Review: THE FISHERMAN by John Langan (2016)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult horror
Year Release: 2016
Source: Libro.fm

Listened to the audiobook

This book is narrated by the kindest-sounding old man, but don’t let that fool you: it is full of folk terror and upstate New York eerieness.

The Fisherman are about two IBM coworkers who happen to be widowers who go on a weekend fishing trip. Things get weird and very cosmic horror from there. There’s not much I can that wouldn’t turn into a spoiler, but I really loved the fishy horror of this one. There’s also a fair amount of the dead walking, all tied to this one stream in the Catskills. The location is absolutely beautiful, and alluring in a way that almost wants you to take up the sport. After reading this tale, however, it’s probably best to leave the restless waters alone.

The book does go on a relevant, but lengthy story of one of the first families to settle in the region. As if tragedy had not been enough, they are also befallen to the tortures of a godly type. It’s a fantastic mix of how people in general are scary, but also with the unsettling that comes with the unexplainable happening all around you. The fish and the location are the constant linking the contemporary tale and history together.

If you weren’t afraid of fish before reading, congratulations! You have ichthyophobia.

 

ARC Review: THE LUCKY ONES by Liz Lawson (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Year Release: April 2020
Source: Netgalley ARC

Read an ARC acquired via NetGalley

Content and trigger warnings include: School shootings, PTSD, panic attack, depression, alcoholism, death of a relative, blood

May McGintee lost her twin brother eleven months prior to the events of this book in a school shooting perpetrated by a classmate. Zach is a classmate in the school she transfers too, who also happens to be the shooter’s lawyer. They meet at band practice one night and an unexpected friendship forms.

Though the shooting is important in the set-up, it is the depiction of the aftermath from two points of view which really make this book unique. This book does a beautiful job depicting PTSD with a protagonist who is decidedly not okay. May has been let down by all the adults in her life and lost her favorite teacher and her brother in a horrific event. She’s angry. She acts out. She has less than favorable things said to those around her. The way her processing of her loss really stood out to me.

Zach’s perspective had been handled so compassionately. One of the things that really worked for me as a whole in this book was the thread of children not being held to their parents mistakes. No one handles anything appropriately, and it is so achingly human. This disappointment felt by the children is almost a character in and of itself. Lawson beautiful and heart-wrenchingly navigates all the facets, from individual disappointments to May’s rightful rage at the system which did nothing to address her specific trauma.

My heart still aches after finishing, but I couldn’t put it down. It is a powerful read full of grief, rage, and, most importantly, hope and healing.

Review: MIDNIGHT IN CHERNOBYL: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham (2019)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Adult historical nonfiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

The Chernobyl miniseries on HBO is one of my favorite pieces of visual media. While the docudrama follows the Voices from Chernobyl, this book delves more into the context of nuclear power in Russia, the culture of scientific academia, and politics and policies that influenced the choices made and, more importantly, not made.

The narrative for this one was fairly linear, starting all the way with the construction of the facility, moving through Russia’s hopes and dreams of being on the forefront of technological development, the education of the facility staff and those in power, and finally, a timeline of the disaster itself. It is fascinating from a cultural perspective, especially as this is something my parents likely remember.

Given the current circumstances of the world, parts of the government’s decision making hit uncomfortably close to reality. The saving face, the underplaying of an unprecedented disaster as something totally manageable, and taking the correct actions far too late hit differently.  For these reasons and more, this book is another fairly difficult read, but this read goes more into the science and background of being a nuclear scientist in Soviet Russia than the heart-wrenching stories of those affected by the disaster.

Review: PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING by Randy Ribay (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young adult contemporary
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

Jay Reguero seeks a fairly average final semester of high school before off to college. He receives news, however, that his cousin Jun had been murdered as part of Duterte’s war on drugs. From then, he goes on a trip to the Philippines to reconnect with his family and to find his own answers behind his cousin’s murder.

This novel covers so many facets of not only contemporary life in the Philippines under Duterte’s rule but also authentic captures the experience of being the American relative coming “home.” Ribay deftly navigates the nuances that come from the cultural differences, both from Jay’s perspective and his family’s. Like Jay, I had been born in my home country and moved to America with my family not long after. There are aspects to that distance which I had not seen in other stories. Nothing in this book is presented as black and white. Jay confronts his own privileges and discovers a culture he had not had much exposure to in his Americanized life. He learns of the contradictions within his own family.

The layers of tension in Patron Saints of Nothing thread through from start to finish. Ribay covers a variety of viewpoints throughout the narrative in a way that feels seamless. It isn’t all bleak, however. Some of the most powerful moments in the novel are the quieter moments among the family. One of my favorites was when Jay’s aunts (good to mention that there is f/f rep in this novel) invite friends and neighbors over for karaoke.

Definitely not an easy read, but this book made me cry, laugh, and dropped my jaw on more than one occasion.

Review: WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor (2017)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult paranormal
Year Release: 2017
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

“Comfort read” for me is such a strange concept. Most people turn to old favorites or more cheery things with happy endings. I turn to the terrifying and unusual when I need something resembling normality. Welcome to Night Vale, the novel, hit just the spot.

This novel takes place in Night Vale, a quiet desert town where the dog park is to be avoided at all costs, pawn shop owners never age, and boys don’t stay in the same form for any reliable length of time. The book version of the podcast delves into the lives Jackie and Diane, two recurring characters in the show. I really liked being able to see what community and family looks like in this place where its creepiness becomes a background to the other trappings of every day life. I really enjoyed the story line of a mother trying to connect with her son, and the young person trying to be taken seriously and prove herself. The way the characters follows a satisfying trail of bread crumbs.

It’s wonderful and odd, but I will say, you might need to listen to an episode or two of the podcast to get into the quirks, such as the radio show and its recurring bits. As someone who has listened extensively to the podcast, it so true to the spirit of it. Having Cecil Baldwin narrate really rounded out the experience. I am definitely look forward to the rest of the ongoing series.

Review: THE RUIN OF KINGS by Jenn Lyons (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult fantasy
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

Remember Dragon Age 2? Remember how it opened with one of the party members getting interrogated by another party member of a different game and that’s now we got the story? Remember all the disaster queers? Remember how, for a thing with dragon in the title, there was one dragon? If you enjoyed all these things, this fantasy will be right up your alley.

The triple narration is executed with such precision, it is the thing of envy. We get the story of how Kihrin D’Mon wound up in prison from Kihrin, Talon (his jailer), and a mysterious third narrator who should up in footnotes and the last third. It is so fun, mostly because each perspective simply enhances the story, and the emotional connections are tenuous at best. It offers such a unique opportunity to delve into all aspects of the world-building, with scenes connecting based on relevance rather than sequence. Such a cool technique.

In addition, there were aspects of the world-building that feel familiar to many a fantasy fan, but my personal favorite: the mimic. These shapeshifters were so cool, and I am so glad they play such a huge role in the plot. Moreover, I was super intrigued by the soul-binding and death magic throughout this work. Terrible things are afoot in the world, and Kihrin and his friends are in terrible binds, which will probably take more pacts with gods to unravel.

I need my various audiobook subscriptions to refresh asap so I can continue this excellent fantasy saga.

Review: A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER by Holly Jackson (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young adult mystery
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

Pippa Fitz-Amobi uses her senior year capstone project as a pretense to solve a murder. Andie Bell had gone missing five years prior and all signs pointed to Sal Singh as the culprit of her disappearance and murder. Pippa wants to find the answers herself, despite the case already being closed.

I really enjoyed the way Jackson uses several formats to bring the research to life. Between audio interviews, research logs, and traditional story telling, we really see every aspect of how Pippa solves this murder. No stone is left unturned as Pippa conducts interviews, visits locations both seedy and deceptively friendly, and learns secrets about people she had grown up with. The voice is clever, and I never got the sense that Pippa had everything handed to her. No moment felt too coincidental. Once again, it was nice to read a young adult where parents are involved and concerned about their children. The depth and breadth of all the character interactions were complex and memorable.  However, the various twists and turns in the final quarter of the book, though effective, could have been cut down a bit. 

If you were a fan of Sadie for how Summers incorporated the podcast element, you will enjoy this small town mystery.