The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. ★★★
In Chicago, a serial killer hunts through time, targeting girls from “shining girls” from different eras. Then one of his victims survives.
The Shining Girls was oddly forgettable. After reading Beukes nonfiction essay “All the Pretty Corpses,” I decided I had to read The Shining Girls. The essay burns with anger at the way media treats female murder victims as pretty dead things, not people whose lives have been cut short. In it, Beukes says she wrote The Shining Girls to be as much about the victims as the killer. Unfortunately, I found it not nearly as powerful or subversive as I think Beukes intended.
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud. ★★★1/2
While I found The Screaming Staircase a tad predictable, I enjoyed it nonetheless.
For the last fifty years, England has been beset by a plague of supernatural spirits referred to as The Problem. Only children and teens are capable of seeing ghosts, so all agencies for dealing with hauntings rely on minors as their agents. After an investigation gone wrong, Lucy Carlyle has fled to London and taken up a position with Lockwood & Co., which is essentially three teenagers in a house investigating ghosts. The Screaming Staircase begins right in the middle of the action, with Lockwood and Lucy spending the night in a house where their client’s husband died. They soon encounter a ghost much more powerful than they expected. The result is one part ghost story, one part murder mystery, and a pretty entertaining ride.
Brimstone by Cherie Priest. ★★★
I’ve been following Cherie Priest’s work for years, so it was with not a little anticipation I picked up this newest outing from her. Unfortunately, I was expecting and desiring a historical fantasy story, but I found Brimstone to be more horror with a Southern Gothic twist.
Alice Dartle is descended from a long line of witches, but she has no idea how to use her clairvoyant abilities. The town of Cassadaga, Florida, a community of similarly gifted people seems to hold the answer. But as she draws closer to the town, she keeps having dreams of fire and trenches. She knows that these are not her own dreams, and she believes that she can help the dreamer.
Tomas Cordero came back from World War I to find his wife dead of influenza. He continues to operate his tailoring business, but he’s haunted by the memories of his wife. Since his return, inexplicable fires have hounded him. Could they be messages from the beyond?
Clean by Alex Hughes. ★★★
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that managed to give me so many mixed feelings!
The narrator of Clean is a drug addicted telepath. After getting kicked out of the Telepath’s Guild, he makes a living by working for police, mainly by using his telepathic powers to tease information out of suspects during interviews. But his routine begins to fall to pieces when a new killer starts stalking Atlanta and he’s called upon to help investigate. All signs point to the killer having some form of psychic powers, but otherwise clues are sparse.
Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace. ★★★
Lena and Darren are two down on their luck chefs who’ve been blackballed from most New York establishment. They are contemplating – horror of horrors – moving to Jersey when they get an unexpected job offer from a catering company they’ve never heard of. As they soon discover, Sin du Jour is no ordinary catering company. It’s clientele are the supernatural denizens of New York.
Envy of Angels is the start to a series of novellas. And for better or worse, there’s a lot packed into this little novella. From warring demonic gangs to a heist at an iconic fast food company headquarters, Envy of Angels has it all.
However, the sheer amount of plot lines and the breadth of the cast meant that character development felt scanty. There are so many characters in this novella, but none of them are memorable. It might have worked better for me if it had narrowed the focus and expanded the development of a core cast.
Envy of Angels is one of the more imaginative urban fantasy ideas I’ve encountered. I did enjoy the time I spent reading it, but I don’t think I would ever reread it. I may or may not pick up the sequels. While I liked the central idea, I wished I liked the characters more.
As I Descended by Robin Talley. ★★★1/2
As I Descended is a queer, paranormal, YA retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Basically I saw that description and thought I had to read this. While I don’t think it’s a novel that I’d revisit in the future, it did make a good spooky read for right around Halloween.
Acheron Academy is a prestigious private boarding school in modern day Virginia, and Delilah Dufrey is the unofficial queen of the senior class. She’s lied, cheated, and manipulated her way to the top, and now she’s the sure winner of the Cawdor Kingsley Prize. But Maria and Lily, roommates and secret girlfriends, have their eye on the prize. If Maria wins, it will lock in her acceptance to Stanford, and guarentee that Maria and Lily will be together for the next two years. Maria and Lily will do whatever’s necessary to make that happen. And the only person in the way of their dreams is Delilah.
A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith. ★★★★
Trigger warning: self harm, suicide
Reiko is carving a path of hatred. After a stint in a psychiatric hospital, Reiko’s been sent to stay with relatives in Japan and work on her emotional issues. But Reiko is still consumed with hatred and anger for all those who she perceives as having wronged her – her ex-girlfriend, her brother, and her cousin who’s forcing Reiko and the other employees at her uncle’s graphic design firm to help her build a lifestyle brand.
When Reiko’s cousin Akiko decides the next step in building her brand is a culture festival at a historic village preserved to reflect the Edo period, Reiko is dragged along as a photographer. But she soon finds herself slipping backwards in time, into the life of Miyu, a young woman who shares Reiko’s obsession with vengeance.