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Unbury Carol

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Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

unbury carol (Josh Malerman)
Title: unbury carol
Author: Josh Malerman
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine Del Ray
Publication Date: TODAY!!! (hardcover/e-book)
ISBN: 978-0399180163
Source: NetGalley
This book was an odd wonderful mix of western, fantasy, and magical realism with a dash or two of creepiness thrown in. 

The story involves a woman named Carol who "dies" frequently and yet always has awakened.  These deaths take the form of a coma where she appears to be dead but is instead transported into another place where she has the sensation of continuously falling, can't move, can't see, and yet can hear the conversations around her.  She never knows how long these spells will last and has kept the condition a secret from everyone in her present and past except for her long-dead mother, her husband, and her recently deceased best friend.

With only her husband remaining, she goes into a coma only to realize that her husband has no intention of letting her come back to life.  He declares her dead and Carol has no hope.  Or so she thinks.  But there was one other person who knew her secret long ago and ran away out of fear . . .

There are many aspects of the story that I loved.  The setting was an enormous forest with one trail that is a menace to all travelers.  The trail begins at one town and leads to series of others on a path, which eventually ends at another town far south. There is seemingly no other outlet to the outside world.  These settlements feel like western towns complete with saloons, general stores, brothels, and lots of outlaws.  Of course there are the other more genteel members of the towns with money as well.  Carol being one of them.

The outlaws are the absolute fun of the novel.  There is the notorious "magical" outlaw, James Moxie, who has been retired from the trail and is on a mission to redeem himself.  There is the delightfully insane outlaw, Smoke, who has been hired to stop him and has definitely earned his name.  There are several others who have individual quirks and fun perspectives.  I very much enjoyed all of their viewpoints.  There also be perspectives from Carol, her jerk of a husband, the sheriff, and others.

The novel takes place over the course of a couple of days and is mixture of quiet thoughtful sections and outlaw action vignettes.  The downside of the novel for me was that Carol is almost a non-entity in the story due to being "dead."  It's not her fault and makes sense in the novel but I would have liked for some true action from her.  I also didn't love the conclusion of the novel.  I did like the otherworldly elements and the lack of many good explanations though I can see how others wouldn't.

I am glad I read this hard-to-define zany novel and will be trying others by the author for sure.

So lastly . . .
Thank you Random House!

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Carol Evers is a woman with a dark secret. She has died many times . . . but her many deaths are not final: They are comas, a waking slumber indistinguishable from death, each lasting days.

Only two people know of Carol’s eerie condition. One is her husband, Dwight, who married Carol for her fortune, and—when she lapses into another coma—plots to seize it by proclaiming her dead and quickly burying her . . . alive. The other is her lost love, the infamous outlaw James Moxie. When word of Carol’s dreadful fate reaches him, Moxie rides the Trail again to save his beloved from an early, unnatural grave.

And all the while, awake and aware, Carol fights to free herself from the crippling darkness that binds her—summoning her own fierce will to survive. As the players in this drama of life and death fight to decide her fate, Carol must in the end battle to save herself.

To visit the author’s website go to:
Josh Malerman - Author

To buy the novel please visit:
unbury carol - Book

To add to Goodreads go to:
Yer Ports for Plunder List
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Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I received a free Kindle copy of Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman courtesy of Net Galley  and Random House Ballentine, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.

I requested this book due to the description given on Net Galley. It sounded interesting and compelling. It is the first book by Josh Malerman that I have read.

To say this book was a major disappointment is an understatement. The premise of the book was very promising, but the author managed to make an interesting approach dull and uninteresting. The author's prior book, Bird Box, received rave reviews, won awards and is being made into a movie. This one reads like he had to crank out another one and phoned it in. It was simply not my cup of tea.

I will not recommend you skip this book as other early reviews seem to really like it, but I strongly suggest you check it out of your local library before investing in a purchase.
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I am drawn to books that twist the rules of life and death. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and now Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman feature protagonists living lives where death is not necessarily the end.

In this Western / Paranormal hybrid, Carol Evers suffers from a condition in which at any moment she involuntarily slips into a coma that mimics death. Then she reawakens, sometimes days later, as if nothing had occurred. Within the coma, she free falls paralyzed through a bottomless black void that she calls Howltown, but she is also mentally conscious, able to hear what is happening around her seemingly dead body.

Two people know of Carol’s condition. Her husband Dwight, a man seeking freedom from his wife’s shadow, and a former love, the outlaw James Moxie. When Carol once again “dies”, her husband carries out a nefarious plan, while Moxie returns from afar to ensure she wakes again.

This book is really a cat-and-mouse game between Moxie and a crazed pyromaniac triggerman, Smoke, hired to eliminate him along the Trail before he can return to Carol’s side. Thrown into the mix is Rot, a spiritual manifestation of grief, regret, and death who taunts several characters along the way.

While I enjoyed the story Malerman tells, I would have much preferred the storytelling lens focus on Carol, her relationship with her mother Hattie, and how she has navigated life with her condition. Carol, the book’s namesake, is unfortunately little more than a side note to the story of the men surrounding her. She spends a majority of the book “dead” being moved here and there and everywhere and free-falling through Howltown. Carol in the spotlight would have changed this story dramatically for the better.

Unbury Carol is an interesting and entertaining addition to Malerman’s library, but Bird Box will remain his finest.

Thank you to Random House / Del Rey, NetGalley, and Josh Malerman for providing me an advanced digital copy for my review. soon...

Pub date - 4/10/18
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If 'Cinderella' met 'Serpent and the Rainbow' with a slight steampunk twist,  this is what you would have. Full of unease, at once unsettling and engaging, I loved the characters in this story. Wouldn't mind seeing this brought to the big screen!
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I've never read Josh Malerman before but I forsee a few of his books making their way onto my TBR list. A cross between a supernatural western and sleeping beauty. This book was really well done. There was mythology, "magic" and some really creepy characters. Carol has a condition where under stress she lapses into a coma where she appears dead.  Her mother has always feared that she would one day be buried alive and makes sure that Carol always tells someone else about her condition. After her best friend dies the only other person in the town who knows about Carol is her husband, fearing that this isn't good enough Carol decides to confide in her maid but before she can she lapses into a coma. Her husband decides this is his chance to get rid of his wife and keep her fortune for himself. What he doesn't know is that Carol did mention to her maid that her boyfriend from the past, the outlaw James Moxie also knows of Carols condition. When Carol "dies" her maid sends off a telegram to the outlaw and thus begins a race to save Carol. 

There were so many really interesting elements to this book from the characters to the mystery of the "trail".  The mystery kept you on the edge of your seat right up to the bitter end. I really enjoyed this book.
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Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.

How dead can you be, and still be alive? Carol Evers can tell you all about it the next time she wakes up.  She can listen with her mind's ear, no one else can hear.  

The Trail, where legends are made, where you can expect tricky lighting, and space that is "off".  Now, throw in Smoke and a mirror.  A sour memory and a lost love.  By the way, I'd advise steering clear of Smoke.  He has a penchant for oil (only the good stuff will do!), and he talks in sing-song rhyme-ish whispers.  A horrifying pair of prosthetics and some weird ass pants, and he's good to go.  

If you are looking for something different, this would fall into that category.
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I thought the premise for this book sounded intriguing. A woman stricken with a condition that puts her into a death like state for several days and a husband who has her buried alive. I love a good suspenseful story but this was more of a slow burn. Things happen pretty quickly and my first thought is I am pretty sure of the ending but not the who, what, when, where and how. The books blurb that sounded so interesting now feels like it gave the whole story away. So I didn’t feel the suspense I was expecting until close to the very end. The books is pretty quick to read but it was not holding my interest as much as I would have liked. So I am basically just waiting for the big trick at the end. I wasn’t expecting a sort of western themed story in a not typical western landscape. I enjoyed the parts of the story along the trail and I especailly liked the bad guy Smoke. He seemed to have the most depth and was the most interesting part of the book. I really enjoyed The Bird Box and I was excited when I saw Malerman has a new book. I went in with high expectations (even though I tried to tell myself not to). So maybe that has skewed my reading experience.
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I got through this pretty quickly but I didn't really click with the story.
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I have met Josh and really enjoyed Bird Box, but I simply could not get into this one. The premise is intriguing but the characters are uninspiring, the atmosphere is vague, and halfway through I still felt as though nothing had happened nor was likely to any time soon.
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This review will be published at and will go live 3/26/18 with no end date.

The era used as the setting of Unbury Carol, the old west (loosely defined), isn’t my favorite. So, I took a chance knowing that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and this time it fell somewhere in between. I thought the story was good, but it didn't grab me quickly. Instead, it was a slow burn that took far more pages than I would typically read before giving up. Initially, I continued ahead wanting to know what the outcome would be for Carol. But soon after, I was no longer interested in her. Carol and her friend Farrow were hard to care for, and I found them to be weak characters and uninteresting.
Carol’s internal dialogue while in her coma was boring and didn’t do much for me. I found the villains far more interesting and these were the characters that kept me engaged. Luckily, I kept reading and the story revealed some rich characters, a great deal of tension, and anxiety for many others, including Dwight and Moxie. The antagonists, Moxie and Smoke, were revealed slowly but with precise details. This gave them an imposing and threatening nature that made them feel real, and their story line was my favorite. I found it frustrating the time it took Moxie to travel the Trail. It felt like there was no urgency to save Carol. In the end, many details and loose ends were tied up nicely. It’s hard for me to recommend this book. I think many people I think will lose interest early on, even though Josh did a great job with the writing and an authentic dialect.
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Thank NetGalley for the ARC for an Author that I have high hopes for. I could spoil much of this book in a scathing review, but I will keep this review simple and spoiler-free. I often have more words to say about a book I don't like compared to the ones I adore. This book is part psychological horror, part path-horror. I define path-horror as our hero being on, in this case, a trail, and they must overcome many horrors and tests along their way to save a central character. In this book, it is Carol who must be saved from her inconvenient disease that causes her psychological trauma. Many things are poorly defined in this book, least of all the ill-conceived disease that continuously kills Carol, the time period that I failed to grasp until several chapters in, and the Trail. The long is it? Do only criminals use it? For criminals on the trail, how is it so easy for them to avoid the law?

The book left so many questions unanswered, but at the same time I felt the concepts in it would've been best explored in novella length. Not enough was done in the 380 pages. 

What Josh Malerman does so well is bring in tension. While it was a struggle for me to want to turn each page, there were still many moments where tension was built, and my heart would begin to beat faster.
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I wasn't sure what to expect from a pseudo western themed horror story, but Josh Malerman has created quite a unique novel with an equally unique cast of characters.
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Carol and Dwight Evers were married.  When I read about this book I felt I would like it because I loved the TV show "Forever" that televised in 2014.  The subject of leaving this life only to come back from the dead is interesting.  But when Carol enters a death like coma for up to two days evil is there to take advantage of the situation.  Characters are for the most part evolved through their out of body experiences.  These passages along with slow moving plot left me disappointed in this novel. Action just was not there for the most part except to save Carol from being buried alive.  Minor citizens being made a bigger part of this would have made it more heartfelt. I am a reader that craves dialogue over pages and pages of description and mind dreams. Great idea but not presented dramatically.  "A copy of this book was provided by Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine via Netgalley with no requirements for a review.  Comments here are my honest opinion."
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DNF at 15%. This one is just not clicking with me at all, and Malerman's latched onto certain words he repeats ad naseum. Every single character, apparently, must utter the phrase "Hell's heaven" in every conversation they have (word search shows 45 instances of this throughout the book). And if I have to be told one more time that John Moxie is an outlaw, I'm going to break my Kindle. Word search shows 150 instances of the word "outlaw" cropping up, and I just don't think I can take it. One section, at the 29% marker, even includes the following bit of dialogue:

"Hell's heaven, Carol... He's on his way here! An outlaw! Hell's heaven, Carol." 

I just... I can't. Not anymore. I'm freaking bored to tears with this one, and it's giving me more aggravation than its worth. I'm also feeling like, at only 15%, a hell of a lot of words have been expended to tell very, very little story. It's frustrating. I give up.
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I believe this is the first western horror story I have ever read and it was quite an entertaining experience.  With a bit of romance, dark humor and a touch of the psychological thriller, Josh Malerman has given readers an engrossing second novel.

What got my attention about the story was the concept of being buried alive.  I remember watching The Alfred Hitchcock Hour as a kid and on one episode a man in prison planned his escape via casket.  Unfortunately, things did not end well for him.

Luckily, Unbury Carol was not quite so dark--at least not at the crucial moment.  The story did have some horrifying events, but I thought the tone had more of a dark humor feel.

Full of wonderful characters, supernatural beings and adventures on the western trail, this will make a great reading choice for any reader loving mystery, horror, westerns or just quirky mixed genres.  There are some violent acts committed in the book and there is one sinister character named Smoke, who is a force of evil to be reckoned with.

Many thanks to NetGally and Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for providing me with an advance copy.
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You ready???? Okay . . . . . 

Carol is “dead” – her evil husband (who was TOTALLY Justin LaMonte in my brain). Sidenote (yes already a sidenote): Do y’all know who Justin Lamonte is? Probably not because you’re not ancient, but if you too are old you might remember him as a super douchebag from North and South.  Anyway, Dwight wants to get Carol in the dirt stat so he can have all of her dollah dollah bills yo. Buuuuuuuuut he’s in a race against time as Carol’s former beau was sent a telegram regarding her “death” and is coming to save the day – which again made my brain take a trip on the wayback machine and James Moxie was all Jessie from Kathleen Turner’s novels in Romancing the Stone, but should have probably been more like Clint Eastwood because you kind of get beaten over the head with the fact that he’s an outlaw Josey Wales.

I have to admit I had to give a little bit of the side-eye to that very necessary plot point because would the maid really notify this long-lost love that Carol told her about for like two seconds before eating the dirt and falling into one of her spells/comas/narcoleptic limbos that Carol was dead???? Probably not, but she has to here or there’s zero book.

And that’s my problem with most of the book. Ideas that weren’t fully thought out, characters who REALLY weren’t fully fleshed out and a synopsis that was way more interesting than the end result turned out to be left me feeling seriously meh throughout my entire reading experience. I should have known this might be a miss for me after not only having a bit of a rough go of it with Black Mad Wheel, or as I like to call it . . . . "the hunt for the Brown Noise."  Doubly so when it was pretty clear this story would take place in the Old West which makes me all question-mark face.  However, all I can ever think about when I see Malerman’s name is Bird Box which pretty much results in me being a squeezing fangirl.  

Unbury Carol did not end up being the book for me, but Josh Malerman definitely knows how to words good so as soon as I see his name again I’m sure my reaction will be . . . . GIVE IT TO ME NOW!!!!

Head’s up for any of you who are thinking this is going to be a horror: Prepare yourself because it sure as pig shit isn’t. And speaking of all the talk about pig shit, I say don’t turn it into a drinking game or you will quickly discover a need for your stomach to be pumped.

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley!
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What an interesting story. Great, strange characters. But what a terrifying thought that someone would die (slip into comas) and could then be buried alive! Gave me chills thinking about it. Good read although the ending was a little iffy.
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Anyone who reads my review knows that I am heads over heels in love with the novels of Josh Malerman. You must believe me when I say I am not being paid to say that. He is that good. His first novel was Bird Box which is the type of horror novel veteran writers would give their non-dominant arm for. The second novel, Mad Black Wheel, is just as good. Now we have his third novel, Unbury Carol and, for reasons to be related soon, it is the most unusual of the three and the most exciting in many ways.

Carol Evers has a very rare condition. She can elapse into a coma at any time which can persist from 2 days to a week. it is so deep that even doctors mistake it for death. The only people alive who know about the condition is her ex-lover outlaw James Moxie and her husband Dwight Evers. When Carol falls into her coma this time, Dwight is prepared to tell all that Carol is dead. He intends to bury her alive in what he sees as the perfect murder. it is up to James to ride to her rescue, a task that will not be made easy since an arson loving hit man is also on his trail.

Unbury Carol is a departure for the author in several ways. Like his last two books, it has clear aspects of horror especially in the segments that depicts Carol's dream-like coma and some vague supernatural aspects. What is perceived as magic and what isn't is a regular theme in the book. But it also threads finely between horror, western, and suspense. The world depicted in the novel is very much that of a Wild West environment and the era of the late 19th century. Yet it isn't really stated as such. The region is essentially a closed system independent of any known references, consisting of two main towns, Carol's Harrows and James' Mackatoon, connected by a route simply known as the Trail. The rest of the towns on the Trail are little more than watering holes and traps of temptations for the traveler. There is a Pilgrim's Progress sense of allegory here. James Moxie is a lost soul haunted by his decision to leave Carol due to her illness. The Trail is his pilgrimage to save Carol and redeem himself. James find both villains and allies on this path but it is Smoke, one of the most evil bad guys I've read about in ages, that dominates the horror of the chase. While James races to get to Carol in time her husband, who is pretty despicable in his own way, attempts to fulfill his "perfect murder" plot despite a mortician and a lawman who senses something isn't right.

On top of all this, we also get an account of Carol's residence in her coma which she calls Howltown. These are the most horrific segments in the novel and probably the segments that will scare most people. Being caught in a coma is terrifying enough but to know you have full conscience and helplessly waiting to wake up six feet under is the stuff most people would rather not think about. Carol's Howltown though, has its own dreads to pile on top of Carol's very real fear of premature burial.

Under a less skillful writer, and presuming it was written as a straight Western genre novel, it still would have been an intriguing idea. But there is something about Malerman's setting and how he employs it that sends it into pure wonder. The author's Wild West world is a fantasy world of his own. There is no real life references to where it is or even to the actual time frame. Most of the action in the novel could be explained by our real world environment but there are hints and actions that tip us off to that not being the case. This hedging of realities gives this novel an uniqueness that I believe most writers would have trouble pulling off. Malerman doesn't just pull it off but shoots it with all barrels out of the park. The other great strength of the book is its characters. The four main character, being Carol, Dwight, James, and Smoke are also incredibly strong and three dimensional. But even the more minor players such as Sheriff Opal, The mortician Manders and an especially hyper but marginally moral Rinaldo becomes essential in this impossible to put down fable.

I use "allegory" and "fable" intentionally for this is what really stays with me. It's about correcting past mistakes and redeeming ones' self and the consequences of ignoring both. It is based on a vaguely familiar world but filled with the type of actions similar to those we have made, regretted and wish to amend. it is also filled with those less admirable character who made evil decisions and are unable or unwilling to recognize them or correct them. Unbury Carol works on so many levels it's almost ridiculous. it can be scary as hell, It is a story of love and redemption, and it is a vastly entertaining western action saga. And this is where those "reasons to be related soon" comes into account. Where Bird Box and Mad Black Wheel were superb horror novels by a creative writer, Unbury Carol shows that he can be unlimited in where his imagination takes him and he can turn what would be a good but conventional idea into something that aggressively gnaws at your imagination.. The idea of Josh Malerman let loose in the literature world is most exhilarating and pleasantly terrifying by itself.
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A surprisingly basic book for being such a high concept idea. The characters lack individuality. Each person sounds the exact same as the last. I believe this is an issue with the setting of the book. I'm sure this would make a fantastic movie, though, because the writing is only a step above the descriptions you'd find in a script. Very stripped down and quick to a fault.

I didn't care much for the author's debut either, so I'm going to chalk this up to personal preference and stay away from his future books.

In summation: Bland but finishable.
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I absolutely adored this book. The ride along the trail kept me reading page after page. I had nothing short of anxiety finishing the last chapters. Malerman is a fantastic author who has once again produced an addictive book, it’s an added bonus that it’s a western. I highly recommend Unbury Carol to anyone who is a fan of the unknown.
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