Category Archives: Fiction

We Are Unprepared

Finished We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly. I received a copy for review. 

As you know, storms are getting worse and worse; experts say this will continue. In the novel We Are Unprepared, a monster superstorm is predicted. 

In a small Vermont town, people react by joining one of three groups: religious, civic-minded or the preppers. Ash, our narrator, joins the civic-minded group and tries to help the town plan; his wife, Pia, becomes a prepper. 
This is a book I should’ve loved. I am incredibly fond of disaster stories and we’ve seen how plausible this is. Also, it’s interesting the way the town splintered into separate factions. I enjoyed those two aspects. 
I have two problems with the book. The first is that the storm, when it came, was barely part of the novel at all. What was the point of having it happen at all?
The second was the bigger problem. Ash is our narrator; he’s a jerk who views everyone else with kind of a thinly-veiled contempt. He may not even be aware of it but he dislikes or at least seems to look down on almost everyone else. As the story is told from his perspective, that means I was annoyed with pretty much everyone, too (though that could definitely be my own failing). 

Rise the Dark

Finished Rise the Dark by Michael Koryta. 

This is the second in Michael Koryta’s series about Markus Novak. If there is not a third book, I think I will die. That is not an exaggeration. 
If you read his novels, you know what to expect: a book so tense, I stopped breathing at least five times.

 
This is the rare second book that’s even better than the first. And oh that cliffhanger. 

You need this book. And all of his others.

 
Highest of all possible high recommendations. 

Small Great Things

Finished Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I received a copy for review. This review will be republished closer to its release date. 

According to the author note in the back of the book, Jodi Picoult has been working on this book for 20 years. I’m sure that was frustrating but the end result was that this was released at the perfect time. This book is essential reading for this point in history. 

Small Great Things is the story of three people. Ruth is a nurse, and a great one. She works with newborn babies and loves her job. One day, though, a baby is born to white supremacist parents and they make it clear they don’t want a black nurse to care for or even touch their son. That’s gross but sure–until the baby has a medical emergency and Ruth is the only one there. She hesitates before helping and then gets charged with a crime for it. Her lawyer is a white woman named Kennedy. She is determined that race not be used in the defense. 
So obviously this is a novel about racism. We all recognize racism from someone like Turk (the white supremacist). But what we don’t always see is racism that’s more insidious. The racism that I’ve seen in Baltimore, where people express regret that Freddie Gray died in police custody and then, in literally the next breath, say, “But of course he was no saint…” 
The racism that leads people to eye groups of young black men suspiciously. The racism that leads to black children being labeled aggresssive even if they are doing the exact same thing that white children are doing. 
The racism we don’t recognize because it’s the racism we are all at least a little guilty of. 
Highly recommended. 

Red Right Hand

Finished Red Right Hand by Chris Holm. I received a copy for review. 

This is the second book in the Michael Hendricks series (after The Killing Kind). Hendricks is a hitman who takes out other hitmen. Now he’s trying to keep a federal witness alive–the catch is that a lot of people believe he’s already dead. He’s also trying to bring down the Council, a shadowy group that’s tried to kill him. 

This book is insane in the best way. I couldn’t stop reading it and I was very nervous, hoping Hendricks and his associates would stay alive. (The Council is scary, guys!)
I hope there are more books and either way, I hope Chris Holm has a new book out soon. He’s one of my favorites. 
Highly recommended. 

Hex

Finished Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. I received a copy for review. 

Okay, first this book is horrifying. I feel infected by it and I’m pretty sure it will take a long time before I can wake up in the middle of the night and not think about Katherine, the Black Rock Witch. 

Black Spring is a haunted town. Its inhabitants are all aware of the Black Rock Witch, a woman so scary that her eyes and lips are sewn shut. Residents know better than to touch her (you’ll die if you do) and if you hear her whispers, you’ll kill yourself. And I don’t mean an easy or pretty death, either. There will be blood and pain. You can’t just leave town. If you’re gone for too long, you’ll commit suicide. 
It’s also a big secret and if you tell outsiders about the witch, you’ll suffer. Except now Black Spring’s teenagers want to tell people. And it’s not a spoiler to say things don’t go well for them. 
Oh, guys. This book scared the crap out of me. I went from intrigued to creeped out to honestly terrified. And now I am in my hometown, watching the shadows lengthen and I am hallucinating whispers. (I hope I am.)
Read this if you dare but do it with the lights on. 
Note: this is translated. Apparently the original ending is different. If you read the Dutch version, please let me know how that ended. 
Highly recommended. 

Little Bee

Finished Little Bee by Chris Cleave. 

This is a story of two people and there were originally four people. It’s a story of refugees and immigration and people who need help. It is a story that you need to read and one that will break you. That’s really all you need to know. 
Little Bee (character and book) is actually haunting and I’m not sure I can explain it any better. 
This book is at least five years old and yet it feels so timely right now. You should read it. 
Highly recommended.

The Book That Matters Most

Finished The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood. I received a copy for review. 

I am a huge fan of books about books and of Ann Hood. So when Ann Hood wrote a book about books? YES PLEASE. 

Ava’s marriage has broken up and her older child, Maggie, is in Europe somewhere, for school and not keeping in touch with her family. So when she gets to join her friend Cate’s exclusive book club, she’s excited for the chance to get a little bit of an escape. The year’s theme is “the book that mattered most.” Each member picks the book that’s impacted them the most. There are the ones you’d expect (To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye) and some surprises. 
Which works out well, because Ava ALSO gets some surprises. 
This book is my new favorite of hers and if you like family sagas, major surprises, books about books or amazing novels, check this out. Highly recommended.

Another Brooklyn

Finished Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. I received a copy for review. 

As a teenager, August has three best friends and they love but want to escape Brooklyn. They picture bright futures for themselves–acting, dancing, going to college–and everything feels possible. But they are also teenage girls (teenage black girls) and so life is also fraught. There are boys. There are family problems. It gets harder to dream. 

This is a really short but incredibly powerful novel. I loved August (and her friends) and I wanted them to stay together, make good choices and get out. But it’s also an honest novel, by which I mean not everyone gets a happy ending. (Note: this is an adult novel, and there is a lot going on.)
I need to read everything else Jacqueline Woodson has ever written, like NOW. 
Highly recommended. 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Finished Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. 

I’m not going to discuss the plot at all, beyond the fact that this starts with the epilogue from Deathly Hallows. All you need to know is that the children from the first seven books are grown up and have children of their own, and they are now Hogwarts-age. 

So probably you already know if you want to read this or not; most of you probably have already finished it. 
But if you are nervous because this is a play and not a novel, don’t be. It’s different but it’s still magic. It’s still the people we love having a new adventure. 
Highly recommended. And I want to see the play. 

By the Numbers

Finished By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster. I received a copy from the publisher for review. 

Penny’s life is currently stressful but is about to improve. Yes, her middle child is about to get married (and Kelsey is a handful and a half) and yes, that means her parents and her ex-husband (with his new, younger girlfriend) are in town. And yes, so are her other two children (Topher is awesome; her other daughter, Jessica, is basically the most acerbic creature ever). But once the wedding is over, the house is going on the market and life will be perfect. 

Except before it can sell, they all descend back on the house. And none of them show signs of leaving. 
I love Jen Lancaster’s novels (I still need to read her memoirs) and this was just delightful. It’s incredibly clever and laugh-out-loud funny. Penny is awesome and I kept wanting to swoop in and rescue her but you can’t save people from their families. 
Recommended.