Happy Halloween, Haunted Reading, and an RIP Wrap-up Post (All in one!)

Happy Halloween, my friends! In the midst of the sugar-rush that inevitably comes with this candy-laden holiday, I'll be wrapping up my reading of NOS4A2, which is one of the more terrifying books I've read all year. My review of that will be up later in November (as part of a TLC Book Tour), but in the meantime, here's a recap of some other haunting, creepy, mysterious, or chilling reads I've read in recent months as part of the RIP VIII Challenge.

RIP Goal: Peril the First, or four books in total

My reading (once again) outpaced my reviewing, so not of all these titles have been reviewed, but here's what I'm counting towards this challenge:

The Shining Girlsby Lauren Beukes: Ooooh boy is this book creepy--in a good way. Mostly. Beukes has taken the traditional serial killer novel and flipped it on its head, this time featuring a serial killer who not only kills girls (whom he dubs "his Shining Girls"), but jumps through time to do it. But his last shining girl, Kirby, lives--making Harper's previously untraceable self just a little more traceable. This is one gutsy novel (both literally and figuratively), and not for the faint of heart, but damn, is it good.

Joylandby Stephen King: I haven't read much King, but this was another shining example of King's power as a storyteller and crafter of characters. The murder-mystery-cum-haunted-amusement-park tale is just fantastical enough to keep you guessing from start to finish, and a likeable if sometimes thickheaded narrator proves the glue that holds the whole thing together. A must-read for fans of King and those new to his works (like myself). Read my full review of Joyland

This House is Hauntedby John Boyne: Boyne takes on the classic Victorian ghost tale with This House Is Haunted. Eliza accepts a job as a governess in the country estate, hoping to get away from London after the death of her father, only to find the estate house occupied only by children and a few servants--no parents to speak of. Things only get stranger from there, as Eliza finds herself battling what feels like the house itself. Read my full review of This House Is Haunted.

Bellman & Black, by Diane Setterfield: I'm wild about Setterfield's first book, The Thirteenth Tale, so I'd been counting down the days until I could get my hands on her second novel, Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story. And with a subtitle like that, what could be better for RIP VIII? Unfortunately, this one didn't wow me. Setterfield is clearly an excellent writer, but the story felt dry, bogged down in details, and ultimately not particularly haunted or ghost-like. Maybe this was a case of too-high expectations, but as much as I wanted to love this book, I just couldn't.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte: I read this with a group of great read-a-longers for Septemb-Eyre, and ended up liking it more than I'd expected to, though I struggled with the middle (and St. John, ugh). This classic isn't known as a ghost story per se, but there's a fair chunk of otherwordliness that keeps things interesting from start to finish, from the Red Room on. Read my wrap-up post on Jane Eyre from the Septemb-Eyre readalong.

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wivesedited by Sarah Weinman: Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives is a collection of 14 tales of domestic suspense written from the 1940s to the 1970s. Editor Sarah Weinman argues that these women writers write more than simple police procedurals: they "take a scalpel to contemporary society and slice away until its dark essence reveals itself: the ways in which women continue to be victimized, their misfortunes downplayed by men (and women) who don't believe them, and how they eventually overcome." It's just as compelling as that makes it sound. Read my full review of Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives.


Three years ago today, I put on the fanciest dress I'll ever wear, a very long veil that was quite fun but also tended to blow everywhere and get stuck on things, and walked down the aisle towards that whole marriage thing. Here's to three more years, and three more after that, and on and on. Happy anniversary, darling!

Looking Back: October Highlights

Fall is here in the mid-Atlantic with a vengeance. It's downright cold in the mornings and pumpkin spice everything is everywhere. I spent the majority of this autumnal month prepping for some upcoming gift issues of Shelf Awareness for Readers (which means I read a few more cookbooks and a few less novels), but that doesn't mean I didn't encounter some really great books this month:

Cartwheel, by Jennifer duBois: I read and loved duBois' debut novel, The Partial History of Lost Causes, so was absolutely stoked to be able to review Cartwheel. Her sophomore novel is inspired by the Amanda Knox trial, pitching a slightly off-base study-abroad student against the justice system in a foreign country after her roommate is found stabbed to death. duBois' skill with sentences and emotions keeps the story from ever feeling stale despite its ripped-from-the-headlines nature. Read my full review of Cartwheel.

Running Like a Girl, by Alexandra Heminsley: I'm a recent running convert, but since running two half marathons in May, I've fallen off the bandwagon a bit. Heminsley's account of her own experience working up to her first marathons is heartfelt, humorous, and just the motivation I needed to get my own running shoes back on my lazy feet. Can't recommend this one enough, for potential, newbie or expert runners alike. Read my full review of Running Like a Girl.

This House is Haunted, by John Boyne: Boyne takes on the classic Victorian ghost tale with This House Is Haunted. Eliza accepts a job as a governess in the country estate, hoping to get away from London after the death of her father, only to find the estate house occupied only by children and a few servants--no parents to speak of. Things only get stranger from there, as Eliza finds herself battling what feels like the house itself. Read my full review of This House Is Haunted.

Joyland, by Stephen King: I haven't read much King, but this was another shining example of King's power as a storyteller and crafter of characters. The murder-mystery-cum-haunted-amusement-park tale is just fantastical enough to keep you guessing from start to finish, and a likeable if sometimes thickheaded narrator proves the glue that holds the whole thing together. A must-read for fans of King and those new to his works (like myself). Read my full review of Joyland

Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh: Following in the tradition of blog-turned-book, Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half is a printed version of Brosh's blog of the same name. The chapters range from downright hysterical (her list of rules for her dogs, for one, had me crying I was laughing so hard) to more emotional (relating to her struggles with depression and anxiety). All are told with her same dry sense of humor, coupled with the bizarre type of illustrations seen on her site--combined, they make a strange but oddly compelling set of stories and anecdotes of her life. It's a quick, easy read, and worth picking up if you've ever enjoyed her blog.

The Paris Architect, by Charles Belfoure: This book hit so many of my literary soft spots, there was no possible way I could have missed it: historical fiction, detailed military history, World War II fiction, set in Paris. The story of an architect in Paris who crafts hiding places for the Jews, The Paris Architect is a chilling portrayal of the fear and betrayal that pervaded Occupied France during World War II, and the terror of never knowing who to trust. Stay tuned for a full review of the audio edition, narrated by the ever-excellent Mark Bramhall.

The Revolution of Every Day, by Cari Luna: I've been waiting and waiting for a sweep-me-off-my-feet kind of book lately, and this one hit the spot this month. The story of a group of squatters in the East Village mid-90's New York, The Revolution of Every Day manages to hit on city politics, real estate issues, the history of Manhattan, the power of friendship and love, the issues of homelessness and so much more all in one relatively short novel. Full review, with plenty more gushing, to follow.

Audiobook Review: Joyland, by Stephen King

Until 11/22/63 came out, I'd never read a Stephen King novel. I know, I know: shame on me. But I'm easily terrified, so his canon of horror novels never truly appealed to me. 11/22/63 was non-horrorish enough for skittish little me to take to it, and it turned me on to the power of King's stories and characters--and the depth of his imagination--in a big way.

And so I was delighted to hear of Joyland, which promised to be the classic mystery-with-a-twist type of novel that I looked for in 11/22/63 and not the blood-pouring-on-teenage-heads type of novel that has me so scared to read Carrie.

Joyland, not surprisingly, did not disappoint. The novel centers on Devin Jones, a college kid from New England who lands a job at Joyland, a classic pre-Six Flags amusement park in North Carolina, in the summer of 1973. Having just suffered his first major break-up, Devin marches into the summer like any 21-year-old virgin suffering from a bad case of heartbreak: ready to make new friends, work hard, and try to forget the girl--no matter how futile that last may seem. Along the way, he finds himself mildly obsessed with the mystery of the haunted Horror House in the park, looking for the ghost of a murdered woman in the park's "only dark ride."

Told in the first person, narrator Michael Kelly perfectly captures the heartbreak, ennui, and general attitude of Devin, known to his friends as Dev and his colleagues at the park as "Jonesy." Unfortunately, while the style of narration is perfectly suited to Devin's character, it's not suitable to car-listening--Kelly's sentences sometimes fade to mumbiling, and on more than on occasion, I had to back up to re-listen to a section to tell what was going on.

But if you're willing to go into this with a little patience, the narration style pays off. Kelly's--and therefore Devin's--retelling of that summer of '73 builds slowly, almost like an afterthought, the words of an old man reflecting on a summer long-past. But as events unfold, Devin becomes more invested in his own story, recounting with an urgency that was lacking at the outset of the novel.

This urgency reflects Devin's own growth over the summer, as he moves from New England college kid to heartbroken virgin to stand-his-ground man. It's hard to say how that all happens without giving too much away, but suffice it to say King has managed to work a coming-of-age tale into a murder mystery into the story of a haunted amusement park. It's a tale of the everyday, a story of a turning-point summer that we can all probably point to in our own lives, but tinged with enough intrigue and fantasy that you just might find yourself looking over your shoulder the next time you visit an amusement park yourself--that is, if you can still find one of the good ol' parks.


My inquiring self wants to know: If King's horror novels are too scary for me, but I dig his writing style and stories, where should I go next?


Note: This title is only available in paperback (from Hard Case Crime) and on audio, and was not released as an e-book per Stephen King's wishes.
Joyland | Stephen King, nar. Michael Kelly | Simon & Schuster Audio | June 2013 | Audio CD | 7 1/2 hours

Book Review: This House Is Haunted, by John Boyne

This review originally ran in the Friday October 25th issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. If you don't already subscribe, sign up here to receive a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.

John Boyne's This House Is Haunted is a ghost story steeped in the Dickensian tradition. As Eliza and her father journey through a typically cold, wet night in London to see Charles Dickens read in a nearby pub, he falls ill from the weather and soon dies, leaving her with no parents, no siblings and very little money.

Seeking a change, Emma responds to an advertisement for a governess at an estate in the country. But when she arrives at Gaudlin Hall, she is startled to find no adults present; her two new pupils present themselves to her with no explanation. From her first night at Gaudlin, Eliza is haunted by an unseen spirit. As the attacks become more violent, threatening Eliza's life, she sets out to find the secret that lies at the heart of Gaudlin.

With The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Boyne proved his ability to immerse himself in the innocent and naive perspective of a small boy; in wholly embodying Eliza in This House Is Haunted, he further proves his narration skills. This strong voice gives the story an added layer of intrigue, as we are treated not only to a 19th-century ghost story, but also to a heroine coming into herself as a woman and an individual. Though those looking for true horror and gore may be disappointed by the subtle buildup, This House Is Haunted is ultimately a compelling story of the supernatural and an ode to the Victorian-era ghost story.


Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley of this title for review.
This House Is Haunted | John Boyne | Other Press |  October 2013 | Trade Paper | 204 pages

Book Review: Running Like a Girl, by Alexandra Heminsley

Alexandra Heminsley was never a runner. She was a bar-goer, a partier, and a fad exerciser. But on something of a whim, she decided to finally believe all of those rumors of the "runner's high," and set out for a jog.

That first jog did not go well. With humor and candor, she relays the details of her nightmarish less-than-one-mile trek in the opening chapters of her book, Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run. But what is so interesting about Heminsley's account of her months spent learning to run is her dedication, because even though that first run was a disaster, she kept on running. And running. And running. Until she found herself at the starting line of the London Marathon.

Running Like a Girl falls squarely in the camp of "If-I-can-do-it-so-can-you" motivational reading, but manages to pull it off without ever feeling preachy or pushy. Heminsley has a sense of humor--there were moments here where I literally laughed out loud--but also a depth of emotion that brings the highs and lows of her running journey to life. She manages to motivate without talking down, making her tales of running accessible to those who have never run a mile, those who haven't run in years, or those who set out for a steady jog every morning before work (and by the way, if you fall in that last group, I'm totally envious of your dedication).

The book is divided into two parts: first her story of training and running her first marathons, then sets of training tips, advice, and myths explained for anyone interested. Her advice ranges from the exceedingly girly (Paint your fingernails before a race so you have something fun and colorful on while you run.) to the extremely practical (Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Get fitted for real running shoes. Listen to your body.), and the myths debunked included the standard (Running is bad for your knees.) and the less-familiar (something about prolapse that I'll choose not to go into here.)

As someone who has only recently come to running, I found a lot to love in Running Like a Girl. Here was someone like me, who believed that the runner's high was nothing but a myth and that running was just for exceedingly fit people with strong calf muscles. Someone who suffered the same insecurities about running in public, lining up at that first starting line, working through that first injury--but who managed to run all 26.2 miles a first, and second, and third time. By the time I finished the book, I decided not only that I wanted to try to run a full marathon (I think I've seriously lost my mind), but that I want to be best friends with Heminsley (maybe I should call her Alexandra as a first step?).

I'd recommend this without hesitation to anyone with even a passing interest in running. And though it tends toward female runners, with advice on nail polish colors and sports bras, Alexandra's story of her own push to that first starting line will resonate with anyone, male or female, contemplating clicking that "Registration" button.


Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley of this title for review.
Running Like a Girl | Alexandra Heminsley | Scribner | October 2013 | Hardcover | 224 pages

Feminism is Not Dead, Ya'll.

Remember that time when a woman agreed to make 300 sandwiches for her boyfriend so he'd buy her a ring? And that other time when that college professor claimed that he only taught "real guy-guys", "heterosexuals," and didn't include women authors in his courses because he didn't think any women authors were worth teaching?

Yeah. Those are the things that make me all kinds of angry, angry, angry. And they are also reminders that as much as some people would like to believe feminism is dead, and that women's rights are said and done, that's actually not the case. And like any good bookworm, they are the kind of occurrences that send me back to my bookshelves to assemble a little stack of books by kick-ass women kicking ass:

Bossypants, by Tina Fey: Just as funny everything else Fey has ever done, but also smart and insightful. Fey narrates the audiobook herself, making it perhaps the best audiobook of all time, and doesn't shy away from what it's like to be a woman in a man's industry and how hard it is to balance her career with her family life. Proof, in case you needed it, that kick-ass feminists can be funny, too.

How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran: If Fey wasn't enough proof that feminists can be funny, too, look no further than Moran, who writes candidly about everything from puberty to marriage to abortion with a sense of humor that is at once in-your-face and thought-provoking. Moran doesn't shy away from the word "feminist," and doesn't think you should, either.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, by Mindy Kaling: This one I haven't read (yet), but a recent Bookriot podcast equated it to Bossypants, only from a younger point-of-view (Kaling is about 10 years younger than Fey). This audiobook is also narrated by the author, and is more than on my list.

Why Have Kids?, by Jessica Valenti: Valenti's book made me think, and then think again and again and again, about motherhood and parenthood in the U.S. Since its release, works like Lean In have dominated the discussion about women "having it all," but Valenti's work lay the foundation for these conversation. Why Have Kids? pushes readers in no one direction, but encourages us to take a good hard look at motherhood in this country before diving into the debate. Or maybe to just stop debating and start supporting, instead.

Wonder Women, by Deborah Spar: Spar explores how women's lives have--and haven't--changed since the "end" of the women's lib movement. Subtitled "Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection," this is another one I haven't read but hope to get to soon.

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood: Not all feminist writings are non-fiction, and Atwood's chilling dystopian novel is all the proof we need. Set in a not-too-distant future in which women have been turned into breeding machines and little more, it's all too believable for comfort. Audible has an audio version narrated by Claire Danes that I highly recommend, if you like audiobooks.

What would you add to or remove from this list?

Library App: BookMyne

I recently discovered BookMyne, a library app that offers library catalog services, account services, and book recommendations in app form. How much do I love this app? As much as cupcakes love frosting and then some.

I couldn't exactly say why it is that I so often need or want to access the library catalog, or my library account (check-outs, holds, due dates) when I don't have access to a com puter. But it happens often, and BookMyne is a frequently-used app on my phone (despite the fact that my 2.5-year-old phone is well on the way to the end of its life).


I mostly use the app to check how many books I have out, when they are due (or overdue, as the case may be), what I have on hold, how long I can anticipate waiting for books on hold, and what hold titles are available for pick-up. I can also check my account balance (for said overdue books) and renew titles (to avoid said overdue fines).

But the app does much more than that, offering recommendations based on awards, popular titles, and Goodreads accounts. While I don't plan to link to my own Goodreads account, especially given the ever-uncertain future of my account there, I love seeing libraries linking up with existing, robust reader technologies to offer patrons more services:

BookMyne also offers library catalog search by title, subject or bar code (and if/when a book is located in the catalog, you can place a hold on it right there). I love this feature in theory, though I don't use it very often. Mostly that's personal preference: I hate typing on my phone, so avoid activities that require use of that awful tiny keyboard, and the bar code scanner borders on encouraging showrooming, which makes me slightly uncomfortable. But I can appreciate how these tools would be helpful for others, and that libraries are doing more each day to make books accessible to more people.

BookMyne is available for iOS and Android devices and some Android devices, depending on which version of the operating system you have. The nice people that created BookMyne say that an updated app for Android is in the works.

Baltimore Book Festival: Tell Me Again How Reading Is Dead

I didn't make it to the National Book Festival this year, but I did make my first foray up to the Baltimore Book Festival. How is it that I've lived in Maryland for the majority of my life and never been to this event? Couldn't tell you, but I'm glad I finally did.

The Baltimore Book Festival, though held the weekend after the National Book Festival a mere 30 miles away, is a very different event. Authors still speak in tents, but the pool of authors tends to be more local and talks smaller--and therefore more intimate.

In addition to author talks, bookish vendors set up around the Washington Monument (this Washington Monument, not that Washington Monument) and up and down the streets of Mt. Vernon. New books, old books, book-themed t-shirts; literary magazines, flyers for upcoming writing contests; tours of the literary monuments of the city, of the Peabody library; and people, people, people.

Please, tell me again how no one reads anymore.

I left with 6 books (most from a used stand, so I spent a whopping $7.50), an Out of Print Gatsby sweatshirt, a slightly sunburnt nose, and a renewed faith in Baltimore's continuing literary tradition.

Book Review: Painted Hands, by Jennifer Zobair

Jennifer Zobair's debut novel, Painted Hands, is the story of four very, very different women: Zanaib, a Muslim woman working for a conservative political candidate; Amra, also a Muslim woman working to make partner in a Boston law firm; Hayden, Amra's heartbroken, hopeless co-worker; and Rukan, Zainab and Amra's friend from childhood. Their stories weave together as the friends fight and make up, meet men and break up, and search for love and give up.

I was intrigued by Painted Hands because it is so very different from the majority of my reading; I, ashamedly, cannot recall the last time I read a book with a Muslim main character, if at all--let alone three of them. Ever ready to learn something about which I know very little, I dove into this with gusto, and was not disappointed.

Zobair, herself a Muslim convert and advocate for Muslim women's rights, incorporates varying perspectives on the religion in her story. Zainab is a relapsed Muslim, somewhat like a "Christmas Catholic," holding to some aspects of the religion but despising what she sees as the oppressive treatment of women. Amra takes a more middle-of-the-road approach, holding to her faith but determined to be her own person, even after marriage and motherhood. Rukan yearns for the love and respect of her family, but when she falls in love with a non-Muslim man, is forced to make difficult decisions. And Hayden, wallowing in loss and unhappiness, comes to Muslim as a convert and is subject to questionable advice from her Muslim leaders.

Through the experiences of these four women, we hear how politically and culturally divided the Muslim community is, we see the hate speech and discrimination these women are forced to live with, and we are treated to glimpses of the traditions of a rich, historical culture. But these are four smart, independent women who have the same life issues that face non-Muslim women as well: How do I balance my morals with my sense of ambition? How do I balance work and children? How do I make my husband happy? How do I make myself happy? These questions apply to women everywhere, regardless of culture, tradition or religion, and when we happen into a book that allows us to think about them while also learning of another culture, all the better.

This review is part of the TLC Book Tour for Cartwheel. Be sure tocheck out what others thoughtof the novel.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this title.
Painted Hands | Jennifer Zobair | Thomas Dunne Books | June 2013 | Hardcover | 336 pages

Book Review & Giveaway: Cartwheel, by Jennifer duBois

Jennifer duBois' second novel, Cartwheel, is based loosely on--or perhaps "inspired by" would be a more accurate way to describe it--the events of the Amanda Knox murder trials of recent history. The story centers on Lily Hayes, an American college student studying abroad in Buenos Aires. While there, her roommate is found stabbed to death in their shared apartment; Lily is arrested for the crimes, and in short order, her entire life is on display for the prosecutors, judges, media, and entire world to see.

What is revealed, in bits and pieces, is Lily, as a person, as a friend, as a daughter, as a lover, as a suspect. She is a 20-year-old girl struggling to become a 21-year-old woman; she tries not to care about her looks, but probably does; she fancies herself liberated enough not to believe in monogamy, but yearns for love nonetheless; she decides to be independent and grown-up and operate without parental advice as much as possible, but needs their love and support more than she can say.

"She was typical," her father reflects, not unkindly, "She was aggressively typical--all the more so if she didn't quite know it yet."

Over the course of the fast-paced, captivating novel, duBois reveals small details about Lily and her actions, both leading up to and after her arrest. Some of the details are small, insignificant, mundane: Lily dropped a glass at work, breaking it; Lily once killed a slug as a child; Lily liked Winnie-the-Pooh growing up. Others are more crucial: Lily kissed her boyfriend passionately, in public, mere hours after her roommates death; Lily had been smoking marijuana; Lily had blood on her face; Lily's DNA is at the crime scene. And one is the most important of them all: Lily did a cartwheel after being interrogated.

It is these details that give us the rest of the characters in Cartwheel: How do her parents view her actions? Her sister? What does the prosecution make of them? What of her boyfriend? How does the media make this look?

As duBois skillfully peels back the layers of Lily's life, from the photographs she took on her arrival in Argentina to stories of her childhood to her strange actions after her arrest, Lily's world comes to life before us. She is the daughter of parents who lost their oldest child; she is the older sister to a girl who feels overlooked; she is the not-so-liberated girl who might be falling in love with an oddball; she is the roommate of a student who appears to be perfect; she is the fall-guy for her host parents when things go wrong.

What Lily's life reveals in its ordinary details, in her daily emails with her family, her fights and makeups with her roommate, her strange conversations with her neighbor, is precisely that it is ordinary. And yet this extraordinary thing has happened to her--murder, and arrest, and it casts everything in a new light.

duBois is no stranger to using the mundane to reveal a bigger, grander story about what it is to live; her skill with language, her impeccable sentences, and her tendency to probe the philosophical questions of life were what made me fall in love with her debut, A Partial History of Lost Causes. In Cartwheel, she has turned these skills to answering the typical whodunit question, "Did she do it?" But what comes to light as she progresses is that that is not the important question at all; what really matters is how we answer the question, "Could she do it?" This is the driving force behind the narrative in Cartwheel, and what keeps a well-covered subject from every feeling stale in duBois' very skilled hands.

This review is part of the TLC Book Tour for Cartwheel. Be sure to check out what others thought of the novel, and if you're interested in reading it yourself, good news! Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I have one copy available to giveaway. US only, please. Contest closes 10/11.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley of this title for review.
Cartwheel | Jennifer duBois | Random House | Hardcover | September 2013 | 384 pages

Book Review: Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

You'd be hard-pressed these days to find a literary person in the world who hasn't at least heard of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, even if they haven't read it. But the novel that took the world by storm last summer, while excellent, is by no means the first of its kind; Flynn's works follow in a long tradition of female authors writing on the subject of domestic suspense.

Sarah Weinman's superbly curated collection, Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, aims to look back at the writing and writers that made the genre of domestic suspense not only possible, but popular. Because there was a time, surprisingly not so long ago, when mysteries focused only on police dramas and whodunit tales, and offered no place for the world of domestic living--marriage, household chores, childcare, the like. The collection of fourteen tales features female writers from the 1940s to the 1970s, a group of women who, like others of their times, helped to shift the standard mystery story from detectives and whodunits to the mystery of the everyday lives of women. The stories center on women caring for children, starting careers, running away, getting married, struggling with romance.

And they are excellent. The list of authors ranges from those whose names I recognized (Dorothy Hughes, Patricia Highsmith) to those buried somewhat by history (Helen Nielsen, Margaret Millar) to several in between. Weinman does an excellent job of introducing each author, giving context to each of the 14 stories, why they were selected, and how they fit into the canon of domestic suspense tales overall. These story-by-story introductions pair with Weinman's thorough introduction of the collection overall to give readers a brief history of female crime writing, tale of domestic suspense, and how we came to have writers such as Tana French and Gillian Flynn on our shelve today. Even if crime writing is not your standard cup of tea, Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives is worth picking up; the stories can be browsed at once or one by one, and will give just enough of a taste of the genre to leave you hungry for more. But don't worry--Weinman thought of that, too, and has provided a list of suggested further reading at the end.

Preview the introduction to Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives on Huffington Post.


Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley of this title for review.
Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives | Sarah Weinman, ed. | Penguin | August 2013 | 384 pages

Looking Ahead: October Highlights

October! Month of pumpkins and corn mazes and pumpkins and apples and pumpkins! And also the big publishing month, as everyone gears up for holiday seasons. Personally, I think it's too early to think about the holidays, but that doesn't mean I don't have quite the list of October want-to-reads. Obviously I won't be able to get to all of these, but hey, a girl can dream, right?


Cartwheel, by Jennifer duBois (Random House, September 24th): Ok, this is technically a September release, but since it didn't make it onto my radar in time for my post of September highlights, it's going here. I read duBois' debut, A Partial History of Lost Causes, last spring, and called it one of the best books I'd read all year. Obviously I wouldn't dream of missing her second novel, which focuses on a foreign exchange student arrested for murder. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review this month.

The Revolution of Every Day, by Cari Luna (Tin House, September 24th): Another truly September book that didn't make last month's post--oops. The novel imagines the lives of five squatters in mid-nineties NYC, revealing a city that New Yorkers walk by every day and fail to recognize. I met Cari Luna at BEA at the urging of a fellow blogger, and I'm absolutely delighted to dive into what Elliot Holt calls "an elegy for a city that no longer exists."

The Lion Seeker, by Kenneth Bonert (HMH, October 15th): I actually know very little about this book beyond the fact that it is quite large (576 pages), and autumn is the season for large books (who are we kidding, every season is the season for large books), and it is about South Africa. It sounds perfectly wonderful, and set in a time and place about which I know perfectly little, and I can't wait to read it.


This House Is Haunted, by John Boyne (Other Press, October 8th): Perfectly timed for Halloween, crisp fall evenings and the RIP challenge. The newest from John Boyne (of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas fame) is an ode to the classic Victorian ghost story, Dickensian in time period, subject and prose. I've already read this one, and know for a fact I'll be recommending throughout October as a perfect historical fall read.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown & Company, October 22nd): I've already written about this once, and tweeted about it a million times, because I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. That is all. Go read it as soon as you are able and then let's chat.


How to Read a Novelist, by John Freeman (FSG, October 8th): John Freeman, critic for more than 200 newspapers worldwide (which seems a staggering amount to yours truly), has collected his profiles of some of the best novelists of our time into one volume to give us a portrait of the contemporary novelist. Literary junkie that I am, how could I resist a book about the books I love?

Writers Between the Covers, by Joni Rendon and Shannon McKenna Schmidt (Plume, October 29th): The subtitle of this fascinating little book says it all: "The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads." If October is the month of reading books about books, it's hard to see how this one doesn't fit right in. Welcome to the party, Writers Between the Covers.

Running Like a Girl, by Alexandra Heminsley (Scribner, October 8th): I started running last year and managed to work my way up from one mile in mid-July to my first half-marathon on December 1st. Since then, I've run two additional halfs and found I actually like running... something I never thought I'd say. Workload, weather, and a minor ankle injury have interrupted my flow, though, and I'm always on the lookout for new books to get me back into it; Running Like a Girl, which calls itself a "charming, hilarious and practical book about one woman's stumbling, painful efforts to start running and how becoming a runner ultimately transformed her relationships, her body, and her life," seemed like the perfect kick-in-the-butt for fall training.

Honorable mention, because this post is getting obscenely long but I haven't run out of October books yet...

Book Review: The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon

Samantha Shannon's debut novel, The Bone Season, is a sci-fi dystopian tale with almost as much world-building in the first 100 pages as there has been hype around the book. First in a planned series of seven, Shannon has been called "the next J.K. Rowling," the book was optioned for film before it even hit stores, and it was selected as the inaugural title for the Today Show's new book club.

If you come to The Bone Season looking for the next Harry Potter, you'll be sorely disappointed. Where Rowling's world was based predominantly on myths and historical elements, Shannon's leans into the future; where Rowling's characters start young and relatively naive, Shannon's are grown-up, more complicated; where Rowling's novels dabble in relationships and take their time leading up to the deaths of characters we care about, Shannon shies away from neither sex nor violence.

What The Bone Season is is a complicated, fast-paced novel set in 2059, in a world based loosely on the London and England we know today, but with one marked difference: clairvoyance. Clairvoyants (called simply "voyants") are everywhere, but they are also inherently illegal. As such, those voyants not already captured by the government are most commonly found in crime syndicates--like the one in which we find Paige Mahoney, a 19-year-old voyant. At least until Paige is captured and sent to the Rephaites, who occupy the campus and town of Oxford as a kind of militaristic camp designed to train voyants as weapons.

It's all incredibly complicated and rather hard to lay out in a summary, which explains why Shannon never tries it herself. Remember how Hagrid explained wizardry and the wizard world to Harry throughout the first Harry Potter books? Yeah, this is not that.

The Bone Season throws readers right into the mix of things with little explanation. There's enough detail weaved into the actual fabric of Shannon's plot to bring the world she has imagined to life, you just have to be willing to work at it.

And once you do, once you see the world in front of you, with its myriad layers of voyance and the multitude of competing groups, The Bone Season will sweep you away. It's a smart novel that moves with steady footing between the worlds of science fiction, fantasy and dystopia, and carries enough emotional weight to keep the characters--even the alien ones--interesting to the last. Shannon brings a new, young voice to the world of science fiction, and though the ending of The Bone Season isn't entirely satisfying--it is the first in a series, after all--it's enough to leave me interested to see what comes in the second book.


Thanks to the publisher for providing a galley of this title for review.
The Bone Season | Samantha Shannon | Bloomsbury | Hardcover | August 2013 | 480 pages

Looking Back: September Highlights

September is quickly fading into October, which, next to November (my birthday month!) is my favorite month of the year. But before I get too excited about pumpkin-flavored everythings (yes, I know Starbucks got pumpkin lattes in stock in August, but it's too freaking hot to drink pumpkin lattes in August, folks), a quick recap of the best books I read in September:

Seven for a Secret, by Lyndsay Faye: Last year, I trained for (and completed) my first half-marathon with Timothy Wilde narrating his story from Gods of Gotham in my ear; it was the perfect combination of historical detail and well-plotted mystery to keep my brain turned on and engaged and focused on something besides how much my feet hurt after mile 12. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to learn that the brilliant Lyndsay Faye had written a sequel, Seven for a Secret, as the second installment of a planned trilogy. The continuation of Timothy's adventure did not disappoint, and it was a treat to get further into the head of the lovable, idiotic, well-intentioned copper star. Read my full review.

Dust & Shadow, by Lyndsay Faye: What, another Lyndsay Faye novel? Yes, another Lyndsay Faye novel! My sister and I picked Dust and Shadow as our audiobook accompaniment for a road trip we took earlier this month, based on her request that it be an historical British mystery with a male narrator. Dust and Shadow fit the bill as a reimagining of the Jack the Ripper case... featuring none other than Sherlock Holmes. The novel vastly different from Seven for a Secret, but displays the same attention to historical detail and mystery that the Timothy Wilde novels do, which made it a win. (Simon Vance's narration didn't hurt, either.)

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, edited by Sarah Weinman: Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives is a collection of 14 tales of domestic suspense written from the 1940s to the 1970s. Editor Sarah Weinman argues that these women writers write more than simple police procedurals: they "take a scalpel to contemporary society and slice away until its dark essence reveals itself: the ways in which women continue to be victimized, their misfortunes downplayed by men (and women) who don't believe them, and how they eventually overcome." It's just as compelling as that makes it sound.

The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes: Ooooh boy is this book creepy--in a good way. Mostly. Beukes has taken the traditional serial killer novel and flipped it on its head, this time featuring a serial killer who not only kills girls (whom he dubs "his Shining Girls"), but jumps through time to do it. But his last shining girl, Kirby, lives--making Harper's previously untraceable self just a little more traceable. This is one gutsy novel (both literally and figuratively), and not for the faint of heart, but damn, is it good.

Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris: In no way a new book (Ferris' debut came out in 2007), but still one of my favorites read this month--if not this year. With wit and precision and no small amount of heart, Ferris has peeled away the layers of the 9-to-5--the monotony, the office stories, the gossip, the fears, the insecurities, the layoffs, the friendships, the enemies--to craft a story with no narrator and very little plot that somehow still turns out to be engrossing. Expect more fleshed-out thoughts on this one in short order.