Archive | November, 2013

A Creepy Classic

20 Nov

I’m not quite sure that you can officially call Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle a classic. But since it was first published in 1962 and still around/available today, I think it has to be given an elevated title. I picked this up from the library because the host of one of the podcasts I listen to recently read it for the first time and was raving about it. The title sounded vaguely familiar to me, and after thinking about it for a bit I realized it was because We Have Always Lived in the Castle was on quite a few Halloween lists this year.

we-have-always-lived-in-the-castle-jackson-shirley-9780140071078It is pretty short. And it was really really good. If you are in the mood for a fast, kind of creep, sort of classic feeling story – this is definitely it. It starts with Mary Katherine (supposedly 18, but in my mind she’s like 14) called “Merricat” walking from her big, old, castle-like house into town. She is dreading the trip, which she makes every week, and playing games in her head to make it go fast. No one from town likes her. People point, whisper behind her back. Small children sing a strange song when they see her – something about poisoning food. We quickly learn that Merricat lives in the “castle” with her older sister, Constance, and their ill uncle, Uncle Julian. We also quickly learn that six years ago, Constance was accused of poisoning and killing the rest of their family (arsenic). To give more of the plot away would be to ruin this short book. Highly recommend. (4 stars)

The ReadingMoon is Over.

16 Nov

We spent a wonderful week in Tulum, Mexico, getting back late last night. And guess what? We both read A TON. Loren actually read 3 books – 300% more than he’s read in a year and a half! Because the place we were staying didn’t have electricity (don’t worry – it was nice), we found ourselves going to bed soon after it got dark (8pm at the latest), and then waking with the sun around 5am. Since nothing was open until around 8, we had lots of good reading time in the morning. And once it got dark and we were in for the night, we could read on our porch with our headlight/flashlights. So romantic.

So I got through my travel-stack. Turns out I couldn’t wait very long to dig into Where the Moon Isn’t by Nathan Filer.

Where the moon isntI started reading this the Thursday afternoon before we left and by Friday morning, well. One less book to pack. I liked it. Yeah, I liked it. I can see why Mary loved it – it has one of those great, unreliable first person narratives that is just so different and enthralling. Think Room or How to Be a Good Wife. I just like Room  so much better. BUT if you’re in the mood for something with a different voice, and a fast pace, this could be it.  (3 stars)


This is the one I was excited for – Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson, author of my fav Edenbrooke. I liked it. Yeah, I liked it. But there were times when I thought Kate/Kitty, the heroine, was a bit silly. Not endearing silly, but roll-your-eyes-and-scoff silly. Here is the set up: Kate (trying to get rid of her childhood nickname “Kitty”) has decided that she never wants to marry. Her mother – a great Regency villain of a mother – is furious about this decision, and after Kate turns down an old geezer’s marriage proposal, the mother cancels Kate’s upcoming trip to Blackmoore. Blackmoore is an estate owned by Kate’s best friend’s family and for some reason Kate is ridiculously fixated on visiting it. Kate’s best friend, of course, is a hunky guy named Henry. So, because she is so obsessed with getting to Blackmoore, Kate agrees to a deal proposed by her mother: She can go to Blackmoore, but must receive (and turn down) three marriage proposals. If Kate does so, her mother will agree to her never marrying (and traveling around the world with an aunt). And the story goes from there. I will say that I loved the way it ended, I loved LOVED Henry. This was not a disappointing read, but I rolled my eyes a bit more than at Edenbrooke.                   (4 stars)

Guest on EarthSomething made me stick Lee Smith’s Guests on Earth in my bag. Not sure why, I know that my grandmother has read and loved many of her earlier novels, and this cover is so lovely. But I wasn’t a fan of this one. It seems like Lee Smith has tried to do something different in this novel – different from her others – by revolving it nearly around Zelda Fitzgerald. It’s told through the eyes of a young girl who is admitted to the mental institution that Zelda frequented. The institution where Zelda died in a fire. And it opens with a newspaper clipping about the fire and the deaths it caused. Then there were about 300 pages of a rambly sort of story about the young narrators life, in and out of the institution, in and out of love, running into Zelda now and again. And the fire is brought up again in the final chapter. I had a hard time completely engaging. (3 stars)

CircleI’d been hearing mixed things about Dave Eggers’ newest. Some totally completely loved it, others really really didn’t. Personally, I found it pretty interesting. It is basically about what would happen if one company (in the novel its sort of a mash-up of Google and Facebook) were to take over the world. It’s like the 21st century version of that movie The Net with Sandra Bullock (that I also loved). Except instead of being skeptical of the digitalized take over of the world, like Sandra in that movie, Mae (heroine) is 100% a believer in the product/company. There are a couple of sex scenes in it, but if there weren’t I’d recommend it to my Michael-Crichton-loving cousins.            (3.75 stars)

SomeoneThis was hands down, by far, my favorite read over the readingmoon. Remember Brooklyn by Colm Toibin? I loved that one, and this one is like its less charming but equally as divine sister. It takes place in Brooklyn and is a brilliant scattering of moments from Marie Commeford’s life. It opens when she is 6 or 7 years old, sitting on the front step waiting for her father to return home from work. She wears huge eye glasses and has a blunt haircut – awkward all the way around. I just loved every moment that we got to see. Once I got to know Marie, with her horrible eyesight and quirky personality, I thought she was so perfectly imagined. I think this is also nominated for the Nation Book Award, which Alice McDermott has won previously. (4.5 stars)

FangirlBy the time we reached the Cancun airport for our flight home, I had run through the books I brought. At the Mexican airport, the only books available in English were the books in the Twilight series and some other more contemporary thriller sorts. So I decided to download one on my iPhone – something I typically don’t do. When I was working at Rainy Day, Rainbow Rowell did a teeny tiny event with us for her first book, Attachments. Because she was a first time author and the event was sure to be itsy, I decided to read it. And I really enjoyed it – sort of a silly but wonderfully fun office romance story that made me laugh. Lately, she’s been getting tons of buzz for her YA novel Eleanor & Park (which is now next on my reading list). Fangirl is also YA – and it loved it. It was just the perfect take-me-home book. I got sucked in right away, right after meeting lovable/semi-crazy/totally-nerdy/completely-relatable Cather. The book follows her freshman year in college, navigation her English Writing major, her first love, her relationship with her wildly popular twin sister Wren, her father’s mental health, the mother who abandoned her. Man, it kept me hooked all the way home and through this morning when I finally finished it. Fangirl, the title, comes from the fact that a massive part of Cather’s life is spent writing fanfiction about a Harry Potter-like series about two magically inclined students named Simon and Baz. She posts her stories about these already developed characters and literally tens of thousands of people read them immediately. So on one hand, she is insanely successful. Anonymously. On the other hand, her life has all these sort of uncomfortable issues and she is, publicly, incredibly awkward and a little weird. (3.75 stars)



7 Nov

Loren and I are leaving tomorrow for our honeymoon, and I have an entire duffel bag of books ready to go. I just have to make a quick stop by the bookstore to get Where The Moon Isn’t, a book my friend Mary (bookseller extraordinaire) has been raving about for a while.

Where the moon isnt

At the very top of my honeymoon stack is Blackmoore by Julie Donaldson. Remember Edenbrooke? It ranked in my top ten last year – a really great regency romance that I was surprised to love. Well, Blackmoore is her new one. And it sounds AMAZING. From what I can remember (it’s not in front of me), it is the story of a headstrong and smart young woman who wants to travel the world and never marry. Her mother tells the young girl/woman that she can do what she pleases, but only after obtaining (and turning down) three marriage proposals. I mean, doesn’t that sound like perfect beach reading?


One thing that did NOT make my honeymoon book bag is Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I was so excited to dig into this book, and the first parts of it are so good that I thought I’d fly right through it. 350 pages later, I have lost steam. I’m almost (almost) halfway through, and it is the longest story ever. Plus it’s heavy.


I have so many other great things in my bag – hopefully next weekend I’ll be able to post a bunch of things.

One to leave you with for now – one you’ll have to wait a bit for as it doesn’t come out until February 25th – is the new novel by Amy Greene, Long Man. It has been a crazy almost two weeks since the wedding – our house is a disaster, we’ve been to two KU games and a bunch of family things – so my reading time has been sort of haphazard. But I definitely made/found the time to get to Long Man. It was SO GOOD. Parts of it felt like The Cove by Ron Rash, except that it was not exactly a love story. Long Man is the name of the river that runs through an Appalachian town in Tennessee, a town that is set to be flooded in 1936. The novel is three days just before the government-sponsored flood is set to occur – and one stubborn (fairly) young woman refuses to leave. She and her three-year-old daughter are carrying on with their normal routines as the deadline approaches. And then the child disappears. Did she wander off? get swept away by the river? or did the creepy, one-eyed, vagabond snatch her? I was riveted. And nervous, pretty much the whole way through.


1 Nov

I thought this list by Business Insider was interesting. Interesting that they did “Most Famous” and not “Best,” interesting that John Grisham gets more than one, interesting that they are almost all novels…

famous books