Horror

Into the Drowning Deep – Mira Grant

4.5 Stars

I don’t  read a ton of horror. I have a very active imagination and my brain chooses really odd images to haunt me with for years. (YEARS) When I do read horror, I choose authors that I feel I can trust, and Mira Grant is one of those authors I know I can trust. I know her horror isn’t going to cross lines that I’m not comfortable with. I wouldn’t describe it as safe horror, just “safe enough for me.”

That being said, Into the Drowning Deep was intensely creepy, full of suspense, and definitely left me with the feeling that I’m never going to ever be comfortable on another deep-sea vessel in my life.

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Into the Drowning Deep follows Grant’s earlier novella Rolling in the Deep which is the story of how the Atargatis was lost. Into the Drowning Deep explores already dangerous territory, and they know – or at least they think they know – what they’re getting into.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

Grant builds suspense like mist rising from the water. Over the course of minutes (pages) the fog slowly rolls in, building until suddenly you realize you’re completely engulfed. As I read through, I flipped pages at my usual rate, until the last three chapters of the book where I basically just skimmed pages because I NEEDED to know what was happening next.

As with Grant’s other horror series, part of the beauty – and horror – of her novels is that the science is so well researched that but for the fact that mermaids are not real, everything else she describes is plausible.

Another place Grant’s writing really shines is her characters. Grant understands people. She builds characters that are believable and real. Her characters are flawed people with all the trappings of humanity, and she writes inclusively as well. This cast is not 100% straight, white, able bodied and neurotypical. It’s a delight. A weird thing to say about a horror novel, I know. But the cast is so wonderfully diverse that when I think of them, I am delighted. Not all of them are delightful, there are definitely a few that I was hoping would die along the way, but the cast as a whole was a delight. What’s the point of a horror novel if you don’t care what’s going to happen to the characters?

I am desperately hoping for a third part of the story. I enjoyed Into the Drowning Deep immensely, despite my renewed fears of deep water, and have so many new questions.

Into the Drowning Deep hit shelves November 14, 2017 and if you like horror and don’t necessarily mind being afraid of mermaids, you should run out and buy it right now.

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Giveaway

Giveaway! *Signed* copies of Bonfire by Krysten Ritter!

I have TWO copies of Krysten Ritter’s debut thriller Bonfire to give away today  – and they’re both SIGNED by the author! I had the pleasure of meeting her earlier this week at a signing in Seattle. She is delightful.

KR
Yep, that’s meeee! And the book you could win!

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is only open to people in the US or Canada, and closes at 12am on November 25.

bonfire
Image from Goodreads
Anthology · Fantasy

The Overneath – Peter S Beagle

2 stars

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

The Overneath is the latest work from Peter S Beagle, famous for writing The Last Unicorn and is a collection of short stories – most, if not all, were previously printed elsewhere.

I love anthologies and short stories – it’s a love that came upon me suddenly a few years ago. Before 2012 I had no time for short stories. I felt that they were just teases of something more and was often disappointed that they weren’t longer or accomplished more. Then, in 2012 I found myself with a long commute by bus and discovered that short stories were perfect for my commute. I could finish one or two stories in a single day’s commute and realized with great delight just how complete a short story can be. Short stories can be masterful works of craft, honed and tightened to fit into a neat little package.

Unfortunately, The Overneath isn’t full of masterful little stories. In his own introductions to the stories Beagle all but apologizes for the sorry state of some of them. These shorts felt like leftovers repackaged for those too much in a hurry to look closely at the label.

Some of the individual stories were lovely little gems in amongst some that were frankly nonsensical.

The Overneath hit shelves November 17, 2017.

Fantasy

An Enchantment of Ravens – Margaret Rogerson

4 stars

I picked An Enchantment of Ravens up from the library the other day after spending weeks drooling over the cover art online and I’m so glad I did!

 

Ravens
Cover image from Goodreads

 

I’ve been in a reading slump lately. Disappointing book after disappointing book. An Enchantment of Ravens finally broke that streak!

The Goodreads synopsis:

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

I trimmed a bit off the end of Goodreads’ synopsis because I felt that it bled over into spoiler territory.

An Enchantment of Ravens is a lovely standalone novel and Rogerson’s debut. Tightly written and neatly wrapped up, An Enchantment of Ravens was just the light palate cleanser I needed. Ravens has the feel of a classic fairytale, without being completely predictable or a retelling of a familiar story. Much like Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, An Enchantment of Ravens gave me the comforting feeling of visiting old friends and familiar worlds while still providing a fresh story to discover.

I enjoyed getting to know Isobel and Rook and discover the fairy lands through Isobel’s eyes. Rogerson built an interesting world with familiar elements and new twists.

I can see revisiting An Enchantment of Ravens time and time again, whenever I need a break from reading what feels like an endless onslaught of new series. It’s becoming a rarer thing to find a story encapsulated in a single tome with a satisfying ending. As such, Ravens was a delight.

An Enchantment of Ravens hit shelves on September 26, 2017.

 

historical fiction

City of Lies – Victoria Thompson

2 stars

I received early access to City of Lies through Penguin’s First To Read program.

I have been on a streak of disappointing books lately, Readers. Book after book that I’ve been looking forward to reading and reviewing and it’s just been a string of disappointments lately. Unfortunately, City of Lies is another notch in my belt of disappointing reads lately.

The synopsis sounded intriguing:

Elizabeth Miles scours 1920’s Washington, D.C. for a killer in the first Counterfeit Lady novel from the author of the New York Times bestselling Gaslight mysteries.

Every woman plays a part—but some are more dangerous than others…

Like most women, Elizabeth Miles assumes many roles; unlike most, hers have made her a woman on the run. Living on the edge of society, Elizabeth uses her guile to relieve so-called respectable men of their ill-gotten gains. But brutal and greedy entrepreneur Oscar Thornton is out for blood. He’s lost a great deal of money and is not going to forgive a woman for outwitting him. With his thugs hot on her trail, Elizabeth seizes the moment to blend in with a group of women who have an agenda of their own.

She never expects to like or understand these privileged women, but she soon comes to respect their intentions, forming an unlikely bond with the wealthy matriarch of the group whose son Gabriel is the rarest of species—an honest man in a dishonest world. She knows she’s playing a risky game, and her deception could be revealed at any moment, possibly even by sharp-eyed Gabriel. Nor has she been forgotten by Thornton, who’s biding his time within this gilded orbit, waiting to strike. Elizabeth must draw on her wits and every last ounce of courage she possesses to keep her new life from being cut short by this vicious shadow from her past.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth is deeply unlikable. I do love a good antihero, but Elizabeth Miles is not an antihero that I found any fondness for. All of the characters feel like caricatures – this might work if the novel were satire, but it is not.

I quit reading half way through the book because I was so bored and turned off by the unpleasant characters. I am disappointed. I enjoy a good grift or heist story with a compelling plot and antihero. Unfortunately, City of Lies didn’t deliver either.

City of Lies hits shelves tomorrow, November 6, 2017 and is the first in Thompson’s new Counterfeit Lady series.

Thriller

Bonfire – Krysten Ritter

4 stars

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Bonfire is slow to start, but once the flame gets going there’s no stopping this story.

 

bonfire
Cover from Goodreads

 

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question, can you ever outrun your past?

I grew up in a small agricultural town and my ten-year high school reunion is coming up next year. I haven’t seen many of the kids I went to school with since graduation so I could relate to Abby Williams’ conflicted feelings of simultaneously wanted in to see what had become of everyone and wanting to avoid all those people and the many heavy memories that would accompany their faces.

Krysten Ritter is famous most recently for her role as Jessica Jones in the Netflix show of the same name and it was a little challenging separating Jessica Jones from Bonfire‘s Abigail Williams in my head.

The story was a little slow to start, but as I said in my introduction, once the fuel Ritter laid down was lit, Bonfire was a roaring plot and I flipped through the pages as quickly as I could.

I generally prefer fantasy or science fiction over thrillers but Bonfire was a satisfying read.

Bonfire hits shelves November 7, 2017 – but if you visit Alex Can Read on November 16, you’ll have a chance to win your very own signed copy!

 

 

Fantasy · YA

Jane, Unlimited – Kristin Cashore

3 Stars

I picked Jane, Unlimited up from the library on a whim the other day, after seeing a description and the cover in a Facebook group I’m active in.

Jane
Cover from Goodreads

The metallic cover was intriguing and I am sometimes a sucker for a pretty cover. The description was also interesting:

If you could change your story, would you?

Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”

What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.

Jane, Unlimited was quite a strange book. I got very serious Rebecca vibes from the book – which Cashore reinforced in her afterword where she explains that she was inspired by Du Maurier’s Rebecca. It would make sense then, that I wouldn’t enjoy Jane, Unlimited much, since I HATED Rebecca when I had to read it in high school.

I also struggled with the structure of the book. Cashore starts by building a story with many threads and mysteries swirling around and then abruptly things get weird. It’s as though Cashore couldn’t figure out how to weave all her various storylines together, so instead of writing one cohesive ending, she wrote five – each ending more absurd than the last. This made for somewhat dull reading. Each new ending started at the same moment the others did and therefore was fairly repetitive. For cohesion, some details and events remained the same throughout each ending which was pretty boring.

Ultimately, I loved the fifth and final ending, even though it was very nearly the most absurd of them all (though #4 sure gives it a run for its’ money.) I could have read an entire book based just on the fifth ending and done without all the rest of the book.

Jane, Unlimited hit shelves on September 19, 2017. If you check it out, let me know what you think!