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Lauren has been reading since she was born
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I took my time with this book. More than the average mystery, "All Things Cease to Appear" is an exploration of small towns and small lives. Brundage goes from character to character, revealing their struggles and heartbreaks, and I was completely enchanted. I loved reading about the lives people carved out for themselves in a landscape that is alternately beautiful and desolate. It broke my heart at times, but I loved every page. I'd recommend this to anyone who revels in novels about secrets and lives of quiet desperation.
I am usually skeptical of authors with multiple memoirs: how could any one person have enough experiences to fill those books? Augusten Burroughs is one of the few who does! His latest is quieter than his earlier works, not as dramatic, but just as good. He writes alternately about falling in and out of love and lust, about writing his first novel, about his epic jewelry collection, and more. It is hilarious and sad and brilliant! I finished Lust and Wonder with a new author suggestion (sidebar: I LOVE when authors recommend new books to me!) and a craving for the perfect jade bracelet. I want to read Burroughs for years to come!
Everything about Scary Old Sex is perfect: the cover, the title that I keep repeating in my head for some reason, and, of course, the stories themselves. They were written over a span of decades and it shows; each piece is polished and precise. Reading this, I felt like I was inside each character's head, thinking their thoughts. I had to reorient myself between each story, just to keep the lines straight. Pick this up if you're looking for something to absorb you completely!
What a strange, compelling book this is! Inspired by a stranger-than-fiction true story, Calf follows two murderers and the way their stories criss-cross and eventually converge. From the moment I started, I felt mesmerized; the cast of characters (all of whom are at least semi-tragic) fascinated me. When I was finished, after hours absorbed, largely oblivious to the world around me, I felt like I was coming out of a daze. I'd recommend this to anyone with a few hours free and who wants to be completely consumed by a haunting, well-written story!
Tired of the same old literary fare, with its realistic plots and relatable characters? Year of the Goose is exactly the ridiculous, hilarious, smart book you seek! It all starts with a fat camp for China's overweight children and from there turns into a madcap adventure involving multiple homicides (including a beloved goose), hair farms, unimaginable wealth, and, of course, a sage talking turtle. Each page is funnier and more absurd than the last and I found myself wanting more from this talented author. This is the book you'd get if Crazy Rich Asians dropped acid - perfect for Douglas Adams/Christopher Moore/Douglas Coupland junkies!
American Housewife is a little arsenic cupcake of a book: adorable and lethal! Each of the stories features a housewife who does all the usual hausfrau things, but with a homicidal twist. These ladies stand by their man - and sometimes they kill for him. I was spellbound! I loved every vicious one of them, from their perfectly coiffed hair and gel manicured fingers to their coal-black (and probably plaque-free, a good diet is important) hearts! This is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures: think Cupcakes and Cashmere with Patrick Bateman at the helm.
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Reading this book, I felt like I was the Passenger, taken along on a strange ride - and I mean that in the best way possible! I had no idea where I was going when I started this book about a woman on the run and I never knew what was coming. I read all night because I couldn't leave this unfinished, even for a day!
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Have you ever been so afraid to lose something that, when it happens, it feels inevitable, like your fear wrote it in the stars? That's precisely what happens to Beth, who worries constantly about her brilliant, but absent-minded daughter. When Carmel disappears, Beth is frantic and sick with guilt. The story is gripping enough on its own, but it's Hamer's writing that makes The Girl in the Red Coat so compelling. She goes back and forth between Beth and Carmel, getting in their heads and writing so powerfully about the feelings they experience: loss, grief, fear, unexpected joy, that I felt like I was there. If you are as drawn to this red cover as Carmel is to all things red, pick it up: you won't be disappointed!
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"...they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated to their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." These words, from The Great Gatsby, ran through my head, as a warning and a promise, the entire time I read Under the Influence. I was fascinated by the Havillands, the whirlwind of a couple at the center of the book, by their wealth, their ease, their charm. It's easy to see why they appeal to Helen, weary and downtrodden as she is, and why she slips so easily into their embrace, like slipping under the surface of a warm, Jo Malone-scented bath. I felt a growing sense of unease as the pages passed, picking up the warning signals Helen ignores, but I was as helpless to escape as she is. I couldn't stop reading until I reached the bitter end!
I have loved Lauren Groff since her first novel, and not just because we share an excellent name. Each of her books stands alone, beautiful and wholly different from each other. Her latest is divided into two parts, a matching "his and hers" look at what seems like the perfect marriage. Both parts are balanced (although I personally preferred the "furies" half) and are a subtle look at the ways people hide from one another. We can never really know another person, not completely, and Fates and Furies drives that point home. Reading this was a bittersweet experience: I loved it, but now it's over and I have to wait for another.
As a child of the 1990's I used to calculate my net worth in Beanie Babies - and I wasn't the only one. Those little plush animals (with the oh-so-crucial hang tag) caused a furor that no has ever been really able to explain. Bissonnette is the first to do an in-depth investigation, interviewing hundreds of people: collectors, Ty employees, even the inscrutable Ty Warner himself. The result is a fascinating, compulsively readable look at the silliest speculative bubble yet (at least tulips were classy!). "The Great Beanie Baby Bubble" is a smart, fun, and occasionally tragic read!
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Lori Rader-Day writes uncommonly thoughtful books: it was true of The Black Hour and it's true of Little Pretty Things. More than just a murder mystery (although it is that), it's a compelling story about the "haves" and the "have-nots". Some people just seem to go through life without being touched, but Rader-Day's characters are bruised and exhausted. The book begins with a confrontation between a woman who works as a maid at a sleazy motel and her best friend/rival from high school. After one of them ends up dead, all of the small town's ugly secrets float to the surface and the strangeness that follows could rival Twin Peaks! I was thoroughly engrossed and I can't wait to see what she does next!
I am not, in any way, a technophile: I am competent with computers, but the nuances elude me. So I came to The Dark Net a complete n00b - I had no idea this underground internet even existed! But from page one, I was fascinated. Bartlett writes with a journalist's attention to facts, and a novelist's eye for interesting details. Each chapter covers a different facet of the internet, from its inception to the seedy underbelly and dark corners that exist today. Even the more technologically advanced will learn something new (as long as they aren't already involved in one of the many criminal enterprises mentioned in the book)!
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When I was a kid, one of my favorite toys was my dollhouse: it looked just like a regular house from the front, but the back was open, all the rooms exposed, for me to move my dolls around. That's what "Paradise City" reminded me of, with each chapter narrated by a different character, all inscrutable to the people around them, but giving the reader glimpses into their inner lives. I was fascinated! Every character is richly detailed and Day's clear, sharp prose had me relating to their every feeling, from wild, unexpected happiness to deep, thudding, sadness. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much!
Until recently, I didn't realize Shirley Jackson's oeuvre consisted of more than The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House, excellent as they are. This collection schooled me! From the beautiful, oh-so-slightly menacing cover, to the creepy short stories, to the wry domestic dramas chronicled in her essays, it is perfection! Despite the vastly different subjects of her fiction and non-fiction (for example, a man driven mad by his Twilight Zone-esque existence versus her young son's suspiciously recalcitrant classmate), the collection is cohesive. She was a keen observer of humanity and her skillful portraits, both real and imagined, kept me turning pages all night. I want to spread the Gospel of Shirley Jackson!
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I have long been of the opinion that cruises are not only unsanitary and unfun, but a really good way to murder someone without getting caught. You couldn't pay me to go on one, and Day Four just reinforced my position! The companion to The Three takes place almost entirely on a doomed cruise where every possible thing goes wrong--among them a virus, a murder, and a sinister lack of communication from land. It's scary as hell and I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a horror story so much! Perhaps because it relates to my personal fears, but more likely because Sarah Lotz is adept at not only creating a terrifying plot, but crafting fascinating characters. I loved that the narration hopped between viewpoints and that I got to see through so many peoples' eyes. I can't recommend this highly enough and I can't wait to see what Lotz does next!
In the wake of a certain series of mysteries featuring a girl with a particular tattoo, the market has been flooded with Swedish crime novels. I am declaring Camilla Lackberg the best! Her Patrik Hedstrom series, featuring a detective of the same name and a host of other regulars, has all the bleakness and Sturm und Drang I've come to expect from Scandanavia but it's balanced by an unexpected warmth. Lackberg's truly creepy stories remind us to never be complacent or underestimate the evil of human nature, but are tempered with startling glimpses of kindness (really!). The Drowning is my favorite yet, featuring a group of people haunted by their past and violently forced to atone for their actions. I can say with certainty that this will keep you up at night, as I stayed up past the witching hour to race to the end - enjoy!
More than anything, this was a novel that surprised me. I'd be reading and enjoying what felt like a standard mystery when a clever turn of phrase or witty observation would shock me out of my book stupor. I'd have to stop and reread and appreciate. That, I think, is the best way to describe Evans' newest: a literary mystery with sharp moments of recognition. Uneasiness permeates every page until the unsettling end. It's a curious read and I highly recommend it!
When it comes to fashion, everything changed on November 28, 1978. Up until then, French designers set the trends and the world followed: Dior gave us the New Look, Yves Saint Laurent invented Le Smoking suit, and Givenchy outfitted Audrey Hepburn like a princess. But on that fateful night five American designers were pitted against five French legends in a runway show and, against all odds, we came out the clear victor. It was the fashion world's Miracle on Ice and Robin Givhan is the perfect person to tell the story! She not only includes all the gossipy details that make it so enjoyable (Halston only referred to himself in the third person and everyone loathed him! Liza Minnelli took all the models out to eat!), but the exhaustive research that makes this book come alive. She covers all the players: the designers, the models, the performers (including Josephine Baker), the financial backers, even the more glittering of the attendees - I felt like I was there. This book is about more than just clothing, it touches on race, history, nationalism, and a new social order. I was completely immersed!
Once upon a time there were two little girls who were as different as could be: one was brashly pretty and outspoken, the other quiet and watchful. In fact, the only thing they had in common was the man who took them. Despite the odd summer that binds them, as adults they are still vastly different: Carly May is a semi-successful actress and Lois is an pseudonymous author and professor. This book shimmers with anxiety, going back and forth between the women's present and their twelfth summer. I was drawn to the story of these girls who were technically unharmed, but not unchanged and I was sucked in by Mitchell's skilled writing. This is a strange, menacing piece of work and I couldn't put it down!
Take the psychological suspense of Gone Girl and add it to the dread of Strangers on a Train and you've got Girl on the Train! Hawkins' debut is poised to be one of the most talked about books of 2015 and with good reason: she's written a skilled thriller that we can all relate to (especially commuters!) All of us, at one time, have stared dully out of a moving vehicle, our gaze snagging on something and our imagination running wild. Rachel takes the same train every day, and every day she makes sure to look for the "perfect couple" that live in her old neighborhood. She thinks about them often, conjecturing that they live the kind of ideal life she dreamed about with her ex-husband. But then she sees something odd and is pulled into a murder case stranger than anything she could have imagined. I raced through the pages, eager to make it to the end, and I loved that I not only got Rachel's shaky point of view (I love a good unreliable narrator!), but that of the missing woman and her neighbor, the new wife of Rachel's ex. Pick this up for the great cover design and stay for the engrossing story!
Catherine is just an average woman with all the trappings of a nice life: loving family, beautiful home, and a thriving career. Until one day she idly picks up a book she finds lying around the house and finds herself unable to put it down. At first she's transfixed by the story, but then she realizes with mounting horror that the book is about her. It's based on something that happened to her years ago, something only one person knew about--and he's dead. Her life implodes and readers have a front row seat. Disclaimer rotates between Catherine's point of view, her struggling son's, her bewildered husband's, and the righteously angry author with the poison pen. Knight writes movingly about the consequences of our choices and the way they can spread in our life like ripples in a pond. I couldn't put it down and I was truly surprised by the ending--this was an impressive debut and Renee Knight is an author to watch!
Brigid Quinn is one of my favorite new characters! Rage Against the Dying introduced her as the bad-ass former FBI agent who has more in common with Dirty Harry than Miss Marple--now she's facing problems closer to home. She's taken in her college-age niece and there's something not quite right about her, but no one else can see it. Brigid has spent a lifetime hunting evil, can she recognize it in the people she loves? Masterman kept me guessing throughout this tightly plotted thriller and I can't wait to see what comes next!
Bennington Girls Are Easy is Catcher in the Rye by way of Lena Dunham and I enjoyed every catty page! Not only is Silver's newest an engrossing coming-of-age story about the complicated friendships between women, it catalogs the joys and difficulties of trying to make it in New York. It's not a city I've ever wanted to live in, but I can understand the appeal: it's gritty and glamorous and real and if eking out a living is hard, thriving is a true accomplishment. I lived vicariously through Cassandra and Sylvie: their obsession with delicate French lingerie, their fights and breakups, and drama, their eventual schism - I enjoyed it all! Charlotte Silver is an author to watch!
I think the best word to describe this book is atmospheric: from page one I was plunged into the beautiful, lonely town where Ben Tierney lives. He moved his wife and kids from New York City to Swannhaven, hoping for a fresh start on the acres of forest and meadow he purchased, along with a rambling estate that is, even at its best, slightly creepy. Duffy's writing is what makes the story stand out: one minute he's lovingly describing the breadth of a country sunset, the next he is scaring the daylights out of you. And everything in this book is scary, from the wind screaming through the eaves of the expensively remodeled estate, to the malevolent watcher in the woods, to the townspeople who are straight out of a Shirley Jackson story - and I couldn't put it down! I made the mistake of reading this at night, which meant I had to read it all the way through or risk nightmares. Even still, I loved House of Echoes and I look forward to Duffy's next book!