My Lovely Wife

Have you ever seen the show Dexter? It’s about a serial killer who hides in plain sight as a police forensics analyst and kills bad people to satisfy his psychological urges. I watched the first season and then none of the rest. It was so long ago that I remember deciding that the finale to that season was so good that I didn’t need to see more. An individual with a terrible tendency turned it into something “good” and I was 100% fine with that.

When I started reading My Lovely Wife it was the same kind of feeling. Millicent has a terrible past that her husband helps her…well… deal with. Their first murder is her sister who abused her as a child. The next is someone who worked with the sister who remembered the husband. It feels like what they are doing, while terrible, has a greater purpose.

Then the couple discovers they now have a hunger for murder. In the midst of low-paying service jobs and harried family life (they have two kids!!), they decide to continue doing this one thing together that makes them feel connected and in control when in so many areas of their life they are not. So the third murder is someone they choose via social media, and we enter the story as they are choosing the fourth.

This story put a hook in my mouth and I allowed myself to be led through the first 40% of the book. The suspense was killing me. Our narrator is the husband and he’s doing all this to impress his wife, but the wife seems way more into it than she should be and so I had some questions that I wanted answered. Since the book is told through the POV of the husband, I began to realize that I wasn’t going to get those answers until he got them, and he obviously wasn’t going to get them soon because he was kind of stupid and impulsive.

Suddenly my excitement and suspense turned to boredom as I watched this ineffectual jackass get bribed by his son, revive an actual serial killer which scares his daughter enough to bring a knife to school, and chase his wife around like a small puppy dog hoping to impress her at every turn. I wasn’t about to spend any more time with this guy than I had to, I don’t care how terrifying Millicent turned out to be. I set it down and won’t be going back.

Usually I say something like “I didn’t like it, but you might!” but for this one you might want to just skip it. I’m sure there are better thrillers out there than this.

The Everlasting Rose (The Belles #2)

The Belles (The Belles #1)

The Everlasting Rose was provided to me as a free eARC by Disney Book Group and Freeform Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review. The Everlasting Rose will be released March 5, 2019.

Second books often find themselves in a slump. I’ve learned that this is because the first book is often written without a deadline, put through multiple drafts, and given the chance to become perfect. Second books in a series tend to be under a deadline and under the scrutiny of many, which explains why they often feel bland, rushed, and a bridge to something better.

Not so with The Everlasting Rose.

Camille has escaped the palace and is on the run with the intention of finding the Princess Charlotte and foiling Princess Sophia’s plans to become queen. She runs into the rebel force of Iron Ladies who have chosen to live without beauty treatments and want to help the kingdom move away from them as well. They agree to help Camille and she makes arrangements to crash the coronation and bring Charlotte back to take her rightful place.

This book was everything The Belles wasn’t. People died, there were very real consequences, you can feel that the kingdom is under a cruel (yet beautiful) dictatorship. Camille has to explore what matters most to her so that she can make the right choices and keep her eyes on the top priority, which moves from her new love for Remy, keeping her Belle sisters safe, and murdering the ever-loving daylights out of Sophia. Every time her arcana woke up and she started to choke the life out of someone because she was so angry my vengeful heart just purred (although RIP to a sweet bebe no spoilers).

I enjoyed the read from start to finish. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises, you’re basically getting what you would expect even in the “twists,” but the story is told so well that you won’t mind the predictability. I was unable to unearth whether or not there will be a third book or if this was simply a duology, but The Everlasting Rose ties up nicely at the end while leaving just a few threads out there that another book could build on. If that next book should materialize I think I will be there to read it.

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The Perfect Assassin (The Chronicles of Ghadid #1)

The Perfect Assassin was provided to me as a free digital advance copy by Tor Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review. The Perfect Assassin will be available for purchase on March 19, 2019 but you can also preorder anytime.

When I started reading The Perfect Assassin I was reminded of a trilogy of books that is one of my absolute favorites. The Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton introduced me to dangerous shapeshifters and legendary djinn, all of which must be decrypted and understood before goals could be reached. Another such series is the An Ember in the Ashes line by Sabaa Tahir. Through both of these series I have discovered a love of the stories and mythology from the middle east and desert realms.

This particular series begins with the final entrance exam for a school of assassins. We follow the main character Amastan as he sweats through his worst fears and completes a physically strenuous trial to join all his classmates as freshly minted assassins in the city of Ghalid. The problem is that the drum chiefs that run all the neighborhoods put an end to assassin’s contracts a long time ago, with no indication they will be issued again anytime soon. So the young assassins are told to bide their time and stay sharp in case contracts start up again.

One of the rules of being an assassin is that when they kill they have to do it so the body will be easily discovered, because if they aren’t then the special priests who quiet jaani (souls?) won’t be able to get there in time and the jaani becomes an angry ghost that floats around trying to possess people. These jaani start showing up and attacking Amastan, and he and his assassin cousins start discovering bodies on the rooftops, meaning that there are more and more unquieted jaani preying on the people in Ghadid. It’s up to Amastan and his friends to uncover the murderer and restore peace to Ghadid.

My only complaint was that the ending doesn’t make me salivate for the next installation in the series (chronicles). Everything is nicely tied up and everyone seems to be where they should be. Usually when I finish the first book of a series I am on Twitter demanding the next one post haste, but here it felt more like a standalone tome.

Balancing out this complaint is my delight in the normalcy with which the sexuality of Amastan is presented. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want more books where LGBTQIA+ individuals are just a part of the world. Their presence is normal, not a red flag or something to be overcome or something they have to hide or convince others of. Just normal. I love this in a representation book. Thanks to K.A. Doore for making this a part of her writing.

Oh my goodness do I apparently love me some desert mysticism and stabby murder. I couldn’t stop reading, I had to know what happened next. Even though most of the elements were fantasy, this book is a mystery/thriller in its own right too. I strongly recommend giving this one a go.

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More Than Words

More Than Words by Jill Santopolo was provided to me by G.P. Putnam’s Sons vi Edelweiss+ as a digital advanced reader copy in return for an honest review. Expected publication is February 5, 2019.

When I started reading More Than Words, I should have stopped right away. If I’ve learned anything in the past three years it’s that I don’t have a lot of patience for books that center around super rich main characters. It is difficult for me to muster sympathy for a hotel heiress in 2019.

The central struggle for Nina is whether to stay with her current boyfriend, lifelong friend Tim, or pursue the feelings she seems to be cultivating towards New York mayoral candidate Rafael for whose campaign she is a speechwriter. Her best friend Leslie helps her think through these choices, and the fuel that fans this fire is the decline and death of her father due to cancer.

She has to decide whether to stay on with the campaign, which just won the primary and is preparing for the general, or take over the hotel operations in her father’s place as they had planned before his death. Nina talks a lot about wanting people who can “stand in the darkness” with her. Rafael and Leslie both lost their fathers, and so she feels like she can talk about her situation with them, while Tim doesn’t seem to take it seriously or understand how she is feeling. Her relationships with the former two come easily, while she seems to need to convince herself that Tim is the right man for her future.

I need to add these kinds of books to my do not read list. I just have no sympathy for anyone labeled an heiress. The only thing I sympathized with was when she was losing her dad at the beginning, but then it became a “will she or won’t she” with her personal life and honestly, I have better things to do. I have better things to read. I made it to 38% finished on the DRC, and I feel comfortable putting it down.

If you like escaping into the lives of people richer than you and living vicariously through them, then this is the book for you. If you, like me, find yourself a little short on attention or patience for rich people at the moment, then I would skip More Than Words.

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The Night Olivia Fell

The Night Olivia Fell was provided to me as a digital advance reader copy by Gallery Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review. Expected publication date is February 5, 2019.

Abi is awakened in the middle of the night by a call from the police. Her teenage daughter Olivia was discovered on the riverbank, assumed to have fallen from the bridge above, and is currently in the hospital with no brain activity and a baby on the way. Abi immediately demands answers to how her daughter died, and slowly her own past is woven into what happened to her daughter, showing how our choices can catch up to us and bring consequences long after they are made.

They reveal pretty early on that Olivia encounters another girl that looks just like her while on a campus tour, and so we understand that her dad might not really be dead like her mom has always told her. When Abi doesn’t give her the honest answers she asks for, Olivia goes off on her own to try to get answers. This search sets off a series of events which we see in pieces that lead us to the answer to how she came to both become pregnant and fall off a bridge.

I enjoyed this book but it didn’t move me like I expected it to. Everything I expected to happen, happened. Even the little bit of suspense in the whodunnit gave off enough misdirection vibes that even the most casual reader would realize that it was a false trail. It ended like I expected it to and now we’re here.

I have to admit that when I started, and the doctor told Abi that he couldn’t take Olivia off life support because in Washington state it’s illegal to take a woman off life support without attempting to bring the baby to term, I thought this was going to be a legal-type book. I thought Abi might attempt to figure out what happened to Olivia while fighting a legal battle about how women aren’t just incubators. There was a point to be made, even if subtly, that was never even addressed. The doctors help Olivia’s body fight off infection after infection to keep her working just long enough to get the baby out alive, and every time the story took me to the hospital I felt myself get a little angry. Like it wasn’t bad enough that she was basically murdered, she couldn’t have just been released into oblivion in peace without being forced to be on life support while being life support. I was just so tired and angry for her.

This one is a book that you could read, but if you didn’t read it you wouldn’t have missed anything. Don’t rush to it, but if it crosses your path give it a chance.

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We Cast A Shadow

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley as a digital review copy in advance of publication in return for an honest review. We Cast a Shadow is scheduled to release on 1-29-19.

Ah yes, we have reached the first “did not finish” book of the year. We Cast a Shadow follows a young, black lawyer as he attempts to climb the corporate ladder while navigating the inherent racism in the system. While I recognize that these books bring important truths into the world and allow black voices to be heard, if I’m reading fiction I cannot immerse myself in the evils that I am already drowning in every day in the real world.

The very first chapter describes a party in which the four black junior associates are being asked to be as stereotypically black as they can in order to earn a promotion. The narrator arrives at the party dressed as a normal lawyer, and discovers he must perform or be fired. The host offers him an African garb costume from her in-house museum-esque collection, and through a silly African dance and subsequent nudity when the costume falls off, he runs out of the house and into a promotion to the head of the diversity committee for community outreach. There’s so much there to unpack that I was completely stunned but also not surprised when I read the scene.

And that’s just his work life. At home he is married to a white woman and they have a biracial son with a birthmark that gets bigger every day; the blackness that he has given him that grows to overtake the whiteness. The father/narrator uses creams, bleaches, and is pursuing this promotion at work to be able to afford an operation to have his son’s birthmark removed. He seems to be the only adult involved that is concerned about it, and the son goes along because he loves his dad and doesn’t completely understand what the problem is.

I see all the symbolism here that is relevant to the struggles with race and society that black people face every day. The idea that a father would become nervous the darker his son became resonates with me in a world where unarmed black men are killed so often we don’t even see them on the news anymore. Where I decided that it was enough was when drugs and squalor entered into the story, and suddenly everything became a hallucination that the narrator had to describe life through to me, the reader. I just…I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’m in a position to see this all presented in this way and be able to appreciate it. It is important to understand the difference between when something is not good and when something is not written for you.

We Cast a Shadow is well-written. The stories told present a plethora of black diasporic experience and struggle in a way that doesn’t preach, it shows you what it looks like in practice. I simply do not think that it was written for me, and that’s why I cringed my way through about 32% of it and then gave myself permission to put it down. Please do not see this review as a non-endorsement. This book is good and troubling. It was not boring and the story was very compelling. It just wasn’t for me.

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The Dreamers

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker was provided to me as an advanced digital review copy by Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley.

Many novels like to explore the aftermath of a pandemic or a natural disaster, often from the point in time where everything normal takes a hard right onto survival street. The tension is in the survival, the alliances, whether or not a decision will turn out okay or spell disaster for the decider.

I would argue that true tension lies in the onset of a disaster: patients zero-ten, the 10-day weather forecast, the detection of the distant meteor – and watch ’em scramble like eggs in a pan. Is there enough water? Can we get out of town? Can we defend ourselves? Have I been exposed? Oh man yes, this is the thriller I ordered, now don’t forget to refill my breadbasket.

I have never read a normal length book this fast. From the moment the girls in the dorm start falling and staying asleep I was locked into this story to find out how far the sickness would spread, whether it would be contained, and how it would all turn out. Babies, adults, children, college professors, all will fall to the airborne virus that makes you fall asleep and dream really fucked up dreams that might be windows into the past, reflections of the present or *gasp* predictions of actual or alternate futures.

The best part of the book is when the sickness is spreading and you don’t know how far it will spread or whether the people infected will ever wake up. They are all alive and dreaming, and they keep flying in people to help take care of all these sleeping people, and those volunteers then fall victim to the sickness. I was shocked/not shocked at how long it took them to accept the reality that something was wrong and lock that town down. Kids were trick or treating even after many people had already fallen ill. WOW.

Which leads me to my major critique, which is that all this build up leads…nowhere. I was on the edge of my seat, until I wasn’t. The crisis builds and builds, but then there is very little payoff for it. A few people die, but for the most part everything goes back to normal with some psychological after affects for the dreamers to deal with. Oh, their dreams were so real that it was like they lived another life so they were sad when they woke up and found that they had a different life? BOO HOO PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTS – that’s what waking up every day is like. The ‘getting to sleep for three weeks’ part of it all is a fucking benefit if you ask me. Sign me up for the sleeping plague.

You should read this book. The escalation was enjoyable enough reason to do it, just know that you’ll feel just a little empty at the end because your thirst for disaster and suffering will not have been quenched. I’m not sure how that’s possible in 2019, but Karen Thompson Walker has achieved it.

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