The Grip Of It by Jac Jemc

My Rating: 5/5 Beans
Author: Jac Jemc
Pub Date: August 1st, 2017
Publisher: FSG Originals

"There is no acceptable, untainted name for a wilderness of the mind. People will always wonder what to believe. They expect the stray inaccuracies to be looted out and abandoned. They expect the mind's voice to unstitch only when alone. When the seams rip, they look away."

- The Grip Of It 


Touring their prospective suburban home, Julie and James are stopped by a noise. Deep and vibrating, like throat singing. Ancient, husky, and rasping, but underwater. “That’s just the house settling,” the real estate agent assures them with a smile. He is wrong.

The move—prompted by James’s penchant for gambling and his general inability to keep his impulses in check—is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to start afresh. But this house, which sits between a lake and a forest, has its own plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to establish a sense of normalcy, the home and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The framework— claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms—becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall—contracting, expanding—and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of painful, grisly bruises.

Like the house that torments the troubled married couple living within its walls, The Grip of It oozes with palpable terror and skin-prickling dread. Its architect, Jac Jemc, meticulously traces Julie and James’s unsettling journey through the depths of their new home as they fight to free themselves from its crushing grip.

"Not Real. Not Real Not Real..."

That's what I had to keep whispering to myself after I managed to finish The Grip of It in one sitting.

It's a smart, fresh, spooky tale that will haunt you long after you finish the last pages. The characters in this book feel so strikingly real, so much so that I was tempted to google Julie and James that live in a house with a wraparound porch, hidden between the lake and the woods. But I stopped myself...

Jac Jemc’s ability to write inside of this genre without making it tacky and stereotypical of psychological thrillers/horror should be applauded. 

It’s a rare moment in time when literary fiction and horror marry, bringing brilliant prose and spine chilling terrors together into a seamless marriage. 

It’s an unconventional story of a couple trying to make life work. When you love each other, shouldn’t trust be enough? Even with the unknowns of a haunted house making your life a living hell?

If you're looking for a book to send chills down your spine, The Grip of It delivers. But it also satisfies themes of love and trust and relationships. 

Thank you to FSG Originals for sending a copy out to me. It's one of my favorites of 2017 so far!

Pre-order your own copy by clicking below!

The Grip of It: A Novel
By Jac Jemc

White Bodies - By Jane Roberts

Rating: 4/5 Beans
Publisher: TouchStone Books
Author: Jane Robins

Hey book beans! Before we dive into this review let me give you the summary:

A chilling psychological suspense novel in the vein of The Girl On The Train and Sharp Objects that explores the darkly disturbing side of love and the unbreakable ties that bind two sisters together.

Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple, young and in love, he a wealthy financier and she an up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless facade not everything is as it seems. Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her beautiful sister and idol visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. Tilda has stopped working and nearly stopped eating, and her apartment has suddenly becoming freakishly tidy-with mugs encased in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. Callie knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms. 

Worried about the psychological hold Felix has over her sister, Callie seeks help on an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. But things spiral out of control when one of her new internet acquaintances is killed. And then the unimaginable happens: Felix dies. Or was he murdered?

A page-tuning work of suspense that announces a stunning new voice in the genre, White Bodies will change the way you think about obsession, love and the violence we inflict on one another and ourselves.

White Bodies keeps you guessing til the very end, and even when you think you just might have the who done it nailed down, Jane Roberts has a way of taking you through the narrative in a nail biting, can’t but the book down type of way. So that even when you think you're on the right track, the vivid writing keeps you turning the pages. 

Roberts does a great job of making her characters seem so real and colorful. So much so that you can't read White Bodies without wondering about what makes them all tick. Roberts satisfies that craving by flashing back to Callie and Tilda’s past in the first third of the book, helping us to make sense of their co-dependent, abnormal, and often obsessive relationship as siblings.  And let me tell you, things get WEIRD. 

Right away we are sucked into a crazy story of obsessive behavior and narcissism told from Callie’s point of view, the less popular twin. I was hooked from the very first page and while I finished this book in a few days, White Bodies could easily be read in one sitting.  Jane Roberts has a unique way of describing her characters, so much so that I could easily see this thriller as a film (David Fincher would be perfect). The only thing I didn’t quite like about White Bodies, is that instead of picking up speed at the end, the story had the tendency to slow down a bit. Therefore, the ending didn’t pack as much of a punch as I would’ve liked.

Of course, that’s just personal opinion! And regardless of pacing, I have extremely high praise for White Bodies. I predict that it will be next year’s go to beach read. 

White Bodies releases September 2017 from Touchstone Books. You can pre-order your copy here!

*All opinions are my own

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Rating: 4.5/5 Beans
Publisher: Ecco Books/HarperCollins
Author: Josh Malerman

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it's time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat--blindfolded--with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

I couldn't help but read this book as if I were reading the pages of a well written screenplay. Josh Malerman does a fantastic job of pulling you in right from the start. And he took the responsibility of creating a strong female character seriously and handled the role with great care. 

Bravo Josh. *insert Shia Lebeouf applause GIF here

This is a mini review, so I'm not going to get too much into the plot but instead talk a little bit more about Malerman's writing style. Personally, I'm a huge fan of blunt prose. Quick, staccato repetition. Serve it up to me hot, Chuck Palahniuk hot, because that's just how a like it. I know that may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's mine. So yeah I dig it. 

“You can smell it, too. Death. Dying. Decay. The sky is falling, the sky is dying, the sky is dead.” -Bird Box

Thank you Michael Ulrich for this awesome recommend. I didn't think anything would be able to save me from the depths of this dark reading slump after completing Station Eleven, but Bird Box delivered. It kept me turning the pages, without being too creepy. I'd say it's, M. Night Shyamalan creepy (M. Night in his glory days). Just the right amount of creepy to keep me up at night and just enough "psychological thrill" to keep me guessing. 

If you like fast paced, imaginative thrillers, I highly recommend Bird Box!

4.5/5 Beans

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Rating: 5/5 Beans
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Author: Emily St. John Mandel

"Hell is the absence of people you long for."
-Station Eleven

Station Eleven is an incredible, poignant compilation of human
vulnerability and strength.

5/5 Beans


Quite like the majority of characters in Emily Mandel's Station Eleven, I can't quite wrap my head around what I felt after walking through the "end of the world". But I know what I felt was good, and beautiful and somewhat nostalgic for an uncertain future that will most likely never exist (or could it?). 

And I can say that until now, I've never read a book that's successfully held my attention while jumping back and forth in time and space so frequently. Mandel managed to weave between characters and time while maintaining a cohesive, seamless plot. Never once did I feel lost or confused. And as I flipped through the pages I felt that every word had purpose and meaning, and nothing was ever sprinkled in for frivolous decoration, although that's easily the route that the author could've taken. 

The narrative begins in present day Toronto, at a theatre production of King Lear. And after a famous actor collapses to his death on stage, confusion and chaos ensue, but not for the reasons you think. His untimely death just happens to coincide with the arrival of a mutated flu strain that will soon wipe most of the world’s population from the face of the earth. 

I can easily say without a doubt that Station Eleven is now in one of my top ten reads of all time.  
I cared about every single character. And I think it’s hard to maintain likability and importance while jumping through different narratives and time periods. But Emily managed to do this beautifully.  As a huge fan of sci-fi and dystopian storytelling, I can’t recommend this book enough. Mandel does a fantastic job of investigating human thought and habit while giving us enough action and cliff hangers to keep us turning the pages. Station Eleven is also filled to the brim with poetic one liners, a special gift for any thoughtful reader.

It looks like the rights to this book have already been purchased to be made into a film a few years back, and I’m hoping and praying that whoever directs this film does it justice. Because boy, what a beautiful story based on what seem to be life's simple questions:

If the world ended tomorrow, what would you miss the most?
What would you remember and what would you choose to forget?
Would you start over, or choose to hang onto the past?

5/5 Beans

"Okay, say you go into the break room," she said, "and a couple people you like are there, say someone's telling a funny story, you laugh a little, you feel included, everyone's so funny, you go back to your desk with a sort of, I don't know, I guess an afterglow would be the word? You go back to your desk with an afterglow, but then by four or five o'clock the day's just turned into yet another day, and you go on like that, looking forward to five o'clock and then the weekend and then your two or three annual weeks of paid vacation time, day in a day out, and that's what happens to your life.

-That's what passes for a life, I should say. That's what passes for happiness, for most people-
they're like sleepwalkers," she said, "and nothing ever jolts them awake."

-Station Eleven