Book Based On It’s Cover

Do you love IKEA? Me, too! The cozy home-like display rooms, the ingenious small space solutions, the inexpensive kitchen items, the meatballs! Heaven on Earth! Sneak into a small corner somewhere, wait till closing, and have the whole night to pretend to live in the tiny homey spaces! My love for IKEA is what drew me to the cover of this book. When the lights go out, however, what really happens? Horrorstor has some ideas about that.

A Home for the Everyone! That’s the motto for Orsk, a fictitious furniture superstore that was created to be a direct competitor with the superior IKEA. Orsk markets the same sleek, simple (and hard to put together) designs that IKEA offers, as well as the store model and naming style. However, someone seems to be getting a little too comfortable in the staged home areas, and employees notice weirdly placed fecal remains, broken items, and graffiti happening every night after the store closes. Has someone decided to vandalize the store? Are homeless people getting in? Disgruntled employees? Someone or something else? Five employees stay late one night to find out.

Basil is the upwardly ambitious supervisor. Amy is the unhappy employee who hates him. Ruth Ann is the “go to” employee for anything unpleasant that needs to be done. Matt and Trinity are the wannabe ghost hunters (Bravo, not A&E). Together, they spend the night to find an answer to the mystery.

Basil, Amy, and Ruth Ann are actually on the clock. While on patrol around the store, they find that fellow employees Matt and Trinity have snuck in also, not knowing the other three would be in the building. Matt and Trinity are hoping to use the investigation to make their big break to national ghost hunting fame. They are the only two who are actually glad to be there. The group gains a little bit of insight about each other while they wait out the night, but it’s not long before the group has more to deal with than office politics.

There are explainable noises, and the group does find a homeless man in the store. He denies being the one who defaces and damages the store, though. That’s not nearly the end of the bizarre happenings. Amy ends up calling the police once they encounter the homeless man. Even though she tries to call them off, they are obligated to arrive. However, there is a weird vibe in the building that makes employees feel lost and bewildered and it apparently extends to the outside world. The police call for directions more than once, but can’t seem to find their way to the massive store. Basil goes out to try to flag them down. Meanwhile, the rest of the group (including the homeless guy) decide to hold a seance to test for any ghosts in the building. Guess what? It works. Our group encounters The Warden, an evil entity attached to the former prison that used to be at the same property.

One by one, the group encounters The Warden and his crew who get into their heads, convincing them that they are worthless. Why fight the truth? You’re only good enough to run a register or answer call center phones. Stop resisting. More frightening and gruesome things happen to the group, just like any other horror story. However, the underscoring theme is the hell of retail and the churning out of bodies who make the minimum in order for upper management to make the maximum. Am I right? Ghastly. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve worked a lot of retail and loved it for what it was, but it’s not always workable to be a helping hand up.

No surprise, I chose the audiobook. Bronson Pinchot is a guest narrator giving the Orsk commercial blurbs throughout the regular narration given by Tai Sammons. The real book has more of a catalog feel to it. The image below is a screenshot from it, with story and fake catalog side by side.

It’s an interesting listen, a good quick horror story as we head into October. You can take it at face value or appreciate the satire. Either way, it’s entertaining and seems to have a cultish following. Here’s a quirky little book trailer for Horrorstor. Evidently, a television show was in development in 2015 but no word now on what became of it that I can find. In TV land, “in development” runs on its own timeline. I also found this Q & A with author Grady Hendrix.

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Book with A Number in the Title

I’m sure many of you have taken one of the DNA tests out there through something like Ancestry.com or 23 and Me, right? You’ve at least heard of them. You can find out your familial regions, your predisposed tendencies for certain illnesses, and police are using them to solve crimes. What if you could also use it to improve your love life? Even more, what if you could use it to obliterate the dating and second guessing altogether? What if you could use DNA testing to find The One?

Imagine the possibilities! Think of the stresses and heartbreak of the dating scene, the crappy pick-up lines, the creepy dudes, the shadows of exes lurking in the background. Ugh! I’m over it. Take one simple test and your DNA will match you through legit science with the one person in the entire world who is just right for you. That’s it. No more dating, just start your life together and be happy forever!

There are downsides, of course. Who cares if you’re engaged already or have been married and had kids with someone else? The DNA match is who you are meant to be with. What if your match is living across the world or has age/race/religion differences? Would you take the test anyway, even if it meant that your current happy relationship with someone might be upended? You could always choose not to take the test, or just ignore the results if you aren’t matched with your current partner. Some people take the test but never get matched for one reason or another. Do you wait the rest of your life for the hope of a match? Ignore the science and choose your mate with the random waves of the universe the way humans have done for thousands of years?With the niggling doubt in the back of your mind that someone else might be out there waiting for you…?

Would you do it?

In The One, we follow the stories of several characters who have taken this DNA matching test that has become a worldwide sensation. It’s made divorce rates skyrocket, but is more promising for an almost zero divorce rate with future generations. Plus, it’s no scam – there is actual (fictionalized) science explained in the book about how the DNA is extrapolated into finding the other person in the world who best suits you. Online dating sites are going by the wayside and why wouldn’t they? You can pay only 9.99 (pounds sterling) and find The One. We meet a young engaged couple who decide to take the DNA test just to see what happens (never a good idea); a divorcee whose husband has left her for his own DNA match (that has to hurt); a young Scottish woman who has a match in Australia whom she’s never met (red flags); and a serial killer who is looking for true love (but finding victims on the remaining dating sites left open). Oh, and a female billionaire who’s notoriety keeps her out of any normal dating pools (how do you hide that secret?).

It’s an interesting concept and the story is a mix of British chick lit, sci fi, and thriller all rolled into one. Some of the plot points are easy to see coming but the story is compelling and keeps the reader interested throughout. There are also some compelling twists and turns that come with such a genre mash-up. Let’s just say that the serial killer may not be the creepiest person in the book! There are definitely the warm and fuzzy feelings, as well. It’s a good mix of sweet and sinister.

I’ve included a link here to some book club questions and other tidbits about author John Marrs and a link to the Kirkus Review if you still need to be convinced to read it!

Thriller

Ellie Mack is an average 15-year-old girl in a British upper-middle class family, the youngest of three children and a perfect child according to her mom, Laurel. But, one day, Ellie goes missing and her family falls apart. Laurel is hit especially hard, and she ends up losing her marriage and is painfully distant from her remaining son and daughter. Ten years pass by and a clue finally turns up in Ellie’s disappearance and the Mack family gets the closure they’ve needed. Or do they?

Laurel, finally knowing Ellie is truly dead and not a runaway as the police suspected, has a sort of closure and begins to slowly pull herself out of her deep depression. She becomes more aware of letting her life slip away these past ten years and, one day, by chance, meets a man in a cafe. This man is charming and fun and Laurel slowly begins to date and to live and to start making things right in her own life. This man, though, has a daughter who, at times, looks exactly like…her dead daughter, Ellie. She also finds some other oddities and parallels between her life and her new boyfriend. Things that make you go hmmmmmm…

I’ll leave you with that for the moment, but there may be semi-spoilers in some of the text ahead. I would say this book is good. Not great, but really, solidly good. Fairly early in the book, you can start to suspect what transpires. However, I was interested enough in the characters that I didn’t mind knowing how I thought it would end. I just wanted to see how it would get there. I do think that’s the author’s intent because the clues she leaves are big ones. It’s not designed to be a twisty-turny plotted book and that’s okay. Not everything needs to be. It’s still a good read and a something that keeps you interested throughout the book even as you start to put the pieces together. A few plot twists happen, but those are more related to the personal lives of the family members and not the overall whodunnit of the novel.

Things that made me go hmmmmmm about this book:

  • Laurel keeps dating a dude she thinks may have some connection to her daughter’s death, no matter how vague or innocent? Not just dating, but sleeping with him, spending the night, getting closer to his children – y’all, yuck.
  • When she starts to have these suspicions, she doesn’t bring anybody else in on it? She at least texts someone about where she’s going towards the end of the book, but still. You have these growing suspicions and you don’t phone a friend, your ex-husband, the police? Even in a fictional world, characters know bad things happen and Laurel knows this all too well. It didn’t jive with me.
  • A little awkwardly, about half-way through the book, you start getting a POV from another character. It sounds as if it’s a letter or a journal, definitely a confession, but nothing every really comes of it except that the reader is let in on what actually happened to Ellie. It would have been nice for that to be a document that came to light at some point. As it was, it interrupted the story some for me and left a gap that needed to be filled.
  • It seemed like Ellie could have overpowered her captor at some point in the story; she wasn’t tied up or restrained for the majority of her time, although she was locked in a rom (with a window). I didn’t fully buy into that. You’ve got a young, healthy girl who can’t get past someone who doesn’t seem to be more powerful than her. There needed to be more psychological oomph or an explanation of the captor’s strength/control. It made me not as sympathetic with Ellie at that part of the story – not that she deserved to be where she was, mind you. We’ve all seen those horrific and inexcusable real-life stories of young women held in captivity by a variety of means. I’m just saying that the author kind of glazed over the emotional/psychological/physical control issue as to why Ellie seemed so complacent. We also have an unreliable narrator for this portion and only a partial glimpse of Ellie’s POV, so maybe something was lost in translation.
  • There are people in this book who shouldn’t be smart enough to get away with these crimes, but do. There’s very little in this book about police procedure and more about how Ellie’s disappearance affected her mom and the subsequent breakdown of the family. The police mostly seem to focus on Ellie as a runaway, so we don’t get much of a sense of how the initial investigation was handled and whether they should have picked up on clues or whether they were thorough and just couldn’t have known the full set of circumstances as sometimes happens. The guilty are not exactly criminal masterminds, but are definite creepy as hell.
  • The end is satisfactory on all of the loose ends; however, you still don’t get the police -style follow up you do in some thrillers. The focus is still very much on the family, which is fine, but I would have liked a little more on the police or public reaction to the big reveal. Instead, we get a soft wrap-up and only allusions to the aftermath.

All in all, it was a good tale. I would recommend this for an “in-between books” book, a quick summer read, or something middle-of-the-road for a book club. If you’ve read it, I would love to hear your thoughts on the plot points I mentioned above! I’m including a review from Kirkus Books and an interview with author Lisa Jewell.

A Thriller

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Girl, shut your mouth!  That’s what I kept thinking to myself the whole time I read this book.  You know, like when you tell characters not to go upstairs and check on that eerie noise?  Or tell them not to marry that jerk?  They always seem to do it anyway, despite the best advice from me, the reader.  Mama tried, remember that…

The Woman in Cabin 10 is a quick read and certainly has its moments in the thriller genre.  The protagonist is Lo Blacklock, a low-level writer for a travel magazine.  She’s been toiling away for 10 years at the same job, waiting for an opportunity to prove to her boss she’s capable of more.  Finally, she’s been given a golden ticket to cover an event that might just advance her career.  Lo’s boss can’t make it to a gig to travel on the maiden voyage of super luxury cruising yacht, the Aurora, and Lo is asked to go instead and report on the experience.  The Aurora only holds 20 passengers and a cadre of staff ready to indulge one’s every need.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?  The passengers are all potential investors or travel industry people – everyone is serving a purpose to the owner of the boat and cattily size each other up, as well.  Nice and cozy!

To back up, our girl, Lo, wakes up at the beginning of the novel to the sound of someone rummaging through her apartment.  She’s a little hungover and not thinking straight (get used to this from her) and the burglar ends up locking her in her bedroom while he ransacks the apartment.  Lo isn’t physically harmed, but she is understandably shaken.  After the cops show up and take what information they can, she walks to her boyfriend’s apartment to sleep.  He is out of town for work and comes back early, waking up our heroine who clobbers him in the head.  They argue and makeup and argue again – he wants her to move in with him (an ongoing plea we surmise) and she is still refusing to make that commitment, causing them to fight and breakup before she leaves to get on the cruise.

On the boat, one of the other travel professionals is (ta-da!) an ex-boyfriend with whom she had a nasty break-up.  Did I mention Lo suffers from major mood disorders for which she takes medication?  Add to that she’s sleep deprived, hasn’t eaten much, and is still shaken up from the break-in at her apartment and the break-up with her boyfriend.  What would you do?  Why, have one complimentary drink after another among people who will report back to your boss about your level of professionalism!  So, after the introductory dinner (and too many drinks), Lo toddles back off to her cabin and, in her stupor, thinks she sees a body being thrown from the boat.  She proceeds to tell the head of security who, understandably, is skeptical when he sees several empty mini-bar bottles and knows she was drinking at the party the night before.  He reluctantly agrees to check the ship and, (surprise!) everyone is accounted for among the staff and passengers except…that one girl in the cabin next door from whom Lo borrowed a mascara.  Nobody else remembers her of course – or do they?  Lo goes down a rabbit hole after that, telling literally anybody who will listen that she saw a murder.  Again, shut your mouth, girl!  Lo’s ex-boyfriend and fellow passenger spills the beans on the apartment break-in and her mental health history and more and more doubt is placed on her credibility at witnessing anything but the bottom of a drinking glass.  On top of that, the internet and ship communications go out while cruising the North Sea.  Technology is never there when you need it.

What happens after that?  You’ll have to read it for yourself.  I don’t like spoilers and try not to be one!  I was intrigued enough to finish it, but ultimately didn’t like it as much as Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train.  Even those two didn’t quite live up to expectations, but I’m not sure many thrillers can.  Sleep No More by Greg Iles was another thriller that had me enthralled right up until the end; the WTF ending completely lost my faith and I haven’t read anything by him since.  Authors write one gripping scene after another and then…what do you do to top all of that?  It’s hard.  I can’t remember the last time I read something where I didn’t see the end coming or was totally satisfied by how the author wrapped it up.  It seems that, more often than not, endurance is tested and the authors fall short of the finish line.  The Woman in Cabin 10 is worth a look, but be duly warned that you’ll want to slap that girl’s mouth shut while you’re reading!