Mini Reviews: Sadie + A Room Away From the Wolves

MiniIn October, I did my best to pick up as many thrillers/mystery novels as I could. I usually go for more horror-themed novels during this time of year, but I heard such great things about the following two books, I just had to check them out myself. I read Sadie, but after hearing everyone praise the audio book, I kind of regret not listening to it. Maybe sometime in the future, I’ll at least check out the podcasts the publisher made available to readers. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Sadie
Author: Courtney Summers
Series: N/A
Pages: 311
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: September 4th 2018 

      “Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
      But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.
      When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.”

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“I live in a place that’s only good for leaving, is all that needs to be said about it, and I don’t let myself look back. Doesn’t matter if I want to, it’s just better that I don’t.”

Courtney Summer’s Sadie cleverly alternates between two timelines. In the first, Sadie Hunter’s little sister Mattie has been murdered and although the police have run out of leads, she hasn’t. She’s determined to find the person responsible and make them pay. A year after Mattie’s death West McCray, radio personality who focuses on small towns, receives a phone call from May Beth Foster, the girls’ surrogate grandmother. Sadie’s been missing for months and she’s hoping that he may be the one person out there who cares enough to look for her. As Sadie moves from one town to another, in search of her sister’s killer, she leaves behind a trail of blood and uncovered secrets. As a reader you’re drawn into Sadie’s story, her traumatic past and the rage that bubbles underneath every decision she makes. She’s never been an open person and Mattie has been her whole life since the day she was born. When their mother left them years ago, it was Sadie who picked up the pieces, but the girls’ relationship hasn’t always been easy, especially when they have such stark views of their mother. For Sadie, Claire Southern has never been the kind of mother she needed her to be. Her alcoholism, drug addiction, and compulsory need to always have a good-for-nothing man in her life, has made it impossible for Sadie to not resent her. But for Mattie, Claire was her mother and whatever flaws she might have had, she never questioned her mother’s love for her. Though Sadie and West’s timelines are separated by months, Summers has a way of writing that makes it feel like West is only two steps behind Sadie. So in the moments where Sadie is in real danger, you can’t help but hope West can be fast enough in his search to help her before it’s too late. Sadie is not a pleasant story, it’s incredibly violent and heartbreaking. It has a lot of triggering content, mostly due to with mentions of sexual abuse of children, but if you can handle the heavy-heartedness of the story, Summer’s has written a compulsory mystery that will leave you contemplating Sadie and her story long after you close the book.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: A Room Away From the Wolves
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Series: N/A
Pages: 315
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: September 4th 2018

      “Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.
      Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave…”

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“I hear myself cry out and stand to take it, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. The girls have grown countless arms in the dark. The trees themselves have joined in. I can’t fight them off, can’t keep them away”

Nova Ren Suma is one of those authors whose books I go into thinking I’m going to enjoy them more than I actually do. I love how strange and eerie her stories are, but always find them more than a little confusing. A Room Away From the Wolves is beautifully written with an interesting protagonist at its center, but I found myself scratching my head more than once trying to figure out exactly what was going on. When Bina is basically thrown out of her own home, she goes to the only place that makes sense to her: Catherine House, where her mother once sought refuge. But almost immediately upon her arrival, she notices something strange about the place and the other young women who are renting rooms. Part ghost story and part mystery, A Room Away From the Wolves, like its protagonist, keeps its secrets close, revealing only a little at a time. Although I enjoyed the writing in this one, I’m still left with a lot of questions. Bina isn’t the most reliable narrator, but I was still hoping to get a full picture of what her life was like before she leaves her home. There are a few flashbacks, but I often felt that Nova Ren Suma was only giving us a few pieces of a puzzle and we as readers have to accept that we’ll never see the full picture. I did like how atmospheric this one was. There are a few creepy scenes that made me sit up in my seat, but I wanted a more complete understanding of who Bina was and wanted to know more about the mysteries of Catherine House.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

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Slasher Girls & Monster Boys Edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke

Title: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys
Editor: April Genevieve Tucholke
Authors: Various
Series: N/A

Ghosts, murderers, and death bring plenty of frights in this horror anthology. Inspired by various mediums from films to classic horror novels to music, these fourteen short stories are filled with thrills, twists, and trepidation. And just when you think you have a story figured out, the surprises are fierce yet strangely satisfying.

“After a while, Richard started getting the distinct impression that someone was watching him sleep. There was a strange weight in his room, as if the furniture or the walls weren’t aligned quite right, and sometimes he would feel that weight press against his chest like a stone.”

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is a great collection of horror stories perfect for October. I’m familiar with most of the authors in this anthology, having read books by a large majority of them. Authors like Nova Ren Suma and Jonathan Maberry are sure to bring their personal brand of the strange and thrilling, but I was most impressed by authors like Marie Lu. Best known for her Legend series, Lu weaves together one of my favorite short stories in this book. The Girl Without a Face takes something as simple as a closet that won’t open and turns it into a tale that had me glancing at my own several times, hoping it was empty. April Genevieve Tucholke’s The Flicker, the Fingers, the Beat, the Sigh takes you for a ride where you end up rooting against key characters. This is my first reading experience with this author and it won’t be my last.

There were several stories in this anthology which were so good at introducing intriguing characters and exciting storylines that I found myself wanting the authors to turn them into full-length novels. Jonathan Maberry’s Fat Girl with a Knife would make a perfect introduction to a novel about an unlikely heroine battling for survival.  Jay Kristoff’s Sleepless starts off like a cheesy horror-movie where you’re screaming at one of the characters to be smarter, but ends up pulling the rug out from under you and begging for more in the end.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is fantastic for those looking for a quick scare during this Halloween season. While ghosts and killers may be the obvious choice for a horror story, many of these authors select more unconventional characters and what results is a really diverse blend of frightful tales that will surely delight horror fans.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

The Friday 56, #75: The Walls Around Us

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’re been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“She had these dark blue eyes, much like the sky outside, which had been filled with pounding rain and clapping thunder, but now I couldn’t hear the rain out there anymore. Or the thunder. I couldn’t hear anything at all apart from her breathing.”

I had a little bit of trouble with the way Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us ended, but the characters in this one were a good mixture of amicable and selfish. Each had a story worth reading and the mystery kept me turning the pages.

From my review:

“Violet has a bright future ahead of her, she’s spent her whole life training as a ballet dancer and all her work is finally going to pay off. Amber’s future was put on hold the moment she was locked up in Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center for manslaughter. But Violet and Amber’s lives are more connected than outward appearances would imply and both hold the answers to another girl’s terrible fate.” Find my full review here.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Series: N/A

Violet has a bright future ahead of her, she’s spent her whole life training as a ballet dancer and all her work is finally going to pay off. Amber’s future was put on hold the moment she was locked up in Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center for manslaughter. But Violet and Amber’s lives are more connected than outward appearances would imply and both hold the answers to another girl’s terrible fate.

“We were gasoline rushing for a lit match. We were bared teeth. Balled fists. A stampede of slick feet. We went wild, like anyone would. We lost our fool heads.”

Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us requires a suspension of disbelief as the author explores two separate characters’ stories that take place at two different moments in time, but still manages to blend the two despite this. The first thing that hits you is Suma’s beautiful writing. It’s often diaphanous, graceful and odd. While the story is told from Violet and Amber’s perspectives, it is the mystery of Ori, the talented and kindhearted ballerina that somehow ends up in the same detention center as Amber, that drives the narrative, how Violet can’t seem to forget her and how Amber can’t seem to remember her. It did take awhile to understand exactly what was unfolding before me and exactly what role these two characters play in Ori’s life, but once I understood, I needed to know the whole truth and thus kept turning the page.

Violet or “Vee” is not a likable character. She’s unapologetic in her arrogance and dislike for others. She’s vindictive and prone to bouts of jealousy. She’s driven by a dangerous mindset that someone else’s happiness subtracts from her own and though she’s aware of her own ugliness, she’s too preoccupied with her own desires to do anything about it. Amber, though she’s been convicted of manslaughter, is the more sympathetic character. Through her eyes, we get a glimpse into Aurora Hills, a place where every girl has a laundry list of regrets. They don’t regard one another as friends but they are nonetheless connected to one another through their shared circumstances.

While I enjoyed reading about these complex characters, the suspension of disbelief I was willing to take part in at the beginning was less forgivable when faced with the conclusion of the novel. I felt more confused than satisfied, but despite this, The Walls Around Us won’t be the last book by this author that I pick up.

Rating: 3/5

★★★