I finished my last semester of college! I graduate on Wednesday! Yay!!! The last month has been completely filled with work and wrapping up assignments, so I haven’t read anything in the month of May. But I’ve got a few reviews from April that I never got around to posting, so here’s a dump filled with some great reads. Looking forward to having the summer to read!
I think I said in a comment on my very first review for CBR (of The Hollow Places by Kingfisher) that I’d be willing to pick up more of her horror-fantasy novels when they came my way.
I also mentioned a couple reviews ago that I haven’t had the energy for reading, as school continues to wreck me, but I had to drive an hour and a half to go get the second shot of the vaccine (worth it!) and wasn’t feeling any of my usual music or podcasts, and I had a few credits on Audible.
And oh god, Kingfisher scares the hell out of me.
We’re following another adult woman with a typical name and a non-typical nickname (Melissa, Mouse) traveling to North Carolina for family reasons (mean grandma died, left behind a hoarder house that needs to be cleaned out) who discovers that something is not quite right with where she’s staying (strange creatures in the woods and a cryptic diary left by her grandma’s husband) and enlists the help of an older, stranger neighbor to figure it out (Foxy, very cool). Oh also Mouse, like Kara in The Hollow Place, is leaving a bad relationship at the start of the book, but that’s less consequential here and just something I found interesting.
I think my favorite part of this book, aside from the stomach-churning dread her writing manages to induce in me, is how perfectly logical it is, and how that doesn’t matter. Everything has a reasonable setup: Mouse knows tree and plant names because her aunt’s a botanist. Her dog is a hound and is prone to flight. But even though everything has its place, Mouse’s world is still turned upside down.
I liked this ending more than The Hollow Place‘s, but maybe I’ve just gotten used to Kingfisher now.
I also appreciated the descriptions of North Carolina; my family’s from West Virginia, and although there are obviously differences, I felt the loving nostalgia for my grandparents’ farm in a way that other books, even ones set in West Virginia, haven’t captured.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a civil engineering student who focuses on sustainability. So this book about a teleworking eco-community in the Cascades was riiight up my alley, especially since it was billed as horror.
Following an eruption of Mt Rainier, FEMA, park rangers, and loved ones are trying to pick up the pieces. No one thinks to look at Greenloop, an isolated test neighborhood started by one of the tech industry’s darlings. It’s outside the blast radius, outside even the extended danger zone, so why would they? Finally, after hearing that no one’s heard from the residents for days, a team heads out to the site. They find plenty of strange things, including a journal written by a resident talking about being hunted by… something? someone?, but they don’t find any of the residents. Alive, at least.
The book is mostly the journal, interspersed with interviews with the Senior Park Ranger and the brother of one of the residents and excerpts from the authoritative literature on Sasquatch. Of course.
I had already heard this wasn’t actually a horror novel from people whose judgement I trust. But I still wanted to read it — how could I not? My dad loved World War Z‘s attention to detail in terms of infrastructure and logistics, and although I’m not interested in zombies, I do like infrastructure. And Bigfoot.
I’d agree that this isn’t horror. For me, horror has to produce a sense of dread to be effective. This was more anticipation, which is fun, but not horror. I’d call it survival? Speculative for sure. I actually think I could have felt way more dread if it was a little longer, especially in the beginning. There’s no real sense of normal set up in the journal to disrupt; strange things start happening almost immediately.
I still enjoyed it enough to give it 4 stars and to keep a lookout for Brooks’s future works though! (Not the Minecraft novels though.)
On my first trip back to my hometown library after it opened back up, I wandered around and picked books off the shelves at random. That’s my favorite way to experience a library or bookstore. (Slight pet peeve: They’re undergoing an expansion that’s reduced their shelving area, so they’ve consolidated everything into one big “Adult Fiction” section which makes it really hard to look for specific genres. I’ll just have to sift through them myself.)
The Return by Rachel Harrison, with its pink and black cover, is one that stood out to me. The main character, Elise, has been essentially holding vigil for her best friend Julie since she disappeared 2 years ago. The other two in their friend quad, Mae and Molly, have spent those two years grieving and accepting Julie’s death. Their mourning turns out to be premature when Julie comes back. Except….. is it really Julie?
Things I liked: the hotel as a setting, the four main characters, the intense dread and nausea that permeated the whole book, the limited perspective that could only hint at what was happening in the background, the concept of the ending.
Things I would have changed: really just one thing, but I think the end could have been dragged out a little more for maximum effect. The end of the book comes a little suddenly after the climax/big reveal.
Picked this one up on a whim from the sale shelf at Politics and Prose when I was in DC and devoured it on the train home. It’s not something I would have sought out, and if I had read even a sentence more of a review or a blurb, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up at all. So it’s a good thing I didn’t.
Claire DeWitt is one of the last great detectives. After coming across the handbook Detection of the original great detective Jacques Silette as a kid, she worked her way up from “teen detective” to “promising protegee of the protegee” to “last of her kind.” Her mentor Constance Darling, herself the protegee/once-lover of Silette, was murdered years ago, and the world doesn’t seem to have such a great need for private eyes who rely on fate and the I Ching anymore.
But Claire gets the occasional job: this week, she’s tracking down a New Orleans attorney who survived Katrina but disappeared soon after. Everyone’s hiding something, but everyone is also deeply traumatized by the hurricane and the complete failure of the government. Where did the attorney go? And why are there so many birds on his balcony?
This was so insanely absorbing and interesting. Gran describes New Orleans with so much love and sadness and indignation that even though it’s gritty and depressing, there are glimmers of hope. Claire’s detection style is like Dirk Gently’s but treated with the seriousness of an LA Noir. And Claire herself is so frustrating and blunt, but I still rooted for her and liked her a lot.
I didn’t realize this was a series when I first picked it up, but this will definitely be one of the few series I keep up with.