If your mother was a serial killer, what would you do? For fifteen-year-old Milly, the choice is clear: turn her in before she kills again. With her mother safely behind bars awaiting trial, Milly has a chance for a new life. But things are hard and Milly often wonders if she is good… or will she be bad, like her mother?
GOOD ME BAD ME is a chilling psychological thriller, guaranteed to leave you wide-eyed and shivering. The story shattered any vague expectations I had about how the story would progress, and gave me something so much better than anything I could have imagined.
Milly is one of the most complex characters I’ve read recently. It’s tough enough being a teenager, but to have a serial killer for a mom, too? How does a kid even begin to know how she should feel and act around others after living with a killer? Confusion and anxiety are Milly’s constant companions, and the sense of dread she feels about testifying against her mother was echoed by my own. What would come out during the trial, if anything, that wasn’t already known? The suspense had me on the edge of my seat as those final days before the trial counted down. I won’t spoil what happens in the courtroom, but there were some seriously tense moments during Milly’s testimony.
As for the ending… holy smokes! I never saw it coming, and and it was even more explosive due to the shock of it. Brilliant… just brilliant!
It’s hard to believe this is Ali Land’s first novel. (How can that be?!) This most impressive debut showcases her obvious talent for the written word, and it’s a story I doubt I will ever be able to forget. What was particularly striking to me (aside from having written such an amazing book) was the way she chose to write Milly’s inner thoughts during times of stress. It made me think of Stephen King… the way his writing style often breaks all the ‘rules’, and yet it’s wonderfully effective in telling the story.
This is a must read for fans of psychological thrillers. Once you’ve read it, I have a feeling that—like me—you’ll be impatiently waiting for Land’s next novel!
I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Flatiron Books.
Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.
But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.
When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.
About the Author
After graduating from university with a degree in Mental Health, Ali Land spent a decade working as a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Nurse in both hospitals and schools in the UK and Australia. Ali is now a full-time writer and lives in West London.
Today is my stop on the HOUSE OF SPINES blog tour, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share my thoughts about this outstanding book.
Ranald McGhie is a financially-challenged writer who comes into an unexpected windfall when he inherits his Great-Uncle Alexander’s home—Newton Hall—and everything in it, including a vast library of books. Divorced and doing his best to cope with mental health issues that coincided with the death of his parents, Ranald is both overwhelmed and grateful for the chance to make a fresh start in his new home. But the moment he arrives, he gets a strange vibe from the house, particularly when he’s near the locked door of the lift. His dreams are filled with images of a mysterious woman who calls to him from within the mirror in the lift—a mirror he can’t see within the lift itself—but he knows it there, just as he knows she is there… waiting for him.
I love the spine-tingling chills caused by a creepy Gothic novel, and Malone provides them throughout with his masterful prose. I felt as uneasy as Ranald as he slowly explores different parts of the house, particularly the older areas with its old-fashioned furnishing that look frozen in time. As much as I wanted him to hurry up and investigate more rooms, it brought a delicious shudder to think about the secrets these rooms might hold and I was reluctant to end my speculations.
Ranald’s mental illness makes him an unreliable narrator at times, though I didn’t realize this right away. When I did, it made me wonder how much of what Ranald perceived as true events actually happened… and if they did, whether or not things happened as he thought that did. I loved the uncertainty this created within the story, and was keen to find clues that might indicate the reality (or not) of the given situation. Ranald isn’t the only unreliable character in the story, either… and that’s all I’ll say about that.
Glimpses of the past provide insight into what happened with Ranald’s parents, and in time, we learn about Alexander’s motivation in leaving Newton Hall to him. We also get to learn more about previous occupants of the house—which include Ranald’s mother and grandmother, among others—adding new layers to the mystery surrounding Newton Hall.
Other characters include the married housekeeper and gardener, Ranald’s cousins, his ex-wife and (slightly psychic) former neighbor, and select people from the nearby village. The crisp characterizations of each one was fantastic, and made an already great book that much better. I either loved them, or felt suspicious of them instantly, depending on which character it was—and I was fooled into complacency by more than one of them, thinking I had them all figured out. Nope! Not even close, regarding certain ones.
There aren’t enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe how much I loved the ending. It was absolutely NOT what I was expecting to happen at all! What a way to wrap up a book! It was pure perfection.
To put it simply, Michael J. Malone has found a brand new fan in me. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next, because HOUSE OF SPINES was an amazing read. If you haven’t read it yet, trust me when I say you should. You won’t be sorry!
I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Orenda Books.
Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who appears to have been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, he finds that Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman …
A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…
About the Author
Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In- Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.
I have a confession to make: I almost passed on reading this book. I saw other book bloggers talking about how excited they were to read it, but my decision on not reading it remained firm—until it didn’t. I’d been hearing some serious buzz about this book for quite a while when I saw it was available on Edelweiss, and I knew it was time to find out for myself what all the fuss was about.
Best book decision EVER!
Little Fires Everywhere is a wonderful book. The title is perfect in both the literal and metaphorical sense. The book begins at the scene of a house fire (started by “little fires everywhere”), but as you read further you realize it also references events experienced by most of the featured characters in the book. Shaker Heights is bursting with drama—sometimes private, sometimes very public—and newcomers Mia and Pearl Warren are connected to all of it, in one way or another.
Mia and Pearl have never stayed in one place very long. Mia, an artist, says her work is inspired by this itinerant way of life, so once she finishes a project, they move on, taking only what will fit in their car and leaving everything else behind. Such a life isn’t so great for Pearl, however. She never complains, but deep down she longs for the stability that will only come if they stop traveling and settle down somewhere. Mia has promised they will do this in Shaker Heights, which is how they came to be tenants in Elena Richardson’s rental house.
The Richardson’s seem to have it all. They are an affluent family living in a large, lovely home with four children—Lexie, Trip, Moody, and Izzy. Lexie is the smart one, Trip is a jock, Moody has the soul of a poet, and Izzy is the rebellious one. With the exception of Mr. Richardson, everyone in the family was born and raised in Shaker Heights. They have perfect lives… or do they? Things are rarely what they seem to be, after all.
Pearl and Moody struck up a friendship the day she and Mia moved into their new home, and it wasn’t long before she started spending most of her time hanging out with the Richardson kids at their house. Mia worried about Pearl’s infatuation with the family, so when Elena asks her to work as their part-time housekeeper, she agreed in order to keep an eye on her daughter.
Meanwhile, the Richardson’s friends—the McCulloughs—are in the process of adopting a Chinese-American baby they named Mirabelle. The family recently attended Mirabelle’s first birthday party, and Lexie fell in love with the her and is excited about the adoption. Izzy, on the other hand, is troubled by it because the McCulloughs don’t know for certain when Mirabelle’s birthday is, nor is Mirabelle the name she was given at birth. They have a heated disagreement about this one afternoon while Mia is working at the house, and she can’t help but wonder if Mirabelle is the daughter of Bebe Chow—a woman she works with at another job—who is searching for the baby she left at a fire station in a moment of desperation. Her decision to tell Bebe about Mirabelle will have lasting repercussions that affects the lives of everyone involved, including her own.
It probably seems like I’ve told a lot about what happens in the book, but trust me when I say I have barely scratched the surface on the events that take place in this novel. There is so much more going on in Shaker Heights than the few examples I’ve given here.
This book was my introduction to Celeste Ng, as I’ve not (yet) read her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You. (This is clearly an oversight of epic proportions that I intend to rectify sometime in the near future.) Ng’s writing is stellar, with wonderfully vibrant characters readers will easily connect with as they go through the motions of trying to sort out their problems. And it must be noted that Mirabelle’s adoption story is written in such a way that not only the characters in the book, but the readers themselves, are led to consider the importance of cultural identity when the child is of a different ethnicity than the adoptive parents. It’s something I’d never considered before, so I appreciated the issue being raised within the story because it made me see things in a different way. Fiction or not, I love a book that makes me think!
To sum it all up, this is a great book. Don’t make the mistake I (almost) made… just do yourself a favor… go read the book. This one is WAY too good to miss. And keep an eye out for Celeste Ng’s next book, because I certainly will be!
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA’s Alex Award, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.
Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.
Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, will be published by Penguin Press in fall 2017.
Set during an unspecified time in the future, America as we know it is no more, thanks to disease-carrying Miner ticks. First they bite, then burrow under your skin to lay eggs that travel in your bloodstream as they mature, eventually erupting from your flesh to scurry away. Many ticks carry the deadly Shreve’s disease, but it takes up to two days to know if you’ve been infected. If you are, you’re left to suffer a horrible death. Anyone who doesn’t have a Stamp handy to incinerate the tick as soon as it bites (or a friend to do it for them) is going to have a really bad day… perhaps for the last time.
Now people live in zones behind the “salt line”—an area of scorched earth beyond a massive wall—in order to stay safe. People who want to risk the danger can pay an adventure company for a nature excursion beyond the salt line, after receiving crucial training on how to survive. The latest group to go on the tour are enticed by the danger of the trip, but they have no idea just how dangerous it will be. Kidnapped by people associated with a community called Ruby City, the hostages learn there is more fear out-of-zone than just the ticks. What do their captors want? And what does it have to do with them?
I don’t know which caught my attention first—the title, or the cover showing that long stretch of empty road leading away from the massive wall in the background. The blurb sealed the deal, despite the ick-factor of deadly ticks. They’re nasty little creatures, and I’m thoroughly disgusted by them, but I couldn’t let that stand in the way of what promised to be an interesting story with a unique take on how the world as we know came apart. I was willing to risk being grossed out (and I was, more than once) in order to dive into this story and see what happened.
The story is told from many different perspectives, and while that may be off-putting to those who don’t care for multiple POVs, it’s my opinion that this particular story couldn’t have been told any other way. The story would fall flat told from only one or two points of view, and the things that motivate both the hostages and the captors to do what they do is often vital to the overall story.
Of the hostages, I think it’s safe to say Marta had the most compelling story. I won’t go into why, but she’s the sort of character who thinks of herself as weak only to discover an inner strength she didn’t realize she had. Of the captors, I was most interested in Violet. There was a great deal more to her than meets the eye, and her reasons for taking part in the kidnapping scheme (once revealed) made a lot of sense to me.
I enjoyed reading the story, but there were quite a few things I (correctly) expected would happen, and it was a little disappointing to figure it out so easily. Redemption came with an unexpected twist that was so subtle, the implications of what I’d just read didn’t register for a moment, and I had to read the sentence again in order to understand. Things took an intriguing turn from there!
I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like this before. Jones’ writing is imaginative and kept my attention solidly focused on the book as I was reading. The tick scenes creeped me out completely but I was horribly fascinated by them, as well. (And yes, I did keep imagining I felt something crawling on me as I read about them… EEK!)
I’ll be watching for Jones’ next novel. After writing a book about deadly ticks, I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!
In the spirit of Station Eleven and California, award-winning novelist Holly Goddard Jones offers a literary spin on the dystopian genre with this gripping story of survival and humanity about a group of adrenaline junkies who jump -the Salt Line.-
How far will they go for their freedom–once they decide what freedom really means?
In an unspecified future, the United States’ borders have receded behind a salt line–a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what’s left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a pop star and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife.
Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks–and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line.
About the Book
Holly Goddard Jones is the author of The Salt Line, The Next Time You See Me and Girl Trouble (stories). Her work has appeared in The Best American Mystery Stories, New Stories from the South, Tin House magazine, and elsewhere. She was a recipient of The Fellowship of Southern Writers’ Hillsdale Prize for Excellence in Fiction and of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. She earned her M.F.A. from Ohio State University and her B.A. from the University of Kentucky. She teaches creative writing at UNC Greensboro and lives in Greensboro with her husband, Brandon, and their children.