It's post World-War Two and America is worn out.
Eleven year old Annabelle lives on a farm in rural Pennsylvania. Life is simple and quiet but set against a harsh backdrop.
When Annabelle discovers there's a new student in her class named Betty, she sees it as an opportunity to make a new friend.
Betty has other plans.
Betty is not interested in making friends. Cunning and sadistic, Betty decides, for no reason other than the sick thrill of it, to torment Annabelle and her two young brothers.
It's not long after Annabelle decides that she's had enough that two tragedies happen. One of them I'll keep quiet as to not spoil anything. The other is that Betty vanishes off the face of the earth.
The prime suspect is Toby, a forty-something year old man that survived the First World War and has the scars to prove it. Toby is a loner, he's quiet, odd and a wary friend of Annabelle's family.
Now it's up to Annabelle to protect Toby and to try and find Betty before state troopers swarm her town and hunt him down.
I really loved Wolf Hollow. Annabelle is a great narrator and the descriptions of life on a farm feel very authentic. This is a story about being honest, standing up for what you think is right and the sad truth that in small towns people often won't let you have your own life. Everyone is in everyone else's business, be it out of boredom or self hatred about their lot in life, they will burrow their noses into your life whether you want them to or not.
A great tale with nice mystery element to it, don't miss it!
In 1970 Alaska, you grow up slightly differently than other people.
The Smell of Other People's Houses is the tale of four different teenagers whose lives intertwine in the stark yet beautiful backdrop of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Ruth has survived a family tragedy and has a secret that will send her away from her friends, possibly forever.
Alyce wants to stop working on her father's fishing boat and become a dancer but when her and her dad witness something extraordinary while fishing one day, their lives change forever.
Dora is living day to day, trying to escape the brutal reality that is her drunken, abusive father. She finds solace in her friends and other people's parents but she isn't sure how much longer she can last.
Hank and his two brothers decide to run away from Fairbanks but nothing ever really goes to plan.
I loved this book, the dialogue is fast yet dreamlike and even though I have no idea what it was like to grow up in Alaska a decade before I was born, I still connect with the setting. I grew up in a small Canadian town of 250 people, There were hunters, drinkers, drug abusers, racists that hated First Nations and African Canadians, and mixed into that were people that would break the Earth in two for you if they could.
It was rough and beautiful, dangerous and serene, boring and thrilling all at the same time. I think Hitchcock has completely nailed the way a town like that can seep into your bones and never let you go. Highly recommend it!
16 year-old Starr is on a razor's edge.
Growing up in Garden Heights, she' s used to hearing gunshots at night, seeing her friends turn to a life of crime in order to survive and being wary of the police.
At the same time, she's got a stable home life. Her father runs a well respected and popular convenience store and her mother works as a nurse. Starr goes to an almost entirely white school in the suburbs, something her parents put into motion not too long after her best friend, Natasha, was accidentally killed in a drive by shooting six years previous.
Starr has two brothers, Seven & Sekani. Seven often acts as a father figure, as does her uncle Carlos, who happens to be a police detective.
While attending a party Starr runs into Khalil, a friend she's known since she was three but hasn't seen in a while. Khalil is sporting new clothes and expensive shoes. Starr suspects he might have turned into a drug dealer because the sad reality is youth in Garden Heights don't get a lot of opportunities for well paying jobs. Starr decides not to push it, though.
When the party is interrupted by gunfire, Khalil and Starr flee in Khalil's car. They are soon pulled over by the police for a busted taillight. Khalil has no weapons or drugs on him yet he is removed from the vehicle and patted down three times. When he leans into the door to ask Starr if she's ok he's shot to death by the policeman, who will eventually claim that he saw Khalil reach for a gun.
The policeman then aims his gun at a shattered Starr until more police and an ambulance arrive.
What follows is Starr's attempt to survive the anguish of seeing her friend murdered while still attending an upscale white school. Throw in the mix her need to be loyal to her home neighbourhood, the threat of violence against her if she reveals the identity of the drug lord that Khalil may or may not have been working for and the breakdown of her family from the pressure of living in a world of violence and uncertainty.
It's a very well written story with some truly chilling scenes, especially those involving the police and how they view and interact with the people of Garden Heights. Within this microcosm Thomas has exposed the anxiety, frustration and all out rage that African Americans must come to terms with on a daily basis when living in communities that are labelled by the authorities, the media and the ignorant as "ghetto" or "slum" or whatever term is thrown at it.
Starr has to make some seriously tough decisions in this novel, things that most teenagers wouldn't dream of having to make. This book is superb not only because it lets you walk a mile in someone else's shoes for 400-plus pages, but it does so in a way that keeps you laughing, crying and engaged throughout.
Read it. It will knock you back a few feet, in a good way.
The future ain't what it used to be.
Zen Starling is a thief in a rundown area of the galaxy known as Cleave. He survives by instinct and by knowing his surroundings.
His surroundings, incidentally, are made up of androids known as Motoriks, insects that swarm together to make intelligent beings known as Hive Monks, killer drones, and oh yeah, sentient trains worthy of Stephen King's Blaine in The Dark Tower.
All of this makes up the Great Network.
One dreary evening, Zen is summoned by a Motorik called Nova. she works for a mysterious and legendary being called Raven.
Raven has a job offer for Zen, not that he has a choice in the matter. What follows is furious ride through a dangerous galaxy that you will not want to leave.
I really fell in love with this book. Reeve has done some serious world-building, worthy of Star Wars and Blade Runner. The trains are creepy and dangerous and exciting, the Motoriks are loyal to a fault and the creatures are something out of a Jules Verne novel. I cannot wait for the sequel, if you want to get lost in a world for a while then check out Railhead now.
I recommend Railhead for ages 12 and up!