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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!

Reading The Family Plot felt like watching a home renovation show on HGTV. It gave me the same sense of vicarious satisfaction to imagine the old house that is the focus of the story being dismantled piece by piece, with Dahlia Dutton and her crew deciding what can be salvaged and what isn’t worth saving from the wrecking ball. It made me wish I could show up to work in cruddy jeans and boots and root around in a century-old carriage house. I wouldn’t mind switching places with Dahlia for a little while and trying out her very interesting career.

If it weren’t for the ghosts, that is.

Because yeah, I neglected to mention that the old Withrow house Dahlia is sorting through comes with some serious ghostly baggage. They’re not the creepiest ghosts I’ve ever encountered—not all of them are out for blood—but you definitely don’t want to take a shower in this house. Better to go unwashed than…well, I’ll let you read and find out for yourself.

I’m a little surprised I was so enamored with the salvage business, because I’m typically the “throw it away and ask questions later” type. I also don’t have much patience for shopping, and I get overwhelmed in stores that are disorganized or have too much stock. If I somehow came into possession of a house like the Withrows’, I’d probably take one look and say, “Burn it to the ground.” Although with the whole ghost thing, maybe that wouldn’t be the worst idea? Still, it’s a testament to Cherie Priest’s talents that she was able to convince me that old things can be cool, and it’s worth the effort to fix and clean them up.

I first heard of Cherie Priest a million years ago (aka 2009) when her steampunk Clockwork Century series exploded in popularity, but this is the first time I’ve read her. I’m hooked now for sure. The hard part will be deciding which one to dive into first. Will it be the alternate history about the clairvoyant Floridian, or the epistolary urban fantasy story based on the life of Lizzie Borden? (Seriously, what kind of delightfully twisted mind comes up with stuff like this?) Decisions, decisions!