Book Review: A Simple Favor

“Your mother is a monster.”

December is a time for companionship of all sorts. Family, friends, significant others, pets, it doesn’t matter. Of course this season can also be extremely trying. So it’s important to do simple, loving things for yourself. Simple favors you might say. I found the book A Simple Favor shortly after I saw the movie by the same name. I adored the movie and had to hunt down the book. The book did not disappoint.

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Synopsis:  Brought together by their young sons, Stephanie and Emily quickly become best friends. Their afternoons are spent bonding over motherhood, work, and love. They tell each other everything, and are more than happy to help each other. One day Emily calls Stephanie to ask for a simple favor: pick up her son from school and she’ll pick him up from Stephanie’s house after work. Midnight comes and goes, a day passes, then two. Suddenly Stephanie wonders how much she knew about Emily, and how much she can rely on Emily’s husband to help. Motherhood is lonely, but now it just became deadly.

Thoughts: If you’ve seen the movie, don’t worry. The movie does the book justice, but the book is a dark and beautiful beast of its own. Even if you’ve seen the movie, you won’t see the ending coming. If you haven’t seen the movie? Read this review, read the book, then hunt down the movie.

A Simple Favor hits on hard topics. That’s what makes the book so fun, yet so disturbing. Normal people are involved in abnormal things. Death, suicide, incest, affairs, abuse. Somehow, the cast is convinced they’re normal, and yet they’re convinced that they’re anything but due to their involvement in these issues. These are hard and ugly issues, yet I felt the book handled them well. After all, as difficult as they are, these issues are deeply real problems.  The dark realism is what makes this book work. But it did lead to a few slow parts at the start. Thankfully the book picked up speed rather quickly once Emily vanished.

At the end of the book I was left wondering who the real victims were. How do we measure the value of life when we can so easily warp it, twist it, and create excuses for the inexcusable, convincing ourselves we’re sane? It’s an odd question to be pondering at the end of a domestic thriller, but weeks after I closed the book, I’m still thinking about it.

There’s no question about it though, life is valuable. How valuable it is, well, maybe that’s up to us. Or in the case of this novel, our dear narrators.

I’ve always been a sucker for unreliable narrators, and this book is a glorious study of them. I loved the narrators. They seemed like horrible people, but at the same time they were deeply relatable. Some were insecure, some thirsted for power and love, and others weren’t quite sure of what they wanted. Bell does a fantastic job of crafting characters that we know are wrong, but we can’t help but root for. There’s just enough redeeming or relatable qualities to each character. As the lines between reality and right and wrong blur for our narrators, those lines blur for the reader as well.

If you’re turned off by the idea of domestic thrillers, thinking them tame, this book will no doubt help you think differently of the genre. This is Bell’s first book, and I surely hope it’s not her last. I’ve found a new author to add to my favorites. I’ll be treating myself with re-reads of this book for many years to come.

TL;DR: If you’ve seen the movie, don’t worry. The book will still hold plenty of surprises for you. The book is a masterful dark domestic thriller, with twists galore. The characters are perhaps unlovable, and yet, they are deeply relatable. The pacing is a little slow out the gate, but when it picks up, the pace is breakneck and brilliant. Get your fuzzy blankets, your favorite hot beverage and treat yourself to A Simple Favor. You can thank me (and yourself) later.

Ghostly Giveaway

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I’ve always been fond of the idea of giving something away to party go-ers as they come to celebrate your birthday. With my birthday occurring this month (this week in fact), I thought it would be fun to celebrate by giving away a book.

Earlier this month, I mentioned The Phantom Coach (edited by Michael Sims), a collection of brilliant Victorian Era ghost stories. Now, you have a chance to own it. If you win, you’ll get a brand new, hardback edition of the book, delivered right to your door!

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Giveaway Details:

When: July 16th, 9 am EST – August 16th, midnight EST 2018.

How to Enter: Make a post on this blog entry or Tweet me @aemoseley using the hashtag #1ghostlygiveaway. Tell me your favorite horror, ghost, or supernatural story and why. For two entries tell me your favorite character from my Secrets of the Lion series and why. Your whys can be as long or as short as you like. If you tell me your favorite story and your favorite character from the series, you’ll get three (3) entries!

How to Win: On August 17th, 2018 I will use a random number generator to select the winner. I’ll then make a blog post announcing the winner and announce the winner on Twitter as well. If you’re the winner, you’ll have 72 hours (aka 3 days) to respond so that I can send you your prize. If the winner doesn’t respond during that time, I’ll take their names out of the pool and draw again.

Conditions and Disclaimers:

+ This giveaway isn’t affiliated with Twitter, WordPress, Michael Sims, or Book Depository in any way.

+ No purchase necessary to enter.

+ A maximum of three (3) entries per person.

+ You must be 18 or older to enter.

+ You must be able to receive books from Book Depository. To see a list of what countries Book Depository serves, please click here.

+ You must comfortable giving me your mailing address so that I can mail you the book. I will not use the mailing address for any other purpose.

Summer Ghost Stories

Darkness is weird. It’s simultaneously comforting and terrifying. Comforting, because the blinding lights and thunderous sounds of the day are softened. Terrifying because do you want to stumble through the dark and step on that Lego you should have picked up earlier?

Exactly.

I tend to get these sorts of thoughts during the summer. While some people feel most alive in the summer sun, I feel most alive when darkness takes over. In the summer, the darkness is my friend. It’s filled with noisy crickets, pensive owls, and whimsical fireflies. But to make summer nights perfect, I need a good ghost story.

I’m always on the hunt for a good ghost collection, and I’m always willing to share them. My current favorite is The Phantom Coach, edited by Michael Sims. The title comes from the short story of the same name. Overall, this collection is brilliant. Many of the stories are in first person, and all are unsettling. They stand the test of time making them perfect to read aloud around the bonfire.

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If you’d like something a bit more modern, try out Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle. It’s a stand alone novel about a young woman reflecting on the time she moved to England and into a very haunted house. While not horror, it has unsettling moments making it a brilliant read. Again a first person story, so it’s great to read aloud. Just keep the tissues handy for the ending.

Of course you can go full on modern with the Asylum series by Madeline Roux. It’s genuine horror in third person. Ghosts come back with a vengeance in this one, and it’s beautifully done. If you decide to check out the Asylum series, note that due to accurate portrayals of what happened in mental institutions and violence, this series can be quite triggering.

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I could go on, leaving ruined shelves in my wake as I give you more recommendations, but I’ll leave it at that.  After all, there’s only so much one can do in a summer night.

Speaking of scary stories, if you’re into horror you should check out Nightmare News. I’m a contributor to the site, and it’s a joy writing articles for them. Nightmare News covers everything from books, to music, to movies. If it’s horror, it’s probably on the site. If you want to take a look at my articles specifically, you can check them out here. But I recommend taking a look around at other articles too. Nightmare News is filled with hidden gems.

While there will no doubt be an overlap in topics (I am a dark fiction author after all), what you see here is exclusive to this site. What’s on Nightmare News will be exclusive to that site. This will keep things fresh for both sites and hopefully allow y’all to get the most variety.