Ill Will by Dan Chaon

30687788Ill Will
Dan Chaon
Goodreads

Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

“We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves,” Dustin Tillman likes to say. It’s one of the little mantras he shares with his patients, and it’s meant to be reassuring. But what if that story is a lie?

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to symbolize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients gets him deeply engaged in a string of drowning deaths involving drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses talk of a serial killer as paranoid thinking, but as he gets wrapped up in their amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.

From one of today’s most renowned practitioners of literary suspense, Ill Will is an intimate thriller about the failures of memory and the perils of self-deception. In Dan Chaon’s nimble, chilling prose, the past looms over the present, turning each into a haunted place.

Review:

What a shit pile.  Honestly, I struggled through this book to the point that I thought about putting it down several times and not finishing it.  There were no characters that I connected with, the plots were convoluted and unnecessarily melodramatic and there were chapters where the writing was written in stupid columns that made it hard to read and just pissed me off.  I’m sure it was done to be cutesy and different but it just annoyed me and I was already annoyed with the book at that time.

The only thing that got this book two stars was one of the twists at the end of the book.  Of course, said twist went unresolved so the author could give an ~ ambiguous ~ ending on EVERY SINGLE PLOT LINE HE SHOVED INTO THIS STUPIDLY LONG BOOK.

I think I probably would have been more satisfied putting the book down and marking it DNF than to muddle through and ending up with the ending I receive.  Just boring and dull and dumb.

 

 

Triple Threat, by Gwenda Bond

31632115Triple Threat (Lois Lane #3)
Gwenda Bond
Goodreads

For the first time, Lois Lane has almost everything she wants. Non-temporary home? Check. Dream job? Double check. Incredible BFFs? The absolute best. And now, her online crush, SmallvilleGuy, is coming to Metropolis. If all goes well, they’ll turn their long-distance friendship into a some-kind-of-fairy-tale romance. But when does all ever go well? Before she can check boyfriend off her list, Lois must take down a mad scientist plus a trio of mutant teens, protect the elusive flying man from the feds (including her dad), and navigate her very first date with SmallvilleGuy. In the follow-up to FALLOUT and DOUBLE DOWN, Gwenda Bond’s reimagination of DC Comics’s first leading lady takes on her toughest challenge yet: Love.

Review:

I’ve loved this series since book one came in as a breath of fresh air after one disastrous comic book tie in novel experience I had years ago. It’s like someone decided to write a Teen AU fanfic starring Lois Lane, but took only the best parts of what make Lois tick and wrote the hell out of it. We don’t deserve Gwenda Bond, truly.

Triple Threat builds on the first two books, showing a Lois who is finding her place in Metropolis, doing her best to be a good friend, excelling (or trying to) at her career as a junior reporter, and finally tackling an IRL meeting with SmallvilleGuy, aka CLARK KENT.

Look, I’ll be the first to say that I felt the novel dragged on a bit with the actual plot seeming extremely insignificant in the grand scheme of things. (What really happened, in the end? It’s like nothing changed whatsoever.)

But. But!

Lois and Clark finally meet. THEY FINALLY MEET.

I was something like ten years old when Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman aired on one of the two main television stations we received in Kenya. They were the epitome of cool and I used to watch the show with hearts in my eyes, wanting to be like them. I have a very clear memory of the moment Lois finds out Clark is Superman. I never got to watch too much of the show, but they made such a huge impression on tiny me that I got excited right alongside Lois in Triple Threat when she finally meets Clark. The meting itself, the way they’re awkward and adorable around each other, the way things move slowly and LOGICALLY for kids their age who’ve only had an online relationship until now…it’s incredibly sweet and satisfying.

Back to the plot…honestly, there were some threads of interest here and there, but like I said before, ultimately nothing really happens. I did love the mature and different look at a teen relationship going on with Maddy and Dante, and I love that Lois has a really good relationship with all her friends and her family. (As good as it can be with her dad, really, which is really good here.)

Oh oh oh, one thing I did love: Lois turned around and did one of the most frustrating, stupid things a Strong Female Character can do, but then turned it around and became a truly strong character by realizing she was dumb and apologizing for it. I don’t need my female characters to be Strong and take on the world on their own – I need them to be whole. Which Lois is, and which I appreciate wholeheartedly.

This book is perfect for teen readers and adult Superman fans alike. I can’t recommend the series enough.

PS. I went looking for Lois & Clark gifs when writing this review and W O W I forgot the humongous crush I had on Dean Cain before I even realized what crushes were.

tumblr_mldl3nvf0e1rnw80to5_r1_250(I mean, COME ON.)

Time to scour the internet to see if I can do some re-watching and relive some childhood memories.

Silent Child by Sarah Denzil

33984070Silent Child
Sarah Denzil
Goodreads

In the summer of 2006, Emma Price watched helplessly as her six-year-old son’s red coat was fished out of the River Ouse. It was the tragic story of the year – a little boy, Aiden, wandered away from school during a terrible flood, fell into the river, and drowned. 


His body was never recovered. 
Ten years later, Emma has finally rediscovered the joy in life. She’s married, pregnant, and in control again…

… until Aiden returns. 

Too traumatized to speak, he raises endless questions and answers none. Only his body tells the story of his decade-long disappearance. The historic broken bones and injuries cast a mere glimpse into the horrors Aiden has experienced. Aiden never drowned. Aiden was taken. 
As Emma attempts to reconnect with her now teenage son, she must unmask the monster who took him away from her. But who, in their tiny village, could be capable of such a crime?

It’s Aiden who has the answers, but he cannot tell the unspeakable.

This dark and disturbing psychological novel will appeal to fans of The Widow and The Butterfly Garden.

Review:

I think this book could have been a lot better if it was about fifty pages shorter.  It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination but the climax was dragged out a bit and really didn’t need to be as I’d guessed the culprit about a hundred pages prior.

The book also suffered from nearly making Emma, the protagonist, unlikable to a degree that I wanted to kick her in the face.  Luckily, the author dialed back some of the things she did that made me want to punch her but I still didn’t very much care for her by the book’s end.

Despite all the things that didn’t work for me about this book, the overall mystery was intriguing enough that it kept me interested enough to continue reading.  There was one small twist at the end that caught me off guard, made me mutter ‘oh fuck me’ but everything else was pretty predictable in a harmless sort of way.

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells

32758901All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)
Martha Wells
Goodreads

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Review

The blurbs for this novella claim that All Systems Red is a sci-fi adventure that blends Iain Banks’ Culture series with HBO’s Westworld and whatever, if that matters to people, so be it. I haven’t read the Culture series but I have watched and loved Westworld, and saw very little of this in it, beyond the obvious “robots with human emotions” angle. Murderbot is more Robocop than Dolores, anyway, so whatever, book blurbs, whatever.

THIS NOVELLA IS FANTASTIC ALL ON ITS OWN.

Murderbot is fantastic. Team Humans is fantastic. The adventure and mystery is tightly written with enough suspense to keep things moving but not so much that I got frustrated. Honestly, Murderbot’s apathy, social anxiety, and confusion made for a very interesting and often amusing POV. And that ending!!!

I want more Murderbot.

I need more Murderbot.

2018 IS MUCH TOO FAR AWAY FOR MORE MURDERBOT.

Gwendy’s Button Box, by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

34430839Gwendy’s Button Box
Stephen King & Richard Chizmar
Goodreads

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

Review

I’m a sucker for anything Stephen King, so I picked this up the second I saw it at the library. Like most King novellas it’s not quite a horror story, but one that involves children dealing with Big Issues that involve fantastical elements. Thankfully I wasn’t expecting much in terms of horror for this, because it read like a breeze, with little to no suspense. I wanted to know what the Button Box was, but at the same time I didn’t much care.

I haven’t read anything about how this story was written, so I have no idea what the distribution of work was between King and Chizmar, but this reads like someone wrote King fanfic and King himself polished it up a little bit. There are no stakes at all, even when we get a glimpse at what the Button Box does.

Overall this was nice, but ultimately forgettable.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

18498558Bird Box
Josh Malerman
Goodreads

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

Review:

There was a lot I liked about this book.  It was short which meant the plot had to be tightly unfurled and didn’t have any chance to go off on tangents or introduce characters that had no bearing on the book.  Everything was concise, efficient and unspooled in a way that, while not as detailed as some books, rocketed the tension up to make it a page turner in spots.  There were several areas where I wanted more and more, wanted to see what happened and how it happened.  Malerman’s writing is very spare, using words as weapons to really drive a point home or using the sparse and stripped language to paint a picture of a world torn apart.

I thought the book was building to finally revealing the antagonists that had been so feared and so talked about the entire book but that didn’t happen.  So, that was a bit of a let down, a bit of tension yanked away.  While I get what the author was going for in keeping things ambiguous, the previous pages had made me want to know more.  But, the climax is open ended, leaving the reader to imagine what might happen in the future to Malorie and her kids.

It’s an interesting book.  It’s short enough that I’d recommend because it won’t take you long to finish but I did wish for more because I felt like the end fell flat.

Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

16085488Still Star-Crossed
Melinda Taub
Goodreads

Despite the “glooming peace” that has settled on Verona following Romeo’s and Juliet’s tragic deaths, the ancient grudge between the Montagues and Capulets refuses to die: the two houses are brawling in the streets again within a fortnight. Faced anew with “hate’s proceedings,” Prince Escalus concludes that the only way to marry the fortunes of these two families is to literally marry a Montague to a Capulet. But the couple he selects is uninterested in matrimony, for the most eligible Montague bachelor is Benvolio, still anguished by the loss of his friends, and the chosen Capulet maid is Rosaline, whose refusal of Romeo’s affection paved the way for bloodshed. In contrast to their late cousins, there’s no love lost between these two, and so they find a common purpose—resolving the city’s strife in a way that doesn’t end with them at the altar.

But like Romeo and Juliet before them, Rosaline, Benvolio, and the prince find that the path to peace is tortuous, and that in Verona, true love lies where it’s least expected.

This fast-paced and insightful Shakespearean homage, filled with clandestine meetings, romantic encounters, and duels over family honor, will delight and captivate readers

For a book that I picked up after watching the first two episodes of the Shondaland series on Hulu at 4am after my toddler wakes me up crying, this was better than I expected! When I first heard about the book years ago and the show, I rolled my eyes so hard it actually hurt. Still for a bit of fluffy nonsense, it was enjoyable. Not actual Shakespeare, but even he was a bit of a hack. This book plays a bit of fan fiction trope bingo for a while, but if you know that going in then it’s quite fun.

The ending is just so delightfully over the top that I can’t even be mad about it. If it had ended in a more subdued way, then I would be upset. There is a bit of an issue with the pacing. Not the amount of stuff that happens as time actually passes unlike the less than a week of its source material, but the abrupt way that it “ends” only for the epilogue to pick up. I suppose it was the ending of the main story, but it was so clearly not an ending that it irked. Like just cut forward a few weeks! Not everything needs an epilogue! Especially not one that is clearly coming from ten miles off.