Ever want to take a break from heady literature? Kick Back. Put your feet up. Dive into a book that’s fun and frothy but No Great Brain Strain Fluff Stuff? Well. I’ve got a deal for you. Three, actually. They include werewolves, a family camping trip gone south, and a town where children are disappearing and no one knows why. Like this:
Hidden (Subterranean Press, 2011)
By Kelley Armstrong
Werewolves are hot on the trail of a “lone wolf” suspected of violating Pack law – e.g., murder and man-eating in the Canadian hinterlands. At Christmas. Apparently, that’s a major Pack no-no. So Pack “Alpha-elect” Elena Michaels and her ma…. husband and Pack “Enforcer” Clay Danvers investigate. With their four year-old twins in tow. While on holiday at a chalet outside Ontario’s Algonquin Park.
But all is not well in Werewolf land. A strange werewolf shows up at their door and with him, the question of who’s hunting whom – and why?
Almost put this one back. Not really my cuppa. But since it was the proverbial “dark and stormy night,” I thought I’d give it a go. Turns out Hidden fits tooth and jowl into “fun and frothy.”
Tightly written with enough sass and spark to keep it crackling, this snappy romp isn’t going to win any Pulitzers. But then, some Pulitzer winners shouldn’t be getting Pulitzers, either. (Don’t get me started.)
So there’s that.
All in all, Hidden is a light, engaging read with a conclusion that neatly “tucks in the tail.” Pair it with a dark and stormy night and a hot cuppa whatever. You’re good to go.
All the Little Children (2017)
By Jo Furniss
How far will a mother go to protect her children?
That’s the central question in this riveting, emotionally gripping story set in a post-apocalyptic U.K.
Marlene Greene is a business owner, unhappy wife, and a fatigued and stressed-out mother of three battling a gigantor case of working mom guilt. Marlene and her sister in law, Joni, head into the forest for a weekend camping trip with their kiddos for some past-due family time. But when distant fires and choking smoke suddenly appear and all communication with the outside world is lost, everything goes south. Fast.
It doesn’t take Marlene long to discover that the only thing that’s saved her family from a major apocalyptic event is the remote location of their camp site. Dead bodies start piling up elsewhere. Answers aren’t keeping up with the steady stream of increasingly hysterical questions. In the midst of an eerie calamity that’s left two mums and their children stranded and isolated, Marlene must find the strength to make some tough choices if her family is to survive. Can she?
Harrowing and haunting, this fast-paced barn burner is a kick in the gut. The writing is full-bodied and robust. The author’s command of the language is impressive. Descriptions of settings, people, towns, animals and sights and sounds are vibrant and rich.
Characters are three-dimensional and authentic, with a couple caveats:
- Marlene’s temper tantrums and potty-mouth get old. Fast. What is this, junior high? This stuff doesn’t add anything substantive to the story and comes across as indolent and contrived more often than not.
- Non-British readers may puzzle over some of the verbiage – “sod off,” petrol, wellies, windscreen, etc. (Fortunately, contextual clues are legion so this isn’t a major problem.)
That being said, this is still a remarkable achievement in creative writing and lively prose, especially as a debut novel. Absorbing and totally engrossing.
An Ada Hughes Novella
By Patricia Morais
Children are disappearing in the fishing village of Tide Springs. And nobody knows how or why.
Although the town is “known for its superstitions” and alleged monster sightings, skeptics are legion. So when Ada Hughes’ father insists he saw a sea monster after his last bender, Ada thinks he’s hallucinating. Or hungover. Or both. Until she meets a malevolent half women/half serpent being hovering over her younger brother’s bed.
Ada gets more than she bargained for when she later meets two venatoris – hunters of the supernatural. And the “supernatural” hunted by Shianne and Gabriel reportedly feeds on human children. Can they stop the creature before it strikes again?
The author packs a lot into less than 80 pages: a fractured family, loss, mystery, faith, and romance. Loneliness. A strong, independent young woman who fights her own battles and is willing to risk everything to protect her younger brothers. Also a really, really bad mermaid/snake/demon thing.
Because the book is translated from Portuguese, some of the phrasing is a little awkward. But it’s not enough to seriously detract from this entertaining read.
The author’s English debut novella, Tides is from the World of Shadows series. It’s a YA urban fantasy series about a demon-hunting organization. As explained by the author, “It tells the background story of one of its secondary characters, and how she came to join the fantasy organization that is centered in the main books.”
Find out more at: Patricia Morais.
Have you read something recently that’s fun and frothy and No Great Brain Strain?
Frothy coffee image credit: Public domain.