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Posts Tagged ‘thriller’

Book Review: Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

Book Review: Beside Myself by Ann MorganSummary:
When Helen agrees to swap places with her identical twin sister Ellie at the age of six, she thinks it’ll be a short fun game. But then Ellie refuses to swap back.  Forced into her new identity, Helen develops a host of behavioral problems, delinquency and chronic instability. With their lives diverging sharply, one twin headed for stardom and the other locked in a spiral of addiction and mental illness, how will the deception ever be uncovered?

Review:
This book is an amazing depiction of gaslighting. Gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse where the abuser insists to the abused that reality is not in fact reality, and the abused is crazy. (For more about gaslighting, see this great information from the National Domestic Violence Hotline). This book makes gaslighting completely real and understandable for anyone, whether they’ve gone through it themselves or not. It’s easy to see immediately how poor Helen gets slowly tortured and driven mad by everyone denying to her that she is who she says she is. The author takes care not to demonize Ellie though, since it’s abundantly clear part of why Ellie doesn’t want to switch back is because their mother has pre-decided which twin will be the good twin and which the bad, and she consequently treats Helen far better than she treats Ellie. Why wouldn’t she not want to switch back?

How this childhood trauma has wounded Helen becomes more clear over the course of the book. But it’s not just a plain recounting of they switched places then Helen went crazy. The book opens with Helen trying to rebuild her life from addiction and Ellie being in a coma from a car accident. Ellie’s husband reaches out to Helen in the hopes that hearing from her twin will bring her out of it, and slowly long-held secrets reveal themselves.

I thought the whole way through the book that it was slowly building to a certain ending. Then something else came at me out of left field and I was left breathless and aching for Helen. That’s not to say it’s a tragic ending, but it is a shocking one. One that left me with a very different “bad guy” than I thought I had the whole book.

It’s a stellar read, and one of those books that I wish I was able to read for the first time again. It’s that good. Recommended to lovers of psychological thrillers and/or twin swap afficionados.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

Buy It

A Trio of Disappointing Reads Reviewed in Haiku

August 15, 2016 2 comments

A Trio of Disappointing Reads Reviewed in Haiku

The Maze Runner
By James Dashner

Summary:
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Haiku Review:

Surprisingly dull
Who made the maze and monsters?
Oh, that. Is that it?

3 out of 5 stars
Source: PaperBackSwap
Buy It

house

House of Leaves
By: 
Mark Z. Danielewski

Summary:
A young family moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Haiku Review:

Someone impressed his
Lit prof but not me with his
Wasteful pretention.

2 out of 5 stars
Source: PaperBackSwap
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A Trio of Disappointing Reads Reviewed in Haiku

The Quality of Silence
By: 
Rosamund Lupton

Summary:
On 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrived in Alaska. Within hours they were driving alone across a frozen wilderness. They are looking for Ruby’s father. Travelling deeper into a silent land. They still cannot find him. And someone is watching them in the dark.

Haiku Review:

Don’t you fucking dare
Keep me up at night worried
Then grant no closure.

2 out of 5 stars
Source: Library
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Book Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Audiobook narrated by Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, and Robertson Dean)

Book Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Audiobook narrated by Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, and Robertson Dean)Summary:
Libby Day testified that her brother murdered her mother and sisters as part of a Satanic cult ritual when she was just 7 years old. Twenty-five years later, running out of money, she agrees to help a group known as The Kill Club investigate the murder. Their members disagree on how actually killed her mother and sisters, and with her connections they think she can help them crack the case. Libby is sure her brother Ben did it, but money is money, and it sure beats a regular job.

Review:
This is my third Gillian Flynn novel, and I must admit it was the one I liked least. I was actually suspicious it was a first novel, as it had that feel–a lot of what works in her other novels is present but it’s less well-executed. However, it actually was published after Sharp Objects (review), so who knows what happened here. Regardless, while I found the mystery intriguing and I definitely listened to the audiobook every chance I got, the plot is not as tightly told nor is the central mystery as believable as it is in her other works.

What worked the best for me was Libby, a childhood survivor of a gruesome murder, as some sort of modern day noiresque private investigator. A woman PI with a personal connection to the murders was just delicious to read. I’d love to see more of that in literature. I also liked seeing a thriller that included a queer person (her aunt is a lesbian) without that being used as a way of othering someone strange or being attached to a perpetrator. Her aunt is a bystander in every sense of the word. She is never a suspect, she provides Libby with a home environment after the murders, and her sexual orientation is just a part of who she is, not a plot point. I also liked the changing perspectives among Libby present, Libby past, her mother, and her brother. I thought it added to the mystery since seeing these other perspectives did not immediately reveal precisely what was going on. I also thought it made it harder to judge her mother than it might be if the reader hadn’t had her perspective.

However, this was the first time that I was both sure who the perpetrator was quite early in a Flynn novel and also that I was disappointed by who the murderer is. I thought there was nothing creative or exciting about it, and honestly it kind of bugged me a little bit. There is also one trope that shows up here that bothered me. It could be a bit spoilery (not too bad) so skip the next paragraph if you’re concerned about that.

*spoilers*
Libby at the end of the book ends up in a scenario that is very similar to the first murders that she survived. It’s basically a trauma survivor finding that all their fears were right by improbably having almost the same scenario happen a second time. I think it was supposed to be scary, but it just irritated me.
*end spoilers*

I also must say that I felt the whole Satanic scare thing was very dated. Yes, I get it that was a huge thing in the 80s and this is a story about murders that happened 25 years ago but something about it just made the whole book feel dated to me. I couldn’t get into it partly because I was certain that the book would ultimately reveal Satanism had nothing to do with it, since that’s just the way that plot point always goes. I suppose you could sum up most of my issues with this book as the plot was too predictable to be much fun.

Overall, if you’re a big Gillian Flynn fan and just want to experience some thrills, this book will provide some of them with the dash of strong female characters you’ve come to expect. However, do expect to be a bit disappointed by a more predictable plot and twist that isn’t all that twisty.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

Buy It

New Release Friday: Adam by James Bushill (#scifi #thriller)

I am pleased as punch to be able to feature James Bushill’s brand-new scifi thriller on today’s New Release Friday. In addition to this being Australian lit (yay Australia!) with a smoking cover, James has been the nicest person to work with on this feature. Take it away, James!

New Release Friday: Adam by James Bushill (#scifi #thriller)

Blurb:
2101. The asteroid Metis. A runner jogs along a silent tunnel, tracked by a pool of light. Then there’s a noise, a low rumble, and in the distance, another light, which becomes two headlights moving fast, the lights of an enormous mining truck. Its cab is completely empty.

Ten years earlier, Victor and his wife created Adam, the world’s first biological supercomputer. They dreamed of changing the world.

Now, Victor sleeps alone in a hospital corridor in the pollution-shrouded city of Missoula, Montana, his dreams in tatters.

He doesn’t think his life could get any worse.

But then he’s forced to return to Metis.

And when that mission becomes a desperate fight for survival amid the dark tunnels of the abandoned mine, he must finally confront the terrifying consequences of his past actions.

Genre: scifi thriller

What makes this book unique in its genre?
There are lots of stories about robots or computers that turn against their creators, but I think this might be the only one about a biological supercomputer.

What was your writing process like for this book?
“Adam” started life as a screenplay written during a screenwriting course that I took through UCLA. It’s changed a great deal since then, but it’s retained some of the fast paced, no filler style of the script. So there aren’t pages stuffed full of world building, or unnecessarily detailed descriptions of technology. Instead, there’s a thrilling science fiction story set in a dystopian future, with tragically flawed characters, and an ending that you’ll never guess.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Coupon Code:
But wait! Now through April 22nd get 50% off if you buy it through Smashwords using the coupon code: HC66M. That’ll give you this thrilling scifi read for less than $2. Buy it on Smashwords here.

Thanks so much for being featured here on Opinions of a Wolf, James!
Would you be interested in being featured on New Release Friday? Find out how here.
New Release Friday is a sponsored post but I only feature books on New Release Friday that I believe would interest readers of this blog. Book reviews are never sponsored. Find out more about the sponsored post policy here.

2016’s Accepted Review Copies!

January 8, 2016 3 comments

Here on Opinions of a Wolf, I accept submissions of review copies via a form between February and December.  The books I accept will then be reviewed the following year.  So, the books accepted for review here in 2016 were submitted in 2015.  You can view more about my review process here.  You may view the accepted review copies post for 2014 and 2015 by clicking on the years.  For 2016, I decided to require authors to submit an excerpt along with their request, and I for the first time ever did not give a set number I would accept.  Instead I accepted only those books that sparked my interest. Books I would have picked up anyway browsing in a bookstore or library, a thing that is difficult for indie authors to have happen.  I basically view the submissions I receive as my own mini-bookstore of indie books.

This year there were 62 submissions. I accepted 7 books. This means I only accepted 11% of submitted books (down 5% from last year).  Put another way, each book only had a 11% chance of being accepted.

I actively pursue submissions from women and GLBTQA authors, as well as books with GLBTQA content.

Gender

As you can see, 38.7% of authors submitting to me were women.  I am disappointed to say this was not an increase from last year, in spite of my promotion efforts. Of the 7 books I accepted, 6 (86%) are written by women authors.  Now, I do not preferentially choose books by women authors. My one rule is that I must not accept more books by male than female authors. This means the male authors submitting to me really failed to wow me, as I could have accepted 6 of them but ultimately only 1 appealed to me out of 38.

GLBTQA

24.2% of authors submitting to me self-identify as GLBTQA. This is up from only 14% last year, a fact I am very happy about. Of the books I accepted, 4 (57%) were by GLBTQA authors. The GLBTQA authors really impressed me, you guys.

GLBTQA Content

Interestingly, 29% of the books submitted to me have GLBTQA content. Again, this means cis-heterosexual authors are also writing about GLBTQA issues, which I appreciate. Of the books I accepted, 4 (57%) have GLBTQA content, and no, they are not the exact same 4 that have GLBTQA authors. Authors of all gender and sexual orientations write about people of all gender and sexual orientations, and this is definitely reflected in what was submitted to me.

Genre

You can see that the overwhelming majority of the books submitted to me were a scifi (37.1%) or thriller (32.3%) with horror a close third (22.6%). At the other end of the spectrum, nonfiction GLBTQA, nonfiction health and fitness, and nonfiction cookbook all had zero submissions.  For fiction, cozies had the fewest submissions (3.2%), followed by a tie between paranormal or western romance and historical fiction with 6.5% each. Keep in mind that I let authors check off more than one genre, if their book fits in more than one.

Of the 7 accepted books, 3 are scifi, 2 urban fantasy, and 2 paranormal or western romance, along with 1 fantasy, 1 cozy, and 1 thriller.  This means that only 5% (1 out of 20) of thrillers was accepted, whereas 50% (2 out of 4) of paranormal or western romance was.

I provide these stats for two reasons.  First to give everyone an idea of the competition the accepted books were up against.  It’s an accomplishment to be accepted for review here!  Second, I want those considering submitting to me this year to look at these stats and take them into consideration when submitting.  Consider the fact that I don’t want to read only scifi all year.  If you have a nonfiction or a romance waiting to be reviewed, it has a higher chance of being accepted.  But enough stats!  It’s time to get to the accepted review copies!

The review copies are listed below in alphabetical order by title. Summaries are pulled from GoodReads or Amazon, since I have yet to read them myself and so cannot write my own.  These books will be read and reviewed here in 2016, although what order they are read in is entirely up to my whim at the moment.

cover_blackmagic

Black Magic and Mojitos
By: A.A. Chamberlynn
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Notable GLBTQA Content
Summary:
Zyan Star’s latest job is turning into a real Nightmare. Actually, a whole herd of them.

When supernatural bounty hunter Zyan Star jets down to Rio to meet a prospective client, everything goes as planned initially. That is, until she finds out the person hiring her is Raoul Cabrera, the half demon/half faery supernatural overlord of Brazil, who rubs elbows with Lucifer himself. And that he’s hired another bounty hunter, Donovan McGregor, to work with her.

Their target is a herd of Nightmares, horse spirits that torment people with visions of their worst fears before devouring their flesh. Zy and Donovan head out on the hunt, but it quickly becomes apparent that their client hasn’t given them all the facts. There’s a pissed-off, powerful witch summoning the Nightmares, and she’s out to exact some serious revenge on Raoul. Zy soon realizes she’s caught in the middle of a lover’s spat between two immensely powerful supernaturals, and it’s not clear whose side she should stand on. As if that weren’t enough, pulling off this job is going to require her to relive her worst fears and summon her own long-suppressed magical powers.

Let the supernatural Carnival begin.

Why I Accepted It:
It’s urban fantasy with evil horse spirits set in Brazil. Just typing that sentence gives me chills of excitement. And the excerpt I was given blew me away. And can I just say that cover (which I didn’t see when going through my submissions) is dynamite.

cover_cityofroses

City of Roses Season One: Autumn Into Winter
By: Kip Manley
Genre: Paranormal or Western Romance, Urban Fantasy
Notable GLBTQA Content
Summary:
City of Roses is a serialized epic very firmly set in Portland, Oregon–an urban fantasy mixing magical realism with gonzo noirish prose, where sinister high-rise riverfront condos are fought by a sprawling tea-house constructed from scrap lumber and old windows, and ancient sea-gods retire to close-in Southeast apartments with lovely views. It’s the story of Jo Maguire, a highly strung, underemployed telemarketer, and what happens when she meets Ysabel, a princess of unspecified pedigree. Jo rather unexpectedly becomes Ysabel’s guardian and caretaker, and now must make a place for herself among Ysabel’s decidedly unusual family and friends–which involves rather more sword-play than most of us are used to.

This omnibus ebook collects the full first season of the critically acclaimed serial, chapters 1 – 22, also available in volume 1, “Wake up…” , and volume 2, The Dazzle of Day.

Why I Accepted It:
It just seemed so quirky. Much like Portland. And the excerpt, again, was great.

cover_crowbox

The Crow Box (Not released yet)
By: Nikki Rae
Genre: Paranormal or Western Romance
Summary:
The small wooden box is dirty, the size of a human fist, and sealed with wax. When Corbin takes it upon herself to clean it and break the seal, a voice she has tried to ignore gathers strength. Shadows play on the walls at night, and with a family history of mental illness, Corbin fears the worst. But the voice tells her it is real. That its name is Six and it will prove it in time.
Drawn to this mysterious entity, Corbin isn’t sure what to believe and the line between reality and her imagination blurs more every day.
Some doors should not be opened; can this one be closed?


Why I Accepted It:
The combination of the eerie foreboding nature of the summary with the author’s identifying it as a paranormal or western romance intrigued me. Plus the mental illness aspect fits right in with my ongoing Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge.

cover_fairfoul.jpg

The Fair & Foul
By: Allie Potts
Genre: Scifi
Summary:
Juliane has a supercomputer for a brain and she isn’t afraid to use it. Perhaps she should be.

Juliane Faris is a brilliant programmer determined to change the world through scientific and technical advancement. Blinded by ambition, she will do whatever it takes to secure her legacy including agreeing to participate in an experimental procedure. The procedure grants her unprecedented knowledge and cellular control over her body but threatens everything she holds dear including her sanity. When others undergo the same modifications it becomes apparent that not everyone can afford the price that this technology demands

Set in the not too distant future, The Fair & Foul is earth-based science fiction dealing with the next era of human evolution. The line between humanity and technology is blurring, and what seems like magic is only a scientific discovery away.

Why I Accepted It:
I’m a sucker for anything transhumanism, and this one stars a woman.

cover_harvestfigs

A Harvest of Ripe Figs
By: Shira Glassman
Genre: Cozy, Fantasy
Notable GLBTQA Content
Summary:
Esther of the Singing Hands is Perach’s Sweetheart, a young and beautiful musician with a Girl Next Door image. When her violin is stolen after a concert in the capital city, she doesn’t expect the queen herself to show up, intent upon solving the mystery.

But Queen Shulamit–lesbian, intellectual, and mother of the six month old crown princess–loves to play detective. With the help of her legendary bodyguard Rivka and her dragon, and with the support of her partner Aviva the Chef, Shulamit turns her mind toward the solution–which she quickly begins to suspect involves the use of illegal magic that could threaten the safety of her citizens.

Why I Accepted It:
It’s a cozy starring a happily partnered lesbian plus it has a dragon. I mean, how could I not?

cover_lifefirst

Life First
By: RJ Crayton
Genre: Scifi, Thriller
Summary:
Strong-willed Kelsey Reed must escape tonight or tomorrow her government will take her kidney and give it to someone else.

In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world’s population, life is valued above all else. The government of “Life First” requires the mentally ill to be sterilized, outlaws abortions and sentences to death those who refuse to donate an organ when told.

Determined not to give up her kidney, Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.

Why I Accepted It:
It hits on a lot of issues I like seeing looked at in scifi — organ donation, mental illness, and reproductive rights and issues.

cover_rymellan1disobedience

Rymellan 1: Disobediece Means Death
By: Sarah Ettritch
Genre: Scifi
Notable GLBTQA Content
Summary:
Lesley and Mo can’t imagine life without each other. If it were up to them, they’d settle down, raise daughters, and lead happy, fulfilled lives. But they live on the planet Rymel, in a strict society that selects life-mates for its citizens and executes those who violate their life-bonds. Girlfriends since their teens, Lesley and Mo know they should break up but can’t let each other go. They dread the day the state summons them to meet their selected mates. Meet Lesley and Mo when they’re young adults in love and follow them until their time together runs out. Will they do what their society expects of them, or will they sacrifice their lives for their love?

Why I Accepted It:
The blurb and excerpt were just so cute, I couldn’t resist!

 

Celebrate Pride! 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual Characters

June 12, 2015 3 comments

The month of June in the United States is Pride Month, celebrating LGBTQ people, culture, and history.  In Boston, the culmination of Pride is this weekend, with the Pride Parade and block parties.  I wanted to contribute to my local celebration with a little something on my own blog–obviously a reading list! There are a lot of good reading lists out there for LGBTQ reads, so I wanted to do something a little different.  First, I wanted to feature one of the letters not featured very much — the B for bisexual.  Second, I wanted to to highlight both that bisexual people are everywhere and the issue of bi invisibility (more info on that term and issue here) by featuring books that have bisexual characters but that don’t mention that in their blurbs.  You’d be amazed how hard it can be to just find books with bisexual characters.  It’s usually downplayed or not named.  So, here is my list, in alphabetical order, with a mention as to which character is bi and whether the book ever actually uses the term “bisexual.”

  1. 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual CharactersBad Glass
    by Richard E. Gropp
    Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Lovecraftian
    Brief Blurb:
    Something strange is happening in Spokane, and the US military has taken control of the city, closing it and its happenings to the press.  Dean sees this as the perfect opportunity to break into photography before he graduates from college and is forced into giving up on his artistic dreams to work a regular 9 to 5 job.  So he sneaks into Spokane, where he meets an intriguing young woman and her rag-tag household of survivors, and quickly starts to see the inexplicable things that are going on inside the city.
    Who’s bi? Dean, the main character, is bi.  He at first appears to be straight but later it is revealed he also sometimes is interested in men.
    My Full Review
  2. 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual CharactersThe Drowning Girl
    by Caitlin R. Kiernan
    Genre: Fantasy, Psychological
    Brief Blurb:
    India Morgan Phelps, Imp to her friends, is sure that there were two different Eva Canning who came into her life and changed her world.  And one of them was a mermaid (or perhaps a siren?) and the other was a werewolf.  But Imp’s ex-girlfriend, Abalyn, insists that no, there was only ever one Eva Canning, and she definitely wasn’t a mermaid or a werewolf.  Dr. Ogilvy wants Imp to figure out for herself what actually happened. But that’s awfully hard when you have schizophrenia.
    Who’s bi? Eva Canning (both iterations of her).  Also, Abalyn, a transwoman who is also Imp’s girlfriend at one point. She states that she likes both men and women but currently prefers women because men in her experience tend to negatively react to her now that she has had bottom surgery.
    My Full Review
  3. 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual CharactersDoctor Sleep
    by Stephen King
    Genre: Fantasy, Thriller
    Brief Blurb:
    Danny Torrance didn’t die in the Overlook Hotel but what happened there haunts him to this day.  Not as much as the shining does though.  His special mental powers that allow him to see the supernatural and read thoughts lead to him seeing some pretty nasty things, even after escaping the Overlook.  He soon turns to drinking to escape the terror.  But drinking solves nothing and just makes things worse.  When he sees his childhood imaginary friend, Tony, in a small New Hampshire town, he turns to AA to try to turn his life around and learn to live with the shining.Abra is a middle school girl nearby in New Hampshire with a powerful shine.  She sees the murder of a little boy by a band of folks calling themselves the True Knot.  They travel in campers and mobile homes, seeking out those who have the shine to kill them for it and inhale it.  They call it steam.  They’re not human. And they’re coming after Abra.  Abra calls out to the only person she knows with a shine too, the man she’s talked to before by writing on his blackboard.  Dan.
    Who’s bi? Rose, the main antagonist.  What makes her the antagonist or the “big bad” has absolutely nothing to do with her sexuality. She’s just an antagonist who happens to be bi.
    My Full Review
  4. 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual CharactersLove in the Time of Global Warming
    by Francesca Lia Block
    Genre: Fantasy, YA
    Brief Blurb:
    Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait.
    Who’s bi? Pen, the main character.  She has a crush on one of her best female friends in the time before the disaster, and then later falls for a transman.  There is one particularly beautiful scene where she talks about being afraid of telling her friends that she likes girls the way she likes boys.
    My Full Review not yet posted
  5. 5 Unexpected Fantasy Reads Featuring Bisexual CharactersThe Miriam Black Series
    by Chuck Wendig
    Genre: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy
    Brief Blurb:
    Miriam Black is an early 20-something drifter with bleach blonde hair and a surprising ability to hold her own in a fight. She also knows when and precisely how you’re going to die. Only if you touch her skin-on-skin though.  And it’s because of this skill that Miriam became a drifter.  You try dealing with seeing that every time you touch someone.  But when a kind trucker gives her a lift and in her vision of his death she hears him speak her name, her entire crazy life takes an even crazier turn.
    Who’s bi? Miriam, the kick-ass main character.  Miriam uses no labels for herself whatsoever (she would probably hate even being called a brunette, to a certain extent), so she also refuses to label her sexuality.  However, she also states she enjoys being with all genders.  It’s interesting to note that the first time Miriam’s sexuality comes up is not until the third book in the series, and only because she (minor spoiler warning) breaks up with her boyfriend.  A great example of how bisexual people’s sexuality can be erased when they’re in a monogamous relationship.
    My Full Review of the first book in the series

2014’s 5 Star Reads!

January 8, 2015 1 comment

Since 2011, I’ve been dedicating a separate post from my annual reading stats post to the 5 star reads of the year.  I not only thoroughly enjoy assembling the 5 star reads posts, but I also go back to them for reference periodically.  It’s just useful and fun simultaneously!  Plus it has the added bonus of giving an extra signal boost to the five star reads of the year.  You may view the 5 star reads for 2011, 2012, and 2013 by clicking on the years.

With no further ado, presenting Opinions of a Wolf’s 5 Star Reads for 2014!

A bone hand holds chopsticks.
A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts

By: Ying Chang Compestine
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Horror, Short Story Collection
Themes: Chinese history, food
Summary:
According to Chinese tradition, those who die hungry or wrongfully come back to haunt the living.  Compestine presents here eight different ghost stories, each correlated along with a course in a banquet and richly steeped in Chinese culture and history.
Current Thoughts:
A cute book that I think of fondly.  I really need to make at least one of the recipes in this book!  This short story collection is presented in just the way that I most enjoy.  Different stories surrounding one unifying theme.  Plus, I learned something.
Full Review

A Japanese warrior woman's face has the shadow of cat ears behind her. The book's title and author name are over this picture.
Fudoki

By: Kij Johnson
Publication Date: 2003
Publisher: Tor
Genre: Fantasy
Themes: the meaning of family, identity, duty
Summary:
An aging empress decides to fill her empty notebooks before she must get rid of them along with all of her belongings to retire to the convent, as is expected of her.  She ends up telling the story of Kagaya-hime, a tortoiseshell cat who loses her cat family in a fire and is turned into a woman by the kami, the god of the road.
Current Thoughts:
Warrior woman who was once a cat. Set in ancient Japan. What is not to love about that? My only regret is I waited so long to read this book.  It languished on my TBR pile for far too long.
Full Review

A woman's hair is barely visible on the left-hand side of a book cover. The book's title and author are in red against a black background.
Gone Girl

By: Gillian Flynn
Publication Date: 2012
Publisher: Broadway Books
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary
Themes: be careful who you marry, not everything is as it first appears
Summary:
On Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home from working at the bar he co-owns with his sister to find his wife gone. The door is wide open, furniture is overturned, and the police say there is evidence that blood was cleaned up from the floor of the kitchen.  Eyes slowly start to turn toward Nick as the cause of her disappearance, while Nick slowly starts to wonder just how well he really knows his wife.
Current Thoughts:
It’s hard to give thoughts without revealing spoilers so let me just say that I still love the twist in this book, and I found the writing style to be perfect for a thriller.  It’s a book that really curled my toes, and I’m glad it exists and has become so popular, and I’m looking forward to reading more Gillian Flynn this year.
Full Review

Woman in short wedding dress and black boots holds a sword. A dog in a bow tie is nearby.
My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding

By: Angie Fox
Publication Date: 2013
Publisher: Indie, Self-Published
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Themes: weddings are hell but lifetime partnership is amazing
Summary:
Lizzie Brown, once preschool teacher turned demon slayer, is extremely excited to be marrying her true love, Dimitri Kallinikos, who just so happens to also be a magical shape-changing griffin.  And she’s also fine with letting her adoptive mother run the whole show, even though her mother wants to make the wedding into a week-long event.  She’s not so ok with having to tell her mother about being a demon slayer, though. Or about integrating her mother’s posh southern lady lifestyle with her recently discovered blood-related grandmother’s biker witch gang.  She’s pleasantly surprised that her mother found a goth-style mansion to rent for the wedding.  Maybe the magical and the non-magical can integrate fairly well, after all.  But then it becomes evident that someone in the wedding is trying to kill her.  Plus, they find demonic images around the property….
Current Thoughts:
I read this right after I got engaged, so I was in just the right frame of mind for an urban fantasy featuring a wedding.  But even if I hadn’t just gotten engaged before reading it, I still would have loved it.  This book knocks it out of the park with everything that makes urban fantasy delightful.  A normal event kicked up a notch by fantastical characters and happenings.  It also communicates the odd combination of the horror that is wedding planning and the pure joy that is finding your lifelong partner.  Plus it’s hilarious and romantic.
Full Review

A woman's jawline and neck are viewed through a shattered glass.
Still Missing

By: Chevy Stevens
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary
Themes:  be careful who you trust, hope and healing
Summary:
Annie O’Sullivan extremely forcefully declares in her first therapy session that she doesn’t want her therapist to talk back to her; she just wants her to listen.  And so, through multiple sessions, she slowly finds a safe space to recount her horrible abduction from an open house she was running as an up-and-rising realtor, her year spent as the prisoner of her abductor, and of her struggles both to deal with her PTSD now that she’s free again and to deal with the investigation into her abduction.
Current Thoughts:
This book features a realistic depiction of PTSD plus it scared the pants off of me.  Still does if I think about it too much.
Full Review

A sunset near tropical trees and a mountain range
A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown

By: Julia Scheeres
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Free Press
Genre: Nonfiction – History
Themes: understanding a tragedy, when spirituality goes awry
Summary:
On November 18, 1978, 918 people, mostly Americans, died on a commune named Jonestown and on a nearby airstrip in Guyana.  The world came to know this event as that time that crazy cult committed mass suicide by drinking poisoned Kool-Aid.  However, that belief is full of inaccuracies.  Scheeres traces the origins of Jonestown, starting with its leader, Jim Jones, and his Christian church in Indiana, tracing its development into the People’s Temple in California, and then into Jonestown in Guyana.  Multiple members’ life stories are traced as well, including information from their family members who, perplexed, watched their families give everything over to Jones.
Current Thoughts:
I am so glad I read this.  I feel so much more informed and knowledgeable about Jonestown.  It’s sad to me that the cultural myth of Jonestown is so different from what actually happened, particularly with regards to the mass suicide, when in many cases it was murder not suicide. This book presents an event that would be easy to brush off as “those people were just crazy” in a way that humanizes it and makes it more real.
Full Review

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