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Lauren has been reading since she was born
I have never met the curiously named Leopoldine Core and yet she knows me. In her new collection, she identifies every strange fear or instant irrational hatred I've ever felt. The stories in WHEN WATCHED stand alone: some are very short, examining the inner lives of the articulate and lonely. Some are longer, exploring the dynamics between the mismatched and long-coupled. Every page is beautiful, filled with more pain and rage and joy than most authors fit in an entire book. Exquisite, razor-sharp, I could go on and on about the virtues of this book, but it all boils down to: read it. You will love it.
I can't believe this is a debut novel: the writing is so assured, the prose so exquisite, I felt like I was reading a book by a confident, established author. Buntin is a master of word choice, every sentence felt deliberate and precise. I quickly got sucked into this story about a pair of teenage girls, one doomed, one not. It was a quick read, but one I found myself lingering over. I'd recommend Marlena to to fans of Megan Abbott's dark, twisty books about girlhood--this is a similarly fierce read!
Meet Tandy Caide: small-town CPA, legacy member of the Order of the Pessimists, and champion bowler (or she would be, if she could just put a spin on the ball). She's having a very odd year that includes, but is not limited to, near-weekly meth lab explosions, an affair with the new Vo-Ag teacher, and a high school production of "Annie". The plot is engaging enough on its own, what makes this debut stand out is the remarkable narrator. Her feelings and thoughts are complex, yet cleanly laid out, like a cross-section in a human anatomy textbook. Tandy assumes the reader is smarter, or at least more sophisticated, than her, but she does herself a disservice. She is intricate and endlessly fascinating, with jokes dry enough to go unnoticed, but sharp enough to ensure they never do. Her heart and her mind are often at odds with each other, but I enjoyed reading the struggle.
I've never read anything like this masterful debut and I'm not sure quite how to describe it. It begins with a man named Marc, held hostage in Karachi. He's being asked a series of questions, but most important of all is this one: why didn't he go home last month for his daughter's funeral? From here the story unfolds in a manner that reminds me of Inception: each story spawns another story and another, as we move deeper and deeper into layers of alternate realities. The storytelling is fantastic, Scheherazade-like, and I couldn't put this down!
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To some extent, we are all chameleons. We fit ourselves to the situation we're in, act differently around our boss than our family, tell little white lies out of kindness. But what if that's all you did? Hattie Hoffman is just a teenager, but she's already mastered the art of observing the people around her, assessing their desires and expectations, and molding herself accordingly. She's a young Ripley-in-training until her life gets cut short. Everything You Want Me to Be is a chilling mystery that explores the mutability of identity through the eyes of three very different people. If you're looking for the next captivating thriller that everyone will be comparing to Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, this is it!
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I spent much of my adolescence fervently wishing for a different, better face and I'd be lying if I said I completely outgrew that. But what if there was a liquid you could drink that would transform you into someone incredibly beautiful? You wouldn't recognize your own reflection, but you wouldn't want to look away, Narcissus-style. Georgia Clark has taken what could have been a silly, Twilight Zone-style premise and written a thoughtful commentary on beauty standards, populated with a diverse cast of strong, flawed, relatable characters. What would you do to be pretty? The Regulars is a sinister, heartbreaking, and surprisingly funny answer to that Klondike Bar-esque question.
Forgive my hyperbole, but Megan Abbott is my QUEEN. Every book I read by her ends up being my favorite book of the year, and You Will Know Me is no exception! From page one, I was sucked into the dark, twisted, insidious story about a family devoted to their daughter, an extraordinary gymnast - who knew Olympic hopefuls could be so sinister? I found myself both repelled by and relating to the characters, constantly pausing to mull over what I'd read and to postpone the ending that much longer. This is a book with teeth!
Fair warning: to pick up this book is to lose yourself for hours, maybe days, in a story that is dark, raw, and thoroughly addictive. It has all the elements of a classic psychological thriller, but with Walker's careful unspooling of the aftermath of a horrific crime, it becomes something so much more. She gets into her characters heads completely and, as a result, the book has taken up residence in mine. All is Not Forgotten is completely unforgettable!
A lusty Justin Bieber, a gang of psychotic cats with Nic Cage's face, a Pikachu sex-bot: these are just a few of the characters Gina encounters on her strange, candy-colored journey through life. Someone Please Have Sex with Me is short, but packs in more hilarious weirdness than any other book I've read before. Reading it was like diving face-first into a pile of sugar and Quaaludes and I loved every trippy moment.
Real talk: I don't scare easily. Throw a bloody murder mystery at me and I'll still sleep like a nightmare-free baby. But after I finished this book (at approximately 2 am) I left my bedroom light on all night long. Renner not only has some serious investigative chops, he weaves a tale of depravity that chilled me to the bone. His story, not only the mysterious disappearance of Maura Murray, but his personal story of obsession and the things that haunt him, got under my skin. True Crime Addict is getting comparisons to Robert Graysmith's Zodiac and I can see why: both are full of strange red herrings, ominous scenes, and authors who get tangled up in their own stories. I was completely sucked in, the way I am with the very best non-fiction. Watch Making a Murderer, read this, and never sleep again!
I hesitate to throw around words like "digital age" and "millennials" because they are so often obnoxious, but I can think of no better way to say this: Shrill is The Feminine Mystique for the digital age/millennials/feminists-who-are-angry-but-hopeful, etc! I love this book so much, it's almost violent. I wanted to underline every word, but I settled for constantly mentioning it to everyone I came in contact with. Lindy West has a razor-sharp intelligence and wit that comes through on every page, as does her humor and compassion. I'm basically drooling all over this staff rec, so I'll finish with this: read this book, it'll be the best thing you put in your face all year!
Jeremy is a classic schlemiel: a bumbling, awkward guy, just a lovable/infuriating sad sack. He's finally realized his dream of owning his own restaurant and, in classic schlemiel fashion, nothing goes as planned. Not only is Congratulations on Everything witty (I found myself genuinely laughing out loud at the simplest sentences), but Whitlock does a brilliant job creating a character I simultaneously want to shake and hug. Grace, pathos, awkwardness, and the looming threat of a Cracker Barrel-esque restaurant chain, this book has everything!
Someone is watching you read this. Maybe they are standing behind you, focusing on you so tightly their gaze becomes a physical thing you want to swat away from your neck. Maybe they (the shadowy, faceless "they") have hacked into your phone and are peering out at you through your camera, combing your digital habits for clues. Or maybe it's all in your head, an invisible audience that judges your every stumble. This collection will make you keenly, uncomfortably aware of all the eyes around you and all the paranoid possibilities they present. I recommend pairing it with 1984 and a tinfoil hat.
"She" is incredible. It begins with a teenage girl, hiding on a bus with a backpack of her meager possessions, smudging her white Keds on her way to someplace better. She ends up in L.A. and the stories that follow alternate between her (self-possessed, afraid but hopeful) and the people she encounters (lost, broken, strange). I couldn't put it down, I kept telling myself I was just going to read ONE more story and then I'd get sucked in. I'd recommend this collection to anyone looking for that oh-so-rare combination: a good writer who is also a good storyteller!
When I picked up this dark masterpiece, the biggest surprise was how relatable it feels! I like to think that I'd be just like Judith/Lauren if I were a brilliant, sexually voracious social striver with sociopathic tendencies. Maestra is ruthless: every page crackles with intelligence and a brooding, ill-concealed rage that snaps to the surface more and more frequently. Reading it, I vacillated between a sort of appalled awe, reluctant admiration, and guilty laughter. I want more stylish, demented stories from L.S. Hilton!
I enjoyed this book so much, I'm slightly worried about myself: should I relish such a nasty little story? I was horrified by the exploits of the amoral protagonist, but I couldn't help but like him a little bit. Just a little. I was transfixed by the depths to which he sank and I found myself relating to him in odd little moments (his disdain for the painfully earnest, especially). Reading Undone was like experiencing a long, slow sneeze: awkward and strange, but ultimately incredibly satisfying!
I was primed for a good read when I picked up An Unrestored Woman: the title is intriguing and I've been going through a book drought. But I was unprepared for how close the book would grip me. Rao's tales of life in India after the Partition manage to be completely unfamiliar, yet instantly recognizable. The stories are paired, and sometimes the characters share only the most tenuous connections, but they are all equally engaging. She manages to create entire lives in just a few pages. I read them all in one night (I couldn't wait any longer!), but they've been living in my head ever since.
As soon as I saw the main character of "Hidden Bodies" described as a cross between Holden Caulfield and Patrick Bateman, I KNEW I would love this book - and I did! Joe Goldberg is the snarkiest, most likable murderer I've ever encountered in literature and I just couldn't help but root for him. Kepnes is the perfect storyteller: measured and engaging, drawing out Goldberg's twisted search for "love". Not just a thriller, this is also a hilarious look at millennial culture and the rare sequel that actually surpasses its predecessor. I couldn't look away and I didn't want to
I picked Jillian up on a whim: it's got an eye-catching cover and it's back-pocket-sized, perfect for my commute. But I read it all, cover to cover, as soon as I got home. It's an oversimplification to say that Butler chronicles the lives of "millennials", that cringe-inducing word for my generation. She gets in her characters' heads, laying bare their loathsomeness and vulnerability, and watching them unravel was intoxicating. It made me want to laugh and cry, sometimes in the span of one page. I want more from this smart, sharp author!
Even if I hadn't read We've Already Gone This Far, I would know that it's good because George Saunders says so and George Saunders is never wrong. But I DID read it, which is how I know it's amazing! The stories are simple on the surface, but every one of them made me laugh and broke my heart, sometimes in the span of a few sentences. Dacey's characters are both comically and tragically flawed, but the compassion he feels for them inspired the same reaction in me. I fear becoming these people, but I loved reading about them!
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Are you the baddest bitch you know? Does your ideal Girls' Night Out involve robbery, fish slap fights, and general mayhem? Join the Mean Girls Club! The benefits include strong friendships, drug muscles, and all the lingerie you can carry. Who can worry about a reduced life expectancy when you're having this much fun?
I didn't really know what to expect when I picked this up, aside from the usual domestic drama. It starts with a man and a woman, a previously fun-loving couple who are now stuck in a grey-tinged dismal rut. But quickly, so fast it made my head spin, it turns into something else, something dark, nasty, and insidiously sinister. The Winter Girl is an unexpectedly vicious read, but it's not unenjoyable - I stayed up all night to finish it and it's lived in my head since. It should come with a warning label: may cause dissatisfaction with kinder, gentler stories. Everyone needs a Winter Girl...
How much can we forgive? How much can we forget? In The Case of Lisandra P., the setting is as much of a character as the wounded people who populate it. Buenos Aires, 1987: the Dirty War has ended, officially 13,000 people have been "disappeared", and citizens have been instructed to forgive and forget and move on with their lives. Eva Maria's daughter is one of the missing and she muddles through each day with the help of her psychoanalyst (and alcohol). When her therapist's beautiful young wife dies under mysterious circumstances, Eva Maria is determined to solve the crime and clear his name. But the past can't stay buried for long and Eva has but a tenuous grasp on an ever-changing reality. Equal parts murder mystery and sociological study, Gremillon's newest has dreamlike quality that's both disorienting and enchanting.
I'm a long way out of my teens, but not so long that I can't remember what it was like, and "American Girls" really resonated with me. I was initially taken in by Umminger's writing (she got me from page one), but I stayed because of Anna. Her feelings of alienation, of inadequacy and insecurity, of a disconnect from the adults around her, echoed my own long-past feelings. Plus I too harbor a perhaps-inappropriate obsession with serial killers and I was fascinated by Anna's focus on the Manson girls: who they were before and after committing a heinous crime. The happy-ish ending to the book was just the cherry on top. I'd recommend this to angst-y weirdos of all ages!
I can only recommend this book in good conscience if the reader has cleared their schedule. Once I started The Arrangement, I didn't put it down again until the last page. Ashley Warlick has taken the already intriguing life of MFK Fisher and made it leap off the page. Under her pen, even the smallest details (the snap of a static-filled skirt, a Bakelite-handled comb whose sole function is to slice cake) are beautiful. Warlick, like Fisher herself, combines the earthy and the ethereal, and the results are stunning. Make this the next book you read!