Book Haul – March 2018

Book-Haul-March-2018
My March book haul was the biggest so far this year, mostly because the Canadian customs is annoyingly slow and inconsistent, so books I’d ordered months ago from the UK just now arrived.

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  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
    I confess I haven’t read The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet yet, but this was stupidly cheap on Book Depository. And one of my goals in the next couple of months is to read the first two books before the third one drops.
  • Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton
    I’m a sucker for WW2 nonfiction and this caught my eye a year ago but I never got the chance to pick it up.
  • The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
    This took nearly FOUR months to arrive. I’d given it up for dead, said my laments and prayers and got my refund, and then one day it appears out of nowhere in a packaging that looks like something that crawled out of a war zone. Anyway,
    I’ve been meaning to read Mary Renault for years now and I figured one of her standalones would be a good place to start.

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  • Imposter Syndrome (The Arcadia Project 3) by Mishell Baker
    Read it, loved it.
  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente I loved the first book so I’ll be slowly going through the rest of the series this year.
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
    My first Christopher Moore purchase and it certainly won’t be the last one.

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  • Jade City (The Green Bone Saga 1) by Fonda Lee
    Currently reading through this and absolutely loving it. Look out for a glowing review.

  • The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
    This one’s a giveaway win. It’s been likened to Orange is the New Black, so colour me interested.

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  • Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
    I’ve never read Staveley but I sampled a bit of his writing from The Art of War anthology, and it turns out the style is kind of my jam, so I’ll be reading this once I finish the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy.
  • The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 2) by Brian Staveley
    For some reason I had the first and the third book of the trilogy but was missing the middle one, so I had to remedy that.

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  • The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
    I couldn’t wait until September for this one. It’s so, so good.
  • Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb
    My current mission is to collect every english version of Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books (which is my all-time favourite series), and I was lucky enough to find this near-pristine US hardback of Fool’s Errand.

And there you have it. Tell me if you see any of your favourites and any that you think I should read immediately!

 

[Review] The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Twisty, Original, and Utterly Spellbinding

The Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Title: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Publisher: Raven Books (Imprint of Bloomsbury UK)
Release Date: February 8th, 2018 (UK); September 18th, 2018 (NA)
Genre(s): Mystery, Science Fiction
Page Count: 528 pages
Goodreads

Rating: 9.5/10

 

 

Stuart Turton is a twisted fucking genius. I doff my hat to the mysterious acid-fueled voice that must have whispered into his brain at 3 AM that an Agatha Christie/Quantum Leap/Groundhog Day mashup would be the perfect debut novel. Because holy hell, it’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun reading. The Seven (7 1/2 in the North American version) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is the best whodunit story I have ever read and it has just reserved itself a VIP spot on my Best of 2018 list.

It starts with a lost memory. A name torn from the throat (“Anna!”). A mad chase through the woods. A woman’s scream. Our protagonist (Aiden) does not remember who he is or how he came to be at Blackheath House, a crumbling Georgian manor situated in the middle of nowhere. It is where the Hardcastles are throwing a masquerade ball to celebrate the return of their daughter, Evelyn, from France. Except Evelyn will be murdered by the end of the evening. And Aiden will need to solve her murder in order to leave this place.

Here’s the catch, though: every time he wakes up, the day rewinds itself and he’s thrown into the body of a different guest.

Eight same days. Eight different hosts. One woman murdered. Again and again. Fail by the end of day eight and the cycle begins anew.

Simple enough?

…Not quite.

There are many things that set Seven Deaths apart from your standard mystery:

1) The whole, you know, body hopping thing.

2) A protagonist with a…fluid personality:
Our protagonist is a bit of a sponge. He exhibits his own personality, but whenever he wakes up in the body of a new guest, much of their personality ends up seeping into his own. This makes things doubly interesting. It’s also one of the only times I can say, “this character is so inconsistent,” and have it be a good thing.

3) A non-linear timeline:
I don’t want to elaborate much more because it’s best to experience this for yourself, but let’s just say bodies aren’t the only thing Aiden’s hopping through.

I can safely say I have never read anything like Seven Deaths before. It’s a perfect meld of scifi and mystery, with a plot that branches out into a million different directions. And just when you think you’ve seen the last of the author’s tricks, you get one more surprise, and then another…and another. Until they all accumulate and build up to a rousing crescendo of a finale. It’s absolutely brilliant and your brain will be twisted into knots. The prose is also fantastic. Short and to-the-point in tense moments, but beautiful and meandering in others. It’s not just a fun story; it’s also an introspective one that ruminates on the nature of individuality and redemption.

Add to all this a protagonist who is stubborn and empathetic–a combination that makes him so easy to root for–and an eclectic cast of side characters–likeable and shy, clever and witty, arrogant and repulsive, and every one of them hiding sordid secrets–and you have a story that is destined to leave a mark in literary history.

I can’t further articulate how enamoured I am with this book without spoiling stuff, so I’ll just leave you with a mental image of wild flailing arms and incoherent screeching. And two words: Read it.

If you love mysteries, read it.

If you hate mysteries and love scifi, read it.

If you want a story that takes one of the most audaciously brilliant premises ever and pulls it off with aplomb and fireworks, then read it.

If you want your characters complex and interesting and not 2D cardboard cutouts of the Clue cast, read it.

Don your tiaras and plague doctor masks and go get ready for the Hardcastle Masquerade Ball. Oh, and strap on some knives and a pistol or two, because things are going to get very strange and very, very bloody.

~
Note: If you’re in North America, you’re going to have to wait until September 18th for the release. Or, if you’re impatient (and you should be), you can pick it up from Book Depository.

 

Most Anticipated Mystery, Thriller & Horror: Feb-April 2018

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Here’s the second batch of the “Most Anticipated Feb-April” series! I’ve banished the “alternate book covers left and right” scheme into a deep, lightless pit because it was an absolute pain to format the last time (free wordpress has a terrible html editor, who knew?). Please note: some of theses straddle the line between Mystery/Thriler/Horror and other genres.

Before we start, I just want to call conspiracy. It seems like literally every author of every damn genre has a book being published this April. Publishers, I love you, but you and your authors are all going to get me bankrupt. Because I will buy every one of these books (more or less) and softly weep my way to file the official papers. And still–still–I will be utterly unrepentant.

There’s a quote from The Gentleman by Forrest Leo that sums up my near-future nicely:

‘Do you mean to tell me, Simmons, that we haven’t any money left?’
‘I’m afraid not, sir.’
‘Where on earth has it gone?’
‘I don’t mean to be critical, sir, but you tend toward profligacy.’
‘Nonsense, Simmons. I don’t buy anything except books. You cannot possibly tell me I’ve squandered my fortune upon books.’
‘Squander is not the word I would have used, sir. But it was the books that did it, I believe.’

*casts a pointed look*

FEBRUARY

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

~

For reasons beyond me, the North American edition of this is called The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. That edition will also be releasing on September 1st, but I’m too eager to wait until then. It’s got one of the most original premises I’ve seen amidst all 2018 releases and it’s been described as Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day. If that doesn’t make you excited, I don’t know what will.

Releases February 8th (UK), September 1st (NA)
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MARCH

The Hollow Tree by James Brodgen

The Hollow Tree


After her hand is amputated following a tragic accident, Rachel Cooper suffers vivid nightmares of a woman imprisoned in the trunk of a hollow tree, screaming for help. When she begins to experience phantom sensations of leaves and earth with her missing limb, Rachel is terrified she is going mad… but then another hand takes hers, and the trapped woman is pulled into our world.

This woman has no idea who she is, but Rachel can’t help but think of the mystery of Oak Mary, a female corpse found in a hollow tree, and who was never identified. Three urban legends have grown up around the case; was Mary a Nazi spy, a prostitute or a gypsy witch? Rachel is desperate to learn the truth, but darker forces are at work. For a rule has been broken, and Mary is in a world where she doesn’t belong…

~
I wasn’t sure whether to put the book on this list or the Fantasy one, but there’s just something about the cover–I can’t quite put my finger on it– that suggests a lot of lean towards horror. The premise sounds brilliant; I have a soft spot for stories that feature trees, or tree-like creatures, as main characters, and this looks to be a compelling blend of fantasy, horror, and mystery.

Releases March 13th
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The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls


Vermont, 1950.
There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . .

~
Mysterious goings-on in an all-girls boarding school? A body of suspicious origin? Possible paranormal activities? And an intrepid female journalist on the case? Sign. Me. Up.

Releases March 20th
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APRIL

The Window by Amelia Brunskill 

The Window


Anna is everything her identical twin is not. Outgoing and athletic, she is the opposite of quiet introvert Jess. The same on the outside, yet so completely different inside–it’s hard to believe the girls are sisters, let alone twins. But they are. And they tell each other everything.

Or so Jess thought.

After Anna falls to her death while sneaking out her bedroom window, Jess’s life begins to unravel. Everyone says it was an accident, but to Jess, that doesn’t add up. Where was Anna going? Who was she meeting? And how long had Anna been lying to her?

~
This book first caught my eye on Twitter. A lovely minimalist cover sandwiching a story that offers an exploration of sibling relationships, and you have a recipe for something I would inhale in a heartbeat.

Releases April 3rd
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Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

UnBury Carol
Carol Evers is a woman with a dark secret. She has died many times . . . but her many deaths are not final: They are comas, a waking slumber indistinguishable from death, each lasting days.

Only two people know of Carol’s eerie condition. One is her husband, Dwight, who married Carol for her fortune, and—when she lapses into another coma—plots to seize it by proclaiming her dead and quickly burying her . . . alive. The other is her lost love, the infamous outlaw James Moxie. When word of Carol’s dreadful fate reaches him, Moxie rides the Trail again to save his beloved from an early, unnatural grave.

And all the while, awake and aware, Carol fights to free herself from the crippling darkness that binds her—summoning her own fierce will to survive. As the players in this drama of life and death fight to decide her fate, Carol must in the end battle to save herself.

~
In 2014, Josh Malerman stormed his way into literary horror with his ridiculously impressive debut, Bird Box, and took no prisoners. It was the first horror book I read that made me stop to peer nervously around the dark corners of my apartment at night. His latest seems like a fascinating meld of Western and gothic horror, and I cannot wait.

Releases April 10th
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The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp

Jeremy Shipp


When Isabella died, her parents were determined to ensure her education wouldn’t suffer.

But Isabella’s parents had not informed her new governess of Isabella’s… condition, and when Ms Valdez arrives at the estate, having forced herself through a surreal nightmare maze of twisted human-like statues, she discovers that there is no girl to tutor.

Or is there…?

~
This is the one novella of the bunch and, once more, a ghost girl seems to be the star of the story. The cover looks wonderfully gothic, and that maze is very, very intriguing.

Releases April 17th
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White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

White Rabbit


Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian―the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get worse, right?

Then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. He and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox. Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth, but April has something he needs. Her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to clear his sister’s name . . . or die trying.

~
White Rabbit
is just the fourth (*stares*) April novel in this genre category, and Caleb Roehrig’s second YA mystery, his first being Last Seen Leaving. It promises to be very queer and more macabre than the last one, if the blood spatters on the cover are any indication. What fun! You can sample the first three chapters on Amazon now.

Releases April 24th
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