“The Summer Wives,” by Beatriz Williams
2018 Publication , 3 star , female author , novel / July 27, 2018

“The Summer Wives,” by Beatriz Williams, is the story of new money, old money, and no money colliding on an island in the north east coast, told primarily from the point of view of the wealthy (by marrying into it) Miranda. As she spends her first summer on Winthrop Island, among people who’ve been summering their for generations and among the people who live there year round, she’s swept up in the wake of her dramatic new step-sister Isobel. In the few short months she’s there, Miranda gets caught up in a secret of the island, and in the arms of a handsome fisherman/light house keeper. I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. The novel bounces around in time a bit to build a story around specific characters and maintain a sense of mystery. The “mystery” is blatantly obvious to anyone who’s picked up a book before, leaving the reader to do a bit of math to figure out exactly how old people are at different points in the story. That said, the descriptions of the island, the residents (mostly part time but a few full time), and the drinking culture of the era(s) are…

“The Woman in Cabin 10,” by Ruth Ware
4 star , female author , novel , thriller / June 28, 2018

“The Woman in Cabin 10,” by Ruth Ware, was published in 2016 and became a New York Times Bestseller… a reputation it deserves. I devoured the book in one day, deeply regretting that I hadn’t taken it with me on a train ride and wait at a doctor’s office (my husband was with me and I wanted to be polite and not ignore him for a book, foolish decision). Note: I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway. My opinions are my own. Laura “Lo” Blacklock is a struggling writer at travel magazine “Velocity.” She’s been there for years without a promotion when, due to the illness of a higher up, a plum assignment drops into her lap. She gets a chance to cover the cruise ship “Aurora,” a sparkling miniature gem of a ship that will intimately house rich and influential people. Her task is to interview and report on them and the exciting ship, and hope she can hobnob her way into advertising money for the magazine. Things kick off to an inauspicious start two days before she’s scheduled to leave, though, when a burglar breaks into her flat, robs her, and barricades her in her room. Luckily…

“Caged,” by Ellison Cooper

“Caged,” by Ellison Cooper, is a fast paced thriller about FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair, who winds up leading the hunt for an especially twisted serial killer. Said serial killer is kidnapping young women and locking them in cages, dosing them with psychoactive drugs, priming them with mythology about death and dying, and then starving them. It’s a long, slow, scary way to die. Altair and her team are eager to end the cycle of killings and prevent any more girls from being tortured and killed. I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway, but my opinion is my own. Content Note: forced outing of someone intersex/trans There’s really cliched words used to describe thrillers: roller coaster, page turner, gripping, full of twists, etc. “Caged” is all of those and more. “Caged” is a very fast read with a few great red herrings that come across not as cheap or cheating but as organic parts of the story. When I was fooled, so were the rest of the characters, in a very believable way. Cooper does a great job using our expectations against us. Cooper’s characters are interesting as well: flawed, hurting Altair and her incredible grandmother; her partner Vik; FBI…

“The Burning,” by S. O. Esposito

“The Burning,” by S. O. Esposito, is a fast paced thriller about a woman with Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). It’s an aggressively feminist book that looks at the many different ways rape culture is the status quo, enforced both actively and passively by both men and women. There’s also arson. I should note that I received this book as part of a GoodReads give away in exchange for my honest opinion. Every time I run into a book featuring Disassociative Identity Disorder, my hackles go up. It’s a flashy, vilified mental disorder often used cheaply and meanly to indicate someone is a villain or just flat out CRAZY!!!!!!!!!. It’s a cliche that further stigmatizes a very real mental illness that affects marginalized people. Esposito seems to have done her homework, however, and her protagonist Alice Leinenger is a person and a character with attributes outside of “just” living with DID. Alice is married to a lawyer and is a stay at home parent (with a nanny) to two young kids. They live in a condo that is impossibly expensive and have more money than I can realistically comprehend. She and her friends casually…

Snake Season by Erin Roberts

“Snake Season,” by Erin Roberts, is a claustrophobic story about love and loss and being forced to make do. Content Note: child death Marie, a pregnant woman with one living child, is visited pretty regularly by the ghost/spirit/manifestation of her first child, Sarah. Sarah slowly, over the course of her childhood, turned monstrous and ultimately Marie killed her and buried her. That’s what she claims, anyway. As we read the story we find that Marie, well meaning and full of love, isn’t exactly a reliable narrator. Time passes and pregnancy after pregnancy results in a baby girl who “goes wrong” until she’s forced to put them out of their misery when her husband Ray is away from home. Now, though, they have Junior… their only son, nearly a year old, and perfect as perfect can be; and they have the baby in her belly who she assumes is also a boy. Everything looks good, right? And then Sarah comes for a visit. Ray is worried about Junior and about the unborn babe. Reading between the lines it’s clear he isn’t worried about them being monsters — shrunken tiny heads, bulbous eyes, arms that reach the floor– he’s worried about SIDS,…

“Worth her Weight in Gold” by Sarah Gailey
2018 Publication , 3 star , female author , Tor / April 26, 2018

“Worth Her Weight in Gold,” by Sarah Gailey, is about a man and his hippo. Specifically it’s about Winslow Remington Houndstooth and his hippo, Ruby, who is his faithful companion and steed and who just isn’t cooperating when it’s time to high tail it outta there after one of his bloody but lucrative heists. And how do you MAKE a hippo do something that hippo doesn’t want to do? Hippos are huge, fast, and have big deadly teeth and also horns. Hippos can mess you up. Especially when they’re in pain. Which Ruby is. It’s a very short story, more a character piece than anything, about the love a man can have for his hippo and the price he’s willing to pay for his health. It’s also, a little bit, about kintsugi. But mostly it’s about love. I have a feeling that true enjoyment of this story requires having read Gailey’s novels “River of Teeth” and “Taste of Marrow.” This short story is a nice appetizer for them, leaving me wanting more.I was able to enjoy the story without having read the novels, which is always a plus. Leave a comment if you HAVE read the novels. What’d you think?…

Granny Death and the Drag King of London by A. J. Fitzwater

“Granny Death and the Drag King of London” by A. J. Fitzwater could be described as a story about Queer culture in the early 90s, Freddie Mercury, and grief. But more than just grief, it’s about loss… about losing almost an entire generation of queer men (and many women) to AIDs. Why don’t you ever see an old Drag Queen? Because death comes all too soon, all too young, thanks to a virus. You can read the story at the link, or you can download and listen to the podcast. Lacey James is a bisexual drag king who has nursed many friends ill with HIV and seen their lives end. She’s said good bye to a great many people she’s loved, and that’s scarred her and scared her. She’s far from her New Zealand place of birth, working a job she doesn’t particularly like for a boss she loathes, when one of her heroes and icons dies of AIDs: Freddie Mercury. As you might expect, this absolutely shatters her. She’s already preoccupied with death, occupied with mourning, carrying a litany of names with her. Now she’s lost Mercury, too. It’s odd, but the death of a famous person we’re emotionally…

“Cutting Teeth,” by Kirsty Logan

“Cutting Teeth,” by Kirsty Logan, is a story about choices; in many ways it’s about the choices that we all make as we enter adulthood, as we live and stretch in relationships. It’s a story about potential. It’s a story about men and women. The narrator is reminiscing, or spinning a story, or simply narrating, the story of their conception and the life of them and their parents prior to their birth. The child’s mother, Ash, is a hunter who runs with a wolf, as a wolf, under the moon and brings home her prey to carve, to salt, to season, to dress. She uses their meat and fur and feathers and bone, as hunters do. The child’s fathers are Caleb, who runs Loch Ness boat tours, and Zev, who is a wolf. Caleb doesn’t know about Zev, does’t know about Ash’s other, wilder life. Caleb doesn’t know about the wild child, half wolf and half human, shifting between two states, in Ash’s womb. Of course, Ash doesn’t know just how wild Caleb’s friends – his very human friends – are until she encounters them drunk in her living room. Ash and Caleb need to make decisions about who they…

“Where Would You Be Now” by Carrie Vaughn

“Where Would You Be Now,” by Carrie Vaughn, is a post-apocolyptic story about a group of medical professionals and amateurs who travel around patching people up and delivering babies while also defending their base of operations and looking for food and supplies. It’s a prequel to Vaughn’s novel “Bannerless.” “Where Would You Be Now” depicts what feels like a pretty accurate post-apocolyptic world. There’s a lot of filthy people banding together, some are opportunists looking to take advantage of others by any (violent) means necessary, there isn’t a lot of food, it’s hard to grow food, people are dying in child birth, and babies don’t tend to live very long because they starve. People also spend time both reminiscing (wow, I sure miss golfing on nicely manicured greens), and regretting (if only things hadn’t gone to hell, I’d be doing X, Y, or Z. What would YOU be doing?). It’s implied that a lot of people were killed (one guy’s concerned with “repopulating the earth”) but there’s enough people to strip stores bare of canned goods and various products. The clinic that the protagonist, Kath, and her partners live and work out of is protected by fences and barbed wire…