Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

Unbury Carol
Unbury Carol Book Cover

Title: Unbury Carol
Author: Josh Malerman
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Western
Date of Publication: April 10, 2018
Publisher: Del Rey


Carol Evers is a well-liked woman who is married to a not-so-well-liked man in the Wild West town of Harrows. Carol suffers from a unique medical (or magical) condition. She occasionally falls into a deep coma–one from which she cannot be awakened—for days at a time. During this time her heart barely beats, she scarcely breathes, but she can hear everything that happens around her. Her only friend and confidant, John Bowie, passes away at the beginning of this book, inciting the events that follow. Her husband, Dwight, is the only person alive who is aware of her condition. And he wants her buried.

Unbury Carol

This book starts off with a fire, but it sizzles a little in the middle. There’s a lot of filler for a story that takes place over a few days. That said, the book is very atmospheric, and I appreciate Malerman’s attention to detail. He does a phenomenal job of painting the picture of Harrows, the surrounding towns, and the Trail, and he thoroughly describes the secondary and tertiary characters. However, I found the female characters to be either lacking or not featured enough in the story. Lafayette is feared and powerful, yet we don’t see her much. Carol herself is well-loved—but we never get to see her demonstrate her lovability. Even Farrah, the housekeeper, is painted as weak and ineffective. At one point Malerman briefly mentions a badass female outlaw, and I hoped beyond hope that she would show up, but alas, she did not. Still, Carol herself is strong, and it was interesting to watch her character evolve over the course of the novel.

To me, the conflict in the story was a little silly. Carol was well loved. Why wouldn’t she have told more people about her condition? She was hurt by someone she told her secret to twenty years ago, but that was her significant other. Surely she should have told the local doctor, or at least the town’s funeral director. Though I understand that the plot hinges on the fact that no one in town knows, this is still a plot hole that niggled at me while reading.

The following comment is a mild spoiler about the ending. The ending is satisfyingly clever, if a little anticlimactic. When everyone in the story is a little mad, I would have expected a lot more madness in the final pages.

Someone asked me if Unbury Carol is your typical Western, and I realized I had never read a book set in the Wild West before! I told her that this is a good gateway book to introduce you to the genre. It’s moody and dark and a little twisted, and if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, this is definitely a good book to read in the heat of the summer.

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*I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher and chose to review it. This in no way affects my review*

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Sleight by Jennifer Sommersby

Sleight

Sleight Book Cover

Title: Sleight
Author: Jennifer Sommersby
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Date of Publication: April 3, 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins


What a book! Sleight captivated me from its first page, with a fairy tale-like prologue that introduces a unique mythology which, of course, proves to be essential to the plot of the story. Genevieve is a strong and relatable seventeen-year-old, and her witty repartee is refreshing. I wish all teenagers were this eloquent.

Sleight book cover
I absolutely adore the setting of this novel. I’m sure nearly everyone had a point in their childhood where they wanted to run away to join the circus. This book makes me wonder what I missed out on by staying home. The atmosphere is mysterious, with just a splash of magic, but it’s still our world. It feels foreign and ethereal. At the first mention of modern technology I was taken aback.

I particularly love how Sommersby handles the delicacy of animal rights issues. Not only are the animals in this circus well treated, but Sommersby takes this opportunity to show how a teenager can be a leader in activism. Genevieve starts her own charity called Loxodonta, where she demonstrates transparency about the circus’s treatment of their elephants, and she donates the money she earns through this venture to relevant charities.

Sleight does an excellent job of introducing tiny elements that prove to be critical plot points later in the book. There are some genuinely surprising twists, and they’re the best kind—the ones that you feel you should have seen coming, because the clues were all in place.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the mystical surrealness of books like The Night Circus with some modern-day teenage romance thrown in the mix.

I can’t wait for the next installment in this series, and this book hasn’t even come out yet!

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*I received a free copy of this ARC from the publisher*

Sleight

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Rebel with a Cupcake by Anna Mainwaring

Rebel with a Cupcake Book Cover

Title: Rebel with a Cupcake
Author: Anna Mainwaring
Genre: Young Adult
Date of Publication: April 3, 2018
Publisher: KCP Loft


Rebel with a Cupcake is a witty romantic comedy about Jesobel Jones, a teenager who’s overweight, but she’s actually comfortable in her own skin. This in itself is very refreshing. The moral of the story isn’t that girls—or women—should strive to have that perfect bikini-ready body. The point is that you should do what you love, and Jess is never happier than she is when she’s in the kitchen, whipping up a good meal—or a batch of cupcakes!–for her family.

Rebel with a cupcake small

But of course Jess isn’t going to have it easy. Everyone around her is telling her what she should and shouldn’t do—all with the “well-intentioned” purpose of helping her to look the way that they think she should look. Some of the things that are said or done are a little over the top (That teacher should be fired!), but it makes for an entertaining read. Unfortunately, poor, strong Jesobel caves into peer pressure and tries to lose weight – with an unrealistic deadline for her weightloss, which, of course, results in her developing some unhealthy eating habits.

At one point Jess says that she’s surprised she’s doing all this for a boy. It’s clear to the reader that it isn’t just for the boy. All the pressure to become thin – from her mother, her sister, her bully, and even her teacher at school—it all culminates in her breaking point.

There are a few aspects of the book that I would have liked Mainwaring to have explored more. Jesobel’s the daughter of a rock star, which should have influenced her personality and her outlook on life.

The next line includes a spoiler very predictable, but I’m still warning you. Read at your own peril! 

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When the cutest boy in school, who just so happens to be in a rock band, starts to show interest in her and is seemingly obsessed with her father, Jess isn’t at all suspicious. It turns out that he’s dating her so he can get close to her father and his connections, and get his big break. *Gasp!* She should have suspected something – especially with how insecure she’d been feeling about her appearance. Was this actually the first time someone used her to get closer to her father? If so, celebrity is a lot different in the UK from in America! Jesobel’s younger sister is being bullied by her own imaginary friend. I found this both hilarious and sad, and I wanted her to get more time in the spotlight.

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All in all, Mainwaring does an excellent job of dissecting issues that teenagers today deal with on a daily basis. Jess’s voice is unique and powerful, and I do think that this book will have a positive impact on a lot of young girls.

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*I received an ARC of this book from KCPLoft*

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