Book Excerpt: The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

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Margot
2014

Margot’s final conversation with her mother had seemed so uneventful, so ordinary—another choppy bilingual plod. Half-understandable.
Business was slow again today. Even all the Korean businesses downtown are closing.
What did you eat for dinner?
Everyone is going to Target now, the big stores. It costs the same and it’s cleaner.
Margot imagined her brain like a fishing net with the loosest of weaves as she watched the Korean words swim through. She had tried to tighten the net before, but learning another language, especially her mother’s tongue, frustrated her. Why didn’t her mother learn to speak English?
But that last conversation was two weeks ago. And for the past few days, Margot had only one question on her mind: Why didn’t her mother pick up the phone?

****

Since Margot and Miguel had left Portland, the rain had been relentless and wild. Through the windshield wipers and fogged glass, they only caught glimpses of fast food and gas stations, motels and billboards, premium outlets and “family fun centers.” Margot’s hands were stiff from clenching the steering wheel. The rain had started an hour ago, right after they had made a pit stop in north Portland to see the famous 31-foot-tall Paul Bunyan sculpture with his cartoonish smile, red-and-white checkered shirt on his barrel chest, his hands resting on top of an upright axe.
Earlier that morning, Margot had stuffed a backpack and a duffel with a week’s worth of clothes, picked up Miguel from his apartment with two large suitcases and three houseplants, and merged onto the freeway away from Seattle, driving Miguel down for his big move to Los Angeles. They’d stop in Daly City to spend the night at Miguel’s family’s house, which would take about ten hours to get to. At the start of the drive, Miguel had been lively, singing along to “Don’t Stop Believing” and joking about all the men he would meet in LA. But now, almost four hours into the road trip, Miguel was silent with his forehead in his palm, taking deep breaths as if trying hard not to think about anything at all.
“Everything okay?” Margot asked.
“I’m just thinking about my parents.”
“What about your parents?” Margot lowered her foot on the gas.
“Lying to them,” he said.
“About why you’re really moving down to LA?” The rain splashed down like a waterfall. Miguel had taken a job offer at an accounting firm in a location more conducive to his dreams of working in theatre. For the last two years, they had worked together at a nonprofit for people with disabilities. She was as an administrative assistant; he crunched numbers in finance. She would miss him, but she was happy for him, too. He would finally finish writing his play while honing his acting skills with classes at night. “The theatre classes? The plays that you write? The Grindr account?”
“About it all.”
“Do you ever think about telling them?”
“All the time.” He sighed. “But it’s easier this way.”
“Do you think they know?”
“Of course, they do. But…” He brushed his hand through his hair. “Sometimes, agreeing to the same lie is what makes a family family, Margot.”
“Ha. Then what do you call people who agree to the same truth?”
“Uh, scientists?”
She laughed, having expected him to say friends. Gripping the wheel, she caught the sign for Salem.
“Do you need to use the bathroom?” she asked.
“I’m okay. We’re gonna stop in Eugene, right?”
“Yeah, should be another hour or so.”
“I’m kinda hungry.” Rustling in his pack on the floor of the backseat, he found an apple, which he rubbed clean with the edge of his shirt. “Want a bite?”
“Not now, thanks.”
His teeth crunched into the flesh, the scent cracking through the odor of wet floor mats and warm vents. Margot was struck by a memory of her mother’s serene face—the downcast eyes above the high cheekbones, the relaxed mouth—as she peeled an apple with a paring knife, conjuring a continuous ribbon of skin. The resulting spiral held the shape of its former life. As a child, Margot would delicately hold this peel like a small animal in the palm of her hand, this proof that her mother could be a kind of magician, an artist who told an origin story through scraps—this is the skin of a fruit, this is its smell, this is its color.
“I hope the weather clears up soon,” Miguel said, interrupting the memory. “It gets pretty narrow and windy for a while. There’s a scary point right at the top of California where the road is just zigzagging while you’re looking down cliffs. It’s like a test to see if you can stay on the road.”
“Oh, God,” Margot said. “Let’s not talk about it anymore.”
As she refocused on the rain-slicked road, the blurred lights, the yellow and white lines like yarn unspooling, Margot thought about her mother who hated driving on the freeway, her mother who no longer answered the phone. Where was her mother?
The windshield wipers squeaked, clearing sheets of rain.
“What about you?” Miguel asked. “Looking forward to seeing your mom? When did you see her last?”
Margot’s stomach dropped. “Last Christmas,” she said. “Actually, I’ve been trying to call her for the past few days to let her know, to let her know that we would be coming down.” Gripping the wheel, she sighed. “I didn’t really want to tell her because I wanted this to be a fun trip, but then I felt bad, so…”
“Is everything okay?”
“She hasn’t been answering the phone.”
“Hmm.” He shifted in his seat. “Maybe her phone battery died?”
“It’s a landline. Both landlines—at work and at home.”
“Maybe she’s on vacation?”
“She never goes on vacation.” The windshield fogged, revealing smudges and streaks, past attempts to wipe it clean. She cranked up the air inside.
“Hasn’t she ever wanted to go somewhere?”
“Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. I don’t know why, but she’s always wanted to go there.”
“It’s a big ol’ crack in the ground, Margot. Why wouldn’t she want to see it? It’s God’s crack.”
“It’s some kind of Korean immigrant rite of passage. National Parks, reasons to wear hats and khaki, stuff like that. It’s like America America.”
“I bet she’s okay,” Miguel said. “Maybe she’s just been busier than usual, right? We’ll be there soon enough.”
“You’re probably right. I’ll call her again when we stop.”
A heaviness expanded inside her chest. She fidgeted with the radio dial but caught only static with an occasional glimpse of a commercial or radio announcer’s voice.
Her mother was fine. They would all be fine.
With Miguel in LA, she’d have more reasons to visit now.
The road lay before them like a peel of fruit. The windshield wipers hacked away the rivers that fell from the sky.

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Excerpted from The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim, Copyright © 2020 by Nancy Jooyoun Kim Published by Park Row Books

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Book Review: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

fivetotal

She thought being stranded was the worst thing that could happen. She was wrong.

Release Date: October 6, 2020

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Mira needs to get home for the holidays. Badly. But when an incoming blizzard results in a canceled layover, it looks like Mira might get stuck at the Philadelphia airport indefinitely.

And then Harper, Mira’s glamorous seatmate from her initial flight, comes to the rescue. Harper and her three friends are renting a car, and they can drop Mira off on the way home. But as their trip begins, Mira discovers her fellow travelers aren’t friends like she thought—they’re total strangers. And every one of them seems to be hiding something dangerous.

Soon, Mira is in a panic. The roads have gone from slippery to terrifying. People’s belongings are mysteriously disappearing. Someone in the car is clearly lying…and Mira beings to suspect that one of them is sabotaging the trip. If she wants to make it home alive, she’ll need to uncover the truth about these strangers before this nightmare drive turns fatal.

Grade: B-

Review:

Fast-paced is the saving grace for this novel. But let me backtrack a moment. I hate snow. So the idea of being stuck in a car with four other strangers during a snowstorm feels like my idea of hell. And since I find snow to verge more on the creepy than beautiful (after all, notice how bright blood looks in the snow!), I was eager to read this book. The fact that the novel mostly takes place within the confines of the car makes for some masterful claustrophobia. Not to mention the fact that if it weren’t for it being the dead of winter, any of these characters could’ve just taken their changes on walking to the nearest house instead of staying inside a car where they each were becoming suspicious of the other, especially when things start to go missing.

If you love movies along the lines of I Know What You Did Last Summer and the hit TV series YOU, then you will love this fast-paced novel where not only does the protagonist Mira, have to contend with dire weather and a creepy drifter than continually see at all their rest stops, but also one of the four in the car with her has been stalking her for a year. All those things line up to create one hell of a thrill ride.

I didn’t enjoy any of the five characters in the novel and sometimes I was tired of Mira because while yes she was in a car with four strangers, a lot of her assumptions towards one character seemed plain our judgmental. And that she automatically assumes that her stalker is the one person she has been judgmental about during the whole trip is just plain annoying. Sure, the character in question wasn’t the best person out there but he wasn’t the worst either.

I recommend this book if you love YA novels that read like a Blumehouse horror. If they hurry up and turn this book into a movie, Lucy Hale could still pull off playing high school senior, Mira.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: With Or Without You by Caroline Leavitt

without you

Is love really all there is?

Release Date: August 4, 2020

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Publisher: Algonquin Books

Price: $26.95 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Caroline Leavitt writes novels that expertly explore the struggles and conflicts that people face in their search for happiness. For the characters in With or Without You, it seems at first that such happiness can come only at someone else’s expense. Stella is a nurse who has long suppressed her own needs and desires to nurture the dreams of her partner, Simon, the bass player for a rock band that has started to lose its edge. But when Stella gets unexpectedly ill and falls into a coma just as Simon is preparing to fly with his band to Los Angeles for a gig that could revive his career, Simon must learn the meaning of sacrifice, while Stella’s best friend, Libby, a doctor who treats Stella, must also make a difficult choice as the coma wears on.

When Stella, at last, awakes from her two-month sleep, she emerges into a striking new reality where Simon and Libby have formed an intense bond, and where she discovers that she has acquired a startling artistic talent of her own: the ability to draw portraits of people in which she captures their innermost feelings and desires. Stella’s whole identity, but also her role in her relationships, has been scrambled, and she has the chance to form a new life, one she hadn’t even realized she wanted.

A story of love, loyalty, loss, and resilience, With or Without You is a page-turner that asks the question, What do we owe the other people in our lives, and when does the cost become too great?

Grade: B-

Review:

This is one intense, realistic, and emotional ride. Simon and Stella met twenty years ago and they’ve been together ever since. They’re convinced they’re soulmates, but from Chapter One I quickly get the feeling that each person has spent twenty years yearning the other would change. Simon used to be in a successful band in his early twenties and although he’s now forty, he still wants to live the rock n roll lifestyle. Stella on the other hand, has spent twenty years hoping that he’d warm up to the idea of domestic life. She’s a nurse, and all she wants is to get married and start a family. Despite the two being very much in love, this book proves that sometimes, love isn’t enough when your paths are not parallel to one another, and each individual longs for something else. In fact, I don’t think that Stella and Simon were ever a good match because each person secretly despised the lifestyle of the other.

But everything changes when after a night of heavy drinking and drug-taking lands Stella in a coma. Simon is distraught and doesn’t know what to do. After several months, Stella wakes up but she’s not the same. She has acquired a new artistic skill that she didn’t have before. And now this becomes more important to her than anything else. In the meantime, Simon has gotten closer to Libby, the doctor that was treating Stella during her coma.

You’ll enjoy this book if you love flawed characters who act in a realistic way. The first half of the book was fast-paced for me, but it kind of slowed down towards the middle portion. If you love literary books with the focus being on relationships, then you’ll love With or Without You.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

 

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Out Now: Running Wild Anthology of Stories Volume 4 Book 2

running wildbook

I’m proud to announce that Running Wild Anthology of Stories is finally out! What’s exciting is that the story I co-wrote with Erica Ruhe (fellow Inkblotter), “Fragile Fruit,” is one of the many thrilling stories you will find in this anthology.

For a quick recap, Marietta who left Sicily after she refuses to marry her rapist has to return when she receives a phone call from her sister informing her that their mother is on her death bed. Marietta is afraid to return to Maletto, after all, she had left the small Sicilian town being shunned as an immoral woman and whore for refusing to marry the man that raped her. Will Marietta finally make peace with her demons or will they simply overtake her this time around?

Excerpt from, “Fragile Fruit” –

“Where are we?” Jane asked, tugging at her mother’s hand.
Marietta didn’t readily answer her. The suffocating stares of all the women sitting behind their closed glass doors or windows, whispering under their breaths, played in her mind. She knew what they thought of her. But it didn’t make things any easier.
The last time Marietta had walked these cobblestone streets, it had been the summer of 1968. Every radio newscaster only spoke of the revolts in Paris. What had started as a student protest had soon turned into a national protest as millions of people went on strike and the streets were in an uproar. Soon, similar upheaval bled into northern Italy. Newspapers spilled ink on the infamous protests in Sessantotto. While, across the pond in America, women were discovering their independence, stretching feminine expectations and demanding respect. But none of that was happening in Maletto. Sicily was trapped in amber, remaining dreadfully the same. The town and traditions were impervious to change.
“Mommy!” Jane yanked her hand again and, this time, Marietta was forced to acknowledge her daughter.
“This is where I was born,” she said.
“Really? You weren’t born where I was born?” Her big innocent eyes looked up at her with curiosity. She sniffed at the fresh run of mucus from the cold air.
Marietta shook her head. “No, Mommy came from far, far away.”
“Like a princess!” Jane beamed, little teeth on display.
Marietta didn’t reply as she approached her home. Her heart pounded with trepidation, thinking back to the last time she had been here. Of how her mother wailed and shook her head at the tragedy.
No, no, no.
No.
How much had that “no” been worth?
The sound of sweeping had stopped. Marietta clutched the cornicello at her neck and looked behind them. The small poppet was in her coat pocket, giving her a false sense of security. An old woman stood on her stoop and glared at the two. She gripped the broom like a guard with a spear. Marietta shivered. She pushed the noisy door open and hustled Jane inside. Scattered salt crunched under their boots, covering the tile floor of the foyer like a sprinkling of snow.

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Book Review: The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

the living dead1

We had to devolve to realize we’d never really much evolved.

Release Date: August 4, 2020

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Publisher: Tor Books

Price: $27.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

George A. Romero invented the modern zombie with Night of the Living Dead, creating a monster that has become a key part of pop culture. Romero often felt hemmed in by the constraints of film-making. To tell the story of the rise of the zombies and the fall of humanity the way it should be told, Romero turned to fiction. Unfortunately, when he died, the story was incomplete.

Enter Daniel Kraus, co-author, with Guillermo del Toro, of the New York Times bestseller The Shape of Water (based on the Academy Award-winning movie) and Trollhunters (which became an Emmy Award-winning series), and author of The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch (an Entertainment Weekly Top 10 Book of the Year). A lifelong Romero fan, Kraus was honored to be asked, by Romero’s widow, to complete The Living Dead.

Set in the present day, The Living Dead is an entirely new tale, the story of the zombie plague as George A. Romero wanted to tell it.

It begins with one body.

A pair of medical examiners find themselves battling a dead man who won’t stay dead.

It spreads quickly.

In a Midwestern trailer park, a Black teenage girl and a Muslim immigrant battle newly-risen friends and family. On a US aircraft carrier, living sailors hide from dead ones while a fanatic makes a new religion out of death. At a cable news station, a surviving anchor keeps broadcasting while his undead colleagues try to devour him. In DC, an autistic federal employee charts the outbreak, preserving data for a future that may never come.

Everywhere, people are targeted by both the living and the dead.

We think we know how this story ends.

We. Are. Wrong.

Grade: A+

Review:

It’s no secret that George A. Romero was pretty much the progenitor when it comes to the zombie genre. First in the films and then even in comic books and novels. If you’re a fan of George A. Romero, then you’re well aware that the iconic director’s zombie movies aren’t merely a gore fest. Instead, Romero uses the zombie genre to explore the human condition or reveal the incompetence of government or lack of empathy in humans. Ultimately, the real monsters in Romero’s movies are rarely the zombies, but rather the humans. We’re deadlier than the undead because we’ll turn on our own when the going gets tough. Unfortunately, Romero passed away in 2017 and never was able to complete the novel himself, so his widow asked Daniel Kraus to complete the novel using Romero’s notes. The end result isn’t disjointed nor can the reader tell where Romero begins and Kraus takes over. The writing style is seamless throughout the whole novel and doesn’t change.

Now, I don’t know how much Romero had completed before his death, but this novel is a horror saga (it’s over 600 pages!) but it doesn’t mean that there’s ever a moment of dullness, because there isn’t. There are so many diverse characters in this novel, much like how Max Brooks’ novel World War Z was fashioned. Third person omniscient works superbly as there’s so much ground to cover that we need to know what’s happening to everyone at any given time. Sure, there are some characters that I favoured over others, but the fact that Romero always managed to create characters that we cared about means that even when we know that most of them will face dire endings, in our heart of hearts we can’t help but hope that there’s another way out. But this novel isn’t about comfort, this novel is brutal. I don’t read many zombie books but since I am a huge fan of Romero’s zombies, I knew that I had to read this novel and I’m not disappointed. If you’re going into this book thinking it’s going to be full of zombies, you are correct. But you’re also going to walk away with a feeling that ultimately the book wasn’t about zombies, but it’s about us, and how much humans CAN be both resilient and full of heart.

For a book about the undead, you’ll depart the novel with all the feels. You’ve been warned.

livingn dead

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Mayhem by Estelle Laure

mayhem

“One thing I never could stomach about Santa Maria, all the goddamn vampires.”

Release: July 14, 2020

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Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

It’s 1987 and unfortunately, it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else.

But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good.

But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.

Grade: B+

Review:

First things first, anyone who knows me knows that The Lost Boys has been one of my favourite movies since I first watched it at 8 yrs old. In fact, I’ll admit that it’s probably my favourite vampire movie ever. And you know there have been a lot of movies made about those alluring bloodsuckers. Having stated that, it was a total no brainer for me to want to join the book tour for this novel as it had been marketed as a cross between The Lost Boys and The Craft. What I hadn’t expected was to find actual characters from The Lost Boys in the novel! What does that mean? It means that we run into the Frog Brothers (notorious for being vampire slayers) and we even get to witness a sax solo by Sax Man (if you’ve seen the movie then you know exactly who I’m referring to). If seeing characters from the movie wasn’t enough, we’re also treated with the exploration of the infamous cave from the movie.

The book is filled with so much 80’s nostalgia that I don’t know if the author was aiming to win the hearts of 30-yrs olds who lived during the ’80s or to make today’s teens (after all this is a YA novel and supposedly teens are the targeted audience) yearn for a time they never got to live through the experience.

I didn’t mind the movie references too much, because like I said I LOVE The Lost Boys. I also liked the protagonist Mayhem a lot. She managed to talk her mom into leaving her abusive step-dad and return to her hometown of Santa Maria. Now if you think that this novel is about vampires, well you’re only halfway right. The novel offers a different perspective on the supernatural, where, much like in the Anne Rice Werewolf series, the supernatural entity uses its powers for the good of the community rather than for evil. But even when you’re ridding the town of evil people, the question that looms over Mayhem’s head is, is it moral to decide who gets to live or die, even if the person they’re killing has done terrible things? The novel tries to grapple with that along with the question of, can one break free from one’s lineage and familial curse? Or does one embrace the curse and view as a gift?

For the vast majority, I enjoyed the novel although I feel as though it moved a bit too slow at first, to truly escalate towards the end. Overall, I felt as though this novel deserved more in regards to delving into the mythology of the Brayburn family and to perhaps do more into depth about the curse that spanned generations of Brayburn women.

Again, because I love The Lost Boys so much, I adored being part of this universe yet again, albeit in a different form. But if you take all the homages to The Lost Boys away, the overall plot is pretty flimsy. That’s not to say that this book isn’t worth your time. It is enjoyable, but it just lacked in certain areas.

Pick this book up if you wish to take a dive into the 80’s nostalgia, or like me, you’re a huge fan of The Lost Boys.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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3 Books I’m Excited To Read This Summer

Summer reading usually means picking up the latest thriller and hanging out under a beach umbrella as you feel the summer breeze run through your hair. This year, all of our summer vacations may be different or non-existent because of the current pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have the opportunity to pick up the latest book that can take you down another dark, twisty route. Travel without leaving your home as you emerge into this unforgettable literary adventures. Here are three books that I’m very excited to read this summer and I think that you will do yourself a favor if you pick up a copy of any of these books, or all three!

mexican gothic

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

sevenyears

Seven Years of Darkness by You-Jeong Jeong

The truth always rises to the surface…

When a young girl is found dead in Seryong Lake, a reservoir in a remote South Korean village, the police immediately begin their investigation. At the same time, three men–Yongje, the girl’s father, and two security guards at the nearby dam, each of whom has something to hide about the night of her death–find themselves in an elaborate game of cat and mouse as they race to uncover what happened to her, without revealing their own closely guarded secrets.

After a final showdown at the dam results in a mass tragedy, one of the guards is convicted of murder and sent to prison. For seven years, his son, Sowon, lives in the shadow of his father’s shocking and inexplicable crime; everywhere he goes, a seemingly concerted effort to reveal his identity as the reviled mass murderer’s son follows him. When he receives a package that promises to reveal at last what really happened at Seryong Lake, Sowon must confront a present danger he never knew existed.

Dark, disturbing, and full of twists and turns.

burning

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan’s fall. Lovely–an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor–has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.

Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism. An extraordinary debut.

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Book Review: Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

survivorsong

 “This is not a fairy tale. It is a song.”

Release Date: July 3, 2020

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Publisher: William Murrow

Price: $27.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

In a matter of weeks, Massachusetts has been overrun by an insidious rabies-like virus that is spread by saliva. But unlike rabies, the disease has a terrifyingly short incubation period of an hour or less. Those infected quickly lose their minds and are driven to bite and infect as many others as they can before they inevitably succumb. Hospitals are inundated with the sick and dying, and hysteria has taken hold. To try to limit its spread, the commonwealth is under quarantine and curfew. But society is breaking down and the government’s emergency protocols are faltering.

Dr. Ramola “Rams” Sherman, a soft-spoken pediatrician in her mid-thirties, receives a frantic phone call from Natalie, a friend who is eight months pregnant. Natalie’s husband has been killed—viciously attacked by an infected neighbor—and in a failed attempt to save him, Natalie, too, was bitten. Natalie’s only chance of survival is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible to receive a rabies vaccine. The clock is ticking for her and for her unborn child.

Natalie’s fight for life becomes a desperate odyssey as she and Rams make their way through a hostile landscape filled with dangers beyond their worst nightmares—terrifying, strange, and sometimes deadly challenges that push them to the brink.

Grade: A-

Review:

I’ll begin this with the admission that I wasn’t a big fan of Paul’s most popular novel, A Head Full of Ghosts. However, there were genius moments in that novel that made me want to check this new book out. The publishing world is slow, so when the author actually wrote this book he was merely speculating on a long-distance future. However, months into a global pandemic and the future that Tremblay describes in his book is suddenly our reality.

In the novel, a new form of rabies virus has made the jump from animals to humans and the effect is devastating. Since the onset of rabies plays much like flu-like symptoms, this feels very eerily similar to what we’re dealing with right now with COVID-19.

The reader can automatically assume which President the author had in mind when he wrote the following: “A president unwilling and woefully unequipped to make the rational science-based decisions necessary.” Especially given the fact of how our current President has managed the pandemic we’re living.

The novel is very fast-paced as all the events take place within the same day, much like how horror movies do. If you wish to read a fast-paced horror with strong female bonds, then this book is for you.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and William Murrow for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

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Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Price: $18.89 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.

Grade: C

Review:

Let me preface this by stating that I really loved All The Missing Girls, but was sorely disappointed in The Last House Guest. But I was willing to give Miranda another chance and was thrilled when I was selected to review her latest novel.

My biggest issue with this book is that for a thriller, it’s very slow-moving. There’s no sense of urgency and there are a lot of repetitive phrases and rehashing of the same story over and over again, and I don’t know if that was to fill a certain page quota or what, but a lot of the flashback, news clippings, or 911-calls chapters didn’t really reveal anything new. There isn’t even a body until 30% in the book!

Another issue that I had with the book is that I just couldn’t get invested in any of the characters. All the side characters felt shady and the protagonist, Olivia was annoying beyond measure.

Now, there are two major twists, one that I saw coming a mile away and another that I didn’t really expect. Did these two major twists save the novel? Yes and no. It’s always nice when a thriller can throw a surprise ending, but for a novel that was at a snail’s pace with no sense of urgency or threat, it was a little too late.

If you’re more of a cozy mystery sort of reader, then you may enjoy this novel very much. But if you’re a reader who loves fast-paced thrillers, then you may want to pass on this one.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Coming Soon: Baby Teeth in Midnight in the Pentagram

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2020 has been both the best of times and the worst of times for me. Oddly enough, it’s been a most fortuitous year in regards to my writing. I signed two new contracts for short stories, have a short story coming out in June, and Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology had the best sales ever. The worst of times, of course, refers to all of us having to deal with a global pandemic and all the stress and worry that comes along with that.

Not to dismiss a serious topic aside, I do wish to focus on the positives. And one of the best thing that has happened this year so far is having my short story, Baby Teeth selected for the anthology Midnight in the Pentagram published by Silver Shamrock Publishing. These guys are total badasses when it comes to horror publications so I was over the moon at being selected.

Baby Teeth is the story of a young mother, Melissa, who begins to feel that there’s something seriously amiss with her new baby. I was slightly inspired by Rosemary’s Baby, but I was also fascinated with the notion of, what part is real and what part is merely Melissa suffering from post-partum depression?

It’s one hell of a twisted, scary treat and I’m looking forward to all of you getting a chance to read it soon. As of right now, I don’t have any official release dates, but I’m hoping for a Fall 2020 release as it seems the most appropriate.

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