Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 340 pgs.
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Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson, the latest of my buddy reads on StoryGraph, tells the tale of true crime aficionado Phoebe Walsh who comes back to Florida to help her younger brother clear out their father’s house after he dies unexpectedly. She’s working on her dissertation while clearing out her father’s house, but her love of the true crime genre has warped her sense of the world and relationships. Her brother, Connor, is a foil to her darker, sarcastic, untrusting personality. He sees everything as rosy and loves just about everyone, even the mysterious neighbor, Sam, next door, despite his lack of video gaming knowledge.

Phoebe and Connor have several years between them and each lived with a different parent — Connor lived with the mercurial father and Phoebe lived with the practical and strict mother. They saw little of each other growing up, and Connor’s memories of their father are very different from Phoebe’s memories. Both are anxious in different ways, but together they are able to work together through the anxious stuff. Their relationship was a highlight of the book, as well as Phoebe’s forced reconnection with a childhood friend.

Phoebe is a character who puts up walls and while she’s analyzing everyone and everything around her through the lens of serial killers, it’s clear she’s yearning for connection and family. Her tentative interactions with the neighbor are telling, even as she’s pushing away with comments about serial killers and the dangers of the unknown.

“‘I’ve read The Phantom Prince,’ I said. ‘The updated version with the foreword where she completely disavows her relationship with Ted Bundy. If that doesn’t convince you that romance is dead, nothing will.’

Sam stepped down from the ladder, as if he needed to be more grounded to have this conversation. ‘You do that a lot. Bring up serial killer stuff when the topic turns more serious.'” (pg. 176)

Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson was a fun read for the summer, not too creepy and not too cheesy. I really enjoyed the well developed characters and Phoebe’s journey back to her childhood and her ability to overcome her obsessions and anxiety to reconnect with her brother. The romance was steamy.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Alicia Thompson is a writer, reader, and Paramore superfan. As a teen, she appeared in an episode of 48 Hours in the audience of a local murder trial, where she broke the fourth wall by looking directly into the camera. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children

Sex Work and Other Sins by Julianne King

Source: the poet
Paperback, 62 pgs.
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Sex Work and Other Sins by Julianne King is a slim collection of poems and essays about the resistance of women against the societal mechanisms that seek to push them into poverty when they have children to care for with little help from the fathers. There are a number of themes about family and trauma throughout the collection, but it is also about resilience and empowering yourself to prioritize what means the most in your life.

The opening poem in the collection, “this is an attack on my family.”, lays out that trauma:

this is an attack on my family.

in this family
we are not
the safe harbor
providing shelter and healing wounds
we are the tempest
prepare to be thrashed
clawed and sharpened
until you are ragged
and worn
in exactly the way 
we are
the way we recognize
in the way we find least

There are a lot of misconceptions about sex work in that people assume the women are promiscuous, are uneducated, and are immoral. But what happens when you look deeper into the reality of their lives and the struggles they face in a capitalistic society where money rules everything? How do you care for your children if your husband leaves you and you have bills to pay and mouths to feed? Would you choose working 3 jobs to pay the bills and never see your children or work one job you hate so you can earn enough to live and see your children grow?

cardinal red.


i prayed for my soul to
separate like a cardinal
and perch on the ceiling fan
to watch over me
to sing out a warning if he moved
to kill me
i guess it helped
that i already wanted to die
maybe he would do it for me or


Don’t think the entire collection is gloomy and angst-y. There are some humorous moments, particularly in my favorite poem, “dust.” Sex Work and Other Sins by Julianne King will have readers sitting back on their heels with its visceral emotion and anger at those of us who sit outside and judge. Many women often judge others until they are forced into situations where desperation causes them to make the same decisions they decried. Some women are not strong enough to fight for survival, while others are. What is the sin? Perhaps it is the judging of others.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Julianne King (she/her) is the author of Bible Belt Revolution. Her poetry has been featured in the South Florida Poetry Journal, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, and on Rattlecast Open Mic. King’s work focuses on mental health, surviving Christianity, reclaiming the body, and post-traumatic growth. She lives just outside of St. Louis, Missouri with her children and chosen family.

Happy Place by Emily Henry (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 11+ hrs.
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Happy Place by Emily Henry, narrated by Julia Whelan, is set in a Maine cottage worth millions of dollars (while I love escapism, there’s something about this setting that rubs me the wrong way). Perhaps it was the semi-whining about the sale of a home by Sabrina’s father. Eventually, this one wins me over once I look past the elitist nonsense.

Harriet is nervous about returning to her happy place in Maine without Wyn, who broke their engagement with her five months ago with little explanation after nearly a decade. One week in paradise might turn into torture where these two are concerned, especially as sparks continue to fly even if they are pretending to be in love. Parth, Kimmy, and Cleo round out the friends group.

Julia Whelan is an excellent narrator, and I love how she brings out the personalities of each character as she performs. She’s definitely on my very short list of go-to-narrators on Audible.

Happy Place is so much more than just a romance and book about a vacation home, it’s about friendships and how we change over time. In some cases, we leave our friends out because we fear their reactions to what we tell them and in other cases, our lives get so busy we can’t possibly keep in touch with everyone we’ve known throughout our lives. I loved that Henry parsed out the friendships throughout the novel while talking about Harriet and Wyn’s relationship — the flashbacks enriched the secondary characters and their relationships to one another.

I don’t necessarily consider this complete fluff given the relationship between Cleo, Harriet, and Sabrina and how they have coped with being “shut out” of key happenings by their best friends. It made this story far richer than a beach read often is. There are plenty of light moments, but there are some key heavily emotional ones in Happy Place by Emily Henry, narrated by Julia Whelan, but it’s a book you probably don’t want to miss this summer.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Emily Henry writes stories about love and family for both teens and adults. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the now-defunct New York Center for Art & Media Studies. Find her on Instagram @EmilyHenryWrites.

Lilies on the Deathbed of Etain and Other Poems by Oisin Breen

Source: the poet
Paperback, 52 pgs.
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Lilies on the Deathbed of Etain and Other Poems by Oisin Breen catapults the Irish mythology of Étaín into a context that is both modern and from days of old. A maiden who is turned by a jealous first wife of Midir into a pool of water and some other objects, including a fly, before being reborn 1,000+ years later. Breen has clearly chosen this figure for the story of death and rebirth, as there is recurring imagery and sadness throughout regarding death, lingering ailments, and enduring love.

In the opening lines, he tell us, “All this ends with the hocking of soft skin in loose folds.” Death is never the same, “For each of us it differs,” he reminds us. And this can be true, especially when taking into account how we live. Have we been kind? Have we cared for family? Have we lusted? “But our death will come in a single reckoning,” he says. We often do not expect to die when we do. Our expiration is unknown to us, no matter how healthy we try to live or how much we turn to modern medicine and other tools to extend that expiration date.

When we come to the second section of the title poem we find that Étaín is traveling with a companion in a small chamber from which she can move in and out of freely. We can only imagine what it is to be her, so small, so trapped, but yet free. She has not returned to her true form, but she is still a companion. This situation is equal parts comforting and terrifying. But aren’t all relationships like this?

Breen is providing a journey in myth to illustrate the human condition as it stands now, even without our ability to utilize real magic and turn people into pools of water. We seek revenge and companionship in other ways, whether on the Internet or in bars, etc. But one of the most beautiful passages comes in the fourth section:

now think.

When you watch a candle - its balletic fire a torrent of seemingly 
unending heat, a sharp fixed point of gulped air - silence meets
a breathless rhapsody of death, and there are instants of
stillness: moments where the flame flickers out, then continues;
they backed by equal moments of surprising light, where blue
flickers - in milliseconds - venomously cohere,   then vanish - a
traceless soliloquy of continuance.

Lilies on the Deathbed of Etain and Other Poems by Oisin Breen breaks structure at just the right places, mixing in narration and white space, to create his own myth and point us to the finality of it all. In the end, he calls on poetry as song, a way for humanity to come together, to create its own song, teach and learn from it as never before. This is a journey that leaves you questioning, but also falling a little bit in love with the myth and its poetry.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Oisín Breen is a 37 year-old poet, part-time PhD candidate in narratological complexity at Edinburgh University, and financial journalist, covering the registered investment advisory space in the US. He has 209 poems published in 105 journals and anthologies in 20 countries, and across two collections.

Dublin born Breen’s second collection just launched this month, and is already gathering praise. Lilies on the Deathbed of Étaín & Other Poems is a set of longer form works in an experimental ouevre. Breen’s critically aclaimed debut collection, Flowers, all sorts in blossom, figs, berries, and fruits, forgotten was released Mar. 2020 by Edinburgh’s Hybrid/Dreich Press.

You can find Breen on Twitter: @Breen, and on Mastodon: @[email protected].

A Season for Second Chances by Jenny Bayliss (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 12+ hrs.
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A Season for Second Chances by Jenny Bayliss, narrated by Ell Potter, is my 7th book for the 12 books recommended by 12 friends reading challenge. Yes, I am ahead of schedule – at least on this one thing.

Despite all the success she has had, Annie Sharpe’s 26-year marriage comes to a spectacular halt when her husband’s antics lead her to say, “enough is enough.” Feeling adrift from her city life and what it represents, Annie anchors herself in Willow Bay as the caretaker of a house by the sea as the owner takes a holiday with a friend away from the harsh conditions of winter. The six-month stint is exactly what she needs to set her life back on track and find out what she’d like to do next.

Annie finds the seaside town delightful, and she embarks on a new business venture — the Saltwater Nook Cafe. She finds that her temporary venture may run afoul of the proprietor’s nephew’s plan to sell the place. John Granger, the nephew, is a bit stiff and stand-offish. He has plans, but many see him as a money-grubbing relative of the actual building’s owner.

A Season for Second Chances by Jenny Bayliss is a delightful story about second chances. I loved all of the characters in Willow Bay. Loved the book club, loved the cafe employees, the two pubs/restaurants, and so many of the interactions with the local residents. They were all so delightful. Max, Annie’s ex-husband, drove me insane! I don’t know how Annie could have put up with him in 26 years of marriage. An absolutely lovely seaside trip.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A former professional cake baker, Jenny Bayliss lives in a small seaside town in the United Kingdom with her husband, their children having left home for big adventures. She is also the author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas, A Season for Second Chances, and Meet Me Under the Mistletoe.

Searching for the Butterflies You Crushed Last Night by Valax Malum

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 61 pgs.
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Searching for the Butterflies You Crushed Last Night by Valax Malum is a collection that could trigger those with suicidal thoughts, but it also could help them work through some of those dark feelings by demonstrating that they are not alone.

The collection opens with an author’s note about the struggles of the author and cautions that the author has struggled to move past those suicidal thoughts and is in a better place. As a bookend to that, there’s a note at the end of the book discussions the need for validating feelings that are dark because the world is not all sunshine and roses, and those who struggle have valid feelings and those feelings need to be dealt with through therapy, creation, etc.

One element that did not add to the depth or message of the collection were the poems that were written so that you needed a mirror to read them. This strategy did not add to the poems’ meanings or value. It seemed gimmicky.

However, the narrator speaks to the person they were, the person that harmed them, and the thoughts that plague them with frankness. This enables to reader to not only feel empathy but also reflect on their own darkness. “and your face is scarred as you look away/and you’re half as bright as they used to say” (“half-moon” pg. 11)

Marks of the Beast (pg. 13)

bitter mornings crossing wires
little warning shots I fire
subtle blisters, cheek and temple
from the kiss of heated metal

Malum does not shy away from the deepest secrets or the harshest memories, but uses those to seek understanding and closure, as well as healing. In “All Roads Lead to Parsa” (pg. 17-8), the narrator pleads with the reader and themself to “change your shoes/rinse your mouth/spread your ashes//choose your road,/and follow it.” We can all grow and change, we just have to choose to do it and follow through, no matter how hard it can be. Searching for the Butterflies You Crushed Last Night by Valax Malum is an encapsulated journey in which mental health struggles are laid bare for the purpose of healing and transformation.

RATING: Tercet

Flare Corona by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 104 pgs.
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Flare Corona by Jeannine Hall Gailey explores the emotional and physical turbulence of unexpected diagnoses through a hopeful and apocalyptic lens. Gailey returns to some previous subjects, including her coming of age near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and its nuclear energy work, as well as its impact on her health. In this more personal collection, the poems explore shifting emotions and coping strategies.

“I was still innocent. Irradiated./To blast with radiation — to sterilize/food, medical equipment, a person./I was waiting for a message from the sky.//” (“Irradiate” pg. 11) What messages do we all hope for? Messages of hope amid darkness.

Gailey juxtaposes the glow of radiation with the dulled reputation of America and the significant changes to her own abilities to walk, think, write. “In my bones, organs, skin, I’ve been storing/all of America’s dark secrets//” (“Self-Portrait as Radioactive Girl,” pg. 19) She also reminds us of mortality in “Lights Out” where “Time keeps getting away from us.” (pg. 22). She asks us “can you sympathize” as the world struggles with virus-related lockdowns, hatred, and so many more darknesses, and it is a fair question. So much is unraveling outside of the diagnosis and the end of the world seems to be coming faster and faster — hurricanes, wildfires, deadly viruses — everything seems personal. However, Gailey reminds us, “Chaos theory makes beauty of a mess./When I was little I looked more like you.” (pg. 51)

Tumultuous, emotional journey through ups and downs of medical mysteries, diagnoses and misdiagnoses, but Flare Corona by Jeannine Hall Gailey is about our own apocalypses and how we deal with the fallout. “Don’t remember me like this, grim-faced, after all the bad decisions./Don’t remember the war. Just remember the sweetness,//how it was once. Leave me covered in cliches and lilacs.//” (“When I Said Goodbye,” pg. 85).

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey is a writer with MS who served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington and is the author of Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize, Field Guide to the End of the World, and the upcoming Flare, Corona from BOA Editions. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Poetry, and Ploughshares.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 256 pgs.
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*** trigger warning***

If you’ve ever lost a parent or had a parent who passed away after a cancer diagnosis, this book may resurface some trauma.


Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, which is the selection for my work’s book club, is at times funny, but deeply sad. Her details about food and shopping trips with her Korean mother can be a bit overwhelming, but they serve to explain their connection. They connected over food, particularly Korean food, and trips to the H Mart. Zauner begins her memoir telling us up front that her mother has died, so it is not a surprise later on, which is a credit to her thinking about her audience in advance. “Ever since my mom died, I cry in H Mart.” (pg.3) “Food was how my mother expressed her love. No matter how critical or cruel she could seem — constantly pushing me to meet her intractable expectations — I could always feel her affection radiating from lunches she packed and the meals she prepared for me just the way I liked them.” (pg. 4)

Zauner moves through her grief in a haphazard way through this memoir, but it’s not really a self-help book about grief. She does blame strangers she sees in H Mart for still having their mothers or grandmothers, but it is this irrationality that endears her to us as a reader. She’s in the depths of her grief and trying to hold onto the good in spite of the struggle.

She recounts her teen years, mental health issues, her struggle with identity (being half Korean and half American), and her need to be an artist, which runs contrary to her mother’s aspirations. Zauner also does a lot of internalizing. She fails to see how her mother cared for her when she was young, but her mother’s cancer diagnosis certainly puts that in better perspective.

“I had spent my adolescence trying to blend in with my peers in suburban America, and had come of age feeling like my belonging was something to prove. Something that was always in the hands of other people to be given and never my own to take, to decide which side I was on, whom I was allowed to align with. I could never be of both worlds, only half in and half out, waiting to be ejected at will by someone with greater claim than me. Someone full. Someone whole.” (pg. 107)

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner is a memoir focused on an immigrant daughter’s struggle of losing her mother when she still needs her guidance, but it’s also a story of balancing heritage from both sides of the family and maintaining the connections that are important to us. One drawback for me was the separation between Michelle and her father, while she touches on how her perspective of him and his rebel life as a young man changes and his care for her mother further changes her view, she does little to explore that disconnect. It’s as if he has vanished from her life and story. I hope she revisits this relationship in another memoir.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Michelle Chongmi Zauner is a Korean-American musician and author, best known as the lead vocalist of the alternative pop band Japanese Breakfast.

Metabolics by Jessica E. Johnson

Source: Pine State Publicity
Paperback, 104 pgs.
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Metabolics by Jessica E. Johnson explores the changes in humanity and nature and their connection to each other, as well as their disconnect. It is a book-length poem broken down into what I call “different movements.” Opening and closing the collection are poems titled “Herein,” which the narrator speaks to a desire to “exit” their own body but by the end is inhabiting themselves more wholly than before through the experience of becoming a mother.

Exploring life’s processes and the energy it takes to perform them do not remain with just the human body, but with life all around us, including the trees that pay no heed to the children engaging them. “The children told the trees about their favorite shows … The trees said nothing so the children screamed their songs.” (pg. 49)

There is a great deal in this collection that explores our detriment to ecology while still being part of it. What steps we take to reduce what we use, while still allowing children to bring home their trinkets to us as they learn the alphabet, recycling the rest. We even create our own cycles – think of the lists of tasks we create and how we habitually stick to them.

“…Cedar considers all the ways in which she’s not enough, how her hundred feet aren’t tall enough to make a home. Cedar tries coming up with ways of being better, being someone else, being something else, and you — close your leaf pores to the cooler air, host a grand reaction, your body restoring itself from stored up light.” (pg. 19)

There’s rigidity in the cedars that populate the forest as is burns, only for new saplings and life to emerge from the ashes. Cycles upon cycles, interlocked in mysterious ways. But at the heart, Johnson speaks to the adaptability nature has for changes and challenges, and how we need also to be a flexible element in the cycles that are shifting gradually.

Metabolics by Jessica E. Johnson is a ebbing and flowing of cycles and change. Johnson is exploring how we change as we mature and grow, and yet, we still harbor the hurts of the past that shaped us. How can we enable processes to change and adapt to new realities, how can we change our own processes and tasks to create a better, safe world for our children and generations into the future? So many large questions are tackled in this volume, many of which are unanswered but insight deeper thinking.

RATING: Cinquain

Photo Credit: Becca Blevins

About the Poet:

Jessica E. Johnson writes poetry and nonfiction. She’s the author of the book-length poem Metabolics and the chapbook In Absolutes We Seek Each Other, and is a contributor to the anthology Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, The New Republic, Poetry Northwest, River Teeth, DIAGRAM, Annulet Poetics, The Southeast Review, and Sixth Finch. She teaches at Portland Community College and co-hosts the Constellation Reading Series at Tin House.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 16+ hours
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Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield, narrated by Juliet Stevenson, is my 6th book from the 12 friends 12 books reading challenge. It is a collection of intertwined stories set along the River Thames, in which a baby miraculously comes back to life after drowning. These are river stories in which family secrets continue to float to the surface. From a midwife who has given up on love and having a husband or children who a small town relies on more than physicians to a family whose daughter was taken and ransomed and an educated Black farm owner who is looking for his son’s wife, Setterfield has created quite a cast of characters, but the star is that river.

Like her novel, The Thirteenth Tale, this one is deeply atmospheric. The river is as much a character as Mrs. White, the Vaughns, the Armstrongs, nurse Rita, and so many others. There are so many families and secrets to be unraveled, but they are done with the slow flow of the river. The miraculously recovered girl is a mystery to be solved — who are her parents, who threw her into the river, and who took her?

The Swan Inn and the town is a place where stories are woven and rewoven. Setterfield wants her readers to dive deep into this story, making it unlikely you will come up for air until the end. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is engaging, but like The Thirteenth Tale, it felt too long to me and I cared more about some of the characters than others. There was a wrapping up of loose ends, which I appreciated, but those also seemed too long to reach.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Diane Setterfield is a British author. Her debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale (2006) was published in 38 countries worldwide and has sold more than three million copies. It was number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list for three weeks and is enjoyed as much for being ‘a love letter to reading’ as for its mystery and style. Her second novel is Bellman & Black (2013), an unusual genre-defying meditation on workaholism, Victorian mourning ritual and rooks, and her third, Once Upon a River, was published in 2019.

Other reviews:

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 10+ hrs.
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The Other Americans by Laila Lalami, narrated by Mozhan Marnò, P.J. Ochlan, Adenrele Ojo, Ozzie Rodriguez, Susan Nezami, Ali Nasser, Mark Bramhall, Max Adler, and Meera Simhan, is less the story of the murder of Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant, and more about the other Americans in their circle. Driss was a Muslim immigrant who embraced the American Dream and opened his own restaurant in a small town of Mojave, California, and sought to live his dream.

However, his wife, Maryam, doesn’t want to assimilate, and she often praises her dutiful daughter and dentist Salma, but her relationship with her husband and youngest daughter and musician Nora are on shaky ground. These are the main characters as best as I can discern them, excluding Jeremy, a policeman/love interest.

Lalami tackles not only racism and fear, but also the tension between those who are religiously devote and those who are not. There is the young woman who wants to follow her dream but is pulled back home by the death of her father and the obligation she feels toward her family and the Pantry, the restaurant. At the crux is honesty and distrust – the lack of one and the abundance of the other.

Some of these narrators were far better than others – some sounded wooden and others sounded computer generated. Nora’s voice is the most real and engaging. But I also wonder if it is the narrative that made it harder to narrate — some of the dialogue is stilted.

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami was a good read for the topics it covers that book clubs can discuss, but there were far too many characters (who were chapters unto themselves) and their connections were tenuous at best. There are dropped threads in the family narration, like the relationship between the mother and father and impending breakup and the struggles of the dutiful daughter, Salma. The relationships are broken in more ways than one, and they don’t seem to be repaired (at least not satisfactorily) or even talked about again.  Lalami seems to have taken on too much in this ambitious book. For threaded narratives of seemingly unconnected characters, you should try Colum McCann.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States. She is the author of five books, including The Moor’s Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. It was on the longlist for the Booker Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award in Fiction. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, The Nation, Harper’s, the Guardian, and the New York Times. She has been awarded fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program, and the Guggenheim Foundation and is currently Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California at Riverside. She lives in Los Angeles.

Road of Bones by Christopher Golden

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 240 pgs.
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Road of Bones by Christopher Golden is set in the coldest part of Russia on Siberia’s Kolyma Highway, which was built by hundreds of thousands of forced laborers from the gulag who were interred in the pavement after dying during its construction during the Stalinist era. Felix “Teig” Teigland has rented a truck and convinced his cameraman friend Prentiss to join him on the Road of Bones as he sniffs out the next television series idea he needs to pay back Prentiss and numerous others.

“Don’t fall asleep,”Prentiss said.

Teig forced a smile. “Don’t bore me to death and I’ll stay awake.”

In the frozen tundra, keeping any vehicle on the road is difficult. From the moment they are on the road, it is clear that the cold of the tundra will play a significant role in this story, almost as if it were another character. Teig’s uneasy, “The worm of nausea squiggled anew in his gut,” especially when he meets the guide, Kaskil, he hired. Life and death on the road of bones is something that Teig sees will save his career, but perhaps he should be more concerned about his actual life and death situation in a place where the weather can kill you.

When he and Prentiss meet Kaskil and make it to his home town of Akhust, it is more than legends and ghost stories that they find. The town has been abandoned, with some of its people leaving their homes while barefoot. Lurking in the woods, wolves are stalking them, but these are not traditional wolves.

My one quibble was the character of Ludmilla, who is introduced and we get to know her and her mission to free the souls on the Road of Bones, but her connection to the main story line seems so rushed. It seemed as if she were a ghost in the first place or part of the legend of the woman on the Road of Bones freeing souls, but then she isn’t. It was a bit disappointing, but didn’t detract too much from the main story. Perhaps there’s another book in the works with her?

Despite the plot holes, Golden has created an otherworldly feeling with the killer cold, mysterious disappearance of a whole town, the appearance of a beautiful woman, and the eyes in the forests at the edge of town. Road of Bones by Christopher Golden is definitely all you would expect it to be — creepy, suspenseful, and chock full of gruesome murder.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of such novels as Road of Bones, Ararat, Snowblind, and Red Hands. With Mike Mignola, he is the co-creator of the Outerverse comic book universe, including such series as Baltimore, Joe Golem: Occult Detective, and Lady Baltimore. As an editor, he has worked on the short story anthologies Seize the Night, Dark Cities, and The New Dead, among others, and he has also written and co-written comic books, video games, screenplays, and a network television pilot. In 2015 he founded the popular Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival. He was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family. His work has been nominated for the British Fantasy Award, the Eisner Award, and multiple Shirley Jackson Awards. For the Bram Stoker Awards, Golden has been nominated ten times in eight different categories, and won twice. His original novels have been published in more than fifteen languages in countries around the world.