The Hunger by Alma Katsu, a thrillingly creepy supernatural re-telling of that Donner Party business, peopled with vividly imagined characters, gripping, chaotic drama, and a gorgeously ghastly atmosphere of pervasive fear. And now I’m pretty sure that now you can’t convince me that this author’s vision of the those terrible events aren’t exactly how it did happen those many years ago.
Experimental Film, by Gemma Files Sonya mentioned this book in our Stacked round up a couple months ago, and I knew right away it was something I’d enjoy…and I did! A deeply strange but excellent story, a sort of pseudo documentary, rich in history and myth and weird technical details, about a mystery many decades old and how it begins to seep into the life of the woman obsessed with it.
Final Girls by Riley Sager this was trashy vacation reading, hinging on that old “final girls” chestnut,–you know, the girl who survived the brutal massacre, the grisly killing, the violent murders &etc., and which picks back up in the happily ever after, when these women, who have suffered these different experiences and have been trying to live out their lives normally, meet up and seem to be targeted again by a mysterious killer. It was a fun read for a while and then it began to annoy and anger me, probably because it shifted from dumb fun to just…stupid foolishness. I’ve never seen an protagonist make so many poor choices in the course of a story! Also it felt like some sort of weird cautionary tale about too much xanax– which, as someone who is too highly strung for xanax to have any effect on…I really just can’t take that seriously.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell Haunted, isolated mansions; unreliable, possibly unstable narrators; terrifying works of art that may or may not be possessed by evil spirits; paranoid villagers; secret diaries; creepy children–this book ticked all of my weirdo boxes and I have to tell you, provided some of the most tense, edge-of-my-seat reading in recent years.
Kabiyo: The Supernatural Cats Of Japan by Zack Davisson. I adored Davisson’s previous book, Yurei: The Japanese Ghost, an exploration on the various ghosts found in Japanese culture, conveyed via warm, relatable anecdotes, deep research, and translations of many centuries worth of Japanese ghost stories. It was a pleasure to read, and felt like sitting for coffee with an old friend who had the most wonderful tales to tell. Kabiyo: The Supernatural Cats Of Japan, while just as fascinatingly informative and even more sumptuously illustrated, seemed dry in comparison, and lacking in that lovely warmth that so captivated me previously. A worthwhile read for the data and the sublimely absurd imagery, but of the two, I’d recommend Yurei over Kabiyo.
The Terror by Dan Simmons I started watching this nautical horror period piece about a legendary arctic expedition on AMC, and was immediately hooked, but was hesitant to read the actual book because the only other thing I’d read by Dan Simmons–Carrion Comfort–was pretty gross and left a bad taste in my mouth. Also because The Terror is approximately one million pages long. Which is not to say I’m intimidated by a hefty tome, but I’ve got stacks and stacks of neglected reading materials, so I’m always a little hesitant to commit to a title whose heft could effectively bludgeon to death a circus strong man. I was additionally a little concerned that I’d be assaulted with all sorts of dry information about ships and sails and jibs and hulls and whatnot and eh, I don’t need to know all that, do I? Don’t bore me with details! Well, I needn’t have worried; there were loads of details, but somehow they were all fascinating; perhaps because this was a masterfully crafted tale, and each piece of it seemed equally as important as the other. The descriptions of the character’s perceptions of the unknowable geography of the region where they’ve become trapped reminds me of many things that I love about my favorite Algernon Blackwood tales, the terror of being alone and out of your depth in a vast and unknown landscape, how alien, dangerous and even malevolent nature can seem when you’re out in the middle of it and floundering. There is monster in this story, but I feel that it takes a back seat to the monstrous acts of cruelty which emerge amongst members of the crew, and even to the fiendishly brutal terrain itself. Now that I’ve finished the book, I am even more excited to revisit the the program and see where it goes.
It’s Ok That You’re Not Okay Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine If you’d told me last November, when I wrote about attending Death Salon Seattle, that six months later I’d be working for one of the presenters, I’d have said, “Haha, that’s funny. Please don’t tease me like that.” Yet here I am, working for none other than Megan Devine of Refuge In Grief, doing my part to help the Grief Revolution. As soon as Megan hired me I began re-reading her amazing book, It’s OK That You’re not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in A Culture that Doesn’t Understand, which offers a deceptively simple, yet revolutionary approach to grief.
No matter what our circumstances in life, grief and loss are universal. We all have or will experience them personally and, without even thinking about it, we are all affected by the grief and loss experienced by those around us. Grief isolates like nothing else and this book is a very honest and empathetic road map for navigating that profoundly painful, lonely, and disorienting realm. But this road map is not meant to lead you out of grief. There are no platitudes, diminishing observations, or false promises that it’ll all be over and back to normal eventually. Grief is not a place from which we must (let alone can) escape. This book is a map to help you grieve. To help you endure what seems unendurable.
For anyone who knows a grieving person, this book is an invaluable guide for how to best support your loved one(s) during an impossibly difficult time. If you are grieving and lack the energy or simply don’t know what to say to those who are trying to help you, this book will speak on your behalf, an ambassador for the bereaved. As Megan says, “Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” This book, born of grief, born of loss, born of love, exists to help us carry our own pain and help carry each other’s. With love.
I wish this book was everywhere. I wish it was as omnipresent and easy to find as a cup of coffee. I wish it actually was available anywhere you go for a cup of coffee. In every library, bookstore, little free library, grocery or convenient store, hotel room, post office, airport terminal or train station, park bench, bus stop, public restroom, or taxi. It should be everywhere. So that the moment you need it – and you either need it right now, could’ve used it years ago (it’s not too late), or inevitably will someday – your eyes need only fall on it, no searching required.
Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins This is one of those gloriously rich, epic, astonishingly creative, and riveting stories that, after reading the last page, leaves you perfectly satisfied and breathless, and also dumbfounded about what you could possibly read next that’ll even come close to the journey you just took. I knew nothing about this story going into it. I just knew that three lovely and dear people whose taste in books I take very seriously were each spellbound by it. So I’m not going to tell you anything more either. The less you know the better. Just enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, and prepare yourself for one of those afterwards where all other books feel hopelessly lackluster.
La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One by Philip Pullman It makes me sad to say this, but, I disliked this book about as much as I enjoyed the His Dark Materials trilogy. This book is set 12 years or so before the beginning of that fascinating series. While I like the idea of learning about events that lead up to The Golden Compass and beyond, I found this story wearyingly repetitive and, well, juvenile. Perhaps this means I’ve been spoiled by the likes of the Time Quintet, the Harry Potter books and, yes, His Dark Materials, which I loved despite being considerably older than the target audience. They didn’t actually feel like they were written for younger readers so much as they felt accessible to readers of any age. La Belle Sauvage, however, feels like it’s best left to those in the early throes of puberty and possibly also those who romanticize or wax nostalgic about that period of their lives. Though I have no objection to romance in the stories I read, I am decidedly neither and instead found the early heteronormative hormonal stirrings herein to be unsubtle at best and distracting from the actual tale at worst. I wish I could say that it was enough to simply be back in the world of humans and their daemons. That’s what I was looking forward to most about reading La Belle Sauvage. But I’m afraid there wasn’t enough meat on the bones of this story to make that so.
Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris As far as I’m concerned, the release of any new book by David Sedaris is cause for celebration. I don’t care if it’s another collection memoirs, fiction, or just one long account of him catching flies to feed to his house spiders in Normandy (yes, please). I don’t need to know anything about it ahead of time, my pre-order is placed at the first mention. In this case it’s 25 years of Sedaris’ diary entries. If you’ve read his books of autobiographical essays, this tome provides fascinating glimpses of periods and events you’ve read about before, from various forms of drug abuse, odd jobs, and faithful nightly visits to IHOP to interactions with his parents and siblings, life in France with his partner, sobriety, and life on seemingly endless book tours. Only this time it’s more personal, because – at least originally – these diary entries were simply written for Sedaris himself. It’s a pretty amazing thing to read what a person chose to record for and about themselves from age 21 to 46. I also thoroughly enjoyed all the mentions of David’s sister, Amy Sedaris. It’s clear she’s always been the glorious and talented weirdo she is today. I hope Sedaris intends to publish more of his diaries someday. I’ll be ready.
I haven’t finished a book all the way through in months. I started the Mötley Crüe bio and it got super boring once they all sobered up and got rich.