Marie’s Reading About Animals!

Birds and cats, to be precise.  My favorites!

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The Lion in the Living Room: How Housecats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker focuses on the unlikely association between cats and humans.   Housecats aren’t “domesticated” the way dogs and other animals are.  Cats make a deliberate decision to stick with humans, and humans keep these fuzzy little hypercarnivores as cherished pets.  This book discusses how, on an evolutionary and ecological level, how truly bizarre this is.  It’s also a wonderful capsule biological history of the cat.  It’s also extremely fun and extremely readable.

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One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives by Bernd Heinrich is armchair bird-watching at its best.  Heinrich is a fantastic nature writer, and the narrative is enlivened by his sketches of birds.  He lives in a cabin in the Maine woods and interacts with his bird neighbors both as scientist and observer. One review I saw called Heinrich’s work “hands and knees” science, and that’s a great way to put it.  But it’s also enjoyable because these birds really are Heinrich’s neighbors, the same way I feel about the chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, and goldfinches who are regular visitors to my backyard feeder (I am particularly partial to the chickadees).

I’ll be honest with you and say that I’m still in the middle of both of these books.  But given how slowly I read even slim volumes of nonfiction like these, I thought it prudent to go ahead and share now.

–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware

woman-in-cabin-10Lo Blacklock is a reporter for a travel magazine, and she just got a great opportunity: she’s going to cover the maiden voyage of a small luxury cruise ship in Scandinavia.  On the first night, however, Lo believes she witnesses the murder of the woman in cabin 10, the one next door to hers.  When she informs security, she’s told that there isn’t anyone booked in cabin 10.

All the drunken uncertainty of The Girl on the Train along with all the intrigue of an Agatha Christie manor house  murder, with some Patricia Highsmith stuff thrown in for fun.  Lo is desperate to solve this bizarre mystery, because she’s positive that she spoke with a woman saying in cabin 10–and just as positive that she witnessed her murder.  She finds herself stymied at every turn, and tries to pick out suspects from those on board the ship.

I shared this at Simply Books! on Saturday, and found myself unable to give any detail about the plot and overall feel except for the references I just gave above.  One of the other members spoke up and asked, “If people aren’t familiar with the genre and don’t get all the references, is it still a good book?”

Ooops.  I was quick to reply with a resounding “Yes!”  Because The Woman in Cabin 10 is clever, has a fantastic setting, a main character who’s both flawed and enjoyable, and some great supporting cast members.  I won’t spoil the climax and the ending, but I thought it was nicely done and left an eerie sort of chill.

As in many cases, I think I’ve just reached the point where I’m burned out on thrillers.  They’ve become a game, almost, since I’ve read so many of them so close together.  It’s spot the reference, spot the influence, spot the twist. (I mean come on though one of the characters in this book is straight-up reading a Highsmith novel at one point so those in on it know just where this story’s going…)  For me, that’s always been part of the fun of thrillers.  I love seeing all that in a novel because it adds layers to my reading experience.  There have just been so.  Many. Of.  Them.  I’m tapped out.

If your Thriller mojo is still working, though, definitely give this one a try!  Ware’s work is twisty and smart, and she’s a deft hand with misdirection in her narrative.  She’s also got a great feel for detailed settings and atmosphere.

–Marie

 

Marie’s Reading: Comfort Books

It’s been a rough couple of weeks all around, hasn’t it?   I’ve decided to turn to bibliotherapy to cope.

Bibliotherapy is a therapeutic technique which uses literature to support good mental health.  Bibliotherapists do a sort of readers advisory therapy session with readers, with the goal of providing a suggested reading list which will help the reader through challenging times.   Ceridwen Dovey talked about it over at The New Yorker last summer.

I decided to come up with my own list of books which make me feel better, either by distracting me, making me laugh, or providing some hope. Yours, of course, would probably differ.  There’s always the book mentioned in Dovey’s article, The Novel Cure, if you need some guidance.

Here’s my highly personal list of self-medication titles, which I am taking as needed:

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, especially Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

The Huge Book of Hell: A Cartoon Book by Matt Groening

The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, the Death books in particular

Take it easy out there, friends.

 

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Thus ends another Horror Month, fellow Halloweenies.  Today’s the big day!

But it’s not too late!  We’ve still got a display chock-full of scary reads, and a full cauldron of candy so that you can soar on the wings of sugar into your Halloween night.

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I feel like this post needs something else.  Something Halloweeny, but not too scary.  Something frenetic, with crazy visuals.  I’ve got no other ideas but this.  Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

 

Not-So-Horrific-Horror: “Security” by Gina Wohlsdorf

Okay, that’s a lie.  It’s pretty horrific for a thriller.  I’m talking blood, slashers, more blood, chase scenes, Michael Myers costumes, and yet more blood.  But it’s not straight-up Horror so I’m putting in the Not-So-Horrific category.

It’s also a quick, compelling read, so you might even finish it before the big day tomorrow!

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Manderley, an expensive luxury hotel, is in the final stages of preparation before its grand opening.  Several employees are inside the building.  There’s also an unexpected early guest–a knife-wielding murderer who takes out the employees one by one.  And all the while, a mysterious first-person narrator is watching everything on Manderley’s state of the art security system.

It’s a very complex book stylistically–the formatting of a page will sometimes reflect all of the many things going on in different cameras, to different characters.  Black humor and a love story play out against the gory backdrop.

Really, I’m not kidding you.  Gory.  Blood in the elevators, bodies in the bathtubs, bits  of employee strewn around various rooms.  But even so, the characters are wonderful and the story is so compelling you get past it.

The narrator is revealed slowly over the course of the story.  As the story unfolds and you learn more about the narrator and his background, as well as his present circumstances, you realize how elegant and original the “twist” is.

Enjoy, and see you tomorrow, pals!  I’m putting candy out again this year, so come on down to the library!

–Marie

 

 

Seven Days Until Halloween!

If, like my husband, you can read at the speed of a maglev bullet train, you probably have plenty of time to read several scary books between now and Halloween.  If, like me, you read roughly at the pace of a sleepy tortoise, you should have a creepy back-up plan.

Watch a movie!

Each of these movies won a Bram Stoker Award for Best Screenplay.  I took the summaries from the Internet Movie Database, parentheticals are mine.  Here are my personal top 3 faves from the awards list:

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2014: THE BABADOOK (JENNIFER KENT)–A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.  (atmospheric old-style horror, with plenty of creeping madness and a sympathetic lead)

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2012: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (JOSS WHEDON AND DREW GODDARD–Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods. (I wrote a whole post about this! Read it here)

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2004: SHAUN OF THE DEAD (SIMON PEGG AND EDGAR WRIGHT)–A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.  (this duo can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned.  This movie is funny, smart, scary, and moving, with great actors filling every role)

If you need more ideas, check out Daniel Kraus over at Booklist.  He wrote two of my favorite scary books, Rotters and Scowlerand for the past several years he’s run the “31 Horror Films in 31 Days” Challenge. Great suggestions there!

 

Halloween Read: “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” by Grady Hendrix

You might remember Grady Hendrix from such quirky horror novels as Horrorstor, in which retail employees fend off ghosts and torture devices in a big box store.  In My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a night of drugs and skinny-dipping leads to demonic possession.

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Abby and Gretchen have been friends since they were kids.  But now that they’re in high school, something between them has shifted.  Gretchen’s acting awfully weird, and despite everyone saying it’s just a teenage girl phase, Abby’s convinced it’s something much darker than that.  And she’s willing to do anything to save her best friend.

This novel does a lot less with framing than Horrorstor, but the yearbook endpages are spot-on gold.  And the exorcism scene toward the end is suitably disturbing and moving.  Hendrix is great with blending creepiness, action, and humor, and it’s all used to very good effect here.

At its heart, this is the story of a friendship, and that core holds the novel together.  You really care about Abby and Gretchen, and you want their friendship to succeed against all odds.  Possession works incredibly well as a metaphor for adolescence, and while Hendrix doesn’t beat you over the head with it, that element plays a big part in the story.

If you like 80’s flicks and possession stories, give this one a try!

–Marie