Ramblings and Recommendations

Hello all!

I love to read.  And, I find myself often talking about reading and books and making recommendations to my friends and neighbors (both solicited and unsolicited).  I also enjoy writing, but mostly of the stream-of-conscience brand.  So, here are my ramblings about books and reading and my recommendations.  I hope you enjoy.

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Suicide Woods – Benjamin Percy

HOT OFF THE PRESSES!

 

Happy publication day to Benjamin Percy and his short story collection, Suicide Woods!  Perfectly timed to give you the Halloween frights, this collection brings haunting creepiness in varied ways.  From a spooky mystery (Suspect Zero) to a fable about how trauma can change you irrevocably and not necessarily for the better (The Cold Boy), Percy delivers a hit with each story.  The final installment, a novella titled The Uncharted, remains my favorite of the collection.  Matching a remote and untamed setting with modern technology, Percy delivers the unnerving feeling of a really good Black Mirror episode.

I got an advanced final copy of this novel as part of my membership in the Graywolf Press Galley club (which was a holiday gift).  If you want to join, too, check them out HERE.

The Witches of New York – Ami McKay

Set in Manhattan in 1880, The Witches of New York feels like an epic historical novel with a magical bent. Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair own Tea and Sympathy, a tea shop neighboring Madison Square Park that offers both the titular promises plus a few under the counter remedies ranging from love potions to fortune telling.  But no secret is secure in the big city and soon the shop and its owners are targeted by religious zealots invoking the charge of witchcraft — the most inflammatory claim they could make in the 1880s — against them.  McKay bridges the witchhunts of the Victorian era to the personal and legal challenges that women face today through this metaphorical novel.  An entertaining and atmospheric read.

My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite

This delicious debut introduces two sisters, Korede, a quiet and introverted nurse and Ayoola a social butterfly who has a tendency to choose the wrong men.  And, unfortunately, Ayoola, tends to solve her issues with these men by killing them. Docile Korede, protecting her sister, helps her cover up her latest crime.

Korede has fallen for a doctor at the hospital, Tade, who gains Korede’s attention as a skilled nurse, but doesn’t hold his attention as a potential romantic partner.  When Tade meets Ayoola, the two begin dating. Korede must struggle with her jealousy as well as her protective nature (both toward Tade and Ayoola).

This gothic tale set in Lagos, Nigera delivers a knockout punch of a novel full of humor and surprises.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White

This YA retelling of the Frankenstein tale strikes the perfect note for someone looking for a scary (but not horrifying) tale for the Halloween season.  Elizabeth Lavenza, comes to be a ward of the Frankenstein family to serve as a companion and calming influence on the young and volatile Victor.  Rescued from a life of abuse, Elizabeth worries that her position is threatened when Victor leaves the family home to study.  She asks her friend Justine to come with her to track Victor down, and, bit by bit (pun intended), she pieces together the deeply disturbing experiments that the young Frankenstein has been conducting.  Well-placed and accurate references to the original Mary Shelley tale, this novel will engage readers of all ages.

Bunny – Mona Awad

Samantha, a MFA student, is assigned a workshop group full of saccharine, privileged girls who giggle and coo and refer to each other as “Bunny”.  Samantha, who is far grittier and more authentic, gossips about them with her friend Ava, who enjoys sarcastically criticizing the Bunnies.  But, after summer break, Samantha gets an invite to one of the insider Bunny parties and decides to attend.  Slowly, she is initiated into the syrupy, conforming, but ultimately, bizarre and creepy world that the Bunnies have created.  The book blurb references Heathers, which gives you both a feel for the content as well as the quirky vibe of this novel.  For me, it has the dreamlike creepiness of Samanta Schweblin with a little of the gore of Chuck Palahniuk, just for good measure.  Not for every reader, for sure, but if these comparisons feel like your bag, you will adore this novel’s feverish weirdness.

 

I received an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thanks!

Frankissstein – Jeanette Winterson

OUT THIS WEEK!

Jeanette Winterson presents a re-telling of Frankenstein that is a must read anytime of the year.  The origin story of Mary Shelley’s novel opens Winterson’s tale.  The author herself narrates Winterson’s take on the weekend Shelley spent with her husband on Lake Geneva in 1816, hosted by Lord Byron and challenged to write a scary tale. A parallel contemporary narrative features Ry Shelley, who works for a cryogenics company.  Ry, born Mary but preferring a masculine pronoun, stands in for both the author and the monster in the re-telling.  Through his work, Ry meets Victor Stein, a doctor interested in using Artificial Intelligence to download people’s minds for safe-keeping — looking toward the day they can biology and technology allow them to be revived.  Add to the mix, a proselytizing Christian and, perhaps the most entertaining character of the entire novel, Ron Lord, the shallow CEO of a sex bot manufacturer.  The novel is certainly wry and quirky, but in typical Winterson fashion, deftly raises fundamental questions of identity, life, and the spark of human-ness, that are still as enigmatic now as they were in Mary Shelley’s day.

 

I received an advance copy of this novel from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

Imaginary Friend – Stephen Chbosky

HITTING BOOKSTORE SHELVES TODAY!

20 years after his debut novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky’s second novel releases today!  This time he delivers a very Halloween-y horror story that is perfect to kick off this month’s reading.

Seven year old Christopher and his mother, Kate, have landed in a small Pennsylvania town trying to escape Kate’s abusive boyfriend and start a new life.  Since Christopher’s father died, the two of them have struggled. Kate, hopeful for a new beginning, touches down in this small town. Christopher notices that the clouds seem to smile at him and, one day, a friendly cloud lures him into the woods.  He goes missing for six days, but when he returns, he cannot remember the time he was gone.  After a very lucky streak that improves Christopher’s grades and brings Kate a lottery win, the two seem to be thriving in their new town. But sinister things seem to be happening in the woods, and Christopher and his friends are drawn into the forest.

Chobosky has said that Stephen King is one of his favorite writers, and it shows.  The story has the feel at times of Stephen King’s story The Body (made into the movie Stand By Me), and also of the television series Stranger Things. But Chobosky puts his own signature on this horror tale and the twists and turns of this delightful scary read are spot on.

 

I received an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!