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I know judging books by their covers often backfires, but I keep doing it anyway. I prioritize books with pretty covers and end up disappointed if their contents don’t live up to the window dressing. Worse than that, I avoid books with covers that either don’t grab me or outright repel me, and it makes me wonder, how many great books have I missed out on this way?

The Between is a book with what is, in my opinion, an unfortunate cover. Maybe because it was published in 1995—who knows what was going on in the world of book publishing back then? In 1995 I was a fifth-grader making some questionable fashion choices of my own, so who am I to talk? I gave this book the benefit of the doubt because I’d already read and enjoyed The Good House, another of Tananarive Due’s spooky novels, and I’m really glad I did.

Hilton is the director of a drug rehab center, married to a newly elected judge in Miami. When his wife starts receiving racially charged threats, Hilton’s dreams take a strange turn and he starts to lose his grip on reality. He wants desperately to protect his family, but he has visions and experiences that he can’t explain, and to the rest of the world he looks more like an unhinged maniac than a concerned family man.

How scary this book is to you will depend on how scared you are of ghosts. For me, the veil between the living and the dead has always felt opaque and immovable—once you’re dead, you’re dead. Thus, ghost stories typically are more fun than scary to me (with one possible exception). If you want to make me check all the closets and hide under the covers at night, tell me a story about the bad things humans do to each other, because that shit is real and happens every day. Interestingly, The Between has both aspects going on, the supernatural and the realistic, with a main character who is being persecuted by dreams that imply he is somehow dead already and a racist man who is very real and very motivated to hurt Hilton and his family.

Perfect for fans of unreliable narrators or characters spiraling into madness.

Find it at your library!

Of course the day I’m reading a book with a prominent set of breasts on the cover is the day my boss asks me, “What are you reading?” as I saunter into the break room with my book.

Fortunately, there’s no shame in my reading game. I flashed her the cover with a smile and said, “It’s a lot like Game of Thrones.”

And I stand by the comparison. The Queen’s Bastard IS a lot like Game of Thrones--the TV show, not the books. You know how when you try to read the Game of Thrones books, you drown in extraneous junk about obscure characters who don’t matter? Yeah, there’s none of that here. Each scene is presented much the way it would be on the screen: the characters appear, stuff happens, and then we’re ushered smoothly on to the next scene. It’s like you’re an omniscient fly, somehow stuck to every wall in the castle right next to whatever shit is going down.

And lots of shit goes down. Belinda Primrose is, after all, a spy and assassin, as well as the unacknowledged bastard daughter of the queen. She’ll go to any lengths to protect her queen and by extension her country--up to and including sexing up and murdering her targets. I’ve seen some reviewers complain about her ruthlessness, but I have to wonder how many of those reviewers have watched a James Bond movie without batting an eye at 007’s promiscuity and cold-bloodedness. Mayhaps what really gets such readers’ tighty-whities in a bunch is the fact that the lusty murderer is actually a murderess? *sips tea*

Lord forbid a woman enjoy both her conquests and her line of work, amiright?

Anywhoodle, I love books that make me constantly question characters’ motives. Who’s on which side, who’s betraying whom, who’s lying, who’s cheating, who’s working for whom, who’s looking out just for their own interests, I love it all. That is this book from page 1, and it’s awesome. And there’s a sequel--excuse me while I go shove it into my face.