A review of The Oracle Year by Charles Soule

Huge thank you to Harper Perennial for providing me a copy of The Oracle Year in exchange for an honest review.

As a fan of David Wong, I knew The Oracle Year by Charles Soule would be a great fit for me.  It sounded like a adventure full of questions and bizarre situations and it did not disappoint. The Oracle Year tells the story of Will Dando, a bassist living in New York City, after he wakes up with exactly 108 predictions in his head. Will, with the help of his friend, sets up a site where he can publish these predictions and make more money than he thought possible. Unfortunately, with the power Will has been given he ends up making a lot of enemies. Among them: the president of the United States, a nationally renowned televangelist, and a warlord with a live nuclear bomb.

As the world is falling apart around him, Will learns he is the only person who can put it back together. Enlisting the few people he can trust, Will’s journey takes him on an adventure that spans the globe while taking the reader on a really wild ride.

I think my favorite part of this novel is the idea that a person considered to be a “nobody” is entrusted with power on such a large scale. I also love the specificity of the predictions he receives. Starting with the number, to some of predictions themselves, Soule really created an interesting web of predictions. I like how Soule weaved everything together from beginning to end. Nothing mentioned in the beginning was not left out from later in the novel. It showed me that Soule gave great care to the world he created and didn’t want to leave a single thread hanging.

Of course, that is, for the biggest thread there is. There are many questions in this book that are answered, but there is one that isn’t. I won’t say which one so as not to spoil the novel for anyone interested in reading it, but it definitely left me wondering. That being said, I don’t think the big question not being answered detracted from the novel at all. The Oracle Year is about Will’s journey and what Will did with the knowledge he received. I cared more about that than the logistics or science behind the story.

Another thing that was great about this novel was the humor. Soule was great a bringing humor to the novel in a great way – through his characters. The humor was not too much or barely there. Soule was masterful about the way he incorporated funny remarks or actions from his characters. He created a serious novel with humorous undertones and that is hard to do.

My only complaint is that the beginning is a little slow. It took me some time to get into the novel and actually want to dive headfirst into Will’s world. It’s the only thing I wish was different.

Overall, The Oracle Year gets three and a half out of five stars from me! It was funny, intriguing, and a really interesting take on the ideas of power and faith.

Make sure you get your hands on this book when it comes out on April 3! 

Stacks on deck: My March to-be-read pile

After a very YA heavy February (I was slumping and needed some easy reads to push my through my slump), I decided to focus on some adult fiction this month.

The star of March is definitely The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I have heard nothing but good things about this book and, even though it scares me, I’m going to dive into it headfirst. Not only have I heard great things from friends about it (bookstagram friends, work friends, etc.), but the amazing Lin-Manuel Miranda is executive producing a TV series for it. Once I heard that I knew I had to read the books before it aired. I’m hoping to get started on it this week when I take the train to Chicago and have plenty of uninterrupted reading time.

My current read for March is The Oracle Year by Charles Soule. I was graciously sent a copy by Harper Perennial in exchange for an honest review. According to Harper Perennial, The Oracle Year is for fans of Joe Hill, David Wong, and other humorous sci-fi/fantasy writers. This novel follows Will Dando, a twenty-something bassist living in New York City, after he wakes up with 108 predictions in his head. Will, with the help of a close friend, takes these predictions and monetizes them becoming the most famous, most loved, and most hated person in the world. I’m about halfway through and loving every minute of it. It’s funny, it’s intriguing, and most of all it’s incredibly well written.

If you’re interested in this book, look for it at your local bookstore on April 3!

PS. It looks like The Oracle Year is being made into a TV show too!

Another book I’m really looking forward to this month is The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Kristin Hannah’s books seem to be big hits with a lot of people and The Great Alone is not exception. I’ve been seeing multiple five-star reviews for this book all over bookstagram and Goodreads which makes me so excited to dive into this one. Another great thing about reading this book this month is that I will be reading it with some great people on bookstagram! While I’ve been impatient with buddy reads in the past, I think this book will be great to discuss with friends.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller also made my March hopeful pile this year. I’m reading it in anticipation for Circe because I really want to get a feel for the author’s writing and her take on Greek mythology. It also helps that I am a huge fan of Greek mythology and any modern take on it really interests me.

Finally, the book I think I’m going to finish out the month with is The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara. There are so many reasons I hope that I will love this book. The biggest one being that one of my best book friends gave this book a solid five-star review. I really respect her reviews and seeing her thoughts on this book made me want to read it even more. I cannot wait to get into this book, but I really want to end March on a strong note and I think this book will be that for me.

That’s my March to-be-read pile! It might change a bit because I picked from great books from Book of the Month this month and might dive into those. What are you planning to read this month?

Review of Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

“Sometimes the world don’t give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes it withholds.”

— Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward

While beautifully written, I don’t think Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward was the book for me. Knowing that Ward is a fellow University of Michigan alum and that Sing, Unburied, Sing was on Barack Obama’s 2017 reading list, I desperately wanted to love this book, but I only liked it.*

*Which, I should note, is still a good thing and I do recommend this book if you are a fan of literary fiction!

Sing, Unburied, Sing tells the story of one family, their struggles, and their strengths. The story starts with Jojo, a thirteen-year-old boy who idolizes his grandfather and wants to be a man just like him. Jojo’s mother, Leonie, is struggling even more. With her children’s father in jail, past traumas haunting her, and a drug addiction, Leonie is not equipped to raise Jojo or her daughter.

The bulk of this story revolves around the journey of the family as they go to pick up the children’s father from jail. On the road, the family face more struggles that challenge their ways of thinking and makes them question the lives they are living.

There was no question that this book was beautiful and heartbreaking. As a literary fiction, it excelled. However, some logistical problems kept me from fully falling in love with this family’s story.

Just to quickly list them out:

  • The timeline was unclear. 
    There were times when it was obvious there was a flashback happening, but other times the flashbacks or memories were nestled into the chapters. This threw me off at times and I found myself having to go back and reread sections to figure out where in time I was.
  • I didn’t truly understand the character of Richie.
    While I know Richie was a very important part of Pop’s backstory, I don’t know why he had to be included in Jojo’s story. It seemed like Jojo was not at all receptive to Richie or his message. It didn’t seem like Richie served much of a purpose except to weave some supernatural elements throughout the story.
  • The magical realism wasn’t clear.
    The magical realism throughout this novel is what left me confused most of the time. It was never clear if the “ghosts” the family were seeing were actual ghosts or hallucinations or something else entirely. While Ward wrote these moments beautifully, I didn’t quite understand how the family was seeing these supernatural occurrences and why.

My biggest issue with this novel is that, by the end, I didn’t understand why I was told this story. The issues presented at the beginning were not resolved by the end. A lot of this novel could have been removed and the ending would have stayed the same. While I felt Ward’s prose was masterful, I felt like it didn’t progress the story at times.

Despite those negatives, I do think Sing, Unburied, Sing is an important novel that needs to be out in this world. It doesn’t shy away from racism or drug abuse. It talks about these issues and doesn’t glamorize them. It shows how racism has caused many of the family’s struggles. From Pop’s time in prison to the murder of Given to Leonie’s children having a white father, the family in this novel has always faced struggles due to racism. Sing, Unburied, Sing also shows how drug use has kept Leonie from being a mother to her children and how it has pulled them away from her. This novel takes the ugly things from this world and writes about them lyrically, which left an unsettled feeling in my stomach.

Overall, I liked this book. It gets a solid three out of five stars from me.

Review of Bird Box by Josh Malerman

“How can she expect her children to dream as big as the stars if they can’t lift their heads to gaze upon them?

— Bird Box, Josh Malerman

*Note: Bird Box is the middle book in this photo. The other two novels were pretty great too!

If you’re in need of a chilling, horrifying novel, Bird Box by Josh Malerman is absolutely something you need to pick up. It didn’t matter what page of this book I was on, there was always something terrifying that took place.

Bird Box tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world in which it is not safe to open your eyes. If you do open your eyes, you risk going mad. The world is filled with “creatures” that the human mind can’t comprehend and their presence has completely changed the way the world works. Bird Box centers around Malorie who has just found out she’s pregnant as the world is falling apart around her. Five years later, Malore is trapped in an abandoned house with her two children. Her children have been raised and trained for the perfect moment to leave the house in search of a safer life. One foggy day, it’s time.

This book chronicles Malorie’s and the children’s journey down the river to safety as well as Malorie’s life leading up to this moment. Each chapter alternates years and events, but stays centered on Malorie’s story.

The premise of this novel was different from the other post-apocalyptic novels I’ve read and I thought Malerman did a phenomenal job of creating such a chilling world. He weaved tension and anxiety throughout each of the pages expertly. I was kept on my toes with each page turn, unsure of what was about to happen next. Bird Box was the perfect length. Malerman edited his book so that each word was crucial to the story and nothing was lost.

I enjoyed this read immensely and the chills stayed with me for days. Also, Josh Malerman is a metro-Detroit native just like myself so he gets even more props for that! He’s also in a local band, check out The High Strung!

A solid 4 out of 5 stars for Bird Box. If you need a chilling, horror novel then you need to pick this book up!

“I wish you more happiness than can fit in a person”: A review of We Are Okay

“I was okay just a moment ago. I will learn how to be okay again.”

— We Are Okay, Nina LaCour

There is no doubt in my mind that We Are Okay by Nina LaCour is a five-star book.

We Are Okay is a heart wrenching, beautiful, and uniquely human. LaCour did an amazing job with capturing human emotion within the pages of this book. I felt for every character – even ones who only appear for short stretches.

We Are Okay tells a story of grief, love, and betrayal through experiences of Marin. Marin leaves her hometown for the quiet, lonely sanctuary of a New York college campus. Marin has isolated herself from everyone, the only exception being her roommate, as she quietly suffers a devastating loss. It isn’t until her best friend from home, Mabel, arrives that Marin must face her grief and events from her past.

Personally, I believe the best part of this book is LaCour’s writing. She makes the reader feel Marin’s pain as her words bring grief and loss to life. Marin’s past unfolds on the pages in front of you as she is struggling to deal with the events. It is almost like LaCour wanted you, as the reader, to discover what happened to Marin as she is coming to terms with it herself.

My biggest complaint is that I wished the book were longer. I wanted to dive into Marin and Mabel’s relationship, learn how Marin became reliant on her roommate, and see into the thoughts and feelings of Marin’s grandfather. LaCour made these characters so real and I wanted to know everything about them. That being said, I think We Are Okay was the perfect telling of Marin’s story. It made the people in her life as real as she was, but ultimately was her telling of how she handled loss and betrayal.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It was a quick read, but so worth your time.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr: A review

In celebration of the premiere of The Alienist on TNT last night, I thought I would tell you my thoughts on the book.

I read The Alienist by Caleb Carr to prepare myself for the TV show and because my mom highly suggested (and when your bookworm mom suggests something, you listen). I’ve mentioned before that I am a sucker for true crime. I love reading, listening to, and watching all things true crime. While The Alienist is a work of fiction, it felt like it drew a lot of inspiration from true crime and that’s what made me love it.

The Alienist tells the story of Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and his work to solve some of the first serial killings in Gilded Age New York City. Kreizler is an “alienist” or, what we now call, a psychologist. This book starts with Dr. Kreizler summoning his friend John Moore to view the mutilated body of a young boy. This moment sparks an investigation that causes uproar and danger to those around them.

My biggest issue with this story is how slow the pacing is at the beginning of the novel. Carr writes a lot of exposition and back story through the eyes of John Moore. It takes a little while to get into the novel and into the crime solving aspect of it, but once you do… wow, does this book really take off. Once I got to that point, I did not want to stop reading. I texted my mom so many times asking her if my theories were right (she did the right thing by not telling me anything until after I had finished) because I wanted to non-stop talk about this book. I even bored my boyfriend and talked to him about it! It was just that thought-provoking.

I loved the dynamic between all of the characters. Each character brought something important to the team and without them, the case couldn’t have been solved. There was always intrigue about each character as well. Carr, master of exposition, provided you with back stories to each character throughout the novel. He really created the sense that these could have been real people solving horrendous murders in the late 1800s and I really enjoyed that.

Carr also brought the murderer to life on the pages. You don’t meet the murderer until the very end, but they feel like a very real entity throughout the entire novel. Kreizler’s method of piecing the person together brought a sense to the reader (and the characters) that the person committing the murders was a very real person with very dangerous tendencies.

I found myself completely sucked into this book throughout the last half. It was entertaining, creepy, and a little chilling how realistic Carr made his murderer. I cannot wait to watch how TNT brings this book to life on screen. I’m sure it’ll be great though!

The Alienist got four out of five stars from me! I am definitely planning on reading the next book that features Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and his team.

If you’re interested in learning more about the show, click here.

No visitors. No contact. No return.: A review of The Blinds

“There’s nothing special about this place, he thinks. We all forget. Then we forget what we forgot. And that’s how we survive.”

 —  The Blinds, Adam Sternbergh

I was very impressed with The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh. It was well-developed, well-written, and incredibly interesting.

The Blinds is a modern Western thriller that takes place in the town of Caesura. It is  populated with criminals who have been pulled from their lives and had their memories altered. These people were granted a second chance to live a quiet life away from the prying eyes of society. They are free to leave at any time, but, if they do leave, they’ll end up dead.

Caesura has been running smoothly for eight years thanks to Sheriff Cooper (I pictured him as Hopper from Stranger Things). However, after a murder and a suicide in quick succession, the town begins to question their safety. Not only does Cooper need to protect his residents, but he needs to protect his secrets. With a deputy that keeps prying and outsiders that are threatening to tear the town apart, Caesura is no longer the quiet escape from the world it once was.

I would say calling this book a modern Western is incredibly accurate. It has elements of a Western as well as a thriller. This book was a page-turner for me. I kept reading because I had to find out what in the world was going on in the town of Caesura and what Cooper was hiding.

I found the characters incredible interesting, especially when their backstories were revealed. It was obvious to me that Sternbergh put a lot of thought into his characters and the memories they wanted to forget. This book begs the question, if you don’t remember what you did and you are a completely different person, isolated from the world, should you still be held accountable for your actions? What warrants a second chance?

There were many interesting themes explored at a quick pace. There were surprises at every turn and I was kept guessing throughout most of the story. My only complaint (and it’s a small one), is that the ending wrapped up a little too neatly. After the huge reveals at the end, it seemed difficult for me to believe that things would have been that easy to wrap up.

All that being said, I give The Blinds a three and a half out of five stars. I really liked this book and was completely engrossed in the story. If you’re looking for an interesting, western style thriller, this book is for you!