The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 29. Over 500 pages long

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 8. Involving the art world, 9. A book that sparks joy, 14. A character with superhuman ability, 37. Set in a rural area

Wow…this. This is one of my favorite books of this year so far. And so, so unexpected. This review is going to be my crazy ramblings to my friends immediately after reading it, but somehow made (hopefully) readable – I’m here to sell you on this one! I am, however, going to completely break the usual review format because this book is extremely hard to describe.

I thought I was getting a haunted house book. Based on the side flap, that’s kind of what I was expecting. But that’s not what this is, like, at all. After the death of his father, Nate and his family return to his childhood home for a fresh start. Nate is glad his father is dead. Maddie needs new inspiration for her art, which has suddenly stopped coming to her. And their son, Oliver, is an overwhelmed empath who needs a new school and new chance to thrive socially.

Almost as soon as they arrive in their new home, though, there are strange and unexplainable occurrences. Nate sees his father everywhere, and strangers in the yard. Maddie blacks out while she creates and loses her art pieces. And Oliver makes a new friend, Jake, whose feelings he cannot see or feel like everyone else’s. This is a terribly oversimplified description of this crazy-ass book: there’s also cult shit and time travel and violence and friendship, but without ruining it for you? This is a book about a family.

Probably a great time to acknowledge that the two main characters share my SO and I’s names. I think I’ve mentioned it in a previous post, but I was book shopping with my sister last year and picked up The Book of Accidents with absolutely no knowledge of what it was. I was standing there reading the side flap and said “Oh my god, the two main characters are Maddie and Nate!” and my sister said, “Well, now you have to get it.” The rest is history. It was a little odd at first, trying to settle into it, especially because the two characters started off really resembling us…but I got used to it after a while!

I also *have* to comment on how awesome Maddie and Nate’s relationship was. It was really nice to read a horror novel with an actually healthy example of a relationship in it. These two are a team. They communicate really well. They’re individuals, but support each other in all the right ways. Incredible example of love, strength, and support that comes through right to the end. For once, the horror isn’t how horrible their spouse is to them. The relationship between both parents and Oliver? Also awesome. Which, of course, becomes a big part of the story…

All the supporting characters in this book do just that: support. They add a lot to the story, and I love how round and human they are. No character is neglected, all sides are considered. Even if it’s just Oliver’s nature to see past people’s exteriors, this story does a great job fleshing out even the most minor of characters.

The writing absolutely makes this book. The story is wild, imaginative, and very enjoyable – but without Wendig’s wit and fantastic, swirling prose, it’s just another great book. His touch tips it over the edge of great into outstanding. I described it to my friends as “Stephen King, if he respected women and had an editor with a backbone”. Basically, it’s really, really well written.

I just can’t wait for someone to read this so I can talk about it with someone – I loved this social commentary disguised as a horror novel, and you will too!! Grab a copy. It’s out in paperback now!

Have a great week!

The House Next Door by Darcy Coates

The House Next Door by Darcy Coates

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 42. An indie read

Other Possible Prompts: 17. A book picked based on its spine, 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

This is my very first Darcy Coates novel and I have to say, I’m more impressed than I thought I would be! I’ve been reluctant to pick up Coates in the past because the cover art looked rather amateurish, or it just didn’t have the hype around it to make me think it was a good novel…and while this didn’t blow me away, it was a fun read and I will definitely pick up some more.

After the previous family residing at Marwick House leaves their home in the middle of the night to gunshots and never returns, Jo decides that the house next door really must be haunted. Months later, young and hopeful Anna moves in, fleeing a bad past and determined to make a go of it in spite of the home’s history. Despite Jo’s reluctance to be near Marwick House, she becomes fast friends with Anna and spends more and more time inside the Marwick residence…and it quickly becomes clear something isn’t right with it.

Through creepy encounters, mediums, and history lessons from their neighbors, Jo and Anna unearth the disturbing history of the Marwick House and the ghost that resides within it.

There really is nothing special about this book exactly, but I love that it reads like a good horror movie. Blumhouse could buy up a Coates’ novel and just hand them to their directors, honestly. As a fan of horror in both its literary and film forms, I was totally down for this. If this is what Coates’ other novels are like, I can see the draw and the appeal. I’ve seen plenty of them in bookstores, I just didn’t realize they were actually good…I like the cover art of this one okay, but I don’t recall caring for the others, so I never picked them up. I’ve just never been very interested in reading one, but I was at Book Warehouse recently and it was only five dollars, soooo…worth a shot!

I also wasn’t terribly attached to the characters, which I suppose is a good thing for a horror book. You never know who won’t make it to the end alive. However, I could visually imagine them, as well as the setting of the story, very easily. I think that was more important for the atmospheric horror that Coates was creating. The story never leaves the neighborhood, and so you have this feeling of being trapped in the presence of the house and its inhabitant, just like the characters, who tend be so blank-slate that you can step in and be part of the story very easily. The characters were flat but I think in this case, that’s totally fine. The history of the haunting and the ghost herself were very well fleshed out and didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

I don’t have tons to say about this one. It’s an easy 230 pages, and if I had actually had time to read this week, I could’ve finished it in an afternoon. It’s very quick. I definitely think I will try another Darcy Coates based on this book; the premise of this one wasn’t even my favorite so I think there’s potential to enjoy another one more. Any recommendations from people who have read more?

Have an awesome weekend!

Misery by Stephen King

Misery by Stephen King

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 34. An author’s photo on the back cover

Other Possible Prompts: 8. Involving the art world (literature), 37. Set in a rural area, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 49. Book title starts with the same letter as your first name

I feel like I’ve been contemplating reading Misery for a very long time, but I’ve only just now gotten around to it. I wasn’t missing much. I know this is considered one of his scariest works, but I just didn’t love it like I thought I would.

Bestselling author Paul Sheldon is celebrating the completed manuscript of his latest book with a trip to Colorado when he crashes in a snowstorm, left to die, if not for Annie Wilkes – his number one fan who happened to be driving by at the time of the crash. Unfortunately for Paul, he’s just killed off Annie’s most favorite character, Misery, in his novels. Now, she “nurses” him back to health following several broken bones in the accident, while he whittles away at a new novel that brings Misery back to life, just for her.

I don’t think much explanation is required on this front, as I think most people know enough about the Misery story to infer what I mean by “nursing”. While Annie Wilkes has medical training, it is never her intention that Paul be healthy enough to leave the room and home she keeps him captive in. This novel, naturally, is an extremely gory one for that reason.

So gory, in fact, that I was physically sick reading some of it. Some of it is just so horrifying. And while super gross, that’s kind of what keeps my rating from being much lower. At least these parts venture into horror; I know a lot of people are absolutely terrified of Annie Wilkes, but her manic moods just weren’t as alarming to me. She’s definitely scary. Uncontrollable. But she wasn’t the villain of my nightmares.

I think part of the problem there might be that I think of the Annie Wilkes from Castle Rock, too. I love Castle Rock, the Hulu show. The Annie Wilkes of that show (season two) is definitely unstable, but the actress plays her well, as mentally ill but not unfeeling. She experiences blackouts. She has manic moods. But she still appears somewhat well-meaning or her intentions clear. I think the Annie of Misery is supposed to appear more malevolent and truly evil at her core, but I could only see a mentally ill woman that people would rather shut out than help. And yes, (*spoiler alert*) I know she killed a crap ton of people…but my point still stands. She got no help, and no justice for her crimes, either.

So, this book kind of drags, waiting for the next horror to be inflicted or escape attempted. I also don’t really care for the interspersed pieces of Sheldon’s novel that he’s writing in captivity. It eventually comes full circle to be relevant to the current reality, but I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it added much to my reading experience. Another case of “King could use a better editor”. Like me. Hire me Stephen.

I have to say that the ending actually made me gasp out loud. I will not spoil the ending…but if you’ve read it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Audible gasps as I read Annie’s fate. That gave it like, at least one more star in my book. It was a good ending and not at all like the King endings I’m used to that often feel real but unsatisfying.

I think that will about do it for me. I’m dying to hear other opinions on this one! I think for most people it’s like a formative horror story, and it can do no wrong, but having read quite a bit of King I just don’t think this is his best.

Have a great week!

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 49. Book title starts with the same letter as your first name

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 50. A person of color as the main character

I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I just didn’t dig this one. The art style, the flow of the story…none of it was for me, though clearly it’s not bad – as evidenced by the thousands of positive reviews and ratings.

10-year-old Karen comes home from school one day to find that her upstairs neighbor, Anka, has been murdered. Anka didn’t entirely have her wits about her, having experienced a great deal of trauma during the Holocaust, but when her death is ruled a suicide, even Karen knows there’s something afoot. Now, with her mother sick and her brother acting strangely, monster-loving Karen sets out to discover the truth about what happened to her neighbor.

This book takes a long while to settle in. The story gets there eventually, and becomes easier to follow, but I really felt like I jumped into something from nowhere. I think Ferris also makes a lot of unnecessary comparisons and analogies both through her text and her art that do not contribute much to the story. It’s an twisting narrative to try and track, that’s for sure. And unfortunately, once I finally sunk into it, it was over: the big secret is not revealed, the story not complete, with a second novel to be released (looks like it’ll be out September 22, 2022…five whole years after the first publication!). Sadly, I don’t think it held my attention well enough to have me waiting for volume two with bated breath.

I really didn’t enjoy this art style. I can 100% acknowledge the talent – the pen and lined-paper drawings are nothing short of impressive, but it really didn’t do it for me. Based on the cover, I was kind of expecting more of a dots/comic book style, which I might’ve preferred, especially in this noir/crime/horror genre. Still very impressive, but notably not my cup of tea.

Anka’s story is the most riveting piece of this book, and I do believe it was always intended to be the focal point. Her life history and her story in Berlin is wildly interesting to follow and includes some of my favorite illustrations throughout the book. The point of tracing her steps is, of course, to find motivation and suspects for her suspicious murder. Anka lived a troubled life, to say the least, and there are plenty of people in her story with motive. I would read this snippet as a full novel, easily. It’s Karen that kind of ruins it for me.

I know Karen is supposed to be representative a lot of things; her narrative is supposed to connect the past and present – but I just don’t like her very much. While she’s pitiable, she’s not relatable. She’s passing through life rather than living, which makes her a better vehicle for telling Anka’s story. I feel bad for saying it, though.

It’s really hard to criticize this book in a way that makes sense, because I think a lot of people are going to be like, “Well that was meaningful because…” – and I don’t disagree. That’s the hard part: I can see what Ferris was trying to do here, I just didn’t really like it. I guess that’s what I’ve been getting at this whole time. I can see why people enjoyed this, but I can also see all the reasons why I didn’t. It was 100% not what I was expecting, and I’m definitely upset that I’m in it for two books if I want the full story (that was unexpected, and I’m very sorry for the books original 2017 readers!!).

So no, I’m not recommending this one today. I hope I have a better review for you next Tuesday! Enjoy the rest of the week, friends!

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 37. Set in a rural area

Other Possible Prompts: 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings (for now), 22. An unlikely detective, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 25. A wealthy character, 41. Involves a second chance, 52. Published in 2022

I’m laughing just a little realizing that both the Sager novels I’ve read this year fit the exact same prompts, for the most part. He definitely has a genre.

Banished to the family lake house in the wake of her husband’s death and her subsequent drinking binge, actress Casey Fletcher is bored (and drunk) out of her mind. After saving her wealthy neighbor Katherine Royce from drowning, she begins to pass the time by watching their glass-walled home across Lake Greene – but she quickly discovers not all is as it seems in the house across the lake. When Katherine inevitably goes missing, Casey quickly believes her husband, Tom, is to blame.

As she works to uncover where Katherine may have gone, or whether she’s alive at all, Casey uncovers a trove of secrets surrounding the banks of Lake Greene. It seems there may be a lot more lies below the surface…and no one can be trusted.

Like I mentioned when I reviewed Lock Every Door, Sager starts slow. I got, like, halfway through this book before things truly started getting wild. Before that, it’s just Casey spying on her neighbors and stumbling around her house, to be honest. But THEN. This book is a deep well of WILD that never seems to end. The slow beginning is what knocked it half a star in my book, because pretty much every other part of this book is incredible and a crazy ride. I thought, initially, that the subject matter didn’t sound like my jam, so if you’re in the same boat, I urge you to give it a try anyways. It was a lot different than I expected from the synopsis and went in a very different direction ultimately.

Lake Greene makes an absolutely stunning summer backdrop for this story. Living in New England myself, it was easy to picture Lake Greene in all its glory, and it gave me the nostalgia feelings of late summer evenings that project a false sense of calm. Much like Lock Every Door, this novel is atmospheric, playing on the setting to add to the creep-factor.

Despite Casey’s self-destructive tendencies, I was attached to her. She makes very poor decisions, but as was confirmed for me by the ending of this book, she has a strong conscience and heart beneath her stony exterior. She’s headstrong with a purpose. She’s loyal. I wanted better for her. Katherine, too, is magnetic. I loved her character, and the push-and-pull drama that falls around her makes her even more alluring. I can picture both of them in my mind, Casey and Katherine, absolute polar opposites, but this novel draws them together through tragedy.

While I was reading this, I just kept hitting walls where I would get really into it, decide I was going to bed at the end of the chapter, and then A HUGE CLIFFHANGER would get dropped on me right on the very last page. There are a lot of cliffhangers, especially in the latter half. It’s a wild ride.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, I was fortunate enough to get an advance readers copy of The House Across the Lake in exchange for my honest review! It released on June 21, 2022 (and here you are, getting your review a month later).

I hope you all have a wonderful week! 🙂

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: 21. Published by Simon & Schuster (audiobook)

Other Possible Prompts: 1. A second-person narrative, 5. Chapters have titles, 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.