Without Condition – Sonora Taylor
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Well, I wasn’t expecting this.
When I was approached to see if I was interested in taking this on to review, I wasn’t familiar with the author or her writing style at all. I saw the synopsis and replied – ‘what genre would this be classified as?’ The author kindly replied (and I can’t find the email so this isn’t a direct quote) – ‘horror romance.’
In the recent past this would have been easily a hard no for me. I’m really open to checking anything out, but I’ve never been able to stomach romance literature. I’ve tried a few times. My mom and aunt read a ton of romance, and when I was growing up I devoured anything I could get my hands on to read, which meant I checked out a number of the romance books that were sitting around the house. I just never could find joy in reading it. If you do as a reader, that’s fantastic. Always, always read what you love and enjoy. But romance has always been a big no for me.
But sometimes you need to put aside preconceived notions or expectations and take a dive into the deep pool. Hey, I did it last year with a book of poetry and I ended up writing a short book of poetry. I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be writing a romance novel, but what I can confirm 100%, is that this book will make me work harder at developing relationships between characters in my own releases.
So, what’s this book all about? To let you get beyond the confines of considering this a romance read, I would compare this to an episode of Six Feet Under mixed with Dexter. This is a character driven read that follows Cara Vineyard. A girl growing up in a small, rural town who doesn’t fit in and prefers isolation over human interaction. She lives on a farm with her mother and we follow Cara as the years go by, up to her early twenties, when she meets Jackson. The two have an instant connection and they fall madly in love. There is romance yes, but never once was it done like a cheap B movie on late night TV.
Sonora does a magnificent job of developing all of the relationships between the various characters and this makes the ending feel so satisfying when it arrives. You know why things happen the way they happen. Very often in fiction irrational decisions can be qualified because something horrendous has occurred. In this case everything is so thorough and laid out so well that there isn’t one action or incident that feels irrational, and that speaks to the talent Sonora brings to the table.
I truly loved this story, which shocked me, and it would have been a 5 star read except for one annoyance I had with a minor character that I felt was dwelled on a bit much, and who randomly pops back up years later. But that was my take on it, it may be a highlight for other readers.
As for the horror aspect, well Cara enjoys collecting trophies. That’s all I’m going to add about that. It’s a vital part to the story but never falls into the slasher/murderous rampage category, but without it, this story would fall apart. It helps to illustrate the internal turmoil Cara struggles with.
I think this would be a fantastic read while on a train or a long flight, and I think it’s something many of you out there should definitely check out.
Star Rating (out of 5): 4.5*
Cara Vineyard lives a quiet life in rural North Carolina. She works for an emerging brewery, drives her truck late at night, and lives with her mother on a former pumpkin farm. Her mother is proud of her and keeps a wall displaying all of Cara’s accomplishments.
Cara isn’t so much proud as she is bored. She’s revitalized when she meets Jackson Price, a pharmacist in Raleigh. Every day they spend together, she falls for him a little more — which in turn makes her life more complicated. When Cara goes on her late-night drives, she often picks up men. Those men tend to die. And when Cara comes back to the farm, she brings a memento for her mother to add to her wall of accomplishments.
Cara’s mother loves her no matter what. But she doesn’t know if Jackson will feel the same — and she doesn’t want to find out.
Steve Stred is an up-an-coming Dark Horror author. Steve is the author of the novel Invisible, the novellas Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick.
Steve also has a number of works on the go and enjoys all this horror, occult, supernatural and paranormal.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog Oj.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official Website here
The Girl Who Hid In The Trees
Something lurks just beyond.
Centuries ago a heinous act created a ripple that still haunts the residents to this very day.
Now the kids who reside near McConnell’s Forest live forever in fear.
Jason lost his brother when he was young. He left with his friends to ‘debunk’ the urban legend and never came back.
Now Jason and his group of friends are fed up and want to discover what is happening, what is the real cause of the terror holding their small town hostage.
But something is waiting for them. She may look sweet and innocent, but the friends are about to find out that pure evil can exist in the smallest of packages.
She’s out there. And while you may not know her name or what she looks like, the local kids will tell you if you ask, that you should fear for your life from the girl who hid in the trees.
From the dark mind of Steve Stred, the author of Wagon Buddy, YURI and Invisible comes this fast-paced, seat of your pants coming-of-age tale. A quick, violent, bleak read, The Girl Who Hid In The Trees will make you think twice about those sounds you hear far off in the woods.