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.

 

 

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.

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.

Coffee Boy by Austin Chant

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Coffee Boy
Austin Chant
Goodreads

After graduation, Kieran expected to go straight into a career of flipping burgers—only to be offered the internship of his dreams at a political campaign. But the pressure of being an out trans man in the workplace quickly sucks the joy out of things, as does Seth, the humorless campaign strategist who watches his every move.

Soon, the only upside to the job is that Seth has a painful crush on their painfully straight boss, and Kieran has a front row seat to the drama. But when Seth proves to be as respectful and supportive as he is prickly, Kieran develops an awkward crush of his own—one which Seth is far too prim and proper to ever reciprocate. 

Review:

What a cute, fun, quick read.  It didn’t take me long to start rooting for Kieran and Seth to get together and be the adorable ‘opposites attract’ couple they were meant to be.  I liked that this story made a point to focus on the issues Kieran faced in a workplace environment but didn’t make it the story’s sole narrative.  The issues were handled sensitively and openly.  The book showcased the struggles that transgender people unfortunately go through in their day to day lives in the span of just over sixty pages.

But, it’s also a fun book.  Kieran’s witty and brash, lonely and yearning, while Seth is hostile and angry, sad and secretive.  I wanted them to get together but I’ve been hurt before by couples I loved so I was waiting for the bus to hit me when they eventually went their separate ways.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen.  I would have loved to read more on these two but I’m also happy with this uplifting, quirky, cute read.

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

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Hex
Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Goodreads

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting, but in so doing send the town spiraling into the dark, medieval practices of the past.

Review:

I really enjoy books that make the setting an additional character. Black Spring the place was just as freaky as the Black Rock Witch. That ratcheted the tension up even higher, making certain parts of the book suffocating and overwhelming in intensity.

There were some slower parts of the book, parts that could have been cut out to make the book a bit shorter and tighter but they were few and far between. The characters, while not very memorable, played their parts well but they were really the backdrop for the town and the witch herself.

The only other quibble was that the author had quite the obsession with mentioning nipples, both men and women. I don’t know why or what’s behind it but dude really likes to describe nipples.

The Deep by Nick Cutter

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The Deep
Nick Cutter

A strange plague called the ’Gets is decimating humanity on a global scale. It causes people to forget—small things at first, like where they left their keys…then the not-so-small things like how to drive, or the letters of the alphabet. Then their bodies forget how to function involuntarily…and there is no cure. But now, far below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, deep in the Marianas Trench, an heretofore unknown substance hailed as “ambrosia” has been discovered—a universal healer, from initial reports. It may just be the key to a universal cure. In order to study this phenomenon, a special research lab, the Trieste, has been built eight miles under the sea’s surface. But now the station is incommunicado, and it’s up to a brave few to descend through the lightless fathoms in hopes of unraveling the mysteries lurking at those crushing depths…and perhaps to encounter an evil blacker than anything one could possibly imagine.

Review:

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That was basically me during the entire reading of this book.  It’s incredibly creepy with some triggering scenes of body horror but it’s also fascinating and engrossing as all get out.  It made me so, so tense and when it ended, I was both relieved because my heart got a break but also sad because I did want to see more of the story.

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

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Our Dark Duet
Victoria Schwab

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

Review:

The second in the series Monsters of Verity (sequel to This Savage Song), Our Dark Duet hits the ground running and never stops. The pace is much faster and the tone much more desperate than This Savage Song, making the whole experience a bit like a thrill ride.

While I really enjoyed all the characters for different reasons, I do have to pay some special attention to the character of Soro, who is genderqueer. It’s not often you find a genderqueer character in fiction, let alone young adult fiction, so this was a pleasant surprise. Soro’s a flute playing, monster killing, stone cold badass who is oftentimes the voice of reason in highly emotional situations. I would have loved an entire series about them and their adventures.

Get on that, Victoria Schwab.