Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 25. A wealthy character

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

Every time I doubt Riley Sager he manages to pull it out, somewhere around the middle…Lock Every Door was one of his more popular novels, I believe, and I can see why. It has all the great makings of gothic horror but pulls out all the stops in modern twists and turns.

Left jobless, boyfriend-less, and homeless all in one day, Jules can’t believe her luck when she finds a job posting for an apartment sitter. Despite the weird rules provided by the manager, Jules can expect $1,000 at the end of each week she spends on the twelfth floor of the famous and mysterious Bartholomew apartment building – so she eagerly accepts the job.

While the other tenants living at the Bartholomew provide intrigue enough, Jules manages to befriend one of the other apartment sitters, Ingrid. When Ingrid goes missing, however, far more of the “quirks” she enjoyed about the Bartholomew before are cast in a new light. As she struggles to locate her new neighbor, the “haunting” of the apartments comes to a head.

Really, this book is about the ambience. The Bartholomew is a stunning setting for this gothic horror with a modern vibe. The novel is rich in details about the building and I could absolutely see it in my mind as I read. This is definitely something Sager excels at that I don’t see in many of his novels, but wish I did – I’m a sucker for a good setting in a horror novel (The Return, anyone?).

Like many of Sager’s works (which I will get around to later when I review The House Across the Lake) Lock Every Door starts real heckin’ slow. The first half of every Sager is just setting you up to believe that you know exactly where this is going, that we are on a predictable train ride to the full conclusion. But no. No no. The second half will have your head spinning, and the last twenty pages always damn near knocks your head right off your shoulders. Like I frequently say of Tessa Bailey, I was in doubt, but I have learned better: never doubt. Sager impresses me, and I like his writing style that’s easy to fall into and enjoy.

On a similar note, this book is masterfully crafted. Each and every detail, every offhand remark has a point. Do you ever read a book and wonder if it could’ve been written backwards? The mystery is just too perfect, the hints just too well placed. I think that impressive plotting is part of what made this book such an instant hit, and the reason people have been hooked on Sager for years now.

I liked that each and every character was complex and enjoyable. It is truly quite a cast, and it gives me Murder on the Orient Express vibes for sure. Just really unique characters with their own distinct story and ~vibe~. I loved Ingrid, the other apartment sitter, despite not wanting to. Her happy, bubbly personality is not only charming, but necessary to the story, in order to make Jules drawn to her and concerned by her disappearance. I liked Jules, too, but her character veers toward outgoing where I think I would be more reserved in the same situation. She’s not unlikeable, but for me, she wasn’t totally relatable, either.

All in all, I think it’s pretty clear I’m recommending this book! It wasn’t my favorite of his, hence the four stars, and I think that’s partly because the beginning was so dull in my eyes. I was waiting for things to get interesting, and thought it would happen a lot sooner than it did. However, overall, this is a damn solid mystery thriller, and I loved it!

Have a most excellent weekend, peeps!

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 5. Chapters have titles

Other Possible Prompts: 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 36. Recommended by a favorite author

Not a lot of prompts for this one! I want to be able to fill it in somewhere but none of these feel too good as a fit. I may end up moving this around later on.

I picked up Survivor Song last summer and finally got around to reading it this year. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t wow me. Let’s jump in!

A unique and very powerful, fast-moving strain of rabies has hit New England. People are quarantined to their homes until they can vaccinate enough animals to reduce the threat. Meanwhile, people getting bit are reacting within hours, becoming feverish, delusional, and very, very violent.

After nine-months pregnant Natalie is bitten by a crazed man who kills her husband, she meets up with her best friend, Rams – a pediatrician in the area who was about to be called in for her shift at the now overrun hospital. Time is running out for Natalie to receive the rabies vaccine to slow the spread – but what’s worse is that they cannot guarantee it will work. Navigating a world fraught with misinformation and government neglect, the two race to get Natalie to a working hospital to deliver her child before infection digs in its teeth.

First things first, this book is not for the faint of heart. Like, at all. There are some scenes so brutal and gory, I was gagging just reading them. I feel like it has to be, given the situation, but it can be really hard to read if you don’t like that stuff or can’t stomach it (which is me, most of the time).

It’s in these moments, though, of extreme gore or pain or anxiety, that I can see why Tremblay is a revered horror writer. He is quite good. The scenes he depicts are well written and most certainly horrifying….I just don’t know as if the apocalyptic stage is for him. I am curious to read some of his other, more paranormal/ghosty novels now. I might pick up one or two just for comparison’s sake.

This book is also quite difficult to read post-COVID quarantine, if that affected you mentally (which I think it has to all of us, in one form or another). You may think you’d be okay to read this, but there are some stark connections to humanity that don’t paint either situation in a pretty light – and it can be very hard to read without getting upset. Especially given its release time, and the dates that they used, I think it’s fairly obvious COVID was always meant to be the inspiration, but some of the similarities are jarring. People’s response to misinformation was especially nerve-wracking.

I found Natalie’s character to be quite annoying, which made me feel bad in the end, because she’s obviously going to be a quite different person in such a stressful situation. Rams handles it better, but Rams is also in a position to handle it better. I’d be freaking out if I were Natalie too…but her freaking out is pretty darn annoying sometimes.

I think this one just didn’t ~wow~ me. It’s pretty hard to wow me as of late. This is a good story but it just didn’t have me like “better recommend this to someone, stat”. Nah. Like I said though I think Tremblay spins a good yarn, maybe this just isn’t his wheelhouse. I think this one primarily became so popular because of COVID and the parallels between the two.

Have an awesome week, friends.

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 30. Audiobook is narrated by the author

Other Possible Prompts: 21. Published by Simon & Schuster, 25. A wealthy character, 29. Over 500 pages long, 37. Set in a rural area, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre

After listening to Bag of Bones this week it has swiftly become one of my favorite King novels. I love the paranormal aspect, the creepy history, and the depth of this story that becomes more and more realized with each passing page. Aaaand I get to fill the read by the author prompt without listening to a memoir?? Major win.

After the unexpected death of his wife and his subsequent writers block, author Mike Noonan packs up and heads for their summer home just outside of Castle Rock, Maine: Sara Laughs. Just as soon as he arrives, it seems that the home and whatever is growing within it has called out for him personally.

With a chance encounter on the fourth of July, he meets young widowed mother Mattie Devore and her daughter Kyra, who are in the throngs of a custody battle with her millionaire father-in-law, Max Devore. The more time Mike spends with the Devores, the larger the connection grows between them, and the more history he unearths – but despite the haunting that’s creeping in around Mike at Sara Laughs, he knows he can’t leave just yet…

This is a damn good ghost story is what this is. I love a good ghost story, and this one nails it perfectly. Just the right amount of intrigue with a touch of cold air on the back of your neck, and this hits the sweet spot. The story in Bag of Bones is incredibly dramatic and compelling even without the paranormal, but that part of it is just the perfect King touch.

There are some King books that I will simply never read and don’t feel the need to, but I was actually pulled into the idea of reading Bag of Bones after a chance recollection that I had seen the made-for-tv movie of it as a pre-teen. And if you know the subject matter of Bag of Bones, you know it’s not really the kind of scary movie a twelve year old should be watching. My mother found me watching it right towards the tail end, and promptly asked me to turn it off: so I never saw the end of it. Going into this book, I remembered some of the story, especially the more gruesome parts that had haunted me, but I didn’t remember enough to make this book unenjoyable or unsurprising. I really liked this call back and enjoying it at an older age.

I know I’m a frequent proponent of getting King a better editor, but this is one time where I couldn’t get enough of it all. I wasn’t bogged down by the setting descriptions, wasn’t bored by the interspersed dream retellings, certainly wasn’t hating on all the character relationships and dynamics. This is why I really feel like this is one of my favorites. The story carries itself without needing the benefit of being under five hundred pages. King had me from page one to page five hundred forty-four.

I also liked Mike Noonan a great deal more than I like most of King’s men (ha, ha). He’s far more likeable and his relationship with Ky is emotionally compelling. He feels less misogynistic, more thoughtful and caring, even if he is more sharply male in the way King seems to write them, if you know what I mean. Mike was just an alright main character, and I rooted for him in the way I rooted for Mattie and Ky as well.

While I don’t love the background of Sara Tidwell and the Red Top Boys – music/performing as a narrative just isn’t something that interests me, as I’ve mentioned before – their historical importance and the way their presence ties race and racism into the story is masterful. Additionally, having listened to the audiobook, having their jams come through my speakers once in a while was fine by me, too. It becomes more of a theatrical show than a book at that point!

Overall, I think it’s pretty clear that I enjoyed Bag of Bones. It’s definitely going to be one of my new favorite King novels, alongside The Mist and Gwendy’s Button Box. If I liked this one, what others would you recommend? (I’ve read The Shining, It, Carrie, Pet Sematary, all of the Button Box books, Elevation, Cujo, Sleeping Beauties, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and of course, The Mist…I had no idea I’d read that many, to be honest, and I don’t think I would’ve bothered to list them all out if I knew there was that many lol).

Have an awesome week, peeps!

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 1. A second-person narrative

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 21. Published by Simon & Schuster (audiobook), 33. A bilingual character, 37. Set in a rural area, 41. Involves a second chance, 50. A person of color as the main character

This book was decidedly not my brand of weird. Luckily, it’s all going to be worth it because it helps fill my second-person narrative spot, which I thought for sure would be a tough one.

Ten years ago, four friends (Ricky, Lewis, Gabe, and Cass) completed what they refer to as the “Thanksgiving Classic”: the week before Thanksgiving, they did unspeakable horror in a hunting accident on their Blackfoot reservation. Haunted by their actions, their guilt hunts them down one by one.

While this book is no doubt disturbing, the story didn’t really do it for me. While I can’t ruin the event of the Thanksgiving Classic for you, what spurred the nightmare that unfolds in this book is not quite the line-crosser that I was expecting. While horrible, it was truthfully an accident that just spiraled out of control. I think Jones was relying on the cultural significance of their actions bearing down heavier on the meaning. Maybe I’m completely jaded or just plain missing the point, but the horror of this doesn’t reverberate and stick with me. I certainly don’t see how it haunted Lewis, whose storyline is my favorite throughout the book.

Lewis’ story lasts for about half the novel, and seems like a slow descent into madness, until it’s a very fast descent into madness. This is the part that felt truly like horror to me and that I really enjoyed. He was a man tortured, and his own feelings of guilt added the level of depth the story needed to be truly scary. In contrast, the latter half of the book gets even weirder, but Gabe and Cass do not feel the same levels of guilt over the Thanksgiving Classic, and it changes the narrative. Instead, they are more focused on their heritage, honoring their culture, and the Thanksgiving Classic does not fit into the narrative of those things. It’s a different feeling altogether.

I got kind of lost at times because of the shifting focus of the narration and the fast pace of the novel. I had to keep rereading as I lost energy and got bogged down in all the details. I think under different circumstances, a different subject matter, it may not have lost me. And I certainly don’t mean the “Indian” piece of it – I actually thought the cultural aspect of this was very interesting; the inner monologue regarding their cultural feelings of guilt or worry about addiction, heritage, etc. are all very enticing parts of the novel, which make the focal point a lot stronger – but it’s actually that focal point that bored me to begin with.

Honestly, the talent potential is here though. Like, this definitely didn’t turn me off to Jones’ writing in general. I still plan to read My Heart is a Chainsaw this year. He does write with a haunting air, this story just wasn’t the one for me. It’s a very particular brand of horror that I simply do not subscribe to. It was weird, it was freaky, but it wasn’t for me.

Not for me. Maybe for you? This is definitely an issue of personal preference and more a subjective than objective dislike and review of this story.

Have a great week. 🙂

Gwendy’s Final Task by Richard Chizmar & Stephen King

Gwendy’s Final Task by Richard Chizmar & Stephen King

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre

Other Possible Prompts: 14. A character with superhuman ability, 15. A five-syllable title, 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 25. A wealthy character, 52. Published in 2022

Plenty of prompt options, but I’m going to leave this one in my bonus category for right now! I think I only still need to fill 43 and 52 of those, so I’m just going to leave it off for the time being. 🙂 This review and synopsis won’t make a ton of sense unless you’ve read Gwendy’s Button Box and Gwendy’s Magic Feather, both of which I highly recommend.

This final installment of the the story of the button box takes our heroine all the way to outer space. When Mr. Farris returns one last time and asks Gwendy for the biggest favor at all, she complies, but at a great cost: it’s time to get rid of the button box, but there are people after its power. People who will stop at nothing to take it away from Gwendy…

This story, of course, hits with the same nostalgic, small-towny note as the first two, and I thoroughly enjoyed the vibe and the atmosphere these books created. The button box, and all of its buttons spelling certain doom, remain just as real and horrifying in this book. The Jonestown incident from Gwendy’s Button Box really got me and stuck with me long after reading, but I think the parallels King and Chizmar draw between a post-pandemic world will shake you even more so. It’s such an interesting concept, that makes for a really interesting tale.

Gwendy is wonderful as always, but I felt her narration was even more authentic this time as we live inside her brain with early onset Alzheimer’s. Memory is key to completing her “final task”, but as she slips away, she has to guard the secret that she can’t recall names, codes, or key instructions. We live the narrative the way she’s existing in it, forgetting names or things we just learned moments ago in the novel. It’s very intriguing and definitely makes the story that much more nerve-wracking!

I was duly surprised by the gore and drama of this book. There are some crazy parts encompassing the good ol’ town of Derry, Maine, that disturbed me if only because they were so wildly unexpected. Much of the button box series isn’t terribly violent (I say much of it – there are certainly times), but this one amps it up a bit. I loved the weaving in of King’s other tales, too. Both The Dark Tower and It made minor appearances in our storyline this time (and I’m just now realizing, if “the clown did it” in 2024, does that mean nothing the Losers Club did even worked?? I have questions).

The writing duo that is King and Chizmar is a damn good one. I really enjoyed Chizmar’s writing all on its own in Gwendy’s Magic Feather, but it needed the horror… it needed King back. And I don’t usually say that. King, in turn, is incapable of writing a short and to-the-point novel all on his own, and Chizmar provides that perfect balance. The length and level of detail in Gwendy’s Final Task hits that perfect sweet spot between the two.

While this book is full of twists and turns I wasn’t expecting, I did kind of think we were in for one more big one that just never showed. The book shows its cards a little too quickly for my taste. I was expecting more because there was still so much to go when it got a little hairy, but things play out just about as you expect them to in the last 75-100 pages.

Have you read this series? I’m curious to hear your own thoughts on this ending!

Have an awesome weekend, pals.

Cackle by Rachel Harrison

Cackle by Rachel Harrison

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 35. From the villain’s perspective

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 6. Household object on the cover, 14. A character with superhuman ability, 37. Set in a rural area

I have some thoughts on Rachel Harrison. And some thoughts on Cackle. Some thoughts. And I’m going to say before anything, this is probably going to be my most spoiler-filled review ever, because there’s just no way to talk about the meat and potatoes of this story without ruining some of it for you – so if you plan on reading this at some point, bookmark my review and come back to it once you’ve finished this book.

After a breakup from a relationship that lasted ten years, Annie is forced to up and move from NYC to a remote town upstate called Rowan, where the townspeople are nice and the shops quaint, and take a new teaching job there. Luckily, as she’s settling in, she manages to befriend a sweet and welcoming woman of indeterminate age by the name of Sophie.

As Annie’s life becomes more droll and depressing, more chaotic and hard to deal with, her friendship with Sophie remains a constant. The women care for each other, Sophie dotes on Annie, and the mansion Sophie resides in becomes a harbor against the storm for Annie and her inner turmoil over her breakup. But weird things are adding up, and the townspeople’s original niceties begin to twist into something more like suspicion, until Annie’s not sure who the “good guy” is anymore.

So I guess my biggest thing with this is that in The Return, which obviously, I absolutely adored, there is some weird, ew, uncomfy feelings about the the main character’s relationship to others in the story. And I don’t mean that to come off as questionable romantic relationships. I’m actually referring to their friendships…Elise of The Return and Annie of Cackle both come from these dark pits of despair when they walk into the story. Whether it’s feelings of guilt or loss or both, they walk into our set stage just absolutely miserable. And I think, after reading both books, this is what makes them susceptible to the weird. To the horrific. What desensitizes them and draws them into it. The series of events that transpire before Rachel sits down to write these books perfectly positions them to accept the horrors of these toxic relationships.

Because that’s what Annie and Sophie are…a toxic relationship. Sophie is domineering and bossy, and a bit frightening. She uses gifts and showing constant, overbearing attention as a way to keep neglected, broken Annie coming back for more. Even when the signs could not be clearer that something is wrong, Annie convinces herself of Sophie’s goodwill in favor of being alone, or not being liked by someone as much as Sophie seems to like her. And it is Annie’s behavior and attitude, above all, that ruined this story for me. With the two of them like this, and Elise and Julie from the last novel like that…I can’t help but ask myself whether this is conscious or unconscious on Harrison’s part. Does she know she’s writing toxic relationships, or is she living them? That’s concerning in the way it comes out in her writing, in the way it’s romanticized, and in the way it plays out so horrifyingly.

Not to mention, this book is not nearly as scary as The Return. The Return scared the bejeezus out of me, kept me up at night! Cackle got me a few times with good jump scares, but nothing like it needed to be. Those jump scares are also never tied – there’s something missing from the end of this book that prevents it from being finished with a neat little bow. It didn’t do it for me in the horror capacity, and the story was lacking in that sense as well.

Clearly, there’s a point to this story. The not-so-subtle messaging about women, relationships, and power are center stage in this book, especially in the latter half. Obviously, being pop culture of a witchy nature, those themes are bound to come up, but I think they were meant to carry the novel in a way they just, *didn’t*. To some more inclined to think women can’t be truly wicked, I’m sure this novel is full of frights. To most who know the truth, this is nothing more than a revenge story turned empowered.

I wanted to like this. I wanted to LOVE this. But I just don’t, I can’t. Annie ruined it for me, and while I think Sophie was meant to be endearing to start, to persuade you like to her and follow Annie’s line of thinking, I disliked her from the first. It really surprised me just how much I didn’t care for Cackle when I absolutely loved Harrison’s debut and this one was supposed to be even better. Well. Can’t win them all.

My advice would be to skip this one, but I’m not against Rachel Harrison just yet. I will give her next release the good ol’ college try.

Have an awesome week, pals.

Cujo by Stephen King

Cujo by Stephen King

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What a major disappointment! I’ve had Cujo on my list for quite a while – I love Castle Rock, and I had heard good things about this one, but I did not dig it. It had some classic Stephen King problems, alongside the classic Stephen King vibes.

After a 200-pound Saint Bernard is scratched by a bat, he goes rabid and torments a poor side of Castle Rock and a small cast of characters. All of them seem to feel personally attacked by said dog; they each have reasons they think they’ve been targeted by Cujo’s wrath, almost as if Cujo is more than just a rabid dog…

Before I say anything else constructive, I absolutely need to say that Tad is one of the most annoying characters, maybe ever. While I own the physical copy, I elected to listen to it from my local library (Libby for the win, friends!) and the narrator gave him this shrill voice reminiscent of the kid in The Babadook. If you know, you know. So maybe his incessant whining and cries for mommy are less annoying if you read them off the page, but if I heard him say “I want Daddy!” one more time, I was going to get to him long before Cujo was.

Moving on, this book had some of that classic King rambling. I think of Pet Sematary and how the guy went on about a deadfall for like 100 pages. There are a lot of storylines in here that I actually don’t feel are crucial or helpful to telling the story, like the Sharp food company problem with Raspberry Zingers. It doesn’t actually do anything for the problem or the resolution, but it sure as hell takes up a lot of page space, and the only logical reason I can see for King doing that is to further expose the misery and current backstories of his characters. But it’s just done in so, so much detail.

I also fail to see too many “horror” moments in this book. Cujo is a good problem, I’ll give him that, but relatively speaking he doesn’t get a lot of screen time (or page time?). I think this novel could’ve been infinitely better if we had expanded on that. Every time we were actually following or facing Cujo, the story improved tenfold. And in particular, it could’ve been better if he had expanded on the connection to Frank Dodd. Frank Dodd was a deputy in Castle Rock who was actually strangling women years prior to Cujo’s reign in town, and at the beginning and at some point near the end, they almost allude that he has possessed Cujo, not that he is rabid (though he does test positively for rabies…?). I’m not doing outside research on this piece of the puzzle prior to writing this expressly because I want to relay it as I interpreted it, which is to say that it was not included much at all, to my disappointment. If that was his aim, it misses its mark.

Cujo feels merely like a fill-in story to further express the misery that grips Castle Rock. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, and it’s far from what I would consider good horror unfortunately. I’m curious about others’ thoughts, if you’ve read it!

Have a great weekend, friends!

Devolution by Max Brooks

Devolution by Max Brooks

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 27. Includes a map

Other Possible Prompts: 30. Audiobook is narrated by the author, 37. Set in a rural area

Well, that was fun. Not my favorite horror by a longshot, but just good enough to make it hard to sleep at night as I read it. The scenes of terror and the monstrous creatures that haunt the pages had me checking my door lock a few extra times than usual.

Devolution is told as a researched account of a volcanic eruption in Washington that brings a small green tech community called Greenloop a particularly terrifying problem. After the eruption, the extremely small community is cut off from communicating or leaving, no food, no internet…and while they are safe from the eruption, they’re not safe from what the eruption drove right toward them.

Kate Holland and her husband Dan had moved into Greenloop just a few days prior to the eruption, and now they are thrust into a story of survival both from themselves and the predators lurking just outside. Devolution is primarily told from Kate Holland’s perspective, as these are her recovered journal entries found at the abandoned Greenloop community months after Rainier’s eruption. Supported by articles, radio shows, and interviews with first responders, Kate’s story of the Rainier bigfoot massacre unfolds.

I could not have dragged this book out any longer: I started Devolution back in October and then kept putting aside, only to discover upon the release of The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge that it was my only book with a map in it – so I held on to it and waited to finish it in the new year. And here we are! I finished it mid-January but you won’t be reading this until February…I’m sure you’ve been dying to know when you’d finally get to read this very review! And I’m glad I finally got to it: I’m not sure if it was everything I wanted it to be, but for a horror novel about sasquatch, it kind of rocked. It was violent and gory, and deeply disturbing for the *hint* of humanity that plagued it.

The structure of this story and the way Brooks built it out adds more insight and horror to it that it definitely needed. Kate’s journals are the meat of the story, but the supporting interviews and information that accompany it inform the tale and our enemies. I loved the way it was set up, and I thought the audiobook, performed by a full cast, was impressive and interesting to listen to. That said, I didn’t love Kate’s perspective too too much at any given point in the story. Some parts were objective and important, but Kate’s character herself goes from one extreme to another throughout the story, and neither are enjoyable people. However, I think this change was really necessary to the conclusion, and I applaud Brooks for that transition through trauma. It was wildly interesting.

And actually, none of the characters were all that likeable. Even with my feelings about Kate, I think she was still my favorite (didn’t really realize it until I went to talk about these other characters!). The kinds of people that ended up in this Greenloop community all go from one extreme to another; as you meet them, they are mostly normal, likeable people, if not a little quirky and pompous, but devolve (pun intended!) into these angry, broken versions of themselves as the story goes on. So yes, you may not like the characters very much…but it illustrates Brooks’ point very well.

Also, while this is unrelated to the meat and potatoes of this review, I thought Greenloop’s community was an incredible idea and a wonderful work of the green imagination…until the isolation started. Greenloop is almost entirely self-sufficient, with solar power, methane gas based heating systems, each home specifically designed to harness the power of the earth. Their groceries would be delivered by electric drones and vans. They were hours from Seattle should they need the city, but the idea was that they had all their earthly comforts dropped into this idyllic PNW forest. I think something like this made widespread would be amazing for climate change and the planet, but Brooks’ interpretation doesn’t exactly make it sound desirable! What an interesting take on going off the grid, that hopefully doesn’t deter us from all doing the same down the line…since it definitely didn’t work out for Greenloop, lol.

I think that about does it. I don’t have a ton to say, mostly because I don’t want to ruin the plot for you! This was kind of a curveball, not entirely unexpected but much more intense than anticipated. I would definitely recommend Devolution; it’s not a super long read, but definitely don’t read it in on a camping trip! 😉

Have a great week friends!

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 39. A Middle-Grade Novel

Other Possible Prompts: 14. A Character with Superhuman Ability, 15. A Five-Syllable Title, 22. An Unlikely Detective, 37. Set in a Rural Area

I feel like my “Other Possible Prompts” section always looks the same…I appear to read some very similar stuff, haha. I picked up 100 Cupboards to fill my middle-grade novel prompt, but there’s also a backstory here! This novel was not a random choice, nor just one that sounded interesting…I’m pretty familiar with what’s popular in middle grade novels from my work at the library, but 100 Cupboards has additional meaning to me.

Henry York’s parents are missing, so he’s being sent to live with his Uncle Frank and Aunt Dottie for the summer in Henry, Kansas. Summer with his cousins is finally helping him taste some sense of normalcy from his own life, and letting him be a kid – but better yet, he’s discovered cupboards buried under the plaster in his attic bedroom. Slowly, painstakingly, scraping and picking away at the plaster, Henry and his cousin Henrietta discover ninety-nine cupboards that seemingly help them enter other worlds. The cupboards are doorways to somewhere else…but the thing about doorways is that things can come back through them, too – and that’s where the trouble begins.

When I was twelve, my grandparents gave me 100 Cupboards as a Christmas present. We almost always got at least one book for Christmas in those days, and N.D. Wilson’s novel was mine. I love the creepy cover and the horror look in its coloring. I recall reading it in the sixth grade and just absolutely loving it – this was roundabout the time I was finally becoming a reader, for real, primarily because I was picking up good books like this one instead of that weird regurgitated garbage we feed kids, ie. “sad animal story”, or “magic animal story where they’re weirdly human”, or “girly drama about a boy that reminds you about true friendship”. There’s nothing wrong with reading those and enjoying them, but I think they became so much of a fad when I was in school that I forgot to just try to read things I actually enjoyed. And oddly enough for a kid with anxiety, I loved horror. Now an adult with anxiety, I still love horror! And I think this is one of the first books that got me hooked on that.

I really enjoyed completing this prompt, and not just because the book was pretty decent. I think this one really gave me a blast from the past, and made me evaluate where my reading tastes originally derived from. I recalled very little of the story, so as it unfolded for me nearly ten years later, I enjoyed it just as much the second time. I thought it was so interesting to see one of those pivotal turns in my reading taste.

I did remember, however, this book being much scarier to twelve-year-old me than it was to twenty-one-year-old me. I found very little of this book truly frightening, but I can see why it may have felt ghostly and horrific to a younger version of myself. And that said, I still really enjoyed it. This is a good yarn, if you will, and I would actually love to know what happens next. I may try to squeak both sequels into my reading for the rest of the year, just to see what happens.

This book is also more fantasy than I typically read, in keeping with my last two reviews! I think you should always expect some fantastical element of something when reading a middle grade novel, but the depth of this fantasy also went much deeper than I recalled. Even as a kid I didn’t read a lot of fantasy; I never read Harry Potter and I wasn’t into the Warriors series…I was more likely to pick up science fiction, or realistic fiction. This novel held a much higher rating in my head prior to me getting to the last quarter of the book or so, actually, because it was about then that it got really wild and a little harder to follow. They’re trying to get you to read the sequel…but really they lost me quite a bit when it started developing further. It was just an interesting observation for me. As a child, I never read the sequels – so clearly I was not so entranced at that age either.

And as much as I enjoy reminiscing about my childhood reading habits, I’m writing this review as a twenty-one year old bibliophile, so not all of this should come from my twelve year old self. And as an adult, I have to say, this book is stellar. It’s well written, it’s got well-rounded characters, and there’s just enough to it to keep the pre-teen following the plot and the adult pretty interested. There’s just little specks of suspense here and there that I was absolutely living for.

I had so much fun with this prompt and reading this book, so I was really excited to share this one. I hope I didn’t bore you too much with my nostalgia!

Have a great week, friends!

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

With this, my last review of the year, I was really feeling some Stephen King vibes. I have a love/hate relationship with King’s writing that almost entirely centers on him being a genius, but one who must not have met a real woman in his whole life. Every time I read his books I am struck with just how badly he writes women – but Sleeping Beauties is the anomaly. With the addition of Owen King as a writer, I was absolutely struck by the brilliance and beauty of this work as a horror fantasy novel.

Sleeping Beauties follows the town of Dooling, a small town containing a women’s prison, and the lives of the people within it as a virus named Aurora spreads through the nation. Aurora afflicts only women, spinning them into cocoons they can’t wake up from as soon as they fall asleep. Dooling struggles to stay awake and deal with the aftermath of losing an entire town (and an entire world) of women in just a few days…but meanwhile, the men’s search for the solution grows dangerous.

This is easily one of my favorite King novels now. It’s right up there with The Mist, which for sure hits different in the middle of a pandemic (for real, read it and tell me that wasn’t the entire United States locked in that grocery store). But Sleeping Beauties taps into a different fear, I think of both men and women, of losing the other sex. I was fascinated by the responses of each, of the drama that unfolds, and the sacrifices they make. Because this story is so focused on women, I think it absolutely could have flopped with King. When I read things like Carrie, I’m disturbed by how poorly he understands girls and women, what motivates them, and how they act in real life. Carrie almost certainly would have been a very different story if it was written by a woman, if you think about it. I had the same fear for Sleeping Beauties – but it is truly evolved from his original works, and I tend to wonder if that’s Owen’s magic.

As incredible as the action and drama of this book is, what really had me invested by the end was these personal relationships and bonds formed between characters. When it comes down to the climax, the turning point, and the ultimate choice for our characters, I was bawling. You come to respect the positions and reactions of each character to this cataclysmic event, even if you don’t like them all that much. Even characters I disliked (and there are so, so many…but incredibly, by the time your halfway through or so, you know them all like the back of your hand) felt redeemed to me in their search for justice, or their search for the women lost in their lives.

I think the premise of this book, and the lesson it teaches through the horror it’s driving at, is extremely important – and it was especially important when this book came out, in 2017. I’ve had it on my shelves since that time, but I wish I had read it then (even though, reading it now, I have much more perspective on this). These women were abused, ignored, continuously beat down physically or emotionally by men, or were in their current situations (like a women’s prison) because of men. The heart of this story is that many of these women felt a relief from Aurora – and that’s a terrifying prospect, to wish to sleep permanently over continuing down your current path. If you think back to 2017 or even 2016 when this book was coming to fruition, I think you can see where this fear of losing the backbone of our society really stemmed from. And just like Carrie, I think this story would look very different if it was written – or even just finished – by a woman. And that, my friends, is why I was really crying at the end of this book.

Overall, this is what I have always craved from a Stephen King work: complex women. They’re the crucial missing piece for me when people claim King is a master of the craft. I don’t disagree, and I never have. His words on the page are absolutely art… but art can still be problematic. Our favorite artists, too, can still be problematic. But Sleeping Beauties is a redemption. Sleeping Beauties has shown me that the master understands his shortcomings and is prepared to grapple with them. And for that reason, I’m highly recommending Sleeping Beauties to anyone who will listen these days.

And so marks my very last book review of 2021! This was an awesome note to end on. It takes me awhile to work up to committing to a King novel, but I’m never disappointed when I do. He captures a vibe that not other author on my radar ever can.

I can’t wait to share with you my 2022 reads and work through The 52 Book Club challenge with you!! Enjoy the new year, and stay safe friends!