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Black House

As I’m making my way through SK’s back catalog, I learned that this one was a sequel to The Talisman, so I had to make sure and read them both this year. King doesn’t write many sequels, so revisiting old friends is fun. He has some series like The Dark Tower and Mr. Mercedes. And, of course, Doctor Sleep is the sequel to The Shining. However, any student of his work knows that his books exist in a multiverse. Books crossover in seemingly odd ways. For example, there’s a tiny reference to The Stand in one of the Dark Tower books. Characters appear in other books, references to one book will be in another book. It’s like his own version of Easter eggs. This book is another example of that, although it’s not hidden at all. The connection is overt, and I loved it.

From Goodreads: Twenty years ago, a boy named Jack Sawyer travelled to a parallel universe called The Territories to save his mother and her Territories “twinner” from a premature and agonizing death that would have brought cataclysm to the other world. Now Jack is a retired Los Angeles homicide detective living in the nearly nonexistent hamlet of Tamarack, WI. He has no recollection of his adventures in the Territories and was compelled to leave the police force when an odd, happenstance event threatened to awaken those memories.

When a series of gruesome murders occur in western Wisconsin that are reminiscent of those committed several decades earlier by a real-life madman named Albert Fish, the killer is dubbed “The Fisherman” and Jack’s buddy, the local chief of police, begs Jack to help his inexperienced force find him. But is this merely the work of a disturbed individual, or has a mysterious and malignant force been unleashed in this quiet town? What causes Jack’s inexplicable waking dreams, if that is what they are, of robins’ eggs and red feathers? It’s almost as if someone is trying to tell him something. As that message becomes increasingly impossible to ignore, Jack is drawn back to the Territories and to his own hidden past, where he may find the soul-strength to enter a terrifying house at the end of a deserted track of forest, there to encounter the obscene and ferocious evils sheltered within it.

I liked The Talisman, but I didn’t love it. Jack was a great character, but the secondary characters annoyed me. This book, however, was fantastic. The secondary characters were even better than Jack (who was still great). The plot moved quickly, and I didn’t have to force myself to pick the book up, like I did with The Talisman. This book is set in the Dark Tower world. Jack’s regular world is ours, but when he travels to The Territories, it’s really mid-world. Roland and his ka-tet, The Crimson King, and the tower and beams are all mentioned. I looked at the publication of this book and it was after Wizard and Glass (book 4) but before the rest of the series. I imagine when it came out, Dark Tower fans were beside themselves with joy at seeing the references, showing them that SK hadn’t forgotten the series and would be returning to it. You really do need to read The Talisman first, but it’s worth it to get to this gem.

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The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

These days, reading an uplifting “feel good” story seems more important than in the past. And, to be honest, I don’t read much of this type. Give me a good dystopian, thriller, or horror book any day. However, this one kept coming across my radar and had rave reviews, so when I saw it on Prime reading, I went ahead and downloaded it.

From Goodreads:

Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.

Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.

Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design—especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open—bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters. 

Some chapters are about Sam’s childhood, while some are his adult life. Between these two perspectives, you really get to see how Sam has evolved. And no spoilers, but Sam’s a good person surrounded by a handful of good people, but mostly terrible people who bully and judge him. No matter the bullies, Sam’s ability to remain a good person is unshakable. Bullies aside, this book really is uplifting and makes you have faith in humanity, simply because Sam is so great. I definitely recommend this one, especially these days.

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The Future is Yours

Big thanks to Netgalley for this advance copy! I love books that are told in a non-traditional way. I’m not a fan of reading a sentence then flipping to a footnote or endnote, but books like S. and Night Film and Attachments (and Rainbow Rowell in general) are really interesting reads because they are epistolary in nature, but also tell the story through multiple media forms. The Future is Yours is exactly same.

From Goodreads: Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry are outsiders struggling to find their place in Silicon Valley. But when Ben reads Adhi’s graduate dissertation about an obscure application for quantum computing, he has a vision of a revolutionary new technology: a computer that can see forward through time by communicating with its future self.

The two friends quit their jobs and team up to form a business, building a company that will deliver their groundbreaking device to consumers around the world. Rival tech giants try to steal their innovation, while government agencies attempt to bury it–but Ben and Adhi are helped by their own cutting-edge technology, staying a step ahead of the competition and responding to challenges before they arise.

As the tension mounts, Ben and Adhi’s friendship begins to fracture under the weight of ambition, jealousy, and greed. Most frightening of all, they discover the dark side of the machine they’ve created–the ways in which viewing the future sets them on a path toward unavoidable disaster of epic, apocalyptic proportions. Unless they can disrupt the technological system they’ve created, there won’t be any future at all.

Told through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts, this bleeding-edge tech thriller chronicles the social costs of innovation and asks how far you’d be willing to go to protect the ones you love–even from themselves. 

This book was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me a Blake Crouch’s work, which is a huge compliment, because I’ve read almost all his books. The way the story is presented through the various documents is really creative and adds to the entire point of the book. This comes out in Feb 2021, and I will be recommending it to a lot of people at that point.

NOTE TO AUTHOR: The goodreads summary has Adhi’s name as Teddy….I fixed it here. And my favorite person on Twitter is mentioned, Lin-Manuel Miranda, but you have his handle as @LinManuel, but it’s really @Lin_Manuel. And there’s really a @BenBoyce on Twitter. Haha.

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The Collector’s Apprentice

This book is my second by BA Shapiro. I have also read The Art Forger and really enjoyed that. I’m not an artist in any way, but I do have a working knowledge of art, artists, periods, and have studied some important works through my education. And even if art isn’t your thing, these books are still excellent stories.

From Goodreads:

It’s the summer of 1922, and nineteen-year-old Paulien Mertens finds herself in Paris—broke, disowned, and completely alone. Everyone in Belgium, including her own family, believes she stole millions in a sophisticated con game perpetrated by her then-fiancé, George Everard. To protect herself from the law and the wrath of those who lost everything, she creates a new identity, a Frenchwoman named Vivienne Gregsby, and sets out to recover her father’s art collection, prove her innocence—and exact revenge on George.

When the eccentric and wealthy American art collector Dr. Edwin Bradley offers Vivienne the perfect job, she is soon caught up in the Parisian world of post-Impressionists and expatriates—including Gertrude Stein and Henri Matisse, with whom Vivienne becomes romantically entwined. As she travels between Paris and Philadelphia, where Bradley is building an art museum, her life becomes even more complicated: George returns with unclear motives . . . and then Vivienne is arrested for Bradley’s murder.

B. A. Shapiro has made the historical art thriller her own. In The Collector’s Apprentice, she gives us an unforgettable tale about the lengths to which people will go for their obsession, whether it be art, money, love, or vengeance.

This book was one that, even though it isn’t really a thriller, I couldn’t put it down and wanted to see how Vivienne manages this double life. The art descriptions are fantastic, the story moves quickly, and Vivienne is a great heroine.

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The Devil of Nanking

I’ve read a few of Mo Hayder’s books in the Jack Caffrey series, starting with Birdman, then The Treatment, then Ritual. I plan on finishing those, but when I discovered this one-off book that also was set in Japan (to fulfill a PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt), I was pretty excited. Someone I follow on bookstagram (here I am: https://www.instagram.com/being_fictional/) posted it, and thankfully it was 1.99 on Kindle, so I snatched it up.

From Goodreads: Like the thrillers of Thomas Harris and Philip Kerr, Mo Hayder’s riveting new novel animates the dark corners of modern history. The solitary Englishwoman Grey comes to Japan looking for a rare piece of footage that is said to document a particularly monstrous episode of the 1937 Nanking Massacre. Her quest will take her to a reclusive scholar and a wheelchair-bound gangster who clings to life with the aid of a mysterious elixir, and to a handsome American whose interest in Grey may be more sinister than romantic. The result is a work of spine-chilling suspense, masterful historical detail, and otherworldly beauty.

Fair warning that Mo Hayder’s books are graphic, and this one is no exception. My goodness. It’s definitely not for the weak-stomached. That said, it was a great story. I couldn’t put this down. Once Grey stumbles upon some answers, and secrets start being revealed, I was completely sucked in and couldn’t read fast enough to see what the “truth” was. If you can handle graphic content, I definitely recommend this one.

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The Talisman

For anyone new to my reviews, I’m a huge Stephen King. I own all his books in hardback and am currently working my way through his catalog. This year, I’ve read Joyland, If It Bleeds, The Shining, Doctor Sleep, Night Shift, Cycle of the Werewolf, and Blockade Billy. I still have a few on the list to read in the next few months, as well.

From Goodreads:

On a brisk autumn day, a twelve-year-old boy stands on the shores of the gray Atlantic, near a silent amusement park and a fading ocean resort called the Alhambra. The past has driven Jack Sawyer here: his father is gone, his mother is dying, and the world no longer makes sense. But for Jack everything is about to change. For he has been chosen to make a journey back across America–and into another realm.

One of the most influential and heralded works of fantasy ever written, The Talisman is an extraordinary novel of loyalty, awakening, terror, and mystery. Jack Sawyer, on a desperate quest to save his mother’s life, must search for a prize across an epic landscape of innocents and monsters, of incredible dangers and even more incredible truths. The prize is essential, but the journey means even more. Let the quest begin. . . .

The Talisman is one of the few books King co-wrote, this one with the amazing Peter Straub, who also writes horror books. (Ghost Story is a great one of his). The main character, Jack, is excellent. Even though he’s only twelve, he’s brave and hard-working and smart. That said, the secondary characters annoyed me to no end. They were such a distraction to the main story. The villain wasn’t really all that scary. There were other minor villains that were much worse, and Jack finds himself in some difficult situations that seem to last forever while reading.

I always wonder if I love SK’s books because they are legitimately good or because he wrote them. Can I be objective or do I just think all his books are amazing. Well, we have an answer. This one was just okay for me. I didn’t LOVE it like I have most of his other books. I know there are plenty in the past that I read and just found mediocre, but as of late, most everything has been excellent. And even though I enjoyed this one, I didn’t give it five stars because it seemed to drag for me in a lot of ways.

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Burn

Patrick Ness is one of my all-time favorite authors. I’ve read all but one of his books. And one of my favorite things about him is that he doesn’t fit into any one genre. He writes dystopian, realistic, fantasy, sci-fi, on and on. My first introduction was the Chaos Walking dystopian trilogy, which is just fantastic. A Monster Calls is a gorgeous and heartbreaking fantasy. Release is realistic and important for LGBTQ kids. More Than This is a profound take at the afterlife. And The Ocean Was Our Sky is probably his most creative because it’s a retelling of Moby Dick from the whale’s perspective. Topics About Which I Know Nothing is a fun short story collection. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a great cross between realistic and fantasy. And The Crane Wife is really just a sweet story about a man who loves his wife.

So, anytime one of his books is released, I never read the synopsis because I like the surprise of what in the world the book could be about. Thankfully, my library agrees and keeps buying his books for me to read.

From Goodreads: Sarah Dewhurst and her father, outcasts in their little town of Frome, Washington, are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the poorest of the poor ever have to resort to.

The dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye, though. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul, but who is seemingly intent on keeping her safe.

Because the dragon knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm with a prophecy on his mind. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents in hot pursuit—and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself. 

This book was a lot of fun. Imagining a world with dragons is pretty crazy, but dragons that talk are too interesting to pass up reading about. I enjoyed the direction this book took, as well. Because it’s Patrick Ness, of course I recommend it. But even if he weren’t my favorite, this is a great YA book.