadness and hurt. It questions, the idea of true freedom. It questions the trajectory of America. The thing that I really appreciated was Onyebuchi showed the brutal reality of the American prison system. Here is something that I thought about while I was reading, was the aftercare that prisoners who are released from the system receive. How, do we care for individuals who have been in the prison system during their formative years? What do we do for those people who are vulnerable or who have been institutionalized. Are people really free then? There was something that struck me when he was talking about the box that felons have to check. When you have to check a box to announce that you have been in prison there is not the freedom that is many might think is there.

There are aspects of the book that I can’t personally, speak to as I am not a POC and I don’t want to speak from a place of privilege. I am super excited as Onyebuchi is going to be at the Tucson Festival of Books!!!

Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer

In about 1726 there was a woman named Mary Toft who, lived in Goldaming Surrey in England, with her husband and three children. In the Spring of 1726 Mary had had a stillborn delivery. However, at that time she stated that she had seen a rabbit and chased it. She didn’t catch the rabbit at that time. There was a second rabbit in the same place as the first rabbit. She wasn’t able to catch that one either. From that time forward the only thing on Mary’s mind was rabbit. The only thing that Mary wanted to eat was rabbit. This went on until the family was not able to financial support Mary’s rabbit habit.

It was during the time that Mary began to have what can only described as labor pains. She was attended to by her Mother-in-law who was a midwife. Mary delivered parts of a tabby cat and rabbit parts. Her mother-in-law sent the parts that were delivered to a physician in Guilford, named John Howard. John Howard himself didn’t believe that the animal parts that he received had been delivered by Mary. He was called to her home two days later where under his gaze Mary again delivered rabbit parts.

This went on for around two months. Mary’s story was heard by the King who requested that she be brought to London and watched day and night by courtiers and eminent surgeons. On December 7th, after being in bed for close to three months Mary admitted that she and her mother in law had perpetuated the hoax.

This story is so amazing. So when I was offered a review copy of Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen I jumped at the chance. Thank you Pantheon for my review copy.

Synopsis: The fictionalized account of Mary Toft and her rabbit births.

What I liked: Holy crap I loved this book. Palmer took what could have been a very dry story and made it a story that I didn’t want to stop. His writing is lyrical and lends itself beautifully to the time and space that he is writing about. I was very impressed with how he worked Ann’s character into the story. It always worries me when there is someone that has bodily differences in a story. But her character was well written and her bodily difference actually didn’t make her character. It was in addition to her character. Palmer was able to weave a very dark part of London history into a moral lesson. Which was very impressive.

What I didn’t like: There was nothing I didn’t like in this story.

Star Rating: 5 stars

My thoughts: Again I loved loved this book. The liberties that Palmer took fit so well into the narrative that you would have thought that they were actually part of the historical story. That is the sign of a very talented author. One that can weave two time frames together with no issues. Palmer’s research into the time period and the nuances of English culture during this time period shows how much he cared about the book and the story that he was writing.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

There are movies that really make an impression on you. I had seen the remake with Nicole Kidman multiple times. There wasn’t anything unsettling about this version of the movie. However, the 1975 movie is very dark and disturbing. I hadn’t read the book so I figured it was time to read it. As I read I felt more and more uncomfortable. You can see so much of today’s society in this book and it is gut churning.

What I liked: In 123 pages Levin accomplishes so much. He packs all the horror and the creepy in. That gut wrenching feeling that something just isn’t right. Maybe the main character is going crazy. Maybe you are going crazy along with her. Levin chooses his words carefully to deliver a punch. the story comes together very quickly. The dread builds very quickly throughout the story. Even with the story being short, the characters are three dimensional and believable.

What I didn’t like: The only thing that was missing was knowing exactly what happened to the women. It is hinted at but the story never actually says what happened.

Star Rating: 4 stars

My thoughts: This was a hard little novella to read. Levin would have a lot of fodder to write about if he were to have written this today. The idea of perfection run deep in through the story. What makes a perfect woman? What makes a perfect marriage? What would you give up to have perfection? Personally, it was a hard one to read. We all question ourselves on a daily basis and have our own insecurities. I am not perfect nor would I give up anything in my life to be perfect. The idea that a woman has to give herself up to be a perfect mother or wife truly terrifies me. There is a lot to unpack in this novella and it is frightening.

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

There is a true lack of a girls coming of age stories in the horror genre. I think that it is important that girls and women see themselves in a coming of age story. Especially, in the horror genre. Most of the female coming of age stories are in the YA genre. Personally, I think that the horror genre would really lend itself well to a female coming of age story. Especially, body horror. But I was really excited when I received The Dead Girls Club I was really excited to review it. Thank you Crooked Lane books for the review copy.

Synopsis: 4 friends and 1 summer that will change their lives.

What I liked: Walter’s writing is very fluid. She really takes care with the pacing of the novel. Walter’s characterizations make the characters are three dimensional. Walter’s character building allowed the reader to experience everything that the main character was going through really put you in the main characters head Walter’s writing is fluid and very engaging. She has the ability to pull you into the story. The action scenes were well written and believable.

What I didn’t like: I wasn’t a fan of the fact that I knew where the story was going before the big reveal.

Star Rating: 4.0 stars

My Thoughts: I enjoyed the story. However, I had a couple of issues with it. My main issue is that I felt like I knew where the story was going before the climax. Which was my only issue with the story itself. However, with that being said the story kept me engaged and I really enjoyed Walter’s writing.

Violet by Scott Thomas

I read so many short stories, that sometimes I just need to read a novel. Something that wraps me up in a blanket and warms me up and makes me happy. I had heard a lot about Thomas’s writing. Everyone I had talked to loved what he was writing. So when I was offered a review copy of Violet I jumped at the chance. Thank you Ink Shares for my review copy!!

Synopsis: A woman who suffered a tragic loss goes back to her childhood summer home to heal.

Things I liked: Thomas’ writing is like a warm blanket. It is warm and inviting. The horror aspect was perfect. The creeping dread of having someone breathing on your neck. The writing was nuanced and complex. The characters where three dimensional. The pacing of the story was a slow burn. In a perfect way. The story starts very tight, almost claustrophobic. As it starts to unravel the world of the story grows a little bigger but still has that air of not being able to take a full breath. When you are finally able to take a breath it is too late. You are sucked totally and completely into this world. This really is how fantastic Thomas’s writing is. It is all the emotion that you feel while reading the story.

Things I didn’t like: Nothing

Star Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: Holy crap! This book hit me in the head like a runaway train. It takes you places that you didn’t really think that it would. There is a lot of raw emotion that courses through the story. There is so much hurt throughout the story. So much raw unadulterated pain. The story has so many elements. These elements are woven together so masterfully, the story even with all its elements is perfectly cohesive. This novel was exactly what I was looking for!!

Diabhal by Kathleen Kaufman

I have this weird fascination with cults. I haven’t quite figured out what it is. Maybe it is people being under the spell of this one person and what that can mean. Or maybe it is the fact that one person has that much belief or whatever it is in themselves. That is the part that I really am not sure that I understand about the whole cult thing. I also don’t understand how someone can take something that people really believe in and twist it to their own needs. That is what fascinates me. Also all the weird things that happen in cults is another aspect that I can’t stop wondering about.

Synopsis: A young girl is put in a children’s institution when she is part of an ancient ritual that hurts her mother.

What I liked: I really enjoyed the premise of the story. Kaufman really writes isolation well. Thought the entire story there were aspects of isolation and being alone. I really enjoy these themes in horror. Especially with the isolation of modern society. The pacing in the beginning of the story unraveled very quickly. But towards the middle of the story the pacing slowed down and it was a slight slog to get through a few parts. I understand that it was part of the build up to the main character knowing who she is. But some of the slower parts of the story felt slightly unnecessary. Kaufman’s characterizations were so well written. For awhile you didn’t know who was good or bad. I also liked how Kaufman broke up some of the story with psych reports.

What I didn’t like: As I mentioned I had an issue with the pacing but that really was it.

Star Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts: What really intrigued me about this story was the interconnectedness that Kufman introduces into the story. She pulls indigenous and gaelic beliefs together. There was also a lot of redemption in the story. Forgiveness is so important and the idea of forgiving yourself runs through the story. Basically learning to forgive yourself, in whatever shape that takes. There are times when the story drags and feels like there maybe some unnecessary parts of the story. But it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading the story.

The Need by Hellen Phillips

I am always interested when a book is not marketed. Then you read and it reads like horror. At that point I just want to scream “IT IS HORROR.” Alas, you can’t do that without upsetting the people around you. Horror can be very subjective to the person reading or watching it. However, as a parent these fears can be so deep that some horror can get under your skin. The Need does that very well.

Synopsis: A overworked and under rested paleobotanist finds some weird artifacts which leads to an unraveling of her life.

What I liked: There is so much to like about this story. Philip’s writing was anxiety inducing, in a good way. Her characterizations really made you feel like you had crawled inside the characters head to feel her pain and tiredness. The exhaustion was palatable through out the novel and by the end you are just as tired as the main character. The writing in this novel feels very personal, like it isn’t just a story that is being told but the frustrations and fears of any mother. There were a lot of feelings while I was reading this: anxiety, fear and anger especially when the main character wasn’t doing what you wanted her to do. But the plot was so clever and I can’t wait to read more from Phillips.

What I didn’t like: The artifacts did add a bit of a different angle on the story but we didn’t seem to get to delve too deeply into what their actual meaning was. I understood that they meant that there are other time lines and univereses but I would have liked to know more about t

Star Rating: 4 Stars

My Thoughts: As I was reading this I had a lot of thoughts. A lot! This whole book it about motherhood and being more than one thing. Personally, I find the topic of being more than one thing fascinating. Women have the inherient ability to be: boss, mother, sister, daughter, wife, friend and co-worker. But the question is what about her as a person. What happens when she slips and she isn’t sure who she is anymore. Who is a woman when she is be herself looking at herself in the mirror. I think that is a hard one and can’t be answered in a paragraph. This book also has really strong themes of postpartum depression/anxiety running through it. The what can and what might happen, thoughts that people have when the lights go out. I really hope that more people pick up this book. It was on the National Book Foundation Awards long list and I can see why.