books you need to read

A monthly book review. Whether they're good or so bad that it makes them good, these are the books you need to read.

April's Pick: The Power by Naomi Alderman

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Wow. So where should I start? *There will be no spoilers*

This book hits you hard. And then it hits you again. Harder.

It's filled with a variety of characters. An American politician and her awkward teenage daughter, a rich Nigerian boy, a London girl with ties to the mob, an abused foster kid with a secret...Life shocks them all when it's discovered teenage girls have the ability to conduct electricity from their fingertips. The power, generated from their "skein", suddenly gives women the confidence and physical ability to overtake the patriarchy. All over the world, women are rising and they can awaken the skein in older women. But sisterhoods begin to crumble. And while everyone struggles to find their place in the new normal, they must face their own personal demons and come to grips with an unsettling realization. Who really has the power?

This book has received great reviews and is the winner of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. It's hard to write about it without giving much away, but if you're interested in science based dystopia, I'd suggest giving this a read. It'll certainly make you think about the roles of men and women in society as well as how power corrupts and empowers.

Rated R: This book has graphic rape scenes, violence, language.

 

March's Pick: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

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Plot: Behind Closed Doors is a dark fiction novel detailing the secrets behind the perfect marriage. Jack and Grace look like they have it all - the fancy home, exotic vacations, a love story envied by friends - but looks are deceiving. Grace finds herself in a nightmare and must figure out a way out before time runs out.

Who is Jack? The loving husband and a monster.

Who is Grace? The dutiful wife and the enslaved victim.

Who is Millie? Grace's sister and the wildcard.

Why you need to read this book? This is dark fiction done right. Paris creates a story world so perfectly constructed of glass that you can't wait for someone to crash into it. Just when you think you've figured everything out, another twist keeps you turning the pages. And perhaps most importantly, the ending is satisfying and complete. No cliff hangers. No ambiguity. It's a "read in one session" dark dramatic disturbing thriller that will leave you wondering, what happens behind closed doors?

Rating: R for violence, disturbing themes

February's Pick: The Ghost Box

Ten short stories by some of the finest horror/dark fiction authors, compiled together in one box set compliments of Patton Oswalt. Each one contains it's own blend of mystery and suspense, perfect for readers who like the queasy unrest of a good weird fiction plot.

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The authors: Dennis Etchison, Arthur Machen, Clark Ashton Smith, Michael Reaves, W.F. Harvey, H.F. Arnold, Richard Matheson, Adam Corbin Fusco, George R. R. Martin, Al Sarrantonio, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

My Favorite Short Story in the Box: Born of Man and Woman by Richard Matheson. One of the shorter stories in the box, this is a tale of a lonely outcast child who only wants the love and acceptance of family and what happens when it is denied. The black sheep of the family, locked away in the basement, the child grows with anger. But things aren't as they seem in this quick paced dark fiction story and the reader will be left with a sense of unease yet satisfaction.

Best Horror Story in the Box: The Pear-Shaped Man by George R.R. Martin. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and it came in a close second to my favorite. Eerie, unsettling and dark, this is a story about a young woman new to the big city and her neighbor, a pear-shaped man who develops an obsession with her. This may be classified as dark fiction rather than horror, but it leaves the reader with a stickiness that won't easily wash off.

Why you need to read it: Short stories don't always receive the reverence they deserve. But as a writer, I can attest that the smaller the word count, the more difficult the writing process. Each word in all these stories hold an importance, driving the stories forward into the dark and twisted world created by their authors. Some are disturbing (Pumpkin Head by Al Sarrantonio) and some are creepy  (The Night Wire by H.F. Arnold), all are entertaining quick reads.

 

January's Pick: The Ultimate Rush  by Joe Quirk

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Plot : The Ultimate Rush is a 1998 fast paced, adrenaline-fueled novel featuring Chet Griffin, a rollar-blading messenger / bad ass hacker. After learning that his deliveries include illegal material, Chet ends up at the center of a criminal scheme that has him and his girlfriend, Ho, running for their lives as Chinese mobsters and dirty cops hunt for them through the streets of San Francisco. Will he survive to expose the truth?

Why I love this book : High intensity chase scenes that make the Fast and the Furious look like bumper cars, nineties cliches that are so bad that they're good, and a raw tone that hooks a reader by the end of the first page make this book fantastic. It's a blast from beginning to end, a constant thriller with just enough moments to catch your breath before being thrown back into Quirk's R-rated world of killers and conspiracies. Chet, a tattooed lovable loser who barely earns enough money to pay rent, makes for an unlikely hero. His girlfriend Ho (yes, that's her name) smooths his rough edges, and while there's enough action to keep the book propelling forward, the love story subplot added an extra layer to the novel which helped humanize Chet into more than just a guy a hacker with a sugar addiction. 

How I discovered this book : I like to think The Ultimate Rush arrived in my hands by divine intervention. My mother-in-law packed up a box of my husband's old stuff and passed it to us. Tucked at the bottom was the book, which I read in one sitting that night. My husband has no recollection of buying the book, nor do any of his family members.

Rating : R for Violence, Sex, Language.