Friday, December 28, 2018

Short Fiction Friday: Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant

Dr. Isabella Gualey is a good doctor but when her niece becomes the first victim of a new disease, one there is apparently no cure for, her expertise seems to have failed her in the worst way. As Morris's disease makes its way across the country and then the globe, Gauley watches on as it claims life after life and there's apparently nothing she can do about it. 

Until she comes up with an idea that pushes the very limits of medical ethics. It's an idea that will tear her own family apart and put her career - and even her life - at risk. But if it saves lives, it's worth it isn't it?

Mira Grant's latest novella, a new special edition release from the good folks at Subterranean Press, is a truly terrifying and all to realistic tale of modern medicine, medical ethics, and moral dilemmas. And it's one that hits close to home for me!

I have a newborn at home, a child who hasn't had a chance to build up an immune system as of yet and isn't quite old enough for vaccinations, which means that we've all but quarantined ourselves at home for the first two months of his life. Indeed, because of a suspected allergy there are two vaccines I was never able to get boosters for, which means I'm also potentially at risk for at least one very avoidable illness that's begun making the rounds again.

So you can imagine how much scarier a story about a new, vaccine resistant bug was for this reader!

There's no question there's a message to this story and there's no question from the beginning exactly what the message is. The painstaking detail and the harrowing impact her created disease has on her characters makes this a horrific read and that's before the twist at the end.

One thing I should note, however, is that I did find the portion describing the spread of Morris's to be quite similar to Grant's Newsflesh prequel story, "Countdown." If you've read the short, and you've likely come to Grant's latest as a fan of said series so you probably have, you'll see what I mean. That said, since I gobble up anything and everything Grant/McGuire writes, it didn't take away from this read all that much.

Subterranean produces gorgeous collectors edition hardcovers worthy of any hardcore collector's shelves. If you didn't have a chance to get a copy of this one before it sold out, though, I highly recommend springing for at least the e edition.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Joey Mullen is supposed to be getting her life together. She's married now and has finally found a job, even if it isn't quite what she'd hoped for. She's got a steady place to live as well, staying in the guest rooms of her brother's house while he and her sister-in-law await the birth of their first child. But even though Joey has successfully managed the adult thing of late, she finds her eye wandering when she catches a glimpse of her neighbor, Tom Fitzwilliam.

Tom is the headmaster of a local school - the man who's going to get things in shape, as he's done in every other school he's formerly taught at. Everyone loves him and Joey is certainly not immune. But as Joey's obsession with Tom grows, someone else has been watching Joey. And when things come to a head, a body is found with evidence that Joey may have played a part.

But how does an innocent crush turn into murder? That's what the police are hoping to find out.

Reading Lisa Jewell's work is really such a treat! Her pacing is fantastic and her characters even better considering she uses them to explore all the dark and nasty bits of a person's deepest thoughts.

Watching You plays out in a bit of an odd timeline. The book begins with the discovery of a body on March 24 and then jumps back to January, when Joey first notices Tom. As the story progresses from January, interviews with Joey and other potential witnesses from March are interspersed throughout, giving the reader a chance to follow the police investigation a bit while the events leading up to the actual investigation are still playing out.

This play in timeline keeps the tension at it's highest even as the psychological suspense continues to grow.

Joey isn't the only character to get ample story time either. Tom's son, Freddie, and Jenna, a girl at Tom's school, each get their bit of narrative too. How their stories intertwine with that of Joey's, Tom's, and the investigation is brilliantly plotted!

With each new release, Jewell amazes me with her talent even more. Her twisty plots, her careful doling out of clues, and her fantastically real characters all prove that she's a master of psychological suspense and I await each new book with great anticipation. Watching You is perfect for anyone in search of a truly clever page turner!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve Shorts: Hark! The Herald Angels Scream ed by Christopher Golden

I'm a huge fan of the tradition of ghost stories on Christmas Eve. As such, reading something along those lines has become something of a tradition of mine for the holiday season.

Blumhouse Books, part of PRH's Anchor imprint had previously put together a Halloween anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton, my reading choice for that season this year, so when I saw they were putting together a Christmas anthology of horror stories as well, I knew it had to be on my list for the current holiday season. Of course added bonuses for me are 1. the fact that it's short stories and with admittedly limited time to devote to reading, shorts are perfect for this new mom and 2. the collection includes original short stories by some of my FAVORITE current authors - Scott Smith, Seanan McGuire, Sarah Lotz, and Elizabeth Hand just to name a few - and a novella by Sarah Pinborough :)

Beginning with Kelley Armstrong's creepy mummer's tale and ending with Sarah Pinborough's fabulously atmospheric novella, Hark! The Herald Angels Scream has something for every kind of horror fan. And while all not all of the stories are ghost stories - Tim Lebbon's "Home," finds an old man traveling an apocalyptic landscape with a strange companion while Josh Malerman's "Tenets" features an incredibly awkward holiday get together amongst college classmates -, I'll admit I was personally pretty pleased with the number of actual ghost stories that are included (I'm a fan of horror of any kind, but I've admitted many times that ghost stories are my favorite!).  Joe Lansdale's "The Second Floor of the Christmas Hotel," for example, pits two old acquaintances against a mystery in a decrepit hotel, Michael Koryta's "Hiking Through" is a chilling ghost story set along the Appalachian Trail, and Elizabeth Hand's "Farrow Street" takes readers to a piece of London no one would ever want to visit!

Here's the full TOC:

"Absinthe & Angels" by Kelley Armstrong
"Christmas in Barcelona" by Scott Smith
"Fresh as the New-Fallen Snow" by Seanan McGuire
"Love Me" by Thomas E. Sniegoski
"Not Just For Christmas" by Sarah Lotz
"Tenets" by Josh Malerman
"Good Deeds" by Jeff Strand
"It's a Wonderful Knife" by Christopher Golden
"Mistletoe and Holly" by James A. Moore
"Snake's Tail" by Sarah Langan
"The Second Floor of the Christmas Hotel" by Joe R. Lansdale
"Farrow Street" by Elizabeth Hand
"Doctor Velocity: A Story of the Fire Zone" by Jonathan Maberry
"Yankee Swap" by John M. McIlveen
"Honor Thy Mother" by Angela Slatter
"Home" by Tim Lebbon
"Hiking Through" by Michael Koryta
The Hangman's Bride by Sarah Pinborough

Whether you partake in the Christmas Eve scary story game or not, this collection is perfect reading for any horror fan facing a hectic holiday schedule! Definitely one to add to your reading list before this year is out.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

New Releases 12/26/18

There are actually new releases this week! Some of the titles hitting shelves this holiday week are:

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant

Evermore by Sara Holland

Friday, December 21, 2018

Backlist Bump: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I'm easing back into blogging (and reading, to an extent)! I know everyone is different and every baby is different so I really had no idea what to expect out of our first weeks home with Wes but I have been sneaking in some reading. It's just a lot slower going than it used to be :)

What Alice Forgot had been in my TBR for some time (though not as long as The Last Anniversary) but I generally find it harder to get to backlist titles considering there are so many new titles being released that demand attention. And yet, one of the things the pregnancy allowed me was a bit of time away from those demands and the chance to dive into some of the things that had been begging for attention on my own bookshelves. Of course I also have to admit that I'm trying to hold off on buying anything new for myself, including Liane Moriarty's new hardcover. At least until after we get through Christmas :)

At 29, Alice is madly in love and expecting her first child. Her whole life is in front of her and she's looking forward to every minute of it!

But Alice isn't actually 29. She's 39 and can't remember anything that's happened over the past ten years thanks to a head injury after a fall at the gym. She can't remember, for instance, her three children. She also can't remember why she and her husband have split up or why she and her sister are barely talking. And she certainly can't remember how fun loving, relaxed Alice turned into the Alice everyone says she is today.

One of the things any fan of Moriarty's work, including myself, loves are the wonderfully realistic characters. Alice has a hint of Peggy Sue Got Married to it, and I do love that movie, but Moriarty brings that premise up to date in a lot of admirable ways. There's no question this is Alice's real life, for one, and there's no jumping back to her 29-year-old self to potentially change things, for another.

Nope, Alice wakes up on the floor in the gym and pretty immediately wonders why a coworker looks so much older all of the sudden. Seeing the way she's changed herself over the years comes as a shock but it's one she's got a little time to face, all things considered.

It's easy to sympathize with Alice, but I personally found myself sympathizing even more with her because the time she's stuck in mentally happens to be when she's pregnant with her first child. (Her sister's story is seated in pregnancy and motherhood as well, which added an extra layer for me.) All of the first sensations and the expectations and hopes of being a mother are fresh and new to Alice even after she discovers that very same child is actually ten years old. And then she realizes she's missing the entire lives and bonding experiences she'd had with all three children!

But of course the biggest issue is her marriage. She can't figure out how someone who once made her so happy has turned against her. Even worse, when those around her hint at her own attitude towards her husband, she's baffled and confused by the fact that she's apparently grown to dislike him so very much. Their relationship has become contentions, to say the least!

Alice of today is a very different Alice than the Alice she once was and now, faced with a decade of lost memories, she wonders if remembering is even worth it in the end.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

What I've Been Up To...

Hi, readers! This'll be a personal post, updating y'all on the happenings around here - in other words, why it's been so long since I last posted a review!

Wes was born on November 22, Thanksgiving Day no less! I'll preface this by saying that we're all home and healthy. But we were lucky in a lot of regards.

After about 6 mos of trying, we found out we were expecting at the beginning of March. I'm pretty superstitious and took the test because it was the second in a two pack that had been staring me in the face every time I opened the bathroom cabinet. I expected it to say no... Surprise!

The pregnancy itself was pretty easy but I'm a worrier and I felt like each doctor's appt came with a new thing to add to the list! First there was the fact that I had no morning sickness or any other indication - except the positive test - that I was expecting, so waiting for the first appt at 9 weeks to confirm drove me a little crazy. Then there was the fact that I'm over 35 and the extra tests that went with that, the fact that I'm not in great shape and they wanted to test me for regular diabetes (which came back negative) in addition to the gestational diabetes test that would come later (also negative), oh and a little issue with my kidneys that led to me being sent to a specialist.

Through all the worrying, Wes was fabulous! But we did find out that I have a genetic disorder called Alport Syndrome. (Autosomal dominant for those of you who will google it.) The problem is that it presents the same as one of the key indications of preeclampsia and since I'd never been tested or diagnosed, it also meant being admitted to the hospital at almost 17 weeks pregnant for a kidney biopsy. Fun times.

After the biopsy and the genetic test confirmed what it was, it meant my blood pressure was pretty much the only thing the doctors could go by for preeclampsia. It also meant seeing a high risk doctor to monitor Wes's growth - upside is that we got an ultrasound at each visit, which meant I had less to worry about what with confirmation he was doing well every month.

I made it to 37 weeks before my blood pressure spiked high enough for real concern. They admitted me to the hospital (for one hour) to be monitored, with an eye to inducing if my bp didn't go back to normal. It did, but we skipped straight to two appts per week and my doctor scheduled an induction for week 39.

I'd hoped I would go into labor on my own before our Tuesday appt. But in spite of contractions all week prior to the appt, we checked in for the induction and found ourselves hanging out at the hospital watching The Office most of Wednesday waiting for things to progress.

I was adamant that I didn't want painkillers. Not out of any kind of sense of being able to handle the pain (I didn't have any clue what to expect) or determination to do it all naturally, but because I was convinced they wouldn't work and that the side effects wouldn't be worth it. But by the time the contractions really did hit, I was in so much agony we tried everything. At first, I was able to stand through them and then soak in the tub through them. But they started coming so hard and so close together that I was literally on the floor screaming in agony before long. Our hospital offered nitrous, which did nothing. I recall them telling me I had to get onto the bed before they could give me fentanyl, which I barely managed before yet another contraction hit. And I recall my feet were still hanging off the bed when it did. By this time they'd also stopped the pitocin and given me a drug to slow the contractions but neither offered me much relief - my husband says the combination of those and the fentanyl did give me more of a break between contractions but I was pretty out of it at that point.

What was worrisome was the fact that they couldn't seem to keep the monitors in a spot to pick up Wes's heart rate. And when they did, they found that his heart rate was dropping with each contraction but leveling off after each one ended. They were sure the contractions were putting pressure on the cord.

I got the epidural about 4:30 on Thursday morning and was able to get a little bit of sleep before the nurses changed shift at 7. They did turn the pitocin on for just one more contraction, which I felt in its entirety, and then it was time to push. The epidural wore off, y'all. My legs were numb at 4:30 and by the time I was pushing I was in pain again and the only residual effect of the meds were that my feet were the tiniest bit tingly.

An hour later, 11:31, Wes was born. And I was able to get up out of the bed and walk on my own, though they did wheel us to our recovery room.

As I said, though, we were lucky and it didn't quite sink in just how much until after. I was running a fever on one side of my face and they never did figure out why. Just before delivering, they also found that the cord had wrapped around Wes's neck. The delivering doctor was on top of it and, again, Wes was completely healthy even feeding fabulously from the very start. But, like I said, we were lucky.

Wes was labeled small for gestational age, which meant he had to pass blood sugar tests to show he was maintaining a healthy level between feedings. He passed and he only dropped 7% of his birth weight in the hospital. By the time he had his first peds appt the following Monday he was up to just 3% down and we were given the go ahead not to wake him for feedings anymore.

My blood pressure was on the high side in the hospital, so I'm not totally out of the woods for complications but apparently the further out from the pregnancy, the less worry there is. So so far so good as far as I'm concerned. And Wes was up to 6.5 lbs at his 2 week appt (which was at 11 days rather than 14), so he's peachy keen!

So that's it. That's what I've been up to.