Book Review: Locke & Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft

18/60: A book you meant to read in 2018: “Locke & Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft” by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez.

After a violent family tragedy, teens Tyler and Kinsey and their younger brother, Bode, move into their father’s old mansion estate, the Keyhouse. Interwoven with the past, the family must navigate their new life in their new home, a place with doorways that transform and secrets to be unearthed.

When I saw that Joe Hill had a graphic novel series, I was immediately intrigued. Come to find out this weekend that it was available via Kindle Unlimited and, while I generally prefer a physical book for a graphic novel, the reading feature on the Kindle really makes for an immersive read, so no complaints on that front. Will be buying the box set to read the rest, though.

I’m a huge Joe Hill fan, so I went in with the highest expectations, and was blown away. It is a highly graphic graphic novel, for sure. The plot itself goes through the present with flashbacks peppered throughout, which turns what originally seems to be a fairly straightforward story into something with multiple, multiple layers. Granted, I am only into Volume 1 of this series, but even just this first installment was riddled with content, plot whiplash, and tension.

I’m also a huge fan of Rodríguez’s artistic style and how well it meshes with Hill’s storytelling. The horror elements were just…so good. I’m not an artist, so I won’t even pretend to know about that process, but everything looked so unique and lovingly detailed while still conveying that feeling of suspense, fear and grief. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5, can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

“Kids always think they’re coming into a story at the beginning, when usually they’re coming in at the end.” 

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Book Review: The Girls Are Gone

17/60: Freebie #3: “The Girls Are Gone” by Michael Brodkorb & Allison Mann.

Thank you to Book Publicity Services for this book in exchange for an honest review!

The true story of a family dissolve, two daughters who disappear, and the long-standing fight to find them.

Told from court documents, news articles, and narratives from a journalist and paralegal assisting with the case, this book was a fascinating look into a case I had never heard of. It also gave a look into a concept I had heard of, but not as a specific term, “parental alienation”, which is the concept that hooked me and kept my attention.

As detailed in the final chapters, this book is a look into the court system from all points of view. It is immensely frustrating to read – in a good way, because of the accuracy of how it feels to deal with the court system – but also equally as interesting – especially as someone with pretty much zero know-how in the field.

While this isn’t the type of true crime I generally read (typically I go for serial killers, things of that nature 😬), I really enjoyed reading about a case that I had never heard of, especially the provided court documentation. Definitely worth picking up! ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5

My 3-Year-Old’s Book Review: Fox in Socks

Yesterday, my 3-year-old son was home sick, so he and I spent the day lying in bed, napping, watching Daniel Tiger, and reading.

Of my two kids, he is the one who loves books and being read to, and he is finally at the age where he is actively engaging in what’s on each page and it is such an exciting time. As I pushed through “Fox in Socks” (which I’m pretty good at now, but that dang “Bim and Ben broom” passage ruins me every time) for the third time, he started saying the words along with me – not reading, quite, but saying the words a millisecond after I did – and telling me what was happening on each page. And he was super digging it.

So, here is his review of “Fox in Socks” by Dr. Seuss:

Me: Tell me about the book. What’s it about?

Ryder: Fox in Socks on Knox. He went bang bang bang and made a tower!

M: What did you think about it? Did you like it?

R: Yes, I liked it! I liked the blue goo.

Since he’s still a bit sick, that was about as much focus as he would give me, but I think I may start doing more of these when I find a book he particularly likes. At the very least, it gives me a chance to discuss the book with him, which is never a bad thing 😊

Book Review: Fever Dream

16/60: A book written by an author from Asia, Africa or South America: “Fever Dream” by Samanta Schweblin. [Popsugar Reading Challenge]

Goodreads synopsis: A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.

This one was an instant add to my TBR list last year after I found it on a BookRiot list that essentially described it as creepy, trippy and genre-defying, and, boy, was it all of the above. I’m a huge fan of stream-of-consciousness storytelling, especially in horror, and “Fever Dream” nailed that. The structure is unique, so much so that it took me a minute to figure out Schweblin’s formatting and who-was-who.

The title is perfectly apt for this book, because that’s pretty much how I felt while I was reading it – in a good way! I even snagged the Goodreads synopsis for this review because I was kind of at a loss on how to summarize it without giving parts of it away.

Because of the page count and overall narrative style, this was an incredibly fast read for me (once I figured out the style and which voice belonged to which character). ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

“Strange can be quite normal. Strange can just be the phrase ‘That is not important’ as an answer for everything. But if your son never answered you that way before, then the fourth time you ask him why he’s not eating, or if he’s cold, or you send him to bed, and he answers, almost biting off the words as if he were still learning to talk, ‘That is not important’, I swear to you Amanda, your legs start to tremble.” 

Book Review: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

15/60: A book set in Scandinavia: “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman. [Popsugar Reading Challenge]

Elsa is almost eight and different. Her Granny is a bit older but just as odd with a knack for irritating the masses. They share a deep love that expands to their make believe land, where Elsa doesn’t feel ostracized or different. When Granny dies, she sends Elsa on a real-life journey to deliver letters to those Granny has wronged and Elsa learns more about her Granny than she had known, and more of those who truly exist around her.

Fredrik Backman can do no wrong in my eyes. He captures human emotion and relationships better than most authors. His characters are real, flawed, empathetic, and raw, and “My Grandmother…” is no exception.

Elsa’s relationship with her Granny (and the relationships she develops with those she delivers letters to) is so remarkable and lovely and tragic. The lore of the make believe land they created is peppered throughout the novel (a teeny bit too much for my taste), and is a perfect almost-eight-year-old metaphor for her experiences.

I would rank this one slightly below “Beartown” and “Us Against You” but right on par with “A Man Called Ove”. Backman has my number; I don’t think I get through any of his books without crying a minimum of five times. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

“Having a grandmother is like having an army. This is a grandchild’s ultimate privilege: knowing that someone is on your side, always, whatever the details. Even when you are wrong. Especially then, in fact.”

Book Review: Pet Sematary [reread]

14/60: A book becoming a movie in 2019: “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King. [reread] [Popsugar Reading Challenge]

When the Creeds move to Maine, they are looking for a peaceful life away from the city; they quickly find that there is something more to the town of Ludlow, something spanning from the highway by their home (where trucks pass by far too quickly) to the pet graveyard in the adjoining woods, the Pet Sematary.

This was one of my first King books, but I haven’t read it since I was about 14 or so. And, boy, did I not appreciate it the first time. It’s superb horror, hold-your-breath-in-anticipation horror. Even as a reread, I felt tense through the whole novel.

I think this easily cracks into my King top three, with Misery and The Long Walk. Much like The Long Walk, King just resonates with me when he explores death as a concept and as, essentially, a character. And I’m super glad I got to read this again before the film remake comes out – cannot wait to see John Lithgow as Jud Crandall, who was easily my favorite character. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

“The soil of a a man’s heart is stonier, Lewis-like the soul up there in the old Micmac burying ground. Bedrock’s close. A man grows what he can…and he tends it.”

PS: Enjoy my son posing for this one. Mother of the year, right here!

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [reread]

13/60: A book with at least one million reviews on Goodreads: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by JK Rowling. [reread]

It has been far, far too long since I dipped into the Harry Potter world. I think doing my reread now, as a 30 year old, was the perfect choice. Even with the first line – “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”– it felt like a warm welcome back into the universe. JK Rowling (current tweets notwithstanding) created an absolutely comprehensive world with characters that were, once they hit the page, were their own people with their own voice.

As an adult, I think I’m appreciating more aspects of it. Hagrid, for example, came away as one of my absolute favorite characters this time (except for maybe Ron, but he’s always been my favorite and that’ll be hard to combat), and, while I liked him the first time(s) around, I didn’t appreciate his importance to Harry and how profound his impact was. I do now, thankfully. I just love him.

I could probably rant for pages on this, so I’ll keep it brief. The world is amazing, detailed and lovingly created, as are the characters – even minor ones like Lee Jordan just exhume personality. I’m planning to spread the seven books out across the year, but I could easily just pick up Book 2 and devour it as I did this one. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5, of course.

“The trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”

Book Review: Brother

12/60: A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter: “Brother” by Ania Ahlborn. (PopSugar Reading Challenge)

The Morrows are a family that keeps to themselves. Likely for the best, considering the number of girls that tend to go missing around their house in West Virginia. Their 19-year-old son, Michael, however, is beginning to dream of a life beyond the farmhouse, especially when he meets Alice, a girl from town who, somehow, seems to like him back. His older brother, Rebel, the hair of the dog all too strong, is keen to remind Michael about his role in the Morrow family.

Horror tends to be my favorite genre, because of the feelings a really good horror novel can elicit. The best are when I feel too nervous or uncomfortable to continue, because I’ve been sucked into the world so perfectly. “Brother” was one of those horror novels; it felt like true classic slasher horror. This was my first Ania Alhborn book, and it absolutely will not be my last.

“Brother” was an intense roller coaster of discomfort and incredible twists and turns that I legitimately didn’t see coming until nearing the end. As the climax began to reveal itself, I could unspool all of the foreshadowing that had lead up to it, and it was an incredible reveal. ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

“The Morrow boys were to be ghosts, leaving behind nothing of themselves or those they took from the world.”

Book Review: Thin Air

11/60: Two books that share the same title (1): “Thin Air” by Michelle Paver. (PopSugar Reading Challenge)

In 1907, the Lyell Expedition became one of the biggest mountaineering disasters of all time, with five men losing their lives to the climb. Now, in 1935, Doctor Stephen Pierce, in a team that includes his brother, Kits, has decided to retrace the Lyell Expedition’s steps. As he begins his ascent, Stephen Pierce begins noticing someone out in the mountains with them – is it altitude sickness or was someone from the original Expedition not laid to rest?

I love a good ghost story. Couple that with the vast unknowing of the wilderness, and that gives me the perfect atmosphere for a horror story. Since this was told from Stephen Pierce’s POV, your knowledge of what is going on is kept to a bare minimum, and you can sense his confusion and unease at his situation perfectly – is it the high altitude that’s messing with his or is there something else out there?

This is a relatively short novel, so I can’t really call it a “slow burn”, but that’s essentially what it was. Nothing was rushed into; there was no bravado that can often break the atmosphere (which was part of my problem with “The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall”). It felt, to me, like a good, classic-style ghost tale. ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

“The Sherpas are wrong. This mountain has no spirit, no sentience and no intent. It’s not trying to kill us. It simply is.” 

Book Review: Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer

10/60: Freebie #2: “Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer” by Ryan Suvaal. I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A novella about a serial killer who targets authors who commit the ultimate act of reader treason: perpetual and abhorrent grammar mistakes.

My favorite combination of genres is horror and comedy; it’s a blend that absolutely works for me, which is why John Dies at the End and its sequels are some of my top favorite reads. This one had that excellent blend of horror and tongue-in-cheek humor that I always enjoy. My only complaint was that it was a novella; it definitely would have benefited from a universe expansion, so that the ending wasn’t quite as rushed.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the script format from the second half, not because it didn’t work well, but because I wanted more detail and background on the characters. All that to say, I really enjoyed the world Suvaal created. It was fun, it was witty, and I was left wanting more. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

“Please, I have two kids. Please … let me go,” Stella pleaded. She was still stupefied.

“Are you asking me a question or is that a declarative statement? I can’t decide.”