Tidepool by Nicole Willson
Tidepool doesn’t quite make a proper stand in for a beach trip, because despite it being a small coastal town, it’s about as uninviting as they come. By design. The locals don’t want you visiting and uncovering their dark secrets. The town is drab and reeks of seafood that’s gone off with an underlying base note of fear. And yet, one young man sees a business opportunity there, a chance to make Tidepool into a new Ocean City or maybe even some day Atlantic City.
Ambitious. Deadly so. The young man checks in, never checks out. And soon enough his adoring and now anxious younger sister comes looking for him. She isn’t going to like what she’ll find. In fact, she will be forever changed by it. And you know why?
Because something lives beneath the sea, something hungry, something that must be fed at all costs. Yeah, it’s that kind of a story and it has those tenacled Lovecraftian connotations.
So it’s fun, in a way doomed towns provide a gloomy atmospheric kind of fun. Tidepool traps its visitors like a nightmare, it won’t them gone but also doesn’t really want them to leave.
There’s some plot confusion here, because the locals, especially the sheriff, oddly oscillate between expelling the newcomers and locking them in. It isn’t the ambivalent thing about the narrative, there are also some questionable actions undertaken by the leads, but one must remember a. they are very young, the main protagonist is just 21 and b. they are not very worldly and that it’s over a century ago.
Also, if you name your main character Sorrow, you can’t really respect her to come to a happy end. It’s a Chekhov's gun of a moniker.
Overall, it’s a pretty good gothic tale. It has a lot of gothic clichés (pale people in black living in a mansion and all that) and works them nicely. It’s also ever so slightly underbaked, too lite tonally, occasionally veering into the light when it should resolutely stay in the shadows. The ending is a fine example of that. It’s like the mood is almost…tantalizingly almost…right. Which is, I suppose, another way of saying the book and the author show lots of promise and need to mind the estrogen and sunshine infusion in the text, if it’s meant to be a work of dark psychological genre fiction. The narrative is at times ever so slightly, very slightly amateurish, but well on the way to becoming professional in quality. Pretty entertaining, overall though. Tenacles and all. Thanks Netgalley.
My brain jumped with joy at the word cult in the description and that was that. Cults hold an endless fascination for me and I will read all about them.
This one, The Good Weather cult, is a fascinating creation, one resulting in the largest cult suicide on US soil (since Jonestown massacre was in South America). Not quite Jonestown numbers either, but 137 dead, including women and children and in a way that’s considerably more horrifying. With only a sole survivor, a man left to try to rebuild his life from the ashes.
Tom Duncan didn’t mean to join a cult, he was dragged into it by his wife, one of the original devotees. But he stayed in it, for decades, and now being the only one left alive he is a punching bag of public outrage, anguish and disdain. Tom tries to start over with his now adult daughter and young grandchild, but there’s too much ugliness surrounding him, it isn’t safe for him or his family. And so in interest of closure he attends the eponymous reunion and during the few emotionally charged days attempts to sort out all of the unclaimed baggage left to him by his past. It doesn’t go smoothly, trauma processing seldom does, but it’s a necessary journey for Tom, one that may lead to redemption and a way forward in his life.
Cult or not (although given a choice, cult every time), this was a very good dramatic story. The extraordinary circumstances of its protagonist’s life made for a very engaging, emotional read. It was well written and featured fascinatingly complex characters. There are so many cult stories that focus on the cult itself and here the focus was on the aftermath, not the tragedy of dying, but the tragedy or survival. The author did that very cleverly, reminding the audience that the survivor, while vilified by the public opinion, is actually also a victim.
The narrative is interspersed with the excerpts of the popular true crime style documentary about the cult, which was very cleverly done too. I don’t watch that sort of television, it’s too tawdry, too prurient, too emotionally manipulative. But it’s very popular and it’s easy to understand why…there’s a lot of interest in such aberrant behavior and mentality. Cults and serial killers are what sells. But for me, I’ll take the fictionized, fictional option.
A very good book. I’d enjoy it a lot more if the publisher’s advanced reading copy was properly formatted, but it was readable as is. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
I like music in a very specific way. And this band doesn’t really enter my mental music club. If you just told me the name…the only thing to come to mind would be the famous banana. And yet apparently, they were huge, at least when it came to blowing the minds of kids who grew up to become famous musicians themselves. And so I figured I’ll learn all about them. Well, as much as you can learn about a music act from a graphic novel.
And so, according to this graphic novel, the band was a joke that started off as The Factory based pet project, fronted by two bickering unpleasant characters they went on to get some (limited and dubious) fame and not much acclaim and split about five short (or long to them, probably) years later. The book made it seem like at no time the music they made was actually good, but it was different and thematically controversial enough to gain attention. And that’s eventually made them into a sort of music legends.
I’m not impressed. Not by the story. Not by the underwhelming cartoonish art, very basic black and white with splashes of pink for color. Probably wouldn’t like the music either, though that judgement will be reserved until actually listening to it. But it was a quick read and educational on a pop culture level and now there’s a context for the banana in my mind, so there.
I enjoy a good biography and I always thought of myself as Einstein admirer. And then I read this book and now I’m not sure. which is to say I now appreciate the difficulty of separating the person from their accomplishments.
When it comes to the latter, Einstein stands nearly peerless in a field of modern science. Not entirely alone and, granted, standing on the shoulders on giants, but still…the man’s a monument. There have only been 4 or 5 scientists in the entire timeline of science that have been able to do what he did…reinvent the paradigm, reinvent the way people think about the world. It’s basically Euclid, Galilei, Copernicus, Newton and Einstein. And since this short bio concentrates heavily on Einstein the physicist, it’s a pile of well deserved praises.
But then it veers to Einstein the man and that’s when it gets tricky. Because genius or not, he was also a man, a person of his time, shaped by the ideologies and events of his era. The book presents Einstein as a moral man in immoral times, moral, but complex and complicated. Compelled to flee and condemn his native land, he has nevertheless disparaged the intellectual prowess of his adopted country. Mind you, rightly so, America was never that bright and only got dumber since, but still…
A devoted Zionist, he has later all but abandoned the cause, certainly turned down a chance at Israel presidency quickly enough.
For all of Einstein’s accomplishments, he also never did complete the grand unification theory that would have tied up all his science neatly with a bow.
And in his personal life, the man was a nightmare. An absolute beast in his first marriage and an aspiring pervert in his second, alternating between paying for his son’s institutionalization and trying to sleep with his stepdaughters, this was a prime example of a man so ruled by his mind that it has all but disabled his emotional box of tricks. Or maybe it was a result of too many people over too many years telling him he was a gift to science which he took to mean also a gift to the world in general. The man certainly had the oversized ego a genius might.
Reminded me of Picasso, another brute of a man, all too enamored by his own accolades but then again Einstein was actually a genius and not a dramatically overrated artist.
So that’s the thing with biographies, that’s really the thing with getting to know anyone on a more than superficial level. All the ugly things come out into the light and we are left to reconcile that with all the good things. Balance is tricky.
Personally, I still admire Einstein and believe him to be a genius, a powerhouse of a mind and a revolutionary physicist. Maybe not a good person as such, but who are we to judge…
So that’s me reviewing Einstein. Tricky indeed. Reviewing this book about him is much easier. It’s one of a series of short bios of famous people, but it isn’t at all simplified or dumbed down due to the format. It’s an accessible and reasonably engaging nonlinear account of a life (heavy of science) that gives readers an excellent idea of Einstein as a scientist and a man. It’s also infinitely more serious than the goofy cover suggests, but Einstein would probably love that, After all, he loved his famous tongue sticking out image. Much food for thought here. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
Writing and publishing a book is an admirable accomplishment. It’s also one that’s been made increasingly easy in these days of digital publishing, meaning almost anyone can do it. When, the thing is, of course, no everyone should. Or they should as a vanity project, but the readers must go in with expectations adjusted accordingly.
This seems to be the case here. The author has obviously put a lot of work into crafting this tale to reflect her interests (good ones, mythology, ancient past, etc.) and her talent and the latter just isn’t quite there. This book is actually a really good example of a decent if not original idea executed with a flat, bland write by numbers approach.
It practically screams amateurish debut…the stilted dialogue, the carboard cutouts of characters, the cheaply rendered romantic entanglements. At its very best, it’s as generic as the cover. Otherwise, it’s just a pure waste of time. Not that much time, but still…time. And the author plans to continue with this too, serializing it, which is just…
The basic plot here is this…a 24 year old woman buys an ancient Egyptian mask off the internet and finds herself enmeshed in a historically fraught conspiracy and an ongoing battle of forces greater then herself. Through assistance of her devoted potential love interest and extended, extensive dream sequences, she must sort it all out and you know she will, because sequel.
So essentially this is like Ancient Aliens, The Mask and maybe The Mummy getting together and producing a malnourished deformed offspring that should have probably been aborted, because despite the individual and very different awesomeness of the parent properties, some things just shouldn’t breed.
Throughout the book the main protagonist is described several times as unoriginal and not very bright. Well, given the quality of narrative here, it probably wasn’t an intentional sign of self awareness but there, a perfect description for this book. It isn’t the worst thing out there and, to its credit, well edited, it’s just a bland dud.
It has managed to gather some really good reviews though, so my opinion is definitely in the minority here. Make your own choices. You will, anyway. Thanks Netgalley.
There are some subjects that grab my attention immediately when it comes to books. And hermitized fiction is one of them. Any protagonist living off the land and away from the loud world and its rude inhabitants works for me. Usually. And so in that respect, among several others, this book worked very well for me.
But then the thing is I also like to emotionally engage with protagonists, conventional as that approach may be, I like them likeable and I can’t say I liked Adelaide very much. You’re supposed to, as a reader, I should think, but she just had this offputting selfrighteousness of the mothermentality (more on this in just a minute) that was…lamentable?
But ok, first things first…this is indeed a story of Adelaide, an older woman of indeterminate age who has decided to end her life. This life since the age of 20 has been spent in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the woods, in a small offgrid cabin, living mostly off the land. There doesn’t seem to be much to it but tending to the garden, watching nature and conversing with poultry. To each their own, right? Well, sure, but also we learn that Adelaide has a daughter, a product of rape, that she brought into this life and raised in that life, in that cabin, until the age of 16 when the kid said enough and bailed. And now this daughter serves as a sort of yearly supplier of essentials, though there is a town walking distance away. So the self sufficiency is there, but not in its entirety. Even Thoreau took his wash to his mother’s.
Despite this failed experiment at motherhood, through a series of bizarre circumstances Adelaide finds herself with two more kids, having taken them away from their mother. To be fair, wherein Adelaide has forgone some trappings of civilization, the kids’ mother has abandoned all of them, living like an animal in the woods and raising her kids accordingly. Adelaide decides she can do more for them, so she takes them in and begins to care for them, in the process offsetting the iffy balance with an evil (and super rapey) local farmer.
It stands to reason that like with many wild animals things are best be observed at a distance and not intervened with and despite Adelaide’s road south paving good intentions, her intervention is a disaster and ends in one. And this goes contrary to the book’s theme, which is meant to be Adelaide’s redemption. Second chances are good and great when they work, not when they only serve to highlight the original failure, no? It’s difficult to appreciate Adelaide as a person, a rescuer or as a redeemer, considering her actions. It’s difficult to know what’s right for feral children, in general.
In a way, it’s a story about two widely unsuitable mothers who end up imposing their life choices on their children. It’s a thing many parents do anyway, albeit usually more subtly and in more civilized circumstances. I didn’t care for this direction personally, but then again, I don’t love stories of motherhood, especially ones that present it as end all be all propositions.
The thing is just as a work of fiction (themes aside) this is actually quite good, especially for a debut. The author writes well, assuredly, her descriptions of characters and the world they inhabit are excellent. There’s even art here, oddly enough (doesn’t seem like a sort of book that would have it), in case the pictures aren’t vivid enough in your mind from words alone.
So the overall reading experience is soothing of a mixed bag, but the book is interesting, dynamic and quick enough of a read to merit checking out. Thanks Netgalley.
What strange paradise awaits the weary travelers fleeing their native lands. In this instance, it’s the Greek island of Kos. Amir, a nine year old, wake up on Kos’ shore to find himself the only survivor of a raft loaded, overloaded really, with aspiring immigrants. Not wanted in this new land and unable to explain himself in a new language, his prospects are bleak. And he has a n army colonel after him, a man with his own grudges to bear, a man who wants to check all the boxes on his lists, a man who believes in procedure and process above all.
But first Amir is found by a local fifteen year old girl who decided to help him at all costs.
And so this is on a small scale a survival story and on a grand scale a contemplation on immigration. Divided into before and after, the former timeline follows the harrowing boat journey to Kos and after is Amir’s story on Kos. Both narratives work very well from a purely narrative perspective, they are compelling, and exceptionally rendered. The author , no stranger to dire circumstances and conditions from his years as an international journalist, and no slouch when it comes to fictional writing as evidenced by his very impressive debut American War, has a knack for scene setting, he creates places and really takes you there, it’s almost disturbingly immersive and as transporting as you’d ever hope a book to be. So as a work of fiction this book shines,
Ideologically is another story. Immigration has been such a front and center topic for so much of the recent years and the fire burns brightly on both sides. This book…it’s easy to understand how it can be interpreted by either side. Pro immigration sentiment would mention the inhumane conditions refugees flee and then are subjected to upon landing, the desperation, the privation, etc. Anti immigration camp might mention that the refugees in the book are not all that stoked on their potential future destinations. Indeed, they are mostly disparaging and critical of the places they are killing themselves to get to. The lofty , oddly entitled expectations of often uneducated, often nonEnglish (or language of choice) speaking, penniless people bringing nothing but themselves to the table might seem unreasonable to some.
There’s no right answer with immigration, is there. There are plenty of studies that show immigration might be good for a society as a long game, but short game puts undeniable drain on the system. Drain on the money that should, presumably, go toward already existing citizens. There are also some fascinating (at least from social psychology perspective) studies about how much the actual first and second generation immigrants do not support immigration.
At any rate, this book, albeit obviously of a clearly partisan opinion, is an interesting contribution to that no right answer conversation. It provides the emotional side of things with consideration and poignancy. Good fiction should stir the mind. Recommended.
Demonic Indemnity by Craig McLay
Every so often in a sea of random kindle freebies one finds a genuine treasure. This was it for me. A charming, light, humorous supernatural adventure…in insurance.
To paraphrase a showtune, there’s no business like insurance business. Certainly not when it involves demons, possessions, etc. But this is a new world or more like a wildly imagined version of the existing one, where all manners of demons, ghouls, vampires, etc. coexists more or less in peace with regular people.
Tim Lovecraft is one of the regular ones and he’s about to become a first of his kind to be employed as a claims investigator in the Special Investigations Unit of Crimson Seal Insurance. Sure, his coworkers are all of the supernatural variety and his boss is, quite literally, a demon. But it’s Tim’s dream job and he is going up in the world.
The thing is…his very first case, a seemingly straight forward possession claim, turn out to be quite a doozy. And Tim, the natural born investigator that he might be, is unwilling to let it go, so he begins investigating and uncovers and a huge demonic conspiracy of the first order.
Throw in a fun cast of players, from Tim’s ridiculous parents to his munch of a munching vampire brother to his once and maybe again love interest, and this story is sure to charm your fuzzy socks off.
But it doesn’t squeeze by on charm alone. Oh no. This is actually a legitimately good story. It’s well written, intriguing, funny, exciting, engaging and wildly entertaining. And, most importantly, the worldbuilding in here is awesome. Seriously awesome. It’s meticulously crafted and tightly woven to follow its own inner logic and, no matter how crazy things get, the plot stays cohesive and realistic…within its terrifically unreal confines, that is.
I don’t normally read this sort of supernatural fantasy, because so much of it tends to go silly to stupid, but this was lovely and tons of fun. You don’t need to be a specific genre fan to appreciate good storytelling. Reminiscent of Christopher Moore, which is a high praise indeed, this was exactly the right kind of light reading one can enjoy without their intelligence being insulted. Excellent introduction to a new to me author. Recommended.
The Follower by Nicholas Bowling
Between the time I downloaded this book on Netgalley and the time I finally sat down to read it, it managed to gather some seriously terrible reviews. From dnf to finished and hated. And this is the sort of thing that would normally make me put the book away and forget about it, but in this bizarre instance it actually spurred my interest on.
Plus, to be fair, it had to do with cults. And I love all things to do with cults. And so, forewarned and forearmed, I ventured into this story and, lo and behold, survived with good things to tell.
There’s nothing wrong with this book. Granted, I didn’t read the disparaging reviews in great detail, because of the strategical plot integrity preservation, but then again I might, after this, just to see what they didn’t like so much about it, because for my money this was a perfectly good read. It was intriguing, compelling and well written. It didn’t drag, it didn’t dally and it didn’t disappoint either.
The Follower is a story of a young English woman without much real life experience due to a cushy existence provide by her family money, who comes to Northern California to track down her vanished twin. Wherein she, Vivian, is a reasonable person, her brother, Jesse, has always been up in the clouds, always searching for something, some secret profound meaning in life. In other words, exactly the sort of person to end up in a cult.
The cult in question is Telos and its followers have more or less taken over the entire small town Vivian comes to, although no one will give her a clear answer of where Jesse is. And so she sets of to investigate, only to find out the truth straight from the stranger than fiction bucket. It’s interesting, original and pretty out there in a good way.
It’s a trippy journey that has quite understandably gathered David Lynchian comparisons, it’s pretty much a gimmie when it comes to weird small towns. But the thing is, this book needs no comparisons and can comfortably stand on its own two feet 257 pages.
I really enjoyed the weirdness of it and thought the author did a great job of maintaining both the suspense and the overall atmosphere of WTF is going on here without resorting to trickery and cheap ploys. You pretty much follow Vivian’s trail, this is her story, you get to experience it alongside her, you’re along for the ride. And it’s a really fun ride.
Fans of the more linear bizarro, dark trippy speculative or, of course, cult related fiction should find much to delight in within these pages. I did. Go on, go to the top of the mountain, if you dare. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
Lakebed by Chris Coppel
There goes Chris Coppel, making Utah creepy once again. King has Maine, and Coppel has Utah.
This is my second read by the author, and it wasn’t chosen based on first impressions, because those, to be honest, were underwhelming. Legacy had a kitchen sink of clichés approach and stupid characters to boot. So this was more of a random second chance, easy enough given how short the book is. And lo and behold, it worked.
This book had all the Legacy didn’t, from plot originality (albeit with heavy echoes of Pet Cemetary) to reasonable characters. Kudos to the author for stepping up his game.
So a nice LA couple gets a mysterious but most opportunely timed job offers to work in a fancy, albeit remote, animal sanctuary. There’s high salary, free place to live, good cause. It’s a Marlon Brando of an offer, you can’t refuse it and they don’t. They box up their lives and set off for Utah. And soon enough, like most things too good to be true, this dream set up turns into a nightmare. Although technically nightmares are a kind of dreams…
But soon enough doesn’t quite cover the slow but steady escalation of creeping unease of the narrative, from an erratic psycho boss to erratic nature outside. In fact, the rattlers alone should have done the trick, but…people put up with a lot of crap for a paycheck.
So this was fun. And not dumb fun either, but legitimately entertaining kind of fun. It featured likeable and charismatic characters and a properly eerie atmosphere to engage and disturb the readers in all the right ways that genre fiction does. It featured strategically placed light notes to balance out the overall darkness and a nice dual layer ending. And it was paced just right. Much to enjoy, genre fans should definitely check this one out. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.