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I really enjoyed J.D. Vance's story of his upbringing in Ohio, mostly raised by his Mamaw and Papaw, since his biological father wasn't in the picture and his mother was an drug addicted lunatic. He and his sister Lindsay were forced to grow up fast, and learned to live by the hillybilly code of honor his grandparents brought with them from Kentucky. He delved into why the Rust Belt is declining and how we don't need more government programs to fix things (amen, brother) but people need to have the strength and courage to fix themselves. I had a somewhat similar upbringing, although I was raised in a fairly affluent area of Southern California, my parents starting abusing drugs when I was 9, leaving me and my younger sister to shift for ourselves. At least J.D. had a network of relatives as a support system, and he credits them with saving his life. He went into the Mariners, went to college, and Yale law school, beating the odds (like I did). It was an important story, I'm glad it's been so popular. I think everyone ought to read it.

I loved Ania Ahlborn's last book, "Brother", so I was really looking forward to this one, and it was great. So much good horror lately! Steve is a troubled ten year old boy living in Oregon. He stutters and is picked on relentlessly both at school and at home by his mean older brother and his abusive stepfather. Steve has one ally in the world: his twelve year old cousin, Jude. Jude disappears one day and everyone in town thinks he just ran away, since he's a known troublemaker. Steve doesn't believe it though, and tries to help search for him. Jude comes back after a few days, but he's changed. He doesn't remember where he was or what happened to him, he's very distracted and keeps running back into the woods, and he's being mean to Steve. The ending was really great, threw me for a loop in the best possible way.

The blurb on the cover of "The Naturals" says it's "Criminal Minds for the YA set". Being a huge fan of "Criminal Minds" as well as YA books, it seemed like a no-brainer. And it was! I loved it. Cassie is seventeen and recruited by the FBI for a program where they train teens with natural talents to become agents. Cassie moves to Quantico, where she is put up in a house with four other kids close to her age: Michael, who can read emotions, Lia, who can tell if someone is lying, Sloane, who is a whiz at stats and probabilities, and Dean, who is a natural profiler like Cassie. Cassie starts training and learning how to deal with the group of teenagers she's now living with. She and her cohorts beg to help with the current case the FBI is working on, but they are kept on the sidelines, until it becomes clear that the case is somehow related to Cassie's mom's disappearance five years earlier. It reminded me a lot of "I Hunt Killers" by Barry Lyga, which I adored. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
"World, Chase Me Down" by Andrew Hilleman was one that happened to catch my eye at work so on a whim I checked it out and I'm glad I did, I enjoyed it. It's based on a real person that I've never heard of, Pat Crowe. In Omaha in 1900, Pat just wants to live a simple life. He wants a nice home for his wife and baby daughter, and to make a go of the little butcher shop he and his partner Billy have opened up. In order to get the start up capital, Pat had to go in cahoots with a local political bigwig, Dennison. The beef baron in town, Cudahy, doesn't appreciate the competition, even if Pat and Billy's butcher shop doesn't really make a dent in his living, and Cudahy has Dennison shut Pat down. Poor Pat loses everything. He and Billy kidnap Edward Cudahy, Jr., and hold him for ransom. After getting the $25,000 from Cudahy Sr. and letting Jr. go, they go on the run, endlessly pursued by Pinkertons and the law. The story was told in alternating chapters of what happened as Pat is nearing the end of his life, looking back. It was nicely done. I wish more authors wrote Westerns, I love reading them but they're not so very popular anymore.

Hex; The Lake

I've been reading a lot of horror lately, which is great, I really liked this one. It was originally published in Dutch and he reworked it a bit for American audiences, changing the setting and apparently the ending too. I spent some time online trying to find out what the original ending was, but didn't come up with anything and got bored of looking :) at any rate. In the Hudson Valley, there's a town called Black Springs, and they are being haunted by a witch that's 350+ years old. She just pops up in people's houses, her mouth and eyes stitched shut. The townspeople are used to Katherine and have strict rules about keeping her existence a secret. Folks who live in Black Springs aren't allowed to leave for more than a few days at a time, otherwise they commit suicide. Newbies are strongly discouraged from moving into town, because once they are there, they have to stay, they are cursed as well. Tyler is seventeen years old and convinced he and his friends can break free from Katherine's spell. A few of his friends get in trouble for taunting Katherine, though, and all hell breaks loose. Literally. It was creepy, I enjoyed it.

Wasn't such a fan of "The Lake" by Richard Laymon. He has a very, shall we say, male idea of how women think about sex (i.e. no). It starts out with seventeen year old Deana going off into the woods with her boyfriend only to watch him get murdered by a crazy lunatic. She's really traumatized, so traumatized she goes out literally the next night and meets another guy she starts fantasizing about hooking up with (in graphic detail) (again, no). The book then takes an odd twist when we learn that the details of how her mother got pregnant with her. Her mother starts a relationship with the police officer who comes around after the boyfriend was murdered. Because sure, why not? It's quite clear to anyone with half a brain cell that this cop is bad news, but it never occurs to either of these two bimbos (and I don't use that word lightly). He has everyone talk in a very casual slang, even people who barely know each other, which just put me off, and again, the women constantly thinking about sex EVEN WHEN THEIR LIVES ARE IN MORTAL PERIL was just ridiculous. It was good for a laugh at first, but after awhile it got tiresome.

I enjoyed "Arthur and Sherlock" by Michael Sims. He told the story of how Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, based on one of the doctors he learned from in medical school, Joseph Bell. He also traced Holmes' lineage back to Poe's detective stories as well as others that Doyle liked to read. It was fairly short and his writing style was interesting and insightful without being too bogged down by minutia.

I enjoyed Nicola Tallis's well researched book on Jane Grey, who was forced into becoming Queen of England after Edward died. She was a figurehead, used for her royal blood to keep Mary off the throne and England away from Catholicism. As we all know, it did not work, Mary took her rightful place on the throne, returned England to the Catholic Church, and ended up beheading Jane. I don't honestly think Mary wanted to kill Jane, but so many rebels were trying to use her or Elizabeth to dethrone Mary that she really felt like she had no other choice. Jane's life was short and tragic, but she never compromised her Protestant faith, and Tallis's book was engrossing without being obtuse.
So I was super excited to get the sequel to "A Study in Charlotte". I tore through "Last of August" and was...underwhelmed. It just seemed overly complicated and the romantic but not really together relationship between Charlotte and James seemed forced and silly. Sexual tension is fun and all, but now it's to the point where it's just slightly torturous to read. The book starts out with James visiting Charlotte's family home over the holidays. Her mother is ill and her beloved uncle Leander has disappeared. Charlotte's brother Milo seems unconcerned about Leander's strange disappearance, but he agrees to help Charlotte and James try to find him. They travel to Berlin because Leander was working undercover trying to bring down an art forgery ring. James is convinced Charlotte's ex-tutor, August Moriarty, is double-crossing them somehow, he just can't prove it. As usual, Charlotte is ten steps ahead of everyone else. It was fun switching to her POV towards the end of the book, and Cavallaro does that really well, but otherwise I was disappointed. I hope the third one is better.

After Fox Mulder's story, "Agent of Chaos", I read Dana Scully's story, "Devil's Advocate". I didn't like it nearly as much as "Agent of Chaos", although I liked Maberry's writing style better than Garcia's. It just seemed so unbelievable to me. I can totally buy the FBI having surveillance on a young Mulder, after all, Bill Mulder worked for the State Department and his biological father was the Cigarette Smoking Man. Fox was probably on their radar since the day he was born. But Dana Scully? Why? Why would they have an eye on her? It just seemed like a stretch. Also, Dana seems to have psychic abilities, she's having visions. Later she decides it was because she was on a hallucinogenic drug without knowing, but still. I don't know, the whole thing rubbed me the wrong way.

The Apartment

"The Apartment" by S. L. Grey was pretty good, it was a quick psychological supernatural horror. Normally I prefer my horror gory, but this one was pretty well done. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but after about 50 pages I couldn't put it down. Mark and Steph recently went through a traumatizing home invasion, and their friends and family encourage them to get away for a bit on a holiday. Finances are tight, but Steph finds a great Parisian apartment on one of those house swapping sites (I would never have considered using one of those sites before reading this book, I definitely wouldn't now) and she and Mark make the trip. Right off the bat, the apartment is definitely not how the couple living there described it: it's dingy and musty and not lived in, the entire building is deserted and run down, it's just creepy. There's a weird woman squatting in the garret who warns them to leave, as it's not a place for the living. Haunted by his past as well as feelings of guilt over how he failed to protect his wife and daughter from the robbers, Mark starts to fall apart. They cut their trip short and return home, but unfortunately things don't return to normal, the horror has followed them home.

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