Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Miriam Black has an interesting talent. Whenever she touches a person's bare skin, she can tell when and how they die. On the run most of her life, she gets by hitchhiking and stealing. When a good Samaritan picks her up, she finds that he dies a few weeks later, saying her name as a knife goes through his eye and into his brain. Can Miriam beat fate and save the man's life? And how does Ashley, the grifter with the mysterious briefcase and the two FBI agents that are after him fit into everything?
So, yeah, I love Miriam Black. She's a foul-mouthed girl with a closet full of skeletons but I love her just the same. Imagine, being burdened with a "gift" like hers. Blackbirds brings her to life on the page and I could kick myself for not reading it as soon as it was published.
Blackbirds is the tale of one woman trying to beat fate, no matter what obstacle falls into her path. Miriam is far from the typical heroine. She's got a mouth like a sailor with Tourette's syndrome and is about as trustworthy as Mike Tyson at a beauty pageant at first glance. Her chance meetings with Louis and later Ashley set her already rocky life going up diarrhea drive on four bald tires.
Ingersoll, the baddie of the story, is obsessed with beating death and wants Miriam to help him. His flunkies, Harriet and Frankie, are ready to do whatever it takes to bring Miriam in. Although that's not how things get started.
I loved the way Wendig alternating between an interview with Miriam about herself and the tale as it unfolded. It was a good way to explain things without infodumps. It also sowed seeds for future stories down the line featuring Miriam's mother and other relatives.
Ordinarily, I'm not a huge fan of stories told in the present tense but I was so gripped by Blackbirds that I didn't notice the present tense until it was far too late to object. By that time, I was too invested in Miriam and the web of trouble she was entangled in to care.
That's about all I have to say. Blackbirds is the way urban fantasy is meant to be. Four out of five stars.
Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Miriam Black tried to settle down with Louis but it was like trying to contain an angry cat in a pillow case. Now she's trying to protect at-risk teenage girls from a serial killer with a swallow tattoo on his chest. Can she stop him and save the girls or will the next death she witnesses be her own?
Miriam Black returns in the sequel to Blackbirds, bigger, badder, and Blacker than the first book. Unlike most sequels, this one doesn't suck. In fact, everything about it is better than the first.
Mockingbird is the story of Miriam trying to stop a serial killer and learning a few more things about herself, all the while continuing her self-abusive ways and foretelling the deaths of everyone she touches.
It all starts simply enough. A woman at a school for troubled girls wants to find out how she dies and Miriam winds up becoming friends with her and taking an interest in the girls. One of the things I really liked was Miriam having maternal feelings toward Wren, which leads to her trying to protect her from the man with the swallow tattoo.
The big bad of the book was chilling but since the big confrontation happened at the 75% mark, I knew the worst was yet to come. And it was. Miriam goes through the wringer and comes out a changed woman, not necessarily for the better. Also, Miriam got hit in the head so many times in this one I got a little nauseous.
That's about all I can say without giving away more than I want to. Since I nearly fived Blackbirds, it looks like I have no choice but to five this one. My feelings for Miriam Black has not faded. Now I'll tap my feet and check my watch until The Cormorant comes out...