The Girl In Red

What was once a quiet stroll to grandma’s house becomes a little more torturous in Christina Henry’s 2019 novel, The Girl In Red. In the midst of a global pandemic, Red (Cordelia) and her family must prepare to walk hundreds of miles to reach the safety of her grandmother’s house before they: catch the mysterious disease themselves, are forced into a quarantine camp, or are killed by a traveling militia that is pillaging and kidnapping women and children.

To my knowledge, Little Red Riding Hood is not often retold as a horror/thriller novel. Henry created an interesting premise her story. Rather than traveling to care for her sick grandmother, the heroine red must travel to her grandmother’s house to shelter herself from an oncoming pandemic and the violent dangers that surround her every waking movement. I do wish some parts of the story were fleshed out a bit more. The first two thirds of the book were slower paced and very detailed with exposition and scenery, however the final battle was a too fast for my taste and the ending was rushed. It felt as though the author ran out of time when writing the last quarter of the book and rushed the finally to make up for it. It would have been more rounded story if the same detail was given to the last few chapters.

Overall, The Girl in Red is a thrilling twist on an old classic. I wish there were some parts of the plot that were given a little more detail, but I would recommend this book to anyone looking for something new and interesting to add to their Halloween reading list.

Hidden Pictures

Jason Rekulak terrifies readers with his 2022 horror book Hidden Pictures. The story of a young woman (Mallory) fresh on her journey of addiction recovery when she becomes a full time nanny for a 5 year old boy (Teddy) in an affluent neighborhood. Things are looking up for Mallory until she starts to notice’s that Teddy’s drawings and behavior are beginning to become more sinister and terrifying by the day. With the fear that something supernatural may be influencing the young boy, Mallory turns to her new neighbor and landscaper to discover what is really happening in Teddy’s drawings.

While reading the book’s summary, I was very interested in seeing how it would turn out. After reading, I found it more and more difficult to sympathize with the characters or their choices. The main character Mallory as well as the two parents; Ted and Caroline; were almost caricatures in their behaviors (especially in the creation of their house rules for Mallory). Rekulak’s depictions of these three characters created a dichotomy between the hyper religious Mallory and the overly strict atheist parents.

Overall, Hidden Pictures was unremarkably similar to almost every “creepy kid” horror book or movie. I wish Hidden Pictures had a little extra to set it apart from other books in the horror/thriller genre.

What did you think of Hidden Pictures? What did you think about the twist ending? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

Little Girls (A Ghost Story)

The ghosts of a woman’s childhood come back to haunt her in Ronald Malfi’s 2015 novel Little Girls. After the death of her father, Laurie Genarro along with her husband (Ted) and daughter (Susan) travel to his home out of state to prepare clean it out and prepare it to be sold. After arriving, Laurie finds that her father’s dilapidated home isn’t the only ghost from her past waiting for her. She soon finds that her daughter’s new friend bares a striking resemblance to a young girl who tragically passed away and quickly finds that all her childhood woes have followed her home.

Malfi’s development of Laurie and Ted’s relationship was hands down my favorite part of the book. Malfi’s depictions of their personal insecurities with in their larger marital issues added conflict and tension to the story. This conflict also helped highlight Laurie’s deteriorating mental state and helped to elaborated the ghosts haunting her conscious. The book wouldn’t have been the same without it. Without the failing relationship between Laurie and Ted, the story would have fallen apart.

My biggest complaint of the book was that there wasn’t a clear villain. In the last 75% of the book, Malfi constructed so many improbable plot twists in his storyline that it was very difficult to anticipate what could happen next. Each initial plot point was turned on it’s head and a new monster emerged.

I typically enjoy a slow and suspenseful build in my horror novels but Malfi’s work fell flat. An exceptional amount of detail was crafted in each flash back and with in character dialog, as a reader you could very easily create a mental image for every moment of the story. However, all this description took away from the plot of the story and ultimately there wasn’t a clear conclusion and left more questions than answers.

I’d love to hear what you thought. Did you read Little Girls? What did you think of the ending? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

Anxious People

Fredrick Backman sets up a punch line for the longest joke in history in his 2020 book Anxious People. One wouldn’t typically imagine yourself being held hostage when viewing an apartment, but that exactly where eight anxiety ridden idiots find themselves on New Years Eve. (It probably would be accurate to describe all the characters in this interesting saga as idiots.) After a bank robbery goes wrong (in the most unexpected way), two police officers must find the identity of a masked bank robber and figure out exactly how they were able to escape capture.

Backman has created a very likeable cast of characters in Anxious People. The characters were all very well developed and had an endearing dynamic between them. Their hilarious conversations, worries and fears, and rich back stories made them all the more relatable and loveable. As a reader, I often times found myself both sympathizing with the struggles of each character while also finding myself laughing out loud at their antics. Any reader will see themselves in at least one of these loveable idiots. If you are looking for a hilarious and heartwarming read, Anxious People is just the book for you.

Dear Edward

Ann Napolitano tells the tale of tragedy, growth, and healing in her most recent novel Dear Edward. Edward is the sole survivor of a plane crash, killing his mother, father and brother leaving him orphaned and in the custody of his aunt and uncle in new jersey. Napolitano takes us on a journey of grief and self-discovery where a young boy named Edward learns to cope with the trauma he endured in the crash, the grief of losing his family, and the guilt he experiences being the sole survivor of a terrible tragedy.

The story line of the book is very dynamic. Napolitano alternated chapters of Edwards day to day life after the crash with a hour by hour countdown to the plane crash that kick started Edward’s new life. This choice gave a face to all the characters that perished in the crash and created a more interesting story arch.

One aspect of the book that I cherished the most was all the supporting characters. All characters present in Edwards life post plane crash are committed and supportive of his recovery. His aunt and uncle are patient and understanding of his process and even act as legal liaison when it comes time to talk to settle with lawyers and the airline. His teachers and principal are fair and provide all the accommodations he needs to be successful in school. He makes a new friend with ease, a neighbor, who feels like just as much an outcast as he does. Without each of these relationships, Edwards recovery and development as a character wouldn’t have been possible.

However, Edward isn’t the only character to embark on a journey of healing and self discovery. Each of the supporting characters also have their own enriching character arch in parallel to our protagonist. In his own healing journey, he also helps foster the healing of others.

Have you read Dear Edward? Did you love it or hate it? I’d love to hear about it in comment section below!

The Road of Bones

Christopher Golden will leave you shivering with fear in his new book Road of Bones. Two reality documentary produces travel to Russian to catch the horrific history of the Kolyma Highway (Road of bones) on film for the word to see for the first time. Starting their journey with a less than friendly working relationship ship, our main character Felix Teigland, his camera man and their guide prepare for a long and frightening journey. It’s not long before they stop in small village and discover an unimaginable mystery and a cationic young girl who has been separated from her family. Quickly they find themselves as prey, running from an almost supernatural pack of wolves whose only desire is to devour the filmmakers alive.

I personally loved the characters that Golden created in this story. Their fears and emotions were almost palpable I progressed through the story and found them to be delightfully morally gray. Golden created a few instances where they either chose to save themselves at the expense of others or death of other characters in the story. Apart from the two original filmmakers, none of the characters had very strong relationships. Their strong willingness to thrown their traveling companions to the wolves made the story like a more unpredictable and exciting.

While the characters were fantastic and the plot like was fear inducing, I wanted a little bite more. For one, I wish that the book was just a little bit longer. By the end of the book, I as the reader had a significant number of questions that were still left unanswered. I don’t want to give too many spoilers away but Golden doesn’t leave you with a clear understanding of who was the monster of the story or what even triggered the horrific tragedy centered in our story. However, even with my complaints about the story, Road of Bones is a spine chilling read that will make your heart skip a beat the next time you look out into the forest at night.

Have you read Golden’s new book? Tell me about it in the comments below, I’d love to hear what you thought about it!

Base notes

Is anyone entirely good or entirely evil? Lara Elena Donnelly makes us question this with their new book, Base Notes. The cost of rent is soaring across the country and is becoming a crushing burden to many, especially in New York City. A perfumer, Vic Fowler, has no choice but to rely on new steams of income to make ends meet. After receiving an offer they couldn’t refuse, Vic must convince (threaten) a few friends to assist in a bloody errand. Willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to further their business, no one is safe from Vic’s dangerous ambitions. 

I found the character of Vic to be very enthralling. For years I have wanted a story from the perspective of the villain and I may have found that in base notes. At the start, Vic is a very enjoyable and sympathetic character but as the story progresses we see Vic making more questionable choices until everyone  they know and love pay the price. Apart from Vic, all characters are extremely rich and dynamic. As a reader, you wont find a single character in Base Notes, that is entirely good or evil. Even the most likable of characters have their dark sides. 

Even with the most obvious antagonists in the story, its hard to pin down the real villain and it’s even more difficult to find the hero of the story. That may be why I found Base Notes to be such a great read. The biggest threats in story aren’t assassins in the middle of the night but crushing medical debt, student loans, and the ever rising cost of rent.

A history of wild places

Shea Ernshaw creates a mystery for all readers in, A History of Wild Places.We meet Travis Wren a psychic detective tasked with tracking down Maggie St. James, an author who has gone missing after her recent novel leads to the death of a young teenager. Just as he finds a hot lead and is right on her trail, he disappears just like the woman he has been tasked to find.  It’s not until a man (Theo) living in a near by community in the woods finds an abandoned truck and becomes curious that we begin to get some clues. Soon we are led down new path full of unanswered questions. Questions about: the missing man, the missing woman, and all the secrets that lie within a small town hidden in the woods. 

Our main characters: Theo, Calla, and Bee each have a  unique character arch. As a reader, it was quite the journey to see how each characters relationships with each other, their community, and their community’s leader changed over the course of the novel. Watching each of them work through the mysteries and questions they each encountered took me on a journey that surprised me at every turn. I particularly enjoyed how Ernshaw tackled the main characters “de-programming” themselves from their leader and community’s teachings and lifestyle. Every time I thought I could guess where the story was going, I was surprised. Nothing about Ernshaw’s work was completely un-predictable and I found that to be very enjoyable. 

A History of Wild Places is a journey of secrets, tragedy, and self growth. A great read for any true crime or cult documentary enthusiast….just be careful not to get lost along the way. 

A Flicker in the Dark

Mystery and tragedy  find themselves in A Flicker in the Dark, a thrilling novel by Stacy Willingham. We meet Chole Davis a young psychiatrist who happens to be in the  final stages of planning her upcoming wedding to the man of her dreams. All her worst night mares come true  when a local girl goes missing…Then another girl goes missing. Nearing the anniversary of her fathers crimes, she finds herself fearing that a copycat killer has begun to terrorize her hometown. With no one to trust, she fears the worst in everyone around her and begins her own investigation. Eventually she finds that the real monsters can be hiding silently behind any corner. 

I frequently found my self “on the fence,” with the character of Chole, she is a character who often has very questionable or unethical  judgment. In all, she is far from the typical, “perfect heroine,” which made her much more interesting character. However, all her faults and previous mistakes made her much more thrilling to follow in the story. However, Some of her character flaws were a bit too much and not always believable. She was stupid at times and it wasn’t always endearing. She made some poor and illegal choices that sometimes took the story to unnecessary and some times irrelevant plot lines.  

A Flicker in the Dark is a very thrilling read. Each twist and turn of the story was completely unpredictable. Even with all of the main characters flaws I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a thrilling mystery. I wont give away any spoilers but if you give Willingham’s work a try you will find yourself completely engulfed in her story, unable to put it down. 

The Last Winter

How many winters will I experience? What about my children or grandchildren? Porter Fox travels across the globe in writing “The Last Winter” to learn why winter as we know it today may cease to exist. From raging forest fires across the pacific north, to the French Alps, and glaciers in the Alaska and Greenland, Potter introduces us to numerous experts in the field who live with and study the catastrophic effects of global warming every day.

Global warming is a difficult topi to write about, its especially difficult to predict may affect our future lives. Long term threats like global warming and disease, much like the pandemic we are experiencing right now are very difficult to conceptualize. Potters‘s  travels and narrative  helps the reader see how global do warming is affecting the planet right now from the perspective of those facing and studying it everyday. 

This is a fantastic first start for someone just bringing their learning journey about climate change and global warming. Potter does an exceptional job, describing how global warming and climate change will: affect the availability  of drinking water, disrupt growing seasons and subsistence hunters, destroy homes, and (as the title suggests) forever change winter as we know it.

One of my biggest complaints about the book is that it is just a beginners course. Fox does provide additional suggested readings at the back of the book but I would have liked to see a little more data and a little less personal side stories from the author.

In all, the “Last winter” is a great preliminary reading for someone wanting  to learn more about climate change. While I loved Fox’s style of narration, I wouldn’t recommend this book for anyone expecting a quick read. The Last Winter requires more thought and attention from the reader, but it is definitely worth the extra time. Keep in mind,  Fox’s work isn’t a call to action but rather a mirror to show us: what was, what is, and what could be.