Advance Review: The Need

★★☆☆☆

A mother alone with her two children, settling in for the night as her husband is abroad. An intruder who knows them intimately, lurking in their home. The Need is eerie and gripping from the very first page.

This is the first of Helen Phillips’s books that I’ve read, and I was thrilled with the captivating quality of her writing, especially her raw portrayal of motherhood. The pacing is quick, with frequent changes of scene, bouncing between the present and days earlier. I tore through the first half of the book, but found myself beginning to lose momentum as the plot progressed further. The Need became more dreamlike and ambiguous and ultimately ended this way. The final act of this book was unsatisfying and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, but this was an interesting read nonetheless. Continue reading “Advance Review: The Need”

Advance Review: Nancy Drew: The Palace of Wisdom

★★★☆☆43837351

Kelly Thompson has brought new life to this well-loved character with her quick, witty graphic novel. I was an occasional mystery lover growing up and though I was never an avid fan, I fondly recall the Nancy Drew books I took from my elementary school library. I enjoyed the reintroduction to familiar characters (including The Hardy Boys!) and how Thompson portrays them in their late teen years.

The story begins with the midst of her hi-jinks, finishing up a mystery involving the disappearance of her school’s mascot. As Nancy begins searching for her next case, she is suddenly drawn back to her hometown by a mysterious letter relating to the death of her mother. Back in Bayport, Nancy reunites with her old friends and rallies the group to aid her investigation.

The artwork throughout the entire graphic novel is gorgeous, I’m a huge fan of Jess St. Onge’s style. The story is filled with interesting twists and a diverse cast of characters. Though the plot didn’t completely thrill me, I was definitely hooked by the cliffhanger and I will be looking forward to the next installment. Continue reading “Advance Review: Nancy Drew: The Palace of Wisdom”

Advance Review: The Parade

★★★☆☆ 40819224

I read The Circle when it was first published several years ago. Dave Eggers had written a classic tale of dark secrets behind a glittering facade that devastates when it begins to fall apart. It was a quick, satisfying read and with this fond memory in mind, I jumped at a chance to read his upcoming book, The Parade.

The premise is simple enough: a pair of western contractors have been sent to an unnamed country that has been ravaged by years of civil war. In this time of peace, they have been contracted to pave a road bridging the northern and southern regions of this country. The story is narrated by Four, the older and more experienced of the two men. Four intends to carry out this job has he has every assignment before, but Nine throws a wrench in that. As Four keeps his head down and his gaze fixed on the finish line, Nine soaks up the landscape and the hospitality of locals.

The Parade chugs along at a steady pace. I wouldn’t characterize this as particularly suspenseful, but the book doesn’t drag on. Eggers leads you on with the promise of further intrigue and maybe, just maybe figuring out what this book is actually about. It feels almost allegorical with the way he layers on the vagueness: an unnamed company sending two men who go only by pseudonyms to an unnamed country after a conflict between nameless factions. It felt at times as if I knew the machine they were using to pave the road better than the characters before me. I enjoyed how both Four and Nine’s relationship evolved over time, but the ending ultimately fell flat. The final twist was tragically predictable and didn’t land with much more than a thud. For better or for worse, I’ve never read anything quite like The Parade before. Continue reading “Advance Review: The Parade”

Review: Short Stories by Steven Penny

This post post features reviews of both of Steven Penny‘s recent short stories, End of the Line followed by Eleventh Night.

★★★33795159

Meet Maeve O’Grady, just eight years old but already well acquainted with the harsher realities of life. Her workaholic mother and womanizing father fight incessantly despite their separation, but Maeve still loves them both equally. After another switching off between her parents, Maeve rides the train home with her mother. As she dozes, Maeve encounters a mysterious figure with more knowledge than he could possibly have.

End of the Line is a fast-paced story that shows the reality of a child living between two homes with parents that have only their child in common. My heart ached for Maeve, who was deprived of the ability to experience the world as the child she was. Instead, she spends her days performing a balancing act, trying to mediate the problems of the adults who were supposed to care for her above all else. The situation reaches a crescendo as Maeve is left to reflect alone as her mother sleeps on the train. Revelations come pouring out and the world turns on its side in a sinister twist that hits like a blow to the gut. End of the Line was published in January 2017.

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39863838★★★★☆

In the midst of the Troubles, our narrator meets the beautiful Sadie Murphy at a dance. Though they have only a fleeting moment together, her memory persists until they meet again, on opposite sides of a town divided. Decades later he recounts the memory of the woman he thought he’d marry over drinks at the local pub.

This story is very brief, but also quite touching. In the midst of conflict that was pervasive Northern Ireland, a love blooms between two people of heritages on either side of the Troubles. Despite knowing they were doomed, it’s hard not to get enthralled as their relationship blooms from acquaintances to lovers over a year. Eleventh Night was published April 16, 2018.

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I received my copies of End of the Line and Eleventh Night from Steven Penny in exchange for honest reviews.