“No one would ever want to join the Dead Kids Club – the dues are a price too high to pay.”
Full disclosure: I received this book for free from the author as part of a book exchange. While that might have gotten me to start reading this book, that's not why I finished.
They say the worst pain a person can face is the death of their child, and I believe that’s probably true. After the sudden and senseless death of their son, two parents fall into despair. Nothing matters – jobs, housing, eating well, friendships – who cares? The life they were building was for their son Nick. Now that he’s gone, what does it matter?
But not so is the life of the man who killed their son. He still lives, still drinks and drives, still parties. For now.
With nothing to lose and an ounce of reprieve to gain, these parents pursue revenge. But it won’t work if they lose their lives in prison too. In order to reach their goals, they must get away with it. So, in order to appear normal and innocent, they reconstruct their lives and do what normal grieving couples do when they are trying to get better: they join a support group.
The group speaks of finding love once more, and of pursuing life beyond their traumas, but just below the surface of each well-meaning member is well of bitterness. Injustice abounds and so does the need for vengeance. But, at least, the newest members have a new sense of purpose. Now they’ll just need to decide if an icepick would work better than poison.
I liked this book. A lot. About 75% of the way through, I had to take a moment and message the author about how much I was enjoying it! The characters are well-developed, their motives understandable yet horrific at the same time, and I felt their emotions as they journeyed through this unspeakable pain. In fact, I had to go check on my own son a few times just to make sure he was still OK.
The Dead Kids Club kept me on the edge of my seat while an amateur killer fumbled through doling out vigilante justice. At times, I didn’t know who to root for – the cops, the mob, or the murderous parents! Each step through this journey was well throughout and believable, and I kept thinking about the story long after I had closed the book.
I have one complaint, but just the one. I thought the opening was a bit too fast. It took me a moment to really decipher what was happening. I didn’t feel like I had time to connect emotionally with the dead kid, and the only reason I felt bad was because he was, in fact, a kid. And he was dead. That feeling lasted for the first couple of chapters. Here’s the thing though: the first couple of chapters are about a couple of pages each. In my humble opinion, that’s not a good enough reason to not recommend this book. It was a lot of fun and, again, I really enjoyed it.
So, if you like a good anti-hero thriller, this book is for you!
Richard’s life is . . . disappointing.
His career is one word away from extinction, his love-life nonexistent, his hopes for improvement, nil.
But his imagination? Now that’s a place to be.
For years he has studied and imagined the life of his hero, the much-debated Napoleon Bonaparte, former Emperor of France.
Oh to live in the time of Napoleon! To see the victories. To smell the gunpowder. To be present at Waterloo to warn him of looming disaster! So, when a run-in with an eccentric bookstore owner provides him with that opportunity, Richard takes it readily. He quits his job, his life really, in order to pursue this dream, and soon, he’s present on the famous battlefield of Waterloo, right in the middle of the action!
A little too close to the action really, as he’s quickly escorted off the field by a concerned soldier. But this is just the beginning of an adventure! More is to come, good, bad, and ugly as he journeys to meet his idol – and to find a better life.
As someone who enjoys history but had a less than stellar school curriculum, I learned a lot from this story. Other than the names Waterloo and Napoleon, I know very little about that time period. Williams, though, had it all figured out. Through vivid descriptions, Williams has created an immersive journey through the time of muskets and diplomacy, of success on the battlefield as well as failure. And, as it concerns the story itself, Williams does not always go the way one would think. There were several points when I expected the author to zig only for him to zag instead.
In other words, it was quite a bit of fun, and I enjoyed reading it. As a mom intending to homeschool, I kept thinking about the concept of ‘living books’ as described by Charlotte Mason. While I would not recommend it for a child (there are a few scenes), I could see a historically inclined teenager adding this novel to their curriculum. This is not how this book is being marketed, but it’s a potential angle that I saw. If you're looking for a deep dive into a time period, this book is for you!
*I received this book copy free in exchange for a review.
Steel Princess by April Grace: A Review
A stolen gynoid princess.
An enslaved human robot tinker.
A loveless queen bent on the destruction of mankind.
These are the elements that make up Steel Princess, a teen/YA fantasy novel written by April Grace.
Robots are not supposed to feel emotions. Sure, they may simulate them, understand them even, but have them? Nope.
But Silver, who has been living as the daughter of two humans for most of her life, has started to receive error messages from her processing system about the physiological manifestation of responses from emotional stimuli. (AKA, she’s feeling emotions and her motherboard doesn’t quite know what to do with that!) And, if that wasn’t enough, suddenly, she’s confronted with a truth previously hidden: she was not commissioned or built for her parents to substitute a daughter that never was – she was stolen from her gynoid mother, the queen of the land.
Her ‘parents,’ two humans that have no interest in becoming victims of the gynoid queen’s human genocide, took Silver when she was young and have been raising her as if she were human. Now, what should never have been possible is coming true – Silver is emotionally becoming one of them!
But when Silver’s adoptive mother is captured by the biological(?) mother, Silver has to decide which family to pledge her loyalty to. Choosing the family who has filled her life with love and hope, Silver will stop at nothing to get her mother back and end this reign of terror.
I’m always skeptical about the SFF genre. If you read any of my own books, you’ll find them gritty and down to earth (I can’t write magic to save my life!). But Grace has a way of taking her readers along a journey and introducing them to fantastical characters with heart and humor. One thing that did take me aback (only momentarily) was the inclusion of mythical creatures and magic in this novel. I thought it was going strictly sci-fi, so when the centaur showed up, I wasn’t quite ready for that. Like I said though, it was a momentary feeling. In fact, from that point on, the addition of magical creatures alongside cold robotic beings worked well to create an immersive and complex world.
This was a fun book full of adventure and interesting characters. It was well-written and easy to understand. I believe this is Grace’s first book, and, considering her expansive level of creativity, I can’t wait to see where she goes from here!
Paul used to be normal. He used to play baseball, ride bicycles, and run like all the other kids his age, until a genetic heart condition ruined all that. At the age of twelve, he experienced his first heart episode--an episode of tachycardia that caused him to collapse. Ever since then, while the other kids continue with their normal lives, running, playing sports, planning for college, Paul just hopes he'll get to see tomorrow.
Now seventeen, Paul tries to make the most of it. Sure, he can't handle more than a simple walk around the neighborhood with the girl next door and his school has painted a parking space for an ambulance on his behalf they've come so frequent, but Paul continues life doing the things he's able to do. He studies a lot, watches movies, hangs out with his two friends--the only people in school who haven't written him off and moved on that is.
But when a stranger in the park asks Paul what he wants more than anything, he tells the truth: He'd like a do-over.
And so the stranger shoots him.
Paul wakes up in the hospital the next day, disoriented, but complaining about the random person who shot him in the chest. The doctors are baffled. There's no entry or exit wound, but radiological imagery shows a bullet lodged next to his heart. The thing is, though, the bullet is moving. Around and around it goes, circling his heart. And if that wasn't baffling enough, some of the images report it as being there then not, as if it's intangible.
Well, since Paul would never survive an operation due to his weakened heart, there's not much they can do about it. They'll just have to wait until Paul is dead to remove the thing. But that does not stop the CIA from circling like vultures. Sure, they do their part protecting Paul while they're there, which is especially lucky since a group of creepy, smelly aliens show up demanding whatever Paul has inside of him.
The chase is on as Paul, his girlfriend, and his CIA handlers race from one safe house to the next while the advanced alien race pursues them. With each encounter, they lose more and more of their numbers--including Paul's small circle of family and friends. Between the pursuing aliens, his weak heart, and the CIA's continued talk of basically 'disappearing' Paul, the teen is hard pressed, and it just might be time to take matters into his own hands.
I received this book for free as part of a review exchange. I had read Frankel's work before, but while I like the other book, I really like this one. Frankel's tone for Paul's voice was spot on, and I found myself caring and liking the protagonist pretty quick. I felt each loss, each pain. I felt the fear, the mystery, and the desire to just stay alive, even if by all logic, that's just not going to be possible.
The story was sci-fi, which is a genre I sometimes struggle with, but Frankel did a good job of holding his reader's hand throughout the story and taking them on this wild journey! It was a lot of fun and I'd recommend it for other readers.
I am accepting submissions for reviews at this time. I am primarily interested in thrillers, suspense, magical realism, dystopians, and light sci-fi. I have a taste for the grim and love novels that make you think. Leave me haunted but hopeful.