Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey
July 19, 2022, by Tor
Review by Melinda
This book begins with Vera coming home to take care of her dying mother. And everything is just…off. Her mother is hostile towards her, there’s something living under her bed, and her father was a serial killer who may be haunting the house, so things are complicated! We get bits and pieces of their backstory revealed, combined with pieces of what’s currently going on; but there are still so many questions as the story continues.
To be honest, I don’t know who was creepier – Vera’s dying mother who despises Vera and constantly says creepy things, or Vera’s father in her memories who fills her head with what seemed close to bizarre religious beliefs. Or maybe the creepiest was the family home. Which is a whole third character looming in the background, feeling alive and threatening at almost every turn.
I listened to this book and it was creepy and haunting, which is exactly the tone needed for this book. Xe Sands does a wonderful monotone in places that makes sense to the story and gives it an even more ominous tone. If you like creepy or horror, you would like this!
Content Notes: death on page, murder
The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope
August 9, 2022, by Redhook
Review by Melinda
This is not a book I’d normally pick up, because it’s speculative fiction, inspired by history, and light on romance. That sentence does not describe books I gravitate towards! But I have really enjoyed L. Penelope’s Earthsinger Chronicles previously and thought her worldbuilding was excellent so I wanted to give this a try. And I’m so glad I did! Set in the 1920s, Clara was born with a gift that allows her to talk to spirits. She talks to her deceased grandmother the most but is sought out by desperate people who need help from the spirits, and in return have a ‘charm’ put on them, which in actuality is a horrible curse they can’t get rid of.
When people begin to disappear and Clara realizes that something sinister is happening is when the fun part of the book begins. The part of the blurb that made me immediately want to read it was “must assemble a ragtag crew to pull off a daring heist” – I LOVE heists! It immediately made me think of a Leverage and Buffy crossover. Clara assembles a group of people who have those charms on them from spirits, and their backstories and explanations for why they reached out to the spirits in the first place were some of my favorite parts of the book. The team needs to fight the spirits and complete the heist to have everyone get out of this alive.
My favorite thing about this book is that Clara Johnson was a real person, and Leslye Penelope did a ton of research and brought that into this spec fiction. And that shined through for sure! Real life Black figures played different roles in this, and I loved that because it made everything more authentic. It reminded me a little of Beverly Jenkins because her books always weave in reality with fiction and it never fails to teach me something.
The audiobook was excellent, Shayna Small brought both Clara and the whole cast of characters to life. I loved this whole world.
Content Notes: Racism, incarceration, murder attempts
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