Tuesday, 15 October 2019

REVIEW - IF DARKNESS TAKES US BY BRENDA MARIE SMITH

Title: If Darkness Takes Us
Author: Brenda Marie Smith
Genre: Mystery, Thrillers, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Southern Fried Karma, SFK Press
Release Date: 15th October 2019

BLURB from Goodreads
Grandma Bea prepped for apocalypse, but when a solar pulse destroys modern life, traumatized teens may be her undoing.

In suburban Austin, Texas, Bea Crenshaw is left alone with four grandkids whose parents don’t return home. She must teach these kids to survive without power, cars, phones, running water, or doctors in a world fraught with increasing danger.

If Darkness Takes Us is realistic post-apocalyptic fiction with a focus on a family in peril, led by a no-nonsense grandmother who is at once funny, controlling, and heroic in her struggle to hold her family together with civility and heart.

Can Bea teach her grandkids to survive on their own in the face of mounting threats before her heart and her hope give out?


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
The cover and title first caught my attention, then when I read the blurb, I knew this one was a must read for me. The colours on the cover, in my opinion will make this book stand out on a book store shelf. The title has you immediately asking questions such as, What is the darkness? What causes the darkness? Can the characters survive the darkness?

Most people that come across my reviews & blog will know that I love the post-apocalyptic genre, although the genre’s listed for this book are Mystery, Thriller, Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I agree with them all but adding post-apocalyptic to those genres is a must!

The main character of the book is Bea Crenshaw, married, though not particularly happily to a rather grumpy, selfish old man called Hank. Though Bea and Hank both have grown up children they are from previous relationships. Bea has always tried to be fair about helping and giving her own biological children and her step children even though Hank hasn’t been. Bea has always shown an interest in the theories of “the end” and what it could be like without local stores, medical centres etc if there was some disaster. So much so, Bea used some of her own money that she inherited from an Aunt to purchase a nearby house and equip it for a possible disaster. Hank knows she received some inheritance money and she spent some of this money on the house they were living in too, but he doesn’t know anything about the other house and supplies or the extent of Bea’s inheritance. Bea does actually feel guilty about hiding things from Hank, but as he is a selfish man and at one point in their marriage pointed out he earned more money than her so he should and could give more money to his children if he wanted to, Bea feels justified in keeping the secret.
Hank and her grown up children are away at a sporting event, the Oklahoma-Texas game in Dallas which leaves the grandchildren alone with Bea. We are introduced to the four grandchildren, Joaquin or Keno the name he uses every day is 17years old, then there’s his 15year old sister Natasha, or Tasha as everyone calls her. Then there’s the younger grandchildren, Milo who is 12years old and Maizie, the baby of the family at 6 years old.

“It” all starts with a train crash! Bea and her grandchildren have to evacuate. In her hurry to make sure she has all her grandchildren will need and herself they forget the dog Harry. Sadly, when they try to return for him despite begging and promising to just nip in and out quickly, they are turned away. They go to a nearby hotel. Hank calls and lives up to his nickname as “Hank the crank” asking why they are going to the expense of staying in a Hotel, despite him being away at a game in Dallas.

When they are finally allowed to return to Bea and Hanks home it’s clear that more has happened than just a train crash. Soon “something else” happens and it soon becomes apparent that “crazy” Bea’s prepping knowledge and supplies are going to come in very handy. Bea has some extremely difficult decisions to make, should she share her supplies? Who should she share them with? Or should she keep her supplies for just herself and her grandchildren?

Bea ends up being the head of a committee that organises the security, planting of food crops etc. Everyone that works as part of the whole community programme of providing food, shelter and security are given rations from Bea’s “Mint House” supplies.

The character’s I truly adored in this book were Bea who opens her heart and takes in orphaned children, along with sharing her food and knowledge on how to survive whatever it is that has been unleashed on them. I thought Bea and Jack made a brilliant team. The way Jack is always hovering in the background ready to help Bea, it is clear he really cares about her but still respects the fact she is married to Hank. Even if Hank makes Bea unhappy, Jack respects the fact Bea is married to him.
I loved Bea’s grandchildren to varying degrees. Joaquin or Keno is the name he uses, is only 17, yet soon steps up to the plate of being man of the house when he is needed to. He tries to help Bea as much as he can with his sister Tasha and his younger cousins Milo, and Mazie. He insists on doing his share of dangerous duties such as security and scouting for water. Keno has a scientific mind and discusses what has happened to the world with Bea. Keno is also really good at building things and even puts together a kind of cart that he can pull along on his bike to take his grandmother Bea around in. Regrettably it is this very contraption and another characters, ignorance and stupidity that leads to the tragic death of one of the main characters. Natasha/Tasha is just 15 years old at the start of the book and at times come across very jealous and kind of spoilt and somewhat selfish, though she does learn the error of her ways. Milo is in awe of his older cousin Keno, and really struggles wanting to do as he does. Milo wants to take on more responsibility, yet Bea will not allow it because of his age only being 12 which he finds difficult to accept. However later in the book when he is struggling with the aftermath of a death, he really does save the day. The last of Bea’s grandchildren is Mazie, who is at 6 still a baby really and struggles with how the world has so drastically changed. Tasha does take her under her wing, in fact all the others try to include Mazie in “helping out” so she doesn’t feel left out. There were other great characters in the book too, such as Sonja, Alma, Darla, Eddie, Pete and Cesar to name a few.

When I list the character’s that I really loved I usually add the ones that I “loved to hate” too. In this book it was Hank, “Hank the crank” who slowly and methodically undermined Bea’s confidence. I also enjoyed disliking Chas, who was after any and all the young teenage girls around him. He is a drug addict who is forced to become clean by circumstances. I guess I should say he does show a little remorse at one point in the book, regrettably he soon returns to type and goes bad again. His end is fitting though violent. I felt a little sorry for his mother who can see her son’s faults, unlike her husband who see’s nothing wrong in his son and even if he did wouldn’t be forceful enough to put him on the right track either.

Bea has many problematic decisions to make in this book, some harder than others, of course like any human being she has regrets about some of those decisions but that’s what makes the character of Bea so realistic and believable, she is attempting to care for and protect her little family despite her worsening health issues, Yet at the same time be fair with her neighbours, most of whom who are ill prepared for anything that the world is throwing at them right now. Bea thinks she has thought of everything though soon finds out she hasn’t thought of some quite simple things such as how exactly to power her solar panels, it turns out the salesman hadn’t thought of every eventuality as Bea had asked. Also, Bea has stockpiled a small stash of medicines but it soon becomes apparent she has nothing near as much as she would like to have. Bea also has to have a somewhat awkward conversation with her eldest grandchildren, Keno and Tasha about sex as she had never thought of birth control or condoms. Despite her bringing the subject up and explaining the consequences of having nothing to assist in the possible complications of pregnancy and birth pregnancies still occur. Despite the many warnings and explanations she had with the younger survivors still ends up being made to think it is her fault by certain characters.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were that this book was a bit slower starting than I initially liked but then all the things that were explained at the beginning set the scene perfectly for what was going to happen in the latter two parts of the book. This book really is a brutally honest depiction of what could happen. I ended up becoming really emotionally attached to the characters, devastated when certain characters, such as Sonja’s leaving in search of help for her son’s worsening medical condition. On the other hand, I was ecstatic at the relationships we left Keno and also Bea in at the end of the book.

So, to sum up, the book may feel like it’s moving quite slow to begin with, but it really is so well worth continuing to read it. I honestly ended up loving the book and wanting even more.




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