Marie’s Reading: “American Elsewhere” by Robert Jackson Bennett

american elsewhereIf you’re a fan of Stranger Things and/or Twin Peaks, you should give American Elsewhere a try!

Mona, a former cop, inherits a house in New Mexico after the death of her father.  Apparently the house belonged to Mona’s long-dead mother.  It’s in a tiny town called Wink.  Wink is a strange place that doesn’t appear on any map.  The people there are strange, as well.  The streets are all perfect and the houses are pretty, but no one goes out at night.

Lurking behind it all is a long-defunct laboratory and mysterious creatures that live in the canyons.  As the story goes on and Mona uncovers more and more about this mysterious town and its secrets, the more she finds herself in danger.  And more connected to Wink than she realizes.

The general creepiness of the atmosphere is great.  There’s always this sense of mystery and danger, and the style is very cinematic and evocative–in many places it really feels like a lost episode of Twin Peaks.  The tiny town with its secrets and seedy underbelly gets metaphysical in American Elsewhere, and the setting of the New Mexico desert adds an isolation and a strange beauty to the story.  And for all the weird fiction creepiness, this story is also about motherhood, family, and belonging.

If you like claustrophobic small-town horror with entertaining characters and a dash of alien/monster invasion, you might enjoy this!

–Marie

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Libraries Rock! Adult Summer Reading 2018

libraries rock!

Time to play Summer Reading Bingo, dear readers!  Cayla’s put together a fun and varied bingo game for this year, filled with books and activities to complete for prizes!  All the info is above.  Stop by the Circulation Desk at the library to pick up your card, and start reading!

–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “The Death of Mrs. Westaway” by Ruth Ware

mrs westawayHal is down on her luck–in serious debt and unsure of where to turn.  So when a letter arrives telling her that she is the beneficiary of a will, she finds the opportunity difficult to pass up.  Never mind that the letter was clearly sent to the wrong person.  She’s never heard of a Mrs. Westaway, and there’s no way she’s a long-lost granddaughter.

But when Hal shows up in Cornwall at Trepassen House for the funeral, she finds a family with a lot of secrets and a lot of baggage–and more than a little of it just might have to do with her.  Uncovering the truth, however, might prove fatal.

I like how tight the writing and focus of the story are.  The narrative goes back and forth between Hal and entries in a diary that she finds, but we spend most of the time with Hal.  Her moral quandaries and her desire to finally learn the truth about herself are the driving forces of the narrative.  Her strong bond with her mother plays a huge role, as well.  All of the characters are interesting, and there’s a feeling of looming threat and mystery.  It’s a wonderfully atmospheric story, too–it’s always cold and raining or snowing in this book, lending a bleak and isolated kind of feel.

There are a couple of nods to Rebecca, which suit the atmosphere well.  That would actually be a good readalike for The Death of Mrs. Westaway, as would some of V.C. Andrews’ early work. There’s a wonderful classic feel to this book, even though the setting is contemporary.  If you enjoy Gothic tales of family secrets, old manor houses, and long-buried crimes, give this one a look!

–Marie

May Simply Books! Meeting

We had a short but nice meeting over Memorial Day weekend.   There were only two of us, but we shared two good books!

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers–a really nice introduction to this
author, and will definitely try more of his books. This particular
novel is about a man who suffers severe neurological damage after an
accident. He develops a Capgras delusion, where he believes that
everyone close to him is an imposter. His case is so out of the
ordinary that a famous neuroscientist comes to evaluate him.
Overall the book is compelling and interesting (the sections on
neuroscience must have taken a lot of research on the author’s part),
though the bits from the scientist’s point of view can be a little
pedantic and boring. There’s also an element of mystery, which does
get answered, about how exactly the man’s accident happens.

High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glenn Frankel–this nonfiction book is about the making of
the Gary Cooper Western “High Noon,” and the toxic political
environment it came out of. When the movie was being made, its
screenwriter, Carl Foreman, was called to testify before the House
Un-American Activities Committee. Frankel talks a lot about the
blacklist in Hollywood, the making of the movie (and how it’s an
allegory for the hearings), as well as providing biographies of the
major players.

Simply Books! is on summer vacation now, so we’ll see you back again in September!  Our next meeting will be Saturday, September 22nd.  I’ll post next year’s meeting schedule in September, too.  If you’d like to get on our mailing list, send me an email at mstickney@librarycamden.org.

 

 

May Staff Picks!

Wear-1

 

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
This novel is about a renowned middle-aged concert pianist diagnosed with ALS (a.k.a. Lew Gehrig’s Disease).  The novel chronicles, in brutal detail, the devastation to his body—which his untouched mind witnesses with horror—and the effect of his illness on his relationships with his ex-wife  and estranged daughter.   Described as “the Oliver Sacks of fiction,” Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist interested in exploring the impact of neurological diseases on individuals’ lives.
–Diane

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro
Maybe I’ve been looking in the wrong places, but my experience with contemporary “Christian fiction” is that although pleasant, few of these books grapple with the problems encountered by serious believers.  Maggie, the protagonist of Jamie Quatro’s Fire Sermon is no Hallmark-card Christian.  Despite her long-term marriage, she finds herself aching for a relationship with fellow poet James.  Maggie and James long for each other for years, exchanging e-mails and furtive phone calls and meeting at literature conferences.  Maggie’s struggle—and what it means not only for her marriage but also for her religious beliefs—burns at the center of this short, unusual novel.
–Diane

High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of An American Classic by Glenn Frankel
This book explores the making of the classic Western High Noon, and the toxic political environment that inspired its screenwriter, Carl Foreman.  Frankel takes a multi-faceted view, talking about the blacklist and the hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Hollywood during its Golden Age and then its post-war years, biographical sketches of Gary Cooper, Carl Foreman, and other players, and then the story of the making of the film itself.  It’s fascinating reading on several levels.
–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “Unbury Carol” by Josh Malerman

carolHappy Less-Than-Halfway to Halloween, everybody!  I couldn’t wait until October to share this one: a great mix of horror and Western called Unbury Carol.

In a town called Harrows on the dark and dangerous Trail, a woman named Carol lives with her husband.  Ever since she was a girl, Carol has suffered from a disorder without a name or treatment.  This disorder causes her to go into a coma every once in a while.  To the outside world she looks dead, but she’s still aware of things happening around her.  She usually wakes up in a couple of days.

But when Carol goes into her coma-state this time, her husband has nefarious plans.  Only one other person knows about her condition: her former lover and notorious outlaw James Moxie.  As Carol’s husband makes plans to bury her alive so that he can steal her fortune, Moxie sets out on the Trail to return to Harrows and save her.

This is such a rich book.  It’s atmospheric and vividly described, and the whole story has a sort of threatening darkness to it.  There’s menace on all sides–both Carol and Moxie find themselves in danger, and all the while there’s the suspense of wondering whether or not Moxie will make it to Carol in time.    There’s also a supernatural element in the form of an entity that calls itself Rot, which attaches itself to Moxie out on the trail as well as to Carol.

If you want to get in the Halloween spirit a little early, and your tastes run toward the suspenseful and slightly Gothic, give this one a look!

–Marie

 

 

Marie’s Reading: “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith

cuckoo's callingI’m late to the party here, but I’m glad I finally gave the Cormoran Strike books a try!  I just finished the first in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling.

This novel introduces us to Cormoran Strike, a wounded veteran turned private detective.  He’s just broken up with is girlfriend and is living in his office, which he can already barely afford.  He’s also got a temporary secretary named Robin, whose services he also cannot afford.

Strike takes the case of Lula Landry, a supermodel who fell to her death from her balcony months earlier.  Her brother is convinced it was murder, and wants Strike to prove it.  Soon the detective and Robin are drawn into the world of celebrity and wealth, where digging up the truth turns out to be exceedingly difficult.

I love Galbraith’s use of language.  The names all have an almost Dickensian ring to them, and the descriptions are clever and evocative.  The settings are very richly described, too–the world-building of London and of Strike’s dingy little office are both great.  Given the subjects of fame and celebrity, there’s a lot of social commentary going on here as well, and it works as another level to the investigation.

Strike is a fun character.  He’s very much the damaged PI type, with a difficult childhood, personal trauma, and relationship problems.  Yet he also comes across as a decent, intelligent, and generally kind man who is dogged in  his pursuit of the truth.  Robin, playing a Girl Friday kind of role, is also great–she’s torn between her disapproving fiance and her love of the excitement of solving a crime.  She proves herself very talented at sleuthing, too.  The partnership that builds between Strike and Robin is very nicely portrayed, and they make a great team.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is fun, compelling, and a great crime story filled with multiple layers and entertaining characters.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest!  If you like Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie novels, you might like these, too.

–Marie

P.S.
Robert Galbraith is J.K. Rowling. Just in case anyone hadn’t heard that yet.