Review: The Obsession by Jesse Q. Sutanto

The ObsessionThe Obsession by Jesse Q. Sutanto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Obsession is an intense YA-Thriller from one of my go-to authors, Jesse Q. Sutanto. This novel was released in 2021, and I’m so happy I dipped into my backlist for it.

Totally worth it!

In The Obsession we follow two teens, Delilah and Logan. Logan falls in love with Delilah on sight. She’s perfect. Everything he has ever wanted and he will have her.

He learns everything he can about her by doing things such as watching her at school, studying her social media, and aiming a hidden camera at her house.

You know, all totally normal things.

For her part, Delilah is attracted to Logan, but then they go out on a date and he’s way too intense. Like over-the-top intense. She’s had enough of controlling men in her life. She has no room for one more.

Delilah distances herself, thinking he’ll get the point.

Logan is desperate. He feels Delilah slipping away from him, but wait, she can’t exactly get away from him. He knows what she did. The worse thing she has ever done in her life. He knows. In fact, he has it on video.

He’ll just let her know, she rethink distancing herself from him real quick. But Delilah is not going to be as easily swayed as Logan anticipates. Who will end up the cat, and who will end up the mouse?

I listened to the audiobook for this and definitely recommend that format. The dual narration provided the perfect back-and-forth for Delilah and Logan’s perspectives.

I loved how in your face both of these characters were. There’s not a lot of apologizing for their thoughts or actions. It is what it is with these two.

I flew through this story. It takes turns alternating between the two MCs and at the end of each chapter, I wanted to know more. I had to keep going. How was this possibly going to be resolved? It felt impossible.

Initially, I was so disgusted with Logan. That kept me going, but then I see Delilah come in and I’m like, eyebrows raised, okay, you’re not as sweet and innocent as you first appear. It’s hard not to root for Delilah once you hear her story.

Logan on the other hand, my feelings never changed for him, but he was an interesting antagonist for Delilah’s overall story arc.

I’ll admit, I didn’t read the full synopsis before starting and I recommend you don’t either. Reading it over now, there are some things revealed that surprised me when I came to them in the story. I feel like I would have been bummed if I had gone in knowing those things ahead of time.

This had such a satisfying conclusion for me and it actually really made me think about what makes a villain.

Sutanto never fails to surprise me. Whether it’s by jaw-dropping twists, witty banter, or thoughtful character work, I keep on coming back and will continue to do so.

I’m so glad that I finally took the time to pick this one up. It was a lot of fun. I need more YA-Thrillers from Sutanto!

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Review: Six Crimson Cranes (Six Crimson Cranes #1) by Elizabeth Lim

Six Crimson Cranes (Six Crimson Cranes, #1)Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Six Crimson Cranes, like many books before her, is one that I fell in love with upon first sight.

The cover, the synopsis, the author…

I promptly preordered it and she’s been sitting on my bookshelf, gathering dust, since July of 2021.

Recently, when a book friend mentioned she wanted to read it soon, I jumped on board. Yeah, it’s about time that I got to this and unsurprisingly, I had another 5-star read just waiting to be discovered right in my very own stacks.

Elizabeth Lim is such a phenomenal writer. I knew that going in, but I was still a bit intimidated by this one. I sort of always feel that way going into a new fantasy world. I’m always concerned it will go over my head, or that I won’t be able to track all that is happening.

I shouldn’t have been worried. This was so smooth and easy to get into. The characters were charming and fun. The world, robust and well-developed, and the plot was exciting and so addictive that I finished it in 2-days.

Shiori, our main character, is the princess of Kiata, and she’s hiding the fact that she has forbidden magical powers. Shiori is one of seven children, all of her other siblings being brothers. As the only girl, Shiori certainly holds a special place amongst her family.

On the morning of Shiori’s betrothal ceremony, something she is completely against, her emotions get the best of her and she loses control of herself. In her ceremonial garb, she plunges into a lake and almost dies. The bright-side being, she did avoid the ceremony.

Shiori’s powers though have caught the attention of her stepmother, Raikama, who has a dark magic of her own.

Raikama banishes Shiori and turns all six of her brothers into cranes. Raikama warns Shiori that she must not speak of the curse to anyone. For every word that she utters, one of her brothers will die.

On her own and without a voice, Shiori must find her brothers and do whatever she can to reverse the curse. In order to do so though, she ends up having to put her trust in the very same boy she fought so hard not to marry. She also must learn to embrace her inner magic and courage.

I became fully invested in this story very, very quickly. By 15% into the audiobook, I was already shouting my love for it from the proverbial rooftops.

There were so many intriguing characters and elements to this story. The magic and the lore behind the entire creation was just stunning. Lim truly created a magical tale within these pages.

I would definitely recommend the audiobook to people who enjoy that medium. The narration by Emily Woo Zeller succeeded in bringing this story to life. I could not stop once I started. It’s truly that compelling.

I also felt like the way that Lim continued to build the tension and up the stakes throughout was exceptional. It just had such an easy way about it. A classic build to a huge climax. The ending brought me to ugly tears.

I feel like I went full on journey with Shiori. I became so attached to her. Watching her grow and find her strength and courage was so satisfying, but it doesn’t end here. Shiori has big challenges ahead in the sequel, The Dragon’s Promise, which I plan to start on Monday.

If you’re like me and have had this book sitting on your shelf unread for years, stop the madness now. Pick this up. Give it a read. She deserves it!!!

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Review: Whichwood (Furthermore #2) by Tahereh Mafi

WhichwoodWhichwood by Tahereh Mafi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After taking 7-months off, I’ve finally decided to return to my TBR-Haul Project. For those who don’t know, this is a self-imposed project for myself, essentially aimed at crossing books off of my backlist TBR of purchased books.

Basically, I buy a ton of books and then never read them. My Reading Journal contains a spread each month of books hauled and I have been going through them month-by-month, and picking a few off that list to finally pick up.

It had been going quite well. I’ve found quite a few 5-star reads via this project. But then it sort of sputtered out.

One of my goals for this year is to return to it, ideally, picking up at least one book for it each month. This is my first for the year and I started it on January 31st, so it’s not off to a real rousing start…

It’s not too late to reach my goal though, so I have selected Whichwood as Book #19 for the project. I hauled this back in March 2019, and of course, never read it.

This past Fall, I did pick up the first book in this duology, Furthermore, on audio through my local library. I thought it was so cute and fun, as well as fabulously narrated by the fabulous, Bronson Pinchot.

I was so excited to return to this magical Middle Grade Fantasy world, Mafi’s whimsical storytelling and Pinchot’s enchanting narration.

With this being said, I was concerned that I wouldn’t end up enjoying this one as much as the first book. I was so wrong!

Part of my hesitation was that I didn’t know how closely this book would be related to the first one. I knew we were following a new MC, Laylee, and I felt like I was really going to miss Alice and Oliver from Furthermore.

I was so delighted to discover both Alice and Oliver play a huge role in this story!

This again was emotional, heart-felt, filled with important lessons and conversations that fit nicely into magical Middle Grade. Regardless of the age level designation, this is the type of story that can be appreciated by audiences of all ages.

This duology is the first work I have read from Tahereh Mafi and it has made me beyond excited to check out more of Mafi’s work.

Leave your favorites down below in the comments!!!

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Review: Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

FurthermoreFurthermore by Tahereh Mafi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’œ

Furthermore has been on my shelves since its release in 2016. Y’all may remember, this was a darling of BookTube upon its release and also, look at this dang cover.

I had to have it.

But then like many books before her, she sat on my shelves, neglected for years.

Recently, I participated in a Middle Grade Readathon and one of the prompts was the read a book that had been on your TBR for a long time. I immediately thought of this one and am so happy that I finally picked it up.

This whimsical Fantasy story follows Alice Alexis Queensmeadow, who you can probably tell from her name alone, is all sorts of adorable. But as adorable as she is, Alice is grappling with a lot since her Dad disappeared.

Alice’s Mother didn’t cope well with her Dad’s disappearance and has really pushed Alice away. It’s not a warm and fuzzy relationship. Because of that, Alice feels pretty alone.

When a boy from her past, Oliver, arrives and offers her the chance to find her Dad, even though he irks her, she has to go. She has to agree and she does.

They set off on an adventure through the magical lands of Furthermore. An adventure that Alice hopes will finally reunite her with her Father. As they progress though, it becomes unclear, is Oliver being truthful with her? What is his motive? Does he actually know where her Father is?

Even though I had a hard copy of this book, I decided to listen to the audiobook. I was so delighted when I learned that Bronson Pinchot was the narrator. I had no idea that he even narrated audiobooks, but you better believe now that I do, I will be seeking more out.

He was such a fabulous narrator for this story, because the story is told by a literal narrator. His voice brought the whimsy and the fun and I felt like he was talking to me one-on-one. It was really well done and I definitely recommend.

I was swept up into this story. I loved following along with Alice and Oliver as they traveled through the different towns in Furthermore.

It’s funny, I’m not sure what it was, perhaps the smart writing and word play, but this reminded me a lot of reading The Phantom Tollbooth as a child. It was just magical.

Additionally, I loved the themes that Mafi explored. This is a story that can be read by kids, or adults. There’s so much to appreciate. I was shocked by the level of emotion I felt from this story. Seriously, I went through the gamut.

Alice is one of the most lovable characters I have read in a while. I could feel her uncertainty and loneliness. It made me want to hug her and tell her everything would be okay.

In spite of her challenges though, I loved that she never gave up. She was willing to do whatever she had to for the possibility of reuniting her Dad. It was great.

If you’ve had this one on your shelves for years like I did, don’t put it off any longer, pick it up as soon as you can. You won’t regret it!

I hit every single emotion reading this.

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Review: The Heroes (First Law #5) by Joe Abercrombie

The HeroesThe Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Heroes is the fifth-book in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law World. This is an Epic Grimdark series that sucked me in from the very first book and hasn’t let go.

Best Served Cold, the fourth-book in the series, is one of my favorite books of all time and while I was excited to move forward in this world, I was also a little nervous. How could anything live up to that?

The truth is, this didn’t surpass Best Served Cold as far as my enjoyment went, but it was still a bloody brilliant story more than worthy of a 5-star rating.

At its heart, this is a story of war. The players, the action, the strategy, the outcome and the aftermath. We examine portions of each. I loved that it felt like a giant game of chess; moving players around the board, shuffling up alliances and allegiances.

The war is between the Union and the Northmen, lasting for three brutal days, that feel like many more to all involved.

There were a few shocking things that happened toward the end of this that I absolutely was not expecting. Abercromie definitely succeeded in giving me more than one solid jaw drop moment.

I’m really looking forward to continuing on in this world.

Abercrombie’s world-building is a masterclass on how to draw the Reader in. The cast of morally-grey characters is fantastic. It’s like a Grimdark Soap Opera. They’re bringing the drama, each and every installment.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Epic Fantasy, particularly Grimdark fans. There’s so much delicious content here to sink your teeth into. A must read series!

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Review: Everwild (Skinjacker Trilogy #2) by Neal Shusterman

Everwild (2) (The Skinjacker Trilogy)Everwild (2) by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everwild is aptly named as it is just that, wild!

As far as sequels go, this is top notch. Shusterman succeeded in continuing to build out the world in a gripping way, while also making me more invested in the characters.

There were some startling revelations and I absolutely adored how this ended. We could go anywhere from here, but I have a feeling we’re going West…

This second book in Neal Shusterman’s Skinjacker Trilogy succeeded in so many ways, but forefront in my mind is the world-building. I love when you can feel the boundaries of a fictional world expanding, as more interesting concepts and characters are brought into play.

We continue to follow our tried and trues from the first book, Allie, Nick and my favorite, Mikey. There’s also a continuation of baddies, like Mary.

The new characters are quickly drawn into the varying sides and with new alliances, come new strength. I enjoyed how Shusterman focused on the political maneuverings of Everlost. I liked learning more about the motivations and goals of our leaders. I know whose side I would be on.

Most interesting for me this time around was following Allie the Outcast. She’s picking up new skills and learning more about her family in the living world. It’s always gripping to read about the interactions between the characters in Everlost and those in the living world.

There were some scenes, one in particular, that actually made me really sad. I mean when you’re dealing with the themes that Shusterman covers here, that’s bound to happen. Sometimes it does come out of nowhere though, so be prepared for that if you pick this up.

I do enjoy the level of action blended with thoughtful topics. I feel like this trilogy is sort of unique in that way.

I’m really glad that I made time for this one. It may be an oldie, but it’s a goodie!

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Review: The Watchers by A.M. Shine

The WatchersThe Watchers by A.M. Shine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A.M. Shine’s The Watchers kicks off quickly, with the opening section following a husband and wife, who seeking an adventure, go for a drive through the wickedly-enchanting lands of Connemara, in the West of Ireland.

The events of that drive set the tone, and also the stage, for the rest of the story. Needless to say, I was hooked.

We then meet our MC, Mina, who along with an unusual copilot, a beautiful Golden Conure, also goes traveling through those same wild lands.

Mina’s trying to make a quick buck. It should be easy, delivering the parrot safely to its new owner. When her car breaks down on the abandoned road though, her task suddenly becomes anything but easy. Mina exits her car, bringing the bird with her, as she searches for help.

The woodlands are eerie enough, but the screams make it all so much worse…

With no cell phone reception, or clue as to where she is, Mina has to keep going. There’s no telling how long it could take another car to come along this way.

Eventually she comes across a woman, shouting at her and waving for her to enter a concrete bunker. Scared out of her wits by the woods, Mina does as she’s told and enters the shelter. From there, she becomes captive to that seemingly safe space. A hostage of what’s lurking in the woods.

If you’re expecting answers quickly, don’t be. Part of the success of this story is the way that Shine builds that sense of uncertainty and unease. My thoughts were swirling as Mina entered the shelter.

What the heck was going on? The other residents of the shelter, Madeline, Daniel and Ciara, all seem like they’ve been there for a while, but just how long is unclear? And what is watching them? What are they afraid of?

I will say, about a third of the way through, it did start to slow down for me. We focus more on the characters at that point, and their forced interactions in the tiny shelter.

Part of me feels like that may have been intentional by the author. Perhaps as a way to lull the Reader into a bit of complacency, because just as you forget how much danger these characters are in, it rears its ugly head again and that fear and suspense is back.

Even with this pace change though, I was still intrigued and invested in finding out what the truth was.

This ultimately went in a direction I wasn’t expecting and there were a few reveals, as the conclusion approached, that I found to be so clever and disturbing.

I was definitely impressed with the atmosphere and horror concepts that Shine delivered here. This type of unsettling Folk Horror is something I tend to enjoy and this one will now live rent-free in my brain for a long time.

I recommend this to any Horror Reader, particularly if you enjoy unsettling atmospherea and Folk Horror that can get under your skin and stay there. I would also recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Pines by Blake Crouch, or Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. The Watchers is a very solid story of Irish Folk Horror. I found it disturbing in the best ways. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author!

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Review: Everlost (The Skinjacker Trilogy #1) by Neal Shusterman

Everlost (The Skinjacker Trilogy)Everlost by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Everlost, the first book in Neal Shusterman’s Skinjacker Trilogy was originally published in 2006. I was in grad school at that time and wasn’t doing much free reading, so missed it.

In 2020, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers re-released the entire trilogy with beautifully-redesigned covers. Like the publisher’s dream that I generally am, I promptly bought them all and they’ve been sitting on my shelves ever since. Staring at me, begging to be loved.

On a recent whim, I decided to finally dive in. In this story we follow Nick and Allie, who right at the beginning of our story die in tragic car accident. Unfortunately, their souls don’t get where they need to go and now they are stuck in a limbo land known as Everlost.

Everlost is like an eerie, distorted image of our own world. It’s filled with things, including places, that no longer exist in our world. There’s also a lot of other souls trapped there.

At the beginning, navigating their dangerous new circumstances, Nick and Allie meet a lot of people who help to teach them about the functioning of Everlost.

There’s bands of roaming kids and a girl named Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost souls. Nick is taken by her, but Allie refuses to believe in the fate that Mary is trying to sell her. Refusing to live for the rest of time trapped between two worlds, Allie begins investigating ways to make a change.

This was a solid start to a trilogy and actually, the more I have thought about it since I have finished, the more I have come to appreciate the depth of the story.

I feel like if I would have read this years ago, when it was released, I would have been crazy, mad, nuts about it, but it did feel a little dated in some sections, as far as the writing style is concerned.

However, with this being said, I still really enjoyed the world-building and will be continuing with the second book in the series next month. I’m very interested in digging further into some of the concepts Shusterman explored.

I was impressed with how quickly this kicked off. We’re immediately dropped off where we should be, there’s no time wasted digging into character’s lives prior to Everlost. Perhaps that will come into play later in the series, but as far as this first book, I feel like that was a great choice.

I also enjoyed the atmosphere and eerie nature successfully carried throughout. It made me think of many darker fairy tale elements; like the kids as Lost Boys, the Peter Pan ones, not the vampire ones, as they have a bit of a feral nature. Also, Mary as a bit Queen of Hearts. Then I also picked up low-key Wizard of Oz sort of vibes.

Overall, I found this premise intriguing, the plot fast-paced and I think it’s a great base to continuing building out this world. I’m really looking forward to continuing on with the characters and seeing where it goes from here!

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Review: Lakesedge (World at the Lake’s Edge #1) by Lyndall Clipstone

Lakesedge (World at the Lake's Edge, #1)Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Lakesedge, the first book in Lyndall Clipstone’s YA-Gothic Fantasy Romance duology, World at the Lake’s Edge, delivered the exact vibes I was hoping for.

Dripping with angst, ’tis the season for this kind of story.

This novel released in 2021 and has been sitting on my shelves, glaring at me accusingly ever since. Last year, her sequel joined her on the shelf, and the judgement doubled.

Unable to handle their harassment anymore, and in the mood for a Dark Fantasy Romance that was going to serve Gothic Feels, I decided it was finally time to give it a go.

In this story, we follow 17-year old, Violeta, and her younger brother, Arien, 13. Violeta and Arien were orphaned when they were very young. They fled their original home after the deaths of their parents and were eventually found on a road beside the mysterious Vair Woods.

The woman who found them decided to take them in. Initially, all was well, but when Arien started exhibiting certain dark powers, the woman began to punish him, trying to rid him of these disturbing behaviors.

Leta, trying to protect her brother, would frequently be harmed and punished as well.

Her treatment of them continues getting worse. The night before a tithe day, things come to a head. They’re not sure how much more they can take and discuss running away.

On tithe day, a mysterious young man takes notice of Arien’s powers when they bubble up unexpectedly. The Monster of Lakesedge, Rowan, offers Arien the chance to come live at his estate, to learn how to control his peculiar powers.

It’s an intriguing offer, one the boy can’t and doesn’t want to refuse. Through some prodding, it is agreed that Leta will go along to Lakesedge as well.

Thus, Leta and Arien are able to escape their terrible home life, but what will their fate be now? It seems equally as dangerous. Can they truly trust Rowan?

They’ve heard terrible rumors about him and the estate is dripping with gothic dangers. Will they be better off than they were before, or will they become the next victims of the Monster of Lakesedge?

I thought this was a lot of fun. It definitely delivered me the vibes, drama and romantic angst that I was hoping for.

A dark tone is set within the first pages and just from that alone, I was hooked. It’s a compelling read and I flew through it. It had a great, dark Fairy Tale feel, and I was picking up slight Beauty and the Beast vibes, which I wasn’t expecting; a delightful surprise.

The sexual tension between Leta and Rowan was so dramatic and well written. I loved watching them learn about each other. They were drawn together like moths to a flame and I was here for every minute of it.

I also enjoyed the Elemental Magic system, which involved drawing sigils on the users body to control the elements and channel the spell. There were a couple of other women, Florance and Clover, who lived at the estate with Rowan, sort of like domestic help, and Clover, in particular, helped teach Arien and Leta about magic.

We love supportive teacher/student vibes.

The main drama focuses on a sort of curse that Lakesedge has on it, called the Corruption. It has poisoned the grounds and lake. Rowan has been searching for a way to clear the Corruption and he believes Arien can help.

Both Arien and Leta begin to fall in love with their life there. They begin to feel like they’ve finally found a home and they’re committed to helping Rowan any way they can. I loved that for them; how attached and comfortable they began to feel at the estate.

The concluding events were intense. There’s a dark spirit involved, the Lord Under, who seems particularly drawn to Leta. Through negotiations with him, Leta may be able to break the curse, but what will it cost her?

This wasn’t perfect. There were some aspects I felt could have been more clear, particularly towards the end, or some repetitive things in the middle section, that could have been taken out, but overall, I feel like this was a solid story.

It does end after a fairly large, life-changing event for Leta. While I wouldn’t necessarily call it a cliffhanger, it definitely leaves you wanting to know more; where the story will go from here.

Luckily, as mentioned above, I have the sequel at the ready and plan to be starting it very soon.

I would recommend this to YA-Fantasy Romance Readers, particularly if you enjoy a Gothic atmosphere, an engaging magic system and angsty romance.

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Review: Cold Moon Over Babylon by Michael McDowell

Cold Moon Over Babylon (Valancourt 20th Century Classics)Cold Moon Over Babylon by Michael McDowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cold Moon Over Babylon is a classic Southern Gothic tale that sets the bar high for others. I can’t tell you how many times this book has been recommended to me over the years.

I am so happy that I finally made time for it, because I absolutely adored it. It’s so good.

This story is set in the small, rural town of Babylon, Florida. We follow many folks in the town, but the main drama centers around the Larkin family after the youngest member, Margaret, disappears on her way home from town.

She was riding her bike home when she disappeared. Her grandmother and brother suspect foul play, but others aren’t immediately as alarmed as the family. The police even suggest Margaret, 14-years old, had run off with a boy.

Eventually, Margaret’s body, tied to her bicycle, is found in the local Styx River, just by the Larkin property. That puts the theories to rest. Margaret was viciously murdered.

We follow Margaret’s remaining family, her Grandmother, Evelyn, and her brother, Jerry, as they fight to find out the truth about what happened to Margaret.

This story is beautifully told. It is gripping from the start. The level of atmosphere that McDowell was able to bring to the page feels inspired. I could not only picture everything clearly in my mind, but I could feel it and smell it. It seriously moved me in so many ways.

My heart ached for the Larkin family, especially Jerry, trying to keep his Grandmother together in the face of another family tragedy.

I also thought the villain in this one was so well done. They’re a character you are going to hate. You are going to cheer for their demise. Following their perspective is like getting a front row seat in a sociopath’s mind.

Additionally, don’t even get me started on the horror imagery. Oh man, there are some creepy-ass scenes in this one. The entities haunting Babylon post-the crimes against the Larkin family. Yikes!!

One of my favorite scenes featured a character, Nathan Redfield, driving home from the liquor store and something, or someone, is after him. It was so vivid. It scared me, like legit scared. I had to turn more lights on.

I highly recommend this one. If you are a Horror fan, particularly if you enjoy Horror stories with a lush, small town feel, you have to pick this one up. I was so impressed.

Fabulously done by McDowell. I can’t wait to read more of his work. I have a feeling I will love his other novels just as much and hope to get to them soon.

RIP — Michael McDowell: June 1, 1950 – December 27, 1999.

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