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Six Months Later, Part I

It’s been almost six months to the day since my last entry, when I completed The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. You might be pleased (surprised?) to learn I have enjoyed so many books since then. So many! I have finished fourteen books in the last six months, which — if you have followed this blog for any length of time — is a lot for me.

Audiobooks are pretty much my main jam these days, what with busy, painty, charcoal-smudged fingers and lots of driving being fairly big components of my life, but it’s all good. (Did you know that your brain recognizes content gathered via listening comprehension and reading comprehension the same way?)

Since I have so many books to review, and since I have Certain Feelings about so many of them, I am going to break this up into several entries, for my sake and yours.

Let’s get to the books!

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#3. The Fireman by Joe Hill

I received a signed copy of this in hardback novel form from my husband, Joe. It is proudly displayed on a bookshelf in my office, but I was nervous to carry it around town, so I downloaded the audiobook version of this on Overdrive and occasionally read some passages out of the book. It’s a doozy of a story: a wild epidemic sweeps across the United States, perhaps the whole world, which causes people to break out into “Dragonscale” markings all over their body. When agitated or panicked, the sufferer bursts into flame.

We see this epidemic through the eyes of Harper Grayson, a school nurse obsessed with Mary Poppins and expecting her first child in the midst of what looks like the apocalypse. The first third of the book is riveting and epic, as we see how people are reacting to Dragonscale as it spreads. Apartment buildings burn to ash every other day, the Internet goes deep underground, and rabid radio hosts declare Dragonscale a biblical act of world-cleansing. Harper tries to stave off her own terror by caring for the infected as a nurse and humming cheerful songs to herself while her husband becomes unhinged with paranoia and dread. One night during a shift at the overwhelmed local hospital, Harper meets a man dressed as a fireman caring for a shy young boy. He seems to know more about the deadly spore causing the spontaneous combustion than he lets on, but nobody can survive its blaze…right?

This story then pivots pretty sharply into what I will describe here as an unusual refugee camp for Dragonscale sufferers who have not yet burst into flame. There is A LOT more to it than that, but as the story of Dragonscale tightens in geographical proximity, it sprawls out with conspiracy and good old-fashioned “People Are the Real Apocalypse” character arcs very reminiscent of Hill’s father. It remains compelling but for different reasons than the threat of self-immolation. Which…says a lot.

Rating: 4 out of 5 cartons of summer camp apple juice.

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#4. Fellside by M.R. Carey

Joe and I listened to this audiobook on a road trip to a college friend’s wedding in Iowa. It is an incredibly even-paced story about memory, redemption, and ghosts. Yes, ghosts. (It’s M.R. Carey, it’s going to be good-weird.) Sent to the infamously cruel women’s prison, Fellside, for her potential role in a child’s murder, Jess Moulson is a heroin addict trying to remember the last days of her life before she woke up in a hospital as an arson suspect. Her dark feelings and fragmented memories lead her to a strange, dream-like place where she meets a lonely spirit who doesn’t remember who they are. Could this be the young boy for whose murder she’s being charged? Can he help her remember the events of his death?

In the midst of all of this, can she survive Fellside itself? It’s an ominous place led by the ruthless inmate Harriet Grace and her numerous cronies, with several people in positions of power also caught in her web of violence. There are a lot of things working against Jess, most of all her own sense of guilt and confusion.

I really loved this book, it felt like a fairy tale hidden inside a mystery/crime novel. It is very different than The Girl with All the Gifts, so I am sure some fans of that probably didn’t connect to this one in the same way. But I thought it was wonderfully written, and it’s a must-read for the adventurous genre-surfer.

Rating: 5 out of 5 mugs of black coffee.

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#5. The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber

This one was recommended by a friend of mine, and it was a great rec indeed! First and foremost, the absolute avalanche of research and investigation in this book is so impressive. It’s a true crime story that encompasses so many different players over such a a long period of time: hospital staff, family members, detectives, whistle-blowers, etc. This book does its homework and then goes back for extra credit, and it never feels dry or unnecessary.

Charlie Cullen, later dubbed “The Angel of Death,” was a nurse who worked for sixteen years across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It is almost impossible to estimate how many people he killed by intentional overdose and excessive medical intervention. His motives have always been equally hard to nail down: he was delivering neither mercy nor vengeance in his action, and all of his victims appear to be random. While the questions surrounding Cullen are disturbing, perhaps more disturbing is that many hospital staff members suspected Cullen of foul play over the years, but little more was done than transfer him on to other hospitals. Graeber goes in depth to explore not just how Cullen committed his crimes, but why he was allowed so much continued access to patients in spite of red flag after red flag.

Rating: 5 out of 5 cups of ice chips brought in by an overly helpful night nurse. Actually, um, can maybe someone else bring me something?

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#6. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This book was…fine. It reminded me a lot of Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood, which I read last year and didn’t love. We have an unreliable narrator in Rachel, a troubled woman who spends lots of time riding trains. She enjoys seeing a young couple in one of the neighborhoods she passes going about their life — a happy-looking wife out in the garden during the day, the wife and her husband eating dinner together in the evening. One night, she sees something incredibly out of the ordinary and shortly thereafter, the young woman goes missing. Rachel immediately dives into investigating her disappearance, as it seems the only thing driving her forward in a life that has been marked by recent misery.

This story is told by three different women in an overlapping timeline: Rachel, our train-riding sleuth; her ex-husband’s new(ish) wife Anna, who lives near the couple; and Megan, the woman who goes missing. I liked this device, that it focused on the women’s perspectives and revealed the mystery in parts through each of them.

What I did not care for immensely was Rachel’s part in everything. Though we are given a reason why Rachel feels so fiercely connected to everything going on, her motivation still feels very flimsy. Rachel explains fairly early on that she has become an alcoholic, and that she is a profoundly unhappy person following a heartbreaking divorce. She also used to live in the same neighborhood as the couple. So looking into Megan’s disappearance gives her something to do, and to feel useful…but she goes SO FAR into this, you guys. SO FAR. And I just didn’t entirely understand it, except that Hawkins wanted to give us an, “A-HA!” moment at some point where her story bumped up against the other women, who seemed so put-together in comparison but had secrets all their own.

Something nice that came out of this was that I spent an afternoon in the park eating tacos and listening to a large portion of this, which was fun. But that has less to do with the novel and more to do with the sunshine…and tacos.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 gin & tonics.

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#7. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

This was a paperback book that I read, for real and for true. I bought it toward the end of 2016 and actually started it around Christmastime, but got sidetracked and read the bulk of it in April. Some of it during a very chill beach house weekend:

I really loved this book. It was a departure from all the…you know, terrifying and gruesome stuff I read most of the time. It’s a story about Lotto and Mathilde during the course of their marriage. The title, Fates and Furies, describes not only the deep belief Otto holds that the gods and the stars have brought them to one another, but also the ebb and flow of joy and despair during their time together. The structure is impressive, moving through the time and space of the characters but also their deep emotional states and their personal histories. There are parts that take on the dramatic, operatic style of Lotto and the quieter, keenly aware style of Mathilde. It paints a beautiful, strange portrait of a life shared and of two lives individually experienced. This one is a must-read.

Rating: 5 out of 5 glasses of wine at yet another dinner party with old friends.


Keep an eye out for Part II (and maybe Part III) in the next week or two. I may actually hit my target of 25 books in 2017, that would be pretty great! Happy reading and/or listening!

What books have you been reading? Do you prefer audiobooks, ebooks, or traditional books?

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#2. The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

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The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey is a fascinating take on the zombie/end-of-the-world story. It is a science-fiction infusion of survival, drama, terror, and melancholy that works on many different levels as it is experienced at points by very different people: soldiers, scientists, teachers…and Melanie.

Melanie is a very special student in a classroom located at a secure military encampment far outside of London. Restrained each morning at gunpoint and wheeled to class, Melanie learns advanced calculus, Greek mythology, and the geography of a world which she is starting to suspect no longer exists. She’s glad to be safe at the base, away from a horrible plague that wiped out most of society, but unsettling questions are creeping into her mind. Is this how every child goes to school? What happened to her parents, the parents of her classmates? And why does her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau, look so very sad whenever Melanie talks to her about these things?

This is a thrilling, emotional book. I would recommend it to anyone; you’ll probably find yourself somewhere in one (or several) of the people as they scramble to survive in a world that may very well have hit its carrying capacity for life as we know it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 canteens of filtered water from a hidden supply cache. 

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#1. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

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Trigger Warning is a collection of short stories (with some poems and fairy tales lurking within, Gaiman warns), most of which “end badly for at least one person in them.”

Before I review the collection – which is very good — I feel I must say something about the title, and his explanation for the title in the introduction. Boiling it all down, Gaiman puts forth the idea that ideas can, and often should, be dangerous, and therefore trigger warnings blunt the edges of our own worldview. He’s saying that the whole book could “trigger” you because large portions of it are sinister and spooky, but it’s okay because being scared teaches you things about yourself.

It’s a great ponderance on the importance of uncomfortable fiction, but I disagree with this argument because I believe it is misguided at its foundation. It’s misguided because he’s not really talking about trigger warnings as I know them, and as a majority of Internet-savvy people of a certain age know them. He’s talking about a much broader, watered-down aversion to discomfort, which has made the term the butt of so many jokes and the cause for certain university officials to absolutely lose their chill.

The first time I encountered a trigger warning at the head of an entry was on LiveJournal, and its intention was singular: prevent self-harm. I would see it particularly on blog posts that might trigger survivors of sexual abuse or eating disorders. The warnings were not to prevent bad feelings, but self-destruction. This is a far cry from the way it is currently talked about, over a decade later. But I still see the importance of trigger warnings, and I see the inherent compassion in their existence. Gaiman pokes a little fun at the term to talk about horror stories, and it’s a fairly innocent example, but it falls into a larger trend of people dismissing the term because they themselves have not benefitted from it.

It’s a minor blip, but a blip nonetheless, and  I still think he could have come up with a less tongue-in-cheek title.


Moving on to the stories themselves, they’re incredibly fun to read (or listen to, if you download the audiobook that Gaiman himself narrates)! I love short stories full stop, and his earlier collection Fragile Things stands out as one of my favorite things I read in 2014. (I still often think of “A Study in Emerald.”) This collection is actually pretty light, in spite of the aforementioned provocative title and a few well-timed character deaths. Loving tributes to Dr. Who, Sherlock Holmes, Ray Bradbury, and others fill the pages of this book. Even the scariest stories still have an “A-ha!” factor to them, campfire tales to make your friends shriek then break into recovering giggles.

One breathtaking exception is the novelette entitled, “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains…,” a quasi-fantasy journey story about the dark magic found in a cave far from our hero’s home. Darker than even the legends surrounding it. I found myself very absorbed in the suspicious circumstances of this quest, and it is sure to stay with me for a long time.

I also enjoyed “Black Dog,” a story that reunites us with Shadow Moon from American Gods. Other great stories include “Orange” and “A Calendar of Tales,” among many other microfictions that read like village myths and lyrical fables.

I enjoy Neil Gaiman’s writing. He weaves cleverness and earnestness together in his stories that make them feel so large and real. (As real as a world of fairies, immortality, ghosts, robots, magical caves, and spectral visions can be; though much like the beloved sci-fi writers of his own childhood, Gaimain is light on the science and focuses instead on the people.)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 cups of fine English tea, served with unusual honey.

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Scary Places and Dark Feelings: Books I Read in 2016

So, gang, let’s agree that I fell down on the job of reviewing books in 2016. Recklessly abandoned it, in fact, because as overstated and quickly-reaching-cliche-status as it sounds, 2016 was an awful no-good very bad year. It was pretty crummy for everyone, and for this gal in particular.

BUT! I believe in moving forward.

I believe in things to come.

Why, I’m nearly done with my first book of 2017 and we’re not quite two weeks in, so that has to be…some kind of good thing.

Here are all the books I read last year:

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#1. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

This story is interesting and quick; I listened to it as an audiobook while painting a project one icy evening.

Leonora, our protagonist, is a crime writer and a recluse. One day, she receives an email invitation to her old school friend’s “hen party” (Brirish term for bachelorette party) in the countryside. She hasn’t spoken to the bride-to-be, Clara, in years, but she musters up the courage to go.

What could possibly go wrong in an isolated house, with long-forgotten school chums, during a weekend full of secrets?

Everything.

We know something did, because the story is told by Leonora as she tries to reconstruct the weekend from a hospital bed, covered in (someone’s) blood and suffering memory loss caused by head trauma.

It doesn’t deliver on all the spookiness promised in the beginning (Odd assemblage of friends! Scary, secluded place! Bad weather! Bumps in the night!), but it remains a fine thriller. My main issue is that there’s a lot of character backstory that feels forced. For example, Leonora has a pretty thin reason for being the person she is. One moment from her past has seemingly shaped her whole life, and her constant revelations about that moment start to feel a bit redundant. It also makes the main players in the story come across as extremely one-dimensional.

It does have its strengths. Like any good mystery, we’re given red herrings and ominous atmosphere aplenty. Despite my qualms mentioned above, I like Leonora and many of the little threads she investigates as the plot marches ever onward. However, our entire cast of characters has a bad habit of revealing their hand just a bit too early, or too voraciously. Ultimately, this was a decent mystery story that was very close to being a good one.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 cups of Breakfast Tea on an eerie winter evening.

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#2. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Oh, this book. This book is a delight. It is a balm to any anxious mind out there, and I highly recommend it. It effortlessly goes from gut-busting humor to heart-wrenching truth about mental illness and the way we each cope with hard things.

Camping gone awry in Australia, hugging koalas, battling opossums, surviving depression, negotiating with cats, and trying so very, very hard to be a responsible adult are all addressed therein. They are discussed through taxidermy, ridiculous conversations about taxes, and unending gratitude for the people who make the good parts of Jenny’s life so magical.

I listened to this audiobook at a point in my life when I really, really needed to and didn’t even realize it. Jenny Lawson narrates the audiobook, which adds a lot of warmth and emotion to its passages.

Rating: 5 out of 5 cups of whatever you prefer to spit out while involuntarily belly-laughing.

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#3. The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

This is my favorite book I read this year! It is hard to summarize because it is an EPICALLY SPRAWLING TOME OF HISTORICAL FICTION, but I will do my best. In Princeton, New Jersey, beginning in 1905 and concluding in 1906, some very strange events occurred among the elite families. Disappearances, violent behavior, hallucinations, charming strangers, and dark secrets are the (whispered) talk of the town. Framed as a research document compiled of diaries, letters, and other discovered writings, we learn about what came to be known as the Crosswicks Curse and the many players therein.

I enjoyed Oates’ use of real — and very thoroughly researched — people as characters embroiled in the elaborate details of the curse. Woodrow Wilson, Upton Sinclair, and countless others are closely examined and skillfully embedded into the story.

It has a dark humor to its pages and moments of real terror. I hesitate to write too much more about it, as its twists, turns, and ghoulish surprises are such a joy to discover on one’s own.

Rating: 5 out of 5 mysterious glasses of ale given to you by a suspicious visitor.

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#4. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

While I was reading this book over the summer, I often joked with my friends, “Come for the murders, stay for the architecture.”

The true stories of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair and America’s first documented serial killer collide in this immaculately presented nonfiction novel. The passion, determination, will power, and unbridled sense of purpose guide the countless people behind the World’s Fair exhibition in Chicago in 1893. Seen as nothing more than a processing town and a slaughter yard, the city of Chicago bids ferociously against New York and other metropolitan areas for the honor of hosting the fair. Their efforts seem insurmountable time and time again, but that only seems to fuel their collective creative madness. (It is especially fascinating to see how logistics for the fair modernized the way America utilized city planning, union labor, and even great leaps forward in mechanical engineering.)

Alongside the fair, a con man named H.H. Holmes comes to the city and builds a strange boarding house. The boarding house has oddly shaped rooms and a number of young, lovely female tenants who seem to constantly disappear into thin air. While following the Fair’s construction and public reception shows the positive potential within us all, tracking the scope of Holmes’ crimes reveals the darker nature of our capabilities.

Rating: 5 out of 5 cups of Waukesha spring water, just a penny a cup!

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#5. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

If you are a fan of Gillian Flynn’s work, you’re likely to enjoy this grim murder mystery. Estranged sisters come together after one of them loses her husband in a brutal street attack. They are forced to reminisce about their shared past, which includes the unsolved disappearance of their older sister, Julia, twenty years earlier.

Everything (and everyone) around the sisters seems to be leading back to haunting questions about their family. What happened to Julia that night so long ago? Why is all of this coming to light only now? Most dangerous of all, who can they trust?

(A word to those who avoid it, there are graphic descriptions of sexual abuse and torture in this book.)

Rating: 4 out of 5 glasses of Pinot Grigio while the world you thought you knew falls apart.

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#6. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

I started this audiobook in the fall, during that “rare month” of October, as Bradbury refers to it. I listened to it while working on an exhaustive, finger-aching project for school (which you can see here!), which I would recommend, actually, as the frenzied excitement of this prose pairs well with a good creative spiral.

We meet our young protagonists as they prepare for Halloween in a small Midwestern town. A storm is coming for Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, however. A storm and a dark carnival, a middle-of-the-night, strange affair too late in the season to be any regular kind of carnival. The mysterious Mr. Dark leads a band of grotesque humans in the freak show, along with a dizzying hall of mirrors and a very special carousel.

We meet other people in the town, of course: mothers, teachers, shopkeepers, schoolchildren. We also meet Charles Halloway, Will’s dad, a man who lives a life of the mind in quiet introspection most nights. As Will and Jim come to understand the carnival’s power and its true hold over the townspeople (and unfortunately, themselves), Charles will need to fight his own darker temptations to come to their aid.

The writing style of this book is very unique. The structure is as you would expect, but the flurry of descriptions and the youthfulness of it, the free-floating approach to whose story it is, is very interesting. There is a robust stream of consciousness in the narration, and an effective, constant switch between what is being seen and what is truly happening. It’s a darkly fun yet moving read for any month, but especially October.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 mugs of root beer from the eerie, tattooed man in the midway. Did that tattoo just..move?

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#7.Diary by Chuck Palahniuk 

Ironically, this was the first book I started in 2016 and the last one I finished. Oops. Sorry for losing you in a desk drawer, Diary. Seems just a little bit fitting, though.

But anyway, Diary is about fate (kind of), and art (kind of), and how fate can conspire against you pretty actively, at least if you are a painter living on Waytansea Island.

Misty works at the Wilmot Hotel on the pretty New England island of Waytansea, a place that was once wealthy but has now reduced its finest families into service work as rich tourists buy out the area. Her husband is in the hospital, barely alive and permanently comatose after a failed suicide attempt. Her daughter Tabbi spends a lot of time with her paternal grandmother Grace, and they both constantly urge Misty to paint like she did when she was in art school. Misty feels like a failure, a fraud, and fosters a deep resentment of her husband, Peter, whom she still secretly loves.

As if this isn’t enough to contend with, Misty starts getting calls from former clients of Peter’s architectural service. Whole rooms are missing from beach condos, closets are sealed off in guest houses, and terrible, surreal graffiti has been discovered in all of their homes. The ugly messages left by her husband seem to match more subtle messages Misty finds all over the island: scratched into tables, penciled into library books, painted on ceiling beams. They all seem to be messages for her…but why?

Palahniuk is consistently one of my favorite contemporary authors. This book really shows off what he does best, which is tie seemingly unrelated strings together very neatly — and often shockingly — by the last page. Even the structure of the book, which is written like a diary that Misty actively keeps, is an abstract clue to the larger mystery of the story and of the island.

Rating: 5 out of 5 shots of whiskey while you think nobody is looking.

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A Book Lover’s Confession: All The Things I’ve Been Doing When I Could Have Been Reading

Things I’ve Done in 2016 That Did Not Involve Reading or Listening to a Book:

  • Set up shop at a monthly vendor spot in the Plaza District and tried to get strangers to do art projects with me.
  • Ate snow cones.
  • Hosted an art show with work made by preschoolers.
  • Hung out with Jade, who constantly schemes to steal pizza.
  • Played board games.
  • Went to weddings.
  • Ate very adorable food at weddings.
  • Hung out with Nibbler, who likes to sleep on our heads.
  • Ate some more snow cones.
  • Bought a tiny MarioKart car.
  • Worked out.
  • Saw the world premiere of our friend’s movie.
  • Went to Dallas and took pictures of things with cute people.
  • Played…slightly more difficult board games.
  • Wandered the city, until it got too muggy and my legs started to stick together when I went on walks.

2016 has been a hard year to get jazzed about, but these are some of the good memories. I’ve also read a handful of books, which I will probably-definitely-most-likely get around to reviewing before the end of the year.

What have your favorite distractions been this year?

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Auld Lang Syne, Already!

Happy 2016, book lovers and other ne’er-do-wells! Another year, another post about how quickly each year seems to go, etc. Last I checked in with the book blog, I had just completed and reviewed Sharp Objects as the summer started to wind down. A lot has happened since then! This past fall I started taking art classes at a local community college. I also did my first makers’ fair downtown and my first gallery showing (the same week, to boot!). I recently got a promotion at work, too, so I have been making a few preparations for that. 2015 ended on a high note for me, though I know it was a hard one for many. Love and light to everyone in this brand new year, I hope it is kind to each of you. ♥

I managed to complete ~12 books this year! What with all the drawings and night classes and side hustles, I think that’s actually rather good. Here are the last ~6 books I read in 2015, and a few notes on each one:

#7. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham: I did not think I liked Lena Dunham after my annoyance with Tiny Furniture at SXSW several years back, but this book is very good. I feel like she has grown a lot as a person since that film’s premiere, and she talks about that in the memoir. I listened to this book via Overdrive (of course!), which was extra enjoyable, as she narrates her own life story with earnest humor and warmth. Dunham weaves personal vignettes together to create a surprisingly universal understanding of girlhood, womanhood, and the in-between spaces of awkwardness and hope.

#8. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple: This book’s format is quite inventive! Constructed out of seemingly unrelated emails, advertisements, and newspaper clippings, the story highlights one young girl’s attempts to locate her mother after she disappears from a cruise ship bound for Antarctica.

#9. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: My favorite fiction novel of the year! Above all else, it is a very affecting love story, and if you’re into that kind of thing I recommend you stop what you are doing to read and/or listen to it at once. (Again, Overdrive.)

#10. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan: A nonfiction memoir based on medical research, family and friend accounts, and her own bizarre writings from the period of time Cahalan was in the throes of undiagnosed Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. The disease caused drastic system upheavals, hallucinations, violent outbursts, and memory loss. The book details the process of her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

#11. Tampa by Alissa Nutting: One of the reviews of this book is that it is “sly and salacious storytelling” and it certainly is. A young English teacher is way too into her prepubescent male students. Chaos ensues.

#12. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: This is my favorite nonfiction book of the year, and probably the one that has truly affected my life the most. The #KonMari Method has changed the way I do laundry, buy goods, clean house, and value the things I own. It has affected my views on pretty much everything material about my life! The basic premise is this: only keep things in your home that bring you joy. Make the most of your space by making sure you actually love the things surrounding you. It is amazing how much stuff we hold onto that has already gone well beyond serving its purpose. My husband Joe has embraced the method alongside me, and I can tell you that our closets, cupboards, and shelves have never been in better shape. The tidying has had obvious physical benefits — yay, fewer daily chores! — but it has also had an influence on our spirits. We have felt much lighter and freer, depending less on our possessions. It is an excellent little book to have at your side if you have ever felt overwhelmed by clutter.

Honorable Mention: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by  Alan Bradley. I almost finished this one by the end of 2015. (I seriously have less than 2 hours on the audiobook!) It’s a fun little period piece, a postwar British murder mystery as told by a poison-obsessed eleven-year-old.

May this year bring you great stories and plenty of piping hot tea!

reading into 2016

xo – Sarah

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#6. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Greetings once again, book and beverage lovers! I had grand schemes to write another round-up for the end of the summer, but at this point that would be a *huge* post and I realized it would be better to break it up. Since reading Book #5 (Feed) I have gone on to complete five more books, with several more that I will finish by the end of the month. Whew! I must once again sing the praises of the Overdrive program, which I have really embraced while working on my drawings the past few weeks. It has been great especially for detail work, to have something to concentrate on besides the repetition of dots, lines, and large color sections.

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The first audiobook of the season to review is Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Flynn’s debut novel follows a young journalist named Camille on a hesitant journey back home to her family’s estate in rural Missouri. A middle schooler named Natalie Keene has disappeared in Camille’s hometown of Wind Gap, months after another local girl disappeared and was found murdered in the forest.

It is hard for her to be around her family while she investigates the mysterious cases. Camille is over a decade older than her teenage sister Amma, a wild-child town bully who caters to her mother’s creepy whims to dress her in babyish clothes and coddle her as though she were incredibly frail. Being home also causes her to experience painful recollections of the sister she lost in childhood, Marian. Their mother Adora is a cold, strange woman who simultaneously exudes Southern hospitality and martyred hostility as she sees to the various goings-on around town and in the lives of her daughters.

As Camille learns more about the preteens who went missing in Wind Gap, she must confront hard truths about her own childhood in the town and the uneasy relationships she has with those she grew up with. As weeks pass and the possibilities narrow, she realizes she may very well be in danger herself.

This novel has a great gothic feel, portraying the town and the old house as eerie places full of restless young girls, darkness, and deep secrets. It had some twists that I was genuinely not expecting, which kept me listening late into the night as I tried to figure out the hidden motivations of not just whoever hurt the missing girls, but of Camille, her family, and those aiding her in her research.

If you enjoyed Dark Places, I suspect this would be a compelling book to check out!

Caffeinated Accompaniment: A large glass of iced tea with mint is a perfect drink to pair with this story about muggy nights in a small Missouri town. Drink it on the lawn as the sun sets, but leave your porch lights blaring: you never know who may be out there among the trees.

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