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What we’ve been reading in May… May 23, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Beach Reads, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, New Books, Non-Fiction, Summer Reading, Suspense, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

Cover image for This is the story of Christopher Knight known as “The North Pond Hermit”, a man who walked into the woods of Maine at age 20 and did not leave until arrested 27 years later. He was arrested for burglarizing nearby cabins to obtain food and various essentials for his survival.  Once arrested, he immediately confessed to what added up to nearly 1000 burglaries and showed remorse for his crimes. He never hurt anyone, nor did he ever damage anything. Mr. Knight simply wanted to live alone in the woods. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, the author, Michael Finkel, is able to give a detailed account of Knight’s secluded life.  In addition to Knight’s story, Finkel discusses famous hermits in the past, and mental illness topics which help the reader to better understand Mr. Knight, however, the author leaves the reader feeling that one will never have a complete understanding of Knight’s mindset & choices. I found the story of Christopher Knight to be fascinating. He survived by his high level wits, common sense and courage. He could “MacGyver” anything, and bring himself to a peaceful mental state of embracing the quiet and solitude of the forest.  He clearly wrestled with fundamental communication & social skills (a common thread in his family), and believed his escape to the woods was his only choice for survival. This is an excellent choice for book clubs, having so many different discussion points to pursue.  You will also find that readers will have very different viewpoints about Mr. Knight, as did the residents of North Pond, which will add to the talking points about this book. I personally see all sides to this story, and have a weak spot for Christopher Knight.  The big question I ask myself is can we unconditionally accept each other for who we truly are? Mary

 

Boy Erased by Garrard Conley

Cover image for Boy Erased has been on my radar since it was released in 2016, and recently came to my attention again since it is being made into a movie. In this memoir, Conley recounts his experience growing up as the only child of a Baptist pastor in Arkansas. After being outed as gay to his parents, he agreed to enroll in conversion therapy. The memoir moves between his experience in the program and memories from his childhood and teenage years. As expected, the trauma Conley experienced in the conversion therapy program is upsetting and heartbreaking, but it is also beautifully observed and eloquently written, on par with Dani Shapiro or Mary Karr in terms his ability to powerfully self-excavate. This is a must-read for members of the LGBTQ community who grew up in religious households, all clergy, and for those looking to increase their capacity for empathy.  Lyndsey

 

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

Cover image for I’ve been reading The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, who is a social psychologist and professor at New York University.  I really enjoyed his more recent book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, so I thought I’d give this a try.  I’m not finding it as challenging as The Righteous Mind, but there are interesting chapters about the difference between romantic love  (passionate, fleeing) and companionate love (longer lasting, deeper attachment), as well as a great chapter about whether or not modern psychological studies can back up the idea that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Haidt thinks that we can learn from adversity under the right circumstances, especially if we can construct a life-narrative that makes sense out of our suffering.  He argues that positive relationships, meaningful work, and a connection to something larger can work together to make us happier.  Andrew

 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Cover image for In Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, attorney Avery Stafford leaves her job in South Carolina to assist in the care of her cancer-stricken father. At a meet and greet event at a local nursing home Avery meets May Crandal. Seeing an old photo in May’s room makes Avery think there might be a link between May and her Grandma Judy. May’s real name was Rill Foss until she and her siblings became part of black-market adoptions practiced by the Tennessee Children’s Home. The mystery begins. This is a difficult tale to imagine. The novel was inspired by firsthand accounts of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society that existed into the 1950’s. Emma

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Cover image for I’ve just finished listening to Ready Player One during my commutes, which was a great adventure. I’m still gradually working on the ebook A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960. Following Free Comic Book Day I read a handful of various comics. Next I’m looking forward to a book on CD of Amy Bloom’s White Houses. It is not often that I pick up a brand new best seller, but I’ve read many good things about this work of historical fiction. Since recently watching a Ken Burns documentary series about the Roosevelt family (with extra attention paid to Teddy, FD, and Eleanor) I’m primed for this intimate story about perhaps the most intriguing first lady in history.  Byron

 

The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg

Cover image for This past month I had the great pleasure of reading The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg. A retelling and mash-up of stories (fairy tales, biblical, and folklore), this collection of stories feels familiar and yet very alien.  Though there is a sinister tone that seems to saturate the book that is often reinforced by the ambiguous endings of each tale. Ortberg plays with gender and archetypes and it’s often this play on the structure and tradition of these stories that brought me the most  joy as a reader. It is a quick read but never feels rushed. Recommended for readers who love sinister tales that jump from magical realism to all out fantasy. Greg

 

The Day She Disappeared by Christobel Kent

Cover image for When Beth, a small time bar maid, disappears, everyone thinks she has just moved on to a new adventure.  But her best friend Natalie does not believe it for a minute.  She is sure something sinister has happened.  Nat tries to piece together Beth’s past and her relationships, realizing her friend kept a lot of secrets.  And as strange things begin to happen in Natalie’s house and to an elderly bar patron with a foggy memory, it becomes obvious that someone wants these secrets to remain hidden.  Another fantastic suspense story from Christobel Kent, beautifully written, with characters you would want to meet and images of an English countryside you would love to visit.  Sara

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What we’re reading in April… April 23, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Adventure, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thrillers.
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I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillian

Cover image for I have not read any Terry McMillian (the author of Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back), so I thought it was about dang time I did. This novel is about Georgia Young, a successful optometrist in her 50s who has “made it” in life – her successful career enabled her to buy a home in a wealthy neighborhood and live comfortably. But she is divorced, bored, and lonely. When news comes that a former lover passed away a few years earlier, it sets off a mid-life crisis that pushes Georgia to reevaluate her life and make some changes: quit her job to do something she loves, find a new home, and meet with former lovers to tell them what she never go to say to them. Terry McMillian knows how to tell a story and does a great job reading the audiobook, giving Georgia the sassy, wise-sounding voice she deserves. This is a great book for those who enjoy stories about relationships and how they define who we are. Lyndsey

 

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Cover image for Dread Nation is an alternate history Civil War story. With zombies. The War Between the States was derailed when the dead on the battlefield walked again. Now, the North and South are united against a common enemy. To fight the undead the Native and Negro Reeducation Act became law, forcing Negro children to attend combat schools. Jane McKeene is one such student at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore. She is training to become an lady’s Attendant. Jane dreams of returning to her plantation home in Kentucky, but instead she finds herself in the middle of a deadly conspiracy. As a new undead threat rears it’s head, Jane learns that these poor souls aren’t her biggest worry. Full of action and suspense, this isn’t just another zombie book. Jane is a badass, biracial woman killing zombies and taking on issues like institutionalized racism, sexual identity, and notions of femininity. She is clever, sassy, and a force to be reckoned with.  Megan

 

The Stand by Stephen King (adapted by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa)

Cover image for As usual I’m working through multiple books in different formats at once. For Mystery Week in early April I began listening to the book on CD And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie during my commutes. While the large cast of characters is a bit difficult to keep straight early on in this classic, by the middle the mystery of the strange trap that has caught the characters has grabbed your attention. I am also reading Stephen King’s The Stand in graphic novel form. As adapted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa the story is split into six volumes. At this writing I’m in volume #4. Another novel with many characters that are quite distinctly drawn. This thrilling story of survival and rebuilding society has a classic good vs. evil dynamic. And on my Kindle by my bedside is A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930-1960 by Jeanine Basinger, which I checked out with OverDrive. She takes a look at the genre of “Women’s Films” that featured starring women protagonists, women’s issues, and both subverted and supported the role a woman was supposed to play in society. I’ve heard of some of these film titles, but there are many others about strong women that I’ll have to add to my watch list after reading this. Byron

 

The Grifters by Jim Thompson

Cover image for Roy Dillion appears to be nothing more than a personable, hardworking salesman and has a hundred acquaintences that would swear to that very fact.  However, he is a natural of the short con; a grifter who has eschewed one of the cardinal rules of the trade and successfully worked the same city without notice.  When a sure-fire con misfires, Roy’s past catches up with him and his world begins to spiral out of control.  Trent

 

 

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Cover image for MY ANTONIAMy most current read is My Antonia, yes, an oldie but a goody. I was inspired to read this by a fellow co-worker’s blog about rediscovering the classics, and also because I  love a good coming of age story. This particular book did not disappoint. My Antonia takes place in the late 1880’s.  This is the story of Antonia, an immigrant of Bohemia, told by recently orphaned Jim Burden.  Jim is sent to rural Nebraska to live with his grandparents, also neighbors to the Shimerda family, of which Antonia is the eldest daughter.  Jim and Antonia spend their early years exploring the new landscape of rural Nebraska together and so begins a life long friendship between the two. Antonia is a bold and free spirited woman who endears herself to Jim and readers alike. Willa Cather does a wonderful job of introducing the reader to life in rural Nebraska, and the immigrant experience of adjusting  to a new world.  One can’t help but feel for Antonia’s triumphs and tribulations, and be inspired by such a strong woman. Mary

 

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Cover image for The Tuscan childThe Tuscan Child is the story of Johanna Langley’s father, Sir Hugo, who dies unexpectedly. She wants to understand what happened to him during WWII. He was a British bomber pilot who was shot down over German-occupied Tuscany near the town of San Salvatore. Local resident Sofia Bartoli tended to his needs at severe risk to herself, family and village. When Johanna visits San Salvatore 30 years later, no one remembers her father or wants to talk about Sophia. This is a treat for fans of historical fiction. Emma

 

The Star of Redemption by Franz Rosenzweig

Cover image for The star of redemptionI am very interested in the writings of Franz Rosenzweig, a German-Jewish philosopher, theologian, and translator who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century and died in 1929 of Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.  Rosenzweig translated the Hebrew Bible into German with another famous Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber.  Rosenzweig also wrote a very interesting but challenging book called The Star of Redemption, which I am trying to read. The Star of Redemption is a book that helps me to think about the meaning of Judaism, though he also writes about Christianity, which he was close to converting to when he was a young man.  He is into “negative theology,” which means that any attempt to define or describe God fails, because God (according to negative theology) is unsayable and ineffable, totally beyond human concepts and categories, though we can experience God through the fullness or plenitude of the world.  At varying times in my life I have been an atheist, an agnostic, and (when I was young) a somewhat skeptical believer, but this book is making me think about Judaism in a new way.  Andrew

 

I See You by Claire Mackintosh

Cover image for I’m in a “quick read” phase, and I See You  hits the spot.  In this British thriller, Zoe Walker’s boring, suburban life is shaken up when she sees her picture in a classified ad for a service called “findtheone.com”  She digs deeper and discovers that other women who have been in these ads have been victims of violent crimes and wonders if she is next.  Her paranoia develops into full-blown panic as she worries that every stranger on her morning commute is watching her.  The book does a great job of building suspense and letting you get to know Zoe, however I found the ending to be less than plausible and a little unsettling.  Sara

 

Hot Mess by Emily Belden

Cover image for In Hot Mess by Emily Belden, twenty-five year old Allie Simon prides herself on being sensible; she has a good job, friends and a supportive family. Then she becomes consumed by bad boy celeb chef  and recovering drug addict Benji Zane who asks that she invest all her savings in a new restaurant. After he relapses and disappears, Allie is left with having to build a restaurant while recovering from heartbreak and maneuvering the food scene in Chicago. A fun read filled with romance and food starring a strong female character.  Dori

 

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

Cover image for This is a timely story about the harsh reality of today’s racial tension.  Starr Carter lives in a poor urban neighborhood riddled with gang violence and racial profiling by police.   When Starr leaves a party after shots are fired, she and her childhood friend, Khalil,  are pulled over for a taillight.  The officer is nervous and misconstrues  Khalil’s words and actions, leaving Starr to witness the fatal unraveling of the police stop.  The book unfolds around this story and how the community and Starr deal with the aftermath.  It’s heartbreaking and painfully relevant.  Beth

 

 

 

 

What we’re reading in March.. March 13, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Genre Book Discussion, Thoughtful Ramblings.
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Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time by Gary Saul Morson

INarrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time…‘ve been reading two books by a literary critic that I like a lot named Gary Saul Morson.  He wrote a great book about Anna Karenina called Anna Karenina in Our Time: Seeing More Wisely, so I was curious to learn about his other work.  One book, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time, is about how certain novelists, like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, create stories that convey a sense of time as open, even if the novelist knows what is going to happen.  It also talks about how novelists represent free will in their characters, and fight against an interpretation of the world as deterministic.  The second book, Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics, co-authored with Caryl Emerson, is about the work of a Russian literary critic and philosopher named Mikhail Bakhtin, who came up with some very innovative and exciting ways of thinking about the novel as a genre.  Morson is a wonderful, lucid, and deep thinker, and I’m enjoying these books very much.   Andrew

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchison

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun…Sixteen-year-old Elena is the product of a virgin birth (it’s a real thing with a scientific explanation).  She also hears voices and can perform miracles (there is no scientific explanation for this).  Elena is just trying to navigate normal high school crushes and family drama, and she really doesn’t have time to save the world.  Also, she’s not really sure she should be saving it. This is a truly bizarre and thought-provoking novel for fans of A.S. Kind and Libba Bray’s Going Bovine. Megan

The Feminist’s Guide to Raising a Little Princess: How to Raise a Girl Who’s Authentic, Joyful, and Fearless – Even If She Refuses to Wear Anything But a Pink Tutu  by Devorah Blachor

The Feminist's Guide to Raising a…This book is really all about the importance of being a good role model as a parent and letting your child be who she wants to be.   The book dives into the history of the Disney princess culture and how it has evolved over the years and has affected our culture, specifically our young daughters. I found the book to be somewhat lacking in concrete insight for navigating the logistics of fostering my child’s authentic self while she is very drawn to the imagery and excitement of princess culture.  Beth

I Hate Fairyland by  Scottie Young

I Hate Fairyland Volume 1: Madly Ever After…Do you love/hate fairy tales? Hero journeys? Landscapes made of candy? Have you ever wondered what would happen if Dorothy hadn’t found her way back to Kansas? Then you will enjoy this graphic novel. I hate Fairyland (Volume 1) follows the story of Gert, a green haired, ax wielding, foul mouthed, middle aged 6 year old (In Fairyland, time goes by but you don’t age). Gert hasn’t really taken the conventional path to finding her way back home and after a few decades of failed riddles and violent vendettas she may have worn out her welcome. A hilarious, graphic-graphic novel.  Greg

 

March. Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

March: Book One by John LewisThis autobiographical graphic novel relates the early life of Senator John Lewis from his rural upbringing on an Alabama farm through his early involvement in the Nashville Civil Rights Movement.  March does a very nice job of providing the larger context of the movement and what is happening outside of Nashville and Lewis’s immediate world.  However, the authors manage to keep the story from losing focus of Lewis personal experience and the impact that creates.  This is done in part by having the story told from Senator Lewis’ own voice as he provides an impromptu tour of his office on Inauguration Day, just before President Obama is about to be sworn into office for the first time.  A fascinating and powerful read. Trent

 The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen When Johanna Langley’s father Sir Hugo suddenly dies, Johanna wants to understand what happened to him during WWII. He was a British bomber pilot who was shot down over German-occupied Tuscany near the town of San Salvatore. Local resident Sofia Bartoli tended to his needs at severe risk to herself, family and village. When Johanna visits San Salvatore 30 years later, no one remembers her father or wants to talk about Sophia. A treat for fans of historical fiction. Emma

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American…This book has been on my radar for several years, and being the chosen book  for One Community Reads, I  finally dove into it, and I am so very happy I did.  This is a grim read but a necessary read.  Author, Matthew Desmond does an excellent job of engaging the reader in a piece of non fiction.  He introduces the reader to eight families in Milwaukee living in poverty and struggling with eviction.  Readers learn about the business and culture of evictions, while getting a glimpse of what it’s like to live in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee.  Many residents are spending more than half of their meager income on housing.  For most, what money is left after paying rent simply isn’t enough to get by, hence, starts a downward spiral leading to evictions.  The fates of the eight families in this book are in the hands of two landlords.  I couldn’t help but feel that there is blood on the hands of everyone.  Desmond spent years living in these neighborhoods, painstakingly taking notes and recording events.  I highly recommend this book to everyone. Mary

Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel…Having several friends and family members who suffer from anxiety, I wanted to read a book to help me understand and empathize with them. Monkey Mind, so far, has done the trick. It is an extremely eye-opening memoir about the onset and treatment of Daniel Smith’s anxiety disorder. He intersperses stories about his own life with research and writings about anxiety from scientists and philosophers like Kirkegaard and Freud. When the audiobook starts to feel overwhelming (because Daniel Smith’s rehearsals of his absurd, painful, and self-destructive thought patterns can be just that), I remind myself that this is how it is to live with anxiety, and that I am one of the lucky ones who can turn off the audiobook and walk away. The book is not 100% heavy and dramatic, though — Daniel Smith’s dry humor about the situations he finds himself in is one of the strengths of the book. Trigger warning: the author does not shy away from sharing a story about how he was raped at 16, and while he documents what happened (in my opinion) tactfully, it is still distressing. Lindsey

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

Where I Lost Her by T. GreenwoodEight years after many failed fertility treatments and a tragic adoption, Tess is still grieving and bitter as she visits her childhood friend in her hometown in rural Vermont. Torn between her great love for her best friend’s two daughters and her jealousy of the life they lead, as well as the growing rift in her marriage, Tess’ visit is fraught with emotion.  While driving home from a late night liquor store run, Tess sees a small, wounded half-naked little girl in her headlights on the dark country road.  When she stops to help, the girls disappears into the woods.  As Tess calls together the community to search for her, she finally finds a sense of purpose until those around her begin to suspect she was drunk,  broken-hearted and imagined the whole thing.  This book is a great look into grief, relationships, healing and what matters in life.  Sara

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Spoonbenders: A novel by Daryl GregoryIn the 1970s, the Amazing Telemachus family toured the U.S. as psychic performers, led by patriarch/con-man Teddy and the genuinely talented Maureen. Debunked on national television, they lost their notoriety. Twenty years later, they’re all struggling with real world problems, albeit with a psychic dimension. Irene, a human lie detector test, can’t maintain a relationship and has brought her son Matty home to live with her father. Raconteur Frankie, who practices telekinesis, can’t get his business off the ground and is in hock to a local mobster. Buddy, the youngest, sees the future, and is steadily working to prevent it, even if it means building holes in the backyard. Told in alternating chapters from each character’s point of view, this quirky tale of family, mobsters, the CIA and first love, is a hoot – funny, crazy and tender. I listened to it on audiobook and it was a treat! Dori

 

 

 

 

What we’re reading now.. February 9, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, New Books, Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Cover image for August, a worldly anthropologist, has returned to New York to bury her father, but after running into an old friend at the subway station, she is flooded with childhood memories. At a young age, August’s father has moved her & her younger brother from Tennessee to Brooklyn.  Once settled into Brooklyn,  August finds her best girlfriends in Angela, Gigi and Slyvia.  Angela and Gigi are from fractured families, and Sylvia has over bearing parents with high expectations. The four girls together navigate growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970’s.  The girls find comfort, happiness and security in their friendship within turbulent times nationally and in their own neighborhood.  The effects of the Vietnam war, white flight, drug abuse, poverty, absent mothers and predatory men are intertwined with their adolescent years. Tragedy ultimately pulls at their friendship.  A beautiful and poetic coming of age story about girlhood, friendship, dreams and loss.  Mary

His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

Cover image for I’ve been listening to this trilogy on audiobook and really loving it.  The books are The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.  Right now I’m near the end of The Subtle Knife.  Although the novels are often considered young adult literature, they can really appeal to young and old alike.  There’s a great blend in the books of realistic and fantastic elements, and the characters are compellingly and convincingly drawn.  The books are so absorbing!  Listening to them, and being entranced by them, reminds me of my experience reading books as a kid – the way you can really get pulled into the story and experience in a really intense way the magic of reading.  Andrew

Hellraiser Omnibus. Volume One by Clive Barker

Cover image for So one thing that may be coming very clear is I am a big fan of horror, specifically supernatural horror. This month I have decided to review a graphic novel I finished recently, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Omnibus. Volume One. This volume contains  issues Hellraiser #1 to #20 and Hellraiser Annual #1 which seem to pick up years after the second film. (One note is that these comics were originally published between 1989-1993 so the comics contained don’t reference the films past those dates.) Pinhead is of course in this collection but the stories told here wildly expand the Hellraiser universe with new characters, cenobites, and new views of hell/horror. The best thing about this volume is it combines many out of print collections of comics into one handy volume. If you are a fan of horror and the Hellraiser world this is a don’t miss. Greg

Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days  by Chris Guillebeau

Cover image for Chris Guillebeau provides a handbook for developing an effective alternative source of income in his book by giving  practical applications for finding extra income while pursuing a passion.  I found the example scenarios inspiring, and it has helped me to start searching for my side hustle opportunity hidden in my daily activities.  Beth

 

In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami (Ralph McCarthy, Translator)

Cover image for Kenji, an unlicensed guide for foreign tourists, makes his living providing tours for those looking to experience the seedier side of Tokyo nightlife.  So when his current client Frank’s behavior seems strange and troublesome, it isn’t because Kenji is naïve that he begins to wonder what Frank’s real intentions are.  An unnerving psychological thriller. Trent

 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cover image for The positive buzz and awards earned by this book are amazing. However, it is the dramatic historical fiction story, which reminds me a bit of the multigenerational miniseries Roots, and the “what if” aspect of the Underground Railroad in this telling being a real subterranean train that made me add it to my reading list. When Colson Whitehead appeared at a marketing conference in Cleveland last year giving a talk about storytelling, I picked up a copy of this book. I have high expectations for it and so far it is not disappointing. The humanity and lack of humanity in the slave experience comes across powerfully through Whitehead’s language. Byron

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

Cover image for A recent immigrant from Ireland, Clara Kelley, assumes the identity of a fellow passenger who died during the voyage. She secures a position as lady’s maid to Margaret Carnegie, Andrew Carnegie’s mother. Clara’s goal is to send money back to her struggling family in Ireland. Andrew is attracted to Clara, and they secretly spend time together. Andrew shares some of his business expertise with Clara and welcomes her suggestions until Clara disappears when Mrs. Carnegie learns of her deceptions. For lovers of historical fiction. Emma

Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller

Cover image for This book is an extension of a column Kelsey has been putting out every Monday since November 2013 called “The Anti Diet Project.” In the column—and, to a greater extent, in the book—Kelsey commits to unlearning disordered eating and distorted body image. With the help of an Intuitive Eating coach, she figures out how to eat based on her body’s instincts and how to exercise rationally and sustainably. All throughout this process, she examines how her relationship with food and her body was impacted by family, friends, and significant others. I am listening to the audiobook, and Kelsey is hilarious, sharp-as-a-whip, and wholly relatable. I highly recommend this book for any person who has been made to feel shame for their body shape or food choices. It is a liberating and empowering read (or listen). Lyndsey

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Cover image for This novel by author of The Dry takes us once again to a remote area of Australia as Federal Agent Aaron Falk investigates the disappearance of an important whistleblower in one of his cases.  Five colleagues from a family-owned business are forced to take a “team-building” nature excursion as part of  a corporate retreat, but when one doesn’t return, Agent Falk suspects that some of her co-workers know more than they are telling. This book gives a look into the complex relationships between co-workers, lovers, friends and family.  Sara

The Red Clocks by Leni Zuma

Cover image for The Red Clocks is The Handmaid’s Tale for a new generation. Four women in a small Oregon town struggle with new laws that grant personhood to embryos and make IVF and abortions illegal. Ro is a single woman in her forties desperately trying to get pregnant. Susan is an unhappy housewife and mother. Mattie, one of Ro’s best students, is facing an unwanted pregnancy. Their lives intersect when Gin, a reclusive homeopath with connections to all three, is arrested. The Red Clocks is an audacious and unapologetic cautionary tale. Megan

 

 

 

 

What we’re reading now… January 13, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, New Books, Non-Fiction, Suspense, Uncategorized, Young Adult.
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The Hearth Witch’s Compendium: Magical and Natural Living for Every Day by Anna Franklin

The Hearth Witch's Compendium: Magical and…Not a book designed to be read straight through, The Hearth Witch’s Compendium is much more a resource guide for individuals who wish to include their magical practice into their everyday routine and life. Resource guide might actually be an understatement. This 512 page volume contains dozens and dozens of recipes and remedies addressing jam preserves to making your own self care products to dyeing your own fabric. The instructions are approachable, easy to read (Franklin is a British writer but graciously provides a conversion table in the back for measurements) and clear. There isn’t much magical instruction within all these amazing recipes which was a bit of a let down, but there is a ton of information towards the back to what ruling planets, deities, and celestial phases all the ingredients correspond with. Highly recommended for readers looking for a resource they can return to again and again for ideas on how to handle the pragmatic with a magical flair. Greg


System of the World (The Baroque Cycle #3) by Neal Stephenson

The System of the World by Neal StephensonThis final volume of Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle ties up the myriad storylines that have emerged throughout the series. There is something for everyone in this.  For much of the series, we follow Natural Philosopher Daniel Waterhouse through pre-Enlightenment England as Isaac Newton and the Royal Society pivot from alchemy to science.  If the invention of calculus is not your cup of tea, there is no want of political intrigue among Protestants and Catholics following the restoration of the British Monarchs.  If not that, there is the swashbuckling adventures of Jack Shaftoe, King of Vagabonds or Eliza as she rises through the European elite via machinations involving new inventions in finance.  The breadth of this series is far beyond the size of anything that should work – yet it does.  Trent


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo TolstoyI’ve been reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  It’s an amazing book.  Tolstoy is so incisive about his characters, he knows them so well, and so over time we feel like we really get to know and even love Pierre, Andrei and Natasha (although there are a lot more characters, those are probably the main three).  Tolstoy studied in a very intense way the military campaigns between Russia and France, and then he is able to infuse what he learned with his astonishing imagination.  It seems like he gets every detail right, from the description of what the men and women are wearing in a ballroom, to descriptions of gun smoke in a field during a battle.  He’s able to really zoom in and zoom out in this wonderful way.  Andrew 


Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel  by Marie Benedict

Carnegie's Maid: A Novel by Marie…This is the story of Clara Kelley, a recent immigrant from Ireland, who assumes the identity of a fellow passenger who died during the voyage. She secures a position as lady’s maid to Margaret Carnegie, Andrew Carnegie’s mother. Clara’s goal is to send money back to her struggling family in Ireland. Andrew is attracted to Clara, and they secretly spend time together. Andrew shares some of his business expertise with Clara and welcomes her suggestions until Clara disappears when Mrs. Carnegie learns of her deceptions. For lovers of historical fiction and fiction. Emma


The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air) by…This book marks the author’s return to the land of faeries. Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and her sisters were stolen away to the High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Faerie is all she knows and all she wants is to truly belong. One of her biggest obstacles is Prince Cardin, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. Cardin despises mortals and goes out of his way to make Jude’s life miserable. To earn a place in Court, Jude must go head to head against Prince Cardin. When she does, she finds herself caught in the middle of a political scandal that threatens everyone in Faerie. Can a mere mortal outwit the traitors and save fae? Megan


The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward AbbeyI’m almost finished with this book from the 70s about environmental saboteurs against the industrial complex out west taking the land’s natural resources. To be real the characters, plot, and writing are becoming annoying and I’m just trying to finish it quickly. Next I’m waiting on a hold through Overdrive on my Kindle for Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen and a book on CD from Rocky River of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal. Byron


The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees by Viet Thanh NguyenA captivating and complicated set of short stories that examine identity, family, and romantic love through the eyes of Vietnamese refugees. Realistic elements are mixed with some fantastical ones (for instance, in the first story in the collection, a girl is visited by her brother, a ghost)—a literary technique perhaps intended to shed light on how disorienting and bizarre immigrant life can be.  In the audio book format, Nguyen reads his own stories, and his gentle and lightly accented voice creates an authentic soundscape for the reader. It is no wonder that Nguyen was showered with accolades for his first book, The Sympathizer. His masterful, self-aware prose won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the ALA Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, among others. Lyndsey


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane GayThis was not quite what I expected but a very good read nonetheless. I found the beginning to be a bit scattered and slow at times which made it difficult for me to make a connection with the book.  However, after reading and digesting all her essays I feel that I would like to strive to be a similar feminist to Roxane Gay – someone who is thoughtful, objective, outspoken when necessary and truly unique.  Mary

 


The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola YoonThis story takes place mostly in one very transformative day in the life of two teens, Daniel and Natasha. They meet by chance as they are both on their way to two very different, but equally important meetings that could potentially change the course of their lives forever.  The story is hopeful and sweetly romantic. Beth

 

 


City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty,

The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad…A perfect winter escape, this debut fantasy novel, book #1 in The Daevabad Trilogy, transports readers to mystical Arabia. Nahri, an orphaned young woman living in Cairo by her wits, her cons, and a little bit of magic, has her life upended when she unknowingly calls forth a djinn warrior who recognizes that she’s not entirely human. Chased by demons, they journey to the supposed safety of Daevabad, the city of brass, where political and ethnic strife is swirling beneath the surface and where Nahri discovers the mystery of her origin.  Dori


The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man: A Novel by C. J. TudorSwitching between 1986 and 2016, this book takes you through the summer holidays of Eddie and his friends who are growing up and looking for some excitement in their tiny British village.  They sure find it when a game they’ve developed using chalk figure codes leads them to a dismembered body.  Jump to 2016 and the chalk figures are showing up again. It seems like just a prank until one of the old friends turns up dead.  Eddie must figure out what happened years ago in order to save himself and the others. Sara


 

 

 

 

 

 

Sara’s Top 10 of 2017 December 11, 2017

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Debut Author, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Mystery, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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I’m a little behind on my reading so these aren’t all new books.  It was hard to choose but was a lot of fun remembering how much I enjoyed each of these as I went through them.  Hope you find something you’ll enjoy too!

Cover image for The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

This thriller  kept me on the edge of my seat.  The unusual main character, the outdoor setting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the drama of wondering who will catch the Marsh King made this a great, compelling read.

 

 

Cover image for Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Chief Inspector Gamache, and all the eccentric characters of Three Pines do not disappoint in this creepy, dark mystery that has many more layers than at first it seems.

 

 

 

Cover image for The Dry by Jane Harper

A stunning debut novel, with tension and bridled energy at every turn. Looks like small Australian towns come with big secrets.

 

 

 

Cover image for The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I guess this book is considered fantasy, but it seemed real to me as I was reading it! An extraordinary tale of superstition, tradition, family and magic that takes place in the long-lasting winter of the Russian wilderness.  I can hardly wait to read the next book, The Girl in the Tower, just recently released.

 

 

Cover image for Home by Harlan Coben

Book #11 in the Myron Bolitar series, released almost six years after its predecessor, brings back the characters we love- Myron, Win, Esperanza and Big Cindy. A decade older and a little wiser (debatable), they take on the task of finding Win’s cousin who has been missing for 10 years.  A satisfying but dark mystery about friends, family and coming home.

 

 

Cover image for Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Eleanor Flood’s life is a complete mess, but she has decided today will be different.  And she has no idea how right she is!  A hilarious story with a main character you can’t help but love and an ending that makes it all worthwhile.

 

 

Cover image for The Golden Hour by T. Greenwood

I somehow thought T. Greenwood was a new author, but now I am wondering why I haven’t read her other eight books?!  A beautifully written story of a young mother struggling with her marriage, her career, and her future–all because of the lies of her past.

 

 

Cover image for The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

A debut novel that thankfully is the beginning of the Gemma Woodstock series, The Dark Lake tells of teenage jealousy, hurt and secrets that will resurface until they are brought to light and put to rest.

 

 

 

Cover image for The Trespasser by Tana French

It seems that every Tana French book is better than the last, and this is no exception. The book solves a murder, but more importantly digs into the deeply-rooted culture of the Dublin Murder Squad, with it’s egos, grudges, deceptions as well as  its loyalty and commitment to protect and serve.

 

 

Cover image for Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Spending a year as the captive of a psychopath will definitely change your life. This story looks into the mind of Annie O’Sullivan as she discusses the past with her therapist and struggles to put the pieces of her life back together. A creepy, psychological mystery that’s quick to read.

 

Check out these reviews! New to the Reading Room November 28, 2017

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Non-Fiction.
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Age is Just a Number -of Good (Teen) Books! February 7, 2017

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Young Adult.
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I have some sad news -It was decided to stop our monthly staff genre book discussions and I have to confess, I miss them already… At least you’ll have one last list of new (to you?) teen books to read and enjoy! Are you ready to see what everyone had to say about their selection this month? Me too!

Megan: The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter, is the 2017 William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. It tells the story of three teens living in a small Tennessee town in the heart of the Bible Belt. Dill is the grandson and son of preachers and their legacy is not a happy one. Grandpa Dill was a snake charmer who became unhinged after the death of his daughter and Dill’s father, also a Dill, is in prison. His mother wants him to leave school and help support the family, but his best friend Lydia wants him to go to college. Lydia is internet famous for her fashion blog and she is eager to leave her small town middle class life and strike out on her own in New York City. The third member of this odd little group is Travis, the gentle giant. He chooses to escape the abuse he suffers at the hand of his father by retreating into a fantasy world. This book is full of the big questions teens ask, friendship, tragedy, and hope. This is a fantastic coming of age story for fans of John Green and A.S. King

Gina: We Are Still Tornadoes is written in epistolary format, by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen. Discover the thoughts of these childhood friends, Cath and Scott after their high school graduation in the letters they write to each other the following year as pen pals. Cath moves out of state to attend college while Scott remains home to assist his father in the family store and starts a band with friends. They correspond throughout the year sharing their experiences, learning, and growing. Their letters bring them close together to realize that they are more than just friends. The addition of the 80’s music references made this book enjoyable.

Steve: The first book of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan, is an awesome fantasy story that centers on an orphan named Will. On the Choosing Day none of the task masters choose him as an apprentice, that is until a Ranger ultimately requests him. Will is dutifully learning the ways of the Rangers, under the mentorship of the mysterious Halt, when his training is interrupted by news that the evil Morgarath is making maneuvers in an attempt to gain control of the kingdom. And then the real action begins.

Carol: In Jackaby by William Ritter, Abigail Rook comes to America in 1892 looking for adventure, and she is hired as an assistant to R.F. Jackaby, a mysterious detective who can see the paranormal. On Abigail’s first day, they are called to the scene of a murder. Jackaby is convinced that the killer is other-worldly and the game is afoot. This first in a series was published in 2014 and is a smart, funny and clever read—like a Sherlock novel, with a supernatural twist.

Sara: I read the young adult novel, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. It is the first in a trilogy about a 16 year old girl who wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the accident that put her there or how two friends and her boyfriend died in it. Her family moves to a new state, hoping Mara’s memory will come back gradually. Instead she begins hallucinating that she can see her dead friends and has premonitions of things before they happen. She also falls in love with a mysterious boy, Noah, who she feels like she has know for a lifetime. Were they destined to meet by forces beyond her control? And how did her friends die in the accident while she was unharmed? This book is a psychological (and perhaps paranormal) thriller, fast-paced and definitely worth reading.

Lauren: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows is a delightfully ridiculous retelling of the story of Lady Jane Grey and King Edward VI. Their fantasy world centers on the clash between Verities, “normal people”…I guess, and Ethians, who have both a human and animal form and are widely seen as the scourge of the earth. An absolutely hilarious story of magic, adventure, and a little romance.

Dori: In Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina, it’s the summer of 1977, and New York City is haunted by periodic blackouts, arson attacks and most menacingly by serial killer Son of Sam. Nora Lopez is about to graduate from high school and is thinking about her future while dealing with the stress of living with her single mother, a Cuban immigrant, and her younger brother Hector, a drug dealer who abuses his mother. To escape, Nora gets a job at a local deli and starts a relationship with Pablo, a handsome boy who works there too. As the city’s tension swirls around her, Nora must realize some hard truths while finding herself.

Beth: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige is set in a dystopia Oz. When Amy finds herself displaced in Oz after a tornado, she learns that Oz is real, but it is not the Oz she had read about growing up. She’s tasked with saving Oz by taking down the all too powerful ruler, Dorothy.

Stacey: In Kids of Appetite, David Almond has been able to address serious issues with such subtle grace. Vic is struggling to cope with the loss of his father to cancer while watching his mom begin a relationship with someone new. Oh, and also Vic has Moebius Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that paralyzes his facial muscles. Escaping the house with his father’s ashes, Vic stumbles upon a tight-knit group of outsiders (yep, a nod to the S.E. Hinton book!) each with their own troubles. When they find a message hidden in the urn, the clues lead the kids to discover memories of importance to Vic’s parents. Sweet but never sappy, with a message about kindness, compassion, and living with personal integrity, plus a quirky sense of humor; this book becomes something truly special.

Thank you for joining in and reading along with us for the last few years -I hope you’ve discovered an new favorite author (or two) and (like me) found a little love in your heart for a genre you previously felt “bleh!’ about! (I’m looking at *you* horror genre!)

enjoy!
Stacey

Don’t be a Grinch… read a HOliday Story! December 5, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Holiday Books.
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Ho ho ho! We read Holiday Stories! That means the books below could have prominently featured any holiday happening from Halloween to Valentine’s Day -a pretty big window of possibilities, no? Ready to see what everyone selected? Here we go:

Megan: What Light by Jay Asher is sweet holiday story about Sierra, who’s family operates a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. Every year they pack up and head to California to set up their tree lot for the season. Sierra loves this time of year and the chance to see her California best friend even though it means leaving her Oregon life and friends behind. It’s Christmas business as usual on what could be the last year for the lot. That is, until Caleb shows up. Caleb has a bad boy reputation in the small town, but Sierra, despite insisting she isn’t interested in dating, begins to see past that and gest to know the real Caleb. Fans of holiday romances full of hot chocolate, candy canes, and true love won’t want to miss this one.

Dori: Burglar Junior Bender returns in Timothy Hallinan’s holiday offering, Fields Where They Lay. Junior has never been fond of Christmas and this year, things are not looking up. He’s been hired by a threatening member of the Russian mafia to investigate the high burglary rate at the failing, old, Edgerton Mall. Also, his girlfriend has mysteriously up and left him and he needs to figure out what to give his teenager daughter for Christmas. Funny and touching, with a satisfying ending perfect for delivering a dose of Christmas cheer.

Gina: Elin Hilderbrand’s Winter Stroll picks up a year after the first book in the series, Winter Street. The Quinn family and Winter Street Inn are all prepared for Nantucket’s traditional Christmas Stroll. This quick story transitions from each character, following each of their weekend experiences. Patriarch Kelley feels confused with his relationships to his first wife, Margaret Quinn, and second wife, Mitzi. Patrick is in jail and his wife Jennifer is trying to raise their three boys to be respectful and responsible despite the current situation. Kevin and girlfriend Isabelle have a beautiful baby girl named Genevieve. In addition to the Winter Stroll the family will be celebrating Genevieve’s baptism during the weekend. Ava has found the love of her life but an accident causes her to question the relationship, not to mention an ex-boyfriend popping into town. Bart, who was deployed to Afghanistan last year, is still MIA, but at the end of the weekend there may be hope. Each chapter kept me excited for the next and would recommend this for a winter read.

Lauren: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson—originally published in 1972—is a delightful book about the horrible Herdman children who take over and wreak havoc on the church’s annual Christmas story play…to hilarious and somewhat miraculous results.  You’ll find it in the children’s section, but it’s a gem that anyone can enjoy.

Beth: In Melissa Ciccocioppo, Peter Skullkid, Asia Erickson, and Eric G. Salisbury’s Contemporary Krampus, we are shown different artistic interpretations of Krampus.  As one of the many companions of Saint Nicholas, Krampus takes his responsibility of punishing the misbehaved children seriously and this book will scare the pants off of them.

Steve: The Christmas Thief, by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark, is a simple read for anyone looking for a fluffy Christmas work .  Packy Noonan, who has just been released from prison for scamming millions of dollars from people, is reuniting with his old bumbling buddies to reclaim the flask of diamonds that he hid in a giant spruce tree 12 years ago.  Things go awry as the tree is set to be used this year for the Rockefeller Center tree. Private detective Regen Reilly and her friends have stumbled into this mess. There are a few laughs but not much suspense here, although it’s perfectly suitable for a mindless Christmas read.    

Carol: In The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere, 21-year-old Lauren Gamble longs for a place to call home and people to call family—she’s even gone so far as posting a Craiglist ad for both. Social media is letting her down when she stumbles upon and is drawn to the nearby small town of Grandon. There she meets a special boy named Ben and begins to volunteer at Glory’s Place, a center for families in need. Could it be true? Might Lauren get the Christmas wish she dreams of?

Sara: I read A Christmas Grace by Anne Perry.  In this short mystery which is set in 1895, a wealthy young wife and mother, Emily Radley, travels from London to a small, dwindling town on the western coast of Ireland.  Her estranged Aunt Susannah is dying and has asked for family to come be with her.  Susannah married a Catholic man and moved to Ireland many years before, disgracing her English family.  Emily is fearful of this rugged, desolate part of Ireland by the sea and resentful that she must leave her home two weeks before Christmas. Once there, she realizes the town has many secrets, and the residents are consumed by guilt because of the death of young shipwrecked sailor seven years before.  Now the winter storms have caused another tragic wreck, and another young sailor is taken in by the town.  Can Emily solve the mystery of the prior sailor’s murder before history repeats itself?  And by doing so, can she save the town of Connemara and allow Aunt Susannah’s last Christmas to be a peaceful one?  This is a quick and engaging read, laced with interesting insight into 19th century relationships between the English and the Irish peoples.

Emma: Oliver the Cat who Saved Christmas by Sheila Norton is the story of pub cat Oliver who loses his home in a fire. Unfortunately owner George moves to London during reconstruction and cannot take Oliver along. Two families become his foster families. Oliver has a way to discover exactly what each human needs. In doing so, he saves Christmas and makes lots of people happy. This is a treat for all pet lovers.

Stacey: Just when I thought  there can’t possibly be any more ways to explain the man, the myth, the legend of Santa Claus, I stumbled upon The Christmas Chronicles by Tim Slovenia and found I was wrong!  There are clever explanations to cover all your burning questions, from how Klaus came to create toys for children to why the red suit to those flying reindeer -and they completely make sense. But what makes this book really special is the mix of myth, magic, religion, contemporary pop culture, and faith (in yourself and others.) A charming and thoughtful choice for the holiday season.

Next time? We’ll be reading Teen Fiction! (I realize this is pretty self-explanatory but heck, I’ve got a job to do here!) If you want to read along with us, you’ll want to find a novel aimed at the 18 and younger crowd. Get excited -there are some pretty awesome teen books out there!

Happy Holidays!
Stacey

What’s So Scary? Horror books- of course! November 8, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Horror.
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We did it! We talked about dark, scary things that go *bump* in the night and we survived! Don’t forget, horror books are written to frighten the reader and are distinguished by supernatural or occult elements, often featuring the power of the natural world gone awry. So, are you ready for a scary read?

Megan: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt and translated from the original Dutch by Nancy Forest-Flier, is the story of a picturesque Hudson Valley town that lives under the curse of a 17th century witch. With her mouth and eyes sewn shut she wanders the streets and enters homes and buildings. The residents, all cursed to remain in Black Spring, have protected the town from the outside world, keeping their secret and themselves safe. When a group of frustrated teenagers rebel against the long-standing virtual quarantine, they set in motion a dangerous and deadly series of events. The juxtaposition of the tragic story of a 350 year old witch with the modern day is fascinating. This is a compelling and truly creep read sure to satisfy any horror lover.

Lauren: Dawn is the first book in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Series. Planet Earth has been ravaged by atomic civil war and Lilith is one of the survivors. She has survived because she is in the care of an alien species, the Oankali. However, whether she has been rescued or captured remains debatable. When the Oankali wake Lilith from suspended animation aboard their spaceship she is tasked with learning their language and culture and preparing to assimilate the other humans as they are awakened, before they can make their return to Earth. But it is the mission of the Oankali to genetically merge with the civilizations they discover. Though they initially prevented the total extinction of the human race it becomes clear that Lilith’s children and the generations that come after them will be less than human.

Gina: Knowing of some of the many adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I thought it would be a horror. I did not expect for this novella to be as calm as it was. The book begins by following the lawyer Mr. Utterson investigation of an encounter between a young girl and a man known as Mr. Hyde. Through this investigation, Mr. Utterson becomes aware that Mr. Hyde is the beneficiary of a friend and client named Dr. Jekyll. After a confrontation, Mr. Hyde assures Mr. Utterson that everything is alright and in order. Time passes, and another incident happens- evidence points towards Mr. Hyde, but he is nowhere to be found. Instead, Dr. Jekyll appears with a note showing that he has ended any relations with Mr. Hyde. The narration changes to follow Dr. Hastie Lanyon, a collogue of Dr. Jekyll; upon being a witness to the strange transformation of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde, he dies of shock. Before his death he writes to Mr. Utterson explaining what he witnessed. Mr. Utterson receives the letter and with concern from Dr. Jekyll’s butler, rushes to the doctor’s home to find the body of Dr. Hyde died from an apparent suicide. Mr. Utterson discovers a note written by Dr. Jekyll; explaining his experimentations and hypothesis of the duel personalities. Dr. Jekyll writes that what began as a simple experiment, easily controlled, became something he could not handle and feared for what more damage could happen and so he decided to end his life, to stop Mr. Hyde.

Sara: I read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. This book was a combination of mystery/thriller/horror. Camille Preaker is a Chicago journalist who has recently been hospitalized for self harm-carving various words onto her whole body. She has been suffering for years since the unexplained death of her younger sister Marian, her mother’s favorite child. She reluctantly goes to her tiny hometown to cover the murder of one young girl and the disappearance of another. Camille is reunited with her estranged, unloving mother and her half-sister Amma. As secrets of Camille’s past are revealed, she becomes close to her half sister and learns that her mother is capable of unspeakable things. This book is a page turner, but also deeply disturbing. The twist at the ending makes the journey worthwhile.

Carol: In Come Closer by Sara Gran, Amanda and her husband move into their new trendy loft and all is perfection—until Amanda begins to hear noises in the home and have strange dreams. Amanda’s life begins to spiral out of control. Is the loft haunted; is Amanda losing her mind; or is there something more sinister at work? Read this “scariest book of 2004” and find out!

Steve: Mrs. God by Peter Straub is a creepy, slow moving tale with a letdown of an ending. Professor Standish heads to England for a fellowship at the spooky Esswood House, owned by the aristocratic Seneschal family and home to their renowned library of literature. Odd characters and happenings abound, like servants that vanish or really don’t exist, doors that lock by themselves and whispering mystery voices. Is it Standish’s drinking, madness, or a dark secret of the Seneschals? Unfortunately the end is a train wreck which doesn’t really come to a conclusion, too bad as the first 75% was quite good.

Emma: The book In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters takes place during the height of the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. Sixteen-year old Mary Shelley Black is sent to San Diego to live with her aunt. Despite the ever present fear of the flu and war, Mary Shelley is eager to reunite with her childhood friend, Stephen. When she learns that Stephen’s brother has made a name for himself among the Spiritualists by claiming to photograph the spirits of the dead, she is determined to prove him a fraud. Her plans are derailed when she is visited by an unsettled spirit. A must-read for fans of historical fiction, the paranormal, and spooky ghost stories.

Dori: Dori: In Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s I Remember You: A Ghost Story, an Icelandic couple buy an abandoned vacation house in an isolated village in hopes of turning it into a vacation rental. They go there in the off season to work on the house and quickly encounter disturbing sights: moving crosses, mysterious footprints and odd smells. Meanwhile, psychologist Freyr, who’s 6-year-old son has gone missing, is asked to help with an investigation into an incident of crude defacement in a preschool. This snowballs into further inquiries into mysterious suicides which involve strangers that are obsessed with the disappearance of his son. This is an eerie, disturbing ghost story that builds to a surprising and tragic conclusion.

Stacey: Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things is the kind of story that will have you looking over your shoulder, avoiding dark hallways, and jumping at unexpected noises -for days and days …and then… many more days! A group of women, without any discernable connection, have been kidnapped and taken to a desolate bunkhouse in the middle of the remote, Australian Outback. With no way to know who’s responsible for their brutal imprisonment or why they’ve been selected, these women begin to form a social order to match their dark world. Just as disturbing as what readers learn about these conditions is the lack of explanation or information. This is a really smart, psychological horror story!

Next time? We’re going to lighten the mood with -Holiday Stories! This is another one that you can read pretty much anything you’d like as long as a Winter holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve) is prominently featured in the story.

Enjoy!
—Stacey