Helen and Nate have decided to fulfill a dream–they’re going to build a house from the ground up with their own hands on a piece of land they’ve purchased in a tiny town in Vermont. Soon they learn that their land once belonged to a woman named Hattie back in the early 1900’s. Hattie was feared by the townspeople, so much so that they hanged her as a witch right on the property.
Helen, a history teacher, is fascinated by the story, and decides to learn more. And the more she uncovers the more obsessed she becomes with Hattie and her secrets. She even begins collecting objects for her house that are connected to Hattie, in hopes that she might conjure up some spirits.
The spirit of Hattie and her female relatives thread all through the story. As one character puts it, there’s magic in their veins. As always, though, McMahon has a pretty light touch with the supernatural and spooky elements–it’s there, but the focus really is on the all-too-human characters. She populates this small Vermont town with recognizable people, both past and present.
McMahon’s writing is incredibly vivid, and very rich in detail. You don’t want to miss a well-crafted sentence when you’re reading her books, and her scene-setting is amazing. The mystery she crafts in The Invited is compelling, too, just as much as the spooky scenes out in the bog.
The Invited is a different kind of haunted house story. If you liked The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, give this a look!
Our unnamed narrator and his beautiful wife, Millicent, have found a great way to spice up their 15-year marriage: they murder young women and then devise ways to get away with it.
The couple has a nice house in the Florida suburbs. He’s a tennis pro, she’s a realtor. They have a son and a daughter. And both Millicent and her husband are stone cold in their own ways. Yet, since we’re in the husband’s head the whole time and hearing the story from his point of view, his necessary charm and ease come across really well, and you see why he’s so good at his half of what he and his wife are up to.
I don’t want to give away too much of this plot, because so much depends on surprises and twists and turns. I was enthralled the whole way through, and, as I said, the narrator is great–totally absorbing and convincing, and oh so charming, so good at appearing sympathetic. And so twisted.
The dynamic of their marriage is a fascinating one to read about. The husband projects so much onto Millicent, makes her into an almost other-worldly creature rather than a human woman, that you are left wondering what she’s really like. It’s another nice, unsettling touch to an already unreliable narrator.
The pace of this thriller is fantastic. It’s compelling all the way through, rockets through the last third, and the ending is a punch. Downing keeps up the suspense and never bogs the story down. Every detail is well-placed and the writing itself is very evocative, filled with mounting tension. There’s some great family detail as well, though, and some well-placed black humor. It’s not gory or explicit, either.
If you like Gillian Flynn’s books, give this one a try!
This year’s National Library Week was April 6th-13th, and Camden Public Library launched its Campaign for the Future–it’s a fundraising effort to ensure that our library will be here, offering the same wonderful services, for another century and beyond. Learn more here!
In honor of National Library Week, here are some of our staff favorites about reading and libraries!
Marie: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. A lot of the action in this lush, atmospheric novel about Vlad the Impaler happens in libraries, and books and academia play a huge role in the mystery. I love to re-read this one, it’s just as absorbing with every read!
Mary: I have two books to recommend!
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. A charming story about Monsieur Perdu who has created a floating bookstore on a barge in Paris. He calls himself a literary apothecary because after listening to a person for a bit, he can pick out the exact book to heal that person’s broken spirit. Unfortunately he cannot heal his own broken heart until he finally opens the letter left for him by his one true love, spurring him to pull up anchor and sail for the south of France.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Clay Jannon has lost his job as a web developer and lands a job working nights at a bookstore based on the fact that he can climb a ladder. During his nightly duties, various people come in repeatedly to return obscure books and pick up more volumes as they attempt to solve some sort of puzzle. Clay’s curiosity leads him to explore the secrets of the store, what kind of code or secret they are trying to solve and who is the mysterious Mr. Penumbra. Clay soon finds himself breaking into secret societies and enlisting his computer friends to help him solve the puzzle.A very interesting read.
Sandra: Well, I am into a 4th book continuing the The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness – titled Time’s Convert. It goes back into the history of de Claremont family, and at the same time extends further into the present lives of Matthew and Diana de Clairmont. Needless to say, the author has a marvelous way of storytelling that has drawn me in!!! I love borrowing from the libraries because even though the checkout limits can be frustrating,….I have to finish the books….rather than having them sit on my Kindle list waiting for me!!
Horror Month is only half a year away! Time to get started on the creepy reads so that I can share them with you come October!
A great place to start is with this year’s Stoker Award nominees. The Bram Stoker Award is given by the Horror Writers Association, and celebrates excellence across eleven different categories of horror writing.
You can find the list of nominees here: http://www.thebramstokerawards.com/front-page/announcing-the-2018-bram-stoker-awards-final-ballot/
Heredity (Hereditary. I was so terrified I typed it wrong) which I have been too scared by the trailer to see, is up for Superior Achievement in a Screenplay. Two picks from this past Halloween, Unbury Carol and The Cabin at the End of the World are both nominated, as is Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth, which I loved but was so the wrong thing to read as a new mom.
I’m looking forward to picking up The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste and The Moore House by Tony Tremblay.
If you’re going to be in Grand Rapids, Michigan this May, you can attend StokerCon and see the awards in person. Josh Malerman and Jonathan Maberry will be there! http://stokercon2019.org/
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Korede always cleans up her younger sister Ayoola’s messes. It’s her job as the older sibling to protect her sister. Ayoola has a habit of murdering her boyfriends, and Korede is always there to cover for her. When Ayoola sets her sights on the man Korede is in love with, however, Korede isn’t sure she can protect her sister any longer. This is a darkly funny and slightly disturbing tale of sibling rivalry. The prose is spare but the characters shine.
I haven’t shared a book with you in over a month! A shame, because I’ve been reading some good ones:
1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart
I’ve been telling everyone about this engaging and timely examination of the cultural moment in the United States just before the Civil War. What was the political situation like? How did people really feel about the pressing issues of the day? I found a lot of parallels between 1861 and today, which is both comforting and frightening. A really great read!
Looker by Laura Sims
Our narrator lives next door to a famous actress. Our narrator has just been through a messy divorce and is sort of obsessed with the actress. Our narrator is bonkers. Taut and disturbing, but not without some dark humor! For fans of The Woman Upstairs, The Woman in the Window, and A Kind of Intimacy.
Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food by Ann Hood
I really like what I think of as “cozy food writing.” The kind where the author talks about their families and the people they cook for, the food they grew up with, and the dishes that strike an emotional cord for them. Hood delivers all of this in Kitchen Yarns, alongside wonderful descriptions of food and cooking.
Not bad for a month’s work. My apologies for not keeping up with blogging about them!
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
A fictional account of Mary Anning and her discoveries of fossilized skeletons along the English Coast. The science-focused part of the story once again shows how a woman was discounted for her discoveries of new species, while men took the credit for her work. The other plot deals with Anning’s friendship with Elizabeth Philpot. As far as the development of their friendship, the author takes the reader through the gamut of emotions as the two women work their way around differences in class, age and education. Great book. (It was interesting that a few weeks later I read The Essex Serpent, where Mary Anning gets mentioned by the main character who strives to find something new.)
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
It is a wonderful read, and this book has already been made into a movie series. We are watching Season One now, with Season two to be out in April on Amazon or other streams, a Sundance production.
It is a historical/romance/drama/fiction all rolled into one. It’s 400+ pages but an excellent exciting read about 21st century witches, daemons and vampires trying to find their origins in order to survive.
The Girls by Emma Cline
This novel is a thinly veiled retelling of the Manson family and murders. Evie, who was a teenager the summer she fell in with a group of girls at a ranch in California, reflects on her time there as a middle-aged woman. What’s so affecting about this novel is how spot-on Cline is with the experience of being a girl–the expectations and grievances, the assaults and pressures, the attempts to find oneself. It’s got a compelling style and a strong sense of character in Evie.