Tag Archives: suspense

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. November 20, 2018. Doubleday Books, 226 p. ISBN: 9780385544238.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.
A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.
Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a deliciously deadly debut that’s as fun as it is frightening.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Domestic abuses

 

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Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Ayoola is beautiful, charismatic, and popular, everything her long-suffering older sister, Korede, is not. Ayoola is also a killer, and Korede is growing used to literally cleaning up her messes when Ayoola ends her relationships with their father’s ceremonial knife. Korede’s life has few pleasures, but she looks forward to her nursing shifts at the hospital where she can be near the handsome Dr. Tade Otumu. Then Tade meets Ayoola and falls under her spell. Braithwaite’s debut is written in quick, economical chapters that brilliantly render the setting: the crowded streets of Lagos, St. Peter’s hospital, the languid heat on Korede and Ayoola’s family estate. This is a darkly, darkly funny novel—​for example, Ayoola invites Tade over to play Cluedo just weeks after the sisters were bleaching bathroom tiles and dumping a body in the river. It strips away the romanticism of the complicated sisterly relationship but perfectly illustrates its complicated contradictions: Korede cannot stand Ayoola, but she would do anything for her.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2018)
From the hospital rooms and living spaces of Lagos, Nigeria, comes a dryly funny and wickedly crafty exercise in psychological suspense. Introverted, sensitive Korede is a nurse, a very good one from what we see of her at work. She feels such a connection with her patients that she finds herself taking a coma victim named Muhtar into her confidence. There’s one secret in particular that pours out of Korede like scalding liquid: Her flamboyantly beautiful younger sister, Ayoola, has this habit of killing the men she dates. (Three, so far.) She hasn’t been caught yet because Korede cleans up after her. They both disposed of the most recent victim, a poet named Femi, so efficiently that nobody in his family or with the police know his whereabouts. So that, as Korede is concerned, is that; except there’s this single good-looking doctor named Tade at the hospital where she works who has his eye on Ayoola—even though Korede has tried her best to win Tade’s attention. Now she tries to warn Tade that her sister’s relationships “tend to end, badly.” His response: “Oh…guys can be jerks.” (Yes, they certainly can.) As Tade and Ayoola begin their romance, Korede’s the one who has to answer questions about Femi’s disappearance, and, seemingly out of nowhere, Ayoola acquires yet another suitor named Gboyega, prompting both Korede and the reader to wonder which of these unwary gentlemen Ayoola will favor and what will happen to him. Generations of gothic mystery aficionados have attended these uneasy and insidious events before. But besides the setting, what makes Braithwaite’s first novel stand out from others in this genre is the unobtrusively sly approach she takes to the conventions of “black widow” storytelling and the appealing deadpan voice of the jittery yet world-weary Korede. Along the way, there are scattered glimpses of life in Lagos, most acidly when Korede deals with the routine corruption involved in a traffic stop. Even your most extravagant speculations about what’s really going on with these wildly contrasting yet oddly simpatico siblings will be trumped in this skillful, sardonic debut.

About the Author

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo, a Nigerian publishing house, and has been freelancing as a writer and editor since. In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top-ten spoken-word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam, and in 2016 she was a finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

She lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

Her website is writeratworkng.com

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7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. September 18, 2018. Sourcebooks Landmark, 438 p. ISBN: 9781492657965.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The Rules of Blackheath

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let’s begin…

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others…

The most inventive debut of the year twists together a mystery of such unexpected creativity it will leave readers guessing until the very last page.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mild language, Violence

 

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Booklist starred (May 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 17))
The Hardcastle family has decided to throw a party at Blackheath House as a memorial to their son, who was killed there years before. At 11 p.m., during the party, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered. Aiden Bishop is trapped inside a time loop with this murder mystery at its center. Each morning he awakens in another guest’s body and relives that same day until Evelyn’s death. If he does not find the killer by 11 p.m., Evelyn will die, and the cycle will begin again. However, there is a catch: he’s racing against time—he has eight days, eight do-overs, to solve the mystery. If he fails, he will be killed himself. This novel is so ingenious and original that it’s difficult to believe it’s Turton’s debut. The writing is completely immersive. The reader slips into the pages right beside Bishop, following closely in the adrenaline-packed hunt for the killer. Evelyn’s time line could easily be confusing, but Turton masterfully creates a natural flow while jumping through different characters on different days. There are certainly echoes of Agatha Christie here, but it’s Christie ramped up several notches, thanks to the malevolent twist on the Groundhog Day theme. Readers may be scratching their heads in delicious befuddlement as they work their way through this novel, but one thing will be absolutely clear: Stuart Turton is an author to remember.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
In this dizzying literary puzzle, the hapless protagonist is doomed to relive the same day over and over unless he can solve a murder at a masquerade ball. The narrator, Aiden Bishop, wakes up in a forest outside Blackheath House, “a sprawling Georgian manor house,” not knowing who or where he is—or why he’s screaming the name Anna. A man in a beaked plague-doctor mask brings him up to speed: For eight days, Aiden will wake up in the body of a different witness to the shooting of young beauty Evelyn Hardcastle. If at the end of that extended week, during which Aiden will remember all that occurs, he fails to identify the killer and break the bizarre murder cycle, he will have his memory wiped and be forced to start from the beginning. “It’s like I’ve been asked to dig a hole with a shovel made of sparrows,” Aiden moans. To be real or not to be real, that is the question for Aiden, who struggles after his own identity while being “hosted” by individuals who include the lord of the manor, a doctor, and a butler. Borrowing liberally from such cultural milestones as Groundhog Day, Quantum Leap, and Eyes Wide Shut—and, of course, the stories of Agatha Christie—the book has a built-in audience. It’s a fiendishly clever and amusing novel with explosive surprises, though in the absence of genuine feeling, it tends to keep its audience at arm’s length. Turton’s debut is a brainy, action-filled sendup of the classic mystery, though readers may be hard-pressed to keep up with all its keenly calibrated twists and turns for more than 400 pages.

About the Author

Stuart lives in London with his amazing wife and daughter. He drinks lots of tea.

​When he left university he went travelling for three months and stayed away for five years. Every time his parents asked when he’d be back he told them next week, and meant it.

Stuart is not to be trusted. In the nicest possible way.

He’s got a degree in English and Philosophy, which makes him excellent at arguing and terrible at choosing degrees.

Having trained for no particular career, he has dabbled in most of them. He stocked shelves in a Darwin bookshop, taught English in Shanghai, worked for a technology magazine in London, wrote travel articles in Dubai, and now he’s a freelance journalist. None of this was planned, he just kept getting lost on his way to other places.

He likes a chat. He likes books. He likes people who write books and people who read books. He doesn’t know how to write a biography, so should probably stop before he tells you about his dreams or something. It was lovely to meet you, though.

Her website is stuturton.wordpress.com/

Teacher Resources

7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Reading Guide

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The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury

The Wild Inside by Jamey Bradbury. March 20, 2018. William Morrow, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062741998.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 880.

A natural born trapper and hunter raised in the Alaskan wilderness, Tracy Petrikoff spends her days tracking animals and running with her dogs in the remote forests surrounding her family’s home. Though she feels safe in this untamed land, Tracy still follows her late mother’s rules: Never Lose Sight of the House. Never Come Home with Dirty Hands. And, above all else, Never Make a Person Bleed.

But these precautions aren’t enough to protect Tracy when a stranger attacks her in the woods and knocks her unconscious. The next day, she glimpses an eerily familiar man emerge from the tree line, gravely injured from a vicious knife wound—a wound from a hunting knife similar to the one she carries in her pocket. Was this the man who attacked her and did she almost kill him? With her memories of the events jumbled, Tracy can’t be sure.

Helping her father cope with her mother’s death and prepare for the approaching Iditarod, she doesn’t have time to think about what she may have done. Then a mysterious wanderer appears, looking for a job. Tracy senses that Jesse Goodwin is hiding something, but she can’t warn her father without explaining about the attack—or why she’s kept it to herself.

It soon becomes clear that something dangerous is going on . . . the way Jesse has wormed his way into the family . . . the threatening face of the stranger in a crowd . . . the boot-prints she finds at the forest’s edge.

Her family is in trouble. Will uncovering the truth protect them—or is the threat closer than Tracy suspects?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Hunting, Inhumane treatment of animals, Recollection of a sexual assault, Murder, Two instances of strong language

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Tracy lives to hunt, sometimes spending days in the Alaska wilderness with nothing but her wits and her knife. Ever since her mother died, her father has kept her on a tight leash, especially when it comes to training for the upcoming Iditarod. Tracy’s preternatural drive to hunt is insatiable, however, so she sneaks out regularly, which is where she is when the stranger attacks her. She fights back, waking up with a bruised head and bloody hands, but she’s convinced he’ll return to finish what he started. When her father takes on a hired hand, Tracy’s careful secrets start to unravel, and she discovers disturbing truths about her desperate need to hunt. Though the pacing can be haphazard and Tracy’s folksy, first-person narration doesn’t always ring true, debut author Bradbury cultivates vivid atmosphere with visceral action and a dynamic cast of characters. Tracy’s unsettling compulsion for hunting takes a magic-realist turn early on, which might disappoint fans of straightforward survival thrillers, but patient readers who like earthy, genre-blending, coming-of-age stories should be pleased.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
An Alaskan teenager on the cusp of adulthood is drawn to the feral life.Although the folksy and stubbornly ungrammatical voice of Bradbury’s first-person narrator, Tracy Petrikoff, takes some getting used to, it conveys a visceral sense of her world. In the nearly two years since her mother’s death, a month before Tracy’s 16th birthday, her home life has been thrown into disarray. Now nearing 18, Tracy hopes to enter her first adult Iditarod. But her father, Bill, a champion musher, has given up the sport and is deaf to Tracy’s pleas to let her train. Younger brother Scott has retreated into his books and photography. Other than tending the fleet of sled dogs her family still maintains, she is officially grounded—she’s been expelled from school for fighting. However, Tracy easily evades her father’s halfhearted discipline to set woodland traps. Her catches—martens, minks, hares, and squirrels—provide meat for the family and pelts to sell in the nearby village. Furthermore, trusty hunting blade in hand, Tracy gains essential strength from drinking the blood of her prey while also temporarily mind-melding with victims. One day in the woods, a strange man slams Tracy against a tree root and she blacks out. When the man, Tom Hatch, shows up at her home, bleeding from a stab wound, Tracy assumes she inflicted it. Returning to the scene of her supposed crime, Tracy finds a backpack containing wads of cash, enough to enter the Iditarod. Jesse Goodwin, a young drifter, appears, taking on the role of hired factotum. Tracy and Jesse develop a special bond after she learns Jesse was fleeing Hatch. However, Jesse is not what he seems. The ingredients of a thriller with surreal elements are all in place, as Tracy suspects that Hatch has recovered and may be seeking revenge. From here the plot veers off in directions that are not only unexpected, but at time beggar belief. Still, readers will warm to the unconventional persona Bradbury has crafted for Tracy, that of wilderness savant. A strange and soulful debut.

About the Author

Jamey Bradbury’s work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Sou’wester, and Zone 3. She won an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters.

She moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in 2002 but kept leaving to join the Peace Corps, work in Vermont, and go to graduate school. The important part, though, is that she came back. If you’re ever in Anchorage, she recommends Spenard Roadhouse for drinks, Bear Tooth Theater Pub for movies and burritos, and Eagle and Symphony Lakes for hiking. She hails originally from Illinois.

Her website is www.jameybradbury.com

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The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose

The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose. August 1, 2017. Viking Press, 384 p. ISBN: 9780735221833.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 870.

Lee Cuddy is seventeen years old and on the run. Betrayed by her family after taking the fall for a friend, she finds refuge in a cooperative of runaways holed up in an abandoned building they call the Crystal Castle, but the façade of the Castle conceals a far more sinister agenda, one hatched by a society of fanatical men set on decoding a series of powerful secrets hidden in plain sight. They believe Lee holds the key to it all.

Aided by Tomi, a young hacker and artist with whom she has struck a wary alliance, Lee escapes into the unmapped corners of the city—empty aquariums, deserted motels, patrolled museums, and even the homes of vacationing families, but the deeper she goes underground, the more tightly she finds herself bound in the strange web she’s trying to elude. Desperate and out of options, Lee steps from the shadows to face who is after her—and why.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Theft, Attempted sexual assault, Teen pregnancy

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
A young woman must outthink and outplay a group of men trying to uncover the deepest secrets of the universe (with the help of clues left by Marcel Duchamp) in Rose’s debut novel. Lee has always felt invisible, taking advantage of this by shoplifting and dealing drugs to her high school classmates. When her friend Edie turns her in, Lee is sent to juvenile detention and then the psych ward, from which she manages to escape. Homeless, friendless, and directionless, Lee stumbles upon a group of other lost teens who live in the Crystal Castle under the control of a mysterious figure known as the Station Master. When she steals a strange object that turns out to be a work of art by Marcel Duchamp, Lee has no idea that she has attracted the obsessive interest of a shadowy and dangerous society that effectively worships Duchamp. They believe he left clues in his art that reveal the key to immortality, and they are willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone to decipher them. Together with her friend Tomi, an art fanatic who likes to creep around abandoned buildings, Lee fights to stay one step ahead of the Société Anonyme, which seems to have spies everywhere and which has determined that Lee herself is central to their dastardly plans. The novel is complex on many intellectual levels, drawing heavily on theories of art history and physics, and the mystery is deep and satisfying in both its unpredictability and its culmination. The sheer scope is impressive, as are Rose’s evocative descriptions of underground and abandoned places, reminiscent of David Lynch’s films. Lee, despite being a strong survivor, doesn’t captivate, however. Her survival depends on her ability to be self-sufficient and to separate herself from people, which also estranges her from the reader. Admirably ambitious but lacking in soul.

Publishers Weekly (June 26, 2017)
The 17-year-old heroine of Rose’s debut novel, a richly detailed intellectual thriller set in contemporary Philadelphia, has already been through an adventurous childhood and adolescence when she ends up in juvie, set up by a former friend for a crime she hasn’t committed. Not that Lee Cuddy hasn’t earned her stay there: a natural-born shoplifter, she has also sold enough drugs to accumulate thousands of dollars in cash. Escaped from prison, she winds up in a creepy, cultish home for runaways and then goes on the lam with Tomi, a gentle Czech boy who has a talent for data retrieval, a taste for urban exploration, and a passion for the work of French artist Marcel Duchamp (whose “readymades” cemented the idea that ordinary objects could be considered art if their assembler defined them as such). After Lee steals a satchel from the office of the cult leader, she finds herself pursued by the mysterious Societe Anonyme, which is involved in the production of designer drugs. While Rose may put in one too many obscure references to alchemy and unified field theory, Lee is an excellent character, and the many shadowy settings she travels through make for a fascinating vision of an alternate, underground Philadelphia.

About the Author

Augustus Rose grew up in and around San Francisco, California. His debut novel, The Readymade Thief (Viking 2017), is about a young woman at the center of a mystery involving the art Marcel Duchamp, the dark net, urban exploration, and the shotgun marriage of alchemy and string theory. He teaches fiction writing at University of Chicago.

His website is augustusrose.me

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The Readymade Thief on Amazon

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Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander

Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander. September 5, 2017. Knopf Publishing Group, 254 p. ISBN: 9781524732738.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 940.

A prisoner in a secret cell. The guard who has watched over him a dozen years. An American waitress in Paris. A young Palestinian man in Berlin who strikes up an odd friendship with a wealthy Canadian businessman. And The General, Israel’s most controversial leader, who lies dying in a hospital, the only man who knows of the prisoner’s existence.

From these vastly different lives Nathan Englander has woven a powerful, intensely suspenseful portrait of a nation riven by insoluble conflict, even as the lives of its citizens become fatefully and inextricably entwined–a political thriller of the highest order that interrogates the anguished, violent division between Israelis and Palestinians, and dramatizes the immense moral ambiguities haunting both sides. Who is right, who is wrong–who is the guard, who is truly the prisoner?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Equal parts political thriller and tender lamentation, the latest from Englander (What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank, 2012) explores, in swirling, nonlinear fashion, Israeli-Palestinian tensions and moral conflicts. The General, who is never named but is clearly former prime minister Ariel Sharon, lies in a coma, his thoughts hovering over past glories and a horrifying gunshot. By his side is Ruthi, his devoted assistant, whose pot-smoking, TV-obsessed son has found a plum job guarding the disappeared Prisoner Z in a secret prison in the Negev. An American spy who in a moment of either moral courage or traitorous intent turned against his Israeli backers, Z was on the run in Europe but tripped up when he fell in love with a fearless waitress from an ultrawealthy Italian family. Discerning the connections between these narratives provides much of the drama, which turns on the logic of human weakness and intractable opposition. Ultimately, Englander suggests that shared humanity and fleeting moments of kindness between jailer and prisoner, spy and counterspy, hold the potential for hope, even peace.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
A prisoner is held for more than a decade in the Israeli desert while, elsewhere, a general in a coma hallucinates about his past life and a young man works to fund the Palestinian resistance.Englander’s (What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, 2012, etc.) latest novel is an odd amalgam: part political thriller, part romance, part absurdist farce, it never quite settles into the story it wants to tell. First, there’s Prisoner Z, who’s been held for 12 years in an undisclosed location in Israel’s Negev Desert. His only human contact has been with his guard. Then, there are flashbacks to Prisoner Z’s time hiding out in Paris. An American intelligence operative, he’s compromised Israeli secrets, and the authorities have it in for him. In the meantime, he starts up a romance with a waitress and they dash around Europe together. There’s also the General, an infamous Israeli leader who’s been in a coma for years; Ruthi, the General’s former assistant and current caretaker; Ruthi’s son, who happens to serve as Prisoner Z’s guard; and Farid, a young Palestinian in Berlin who’s working to fund his brother’s anti-settlement activities. Chapters alternate among these various threads. Unfortunately, Englander fails to fully weave them together. His tone is uneven—sometimes he strains toward humor, sometimes toward drama, without quite reaching either one. The humor sags, and the political intrigue doesn’t quite add up. If it’s a farce, it’s an uneasy one. Toward the end, Englander introduces a second romance, and this one feels rushed, tacked on like a donkey’s tail. Still, there are moments of fine writing throughout. An uneasy blend of political intrigue, absurdity, and romance struggles to establish a steady, never mind believable, tone.

About the Author

Nathan Englander is a Jewish-American author born in Long Island, NY in 1970. He wrote the short story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., in 1999. The volume won widespread critical acclaim, earning Englander the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Malamud Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kauffman Prize, and established him as an important writer of fiction.  His website is www.nathanenglander.com

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She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper. June 6, 2017. Ecco, 272 p. ISBN: 9780062394408.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 610.

A propulsive, gritty novel about a girl marked for death who must fight and steal to stay alive, learning from the most frightening man she knows—her father.

Eleven-year-old Polly McClusky is shy, too old for the teddy bear she carries with her everywhere, when she is unexpectedly reunited with her father, Nate, fresh out of jail and driving a stolen car. He takes her from the front of her school into a world of robbery, violence, and the constant threat of death. And he does it to save her life.

Nate made dangerous enemies in prison—a gang called Aryan Steel has put out a bounty on his head, counting on its members on the outside to finish him off. They’ve already murdered his ex-wife, Polly’s mother. And Polly is their next target.

Nate and Polly’s lives soon become a series of narrow misses, of evading the bad guys and the police, of sleepless nights in motels. Out on the lam, Polly is forced to grow up early: with barely any time to mourn her mother, she must learn how to take a punch and pull off a drug-house heist. She finds herself transforming from a shy little girl into a true fighter. Nate, in turn, learns what it’s like to love fiercely and unconditionally—a love he’s never quite felt before. But can their powerful bond transcend the dangerous existence he’s carved out for them? Will they ever be able to live an honest life, free of fear?

She Rides Shotgun is a gripping and emotionally wrenching novel that upends even our most long-held expectations about heroes, villains, and victims. Nate takes Polly to save her life, but in the end it may very well be Polly who saves him.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Murder, Death of a parent

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
When short-timer Nate McClusky kills a member of the Aryan Steel prison gang in Susanville, California, the victim’s brother (who happens to be the gang’s president) sends a death warrant from Supermax—not only for Nate but also for his ex-wife, Avis, and his daughter, Polly. Nate survives his last week in prison but returns home to find Avis dead. Picking up 11-year-old Polly from middle school, he intends to drop her off with a relative until circumstances suggest the only way to keep her permanently safe is to take on Aryan Steel and hit them where it hurts. Polly is at first terrified (and contacts the police) but soon displays an aptitude for crime—she’s her father’s daughter, after all—and decides she wants to be more than just a passenger. Meanwhile, in chapters that read like mid-period James Ellroy, Detective Park searches the bleak and barren parts of California for the girl who now regrets her call for help. From its bravura prologue to its immensely satisfying ending, this first novel (Harper previously penned the short story collection Love and Other Wounds, 2015) comes out with guns blazing and shoots the chambers dry. It’s both a dark, original take on the chase novel and a strangely touching portrait of a father-daughter relationship framed in barbed wire.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
In his first novel, Harper returns to the seamy criminal fringe he explored in his story collections (Love and Other Wounds, 2015, etc.) for a grim yet moving tale about an ex-con’s efforts to protect his young daughter.Meek, intellectually precocious 11-year-old Polly finds her tattooed, heavily muscled father, Nate, waiting outside her school in Fontana, California. Having been in prison for more than half of Polly’s life, Nate has now been granted an early release. Unfortunately, though, the head of the Aryan Steel gang has just put out a call from his prison cell for his gang members to kill Nate, his ex-wife, and their daughter. Polly’s mother is knifed before Nate can reach her, but he takes Polly on the run to evade hit men while planning how to stop the vendetta. His love for Polly overpowers and empowers him, but there is no sentimentality here—he recognizes with paternal pride that she shares his “buried rage.” He trains her to fight, then takes her along when he robs stores and attacks his Aryan Steel enemies. Although she remains attached to her teddy bear, Polly discovers she takes after her badass daddy more than she or he imagined. The novel combines striking images, like Nate’s “gunfighter eyes” and the “old man of a car” he shows up driving, with disturbingly raw violence—a drug mule gutted by a crooked sheriff to get out the merchandise, the same sheriff gouging out an eye. Even more disturbing are the characters’ raw emotions: after witnessing Nate hold an Aryan Steel member’s back against the coals from a barbecue-grill fire until he gives desired information, Polly finds herself smiling. Yet there is a moral core here. Acknowledging that his vengeful behavior is “dumb and selfish,” Nate knows he isn’t good for Polly. And despite her developing toughness, Polly retains her urge to save the innocent. For all the darkness and even ugliness displayed, the characters’ loyalty, love, and struggle for redemption grip the reader and don’t let go.

About the Author

Jordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He’s worked as an ad man, a rock critic and a teevee writer. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

His website is www.jordanharper.com

Around the Web

She Rides Shotgun on Amazon

She Rides Shotgun on Goodreads

She Rides Shotgun on JLG

She Rides Shotgun Publisher Page

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke. March 22, 2016. Dial Books, 247 p. ISBN: 9780803740488.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Bullying

 

Book Trailer

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Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 12))
Grades 10-12. Poppy is the villain: the beautiful, cruel queen of the neighborhood. Midnight is the hero: the thoughtful boy next door who has loved Poppy most of his life, until moving two miles down the road breaks her spell on him. And Wink is the mystery: the odd, unreadable girl who talks in riddles and is obsessed with fairy tales (or so it seems). But there’s more going on here than meets the eye, and the three teenagers’ fates—and the roles they play in one another’s stories—are far more entwined and complicated than they seem at first glance. In airy, atmospheric prose, Tucholke has constructed an ethereal story where nothing ever feels quite real. Eerie, dark, and unusually sensual, this mystery–love story is similar in tone to E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (2014) and will appeal especially to older readers who are looking for surprising plot twists, a creepy fairy-tale vibe, ambiguous narrators, and a world where nothing is ever really what it seems.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2016)
Balancing between possibly paranormal and just plain disturbing, Tucholke walks a fine, spine-chilling line. Dark-haired, awkward (but soon to be gorgeous) Midnight is in love with Poppy, the beautiful, blonde, high school queen with a cruel streak a mile wide. Poppy is in love with Leaf Bell, an older boy who can see “right through the pretty” to the “ugly on the inside.” A self-described bully, Poppy is “built for winning and getting what I wanted and not for trying to be better.” Determined that, if her life is to be one of “desperation, then it would be loud, not quiet,” she is frustrated by Leaf’s indifference. Dreamy Wink is Leaf’s younger sister and a neighborhood oddball–the girl with the tarot card- and tea leaf-reading mother, a freckled dreamer who maybe reads a little too much. But Wink knows every story needs a Hero and a Villain and revolves around three essentials: revenge, justice, and love. Populating her gothic narrative with a mostly white cast, Tucholke writes in three alternating voices, presenting an eerie, tangled story with plenty of questions: Who can be trusted? Who–or what–pulls the strings? High on teen drama and with plenty of trauma–mostly emotional, with a little physical thrown in–the book keeps readers wondering. Nicely constructed and planned, with unexpected twists to intrigue and entertain. Bottom line? Beware of girls who read books…. (Suspense. 12 & up)

About the Author

April Genevieve Tucholke is the author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Between the Spark and the Burn, and Wink Poppy Midnight. She also curated the horror anthology Slasher Girls & Monster Boys. She has received five starred reviews and her novels have been chosen for the Junior Library Guild, Kids’ Indie Next picks, and YALSA Teens Top Ten. When she’s not writing, April likes walking in the woods with her two cheerful dogs, exploring abandoned houses, and drinking expensive coffee. She has lived in many places around the world, and currently resides in Oregon with her husband.

Her website is www.apriltucholke.com.

Around the Web

Wink Poppy Midnight on Amazon

Wink Poppy Midnight on JLG

Wink Poppy Midnight on Goodreads