I’ll Be Watching You – Courtney Evan Tate Quick Review
Emmy Fisher lives with her 15 year old daughter Leah in a small Florida town where she owns and runs a beach-side inn. They live quiet and idyllic, uneventful lives. Mother and daughter sharing a close bond. When one day Leah goes out into the water and never returns, Police rule her death a drowning despite not finding a body. But Emmy finds that, despite their closeness, Leah did not share everything with her and her dark secrets might be the reason she’s disappeared.
I’ll Be Watching You is told between mother and daughter in present and past. The story is easy to follow despite the frequent POV shifts and time jumps. Tate’s writing really pulls through what is a pretty saturated story and genre. This standard light mystery has a fast paced, to the point, tight plot and gets dark and twisted in a hurry. It turned out to be another of the few books I’ve devoured in one sitting this year.
Both POV’s build tension. The mother’s POV emotionally touching and gut wrenching at times as she deals with grief and the motherly instincts to protect her daughter. The daughters piles questions for the reader and though she makes some infuriating decisions is rounded off with a good dose of growth by the end of the book. Both experiences are told and felt with a level of authenticity and relatability.
The end reveal was not super surprising but was satisfying. There are so many adult males in Leah’s life that the suspect list is lengthy but there are clever tells and diversions throughout. The ending itself was warm and satisfying despite the delve into a few hard to believe places. Did I need the forced relationship in the end? Probably not – but I did kind of like the fuzzy, sweet, everything worked out note the story closed on.
– 3/5 A quick and simple missing child mystery with a tight plot and satisfying reveal.
The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon Quick Review
The world of The Priory of the Orange Tree holds its breath for the return of an ancient enemy. Divided, the different lands hold tense and tenuous relationships. Something is stirring, the likes of which the world has not faced in a thousand years. Ead, Tané and Queen Sabran each must play a part to save civilization from falling into the clutches of the Nameless One.
Dragons, magic, politics, pirates and battles. The Priory of the Orange Tree was exactly the kind of epic fantasy world I was craving to sink into. I devoured the sizeable book (which literally hurt to hold up for extended periods of time) as quickly as I could read. Notes in tow. Pages of notes. It had been so long since I’d delved into a complicated world that I had to make notes to avoid constant confusion during the first third of the book.
Packed full of interesting depth and detailed world building, it certainly delivered. The magic was interesting. The history rich and the scope of the plot spanned across several characters, cultures and objectives, throughout a whole continent.
It was evident Shannon mixed and diverted from the classics with modern ideals.The characters were diverse, not just in appearance but in complexities of their personal lives, relationships and dilemmas. There was no shortage of strong capable characters with lots of girl power packed in which was a nice change to the typical setting. People didn’t feel constrained due to gender rather, if they were held back it was because of circumstance.
The characters were also quite well into adulthood which was another nice shift from other stories of the same kind. The roles typically kept for coming of age characters as if teenage years are the only point in time in which you experience significant growth. I appreciated the youthfulness displayed in these late 20 – early 30 somethings.
Ead and Sabran’s love story was an appreciated natural and complicated romance. Tané and Ead were favorites of mine in particular. I really rooted for their personal journeys.
The downsides? The pacing felt a little off at times. Too drawn out due to the scope of the plot which resulted in some lukewarm feelings about major events at times. Character deaths felt sudden, almost quickly brushed away which left me feeling unmoved by them though the impacts on connected characters were supposed to be deeply altering. It felt a bit like a culling of no longer plot necessary characters in a large cast.
I think perhaps the battles suffered a little from similar pacing issues. This resulted in the ending battle falling a little flat as it felt short and small compared to some other scenes.
Some of the plot twists unfortunately seemed not very well planned or perhaps given little setup in order for them to be surprising which, to me, felt a bit like cheating. Then came the lengthy explanations post big reveal. I personally prefer when twists are entwined and embedded through the story. When done well, even if they aren’t totally surprising, they’re satisfying.
The ending of the book was satisfying enough but left me with some lingering questions. I hope this world will be revisited. I’m not sure if this book will be serialized or extended but I would definitely love to read about it again.
– 4/5 To make short of a massive book, it was worth the read and time. Though lacking in some areas, the world building and detail was enough to mostly overlook its shortcomings.
An Anonymous Girl – Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen Quick Review
Jessica Farris signs up for much more than she bargained for when she stumbles into Dr Shields psychological study on ethics and morality. She expects the transaction to be simple – questions answered and money received on the other end. But Dr Shields has another agenda altogether more twisted and Jess is in far too deep by the time the plans are revealed.
Told through two P.O.V’s, Jessica and Dr Shields. The former a personal first person and the latter in second person, giving an effect of clinical, coldness and watchful control. An anonymous girl is an unsettling, absorbing and addictive read throughout. Easy to get through and difficult to put down.
The premise of a psychological study turned cat and mouse game was what really enticed me to the book. The way it all slowly unravels piece by piece was riveting, feeling the sense of something being very off from the moment you read Dr Shields P.O.V.
Jess goes into the situation blind and unprepared. Understandably she’s nervous to answer personal questions but is assured by the legitimacy she thinks a psychological study holds and the promise of the compensation on the other side. The sense of the unbalanced power dynamic is unnerving as Jess sits vulnerably in front of a computer and is watched and analyzed.
The set up and even beyond that as Dr Shields pushes Jess into more vulnerable positions is palpable tension.
I will say though I that I did wish for bigger and better twists as I expected most of them and never really felt that surprise or shock I was looking for. At points the story could have done with being just a little faster paced though I did understand the need for that build up, it took away from the tight suspense.
Morality is a major theme throughout, brought up in many ways. Abuse of power, infidelity and withholding truths being some of the things the main characters exhibit and struggle with in different ways. Though it was a bit on the nose with little ways for the reader to interpret the subject or the questions brought up themselves.
The characters are intriguing and complicated though Dr Shields at times is a little too villainous villain. There are points later on as her P.O.V seems to shift into a more personal tone that you find yourself somewhat understanding her behavior and motivation more. But she mostly remains this kind of alluring, calculated and twisted, unrelatable person.
Jess is the relatable average young woman. Her flaws pave the way for a big portion of the trouble she gets herself into. Her motivation revolves around survival and she uses this as a means to pull through the things thrown at her rather than being particularly smart or skilled. I did kind of appreciate that. They didn’t pull back from making her a real person who does shitty things, makes mistakes and isn’t a perfect, mystery solving genius who can go toe to toe with an older psychology graduate with years of experience under her belt, money at her disposal and an esteemed reputation.
The books charm is mostly in the dynamic between the two women. Each capable and damaged in their own way. Each with their own kind of allure. The cat and mouse game between them creates a creepy atmosphere and suspense as you wait for characters to catch on, anticipating the reactions and consequences once it all really hits the fan.
The story is not as psychologically scary as I’d have liked. It’s twisted, dark at times and light on violence. But it’s definitely one of those easy to consume stories. Entertaining and short.
– 3/5 An alluring and engaging read about an average young woman caught in the web of a manipulative and twisted psychologist who pushes her slowly and surely down a calculated path of her own very personal study.
People are falling asleep in the isolated town of Santa Lora. Falling asleep and not waking up. A virus is spreading, the town is locked down, and we follow the separate yet intertwined journey’s of a college student, two new parents, two little girls, a psychologist and a college professor through the unfolding events.
The dreamers is a thought provoking, insightful, dream like read with an edge of raw emotional dread.
The story, told in short chapters of third person, multiple P.O.V, is immediately reminiscent of Stephen King’s Sleeping Beauties though clearly not nearly as long. Its beautifully written prose and close inspection of characters in a chaotic setting lend it a surprising intimate quality.
What I expected before reading was a sort of short, sci-fi/thriller/horror. An outbreak in an unsuspecting town leading to mass chaos. A familiar concept. What I got was an easy to devour, melding of genres with a more tender and human take on that familiar concept. More tension and slow dread than horror. Though the pacing can lag in some places feeling a little slower when I wanted things to pick up and repetitive when I wanted things to move forward.
Curiosity regarding the sleeping sickness is definitely a driving mystery but the personal experiences are the main focus. It felt less like it was about the virus or events or even the specific characters but instead the different relatable experiences of characters from all different places in life. Within that intense setting, highlighted under that kind of panic and urgency, drawn out and caged in with few options and everything important to lose.
The virus provides this opportunity and insight. The meaning and value of things are questioned vulnerably; dreams, life, death, love, loss, how unstable and fragile normalcy and order can be and how easily pulled apart. The weight of these things when the threat of death is so close.
It’s the similarities in the personal experiences of characters, that on paper are so different, that reminds you of the connectedness of the human experience.
Though short, I felt quite a lot more for the characters than I thought I would. Walker did well pulling me closer much sooner than I usually would, using the seriousness of events to fully illuminate characters. Despite the fact that the book often read a little removed, a step away from the story like watching a movie. The experienced thoughts, fears and pains evoked will stay with me (more so than the characters).
You don’t get a whole lot of answers in the end though for me this was not an expectation. The virus and the events surrounding it in the end are left mysterious and dream like. Reality and delusion remain a little blurry throughout.
– 5/5 A beautiful discussion and exploration of the human experience, highlighted by the chaotic events following after a virus is unleashed on an unsuspecting town.
The Magic Order Vol. 1 – Mark Millar and Olivier Coipel Quick Review
A dark, graphic, adult fantasy/horror comic. The Magic Order Vol. 1 though a little derivative, gives enough to hold and entertain you.
A secret magic order that holds the monsters at bay from the world is threatened by a wronged villain. Madam Albany is out to take the magic order protected evil tome and turn the way of things on its head. Cue magic, graphic murders, monsters and an angsty family full of tropes. Set within beautifully dark art (that is kind of the biggest redeeming quality of the whole thing).
I won’t go into the frustration of that consequence erasing ending because ugh, that really ruined the magic for me.
But I loved the art, was interested in the world, the magic, artifacts, monsters, even some of the characters. Say what you want, I am always into the girls like Cordelia. Dark, self aware, powerful, slightly on the crazy side packed into a “fuck it” attitude. There was the making of something there that I could easily love. God, I just wish there was a little more detail put into it than what was given which was a little sparse and rushed, TBH.
– 2/5 I would totally read more (if there’s more – I never know with these things) but that ending…
I have received a copy of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.