OMG this book a WILD ride! It is practically a guarantee that I will thoroughly enjoy just about any book that involves cults… but a cult centered out reproduction and motherhood? Holy moly count me in. What really stood out to me about Just Like Mother (and what I believe sets it apart from other reproductive-themed thrillers) was how it features a child-free protagonist and explores the many layers of being a woman who decides to not have children. To a cult of women who deify motherhood as the pinnacle of being, who is a woman that rejects motherhood? A radical, a traitor, and a threat to their entire identity and ethos. The sense of dread and tension that permeates and persists throughout the entire story really is fantastic. Every moment that I was listening to the audiobook, my stomach was turning with the feeling that some horrible, terrible, ever-worsening doom was just around the corner. I definitely recommend this one to fans of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Joanne Ramos’s The Farm, and to anyone who has been searching for a child-free perspective in the reproductive thriller genre!
Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel, (List Price: $26.99, Tor Nightfire, 9781250787514, May 2022)
I watched the Netflix Series Behind Her Eyes and loved the suspense and supernatural themes. So, when I saw that Sarah Pinborough wrote Insomnia I knew that I had to read it! The story itself reminded me of Behind Her Eyes and the movie Hereditary. You have a mother as the main character who is doing everything she can to find out about her estranged mother’s life as she tries to uncover family secrets to protect her family. But, is she protecting her family from the impending danger, or is she the danger her family needs protecting from? The whole story you are in just as much disbelief as the main character…she doesn’t know if she is awake or asleep, if she is sane or going mad like her mother, and as things twist and turn deeper into the story a mind-bending and time-bending twist is added!
Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough, (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780062856845, April 2022)
Ah southern gothic, my dearest friend, you’ve done it again. Isabel Cañas has joined hands with the spookiest of ghosts and written a tale of romance, mystery, and horror that would have even the stoutest individual shaking in their boots, wondering who would survive, if any at all. I loved every single second of The Hacienda, and am remiss that it ever ended, considering how desperately the author makes you crave more. This book is absolutely perfect for fans of Crimson Peak and Mexican Gothic, but most importantly, it’s perfect for the adults who were once teens in love with the supernatural romances of the ’00s and early ’10s.
The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas, (List Price: $27, Berkley, 9780593436691, May 2022)
Reviewed by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Holly Black has returned with a darkly enthralling new world where shadows are more than just a trick of the light, and magicians are the thing that go bump in the night. With everything from a kick-ass female lead, grand heists and blood magic, this is an urban fantasy that comes with a bite and leaves with a door slam to the face. I can’t wait to see where Black takes the rest of the series. Readers with a taste for the macabre won’t be able to put this one down. Black’s foray into adult fiction feels like a breath of fresh air for the modern fantasy reader, with a dash of dark academia and a new magic system that begs us to ask the question: what really is a human soul?
Book of Night by Holly Black, (List Price: $27.99, Tor Books, 9781250812193, May 2022)
The twists, the turns, the traumas! A family tale of suspense that hooks the reader from page one. Hepworth creates a world of privilege and ease where nothing is what it seems including your own perceptions.
The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth, (List Price: $28.99, St. Martin’s Press, 9781250229618, April 2022)
A crazy time-travel novel that is also a meditation on loss. The main character is mourning the loss of her lover as she tries to hold on to her job as “time cop” that is also frying her brain. I really loved this story with its many and varied villains and exploration of what regular time travel would do to the human brain. The protagonist keeps up her work to catch glimpses of the woman she loves in the form of kind of time-ghosts in the hotel where she works for wealthy people who go back in time and try to mess it up for sport and profit. Sometimes our biggest villains are ourselves as she learns while pushing away the people remaining in her life who wish to help.
The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart, (List Price: $20, Ballantine Books, 9781984820648, February 2022)
There are so many captivating things about this novel…the insight the reader gets as to what it takes to be a classical musician, the background on the history of violins (and one violin in particular) and how they’re made, the main character’s determination in the face of struggle, family dynamics and expectations, racial issues that rear their ugly heads, and a mysterious theft of a priceless instrument…I could go on and on. Put all this together, and you get a beautiful story about a boy who loved his grandmother more than anyone in the world…one who persevered to become a classical violinist and prove to everyone that he could do it. Brendan Slocumb effortlessly keeps his story flowing, leaving the reader rooting for Ray McMillian while trying to put the pieces of the theft together. Such a great read!
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb, (List Price: $28.00, Anchor, 9780593315415, February 2022)
Greenwich Park is a fabulous debut novel. The book starts off with a letter to Helen from someone in prison wanting her to know the truth. So, you know from the beginning that something bad is going to happen, but you don’t know who wrote the letter. Told from three points of view–Helen’s, who hopes to finally be bringing a baby to term after many miscarriages; Serena’s, who is Helen’s college friend and now married to her brother Rory; and Kate’s, Helen’s child hood friend who is her brother Charlie’s on again and off again girlfriend–the story takes time to develop but once it starts going it seems to go in lots of different directions at once. The ending will surprise you, and then the rest of the ending will surprise you even more – and then the last sentence on the last page happens.
“I was twelve years old when those shadows started to form a shape, a face. Started to become less of an apparition and more concrete. More real. When I began to realize that maybe the monsters lived among us.”In the deep South, Chloe Davis is a therapist with a secret. Her father is in jail for the murder of multiple young girls who disappeared from her rural town when she was only a child. But now it is happening again and this time it seems the girls have connections to Chloe herself. But can Chloe find the truth and stop the killer, even if they are someone close to her?Stacy Willingham’s A Flicker in the Dark is a solid debut thriller, full of the thick humidity of Southern summers spent running through the woods. Readers will race to the end to find who is at fault and may discover that no one can be trusted.
A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham, (List Price: $27.99, Minotaur Books, 9781250803825, January 2022)
Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina
“Unlike most of my work, Apples turned up in my head whole one day a few years back. I knew exactly where it was headed, how I’d get there, and how I’d wreck the neighborhood on the way there before I ever touched one letter on my keyboard.”–Cathrynne M. Valente (My Favorite Bit)
The newest book by the prolific and much-beloved Catherynne Valente is described as a thriller, a horror story, and a fairy tale. But more detailed descriptions are delibertately lacking. That was intentional: “It has such a massive twist that we’ve worked so hard not to spoil in the lead-up to its release (and reviewers have kindly helped out!)”
The story centers around Sophia, who is a happy housewife with the perfect husband living in a gated community she loves. Until one day she discovers what looks like the tip of a human finger when she is cleaning her house. Suddenly, Sophia’s perfect life seems not quite so perfect.
The conspiracy of silence around the plot and its twists has not prevented a rising chorus of surprised delight from Valente’s readers. Valente has written across multiple genres and formats, including the recently released speculative climate-change graphic novel The Past is Red, which was a recent Read This Next! selection by Southern booksellers. Her work, as an interviewer for Gridmark Magazine notes, includes stories of myth and superheroes, science fiction and fantasy, comedy and horror, and both middle-grade and adult.
“It’s very important to me to always be trying something new,” says Valente, “pushing the edges of my skill level”
What booksellers are saying about Comfort Me With Apples
As crisp and delicious as its namesake, with an equally rotten core. Catherynne M. Valente continues to be one of the most creative, diabolical, and insightful writers of our time. ― Jenny Luper from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC Buy from Bookmarks
Small and delicious, more thrilling than thriller. Valente’s prose is gorgeous and strange. I caught the mystery halfway through the narrative, which didn’t lessen any of this little novel’s power. For that witch in your life, or for a woman you know that needs to be reminded of her own ancient worth. ― Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC Buy from Main Street Books
What a creepy delight this short book was! Valente’s masterful prose creates a sense of suspense and unease that permeates the whole book– we know something is amiss, however, it isn’t until the very end that we understand who and what the threat really is. Comfort Me With Apples is like if The Yellow Wallpaper and The Bible combined and made one twisted new story. ― Jessica Baker from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC Buy from Bookmarks
Yowza, this book! I don’t really know how to classify it – sort of horror, sort of sci-fi, sort of a class of its own. A retelling of Adam and Eve, but with a cast of Stepford-like characters, this packs a lot of wildness in just over 100 pages. Apples truly is difficult to describe without giving anything away so trust me – just read it. ― Andrea Richardson from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA Buy from Fountain Bookstore
About Catherynne M. Valente
Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over two dozen works of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Sturgeon, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, and Hugo awards, as well as the Prix Imaginales. Valente has also been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with a small but growing menagerie of beasts, some of which are human.
I thought I had this all figured out until the very last page, (that I had to reread several times, mind you), which then made me rethink the entire novel! Now, that’s the sign of a good book. I am still thinking about Emma and Ben and their country mansion…and whose truth I should believe. A compulsive read!
All I Want by Darcey Bell, (List Price: $17.00, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 9781982177270, January 2022)
Reviewed by Jill Naylor, .novel in Memphis, Tennessee
After the puzzling disappearance of her sister when they were teenagers, Jane Ellison’s mission in life is to get answers…at any cost. After being fired from her FBI job as a “super recognizer,” Jane returns to her hometown to retrace the events of the night Kit disappeared and, in the process, begins to question her own sanity and abilities. I enjoyed Strohmeyer’s effortless approach at suspense, by offering pieces to the puzzle slowly and strategically while not becoming cheesy. The multiple POVs were just enough as to not confuse the reader but offer valuable insight into the connected characters. I would recommend this to my “thriller friends” who desire suspense without the violence or darkness that most tend to lean on. I would read another from this author.
Do I Know You? by Sarah Strohmeyer, (List Price: $16.99, Harper Paperbacks, 9780063091290, November 2021)
Wow. I loved this book. This is my first time reading something by Mitch Albom, though I’ve shelved him more times than I can count over the years. I initially picked up this because I loved the size. But within three sentences I was fully hooked. What was intended to be a 2 hour beach visit turned into a 5 hour beach stay and I didn’t pack enough sun screen so I got a little burnt. Thanks Mitch. This book is an interesting mixture of lite religious philosophy and thriller novel? Thriller is the wrong word but you cannot put the book down because you have to understand. For anyone who grew up religious and has moved away this will be a compelling book that speaks to longing that many humans have for a god. It will also leave you thinking about the nature of that god for many many weeks after you read it… Ugh. What a great book. I can’t wait to make people read it!
The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom, (List Price: 23.99, Harper, 9780062888341, November 2021)