Dogears: Thrilling Journeys into the Past, Present, and Alternate Future

Dogears: Thrilling Journeys into the Past, Present, and Alternate Future
Welcome to "Dogears," our regular series of mini book reviews. Check out what thrillers our writers have read this month and find your next favorite read!

In a world filled with far too many great books, it's hard to figure out what to pick up next. Luckily, Bookmarked is here to help in your search with "Dogears," bite-sized book reviews from our growing TBR piles. Check out what we've been reading this past month, and see if you can find your next

In a world filled with far too many great books, it’s hard to figure out what to pick up next. Luckily, Bookmarked is here to help in your search with “Dogears,” bite-sized book reviews from our growing TBR piles. Check out what we’ve been reading this past month, and see if you can find your next favorite read!

Bonfire

Krysten Ritter
Three Rivers Press
November 7, 2017
Review by Louis Skye

Book cover for Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Bonfire follows environmental lawyer Abby Williams as she returns to her hometown after being away for ten years. Abby is back in Barrens to collect facts for a case, but she is filled with trepidation at the thought of meeting people from her past. Disturbing events took place in Abby’s last year of school, culminating in the disappearance of a fellow student. While the town appears to have accepted the girl’s disappearance, its people are still clearly reeling from the mysteries surrounding it.

Abby attempts to bury herself in work, but that does not go as planned. As she digs deeper, she begins to think there may be a connection between her case and events from ten years ago. However, some truths may be too dangerous to uncover.

I just finished reading this book by Krysten Ritter, a.k.a. Jessica Jones, and I was floored! The book is an absolutely well-plotted page-turner. It feels really well-researched, which is surprising for a debut novel. The characters are all fascinating, and I love the way she goes back and forth in time to give us more clues about them, but still keeps us guessing about their motivations. There’s such an air of mystery to the story that you can’t stop reading it. I read this book in one go, because I couldn’t bear to leave it hanging!

The funny thing is that Ritter writes like Jessica Jones. It’s almost impossible not to see Jessica in place of Abby. I kind of wish Ritter had adapted the voice slightly, because it mostly feels like I’m reading a story where Jessica Jones has gone undercover as an environmental lawyer. I still loved it though!

Circe

Madeline Miller
Little, Brown and Company
April 10, 2018
Review by Nola Pfau

Book cover for Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe, and Miller’s prior release, Song of Achilles, have convinced me of one thing: I only want mythology written by women. If this seems like a strangeness, then fine, I’ll be strange. Miller has twice now written books in which Odysseus is featured, but in which he is not the star, and I find it refreshing. I don’t want to read stories about these so-called heroes, who murder and pillage each other in pursuit of glory. I want to read about the lives they’ve affected, the way those people (and gods, in this case) weather that trauma, how they handle it, and how they learn from it.

Miller’s latest work focuses on a goddess who learns to take what people believe of her and declare ownership of it. When she is thought to be weak and ineffectual, she proves those who think it correct; when she is branded as a witch and an exile, then she grows into the fullness of that role. She is allowed to feel her anger and her hurt in a space that is her own, with no one able to speak over it, and for good or ill that is a refreshing thing. I found myself rooting for her even in her more wicked acts, because she was allowed to commit them, and because they were not entirely unjust. When she takes power, it is not for glory. It is in response to power being taken from her. Truth be told, I could read a hundred books like this and come away satisfied. Miller’s prose has incited in me a hunger for more, which makes the fact that she’s only released these two novels bittersweet.

Summerland

Hannu Rajaniemi
Tor Books
June 28, 2018
Review by Christa Seeley

Book cover for Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi

In an alternative version of 1938, death is no longer a thing to fear and the afterlife is no longer a hypothetical. As long as you have a Ticket you can spend your afterlife in Summerland, a metropolis of the dead. It’s a desirable place where you can exist in comfort and keep in touch with both the living and the dead. Of course, no community exists in a vacuum, and the politics that influence the living world make their way into Summerland as the British and Soviets compete for power.

Rachel White is an SIS agent with an eye on Summerland, and she discovers a Soviet mole within their ranks. But he’s an operative with friends in high places, and blowing the whistle could mean ruining the career she’s worked so hard to achieve. Should she risk going rogue in order to bring him in?

Summerland reads like a classic spy story, right down to the Soviet antagonists, but with a science fiction twist. There is a lot of scientific and mathematical theory worked into the fictional elements, which gives it a very authentic feel. However, the heavy use of these elements and the complicated plot ultimately makes the story a little difficult to follow. Which would be alright if the character arcs were the real pull.

Rachel White and the deceased Peter Bloom are the two POV characters, and I wasn’t particularly pulled in by either of them. Rachel feels a bit like a caricature of a woman rather than a real person. Every decision and thought she makes seems to circle around one of the men in her life. Peter, on the other hand, seems to move through his life and death with no urgency or excitement despite the actual high stakes plot he’s involved in. I loved the concept of this novel, but in the end, the pieces don’t come together the way I hoped they would.

Not Even Bones (Market of Monsters #1)

Rebecca Schaeffer
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 4, 2018
Review by Christa Seeley

Not Even Bones (Market of Monsters #1) Rebecca Schaeffer Houghton Mifflin Harcourt September 4, 2018

In this dark and twisted novel, supernatural beings walk among us. But in this alternate new world, they’re not the enemies in the shadows, as they are often portrayed in other urban fantasy stories. Instead, they are the ones who are hunted and their body parts are sold on the black market to the highest bidder.

Nita and her mother work as a team in this shadow economy. Her mother “acquires” the bodies, and Nita dissects them. And if Nita’s being honest, she loves her job. That is until her mother brings home a creature, a boy, who’s still alive and suddenly Nita can no longer hide from the reality of what she’s doing. But when she tries to help the boy escape, she’s betrayed and her own supernatural abilities are discovered. Next thing she knows, she’s waking up behind bars in the very black market she’s been supplying for years.

I hadn’t heard of Not Even Bones before a copy showed up in the mail but the description of “Dexter meets This Savage Song” sounded too good to pass up. As I already mentioned, this is a dark novel, probably darker than you would expect. Trigger warnings for graphic torture scenes, surgery, eugenics, and physical abuse would all be appropriate. But if you’re able to get past that I can guarantee this is a YA fantasy novel unlike any you’ve read before.

Schaeffer is a debut author, and she’s not afraid to make bold choices with her writing or dance around the more violent scenes. This makes her a refreshing new voice in the world of YA fantasy. She’s also developed a complex and layered protagonist with Nita, who isn’t the stereotypical, selfless YA heroine. She’s a girl that openly admits that she enjoys dissecting people after all. Throughout the novel, she is forced to make a number of difficult present choices for her past actions, and she faces those choices head-on. Though there are some gruesome scenes and difficult topics, overall it makes for a gripping, edge-of-your-seat read. I can’t wait to see how the story will continue when the sequel comes out next year.

Louis Skye
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