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review 2018-07-15 20:44
Literary horror novel 'The Grip of It' leaves me with too many questions...or does it?
The Grip of It: A Novel - Jac Jemc

This book was a pick for my Litsy horror postal book club, and the second in a row that had the theme of a haunted house (this came on the back of the classic 'The Haunting of Hill House', which almost isn't fair, since that book is so well-known, and it was hard not to think of it).
'The Grip of It' was on my radar for a while after I noticed its cover, which is covered in the 'drawings' that show up mysteriously inside the house that the young couple, Julie and James, buy when they move to a small town outside of the city. There are lots of things that mysteriously go on inside the house (or do they?), after they move in, and the couple learns of the family that used to live there (or was it next door?), and they have so many questions that they start to run together...and largely are unanswered. ALL the way through to the end of the book. That was ultimately my biggest problem with 'The Grip of It': not ever feeling like questions were answered. The two main characters were also so similar (and weak, in my opinion), that their perspectives ran together, so the storytelling device of different chapters being their alternating different voices was ineffective. Whether or not this was intentional or not as a device to show that they were becoming of 'one mind' as the house took over, it was very confusing to read as the book continued.
I mostly enjoyed the literary prose and new approach to a 'horror' novel but occasionally I was a annoyed with the short sentences, which broke up some very beautiful writing, and very quotable prose.
And like most horror stories, the couple, Julie and James do frustratingly keep going back to this house that is obviously causing them to drift apart and for Julie to become ill (ergot poisoning? seizures?), yet the house sells quickly, so even though it seems that in general we have a no-nonsense 'literary' horror novel, we still have these silly tropes that don't make sense after all.
And what on earth happened to Rolf? ?
Still, I read this quickly, and it was a page-turner, it kept me engaged. It just could've been so much better.

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review 2018-07-14 23:15
Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax
Plum Rains: A Novel - Andromeda Romano-Lax

It is 2029 and the first world is troubled by an aging population compounded by a worldwide fertility crisis. In Japan this crisis has led to the importation of immigrant workers to care for the elderly, but the culture and the politics make it incredibly difficult for workers. All are required to pass rigorous language tests if they wish to stay in the country. The development of smart technology and robots are also being used to cover the needs of a less and less able-bodied population.

Angelica Navarro is a nurse for an elderly woman, Sayoko, in Tokyo, her job seemingly secure because of Sayoko's resistance to most modern medical appliances. Then, Sayoko's son gives her a new kind of care-giving robot with sympathetic technology that allows it to educated itself on its owner's needs. Angelica can only watch as a bond begins growing between the two and fear what will happen to her.

This is one of the better near-future novels I've ever read. It immerses the reader into modern life in Tokyo through Angelica's forced "outsider" perspective. Chapters from Sayoko give perspective on how Japanese culture adapted, or failed to adapt, after World War II and the upheavals of the 20th and 21st centuries.

I was a little frustrated at first with Angelica's antagonistic relationship with Hiro (the caregiver robot), but it is completely understandable once more of Angelica's background is revealed. Sayoko's seeming lack of compassion is settled as well. This book covers some complicated, fraught ground of race, globalization, ethical technology, pollution, and more with grace. There are no neat endings and people who are being victimized do not always make judgements that satisfy a reader. This was a great sociological science fiction novel, and I'm waiting for it to make greater waves in reader's circles in the coming months.

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review 2018-07-13 17:50
THE POWER by Naomi Alderman
The Power - Naomi Alderman

Wow! Imagine a world where the women take over. Men are controlled by women and women make the decisions. No man is permitted to do anything or go anywhere without a woman's approval. That's the premise of The Power.

I liked it. A lot. Roles are reversed. The thoughts and words have changed gender. Men control very little and only with the approval of women.

I was so into the story I forgot that it is a story that will be a novel of the time when the world changed from men leading to women leading. The set-up to and from the novel is done through letters from the author to a friend. Since he cannot tell the history as history, he does it as a novel. It works very well this way. I forgot it was a novel and was looking at it as ...hmmm, what if?

I liked how it is done by years and each year is seen from the main characters point-of-view. I liked Roxy. She's tough and a survivor. Allie started to believe her PR. So does Margot. I'm not sure whether the two of them become hinderances or return to the light. Allie's voice makes me wonder--serpent or angel. I also enjoyed Tunde and his male point-of-view of what is happening to the men and will they survive.

A well done novel that will make you question your beliefs. Lots of discussion points for book clubs. I know I'm recommending it for mine.

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review 2018-07-11 00:09
No Words for Love and Other Words

Well I have taken a while to digest this so that I can write an articulate review. This wasn't the usual Christina Lauren book which have been more contemporary/new adult romance. Reading their Author's Note, this is actually their first "Women's Fiction" book and I have to say it's deeper but still has the witty flair that makes their characters so easy to like. 

It has a steady and powerfully slow build made all the more interesting by the switching of periods between Then and Now. Elliott and Macy have a boy/girl-next-door-first-love that isn't told that often from the perspective of how they are now as adults. The story starts with their lives today and a chance meeting for us to find out they haven't seen or spoken to each other in eleven years. Elliott seems to be the only one out of the two of them that has it somewhat together, but Macy, while professionally successful, is a mess emotionally. To see how their reunion progresses is interesting, funny and frustrating. 

I spent the entire time trying to figure out why they lost contact and then I didn't want to know because I knew it had to have been something awful. They have such a sweet friendship as kids and it is told gradually. The authors do such a great job of capturing that time, their innocence and developing attraction. Juxtaposed with their interaction now and the people they are in present time, it is such a creative way of developing characters that it keeps you turning the page.

I try to avoid sad books - hello, "Escape Plan". But I've come to enjoy these authors' writing so much that I didn't want to miss reading a new release. It is wonderful. Sad but not. Worth every page.

Source: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren My rating: 5 of 5 stars Well I have taken a while to digest this so that I can write an articulate review. This wasn\'t the usual Christina Lauren book which have been more contemporary/new adult romance. Rea
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review 2018-07-09 23:10
Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
The Silent Companions: A Novel - Laura Purcell

Its hard to get the right vibe for gothic fiction in our modern times. Purcell wisely decides to set her story in the Victorian period and adds a healthy dose of 'Yellow Wall-Paper' paranoia.

Soon after her marriage Elsie Banbridge is made a widow and sent to wait out her pregnancy at her husband's remote family estate, The Bridge. Her only companion is a cousin, her deceased husband's only living family, and a few servants. The estate has something of a dark reputation in the village and Elsie feels isolated. The discovery of a 'silent companion', a trompe l'oeil figure painted on a board, in a locked attic room awakens old rumors and fears. The figure, painted in the late 17th century, looks like Elsie, and soon she discovers it is not alone.

A quick read, and quite chilling. The use of the Companions, or dummy boards, was genius. Good period detail and flawless setting.

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