Find it at your library!

The Blinds is binge-able. It has the same addictive quality that the best TV shows have these days, along with a big cast of characters and a killer premise. I listened to the audio version, but if I’d gone with print I would have snarfed it in a few hours. Love books that don’t feel like a retread of old ground? Well, I can guarantee you you haven’t already read a book like this.

Well, in some ways maybe you have. The Blinds is instantly recognizable as a Western. There’s a jaded lawman, some lowlifes and criminals, a fight to protect territory from outsiders, and several noble sacrifices for the greater good. There are even old-fashioned shootouts. But that’s where the similarities end. The Blinds is an isolated town in Texas where nobody knows their own past. All the residents have had a medical procedure to selectively erase their memories, either because they committed violent crimes or witnessed one. When they arrive in their new home, they each choose a new name from lists of movie stars and vice presidents. Then they settle into life with the other townspeople, never knowing what terrible acts lay behind them and never leaving the Blinds again. The sheriff, Calvin Cooper, likes to say that the gate only opens one way. Once you leave, you’re out for good, and the residents know nothing good is waiting for them out in the real world. The Blinds is safe, a refuge—until people start turning up dead, the first in an apparent suicide and the second in what is obviously not. It’s odd that two people have been shot in quick succession when no one is supposed to have access to a gun.

I love reading about people with secrets in their past, and The Blinds delivers a town full of them. I’d probably recommend the print version over the audio, not just because you’ll be able to get to all the answers faster, but because the male narrator used an affected, breathy voice for the female police officer, and not only was it annoying as hell, it didn’t fit her character at all. He also had an odd habit of shouting all the dialogue—literally raising his voice as if trying to speak to the farthest corner of a crowded room anytime a character was speaking. Despite those irritations, I was absolutely enthralled by The Blinds. I will be surprised if it doesn’t end up on my short list of favorites for the year.

Find it at your library!

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.