Review: World of Trouble (Last Policeman #03) by Ben Winters

  • Series: Last Policeman (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (July 15, 2014)
  • ISBN: 978159474685
  • Source: Publisher

*Warning: This is a review for the third book in a trilogy. There will be spoilers in this review, so if you have not read the previous two books please do not continue.*

The clock is ticking away; the asteroid on a path to Earth is getting closer. The end is imminent. Everyone has responded to the devastating reality in a different way: committing crime, stealing in order to get supplies to survive the last few days, and, in many cases, ending their own lives so they didn’t have to face the horrific end. Detective Hank Palace could be doing what everyone else is, settling down to ride out his last few days on Earth. Instead, he continues his search for his sister, Nico. The last he heard, she’d joined a group that apparently had a solution to destroy the asteroid before it struck the planet.

His search takes him to an abandoned police station in Ohio. His sidekicks on this journey are his ever faithful dog, Houdini, and Cortez, a former criminal.  At the police station it seems as if the world has already ceased to function. Officers either fled their posts when they heard news of the asteroid or were killed protecting what modicum of society still existed. There, they find a young woman on the brink of death, her throat slit in a failed attempt at her life. Palace knows his sister is some how tied to this police station. As they wait for the young woman to regain consciousness, they discover evidence that may indicate Nico and her group are buried in a bunker beneath the police station. Time is not their friend. While Palace may not be able to stop the end of life as they know it, but when the end does come he wants to be with Nico.

What Place and Cortez discover, however, is more haunting and chilling than they could have imagined.

It goes without saying that this novel is bleak. The end of the world is imminent, nothing can be done to stop it. Society as we know it has already ceased to exist, people robbing and killing one another to scrape together supplies to ride out to the end.  There is no time for fluff in this storytelling; Winters shells it out to readers without sugar-coating it.  No happy rainbows or butterflies; the world is ending.  Yet rather than being depressing, I found myself to be moved emotionally by Palace’s journey to find his sister.

What makes this novel, and the entire trilogy, stand out as a whole is the superb storytelling. Winters is a genius; mixing dry humor and bits of hope by way of Palace’s character.  Although we know the world is ending, readers will root for him, crossing our fingers in hope that he will track down Nico before the asteroid hits.  As Winters ties together loose ends, wrapping up story lines and answering questions that came about in the previous books, readers are inundated with revelation after revelation, leaving one in a stunned silence until they can fully comprehend what they just read.

As I read, I was wary of how the book was going to end.  I must say, I couldn’t have imagined it any other way. A truly expert piece of storytelling, this trilogy is a must-read.  While I’m sad that it has come to a conclusion, I can’t wait to pick up the first book and start it over again, knowing now what I didn’t know then.  Highly, highly recommended.

 

Check out my reviews of the first two books in the trilogy:

The Last Policeman
Countdown City

TSS: A Week in Review

Yet another wonderfully relaxing summer week.  Teen son was off at Scout camp so we were down to just one child this week. We go through this every summer, yet somehow I forget how demanding of time our youngest is when his older brother is away. We spent the evenings reading and watching movies so it was actually a really fun experience. It’s interesting to see how his personality changes when his older brother is not around!

Yesterday, we spend most of the day working on redoing/clearing out our home office.  We had file cabinets that were not being used that were blocking a huge bay window. Much to my husband’s dismay, I pulled those out and made myself a new reading area.  I’m sitting there now, drinking a coffee, the morning sunlight streaming in. It is quite enjoyable.

The most exciting part of all this was the shelf that my youngest son & I repainted. Shelf space is a premium in our house.  I wanted something small, with purpose, that I could use to hold my review copies.   When I found a rotating (yes, it spins!) bookshelf for $20 at yard sale, I knew it had to be mine:

 

10353510_701698116545960_7691865460006382422_oSo, it’s not the prettiest thing I’ve seen but it fit the purpose.  So I sanded it down, painted it in my favorite color, and voila, a beautiful shelf:

 

BsX_lBUIQAEKxS0Needless to say, this is where I’ll be spending a lot of time, curled up in my reading chair (if I can get the cat to move) with a book!  Most importantly, the new reading space opened up some space the boys have taken over as their own reading nook. They lined up pillows on the floor and have created a really comfortable place for them to read or work on homework.

Here on the blog, I had a pretty excellent few weeks as well. Here’s a quick recap:

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to lose myself in a book once more…have a wonderfully bookish week!

Frightful Friday: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

Frightful Friday is a regular meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier:

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (July 15, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781476734217
  • Source: Publisher

The “Beacon Hill Butcher” was a savage serial killer who plagued Seattle in the mid-1980s. Referred to as “The Butcher” because he chopped off the left hand of his victims, he terrorized the women of Seattle until he was killed by the local police chief, Edward Shank.  Now a retired widower, Edward has given his Seattle home to his grandson, Matt, whom he helped raised, and is now living in an assisted living facility.

Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, is eager to move in, but Matt, an up-and-coming restauranteur, cherishes his independence. Matt quickly begins making renovations on the home. When contractors come across a crate buried in the yard, Matt breaks the lock and uncovers something that will haunt him forever. Torn between telling the authorities and confronting his grandfather, knowing that this revelation will forever taint “the Chief’s” image.

Sam is on her own hunt for answers. An author of true-crime novels, she fervently believes that her mother, Sarah, was one of The Butcher’s victims, despite the fact that she was killed two years after the supposed Butcher was killed.  Not realizing how close her life is tied to real Butcher, Sam uses her connections with the local police to uncover the truth…no matter the cost.

It isn’t until murders resembling that of The Butcher make an appearance that local police decide to take notice.  Not thrilled with the idea that the true Butcher has been free for the past 30 years, they consult the Chief on the case to see if he can uncover anything they missed in the investigations decades before. Truly, they have warning of the devastating truth right before them.

I’ve been a fan of Hillier’s work since discovering her two previous thrillers, Creep and Freak. Hillier quickly established herself as a talented thriller writer and she has exceeded my expectations with this one! While the true identity of The Butcher is quickly revealed to the reader, we are granted to hold first row seats to watch the characters discover the truth. This early revelation certainly doesn’t remove the chilling tone from this novel; several times I found myself jumping and squealing out of fear. The revelations at the end of the novel are stunning, taking even this reader by surprise. The twists and turns are terrifying, preventing readers from suspecting the outcome of this brilliantly gruesome thriller.

While there are some pretty gruesome and explicit scenes, they certainly do not fall out of place in this thriller. The Butcher was known for his depravity, terrorizing and torturing his victims before their deaths.  Hillier expertly captures this truly terrifying character, juxtaposing it with the innocent character of Sam, determined to uncover the identity of her mother’s killer.

I continue to rave about this author and how she has managed to quickly make a name for herself as a truly tremendous thriller writer. I will continue to devour everything she has read, and if you haven’t yet, you are in for a treat. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Competition by Marcia Clark

  • Series: A Rachel Knight Novel
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books (July 8, 2014)
  • ISBN: 978031622097
  • Source: Publisher

After a high school is the site of a shooting, LA Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight and her best friend LAPD detective Bailey Keller are assigned to the case.  While the shooters are dead of an apparent mutual shooting, that doesn’t alleviate the pain of the community. Yet as they begin to interview students and other witnesses, the facts don’t add up. Is it possible that the two individuals found in the library, dead, are not the killers but victims as well?  The idea that the shooters are still on the loose is devastating.  Rachel and the police force must find answers before another attack is made on the community. Killers with this type of anger aren’t going to stop on their own, the only way they will be brought down is at the cost of their lives, be it by police or suicide.

And so Rachel embarks upon an investigation that delves deep into the lives and psyche of a killer’s mind. With a number of potential suspects, the investigation isn’t easy.  Just when they think they have the guilty party in their hands, they are blown away to discover the killer has been right in front of them all along. With plans on duplicating and outdoing other mass-killings, everyone in the community is at risk.

This is my first taste of Marcia Clark’s Rachel Knight series. I admit, when the first book was released, all the promotion and hubbub about the book actually eliminated all desire to read it. And come on, she’s Marcia Clark. Anyone alive during the Simpson trial recognizes her.  Yet when people in the book world (I’m talking about you, Erin & Jen!) kept singing the series’ praise, I knew I had to cave and experience it for myself. And believe me, I’m so thrilled that I finally did.  Clark has managed to do the unimaginable, to prove to the world that she is much more than the Marcia Clark who served as prosecutor of this world-recognized case.

The setting and storyline Clark creates is chilling. Unfortunately, our country’s children have been victims of multiple mass-shootings without any hope of an end. I’m not going to start preaching here, leaving it at the idea that we all have a deep and emotional reaction when we hear of a school shooting. Clark captures that and delves deep into it, using her own experience as a prosecuting attorney to inform and educate her readers about this large social problem. She doesn’t sugar-coat anything, delving deep into the type of person capable of such a horrific act. That said, she also shows sensitivity to all involved in such an act, from the victims to their parents, and even the parents of the shooters themselves. All are victims of these heinous crimes.  No one is left untouched.

While it is difficult to remember, killers like these are often victims of mental illness, something snapping in their psyche that forces them to believe that an act like this is the only way to be heard or to get attention. Skilled at hiding their motives, those closest to them are often completely unaware of what is happening right in front of them.  As the mother of a teen myself, while I feel I know my son and believe he could never perform an act like this, I can see how easily it would be for behavior to go unnoticed. Killers don’t wear a sign announcing their intents, in many cases they wear a veil of innocence.

Bottom line: Clark has exceeded any and all of the expectations I had about this book, and the series as a whole. You better believe I’m going to go back and read it from the beginning. While there is sufficient back story on all of the characters, I want to know even more about Rachel Knight and the other cast of characters. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (July 8, 2014)
  • ISBN: 978-0385534833
  • Source: Publisher (egalley)

Emily Shepard is a sixteen year-old only child of parents who work at a nuclear plant in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. She has her fair share of struggles: her parents have been alcoholics most of her life.  This isn’t a secret; everyone knows of Emily’s plight. When a meltdown at the nuclear plant occurs, her father, the chief administrator, is blamed. Both he and Emily’s mother, a communications director, are declared missing after the meltdown, assumed dead.

Emily is certain that others will blame her for her parents’ actions. Lives have been lost, property destroyed, a community devastated all at her parents’ hands. Rather than seeking refuge and safety with others, she lives on the streets, surviving by selling her body. She has a passion for Emily Dickinson novels, and takes the name of one of Dickinson’s friends, Abby Bliss, as her own.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is told from Emily’s standpoint. This isn’t your typical post-disaster novel, for rather than following the saga post-disaster, readers follow Emily through her journey through self-destruction and survival.  She alternates between past and present, the reader playing witness to two seemingly very different characters.  One Emily is strong, caring, and considerate. The other, more destructive Emily, cuts herself, abuses drugs, and has no qualms in giving up her body in order to survive.

Emily’s character, while not admirable at all, is quite dynamic.  Not only has she survived the loss of her parents and family dog, but every scrap of normalcy. She is surrounded by destruction and devastation, reflecting on the calm, yet stark beauty of Dickinson poems to sustain her.  Her choices aren’t always the best, yet despite any evidence pointing toward self-destruction, Emily wants to live. On her own terms, after finding her own answers, she does want to live. She craves a normal life and forgiveness for all the damage her parents have done.

I know I’m not shocking anyone when I mention the talent of Chris Bohjalian. A fan of all of his sixteen novels, I know when I pick up on of Chris’s books that I’m going to be surrendering my heart and soul to that book. This is certainly the case with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.  Bohjalian captures Emily with such eloquence that it haunts me. Obvious suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Emily not only captures the reaction of one teen girl in this particular incident, but of the response of anyone after a devastating incident.

For this reason, an obvious one in my belief, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is, in a large part, a dark and difficult book to read.  Yet this is just another piece of evidence of Bohjalian’s brilliant and talented writing. He’s not going to sugar-coat real life, loss and devastation. He expresses it realistically, not covering it with a shroud of happiness and hope.  That’s not to say that this is a novel devoid of hope; for at the end of Emily’s difficult journey readers are granted a feeling of hope, of a future.

The feeling I experienced while reading this novel were bittersweet. The darkness I felt was reminiscent of feelings experienced after many of the devastating acts that have befallen our country, like 9/11 and others. This is Bohjalian’s intent…the title has direct ties to a very recent horror our country faced. I won’t give it away, for that revelation is a turning point that each reader must experience themselves.

While the main character of this novel is a teen girl, I would in no way classify this as a young adult novel. The tone, language, etc. are definitely that of an adult novel. That’s not to say that more mature teens should avoid this, but with the understanding there are some rather mature scenes and language throughout the book.

It goes without saying that I highly, highly recommend this book. It is one with a lasting message, one that will haunt you long after you finish the last pages. You’ll close the book and want to recommended it to someone, just so you can have the shared experience in discussing it. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is a book you will hear a lot about this summer, one that you should not miss.

Review: Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (July 1, 2014)
  • ISBN: 0425272028
  • Source: Publisher

The end of World War II was a pivotal time in our nation’s history.  Despite the struggle and loss brought on by the War, change was in the air, amid feelings of uncertainty intermingled with hope.  New York City’s Grand Central station was the starting point to so many: soldiers returning from war, wives and family members reuniting with their loved ones, individuals ready to embark upon a new beginning, a fresh start.  Bustling with thousands of people passing through it daily, it is also the site of so many emotions: love, loss, and heartbreak.

In Grand Central, a collection of short stories from some of the hottest author’s of women’s fiction (Alyson Richman, Jenna Blum, Sarah McCoy, Melanie Benjamin, Sarah Jio, Erika Robuck, Kristina McMorris, Amanda Hodgkinson, Pam Jenoff, Karen White), each entry focuses on one of these stories of reunion or, in some cases, separation.  Ten stories in total, all sharing the same space and time. The moment I heard of this collection, months ago, I knew it would be brilliant. I was not at all let down.

Each set of characters we are introduced to come from vastly different backgrounds. Women pilots, abused wives about to reunite with the husband that beat them, young women about to start a fresh new life…seemingly very different but all holding on to one thing in common: hope.

I’m not going to go through and break down each story; I feel readers should go in as blind as possible without any hint as to what is to come. Just know that it is simply brilliant, emotional, and breathtaking. I’m not a fan of touchy-feeling, emotional reads.  Yet Grand Central evoked these very feelings from me, leaving me feeling fulfilled, wanting to know more about each of these young women.

Yet what stands out to me most about this novel was actually unexpected and profound. One evening, my teen son asked what I was reading. I began to tell him; I barely got out more than World War II and Grand Central station. He asked to read part of the book…and he read it all. I was certain he was going to come back to me in a matter of moments, turned off by the female characters or their stories. The following day, I took it from him so I could peruse my notes and write my review. Inside, I found post it notes he’d left me, with comments like “This is so sad” and “I didn’t know about this!” or “I want to talk about this.” I was absolutely sold on this novel the first time I read it, but after reading his comments I reread it, wanting to relive the experience as he did. And we talked, for hours about women pilots, pioneers in that field,  of the Lebensborn Program in which young women were given the opportunity to have children in secret, children who would be whisked away and raised by the SS.  This collection of short stories granted me this opportunity with my son, one I will never forget.

I can continue to rave about this book for hours, honestly. Instead, I will close with my highest of recommendations. Truly, a must read for fans of all types: fans of historical fiction, descendants of those who fought in the War, for individuals looking for a truly dynamic collection of short stories.  This is one you will want to talk about, I guarantee. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; First Edition edition (June 10, 2014)
  • ISBN: 0316278157
  • Source: Publisher

Melanie is a unique girl. She spends most of her day locked in a cell. When she is moved, she is restrained in a wheelchair, her arms and legs shackled to hinder movement. She looks forward to going to “school” and, in particular, her teacher Miss Justineau. She has hopes for her future and life as an adult; unfortunately Melanie cannot comprehend why that will never happen. Like any child her age, she craves attention and affection, both of which are forbidden.

There are other children similar to Melanie, studied by a doctor at the facility. Some leave and never return.  Melanie seems to be the only one of the children who contemplates this; the others seem oblivious and go on with their routine.  Then…something happens, throwing off this routine and sending Melanie’s world into an uncontrollable spiral of change.

Set in a post-apocalyptic society, The Girl with All the Gifts alludes to something not quite being right in the world. Rather than being unveiled immediately, small tidbits of information are relayed to the reader as the characters themselves experience it.  This review is intentionally vague because the reader must experience the revelations on their own, free of spoilers or hints of what is to come.

Melanie, the main character, is a truly unique young girl. This novel is a coming-of-age of sorts, as Melanie undergoes quite a transformation mentally and emotionally as she learns what makes her different from those around her. It is impossible not to feel sympathy for her as she undergoes these revelations.  It will tear at readers heartstrings, for Carey so eloquently portrays the feelings Melanie is experiencing in her “transformation.”

The secondary characters are highly involved in Melanie’s transformation, from Miss Justineau, her sympathetic and caring teacher to Dr. Caldwell, who sees the children as merely test subjects, and finally the guards around her. As they each experience Melanie outside the confines of the facility, they each form a better understanding of what, and who, she really is.

The world the author builds is dark and chilling, difficult to fathom at times but chillingly realistic at others.  I have no doubt that this novel stands on its own as a truly unique spin on a seemingly common storyline.  The cover makes the tone of the book apparent; there is no avoiding the fact that this is a taut, intense thriller.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a must-read for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, particularly those novels that force you to contemplate your own situation, or your response to the situation at hand.  While this review is so vague as to what transpires, trust me to know that the anticipation and revelation will make it well worth it in the end. Highly, highly recommended.

A Month in Review: June 2014


Books Reviewed

Total books reviewed: 11

Top picks of the month:

This is one of those months that I cannot possibly narrow it down to just one favorite, so I won’t :).

My favorites this month are:The Fever by Megan Abbott, A Long Time Gone by Karen White, The Ways of the Dead by Neely Tucker, Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson & Suspicion by Joseph Finder.

Special Events

 

Review: The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books (July 1, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780316254465
  • Source: Publisher

Hannah’s family has been hiding from a horrific monster that has haunted them for generations. The monster is a shape-shifter, able to take on the appearance of another in a matter of moments. Desperate to seek revenge for an act centuries ago, this monster, referred to as Jakab, haunts the women of Hannah’s family.  The string diaries (journals held together with pieces of string) are passed from one generation to the next, survival guides offering a small beacon of hope in this unending chase.

Beginning in Hungary at the turn of the century and spanning to Oxford of the 1970s and present-day, The String Diaries follows the path of the man who started it all, a wealthy young with the ability to assume the shape and life of anyone around him.  Thwarted in the ways of love, he now tracks down descendants of his first love, forcing her descendants to face his deadly wrath.

Yet when he begins to pursue Hannah and her family, he meets a more challenging match.  After he takes everyone near and dear to Hannah, she refuses to relinquish the last person left in her life: her young daughter, Leah. Hannah and Leah were both raised to be prepared for this inevitable battle.  What makes Hannah different than those before her is her refusal to let this nightmare continue. She will stop at nothing to put an end to this curse, sacrificing everything, including her own life, to guarantee her daughter’s future.

The String Diaries is a truly unique blend of a host of genres, including thriller to horror and the supernatural, all with a taste of historical fiction. I’m a fan of classic horror, and was particularly pleased with the ties to folklore. There’s nothing that frustrates me more than a novel with no backing and was therefore pleased to read of Jakab’s chilling story of origin.

While I had little to no connection to the characters from earlier generations, I did quickly bond with Hannah and her young daughter. They lost so much, yet they faced each day with a new determination to overcome this creature that has haunted their family for generations.  The pain they endure is incapacitating, yet they draw on that, along with their love for one another, in order to persevere.

Without giving anything away, the only thing I didn’t enjoy was the ending.  At times it felt far-fetched, others it felt too convenient.  All that said, the pros of this truly outstanding, yet simultaneously chilling, debut novel clearly outweighed the negatives. I can’t wait to hear more from this author; I’m thrilled to see a sequel is already in the works. Highly recommended.

Summer Shorts ’14 Blog Hop: The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

To continue with my celebration (although unfortunately limited!) of Audiobook Month, I’m extremely excited to be participating in Summer Shorts ’14: 

The audiobook community is giving back! Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.

Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and essays will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will be available for free online listening on their day of release. As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Media in support of ProLiteracy, there are over 20 additional tracks only available via the compilation download.You can purchase the collection HERE. Special pricing of $9.99 through June 30th, in celebration of JIAM. $14.99 from July 1st forward.

How can I resist participation in such an outstanding program?! And, given my appreciation of the horror genre, I couldn’t resist when given the opportunity to feature a short story by the great Edgar Allan Poe,  The Cask of Amontillado.  In this short story, a man is seeking revenge against an acquaintance, whom he believes,  has insulted him.  Like many of Poe’s other works, it involves the concept of being buried alive!

This narration is unique one.  Presented by William Dufris/AudioComics Company,  listeners will be delighted with this full-cast “audio movie” performance!

There is a full slate of other blogs participating in this blog hop! Following is just a sampling!


Paul Michael Garcia
Yard Waste, by Steven LaFond – w/author Steven LaFond @ My Bookish Ways

Mike ChamberlainThe Statement of Randolph Carter, by H.P. Lovecraft @ MV Freeman’s blog

John McLainThe Black Cat, by Edgar Allan Poe @ Going Public

Dawn HarveySomething as Big as a Mountain, by Jane Cawthorne, w/author Jane Cawthorne at My Books, My Life

 

To learn more about this projects and visit more blog stops on the tour, visit the Going Public Project website!