book reviews

‘Area X’ Meets ‘And Then There Were None’ In Abby Geni’s ‘The Lightkeepers’

the lightkeepers 2

Abby Geni’s The Lightkeepers is part Area X trilogy, with a swirl of And Then There Were None. It is a bit Jon Krakauer meets Alice Seobold. The novel takes place on the Farrallon Islands, a brutal and isolated archipelago off California’s coast. Nature photographer Miranda arrives to the islands, to join a small crew of biologists already living together in a small building, dorm-style.

The islands are a strange and foreign landscape, isolated and wild, adrift from the world. The biologists are single-minded and obsessed, as one would have to be to leave society behind and become completely immersed in nature.

As with Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X trilogy, the descriptions of the natural landscape here are intoxicating, delightful, both dangerous and wondrous. Pouring rain and scabbing rocks and diving, squawking birds are ever-present. Living on the island there is no way to escape its looming, wild nature. But those that found Area X too weird will appreciate The Lightkeepers, as its struggles, however powerful and awesome they feel, are all of this earth.

Some of the struggles are natural, and some are man-made. One of this book’s messages is that we, humanity, are also part of this wild world, just like the waves beating against the rocks. I’m not sure how much of a spoiler this, as the summaries seem to mention it, but if you want to go in a bit more cold, stop reading here. Still reading? Okay. Let’s continue.

I mention Alice Seobold because Miranda is raped by one of her fellow biologists shortly after her arrival to the island, after a night of hard-drinking. Geni crafts this plot delicately, chronicling Miranda’s very intimate struggle. The external aftermath of the incident, as well as the dramatic change to Miranda’s psyche, is explored.

This isn’t a cheerful book, but if you read the blog often, you know I’m not the biggest fan of the cheerful ones. It is lonely, haunting, and powerful. It reads like a quiet dream of an alien landscape, at once totally strange but totally familiar. Read it.

The Lightkeepers on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

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Lose Yourself In Lisa Lutz’s ‘The Passenger’ – Review and Giveaway

the-passenger-lisa-lutz

When I found my husband at the bottom of the stairs, I tried to resuscitate him before I ever considered disposing of the body. I pumped his barrel chest and blew into his purple lips. It was the first time in years that our lips had touched and I didn’t recoil.

The Passenger, Lisa Lutz

Thus begins Lisa Lutz’s newest thriller, The Passenger, in which a woman tries on identities like new clothes. The novel is broken into sections based on the identity our protagonist assumes, beginning with Tanya Dubois, a woman on the run from her past and her husband’s body, left lumped at the bottom of the stairs.

Tanya Dubois, aka Amelia Keene, aka a handful of other names throughout the book, creeps like a chameleon through the story, trying on identities and glancing back into a history that is slowly revealed to the reader. She acts as a woman adrift, unmoored by circumstances and reacting to situations as they arise, ever a survivor, always a ghost in society’s gigantic machine.

When Tanya aka Amelia meets another woman like herself, a blank slate looking to wipe her past clean, they twist forever into each other’s fates. This is a book about women on the run, and women who get tired of running. This is a chase novel, as I found myself chasing down this woman’s identity just like other characters in the book. Our heroine pushes bravely on, her world collapsing behind her, each step heading further into trouble. She has a penchant for bars, ever-debating what her new identity would drink, and she seems to struggle to make right in a world gone terribly wrong.

The comparisons to other hot thrillers with shifty heroines, the Gone Girl and Girl on the Train set, are impossible not to make. Both books are name-dropped on the dust jacket of my copy. So if you liked those books, then absolutely, check this one out. But too many comparisons limit The Passenger’s own strange and shifty identity. There is something mesmerizing about watching our protagonist step through a house of cards just before its fall, again and again. We may love to read about women gone wicked and wild, but Tanya/Amelia is less that than a shell, becoming whatever her surroundings require of her.

This isn’t Lisa Lutz’s first novel, but this is the first time I had heard of her. I will definitely be checking out her previous work. If you are in my area, Lisa Lutz will be making an appearance at The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, March 15th.

I’m lucky enough to have an extra copy of The Passenger to giveaway, see the Rafflecopter widget on the Kalireads.com Facebook page.

The Passenger on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

 

 

Drench Yourself In The Sweet, Sweet Sap of Jennifer Weiner’s ‘Who Do You Love’

who do you love

People are hard on Jennifer Weiner. I’m probably too hard on Jennifer Weiner. She speaks up for her genre, those books that the literati cast aside as chick-lit. She speaks out against guys like Jonathan Franzen, who have buffooned up into odd caricatures of themselves. She’s like a lone woman speaking out against a vast structure of how literature works today. I play on both teams, I love both sides of this argument. I’m a fan of chick-lit, but I also love some books for plot and others for language and see it as a fact, not as discrimination. But props to Weiner, I think her discussions bring her more into focus in my world, which is great marketing.

All this Weiner-debate got me Weiner-curious, and I decided to pick up her latest release, Who Do You Love. Who Do You Love takes sweetness to Cotton Candy Crème Frappucino level, as Rachel Blum and Andy Landis come together and tear apart what feels like a billion times throughout their childhood, teen years, and then adulthood. They first lay googly love-eyes upon each other, in the now chic fashion of Fault in our Stars, in the ER as children. Rachel, a frequent hospital resident due to a heart condition, strays from her ward at night. Andy, a bit of a shy and neglected ruffian, broke his arm and (scary!) arrives at the ER with no parental escort.

When they reunite on a trip for Habitat for Humanity in high school, love blooms. First love. Tummy butterfly love. They seem perfect together, but life gets in the way (doesn’t it always?). Love tracks these two through life like gum on a sneaker. They always fall back into each other’s arms. Feelings for Rachel follow Andy as he trains for the Olympics, being a gifted runner since he sprinted on his paper routes. Feelings for Andy nag Rachel during awful blind dates with other men. This is a “Will they, or won’t they?” book. A “How many times will they try?” book. And a, “Really, how plausible is this?” book.

But that’s okay. Weiner doesn’t mind taking the love story full nacho cheesy, and it is delicious. (I have no idea why all my metaphors for a sappy love story are food and beverage related. But I can’t stop.) If you are a slightly bitter person seeking fine literature and emotional depth, then pick up A Little Life and stop reading this review already. There’s nothing wrong with that! But if you love love, you will love Who Do You Love. It will remind you of your awkward first loves, your horrible break-ups, and (maybe) make you hopeful for the love-ly miracles still to come. There’s something a little bit magic about an unapologetic romance laying it on thick, playing all your emotional chords like a sad, beautiful symphony. Prepare to laugh, to feel the tears welling up, to get angry, and then be exhausted that this couple is still fighting or not talking or with other people. Prepare to feel all of this, and then go back in for more.

Who Do You Love on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

John Scalzi’s Lock In Takes the ‘Artificial’ out of AI

In John Scalzi’s novel Lock In, the near-future brings a virus which leaves millions across the U.S. locked-in. Everyone has a child, mother, brother or sister stranded in a body that won’t work, while their mind is still fully active.

Take a Slow and Creaky Ride With Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train

Comparisons to Gone Girl are coming hot and heavy, but where Gone Girl is twisty, The Girl on the Train is slow and stabbing, with Rachel desperately flailing to find answers to her own lost time.

We’re Living In The Perfect Climate For An Arctic Thriller

From melting Arctic ice opening up new shipping lanes, to conflict over the newfound resources, to viruses reanimating after thaw, White Plague places protagonist Joe Rush in the midst of an area primed for conflict.

When Good Genes Go Very, Very Bad: Franck Thilliez’s Bred to Kill

With Bred to Kill, the second English release from the Inspector Sharko series (the sequel to Syndrome E), Franck Thilliez carves a niche for himself by wrapping his thrillers in science, wielding biology as other writers utilize dark streets and shady characters.

Post-Christmas Alaskan Myth Review–Put on Your Snow Boots!

William Giraldi’s Hold the Dark comes at you quick and low, making no apologies for its sudden deaths and heartless plot twists. Revenge is sought, darkness is held at bay. Although it Hold the Dark was published in September of 2014, the story it tells isn’t a new one. This is the stuff of legend, this is a handful of Greek and Roman myths lost together in a snowstorm.

One Life Is Lost So Another Can Be Found In Amy Rowland’s The Transcriptionist

There is basic equipment required: a headset, a Dictaphone to play the tapes that must be transcribed, and patience, a willingness to become a human conduit as the words of others enter through her ears, course through her veins, and drip out unseen through fast-moving fingertips.
–Amy Rowland, THE TRANSCRIPTIONIST

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