Book Review- The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

I recently finished Stephen Graham Jones’ latest novel, The Only Good Indians, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The book is amazing, and unlike anything I’ve read. Teetering along a fine line between literary horror (yes, there is some disagreement as to whether that exists but I strongly support the notion that it does), a straight-up revenge story, and multi-faceted narratives of various Native American experiences, it delivers some serious gore alongside real emotional pain. It’s wildly atmospheric and to put it plainly, weird. Weird in the very best way, of course.

The revenge plot centers on four Native American men getting their just deserts after disrespecting the sacredness of an elk herd while hunting on elder tribal lands. The group’s excessive spray of bullets decimates an elk herd that includes a pregnant elk, who struggles with every thing she has to survive for her calf. She succumbs to her wounds and the Blackfeet reservation’s game warden discovers their trespass which results in them being forced to leave all the elk meat behind, except for the cow who fought so hard. The four pals are banned from hunting on the reservation for ten years as further punishment, but their real punishment arrives years later.

Without spoiling too much of the story, because there are indeed some surprising twists and turns, I can say this moment of carelessness and disregard results in very serious repercussions for the four men, their friends and family, and even their pets. In the beginning readers increasingly question what is real and what is being told to us by an unreliable narrator. Eventually, through a very clever shift in perspective, readers see the truth of what is happening and the story really picks up speed as we hurtle towards a conclusion.

The Only Good Indians is a stellar example of how horror can also be literary, as Jones has crafted a deeply felt look at cycles of violence, identity and the price of breaking away from tradition, and perhaps most surprisingly, the power of forgiveness and hope. I can’t promise it will all make sense in a neat, tidy way in the end but it doesn’t really need to honestly. A #ownvoices title that is highly recommended reading for fans of horror, literary fiction, strong character writing, and twisty plots.

Trigger warning: When I say there is gore in this, I am not exaggerating. It does include some brutal ends for specifically dogs. I assure you, the book overall is worth reading and you can breeze past some of the grisly paragraphs if need be.

Check out the ebook here or request the print copy here.

The Only Good Indians is the November selection for Novel Scares book club, my book club devoted to all things horror. Please join us for a lively discussion on Zoom November 12th @ 7 pm! Registration for fall programs begins September 1st and you can register for Novel Scares here. This program is also part of the county wide One Community Reads, taking place now through September, inviting you to read and reflect about race, injustice, history, and a better future.

Happy reading and stay safe!

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

Here some of the new exciting releases for you to take a look at this week!

A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne – From the award-winning, best-selling author of The Heart’s Invisible Furies comes an epic tale of humanity, a novel that aims to tell the story of all of us. Imaginative, unique, heartbreaking, this is John Boyne at his most creative and compelling.

No Offense by Meg Cabot – A sequel to No Judgments finds a broken-hearted Molly relocating to a library in the Florida Keys before the discovery of an abandoned newborn leads to an unexpected partnership with an arrogant town sheriff.

Choppy Water by Stuart Woods – When his Maine vacation is interrupted by extreme weather that a menacing adversary uses as cover to target a close friend, Stone Barrington uncovers a massive scheme with corrupt ties spanning New York City through Key West.

Lone Jack Trail by Owen Laukkanen – A veteran Marine and an ex-convict find themselves on opposite sides of the law, in a new thriller from the best-selling author of Deception Cove.

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin – The discovery of an unknown girl found by the side of the road a decade after an unsolved disappearance compels a young police officer’s investigation into dangerous local and personal secrets. By the best-selling author of Black-Eyed Susans.

The Midwife Murders by James Patterson & Richard DiLallo – When two kidnappings and a stabbing occur on her watch in a Manhattan university hospital, a fearless senior midwife teams up with a skeptical NYPD detective to investigate rumors that shift from the Russian Mafia to an underground adoption network.

Microbes: The Life-changing Story of Germs by Phillip K. Peterson & Michael T. Osterholm – With straight-forward and engaging writing, infectious diseases physician Phillip Peterson surveys how our understanding of viruses has changed throughout history, from early plagues and pandemics to more recent outbreaks like HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika, and Coronavirus.

Then She Vanished by T. Jefferson Parker – Helping a rising politician whose wife has gone missing amid an inexplicable series of bombings, private investigator Roland Ford investigates the activities of a mysterious group before uncovering sinister ties to a kidnapping that threatens an entire city.

Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie & Carolyn Durand – With unique access and written with the participation of those closest to the couple, the insider authors offer an honest, up-close and disarming portrait of a confident, influential and forward-thinking couple who are unafraid to break with tradition, determined to create a new path away from the spotlight, and dedicated to building a humanitarian legacy that will make a profound difference in the world.

Olive the Lionheart: Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman’s Journey into the Heart of Africa by Brad Ricca – Draws on personal writings in an account of Olive MacLeod’s search for her missing fiancé, naturalist Boyd Alexander, in 1910 Africa, a quest shaped by dangerous natural elements, a murderous leopard cult and two adorable lion cubs.

Last Call on Decatur Street by Iris Martin Cohen – Working as a Crescent City burlesque dancer after college pressures and a drinking problem lead to her expulsion, Rosemary interweaves her pain into seductive performances before resolving to go sober on a transformative night.

Via Negativa by Daniel Hornsby – Dismissed by his conservative diocese for his eccentric insubordination, a homeless Father Dan transforms his car into a mobile monk cell and embarks on a spiritual road trip marked by an injured coyote and other offbeat travelers.

Making Sense: Conversations on Consciousness, Morality, and the Future of Humanity by Sam Harris – The best-selling neuroscientist and author of The End of Faith shares transcripts of 12 top-selected conversations from his controversial podcast to explore such topics as the nature of consciousness, free will, political extremism and ethical living.

Little Scratch by Rebecca Watson – A debut novel written in the style of a woman’s thoughts on a deceptively ordinary day traces her growing perturbation of mind as she moves through a routine marked by self-doubt, impatience, philosophical development and personal neuroses.

Houseplants for All: How to Fill Any Home With Happy Plants by Danae Horst – A beautiful guide to selecting and growing the right plants for your home, with a plant profile quiz.

Help Yourself: A Guide to Gut Health for People Who Love Delicious Food by Lindsay Maitland Hunt & Linda Pugliese – More than 125 gut-friendly recipes plus science-backed advice for wellness in body and mind. This game-changing cookbook will make you rethink how you eat.

Operation Vengeance: The Astonishing Aerial Ambush That Changed World War II by Dan Hampton – The best-selling author of Viper Pilot presents a narrative account of America’s secret World War II mission to assassinate Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese commander who masterminded the Pearl Harbor attacks.

Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History by Kurt Andersen – The best-selling author of Fantasyland presents a deeply researched history of America’s 20th-century transition toward government-sanctioned, normalized inequalities that favor big business and resist progressive change while rendering everyday workers increasingly powerless.

~Semanur

 

I Read YA! Do You?

Regular readers will remember that I have already shared all of my 5-star YA reads of 2020. It’s now time to start sharing some of my 4-star recommendations.

American Panda by Gloria Chao. Seventeen year old Mei is a pre-med at MIT. Her whole life is already mapped out-become a doctor, marry a parents-approved, successful, Taiwanese guy with an Ivy League degree, and have babies. It’s the least she can do for her parents who have sacrificed everything for her and who have already been betrayed by her older brother. There are a couple of problems with this plan. She is a germaphobe. She loves to dance. Darren is not Taiwanese. This is a funny and heartfelt coming of age story about a young woman stuck between two cultures. It’s also about first love and family secrets and following your passions, all things teens of any ethnicity can relate to. A solid 4-star read.

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban. What happens when the scholarship dinner you’ve been invited to turns out to be a trap? This debut thriller reads like an Agatha Christie novel. The class valedictorian, the popular girl, the music geek, the stoner, the loner, and the star athlete all think they are being honored with a scholarship. Instead, they are locked in a room with a bomb, a syringe of poison, and a note that tells them to pick a person to die or they all die. The clock is ticking. This is an edge of your seat read that literally takes place over the course of an hour. Will they panic? Escape? Kill someone? This is a wild ride from a new voice in YA thrillers.

One of Us is Next by Karen McManus. Speaking of thrillers…If you aren’t reading Karen McManus, go do it now. This is the sequel to her hit One of Us is Lying. It’s been a year since the incidents at Bayview High and there is a new game circulating- Truth or Dare and this version is dark and dangerous. This is another strong addition to the YA thriller genre. I am definitely a fan of the author and look forward to more great reads by her.

Deadly Little Secrets by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Here’s another thriller and a sequel. I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes and will read anything she writes. This one picks up where Little White Lies leaves off. If you like southern charm and wicked family secrets and secret societies, you really need to read the Debutantes series. What I love about all of Barnes’ books is that there is plenty of humor to cut through the tension of her rather dark tales.

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black. This one is actually the final book in the Folk of the Air trilogy. You’ll want to start with The Cruel Prince, followed by The Wicked King. I always think I do not enjoy stories about the fae, and yet, any time I decide to read one, I like it, so I guess I am wrong about myself! Holly Black knows her stuff. She is the queen of the fairy tale and she returns to her fairy roots with this brutal and twisty trilogy. It’s full of magic and betrayal and the ending is fantastic. Highly recommend.

~Megan

Imagine Your Story – Summer Reading

The official Rocky River Public Library summer reading season has come to an end, but, of course, summer reading continues! Many of you participated this year, though our format required some flexibility on your part – and we really appreciate it! Winners will be announced soon – stay tuned!

In the meantime, what have you been reading? Do you feel like it’s hard to focus on reading in the pandemic or just the opposite? I started this pandemic out poorly – I just couldn’t concentrate – but then slowly, a few books caught my attention and hit the sweet spot of what I needed to read.

First up, Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza. I am always drawn to books by Latin American authors, and I’m so happy I picked up this debut after reading about it on The Morning News Tournament of Books. Optic Nerve was in the final challenge, but lost to Normal People by Sally Rooney (which is another good book btw). Sign up to get notifications about this tournament and you’ll be on top of some of the best books of the year.

Back to Optic Nerve. First off, this book is not a plot driven story; it’s a series of reflective vignettes that center around a piece of art, a painting, a drawing, etc. The author is an art critic, and so is the narrator, so I’m sure there are biographical influences – each chapter she talks about a piece of art that moves her – and the artist’s life – and weaves it through something happening in her life. Some of the artists are well-known, but the works of art are not, because they’re generally in museums in Buenos Aires. I loved her writing, her reflections; someone describes it as ‘deeply felt’ – yes – it’s just one of those books.

I also just finished reading Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry – I read it in one day, it’s that engaging. The story of two middle-aged Irish gangsters, waiting in a Spanish port for the next boat from Tangier – doesn’t sound too thrilling, I know. But their conversations in their Cork accent, their flashbacks, their relationship – comic, but deeply sad as well.

What’s next? – well, I just started listening to Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – it’s about the death of Shakespeare’s 11 year old son during the plague – sounds timely. And I’m hoping to read some galleys of books coming out this Fall – I’ve got Jess Walter’s The Cold Millions on my iPad. I loved his book The Beautiful Ruins, and I’m hearing great things about this one as well.

Happy Reading!

~ Dori

Favorite Books of 2020 (So Far)

Can you believe that we are more than halfway through 2020?! I know I surely cannot. Little did we know in January how very different this year would look compared to years past, and really March to now have been a bit of a foggy blur. Not only does my handy dandy planner help me with my to-do lists now more than ever, it also helps me remember what day it is (which was not so much of an issue pre-2020).

One thing that remains constant though is the joy of reading. Despite whatever madness might be occurring, I can always find a comfy perch somewhere and escape into a book for a few hours. Books have been a reassuring friend to me these past five months and I hope you have been able to curl up with a fabulous book as well.

Below you’ll find some of my most favorite books I’ve read so far this year!

Circe by Madeline Miller

Miller’s novel is absolutely amazing. Circe is a beautifully written, smart, feminist tale that takes readers into the world of Greek mythology but with an entirely new vantage point. Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of sun and mightiest of the Titans. She is strange, empathetic, and viewed as weak by her family and peers, turning to mortals for friendship and comfort. Eventually she discovers she holds the power of witchcraft, particularly the power of transformation, and is subsequently banished to live in exile on a remote island. Here is where she truly finds herself and her power. This complex story has it all- complicated heroines, magic, monsters, romance, tragedy, and adventure. It is also very much a story about families and finding our own paths independent of our familial bonds. I wept at the ending not only because of how perfect it was, but because I could have easily read another 300 pages of this masterpiece.

The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve written about my fangirl love for Jeff VanderMeer’s work on this blog before, but this is perhaps my most favorite book of his to date. It is also the one that ripped my heart out. It is an exploration of the beauty of humanity, conversely also about the cruelty humanity is capable of, and the endurance of love- all packed into under 100 pages. Readers will be mostly lost if they haven’t read any of the other Borne stories (Borne; Dead Astronauts) so I would highly recommend picking up at least one of those before diving into The Strange Bird. Here we follow a new character- a biotech bird mixed of human, avian, and other creature’s genetic material, known only as the Strange Bird. Following her escape from the lab that made her, she is plagued by mysterious dreams, drawn by some invisible beacon inside her to a faraway location. A difficult and gorgeous story that will stay with you long after you close the cover.

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

Perhaps my favorite spooky book so far this year (and you know I love spooky books!). An eerie and atmospheric horror story of women and witchcraft, that also reads as a psychological thriller. The story is set in colonial New England and follows a young woman who is lost in the woods while picking berries for her family- or did she leave her family on purpose? Much is unclear about her circumstances. Eventually she runs into a helpful older woman in the woods, who leads her to yet another mysterious and generous woman with a cozy cabin and plenty of food. Quickly it is made clear that all is not what it seems in this forest and these women may not truly be trying to help her return home. Elements of classic fairy tales and folklore, combined with an unreliable narrator and surreal, dreamlike moments unfold into a disturbing story that I could not put down.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I wasn’t sure I liked this book until I was more than halfway through it, but I’m glad I kept reading, because it turned out that I actually loved it. The writing is extraordinary and what kept me turning the pages, but I wasn’t confident this tale of wealth, white-collar financial crimes, and ghosts would all come together and hit me with the emotional impact I expect of a book. Well, The Glass Hotel delivers and in many unexpected ways. The story looks at multiple characters, but begins and ends with Vincent, a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass palace on a remote island in British Columbia. Readers travel to Manhattan, a container ship, the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, and back, as we follow the connecting threads of one devastating Ponzi scheme and the various people it’s long tendrils dragged down with it.

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

This book is tricky- it wants you to think it is one story, but it twists and turns into another story and then yet another story. It is difficult to share why it is so captivating and amazing without spoiling too much of the plot, but I can say the early parts of the book introduce you to two particularly irritating white hipster men. They have an obsession with “real” music which essentially means any music that is from black culture and eventually this morphs into a hyper-focused interest in blues from the pre-war era for one of them. There are some seriously funny but bothersome passages discussing audiophile interests, vinyl collecting, and expectations of “real” musicians. I assure you, it is worth it to keep reading through the annoying narrator. The story really goes off the rails maybe halfway through and takes readers on a a new narrative that shifts our sense of reality and time, eventually ending with a note of satisfying and thought-provoking vengeance. Alternatively, this is also a story about white privilege, appropriation of black culture (especially music) in America, white wealth created from the exploitation of black bodies, the industrial prison system, and many more deep seated themes.

Have you read any of my favorites? What are some of your favorites that you have read in the past six months? Share with me in the comments!

True Crime Book Review

I have been spending a lot of time lately adding content to the library’s new true crime book discussion Facebook group page. We are the Riverinos and we’d love to have you in the group. If you are looking for more book, podcast, and tv reviews please join us.

Here’s a little taste of what you’ll find in the group:

Good Kids, Bad City: A Story of Race and Wrongful Conviction in America by Kyle SwensonOn May 19, 1975, Harry Franks, a white salesman, was robbed, assaulted, and murdered in broad daylight in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. Three black youth were sentenced and spent a combined 106 years in prison for the crime. The murderer was never caught. The entirety of the prosecution’s case against Wiley Bridgeman, Kwame Ajamu, and Ricky Jackson was based on the eye-witness testimony of 12-year old Ed Vernon. Nearly 40 years later Vernon recanted his story, revealing that the police used fear and coercion to convince him to tell the story they wanted him to tell.In Good Kids, Bad City, journalist Kyle Swenson weaves the personal stories of the young men who were sentenced to grow up in prison with the corruption and injustice that plagued the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland police department. Swenson’s narrative is a scathing indictment of systematic discrimination that continues to this day.

Imagine Your Story – Book to TV, done right

I feel like it was a million years ago that I read and loved The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Published in 1994 (so, not a million years, per se), this novel was the first in Carr’s dark historical fiction series featuring Dr. Laszlo Kreizler as an ahead-of-his-time psychologist whose ability to profile criminals helps track down serial killers. Kreizler is assisted by Times reporter and friend of Teddy Roosevelt, John Schuyler Moore, and society woman-turned-trailblazing policewoman Sara Howard. This team is not afraid of gritty scenes and certainly finds them in 1890s New York City when a string of street children are gruesomely murdered. In this novel and its two sequels, Carr’s magic is his character development and slow building suspense.

alieniest

In 2018, I was thrilled when “The Alienist” was was released as a TNT television series, starring Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning. For me, it checked all the boxes for good murder mystery viewing: lush period setting, beautiful fashion, brooding intensity, and fine acting.

I’m even more excited that the second season, “The Alienist: The Angel of Darkness,” debuted last night! After watching the two hour premiere, not only am I a little extra sleepy today, I am already looking forward to next week’s episode to see what will befall my favorite characters.

If you are ready to dive in, just know that both the TV series and books are dark and violent–you can’t have a criminal profiler if there isn’t a criminal, right? Disclaimers aside, find sometime for a book that will stay with you throughout the years and pick up Caleb Carr’s 1995 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, The Alienist, or set your DVR.

-Carol

YA Round Up Part 2

So it appears that I have been pretty stingy with the 5 star ratings so far this year. Here are the final titles that have been outstanding reads for me so far this year.

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis: This brutal survival story is not for the squeamish! Ashley always felt right at home in the deep woods of the Smoky Mountains, so she was looking forward to what was supposed to be a fun night of camping and drinking. But, after finding her boyfriend with another girl, she storms off in a drunken rage. She takes a hard fall, but she’s too mad to worry. It’s not until she wakes up the next morning that she realizes she is alone, far from the trail, and injured. It’s a race against time, and the infection creeping up her leg, to get herself to safety. I am huge Mindy McGinnis fan and can’t wait to read what she offers next.

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert: Marva Sheridan has been waiting to be old enough to vote for as long as she could remember. One election day she was the first in line at her polling spot. As she’s heading out to go to school she overhears a guy her age insisting he was registered, despite his name not being on the rolls. Marva steps in to intervene, and sets off a chain of events she never anticipated. She and Duke, the guy from the voting spot, set off to set the record straight and enable Duke to cast his first vote. The more time they spend together the more they learn about each and the more they learn the more they like each other.
The Voting Booth hits many hot button topics in the news-voter suppression, gun violence, police brutality-in one delightful, whirlwind tale. I have read everything Brandy Colbert has written and she never disappoints. This is a must read!

Slay by Brittney Morris: You don’t have to be a gamer to appreciate the fact that 17-year old programmer Kiera is a genius. Kiera Johnson is one of just a few black kids at her school, but after school she joins thousands of black gamers in the multi-player online role playing game called SLAY. What no one knows is that she is creator. She goes to great lengths to protect her identity, but when a murder IRL is connected to the game and a troll infiltrates the world of SLAY, Kiera’s safe and beloved world is in danger. Can she protect her creation and her identity? This is not my go-to type of book as I have not interest in online games, but I am so glad I picked this one up. Great characters and a thoughtful look at the need for black people to have safe spaces just for themselves.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei: Pair this nonfiction autobiography of the author’s childhood experience in Japanese internment camps with the Kiku Hughes’s fictionalized account of her grandparents’ experiences. Takei’s story is a harsh reminder that internment camps were part of our country’s RECENT past. There are people living today who were imprisoned for being Japanese and Japanese-American.

My last three 5 star reviews are parts of series.

The Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland: This sequel to Dread Nation picks up the story of Jane McKeene, a badass restless dead hunter, as she ventures West towards California. This alternate history duology takes place after the Civil War, when soldiers because rising from the dead and government decided that form slaves and black girls were the perfect people to battle the undead. It’s a wild ride!

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson: This is the third and final book in the Truly Devious series. It is a completely satisfying end to the story of Ellingham Academy. Fans of true crime and My Favorite Murder will recognize the cases of hiding people Stevie mentions. Fans of Agatha Christie will appreciate the many nods to the queen of mystery stories. I can’t to see what Maureen Johnson has in store for us next!

The King of Crows by Libba Bray: This is the final book in the super creepy Diviners series. I was not expecting the tears at the end of this one. This final book in the series is a scathing commentary on our past wrongs and evils, a cautionary tale as our current political environment has shockingly repeating some of these wrongs, and also a hopeful and stirring love letter to true American patriotism. As I was having these thoughts I kept wondering if I was reading too much in to it, but the author’s note, which I recommend NOT skipping, confirmed that I was not. Oh, and there was a really awesome story about ghosts and monsters and people with powers and love and romance and running away to join the circus. Truly a masterpiece.

That’s all for my 5 star reads of 2020, but I have plenty of amazing 4 star titles to share in future posts. Stay tuned.

~Megan

Imagine Your Story – Books

I have a book to recommend, but first I have a few disclaimers: 1) This novel is about a boy who is the only survivor of a plane crash that kills 191 other people. 2) This book made me cry. 3) The plane crash is described and it’s scary–especially to people like me who really don’t love to fly. 4) I was only able to read this book knowing I wouldn’t be getting on a plane any time soon.

Whew, now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, I’m relieved.

And, if you are still reading this blog post, then maybe you will take a chance on Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. Edward Adler is 12-years-old when his brother and parents and 183 other people are killed in a plane crash that he survives–but that is just the beginning of his remarkable story. He’s not magic or anything. He is just a lucky kid, you might think, until he wakes up alone in a hospital, emotionally and physically broken. He moves in with his Aunt Lacey, who has just lost her sister, and her husband John, who is determined to protect Edward from the endless barrage of strangers obsessed with the crash, who might want to exploit him. With the help of a slew of people, including his therapist, Dr. Mike, and his new neighbor and friend Shay, Edward must learn to go on living.

dear edward

So, yes this book will break your heart. Not only is Edward’s story sad, but readers hear some of his fellow passenger’s personal stories as well. If that wasn’t enough, alternating narratives within this novel share glimpses of the grief of their loved ones.

But this book will lift you up too. It will make you see how people can truly care about one another, and give you hope for humanity. At least it did for me.

So, read this novel about loss, love, and friendship to get in touch with your empathetic side. After all, who knows what might be troubling people who cross our paths every day. Just be sure to keep a tissue handy.

-Carol