BOOK REVIEW: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

34066798._SY475_Title: A Gentleman in Moscow

Author: Amor Towles

Audiobook Length: 17 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, 

Read Start Date: May 23, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 31, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. Readers and critics were enchanted; as NPR commented, “Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change.”

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

My Review: As an aristocrat and general thorn in the side of the Bolsheviks, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to spend the rest of his days in a hotel. “Thus, it is the opinion of this committee that you should be returned to that hotel of which you are so fond. But make no mistake: should you ever set foot outside of the Metropol again, you will be shot. Next matter.”

This book was good, but I didn’t love it. It is essentially the story of a man who is sentenced to live in a hotel for the rest of his life — that’s it. It is written well, but there wasn’t really all that much happening. It seemed like an interesting premise, but at points it got a little boring, and I found myself having to listen to it at 1.25x the normal speed just to stay attentive. The voice of the narrator of the audiobook version drags a little, and sometimes I found myself drifting away to other thoughts.

That’s not to say that this isn’t a good book, or that if you like this type of book you won’t enjoy it. I just usually like a bit more plot motion / action in the books that I read.

First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday, July 26, 2022

It’s First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday! Hosted by Socrates Book Reviews this is where you share the first paragraph of one (or in my case sometimes several) of the books that you are currently reading.

Kneeling in the fragrant moist grass of the village green Clara Morrow carefully hid the Easter egg and thought about raising the dead, which she planned to do right after supper. Wiping a strand of hair from her face, she smeared bits of grass, mud and some other brown stuff that might not be mud into her tangled hair. All around, villagers wandered with their baskets of brightly colored eggs, looking for the perfect hiding places. Ruth Zardo sat on the bench in the middle of the green tossing the eggs at random, though occasionally she’d haul off and peg someone in the back of the head or on the bottom. She had disconcertingly good aim for someone so old and so nuts, thought Clara.”

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

BOOK REVIEW: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

352921Title: A Fatal Grace

Author: Louise Penny

Book Length: 311 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime,

Read Start Date: May 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 30, 2022

Number in Book Series: 2

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself. 

My Review: This is the second book in the Armand Gamache novel series, and Gamache is back again in Three Pines investigating a murder. CC de Poitiers is an awful woman, hated by everyone, even her lover and family. The first 8-10% of the book is setting the scene for the murder, so Gamache doesn’t really enter the story until afterward.

The murder is imaginative — electrocution by metal chair, outside in the snow during a curling event. Several things had to fall into place, which on its face seemed rather impossible. CC had to have bare hands, in the freezing cold. CC had to be standing in water. CC had to be wearing shoes without rubber soles. And most of all, the chair had to be connected to electricity. How was this accomplished, and by whom? Was it more than just one person?

This series is fast becoming one of my favorites. Not only are the murder plots interesting, but the clues unfold in a natural way — and the author doesn’t make you feel like Gamache is some super smart super hero who figured it out when no one else would. He is just a good cop, with personal flaws, like everyone else.

I really recommend this series.

Other Books in this Series:

A Still Life is the first book in the series where we are introduced to Armand Gamache and the village of Three Pines.

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets…

You can find my review of Still Life here.

Goodreads Monday July 25, 2022

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. “Goodreads Monday allows you to post about what books are on your “to read” lists, the progress you have made on your current books and reading challenge, and any other Goodreads news!”

Books I Finished Last Week:

Title: The Reaper’s Quota

Author: Sarah McKnight

Published: 2021

Number of Pages: 190

Date Finished: July 24, 2022

Goodreads’ Summary:

Meet Grim Reaper #2497. Behind on his work, he must complete his quota of thirty Random Deaths or face termination in the worst way. Faced with an insurmountable task and very little time to complete it, Reaper #2497 struggles to hang on to the one thing he’s not supposed to have – his humanity.

See my review of this book here.

Books I am Currently Reading:

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris:

Small-town cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has had more than her share of experience with the supernatural—but now it’s really hitting close to home. When Sookie sees her brother Jason’s eyes start to change, she knows he’s about to turn into a were-panther for the first time—a transformation he embraces more readily than most shapeshifters she knows. But her concern becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population, and Jason’s new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. Now, Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who’s behind the attacks—unless the killer decides to find her first…

Progress: 10 out of 295 pages

In the last week I haven’t made any progress. I usually read this book right before writing my own book to get into the first person storytelling groove. Since I have been on vacation this week, I haven’t done any writing.

The Storyteller by Dave Grohl:

So, I’ve written a book.

Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities (“It’s a piece of cake! Just do 4 hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!”) I have decided to write these stories just as I have always done, in my own hand. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I’ve recorded and can’t wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child.

This certainly doesn’t mean that I’m quitting my day job, but it does give me a place to shed a little light on what it’s like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old, to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.

Progress: Audio file Part 9 out of 10

I haven’t made as much progress as I would like on this book (only 7 audio files in the last week). Usually, I’d be finished by now but I haven’t had much time for listening since I’ve been on vacation. I will have to finish this book by today at the latest though since my library loan will automatically expire soon.

The Cruelest Month by Louis Penny:

Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.

It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil—until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

Progress: Edoc approximately 60%

I was focused on reading The Reaper’s Quota last week so I didn’t get so far in this book (only 10%).

The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon:

A gripping road trip through post-apocalyptic America from Tim Lebbon, New York Times bestseller and author of Netflix’s The Silence.

Struck by famine and drought, large swathes of North America are now known as the Desert. Set against this mythic and vast backdrop, The Last Storm is a timely story of a family of Rainmakers whose rare and arcane gift has become a curse.

Jesse stopped rainmaking the moment his abilities became deadly, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. He thought he could help a land suffering from climate catastrophe, but he was wrong. When his daughter Ash inherited the tainted gift carried down the family bloodline, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and ever since then he has believed himself responsible for his daughter’s death.

But now his wife Karina––who never gave up looking for their daughter—brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, the estranged couple set out across the desolate landscape to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.

Progress: Edoc approximately 21%

I was reading The Reaper’s Quota and The Cruelest Month, so have basically set this book aside for the moment.

To Read List:

Title: Chasing the Reaper

Author: Sarah McKnight

Published: 2022

Number of Pages: 113

Goodreads’ Summary:

The Reaper Chronicles Book 2

Steven Kelton awakens with a vase in his hands, a sniveling man at his feet, and no idea how he got there. He struggles to remember the details of his life as something sinister lurks just around the corner. Death seems to be following Steve at every turn. Stalked by a hooded figure in black, Steve spirals into self-doubt and false memories until only one thing is certain – he must protect those he loves, even if it means staring Death in the face.

BOOK REVIEW: The Reaper’s Quota by Sarah McKnight

59595361._sy475_Title: The Reaper’s Quota

Author: Sarah McKnight

Book Length: 190 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Paranormal

Read Start Date: July 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 24, 2022

Number in Book Series: 1

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Meet Grim Reaper #2497. Behind on his work, he must complete his quota of thirty Random Deaths or face termination in the worst way. Faced with an insurmountable task and very little time to complete it, Reaper #2497 struggles to hang on to the one thing he’s not supposed to have – his humanity.

My Review: I received this kindle book as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Grim Reaper #2497 (a.k.a. Steve) doesn’t like being a reaper very much. He only got the gig because he killed his business partner and then died decades later in Prison — see, if you kill someone, whether accidentally or otherwise, you spend your eternal afterlife reaping the souls of other people, until your bones get so old they literally turn to dust.

Steve fulfills his assignments (terminally ill people or other people slated to die) reluctantly, but he hates having to meet his “random death” quota a.k.a the 30 random people that he has to kill, some of whom, without Steve’s intervention, would have had long lives ahead of them. Since he hasn’t been fulfilling his quota lately, he is called in front of the Big Boss and told that he has to randomly kill 30 people in 3 days, otherwise Steve will be executed. The book is basically about Steve going about this grim tasks.

I really loved “The Office” or “Office Space” feel of this book — but instead of TP Reports, there are Random Death quotas. The reapers stand around the office water cooler “drinking” their Elixir (which they can’t really drink because the reapers are literally just walking skeletons) and talking shop. Some reapers are sadistic, some are over achievers, and some, like Steve, do the bare minimum with a modicum of effort. Sitting above the minions, making sure the work is carried out, is the nasty boss with a bad attitude ready to drop the hammer at any moment.

How Steve orchestrates his random kills is borderline ridiculous, which brings some levity into what otherwise would be a somber set of circumstances. Despite the humor, however, it does get rather tedious after a while and I would have liked to have more substance to the story, which is why I’m only giving the book 4 stars instead of 5. The book is 90% focused on the background story of the people that Steve kills and the description of how they die and 10% focused on bringing Steve’s story forward. The book ended with a cliffhanger, which I presume will pick up in a sequel — though I think that the book was short enough that it could have been continued as a Part 2 to the same book.

If you’re in the mood for something short and light, then this book is for you!

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Friday 56, July 22, 2022

Welcome to Friday 56! Hosted by Freda’s Voice, you turn to page 56 or 56% in any book or reading device and pick a sentence that grabs you.

He looked at me. His eyes narrowed. The lashes were the same red-gold as his hair, so they showed up only when you were close to him. And I had no business at all thinking about Sam’s eyelashes, or any other part of him, for that matter.”

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

This quote is actually from page 55 because page 56 is the last page of the chapter and therefore only a half page. This is the fifth book in the series, and although nothing has ever happened between Sookie and her boss, Sam (who is a shape shifter that mostly shifts into a collie), there is always some sexual tension between the two characters. I think that there are about 13 books in this series total, so I wonder whether Sookie and Sam will get together at some point.

BOOK REVIEW: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

58468990._SY475_Title: The Paris Apartment

Author: Lucy Foley

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 53 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary

Read Start Date: May 19, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge

Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.

My Review: Jess is struggling in England and has run into some issues at her place of work — she decides to crash with her half-brother Ben in Paris, but when she arrives at his apartment in an upscale apartment building, he isn’t there. He cannot be found. Where did he go? How does he afford such expensive digs? Where did all this blood come from? Suspecting the worst, but hoping for the best, Jess starts the search for her brother, enlisting the help from Ben’s friend Nick, who also lives in the building.

The other characters in the book are the other occupants of the apartment building, and through their narratives we soon get to learn how they are intertwined with Ben and in a more general way, each other and the building.

This book kept me guessing to the end and I never expected the twist!

Time Travel Thursday July 21, 2022

Time Travel Tuesday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. This is where I take a look back at what I was reading this time last year (or the year before or the year before that…) and compare it to what I am reading now.

Books I was Reading on This Day in 2021:

Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo:

Combining rich historical detail and a harrowing, pulse-pounding narrative, Close to Shore brilliantly re-creates the summer of 1916, when a rogue Great White shark attacked swimmers along the New Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching the most extensive shark hunt in history.

During the summer before the United States entered World War I, when ocean swimming was just becoming popular and luxurious Jersey Shore resorts were thriving as a chic playland for an opulent yet still innocent era’s new leisure class, Americans were abruptly introduced to the terror of sharks. In July 1916 a lone Great White left its usual deep-ocean habitat and headed in the direction of the New Jersey shoreline. There, near the towns of Beach Haven and Spring Lake-and, incredibly, a farming community eleven miles inland-the most ferocious and unpredictable of predators began a deadly rampage: the first shark attacks on swimmers in U.S. history.

For Americans celebrating an astoundingly prosperous epoch much like our own, fueled by the wizardry of revolutionary inventions, the arrival of this violent predator symbolized the limits of mankind’s power against nature.

Interweaving a vivid portrait of the era and meticulously drawn characters with chilling accounts of the shark’s five attacks and the frenzied hunt that ensued, Michael Capuzzo has created a nonfiction historical thriller with the texture of Ragtime and the tension of Jaws. From the unnerving inevitability of the first attack on the esteemed son of a prosperous Philadelphia physician to the spine-tingling moment when a farm boy swimming in Matawan Creek feels the sandpaper-like skin of the passing shark, Close to Shore is an undeniably gripping saga.

Heightening the drama are stories of the resulting panic in the citizenry, press and politicians, and of colorful personalities such as Herman Oelrichs, a flamboyant millionaire who made a bet that a shark was no match for a man (and set out to prove it); Museum of Natural History ichthyologist John Treadwell Nichols, faced with the challenge of stopping a mythic sea creature about which little was known; and, most memorable, the rogue Great White itself moving through a world that couldn’t conceive of either its destructive power or its moral right to destroy.

Scrupulously researched and superbly written, Close to Shore brings to life a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history. Masterfully written and suffused with fascinating period detail and insights into the science and behavior of sharks, Close to Shore recounts a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history with startling immediacy.

My Memory of this Book: A year ago I was sitting on a beach in Croatia on my babymoon. This book came with me every day to the beach. I read this book while gazing out into the crystal blue waters — probably not a great book to be reading at the beach, but I was pretty certain there were no sharks where I was swimming, and besides, the water was so crystal blue that I could see to the bottom. I wasn’t writing reviews at the time, so there are none available.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab:

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

My Memory of this Book: I read this book as an audiobook. Although I wasn’t writing reviews at the time, I do remember enjoying this book and would highly recommend it.

Night Shift by Stephen King:

“You will encounter all manner of night creatures”, warns the author of this book. “None of them are real. The thing under my bed isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle…”

Despite describing himself as ´the nicest sort of fellow you’d ever want to meet´, Stephen King is the author of three hugely successful horror novels, CARRIE, ´SALEM’S LOT and THE SHINING, all of which have been made into major films. In the foreword to NIGHT SHIFT he gives a fascinating insight into why he writes horror – and why people will always be enthralled by it. NIGHT SHIFT is your guide through the darker side of the human mind.

My Memory of this Book: I was reading this book as a edoc. I always enjoy Stephen King books, so I liked this one too.

BOOK REVIEW: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

301082._SY475_Title: Dead Until Dark

Author: Charlaine Harris

Book Length: 292 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery, Horror

Read Start Date: March 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 16, 2022

Number in Book Series: 1

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life-and one of her coworkers checks out….Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn’t such a bright idea.

My Review: Sookie Stackhouse is just an average girl, working as a waitress in her small Louisiana town bar. Sookie is telepathic, which makes her kind of the town “weirdo”, and she has trouble forming lasting relationships, both friendship and romantic. In fact, she has never really had a boyfriend. After the Japanese developed synthetic blood, the vampires of the world decided to “come out of the coffin” since they no longer needed to feed on human blood to decide. In Sookie’s little town of Bon Temps, there isn’t much vampiric activity, and Sookie has longed to meet a vampire — one day she gets her wish, and Bill Compton (a vampire who was turned shortly after the civil war) walks into the bar.

Bill has decided to move back to Bon Temps, as this is where he lived while human. He has also decided to “main stream”, hence why he came into the bar. Sookie is immediately taken by him, as are two “drainers”. Through Sookie’s telepathy, she discovers the plot to drain Bill of his blood (vampire blood can be sold on the black market as a drug for a lot of money). When the couple leaves the bar with Bill, Sookie follows them and saves Bill from being drained of all his blood (which would have weakened him for decades, if he wasn’t still tied up when the sun came up).

Soon after, Bill and Sookie start an unconventional romantic relationship. Sookie discovers that she cannot hear the thoughts of vampires, and it is wonderful. As Sookie becomes more entrenched in the vampire community, a murderer is going around killing women who take vampires as lovers. Who is it? Will Sookie be a target now?

This was the second time that I read this book, and back when it was on HBO, I also watched the series. This book is always a fun read for me. I really love how Charlaine Harris melds different fantastical creatures (from vampires to shapeshifters) in the same novel.

The book is not only about a telepathic waitress who falls in love with a vampire, but there is also an element of mystery, i.e., there is a murderer in Bon Temps who is killing women who have affiliations with vampires.

This book combines several genres…its like a horror novel about vampires, but at the same time has a murder mystery to be solved, and at the same time, is a love story.

I also really like how Sookie is not some dumb, thin-stick blonde. Rather, she is intelligent, although working as a waitress, and she is of average build (a size 8). Other than the telepathic part, Sookie could be anyone’s sister or best friend.

This book is great for some light and fun reading.

First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday July 19, 2022

It’s First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday! Hosted by Socrates Book Reviews this is where you share the first paragraph of one (or in my case several) of the books that you are currently reading.

In the cavernous marble hall that serves as an office, the Big Boss sits back against the plush velvet of his golden throne. He appears large and menacing on the platform above me. The glowing red coals deep within his hollow sockets pulse with displeasure as he stares down. He raises an old, creaking arm and points his bony finger at me. His bones are yellowed with age, and micro-cracks lace an intricate pattern up to his arm. I imagine a musty smell coming off him. He’s ancient, and whatever is left of his vocal cords grinds with effort as he speaks.”

The Reaper’s Quota by Sarah McKnight

The room was full of bad things. Three wooden crates stacked in one corner contained zip-locked bags of drugs. The lid had slipped from the top crate, and no one seemed concerned. There was nothing hidden here. The table pushed against the opposite wall was strewn with empty liquor bottles, overflowing ashtrays, a cracked mirror dusted with what looked like heroin, a fat roll of dollar bills stained with something that wasn’t water, and a handgun. Propped against the table was an AR15 with a bump stock. Jesse wondered if it was there to intimidate him. It was probably just there.”

The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon

I knew my brother would turn into a panther before he did. As I drove to the remote crossroads community of Hotshot, my brother watched the sunset in silence. Jason was dressed in old clothes, and he had a plastic Wal-Mart bag containing a few things he might need–toothbrush, clean underwear. He hunched inside his bulky camo jacket, looking straight ahead. His face was tense with the need to control his fear and his excitement.”

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris