An atmospheric mystery with a moody setting that questions the connections behind a missing mother and aOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
An atmospheric mystery with a moody setting that questions the connections behind a missing mother and a murder.
Description: Set in the Ozark mountains, the story starts with a local photographer discovering the mutilated body of a mentally disabled young women at the base of a tree. Just eighteen years old, Cheri’s death disturbs the small close-knit community and particularly Lucy, who was a friend to Cheri and whose mother had gone missing when she was a small child. In the back of Lucy’s mind she cannot help but connect the two losses and becomes determined to find out more about both. What this determined young woman finds is disturbing and unexpected.
A convoluted, dark, coming-of-age story that is told in alternating chapters from the main character Lucy and her mother Lila, while also bringing in the perspective of the other key characters from the story as the book progresses. It unfolds piece by piece, slowly revealing what happened, with a shocking ending that questions the strength of the bonds between family members.
Shellie’s thoughts: The story has the perfect setting for a thrilling read. It’s a place with forested land and a large cave with a dangerous passageway that plays a significant part in the story. The small close-knit community that does not take well to strangers also contributes to the isolation and dark feeling that pervades the novel.
An excellent and accessible read with writing that flows, this is for the reader who likes thrilling stories that keep you guessing and engaged. It’s for readers who enjoy realistic settings since it does not contain any paranormal elements. And it’s definitely for fans of horror, as it has violent scenes as well as a variety of other mature themes. So it’s not for sensitive readers. And if you enjoy themes that highlights human darkness then this will be a great book for you.
Conversely, there is a small amount of romance which lightens the story a tad. And with it’s spunky 17 year old main character it will appeal to readers who like feisty female leads. The story will speak to women in particular since most of the main characters are female and it also addresses women’s issues. But I think many men will enjoy it too. This is a recommended read and a great debut from a promising new author who is one to watch out for. Highly recommended at 4 stars....more
An exciting young adult novel that has elements of horror, myth, and the paranormal.
Description: When fifteen year old Daniel finds a seemingly lifeless body on the shore of his island home, he feels that something is not right with the man John Dee (as the locals name him since he does not remember who he is). When the entire town appears to side with this newcomer and Daniel is treated as an acting-out teenager, things get a little sticky. Daniel decides it’s up to him save the town’s folk from this stranger - a man who is not as he appears to be.
With elements of horror and a mythological ending that’s a great surprise, this story will have readers sitting on the edge of their chair until the conclusion.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is a terrific slowly escalating thriller that readers who love scary books will devour. I know I did. And it’s a perfect read to take in on one sitting. At 162 pages, for some readers it will only take a few hours. It’s a small and thin soft bound book with a cover that I think is exceptional and represents the story very well; which will also increase its appeal to younger readers. I would say that the author knows his craft, creating this “clean” literary thriller that will be just as great for teens as for adults.
It has a great setting that the reader will love – an island somewhere in the UK. It’s a small coastal town that helps create a feeling of being stranded, which is a key element in the story for Daniel as he is the only person to believe that the rainbow man is not who he leads everyone to believe.
Recommended for lovers of horror and books with paranormal or mythological twists. Also recommended to audio book listeners since it’s just as great of a book in its audio version, with its UK accented reader. Highly recommended at 4 stars. ...more
John’s quick take:An excellent, touching and hilarious coming-of-age story, set during the Troubles in NoOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take:An excellent, touching and hilarious coming-of-age story, set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Also a “must read” for any ex-paperboys out there.
John’s description: In 1975, Macaulay was a twelve year old boy living in the Shankill Road in west Belfast. This was during the Troubles and the Shankill was a particular hotspot – a predominantly loyalist working class area, it was also the home of several loyalist paramilitary groups. Bombs were going off, mobs were clashing, shops and buses were being burnt out, paramilitaries were openly causing mayhem and an ever-expanding network of “peace walls” were going up to separate protestant and catholic communities. Against this backdrop, the young Macaulay gets a job delivering the local Belfast Telegraph newspaper each evening.
The story tells of a two-year period of his young life during which he delivers the newspapers without fail, despite all of the barriers and problems. It is a funny and touching tale. He cannot for the life of him understand what the Troubles are all about and sees madness and hypocrisy on a daily basis, but he remains cheerful and focused on things that are really important to a near-teenage boy – girls, pop music, clothes and trying to fit in at school.
We are introduced to a big cast of family, friends, adversaries, teachers and customers, most of them talking in a thick Belfast accent and many of them possessing slightly odd views of life. He becomes a star paperboy but remains fearful of his boss – Oul’ Mac. “Oul’ Mac smoked and said ‘f**k’ a lot. Of course, most men smoked and said ‘f**k’ a lot, but Oul’ Mac did both, simultaneously and ceaselessly ….. I never saw him smile, but sometimes his eyes twinkled and I couldn’t work out whether he was coughing or laughing”.
Macaulay and his friends got into endless pranks and scrapes, but through it all he remains determined to deliver his newspapers, polish his reputation and remain “the only pacifist paperboy in Belfast”.
John’s thoughts: This is a funny and a delightful book. It is also a clever read – while it remains light hearted it pulls no punches in skewering some of the idiocy (and idiots) of the Troubles. When Macaulay finally meets some catholic boys he surprisingly finds them just the same as his protestant neighbors and remains slightly bewildered at what the fuss is all about.
The story also resonated with me a lot on a personal level. I too spent my pre-teen and teen years in the 1970s delivering newspapers each day, albeit in England and not Ireland, so a lot of the cultural and historical references really hit home – though I didn’t have to dodge “wee hoods” that were regularly trying to rob me and I certainly didn’t have to worry about bombs and blocked off streets.
I found the Belfast humor hilarious, though I will warn that some readers might find the accents and some of the vernacular slightly tough to penetrate. I managed ok and actually found that rather than being a barrier it added to the enjoyment of the read.
I’d thoroughly recommend this book to anyone, but particularly to those who were growing up in the 1970s, anyone who enjoys light-hearted coming of age stories and anyone who wants to learn more about the Troubles. And of course this should be a compulsory read for the paperboy fraternity! I’d rate this four stars. ...more
Shellie’s quick take:A complexly interwoven and otherworldly mystery that is also a dark coming-of-age stOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take:A complexly interwoven and otherworldly mystery that is also a dark coming-of-age story. It centers around the events leading up to several devastating tornados and a painful loss.
Shellie’s description: Set near some woods in Alabama, Danny and Walter are on the verge of being forced into becoming adults. Danny’s mother and sister have disappeared before a powerful storm and Walter and his friend Seth are targets from violent and heartless bullies. Each story is set within two different times, one current and one during the 1960’s, with the boys each telling their sad stories in the first person. They relate their tales in alternating chapters, slowly unraveling the mystery of the disappearance of Danny’s family.
Shellie’s thoughts: An intense read, this book feels somewhat paranormal in nature. However, it’s one of those reads that leads you into a hidden world but then brings you back to reality in the end. What also adds to the thrilling nature of the book, is that how the boys are connected does not become completely clear until the last third of the book. It has a satisfying and twisty plot and a surprising ending.
Even though this book has a great structure that kept things moving along, and the more I think about the storyline the more I admire its complexity, I do have one minor grumble - the voices of the boys were so similar that several times I found myself confused about which one I was reading about.
Beyond that it’s a terrific book that is highly recommended for those wanting a thrilling and otherworldly coming-of-age story, and of course those looking for literary horror. 4 stars for this creative and twisty story....more
Shellie’s quick take: A sweet yet dark and mind-bending coming-of-age romance about a sensitive and smallOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take: A sweet yet dark and mind-bending coming-of-age romance about a sensitive and small clown who is traveling with a circus during the 1960s.
Shellie’s description: It’s a slightly bizarre novel based upon the experiences of its relatable main character Webern (Bernie) Bell. What is special about Bernie is that he is only about 4 feet tall and has a hunch on his back. Not a typical person physically, he is, however, a natural fit as a circus clown for a small traveling show. While riding his unicycle near his home, he is discovered by the show’s dramatic owner, Dr. Shoenburg (Dr. Show for short). Dr. Show recognizes Bernie’s talent and propositions him for the circus. Bernie is happy to leave behind his childhood home to join the troupe, because he’s always felt like he doesn’t fit into a “normal” life. Within the circus he meets Nepenthe, the lizard girl, and falls in love; and finally he feels at home.
As this crazy story about love and growing up unfolds and events push him to face his inner workings, it becomes apparent that Bernie has his demons to work through – but he has his work cut out for him. Things become out of the ordinary when Bernie faces issues of death and has to question his identity, his familial attachments, his heart and some other weird happenings that he experiences.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is a terrific story with fun characters. I was completely intrigued about the main character Bernie, who is a sensitive soul and easy to like, which creates a desire to continue reading the story. Consequently I would say that this is more of a character-driven novel rather than action based, although it has its drama with its far-fetched ideas and happenings. It is certainly weird fiction, though what I liked best about Goldenland Past Dark is that it also feels realistic – well, almost.
In addition I particularly enjoyed the author’s simple and straightforward writing style which also sucked me in. Very clear and thoughtful, the writing just flowed for me. It’s a writing style that is relaxing without having to reread parts or to look up definitions for words.
I’d recommend this for fans of the circus and for those who enjoy likable yet non-mainstream characters - for example a bearded lady, a chimpanzee who’s behavior is almost human, a lizard girl with a disfiguring skin condition, and a grandmother who captures, cooks, and eats raccoons. It’s especially for those who want realism included within surreal events. 3.5 stars for this heartfelt and offbeat novel. I will definitely be looking for more from this author....more
It’s a poetic trip to Hungary for the reader, with a bittersweet ending. A coming-of-a3.5 stars actually. Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
It’s a poetic trip to Hungary for the reader, with a bittersweet ending. A coming-of-age story that is tied to the decisions one can make in anger, and the regrets about those choices, but ultimately leading to forgiveness and maturity.
About: Beth (Erzsi - her Hungarian name) is now in her thirties and lives in London. She has repressed anger which comes out toward her father who lives miles away in Devon. When her father calls to visit she becomes excited, but then angry because she finds it’s only to bring her a letter and a handmade book from Hungary. It’s a lovely book in which her trips to the country have been cataloged lovingly by Marika, her Hungarian mom.
Perusing the book, she has no choice but to take a trip back to the wonderful summers she spent there with loved ones. As Erzsi reminisces while looking at her childhood pictures from each summer spent in Hungary, the reader follows her back in lolling experiences, which culminate in a heartbreaking choice made by the main character.
Thoughts: This is a lovely novel with long poetic depictions of Hungary. It’s definitely women’s fiction, but having the flow of literary fiction since the characters are well developed. The accounts of Erzsi’s visits take up most of the book’s content, which is important to remember when choosing this book to read, since this may make or break the book for some readers.
It’s a book which I think would be an excellent choice for a woman’s book group discussion since it will evoke strong emotions in many readers. It involves the choices made in anger, at an age when maturity has not set in, also it reveals the emotions around secrets kept and shared too late, regret, and ultimately forgiveness. Recommended for anyone wanting a summer trip to the area, for readers who like to savor lengthy descriptions, and bittersweet endings. I give this story a 3.5 stars, it’s a good book for a vicarious summer trip....more
A “post-adolescent coming of age” story where the “lost” main character finds herself through a series of events, some paranormal in nature.
About: Told in the first person and mixing the past with the present, the narrator Suki Piper is a young English woman who has just moved home to London from an extended stay in New Zealand. She has come back to her old neighborhood where she lived prior to her mother’s death from cancer. The problem is that Suki can’t seem to get her life together. It’s one bad situation after another. Worse is that she is having flashbacks or delusions, which are clouding her ability to make decisions.
Fumbling through her muddled life, she accidentally discovers the answers to the questions that are haunting her - questions that seem to be linked to a night in the past, where her mum, dad and family friends drunkenly explored a defunct air raid shelter after a party. It’s here that something which transcends time occurs.
Thoughts: I enjoyed this layered story with the author’s descriptive writing which is often dryly humorous. There is nothing like the British sense of humor for a good snicker, so expect some giggles. I also liked that it was a vicarious trip to London, New Zealand, Greece and slightly back in time. Set during summer it creates an enjoyable read for the warmer months. Lastly, with its light paranormal element there is an unusual twist to the story, creating it’s sweet ending. All wonderful elements for a story.
I did have several problems. One is that I did need to do some skimming to understand the plot, due to its literary nature - the author goes in depth about the characters and their experiences rather than the plot; not a bad thing for many readers. I also had a hard time relating to the damaged main character. She has an outlook that life probably could not get any worse, which is not the type of character I normally identify with. Suki was a series of car wrecks, understandably because she did have some tough events to digest.
In the end, beyond my niggles, I would say that this is a promising debut from a talented author. I give it a 3.5 star rating. Recommend for Anglophiles looking for a story with a magical twist, a positive ending, and summer settings in Europe....more
With a down-to-earth writing style and in-depth human insight, this page-turning crime fiction novel is aOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
With a down-to-earth writing style and in-depth human insight, this page-turning crime fiction novel is a quintessential summer read for those who like dark paranormal twists and a Southern Gothic flavor to their novels.
About: In a Southern town during the early 1970’s, a young teenage boy named Jim (aka Biscuit) lives with his grandmother after his stepfather has beaten him badly enough to leave him in the hospital; and it’s not the first time. When his cousin L.A. comes to live with them, because she too is being abused, a common bond and familial friendship is created.
What is special about Biscuit is that besides being unusually introspective for his age, he has a touch of “the sight” and sees glimpses of things in dreams and otherwise that others cannot. It’s all looked at as part of his heritage since the gift runs in the family, with L.A. and his grandmother possessing their own version of knowing.
When Biscuit and L.A. find a mutilated teenage girl’s body near the train tracks, there begins the discovery of a series of murders - all by a twisted serial killer who is profiled as a member of their community.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this novel. Tom Wright has an interesting writing style that is both descriptive and unusual. In giving Biscuit his voice he has created a wonderful character. The boy narrates his story with a youthful southern drawl and local colloquialism that makes the read a special one; it gives the story a realistic and grounded feeling. I felt like Biscuit’s thoughts about life and growing up were reflective and respectable for a growing young man on the verge of adulthood. I liked that a lot.
A warning: this is crime fiction and depicts graphic details about the murder of young teens, including several violent scenes. Conversely, if you enjoy complicated characters and coming of age stories where a broad spectrum of beliefs are presented, then this will be an excellent pick for you.
One thing I am not crazy about is the cover - not a very comfortable position I am thinking! But beyond that it’s a fine debut and one which I could not decide whether to give a 4 or 4.5 stars to. In the end I have designated it a 4. Definitely recommended for readers who enjoy slightly paranormal themes and are looking for a summer setting....more
A fable-like novel with a variety of relatable characters, addictions as a subject mattOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
4.5 stars actually!
A fable-like novel with a variety of relatable characters, addictions as a subject matter, and a kind, intelligent, yet very overweight protagonist that one cannot help but adore. His opening line draws you completely in with: “The first thing you should know about me is that I am colossally fat.”
About: Two characters tell this story - Arthur Opp and Kell Keller - and as more characters immerge heartfelt entanglements develop.
We have Arthur Opp, who describes himself as immense. He continues on in resignation as he cannot leave his home in fear of the reactions to his appearance from others. He is depressed and damaged, but it’s clear from his voice that he has a contemplative and considerate nature.
The story begins as he writes a letter to the unrequited love of his life, Charlene, to tell her his predicament and to re-establish contact for a glimmer of hope for a change in his life. He soon finds that she has a teenage son, Kell Keller, who is in his last year of high school. Kell is to become the other of the narrators.
As these two characters tell their stories the reader glimpses, in small pieces delved out slowly, how their lives interconnect with each other in significant ways.
Thoughts: Written with a variety of interesting techniques via letters and by narration from the two main characters, the text flows well, sucking in the reader. Liz Moore expresses Arthur Opp’s character skillfully and surprisingly; it’s admirable that she could have so much insight into the psyche of such a man and create such a likeable and lovely character. I want to be friends with Arthur Opp.
I listened to it in audio, with some occasional reading of the text too. (The hardcover edition is a small and an easy-to-handle size and the audio version is exceptionally well done). It’s literary fiction since it is exceptionally thoughtful with loads of in-depth character development. Yet it has some of the narrative elements of genre fiction so there is some of the natural ups and downs – which caught me into the drama so I had to keep reading it.
It’s a wonderful book for group discussion, since it may dispel many negative notions about individuals with weight problems, health issues, and addictions - giving readers so much to talk about. And it’s a hopeful tale too, with a subtle moral. I just loved it. A definite cure for the dark story doldrums. Recommended for anyone who loves sweet endings that one will probably not guess. I give this lovely book a 4.5 stars. ...more
An emotional page turner that is a sweet-yet-sad coming of age story in a time of apparent catastrophe. ThOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
An emotional page turner that is a sweet-yet-sad coming of age story in a time of apparent catastrophe. The earth has slowed its rotation and days and nights become increasingly longer while life still goes on.
About: Sometime near the present day, people are dealing with a threatening change to the planet. Fortunately they have time to adjust to the earth’s slowing, as the days and nights become progressively longer. But for the residents of this affluent California coastal community, where this story is set, life still moves forward. The residents simultaneously struggle with their daily life predicaments along with the threat of the impending apocalypse.
Julia, the young narrator, is almost a teen. Introverted and thoughtful, she is a normal girl with a crush on a cute local boy. She is on the brink of changes, as her world is changing too. She has no idea what her future will be as she traverses the many obstacles that a young girl does at this precarious age. Only she has the added realization that her life may be non-existent soon. This is Julia’s story as she moves with the gift of youth and its natural perseverance through her questionable life.
Thoughts: I enjoyed this book and was lost in its easy-to-read style. Interestingly Karen Thompson Walker is an editor and has used her years of experience working with others’ writing in creating this first novel, and it shows.
The author has included some interesting thoughts about what would happen if the earth where to actually slow down – and it feels realistic. Even though speculative in nature, the book felt grounded in science and sociological fact. I liked this a lot since the book did not feel like a science fiction read. So it’s perfect for light sci-fi readers, new readers to the genre and general fiction readers alike.
With its thoughtful prose, this book should be popular with almost all readers, youngsters and adults alike, and especially those that like coming of age stories. I designate it a 4 star. It’s a promising début for a new author; I will have Karen Walker Thompson on my radar for up-and-coming books. I hope that her work remains speculative in nature....more