The Wild Dead by Carrie Vaughn

the wild deadThe Wild Dead (The Bannerless Saga #2)
By Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: Mariner Books
ISBN: 9780544947313
Pages: 272
Genre: Mystery/Dystopia

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A century after environmental and economic collapse, the people of the Coast Road have rebuilt their own sort of civilization, striving not to make the mistakes their ancestors did. They strictly ration and manage resources, including the ability to have children. Enid of Haven is an investigator, who with her new partner, Teeg, is called on to mediate a dispute over an old building in a far-flung settlement at the edge of Coast Road territory. The investigators’ decision seems straightforward — and then the body of a young woman turns up in the nearby marshland. Almost more shocking than that, she’s not from the Coast Road, but from one of the outsider camps belonging to the nomads and wild folk who live outside the Coast Road communities. Now one of them is dead, and Enid wants to find out who killed her, even as Teeg argues that the murder isn’t their problem. In a dystopian future of isolated communities, can our moral sense survive the worst hard times?


My Thoughts

I actually requested The Wild Dead not realizing it was a sequel. This worked in my favor, however, as I immediately picked up and savored the unique post-apocalyptic mystery that is Bannerless (<– start here). My experience with the sequel was one very familiar to its predecessor but somehow even more gratifying.

The skinny..

The Wild Dead continues life on the Coast Road with Enid after she has returned home to Haven (I am omitting a description of the setting as I recommend reading Bannerless first, and if you have then you are familiar). She has recently solved her first murder case and her home is now expecting their first child. When she is called to an investigation with her new partner Teeg to help settle a dispute in a small settlement, another body surfaces. This time it belongs to a young female, an outsider. Teeg is convinced that this is not their case to solve, but Enid sets out to find answers.

“They shifted from investigating one structure at one household to investigating the whole community. This was like expecting a drizzle and getting a typhoon.”

What I appreciated..

  • Vaughn continues to deliver readers a solid mystery in what I can best describe as her own signature style. She serves the post-apocalyptic setting distinctively with the absence of grotesque monsters or beasts but still explores humanity and civilization to rewarding depths.
  • The frontier setting strips away many of the familiar comforts and luxuries we have come to know, immersing the reader into a world that has regressed but not without a retained culture and sense of refinement. Coast Road residents have fought to hold onto certain commodities and materials, and Vaughn successfully tackles the implementation of each (i.e. birth control, vaccines) into this new life.
  • Enid’s character growth is a slow and steady process that evolves at an appropriate and viable pace for the plot and setting. We find her as we would expect her, making the same decisions we have come to anticipate. However, there is also a newfound strength and courage that seems to drive her and for that, she is perhaps even more admirable and memorable.
  • Vaughn’s writing remains succinct and effective, creating a fluid pace that while not fast does succeed in an effortless read.

“Starting a brand-new house can be an adventure. Even when you’re picking up the pieces of an old one.”

Challenges some may encounter..

  • This is a murder mystery, a true whodunnit it at its heart. If you are expecting a high action dystopian story, you will not find it nor the usual sci-fi elements here.
  • There are small moments of graphic material in terms of the actual victim and the topic of miscarriage if briefly discussed.

The Bannerless Saga is a refreshing twist on one of my favorite genres, dystopia. It offers readers something unique in the promise of hope after an economic and environmental collapse. Vaughn dares to explore a positive outcome that shows mankind learning to thrive and live again as a civilization. Enid is a beautiful example of that realization and one that I hope we will see again.

*I would like to thank Mariner Books & Edelweiss for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

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Enjoy this unique whodunnit dystopian read with your favorite mint green tea.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

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Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

baby teethBaby Teeth
By Zoje Stage
Available 7/17/18
Publisher: St. Martins Press
ISBN: 9781250170750
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller/Mystery

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Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.


My Thoughts

Warning: This one is a bit winded. I have edited and edited, but I have a few things to say.

Baby Teeth starts off with a promising narrative that alternates between 7-year-old Hanna and her mother Suzette. Hanna has yet to begin speaking but is otherwise highly intelligent. She loves her daddy dearly and feels that her mother is coming between them and the life they should have together. She will stop at nothing to remove Suzette from the equation.

Suzette loves Hanna, but is struggling to understand her silence and constant bad behavior that ironically never occurs when her husband is present. She is searching for answers while dealing with her own personal battle with Crohn’s disease that includes a history of surgeries and many complicated symptoms. She is exhausted and increasingly concerned with Hanna’s behavioral issues and her husband’s obliviousness to it all.

“Hanna kept her words to herself because they gave her power. Inside her, they retained their purity. She scrutinized Mommy and other adults, studied them. Their words fell like dead bugs from their mouths. A rare person like Daddy, spoke in butterflies, whispering colors that made her gasp.”

I have read several other reviews and spoken with a few friends in the book community, and I know that one question revolving around Baby Teeth has been how parents will handle a thriller that involves an “evil” child. Personally, as a mother, I can say I find myself drawn to them! I am not exactly sure what this says to me, but I have always gravitated towards films and books such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Good Son, etc. Perhaps it is the fact that I am a parent that makes them more thrilling or terrifying and this is where I often find success in them? Or perhaps it is my continuing fascination with the human psyche and behavior?

Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth starts off strong, striving to be no exception. The decision to split the narrative works brilliantly, pitting mother and daughter against one another and exposing the reader to various family dynamics. It sets a promising stage that is likely to deliver for many readers. However, I encountered some major obstacles that greatly impacted my time with the story and not in the best of ways.

“Now that she knew the name of the game – Scare Mommy – she should be able to defend herself. But goosebumps rose on her skin, even under the heat of the water, when she thought about her creepy daughter. The whites of her eyes. Her ability to sneak up on her as she slept.” 

Hanna’s narrative was inconsistent when compared to that of a 7-year-old. I tried to suspend belief and go with it, as I understand this is fiction and she is certainly not your average child. But, in the end, these constant fluctuations between childlike and adult mentality became too much. Throughout story progression, her actions and the possibility of them continued to lose credibility. As a result, the tension was slowly stripped away from about 50% on.

Suzette was also deeply flawed as a character. I was sympathetic to her plight, having no real sense of what my own composure would be under such circumstances, but her affection for Hanna was suspicious and wavering early on. This drove an immediate wedge between us.

“It was hard to pour endless love into someone who wouldn’t love you back. No one could do it forever.” 

A large portion of the content felt gratuitous. There was even one particular scene that I believe was added for increased shock appeal that I can actually say I wish had been avoided. It was tactless and improbable. There is no true mystery in Baby Teeth and the ending was fittingly my final disappointment. It was a predictable cliché.

I will admit that Stage’s writing is not without merit. She offers readers a fluid experience that moves at a desirable pace for a thriller. Even with the hurdles I encountered, this was an effortless read. The narration was seamless and concise. Fans of thrillers that are willing to suspend disbelief and seeking a fast read will likely find enjoyment in Baby Teeth. For myself, there was a disconnect with the characters that I never fully recovered from.

Contains some violence, sexual content and themes of chronic illness.

*I would like to thank St. Martins Press for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

tea cup

 

Pair this fast-paced read with a crisp herbal mint blend.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

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Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

bring me backBring Me Back 
By B.A. Paris
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9781250151339
Pages: 336
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

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A young British couple are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she’s not inside. No one ever sees her again.

Ten years later he’s engaged to be married; he’s happy, and his past is only a tiny part his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She’s turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?


My Thoughts

I love a good mystery and thriller. The quick pace and twisty events are often the perfect recipe to break up oncoming reading slumps and liven up my TBR. For that reason, I try to always incorporate them into my current reading piles periodically. This was my first encounter with BA Paris, so I admittedly had no specific expectations when I began Bring Me Back, but being the honest reviewer I am, I am sure they were higher than what I ultimately received.

The skinny..

Mysteries are meant to be just that. They are best left to be explored by the reader. For that reason and the amount of predictability I encountered with this particular story, I am opting to skip my usual recap and leaving you simply with the blurb.

“That was the statement I gave to the police, sitting in the police station somewhere off the A1 in France. It was the truth. But not quite the whole truth.”

What I appreciated..

  • This was a case of an unreliable narrator. Or is it? We simply do not know and it works well to initially heighten the mystery of Bring Me Back.
  • An alternating timeline delivers a story that unfolds at a rather quick pace in easy to digest chunks that I appreciated.
  • BA Paris clearly has a knack with the pen, creating a fluid and inviting read if only just for how effortless it is.

Challenges some may encounter..

  • I would be lying to state that there was not a large amount of predictability within the plot. I had the majority of it pegged by page 75, which was too soon for myself.
  • It was difficult to establish a connection with the narrator and characters, as emotion is not conveyed very well on the page.
  • The abrupt change of story at the half-way point felt clunky and really failed to add any value to my experience.
  • The final conclusion was highly improbable and demanded a lot from the reader in terms of surrendering all belief. While I will not expand on this for the obvious reasons, I was not able to overlook the multitude of holes and issues here.

In the end, Bring Me Back was an initially appealing and fast-paced read that while maybe not entirely plausible still entertaining. However, I struggled with the predictability and lack of complexity. I still believe that fans of the author and those seeking a lighter read will find easy enjoyment within this one.

*I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press for this advanced copy. The quote included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

tea cup

 

Pairs well with a nice large blanket a cup of Earl Grey.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

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