February Book Review Club: Security by Gina Wholsdorf

“The best security is invisible security. The most thorough safety is safety one’s object of protection doesn’t know about.”

Security is really best described as a slasher film in book form and hits all the right notes in that regard. It follows the story of Tessa, the hotel manager at Manderly Resort, the newest, flashiest high-profile resort hotel on the Santa Barbara coast. As she oversees the staff in their preparations for Manderly’s grand opening the next day a killer stalks the halls, murdering everyone who crosses his path. All of this is narrated by a mysterious stranger who is watching the bloodbath over the hotel’s closed-circuit security system.

Told in the third-person omniscient voice, Security has a different feel than most novels. Because the narrator is telling the reader what happens as they view it on the hotel’s incredibly comprehensive security cameras, we get not only a play-by-play of the horror as it happens but also this unknown viewers opinions which are usually laced with a bit of dark humor. For example, we get this during a scene in the kitchen:

“Brian is attacking the grease on his hands with a kitchen towel. The towel has red stains on it, most likely cherry coulis. One could not rule out the possibility that the stains are not cherry coulis.”

One of the things that makes this book unique is the way the author chooses to show simultaneous action. The pages are split in half, thirds, or quarters with each scene playing out in those sections, giving the impression that they are being viewed on side-by-side television screens as they are being relayed to the reader by our mysterious narrator. In any other book this might feel gimmicky but here it’s used perfectly (and sparingly) to remind you how the narrator is privy to the events as they unfold. I also have to add that when you slowly begin to realize who the narrator is, your jaw will drop. It was a stroke of genius that I never saw coming.

The characters were both stereotypical in their make-up – the tightly-wound girl boss, the faithful maid, the temperamental French chef, etc. – but incredibly well-developed at the same time. The book follows traditional slasher-film rules so much that each death is predictable but in a way that doesn’t decrease the enjoyment of the book. (I actually had fun guessing who would die next!) Despite all the blood and gore there’s a certain playfulness in it’s tone that makes it a fun read. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and because of the format, as a reader you’re able to join in on that fun. You’ll find yourself thinking “NO! Don’t open that door!” as you read, just like you would were you watching it on a screen. It was a total success in that regard.

With nods to Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, and of course Daphne du Maurier, this debut – DEBUT! – novel is a gift to horror fans. Security is funny, clever, bloody, and tremendously inventive. It certainly isn’t going to be for everyone but if you like slasher films and don’t mind a little gore in your life, give this a try. Pop a bowl of popcorn, grab a soda, and settle in to read this book from start to stop. You’re not going to want to stop reading and this book almost requires movie theater butter.

Backlist Bump: This novel is so unique there’s no book I would recommend based on structure, but if you want to be familiar with a handful of the many references found in the book, read Stephen King’s The Shining, Rebecca du Murier’s Rebecca, and Cornell Wolrich’s It Had to Be Murder.

For more great February reviews, please take a look at Barrie’s blog:

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@Barrie Summy

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

This is the first book I’ve read by Kathleen Rooney, and it’s the first book of 2017 to get 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 17th is the publication date for this amazing book, but if you’re a member of the Book of the Month club you may have snagged your copy early.  If you haven’t put this on your TBR – do it.  Order it, reserve it at the library – but read it!  It’s fantastic.

It’s December 31, 1984.  Lillian Boxfish is 84, getting off the phone with her only child who is letting her know that his step-mother is dying, and he’d like her to move to Maine to be closer to him and his family.  Lillian loves New York City.  She’s not going anywhere, other than to dinner at 5:30 for her New Year’s Eve tradition at a friend’s restaurant.

She walks to the restaurant, but finds she’s not hungry, and after a drink decides to take a longer walk around the city she loves, passing by various places that have played significant roles in her life.  She encounters people along the way with the best and the worst intentions.  Lillian sees them with a keen, clear eye, and levels people with her sharp wit, and with understanding that she has learned in her 80 plus years of life.

Lillian is a feminist, a career woman, a poet, a lover, friend and mother.  She looks back on her life with a clarity and sense of humor that is a joy to read.

I’m thrilled that NetGalley gave me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a review.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Bryn Greenwood’s novel All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was my favorite book of 2016.  Thought provoking and original, it left me recommending it to nearly everyone.  It does have some themes of neglect and abuse, so it’s not for people who don’t enjoy books that have darker themes.

This novel starts in 1975 from Amy’s perspective. Her weird, mute cousin Wavy is visiting with her baby brother Donal. Wavy won’t talk, won’t eat and doesn’t play normally. Amy finds her fascinating – and Wavy is.

The story spans 15 years, from 1975 – 1990, while we get the story from virtually all perspectives – Wavy, Donal, Kellan, Amy, Val, Brenda, Renee…and more. The reader sees an incredibly complex story of chronic abuse, drugs, friends, family, sex, love and hate. Told by a less skilled writer, this could have been an incredibly ugly novel, but instead, the love and beauty are allowed to shine through the ugliness, and we can see that broken, illegal, legal, and love are all different based on perspective and that the best intentions can lead to both hell and to redemption.

I couldn’t put this book down – the plot is fantastic, moving along quickly, giving the reader multiple points of view on a scene when needed, or only one. It allows the most jaded reader to believe in looking beyond the surface appearance, or the words on the jacket, because the story comes from knowing both the ugly parts and the beautiful ones, and some of the mundane between.

Families have always been different from one another, but the family that is different from the heterogeneous norm has historically been so hard to justify – this novel examines the most imperfect group of people and sorts through the beautiful and ugly parts to show the reader that good can win, that families are difficult and hard to categorize but still love.

Bryn Greenwood has a fantastic, utterly readable narrative that is nearly impossible to put down. I woke at 3 am and was too tempted by her words to roll over and try and sleep, so instead I picked up my Kindle again. She is clearly and amazing talent and I look forward to more books by this author.



Karli’s Best Books

The new year always inspires list making – what was the best, what are my goals, which books are coming out, what do I need to add to the new planner???

My urge to list led to the following – my favorite books of each publication year, 2005 to present!  This will give some insight to my book loves.

2016 – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood


2015 – A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara


2014 – The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld


2013 – Doctor Sleep by Stephen King


2012 – Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed


2011 – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


2010 – Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan


2009 – Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese


2008 – Duma Key by Stephen King


2007The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb



Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling


2006 – The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield


2005 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson