Ring Shout- P. DèjIí Clark

Here there be monsters…

What if those monsters that we deal with, even today, those monsters with so much hate in their hearts, turned out to be actual monsters? Evil to the bone monsters that needed to be fought with sword and magic? That’s where Clark takes us in this fast-paced novella that will leave your heart racing. 

Ring Shout takes us back to 1920’s Macon, Georgia, to the heart of Klan country. But these aren’t just regular hate-filled Klansmen, these are Ku Kluxes. If you have the sight, you could see that these are true monsters. They are 9 feet tall, bone white, with ivory claws and 6 eyes on their pointed heads. Our hero Maryse and her friends are tasked with fighting them. On their side is the power of the Shout, and of old Gullah magic. As the Klan sets out with a plan to use the movie Birth of a Nation to unleash an ancient terror on the earth, Maryse must make some horrible choices in order to save the world from the hate that would overcome it.

I loved this little book & I give it a solid 4 stars- I mean, how timely did it end up being?!  It is full of stellar body horror in just the right amounts, and then it adds in a big shovel-full of Lovecraftian monster madness- who could ask for more? But Clark also includes just enough true history to feel uncomfortably realistic in the worst ways. One thing it is not is subtle, so be prepared for some full-on, swords-out racist fighting! And that is something we surely need more of!

Many thanks to NetGalley & Tor for this e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Mexican Gothic- Silvia Moreno-Garcia

If you love a slow burn, look no further!

When you put the word “gothic” in the title of the book, you can bet your sweet butt I am looking for that book to fulfill some certain things. Some things that are very special to me, because I’m kind of obsessed with the gothic- it was my specialty in grad school, and I even taught guest spots in some of my peer’s classes on gothic novels. Sooooo, does this one make the cut?

First of all, a brief summary: this is the story of Noemi, a socialite from Mexico City who is pulled from her fast city life to go to a small village in the mountains to check on a cousin who sent a very disturbing letter after a too-quick marriage. Catalina dropped away from her family after her marriage to Virgil Doyle and now Noemi’s father is concerned for her. She arrives at the Doyle family home, High Place, which is situated near the defunct silver mine that had made a fortune for the family years ago. But Noemi finds that everything about High Place has gone a bit…moldy.

Now- is this a gothic? Oh, yeah! Not only is it, but it was clearly written by someone who has the same kind of love I have for the genre- respect and even some gentle tongue in cheek ribbing!  Here’s the standard way to check if a book is gothic: the laundry list!

Old & maybe haunted house/castle– Check, and the house even has a name!

Subterranean spaces/live burial- There are tunnels under that damn house for sure.

Sublime nature- Moreno-Garcia fills the book with lavish descriptions of the landscape, which at times, can be dangerous (huge ragged cliffs & misty forests)

The forest around High Place, El Triunfo

Females who generally fit into either a virgin/whore stereotype– Noemi vs the somber Doyle women.

Themes of decay, madness, secrets, and persecuted women– This is all over this novel, from the wallpaper to the constant gaslighting of the women.

A Tyrannical older man

A Villainous and usually very handsome younger man

A “hero” who is not as stereotypically manly as the others

“Supernatural” events that can be explained logically– well, it’s a crazy explanation, but…

There we have it! Moreno-Garcia packs this book full with all the classic gothic tropes, and it is beautiful to behold. I loved every moment of it, and I give it all 5 stars.  I’m not going to get into the details, because a review spoiled it for me & I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else. But if you love gothic novels, go get this right now!

Burn Our Bodies Down- Rory Power

Look at this gorgeous cover!

“How to keep a fire burning. How to stitch a fight up until it’s only a scar. That’s the kind of thing you learn with a mother like mine. Mostly though, you learn how to be loved without proof.”  

This is what 17 year old Margot Nielson thinks of her own mother. And the other very important thing she has learned is never to ask about her own history. She and her mother live alone and isolated from any other family members, and Margot is beginning to question why. When she comes upon an old family Bible with a photo in it, her journey to find her own past begins.

Upon the photo was the name of her family farm- Fairhaven- and a phone number. When she calls the number, she finds that her grandmother has been waiting for her to call for years, hoping to hear from her. But her mother FREAKS and forbids her from seeing or speaking to her.

So what’s a teenager to do? Run away of course! Margot heads out to find her Gram in Phalene, which turns out to be not far away. The day she arrives, she meets some local teens who recognize her immediately as a member of the Nielson family and tell her when a fire has broken out on her family land. When they arrive, Margot finds a young woman dead in the corn fields, a woman who looks so much like her they could be sisters. But could they be?

As Margot’s family history unfolds, she learns about their connection to the land, to the corn, and to eachother. Family secrets come to light, and they are horrifying.

she who walks behind the rows…

I read this book in one day, hardly wanting to put it down. The story was just so compelling to me, and so very weird! Now I will note that I always judge YA fiction a little bit differently than I do adult fiction- I feel that story is far more important for it. And I also try to keep in mind that I am not exactly the target audience, given that I am 45 years old! 🙂 There were aspects of this story that you could see a little ahead of time, but maybe not if you were 14 or 15. And I was actually surprised by some of it. I understood that there was going to be a deep connection between the crops and the family, I just didn’t realize exactly how deep. 

I also enjoyed Margot as a character; watching her try to find some sort of individuality where there was little to be found was fascinating. I have been enjoying the move towards queerness in YA literature often being a very small thing. The same way it is in many heterosexual stories. As if being gay was only one part of who a person is (imagine that!); I think that is so important because it makes it all that more “normal,” and it’s just as important as the stories that focus on it.

I should also add that I also loved this story just because of the CORN! I have an odd fascination with corn, and a huge collection of corny items, and this book with all it’s weird corn imagery was just my style.

I gave this strange little book 4 stars! I wish some of the other characters besides Margot had been given more fleshing out, and the same with her relationships with those characters. But all in all, I really enjoyed this read.

The Loop- Jeremy Robert Johnson

A bloody good read….

But when I try to picture a utopia, where we, like, all rise above, and we’re kind and we grow as a species, I can’t see it. So either I’m too dumb to have that kind of vision, or I’m just smart enough to know that humans could never pull it off. It’s way easier to imagine dystopia, and war, and all the bullshit we’ve been living in.

JRJ

Strap in, bitches! We are not in a utopia, that’s for sure. This book is a high-octane ride from the very beginning. Lucy and Bucket are best friends, and just about the only brown kids in their crap hillbilly town of Turner Falls, Oregon. But Lucy is confident that they can make it through their senior year and put the town in their rearview as long as they have each other. Unfortunately, their plans fall apart one day in school when one of the rich kids attacks & kills the teacher with a textbook. In a matter of minutes, the room is swarming with police and he is shot. But not before Lucy & Bucket saw his strange blue eyes and saw that weird thing in his neck.

Something very wrong is going on in Turner Falls. And it all connects back to the giant biotech company IMTECH, who has decided to use the children of its own execs as guinea pigs for an insane experiment.

Now Lucy, Bucket, and another of their outcast friends Brewer are on a mission to save the world.

The promo material calls this book a conspiracy thriller, and that’s just about right- it will take you down all the rabbit holes of all the conspiracies you’ve heard out there: drones, government monitoring, implants. But it does it all through the lens of a bad-ass female protagonist, so there’s that! Lucy is easy to root for. This book has everything a horror/thriller lover might want: lots of gore, a fast paced plot, and so much action! 

But it just wasn’t my style. I’m more of a slow burn kind of gal. What really saved this book for me was the ending, where the language shifted from crass teenage dialogue (which was realistic, I thought) to a more poetic style. I won’t tell you why, but I’m glad I hung in until then. It really opened up at that point for me.
I gave this one almost four stars 3.75! But that is just a matter of personal taste. This book is well written and a lot of fun, and I think a lot of other people will just love it!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue- V.E. Schwab

Addie danced with the devil…. did she win?

Rock bottom. No way out. Those Gethsemane moments, sweating blood, crying out to God for any kind of help. Have you been there? What if, at that very moment, someone actually answered? But it wasn’t God who stepped up.

That’s exactly what happened to young Adeline LaRue at her darkest moment. It is 1714, and she was about to be forced into a loveless marriage with an old widower, so she prayed, and prayed. But she prayed for so long that she didn’t notice that the sun had gone down- even though she had been warned not to make offerings to those that might answer after dark. She felt that her life had been too sheltered, too short- she wasn’t allowed to live the way she desired. All she wanted was more time.

And so it was that she was given her wish. But you and I both know that when you bargain with the devil, it comes with a price- and also with quite a bit of fine print. Of course the price is Addie’s soul, and the fine print is that she will live as long as she likes, but she will never be remembered. And what is a life, if not the traces it leaves behind?

We follow Addie’s story through 300 years of detailed history and art- all beautifully rendered and interspersed with Addie’s present-day life. A life that has been lived in fleeting moments, captured occasionally on canvas or in sculpture, but never in memory. She cannot even speak her real name. Until one day, out of the blue, a young man says the words she has been waiting to hear, “I remember you,” and everything changes….

I loved every second of this book! It felt like an artful blend of historical fiction and fantasy and it seriously surprised me. I did not expect where it ended up, and it was a delightfully dark twist. 

I absolutely give this book all the stars!