Ghosts, Murder, ..Slack?? 3 mini-reviews

OPHIE’S GHOSTS by Justina Ireland | May 18, 2021 (Thank you, Balzer + Bray!)

Georgia, November 1922. One night Ophelia learns two painful truths: her father was murdered by a band of white supremacists and she has the ability to see ghosts. Without her father, Ophie and her mother must leave the home they knew and head north to Pittsburgh where they’re taken in by an old aunt and three awful cousins. Luckily Mama has managed to secure a position at Daffodil Manor – along with a position for Ophie, though it means she can no longer attend school. At Daffodil Manor, Ophie discovers it’s not just the house that’s haunted by memories of the past, but those still living in it as well.

I went into Ophie’s Ghosts expecting a fun, Middle Grade read full of historical tidbits and ghosts. While I did get the ghosts and historical aspect, I also got much more: there’s a surprising heaviness to this book that caught me off guard. Death, racism, and classist attitudes are all very much at the forefront of this book. This isn’t a house haunted by Casper; there are soldiers who returned home only to turn to the bottle, a romance doomed from the start, discussion on being able to pass for white.

Interspersed throughout the novel were quick chapters told from the perspective of the train, the city of Pittsburgh, Daffodil Manor itself. The writing in these chapters was nothing short of sheer poetry and I inhaled each one (for obvious reasons, Pittsburgh’s chapter was especially near and dear to my heart, though, again, the writing was a thing of beauty: “Pittsburgh was a resilient, rough-and-tumble city. His arms were forged of steel, his backbone was the railroad, and in his veins was the coal that powered them both.”) While I absolutely loved these chapters, I do feel they had an altogether different feel than the rest of the novel and, at times, felt like two totally separate books.

Ophie’s Ghosts was a very quick read, though one with a hidden depth to it that I had not anticipated, but welcomed. I was able to pick up on the big reveal early on, but I’m not sure if younger readers would have guessed at it. While this is my first novel of the author’s, if her YA books are anything similar to this, I have a feeling we’re going to be fast friends.

THE THERAPIST by B.A. Paris | July 13, 2021 (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)

After a whirlwind long distance romance, Alice and Leo have decided to move in together. Leo lucks into the perfect house in a gated community and the pair set about with renovations, excited to make this house a home. As Alice gets to know her neighbors, however, she learns a devastating truth about her house: it seemed to good to be true…and, unfortunately, it was. The previous owner had been brutally murdered and the man deemed responsible, the husband, might have been innocent.

As Alice digs deeper into the mystery surrounding Nina’s death – and she feels such a strong connection to her after losing her own sister named Nina – she begins to wonder about the community she’s found herself in. And the boyfriend she realizes she hardly knows.

Behind Closed Doors was not only a 5-star read, but one of my top reads of 2016. Since then I have been gobbling up each new release, eager to recapture the brilliance of that debut. But each time I’m painfully letdown; I don’t know if a deadline was looming or what, but The Therapist was so lackluster, so repetitive – neighbors came to the door, Alice answered the phone, Alice had coffee with neighbors, the doorbell rang again announcing more neighbors had arrived. If her follow up novels to Behind Closed Doors hadn’t all been steadily going downhill, I honestly wouldn’t have believed this one was written by Paris. The few intriguing bits (could there really be someone else in the house at night when Alice believes she’s alone? Who really was Nina?) had me reading to the end, but gosh, I hate it say that I think this is where I part ways with the author.

SEVERAL PEOPLE ARE TYPING by Calvin Kasulke | August 31, 2021 (Thank you, Doubleday!)

Your skin is your safety suit! Your skin is my safety suit! Your skin is my suit!” Gerald is a mid-level employee of a New York PR firm, a firm that’s suddenly all-hands-on-deck after a poisoned batch of dog food has been linked to the deaths of several Pomeranians. Somehow, someway, Gerald has found himself trapped within Slack, unable to return to his body and unable to get assistance from Slackbot. To his colleagues, Gerald appears to be taking serious advantage of working from home – but his productivity is suddenly through the roof. It helps when you no longer have any sense of time or need for sleep.

Still, he does have a body…somewhere out there in the world, and miraculously convinces Pradeep, a coworker, to look after him. Until he’s able to escape Slack. Hopefully.

Years ago, back in 2008, I read Douglas Coupland’s JPod and instantly developed a love of office-set novels. The moment I heard about Several People Are Typing, not only set at the workplace, but told entirely through Slack messages, I pounced. So odd, so funny, totally gimmicky – but in a good way! I completely ate this one up and tore through it in a sitting (made super easy by its method of storytelling.) Though there are absolutely consent issues with one of the romances, I had a fantastic time with this book. Readers not entirely over WFH life and conducting business over messaging apps will be sure to have a great time as well. An excellent debut and I’m very excited to see what the author does next!

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