Mysteries Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: The Diamond Device by M.H. Thaung

The At Boundary’s Edge team has narrowed our original allocation down from 28 books to 7 “Quarterfinalists”, all of which we are now reading in full and scoring out of 10 points. The top three books will move forward as semifinalists.  As always, this is my own review and reflects only my own individual opinion and score, not that of the team

Welcome to my third “quarterfinalist” review here! Let’s take a quick look at the book first, then I’ll share my thoughts!

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: The Diamond Device
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: M.H. Thaung
  • Release: Self published, 2020
  • Length: 270 pages
  • Rating: Scoring 5.5/10 for SPSFC
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

After diamond power promises to replace steam, an unemployed labourer and a thieving noble unite to foil an international plot and avert a war.

Alf Wilson resents the new technology that cost him his factory job, especially as his clockwork leg bars him from army enrolment. He daren’t confess his unemployment to his overbearing mother. Desperate over the rent, he ends up in a detention cell with a hangover.

Impoverished Lord Richard Hayes maintains his expensive parliamentary seat by a mixture of charm and burglary. During a poorly planned break-in, he inadvertently witnesses a kidnapping. To cap it all, the police arrest him for the crime. At least he’s using a fake identity. The real criminals make off with not just the professor who discovered diamond power, but her plans for a diamond-fuelled bomb.

When Rich encounters Alf in the neighbouring cell, he sees an opportunity to keep his noble reputation intact. He persuades Alf he’s a secret agent who needs an assistant. This chance association will take them to the oddest locations. But law-abiding Alf’s first assignment? Break Rich out of jail.

My thoughts:

First and foremost in my mind is that The Diamond Device is a shorter, fast paced read that is exceptionally light on sci-fi for what I was expecting to read here.  It’s a variation on steam punk where diamonds are newly used as a power source, but there’s no indication on how it works including from the character trying to assemble a device or from the scientist who created it.  Anyway, we decided it’s close enough, so genre questions did not affect my score.

Overall I enjoyed the read through. The pacing was steady, with bursts of action tempered by fairly low consequences in most cases. The writing is solid, flowing, and easily digestible. It just all felt more like a cozy British mystery to me than sci-fi, complete with blundering policemen and over the top shenanigans.

The characters are likeable, a lord and a laborer.  Watching them try to mix their worlds and work together was the most entertaining part for me, especially so once a hilariously temperamental cop was thrown into the mix.  That said, the character’s reactions to major events felt so muted that I almost wondered if the author wasn’t targeting a young adult audience, although no indication of this is given.

Science or lack of it aside, I think Thaung managed to cram an amazing amount of world building into the pages too.  We see all about how the classes live, the airships, what they eat, how they comport themselves, and political relations.

Overall, I think it was a fun and inoffensive book full of shenanigans.  If you like light steampunk you might want to check out The Diamond Device!

Thanks for checking out my review of The Diamond Device. A free e-copy was provided for judging purposes and as always, all opinions are my own ♥️

Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Fiction

Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski (thoughts)

“Tiny snail assholes” and the savior’s balls, Bukowski had me at hello

One of the many things I’ve been trying to do over the past few years is expand my reading horizons.  I’ve got a fantastic reading list of international writers, past and present, who are brilliant and not necessarily all well known… and then I also just want to read off my shelves.

I compromised by ending 2022 with Notes of a Dirty Old Man, a collection of newspaper stories by Charles Bukowski. Funny enough it was originally compiled by an erotica loving imprint called Essex House, and is now published by beat generation enthusiasts & San Fran publishing gurus, City Lights Publishing.

Ahh I love all the history there, the web of ties between the publishers and beat generation writers, the crazy lifestyles, just something the average person can’t fathom. Bukowski was never to my knowledge grouped with that lot but he was tied up with the same publishers, knew the authors, and he had opinions 😅

About the collection itself, I found the eclectic mix of fiction and nonfiction a little jarring.  I’m spoiled and used to sections and titles in short story collections now, so we know how it’s organized, but this seems like total hodgepodge or possibly chronological by publication date. I‘m not really sure why it was compiled at all (way back in 1969) unless Essex House (who published a lot of erotica) was looking for the vastest spread of sex stories possible.  Now I know that’s a vast  oversimplification but most of the stories are true, or have true elements! Some are pure fantasy (like a guy with wings playing baseball) while many others happened to some extent, and almost all include some kind of graphic sex (I’m not going there to describe it).

A few stories were sad to me, such as a vivid recounting of how years of beatings and other abuse turns someone into a living but kind of mostly dead person.  It’s an extremely personal look at his life. Alcohol, homelessness, bouncing around various places to live and taking menial jobs, abusive relationships that went both ways, these are the real life parts. Probably/hopefully exaggerated a bit but who really knows, people are crazy.

What’s interesting too is just objectively seeing what he chose to write about once he knew the editor gave precisely zero fucks and let him write whatever he wanted! Remember, everything in the book appeared in an underground newspaper.

That said, back to my note about finding the stories sad: most of the collection is pretty funny.  Bukowski said, at one point or another, that he put the comedy into his writing so that people wouldn’t pity him – and the ironic thing is that it attracted quite a few odd admirers, many of which he writes about. Some of the writing went right over my head and I had no idea what he was talking about. Some got a chuckle. Something about tiny snail assholes had me cracking up, like yeah if you eat something whole you’re eating it’s asshole too 🤣

Of the many columns and blurbs here, there is one about a party and the time Bukowski met Neal Cassady. He took a crazy car ride with Neal driving and John Bryan (who published Cassady’s letter to Kerouac in City Lights (and gave Bukowski the platform in his Open City paper to write the segments contained in Notes of a Dirty Old Man).  

P.S. John Bryan and Jesus’ balls, literally.  What a strange and irreverent road to publishing and more than a bit refreshing in today’s PC era to go back and read these old guys writing *what-the-fck-ever*.

I totally sidetracked there. Anyway, in that particular segment about meeting Cassady and his suicide, there’s quite a dig that shows how Bukowski really felt 😅


Jack had only written the book, he wasn’t Neal’s mother, just his destructor, deliberate or otherwise 

Oyy ok let’s get this wrapping up, I’m rambling which means I had a lot of thoughts and didn’t know how to frame them. A little bit less gay bar action would have been nice for me personally but I don’t think anyone delicate or easily offended would read Bukowski past his introduction. I’m not worried about discussing the writing here. It’s irreverent in every sense of the world and the title is aptly named. I actually started listening to this book on audio because Will Patton’s voice is everything, but without actual chapter breaks it was too hard to follow.

Overall, I think Bukowski is an interesting character in American literature and I enjoy his short stories in small doses.  He’s a decent tie in for those interested in the beat generation and those looking for irreverence in everything.  Barfly (the movie he wrote about his life) wasn’t bad, I watched it after reading, but then I read that he didn’t like his actor’s portrayal.  I guess the takeaway is that you can see a lot of the stories in the film too. Anyway, give him a shot if you are checking out American short story writers

P.s. if anyone wants sources for anything I was writing about, I can find them for you for further reading. Most of the nonfiction type info is general knowledge or came vaguely summarized from a publisher’s information, or something else Bukowski wrote

General Posts, Non Reviews Science Fiction

The National Science Fiction Day Book Tag

Something I definitely want to do more of in 2023 is book tags, book challenges, and fun bookish things.

Today I learned that in America, January 2nd is apparently National Science Fiction Day. Ironically I learned that from a non-american.  In honor of this, and the fact that it’s Asimov’s birthday, Alex over at At Boundary’s Edge created an Asimov themed book tag and there is the link to it.  He didn’t specify rules so just, you know, pick a Sci-fi thing that fits the prompts and link back to him if you decide to do the tag 🤣

The Alternate Asimovs:

A book you’d like to change the ending of…

For me it’s To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Paolini.  I did not wade though that brick of a ridiculously long book for that stupid ass ending 🤣

Earth is Room Enough

A book set entirely on Earth…

One that gets thrown around a lot but I am a big fan of: Brave New World by Huxley

The End of Eternity

The longest series you have finished

I haven’t really finished any super long sci-fi series… Ack .. help… Um… trilogies are probably the longest.  I’ll say The Song of Kamaria by TA Bruno since it is the most recent one I read in full. I like sci-fi standalones apparently


The first book you’re reading/have read/plan to read this year

An SPSFC read that I’m not entirely sure is sci-fi, but I can vaguely accept it as steampunk in which robots exist in some way – The Diamond Device by MH Thaung

Foundation’s Friends

A book written by an author who did not create the setting for the book

I’m going with The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis – I don’t follow Star Wars, I’ve never made it through one of the movies in full, I don’t read it, but I’ll support anything she does. I was able to read it as a total standalone and it was cute and fun

The Gods Themselves

A book that features religion

Gene Wolf is the only one coming to mind,  really strongly, with The Book of the New Sun…  man there’s one I should re read as an adult

I, Robot

Your favourite artificial intelligence in a book..



A book you found difficult to finish…

Ummm …. Going to make some enemies here but any of the early Star Trek lit-verse was hard to finish.  The first few books didn’t even know the character dynamics yet so they are a mix of a true achievement, and kind of just … bad.  Really, did anyone read Ghost Ship, Peacekeepers, or Children of Hamlin with rapt attention? No, I didn’t think so 😅 they kind of started smoothing out after that though if I remember correctly

Pebble in the Sky

A fictional planet you’d like to visit

Fishbowl from Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict series.  If nothing else you won’t be bored

Space Ranger

A book set on more than one planet

The Guardian League series by Steven J. Morris! More planets the further along you go but you see quite a few different worlds by the end.

There you have it! Hopefully more than three people will do this for him 🤣 just remember to link back to the creator and have fun!

General Posts, Non Reviews

2022 Reading Goals Recap and Looking Forward, I Don’t Care Anymore

I said it, I don’t care anymore. Let’s see how I did with my 2022 goals and how it all feeds into where I am now.

My 2022 goals: did I pass or fail?

  • Track genres, pub years, books purchased each month:  Failed after six months.  (Remember my bi-monthly Reading Trend posts? Yeah no one else does either). That was interesting but ultimately told me what I already knew – that I read what I want and moved away from YA.
  • Read more books off my shelves: Pass. I think I was about 50/50 but stopped keeping track
  • Save $: request arcs, use library, and buy used: pass. I only bought three full priced new books with my own money, all year. The rest came from my Amazon points (work bonus) or used & garage sale finds.
  • Increase blog visibility: pass (but comparative fail).  I did increase views, visits, and likes almost double from the prior years which is wonderful.  Compared to other people posting their stats though it’s embarrassing.  That’s why I’m not doing a “stats” post 😅
  • Read what I want: Mostly success.  I abandoned a lot of series though due to increasing book length and perceived need to “keep up” with other things
  • Broaden Horizons: I did read more classics from around the world, tried new voices, and went looking for new authors. I’d say success
  • Read what I buy: fail 😅 most of my newly hauled books from this year are sitting in stacks still 🤣 though I did read
  • Unhaul books: success. I gave away boxes and boxes after Instagram got hacked and I didn’t have to care about what people saw on my shelves.

2022 Good

So where does that leave my 2023 reading goals?

  • Arcs: not a goal anymore. I have two 2023 arcs left to read and am not requesting or taking requests at this time
  • Finish some of the series I started. I’ll write a post about abandoned series, my list is somewhere between impressive and disgusting 🤣
  • Read what’s on my shelves. A goal for every year. I have a lot of fantastic literature from around the world here and need to read it.


I‘ll mood read and absolutely fuck anything with a deadline.

Oh, the blog

Sunday Brunch has garnered some interest (but none of the old posts still get views, so…) and may or may not come back depending on if I re subscribe my site. If someone else’s blog wants to host the interviews I would consider that too.

The fact is that despite whatever enjoyment I get out of this, even my best articles just go into the void, my “evergreen posts” are rare and the stats on them are embarrassing. I don’t know if this blog is worth it’s headache and I guess that’s a personal choice for me going into the new year. It also needs a visual overhaul that I’m not competent to do on my own 🤷‍♀️

Soooo to those reading to this point, how did you do on your goals from 2022? Are you making any for 2023? Let me know in the comments 🤣

General Posts, Non Reviews

Reading Reflections 2022: The Big Wrap Up Post!

Another year, another reading reflections post. I tried to keep it brief!

My year-end wrap ups share my GoodReads collages and I take a few minutes to reflect on the highlights and lowlights as I go.  I don’t like to try to rank my favorites or single out anyone that was too terrible, but you’ll get the idea. I do point out my genre and series favorites as I go.

Anyway, thanks for following along with me here in year three on and let’s jump into it♥️


Ok so I started out the year strong by finishing The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I listened on a binge to this wonderful YA series narrated by Rebecca Soler.  These are by far my favorite YA books (and series) of the year.

Scythe and The Latecomer are oddly enough the two book reviews I wrote which still get daily views.  A YA dystopian and a literary fiction.  Obsidian by Sarah J Daily was also a great read courtesy of Angry Robot, and she interviewed for Sunday Brunch.


January was probably my strongest month of reading so these two will be longest. I discovered Murderbot and just, shamelessly binge read all of it.  So Murderbot as my favorite series of the year, and The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman was my favorite trilogy. I just, love love love everything about those books and if you ever see me bingeing a whole series, take me seriously!

Fate’s Ransom concluded Jeff Wheeler’s First Argentines series and he actually sent a tissue emoji at me when I said I was bawling at the end😂 lovely series conclusion. 

Conversely I think I am the only one that didn’t like A Touch of LightHe tried the style where you read and learn about things later on,  which is amazing when it’s done well, except he never told us anything useful 😅


I finally tried some David Sedaris essays and found him delightfully funny. He self narrated them live, highly recommend for audio.  Zorba… Zorba…Zorba was hard.  I read hard classics this year.  I also found Strange the Dreamer great for YA, but never read the sequel 


This month is where I hit the full length Murderbot and just fell in love even more. I also decided to knock out another backlist series and binged The Harbinger Series by Jeff Wheeler.  All five books, no regrets 

The Outside and Elsewhere we’re both I believe one star reviews, some of my least favorites of the year.

On a brighter note I finally read Gardens of the Moon ( Malazan ) and wrote a great piece for first time readers like myself.


Here lies another great month of reading. Deadhouse Gates (Malazan #2) is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. Also finally getting Human Hearts by Mary Beesley was amazing and a fitting end to her Draco Sang trilogy.

Speaking of endings, At the Threshold of the Universe by TA Bruno was an incredible series ending. I’m not just saying that because I’m quoted on the dust jacket either, I really truly loved the book 😅

Also hey look at that, I finally started The Gunslinger series by Stephen King!


The Greatest Knight was my favorite nonfiction read of the year, about the knight William Marshal (who Jeff Wheeler’s Ransomcharacter is based on).

My biggest let down of the year, as in I expected and wanted to love it but it truly was just not good, was Aftermath by LeVar Burton. 

This month I had been pretty loyal to continuing series. Skullduggery Pleasant on audio (funny to start but I fizzled out after four books) and the military sci-fi Frontlines series by Marko Kloos. I fizzled out after five books but will keep going. I was also reading a bunch of David Rosenfelt – dogs and detectives, say no more.


Other Birds was probably my favorite standalone fiction of the year, while I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was my favorite true crime and an amazing piece of nonfiction.

Otherwise this was the month of reading first books in series that I didn’t have time to continued. (Gunmetal Gods, Blacktongue Thief, Foundryside…)  Truly good books all but I had too much going on to read trilogies and mean to go back in 2023 😭

Also I THINK Wizard and Glass was my favorite Dark Tower book so far (and I talked about why I can’t finish series).


Noteworthy here are a few indies: 8 that month! I binged the rest of Jordan Loyal Short’s Dreadbound Ode trilogy, liked The Trials of Ashmount by quasi local author John Palladino, and was in total love with Wistful Ascending by JCM Berne. I also read Goodbye to the Sun but wasn’t a huge fan.


This is it, the end! I was honored to grab an ARC of Rubicon by JS Dewes.  I’m finally reading the Blake Crouch back catalogue.  Lastly- right at the end of the month, finished yesterday, I FINALLY read The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie! Wow do I have a lot of great series to continue next year.

The only book that didn’t appear was Fairy Tale by Stephen King, which I hope to finish tomorrow morning!

So pardon my super long reading reflections post, did you see anything here that you read as well? Anything you liked or disliked? 

If you want to see how I did this last year, here’s my 2021 reflections post!

General Posts, Non Reviews

Ten Bookish Things I Did In 2022 Other Than Read!

The title says it all! From online participation in reading events to meeting a boy in real life, 2022 was a busy year for all things bookish.  Here’s a look at my top ten peripherally related things of 2022, in no particular order.

1) A bookshop tour of New York City, including The Mysterious Bookshop! Highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever near the world trade monument.  Floor to ceiling books, ladders, all mysteries, and tons of signed copies.  There are tons and tons of independent and antiquarian bookstores in the city but this was by far the highlight of the trip.

Check it out at

2) A failed attempt at BBNYA judging – I pissed a few people off with this one but I dropped after round one. The cloak of silence utterly defeated the purpose of promoting indie and if  merely sharing the title of a book you’re reading is supposedly going to influence other judges, why do they let you pick the titles to read going forward? Still scratching my head over this whole debable

3) A much happier occasion, SPSFC judging!  I jumped into a team and have gotten to yell all about indie sci-fi.  Currently we are reading quarterfinalists and it’s a blast.  I’ve met some great people including…

4) Ok so #3-7 are pretty much all related but that’s how life works, right?

Through the SPSFC, this happened! I mean we had been following each other for a while but probably wouldn’t have actually started talking without the SPSFC, so that’s been an experience.  I wasn’t even the one who came up with the matching hats 🤣


If I had thought reading books would ever lead to something like that happening… Well… Haha I didn’t think so 😅

5) Discovered discord –  I think I was in a failed discord book club in 2021 briefly but now I have really discovered it as a source of book community and discussion.  I need to find a server that focuses on traditionally published books since my main one turned all Indie.  That said though, between the old SFF Oasis and the SPSFC one, I struck up an ongoing chat with #4 and stuff happened

6) Book store hunting in the UK! Upon visiting said boy, there was obviously some bookstore touring involved. From seeing the  charity shops and used book stores to finally going into a Waterstones for the first time, it was fun to see the UK side of things.  The covers are amazing (as we know) and I actually like the idea of focusing on paperbacks.  I’m not a Warhammer fan either but it was kind of fun to have a pint in a dwarvish tavern and see all the artwork and statues, so I’ll add Warhammer World to this list 


7) on a similar note – seeing the Shakespeare exhibit at the biggest public library in the UK was cool, as well as walking around where he was born and seeing all the old places and things.  I’m giving Shakespeare his own category although he probably should go into #6


8) Switching gears, Wyrd & Wonder and Sci-fi Month! I actually participated in these lovely events for the first time and it was amazing. I met some lovely members of the SFF community, got tons of good recommendations, and still am in near daily contact with some of my new bookish friends! Fantastic events!  You can see for more info on Wyrd & Wonder!

9) GrimDarkTober! It’s been a yearly thing of mine for three years now but due to life events I almost didn’t do it this year.  I didn’t know how to do it without Instagram but some wonderful members of the SFF community kicked in content and I had nearly 20 posts to share by the end of it! Thank you to everyone who participated 🖤

10) A new bookish tattoo! We started a sci-fi stocking and it kind of morphed into a skeletal astronaut reading a book 😅 “too many books, too few centuries” right?


So there you have it! What non-reading bookish things did you guys all do this year!?

General Posts, Non Reviews

Something Fun Today: The Smash or Pass Book Tag!

Oh wow, I created a book tag once but I don’t know if I have ever been directly tagged to participate in one! I was tagged by Celeste at A Literary Escape  to do to the Smash or Pass tag, originally created by Becky at Becky’s Book Blog! Essentially a bookish thing is listed, and we either smash (like) or pass (dislike) the item.  Easy and fun, let’s see what there is!

Bookish Tropes

To me, a trope is just a theme or idea a book or character can be based around.  I feel pretty indifferent but find them handy to know what I’m getting into – like lovers to enemies (my favorite), or orphan turns into chosen one (yuck).  On a whole though I support tropes

Verdict: smash

Alternating POV

I get confused if there are more than two, or three can work if they have distinct alternating POV as long as I can tell them apart!

Ambiguous Endings

I’m going to be the oddball out here and SMASH ambiguous endings when they are done well.  There is a way to do these that makes the reader think about the events leading up to the conclusion in a meaningful way or a new light, and draw their own conclusions.  I’m all about it.


On the whole, PASS.  I’m super picky about my history reading and outside of a few niche interests (cavalry, revolution, 1812, civil war)  don’t seek out nonfiction at all.

Historical Setting

History nonfiction books yes, but historical settings in fiction… not so much.  Again, I’m super picky about my history and will gladly read within my interests but on the whole, PASS

Morally Grey Characters

SMASH and the greyer, the better.  I don’t think anyone in the history of Earth had crystal clear morality.  Life is a giant gray zone and sometimes one has to do what they have to do, even in the name of good (or evil).  Just bring on all the gray.

First Person POV

Hard PASS. Hard. Pass. I play out the book like a movie in my head when I read, and it’s easy when it’s told in third person.  In first person, I either have to really ‘feel’ the character or it’s a total bust, and I have a terrible time playing the book out from my own eyes


Oh, smash. With my vision getting worse and headaches and inability to focus on small print for long periods, audiobooks have SAVED MY LIFE.  I wouldn’t still be a blogger without them.  Plus they’re wonderful for me as someone who (again) likes to play out book movies while they digest literature.  Plus I drive so much and again, they’re just a life saver


PASS.  I think there are way too many books out there to re read.  If I truly am starting to forget a favorite, I will re read it, but only years and years apart.  In my whole life I think I’ve only ever re read The Old Kingdom series and Harry Potter, and I try to seek out a different medium like audio the second time around.

Classic Novels

I have been trying to read a classic every few months but it’s a struggle, I’ll tell you.  I want to broaden my horizons so I’m trying to understand them but at the same time, total pass 


SMASH but only with these not very sticky little stickers that I use to keep track of important events in series.  Then I can come back for a recap before reading the next book if needed.  I absolutely don’t write in or highlight text or any other such foolishness 🤣

Cracking Book Spines

PASS. Hard no. Don’t recommend. I love a beaten up old paperback but I’ll read an mmpb without cracking it because if I buy it new, I like it to look pristine! Plus I am still in the bookstagram mindset of pretty things, and I don’t want to be the one doing the damage


Uhh…pass.  No explanation needed, I just don’t come to my fiction for romance or smut.  I’ve died on the hill that smut doesn’t belong in YA books too.

Character Driven Books

I actually prefer plot driven all the way.  I can deal with flat characters if the plot is interesting, but not the other way around.  There has to be a good plot. So, pass

Past/Present Split Timeline

I’ve only ever seen this successfully pulled off in some domestic suspense books and thrillers, where we have to go back in time to reveal what led up to the main event.  In those cases absolutely smash.

Heavy World-building

SMASH. All the way. I want to know everyyyyyything AS LONG AS ITS RELEVANT TO THE STORY.  I don’t need to know what color everyone on the continent’s shirt is but, if it’s related to the story, I want to know all the history and local flavor.


I tag the following bloggers to participate in the Smash or Pass book tag:

Oh geez, I’m not sure who will do it! The only rule is to link to the original creator and the one who tagged you, so if you want to do it…





Suspense Thrillers

The Prisoner by B.A. Paris (ARC Review)

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for the eARC of The Prisoner! I will always covet the chance to read an upcoming B.A. Paris book, especially when it follows something strong like last year’s release, The Therapist.

Unfortunately, The Prisoner mostly missed the mark for me and I don’t find it to be one of her stronger books.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Prisoner
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: B.A. Paris
  • Publisher & Release: St Martin’s Press, 11/01/22
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐ (Sorry – yes to fans of the author & genre though)

Here’s the synopsis:

With Behind Closed Doors, New York Times bestselling author B. A. Paris took the psychological thriller to shocking new heights. Now she’ll hold you captive with THE PRISONER―a stunning new thriller about one woman wed into a family with deadly intentions.

Amelie has always been a survivor, from losing her parents as a child in Paris to making it on her own in London. As she builds a life for herself, she is swept up into a glamorous lifestyle where she married the handsome billionaire Ned Hawthorne.

But then, Amelie wakes up in a pitch-black room, not knowing where she is. Why has she been taken? Who are her mysterious captors? And why does she soon feel safer here, imprisoned, than she had begun to feel with her husband Ned?

My thoughts:

The plot itself sounds interesting enough, a husband and wife are kidnapped and we have to learn why, then how it unfurls, and then what happens afterward.  I’m always down for a psychological or domestic thriller with these plots.

The issue is that in order for these kinds of books to be interesting or terrifying, they have to be if not real, at least believable. Even the believable parts in this one weren’t believable. Those older women wouldn’t just invite 18 year old Amelie into their lives so quickly, and Ned doing the things that Ned does, even the twists at the end involving Amelie’s money, none of it really worked for me.  It just all felt very cartoon like and more eye rolls happened than they should have.

And the end didn’t work – yeah yeah yeah Amelie wants to straightaway get involved with another very dangerous accessory to murder No. It was just too easy to wrap everything up with that super long conversation at the end.

Also the entire book was repetitive.  It had short chapters that are good for flipping pages quickly, but for something so short it seems like it should have moved forward more than sideways sometimes. The other issue is that unless we were told, it was hard to keep track of how much time was passing overall.  Four years from start to finish, how did that even happen? I think dates would have helped this one a lot for the segments taking place in the past.

 I finished the book rather quickly despite everything, so that’s something. For the four Paris novels I’ve read now: I loved Behind Closed Doors, liked The Therapist, kind of sort of tolerated Bring Me Back, but The Prisoner to me is the worst of the bunch. Sorry, I just know BA Paris can do better!

Thanks for checking out my book review of The Prisoner! As always, I endlessly thank St. Martin’s Press for being a wonderful partner and providing me with so many amazing free books to review! All honest opinions are my own

Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

I’ll Be Gone In the Dark… by Michelle McNamara et. al (Book Thoughts)

Hey, I finally read this book. (Synopsis & publication facts at the end). I’ve wanted to read it since it came out but what finally pushed me to slide it into my TBR stack was (sigh) Paul Holes’ book, which spoke even more highly of Mcnamara and her journalism related to the Golden State Killer case as well as her as a person. I think pretty much everyone in America either knew McNamara from the red carpet or from looking at TrueCrimeDiary at one point or another in their lives.  She was a phenomenal journalist and her death is one of the many things I file under the “damn shame” department.

I think what I took home from this was that she essentially joined the ranks of cold case detectives and kept America interested in the GSK. Did the book help catch the killer? Well – probably not, but she gave so many victims a name and a story for those who didn’t know. One of many sad parts, besides that she died at 49, was that she unfortunately missed – literally the same day that Patton Oswalt & co finally launched this book – the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo.

Yeah, this is a wonderfully put together and legible account of his victims, comprehensive across multiple precincts, and gave a wide account of interdepartmental politics as well as big picture ideas about the case.  It also put us into victim’s shoes in a chilling look at DeAngelo’s crimes and methods. McNamara had a knack for building reader’s interest by putting out facts and letting her audience play sleuth, which is absolutely part of the appeal of the true crime genre and her writing in particular

For a book about a killer that wasn’t yet caught at the time, this book was amazing.  The mere fact that her researcher was able to piecemeal edit thousands of pages of notes to complete the unfinished chapters was equally amazing, and so is the fact that without the editor’s notes, it would have been impossible to tell who wrote what.   I believe the later edition included the afterword by Oswalt.

Long story short, yes I would definitely check this out if you have absolutely any interest in true crime, the Golden State Killer, or McNamara’s life, as this was also in some large part her autobiography.  I loved the many human touches she added to the pages to look into the psychology of both the “armchair detective” and those who became legit assets to the case.  I think this book deserves every single award it’s won. Go read it!

Here’s the synopsis from the back cover:

A masterful true-crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark”.

Over the course of more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. In 1986 he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true-crime journalist who created the popular website True Crime Diary, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, inter-viewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing his victims—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their homes when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layouts. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction from Gillian Flynn and an afterword by McNamara’s husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true-crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer
  • Author: Michelle McNamara
  • Publisher & Release: Harper, 2018
  • Pages: 352 including illustrations
  • Rating: I mean, it has to be 5 stars for everyone involved in this book’s publication
Contemporary Fiction Literary Fiction

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen (Book Review)

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for the gorgeous finished copy of Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen!

From my favorite non-SFF genre, this is a wonderful magical realism book about stories, secrets, acceptance, and the ghosts we hold onto. It’s packed full of great characters and themes that I love.

This comes with my apologies as I should have read and reviewed it already but had a terrible incident of dog vs. marshmallow from the press box (she is ok now!) and needed a little time.

So let’s look at the book, which I am highly recommending for new adult readers and all fans of magical realism!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Other Birds
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sarah Addison Allen
  • Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Press, 08/30/22
  • Length: 290 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

Here’s the synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of Garden Spells comes an enchanting tale of lost souls, lonely strangers, secrets that shape us, and how the right flock can guide you home.

Down a narrow alley in the small coastal town of Mallow Island, South Carolina, lies a stunning cobblestone building comprised of five apartments. It’s called The Dellawisp and it is named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey Hennessey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at The Dellawisp, she meets her quirky, enigmatic neighbors including a girl on the run, a grieving chef whose comfort food does not comfort him, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

When one of her new neighbors dies under odd circumstances the night Zoey arrives, she is thrust into the mystery of The Dellawisp, which involves missing pages from a legendary writer whose work might be hidden there. She soon discovers that many unfinished stories permeate the place, and the people around her are in as much need of healing from wrongs of the past as she is. To find their way they have to learn how to trust each other, confront their deepest fears, and let go of what haunts them.

Delightful and atmospheric, Other Birds is filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go. Sarah Addison Allen shows us that between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

So the synopsis is absolutely dead on as far as what the book is about, and I have nothing else to add to the summary. Other Birds is full of both literal and figurative ghosts with a touch of magic throughout.  It’s not quite a GrimDarkTober read but I love it for autumn.

Zoey has moved to Mallow Island before college starts and meets the inhabitants of her mother’s old residence.  There’s a reclusive author, small little birds with big personalities, and three ghosts hanging around.  There’s a lot more too but it’s worth discovering on your own.

I loved the characters.  Each had a lot of childhood trauma in different forms and as they grew up, hoarded love where they could find it.  Everyone was broken in some way and I don’t always love books like this but I did like how Zoey brought everyone at The Dellawisp together and eventually they all found a lot of individual closure.

The theme of letting go to old loves and making room for new ones was touching and I have to give the book 1/2 of a bonus star for making me tear up.  (If anyone remembers my infamous bonus system: real tears is +1 star,  watery eyes is +1/2 star, real laughter is +1 star, chuckles is 1/2 star. Basically make me feel something and I give bonus stars).  What really got me was the point about how on whatever level of abuse occurs, whether it’s horrendous neglect, physical, or just not having a place in your own family for whatever reason –  sometimes it’s better to leave and find your own people. 

The other high point was that the book maintained a level of mystery and and ongoing discovery that kept me interested.  Who was prowling around at night? What was really going on with these characters – including the ghosts? It kept itself interesting and the reveals came at a steady pace.  Some I never saw coming, some I did, and it was a good mix.

The setting and atmosphere was piled on thick too, but this is one of the most character driven books that I’ve truly enjoyed recently. At the end of the day I had a few issues with how the various points of view were thrown together in each chapter, but I love the third person present tense.  It’s an intimate approach and such a generally wholesome book for the new adult like age 18+ readers that I’m just going with 5 stars.  

Anyway, here are a few quotes that packed a lot of punch for me:

Stories aren’t fiction. Stories are fabric. They’re the white sheets we drop over our ghosts so we can see them

It made him even more scared of rejection, because who would ever believe in a loneliness so overwhelming that you called upon a ghost to alleviate it?

Overall I highly recommend this one for fans of women’s fiction, magical realism, and new adult readers!

As a bonus: here are the press kit photos I took! Thank you again to the publisher for the book and box and all the support along the way ❤️