Halloween Reads: Not so Cozy Houses

There are so many haunted houses stories out there that I could do this kind of post every Halloween for a hundred more years and not run out of books to read.  And despite all the ones I have read, I am always up to hear how someone else managed the haunted house trope into something different than the one I read before.

Both of the books I review today possess my least favorite facet of some horror fiction: they don’t really resolve.  The scary cycle is doomed to continue itself and people in the future next round are doomed to the same fate that the characters that you cared about were subject to this time. When I was newer to horror it bothered me more than it does now, but it still does, a little, that these stories don’t end with a resolution of the greater issue.

Needless to say I have wandered away from the cozier Halloween reads, but I have some unread ones on my kindle telling me that I really need to come back.

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Within These Walls, Ania Ahlborn

Okay, so I love Ania Ahlborn’s books.  This is the third one of hers I have read, and I did not realize that when I started to read her she was self pub.  She was that good.  A lot of the self pub I read earlier on did not have the polish and engagement I found in her stories.  She has since been picked up by Simon and Schuster, inevitably.

Within These Walls brilliantly combined the haunted house trope with the cult trope.  And being a Psychologist she does well with the both:  the mentality of getting pulled into the cult and the haunted house that makes you severely question your grip on reality.  She weaves them in a manner reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining, which is a compliment.  The struggling writer with a failing marriage taking a chance on moving to a new place to revive both, under the ruse of being granted an exclusive interview by a killer in prison.  The fun really begins when he brings his neglected and misunderstood 12 year old daughter with him and leaves his wife back in New Jersey. Two plot lines weaving and knotting and twisting into one another with surprises and brilliance and interest.

I have read Seed and The Bird Eater and I think this one showed more sophistication on her part. I want to read The Neighbors and The Shuddering and the rest of the books she has put out, whether before the big five pickup or not.  She’s great and I follow her on Facebook and Twitter and I wish I had the investment in writing to take her horror writing course.

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77 Shadow Street, Dean Koontz

Another personal reading challenge for myself is to read authors who I have stayed away from due to their huge popularity.  I picked this one out for last year’s round of Halloween reads that I never made it to, which also happened with a book I am reading right now for the next posts on Halloween books.

So, this one was harder for me to make it through than Within These Walls.  It is a house built on the one space time fault in the world and every 38 years the fault opens and punishes and terrorizes its residents, which are extremely wealthy condo owners. Also, there is someone involved in a bioterrorism of sorts aimed at eternal life and conquering of disease, I was not sure.  Then there was an assassin? I say assassin because he is hired to kill people as well as having killed people for his own purposes. I felt like a lot of elements were just thrown in to reach out to everyone’s conception of scary.  I think that is a huge undertaking to want to add enough variation in the scary elements to be scary to a wide audience.  And lots of people get killed.  And like in Ahlborn there is no sign that the cycle was really going to stop, that hell wasn’t going to bust loose again after 38 years passed.

The characters I cared most about were an autistic girl and a boy estranged from his father, bookish and not like typical boys but determined not to be a sissy.  I cared about his saving her and Koontz did a great job of describing her. There were a lot of characters living in the house, mainly adults that were difficult to care anything about.

But I felt like I was slogging through this book and some of it felt pointless.  It did not feel as tidy as Ahlborn’s weaving between times, characters and their overlapping vulnerabilities.  I just wasn’t impressed.  I am open to someone helping me see the point better.  I can’t tell you my attention did not wander from some of the times I was listening to it and pushing to finish so I could start on something else.  I am not going to pick up another Koontz anytime soon.

And I need to read some of the horror early masters, like listening to my Necronomicon and picking up that Lovecraft omnibus with the tiny thin pages off my shelf.

Next week…might have a less unified theme.  I am working on some scary books that I have to think about how I will pull them together but I might not pull them together at all.  And it will be the peak of Halloween festivities! And my beautiful son will have turned five years old on the 27th and I am loving this age best of all….

comments/likes/shares are awesome!

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Maternity Leave Survival Reads

Dear Spring:  Thanks for springing.  Just in time to rescue me from complete despair that you were never coming.

So, it’s Easter Sunday and I don’t have a very Easter-y blog post for today, if you were looking for books about some aspect of the holiday.  Like chocolate bunnies.

If my blogging as of late has felt uninspired, please know I am in the final throes of training for a half marathon.  I wanted to be a more competitive triathlete so I just decided to do a half marathon training program, and then my training partner said that I will never know if the program works unless I actually run one, so then I signed up for a race twice the length of what I am sure I am capable of.  My goal is not to walk.  But the training has taken up my writing time.  I tried to write last week’s post after a seven mile clip through the park and my brain was refusing to comply.    So I am posting on a rest day, an amazing sunny day that I spent outside with my son.  On a topic I have long been considering.

Pregnancy and maternity leave were an interesting time for my reading. During pregnancy, my brain did not hang on to some of the books very well, except I did finish Mansfield Park and it did make me think enough to stay in my mind.  So did A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Grapes of Wrath.  Mystery novels slipped away from me, though, and the ones I read, especially on those summer mornings where the best I could do was walk on the treadmill, deserve a re-read.   Cloud Atlas being one of them. But it was not the pregnancy books that I wanted to post on.

It is the books that got me through the subsequent maternity leave that will be featured today.  The time when I had my very own tiny baby bunny.

Pregnancy requires a degree of survival, although mine was not high risk or especially horrid in any of those ways.  I was just tired, bleary minded, and wanting to fast forward to the baby part because I did not know any better. But it’s just a warm-up for the big leagues.

When I became a mother, I also I became someone who could read on my phone, as it was back lit and could fit in one hand, the other cradling possibly the hungriest infant that ever lived.  I did not only read in those long nights with nothing but the light of the nightlight and the one on my phone,  but it was a better activity than googling my exes and seeing all the places that my best friend checked into in the first year he lived in NYC (something I am really jealous of and something I am also really not).

So what makes a good maternity read?  Engaging and not too complicated.  My sleep deprived, pregnancy compromised brain needed scraps to hang on to but not too many scraps because the scraps would get too tangled up.  I also noticed that the books I am mentioning here are mostly series books, which can minimize the between book angst. Which is completely real, and should not happen at the same time as all the other angsts of new motherhood.

Some of the best books from that time:

Gone Girl, Jillian Flynn

Short chapters and a totally engrossing plot. I already was up most the night and I wanted to be up the rest of it because I just had to know.  And I could be like, just one more part and I’ll put it down… an hour later… ha. Very vivid memory of a time that did not make a whole lot of specific memories.

The Jo Mackenzie books, Gil McNeil  (starting with The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club)

This one still piqued my curiosity despite lacking the tension of Gillian Flynn’s suspense novel.  They are more a slice of life books than they are about discrete plots where people undergo major changes, but I like a woman following her creative dreams of having a knitting shop after her no good husband dies.

Nero Wolfe novels, Rex Stout

I have long read Nero in the spaces of my life where I needed a book to pull me away but not completely entangle me emotionally.  He was also a break from grad school read.  I do believe I have done 37 of this series, but I almost feel that this should have its own post.

The Plantagenet and Tudor novels of Philippa Gregory

These were more at the tail end of maternity leave, but they got me through January as well:  a double accolade.  I love Philippa’s true historical novels and the fascinating characters and historical events that she brings to life in her writing.  I find myself googling these people afterward.  As of now I have Three Sisters Three Queens on deck and maybe the Taming of the Queen, which I know is about the last wife whose inner light was thankfully not victim to the tyrant king Henry VIII.

What gets me through in my time of need!  If I had another baby, I would finish the Royal Spyness series and maybe some Louise Penny.

Happy Easter!

 

Thoughts/shares/comments always appreciated!!

 

 

 

Review: When the Serpent Bites by Nesly Clerge

This is the first indie book I received in exchange for an honest review that has made it to a review on the blog.

Excuse two posts in a day, but I wanted to be as timely as my book review policy promises.

I want to start by saying while I do enjoy a thriller, this is not the usual kind of book that I would pick up. It sucked me in.

This book teased and danced with my curiosity. Honestly, I had a hard time liking any of the characters save for a few because they are mostly crazy wealthy, entitled, privileged and self centered. But I wanted to know what happened went down to get these people to where they were now, with Frederick Starks, (Starks) a guy in prison after confronting one of his estranged wife Kayla’s lovers, the estranged wife pregnant with some other guy’s kid, and a best friend Jeffrey caught in the middle.  Clerge teases you with snippets of the backstory through conversations between characters and in therapy.  Therapy is a great way to expose teasers of backstory because only parts of the story are revealed, and of course only the self serving ones, in the beginning.  And then, as the true story starts to come together, he throws in a big twist that puts the final nail in the coffin of the old Starks.  The book ends as the new Starks is transforming.  I am curious about where the story came from but also where Starks is planning on going from here.

I also liked the use of the prison setting.  The constant drama, the dubious and shaky alliances, always at the brink of eat or be eaten, both from the other prisoners and the guards. It seemed realistic, not that I have ever been in prison to know, but it seems that the author found a way to do his research about this setting to make it work.

A word about Starks:  I kept mixing him up with Tony Stark from IronMan and seeing him in my mind’s eye as Robert Downey Jr. It could have been intended.  I went back and forth between liking him and not.  He has redeeming qualities:  he is generous and kind.  He is meticulous, orderly, and tidy.  He is a born leader but learns from getting knocked down a peg. Where I struggled with Starks was his rigid views and double standards between women and men. He is very entitled.  He can do what he wants, but his wife is supposed to sit in her pretty castle twiddling her thumbs and going to pilates while he has his affairs with whomever he pleases. He is controlling and sets ultimatums:  he will only supply her with her phone if he can go through it at any time.  I may be weird but my husband has never looked through my phone and it is locked because I work where kids could get their hands on my phone. I don’t touch his phone either. If that changed I would re assess my marriage.  Anyway. He has a pretty new girlfriend but it is not okay that his estranged wife has someone else in her home. She is supposed to be a virgin and his claim on her this way is unapologetic.  I don’t like that at all. Not that his wife Kayla is a sympathetic character though either. I found her less appealing, but the story does not go into her head in this volume.  She tells people her version of what went on and their relationship is reported from Starks’ perspective, but not yet hers.  I wonder if that is coming.

Favorite character?  His third cellmate. No spoilers though.

I also have been wondering if the details of the assault that led to the sentence will also be forthcoming.  See what I said?  I am still wondering.

A final note is that I like how he portrayed the therapy sessions in the book. As a therapist I struggle when the dialog is stilted or stereotyped in media. Communication can sound stilted in a therapy session, because there is a degree of educating going on, but I am glad the therapist is a regular guy who cares and makes mistakes too that he is accountable for.  He pushes Starks a lot in session to examine his role in the marriage, which sometimes Starks starts to admit and take responsibility for his part, but sometimes when he is pushed in session, he does not.  The therapist pushes more than I generally do, but realistic text from early therapy sessions is sometimes slow and not useful to plot development.  A guy like Starks probably needs a lot more sessions of denial and justification of his actions before he could get to where he is in the story in his sessions.

I see from Amazon that the second installment, When the Dragon Roars, is already available. I can’t pick it up immediately because I may have over committed myself to completing three reading challenges.

Comments/Likes/Shares are always appreciated!

Halloween Reads: This House Wants You

Haunted houses!

There could possibly be two parts to this post because haunted houses abound in the scary literature.

This is the centennial year of Shirley Jackson’s, author of The Haunting of Hill House, birth.  As so Amazon was kind to have it somewhat discounted, but beyond that, all the TBR blowing up lists of must reads usually features this book somewhere. So it had to be added to my arsenal.

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Paranormal research, to my particular delight, is all over the television, but it is not a new idea.  This book came out in 1959 and features a researcher and people he invited to stay with him as a part of conducting research on the paranormal.  The two women invited both have some kind of interaction with the paranormal in the past and the particular protagonist, Eleanor, comes chock with vulnerabilities from her own recent past.  Although she is in her early thirties she has thus yet spent her adulthood caring for an ill mother and resides with a sister and her husband, for whom she cares little.  As such she is still fanciful and childlike and full of traumatic memories.  She is ripe for the execution when she comes to the door of the house.

This book is scary, if somewhat understated and subtle.  The characters sarcastic joking around and banter got a little tiring and I couldn’t tell what was real and what were jokes played all the time, but that is probably a big piece of the appeal.  Not knowing what is real and what is not is, at least to me, what freaks me out.  Stephen King’s It got me like that.  I am dying to see that new movie of it even though I know what it will do to me.

I read a more modern take on this as well, more modern even than The Shining:

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The Haunting Season, Michelle Muto

Muto takes Jackson’s book, makes it feature young adults, and ups the demonic and research plots.  Gone are some of the understated subtleties and unmoored adults of the 1950’s, these kids have real powers and are headed to college after this summer project of participating in research is over.  They are a little more dynamic than amorphous and sad Eleanor who is trying to figure herself out now that her life is her own.  Of course, just because they are more dynamic does not mean they are not coming in with their soft spots to be devoured, because what haunted house can really get to a fully intact individual?   Actually, I don’t want to ask that one.

Muto develops the demonic a little more than Jackson does.  The negative forces have more of a backstory and are personified more. The scary moments are more dramatic. The ghosts manifest and speak. Hill House has its moments where supernatural elements manifest in less direct ways, but in this one, ghosts just roll up without a lot of preamble.  Which is fine, because the point isn’t to find out if there are ghosts, it is more to discover something that is vastly more sinister about why they are ghosts and what they want.

Muto had two plots going and went with developing the one more with the kids banishing the evil from the house, or trying to.  Just like with any book about conducting controversial research, it goes off the rails.  She could have expanded the real reason the kids had been chosen to be part of the research but developing both completely likely would have made this book a little cumbersome.

I liked it.  I would have liked it more had I read it when I was the target audience age.  I wish YA had been as much of a thing when I was in that demographic as it is now. I have so much YA on my kindle that I have not read yet and I think it does such great things for kids awareness and empathy in a world that still needs it. I try to recommend books to some of my kids who do and do not read.

These books are both about scary houses that want you.  I am upset that I already talked about The Shining in a previous reading challenge post because I would have added it here. I want to read Gillian Flynn’s short The Grownup and see if it has the same idea of a house wanting someone.  Maybe some Poe.

Other good haunted house stories out there?  I like suggestions.  Even though I already noted in a previous post that I can be somewhat glacial in getting to them.

Comments/likes/suggestions?

Reading Challenge: Recommended

Another way to read more widely is to read what others ask you to read, however begrudgingly.  I rarely, if ever, ask for recommendations, although I am the first one to blow up some poor shmuck’s comment feed on Facebook when they are fool enough to canvas hundreds of people at a time as to what they should read next.  I will keep in mind what someone wants me to read but it has to depend on my mood when it actually gets cracked.

That is likely why MMD and Popsugar this year want you to pick up a book that someone else thinks you should.

A Book Recommended by Someone You Just Met (Popsugar):

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The Assassins Apprentice, Robin Hobb

A coworker that I trained with and become friends with recommended this one.  The pace at which we meet new people, and especially make personal friends, slows considerably in the establishment of adulthood.  So I am counting this because she harassed me until I read it and I have only known her for two years. I also read it because she read The Martian when I was talking about it at work.  Yeah, I am exciting in real life, too.

The cover of this book is atrocious and I cannot discuss it’s merits until that is said. I find I need so much more encouragement (other bloggers praise, Amazon stars, listed for book awards and dangled in front of me by the publishers I follow) to pick something up if the cover is cheesy.  I showed it to my husband and he said, “sweet deer on the front.”

Hobb writes trilogies and I probably will at some point read the other two of the Farseer Trilogy. The story is good but I am glad there is more to it because I feel like the ending is anti-climactic, on top of the fact that the main character continues to be lonely at the end. He has some reprieves from loneliness but nothing permanent due to the belabored point of his bastard birth. Without a specific origin to assign him a place in the world, he ends up being the projects of a few people. He does not even really have a name throughout.  It is an interesting story and you root for the protagonist as he passes through the many sets of hands who are trying to shape him.  He definitely will need more permanent and stable relationships in the other two books to keep me wanting to follow his story, so hopefully his lack of origin is resolved.

A Book Recommended by a Family Member (Popsugar):

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The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

I didn’t expand an awful lot with this one, even though my sister, who reads mainly nonfiction books, wanted me to pick this up.  It went on crazy ebook sale last year grouped with a bunch of other popular books I was all too eager to gobble up.  Being such a hit, it had already made it to my TBR.  She just got it moved up due to having joined the ranks of those who just could not put it down.  I think she even said she stayed up to read it, which I don’t think is like her with a book.

This book is a page turner from the perspective of an unreliable narrator and a decent twist to it, which made it a huge bestseller in England. I found Gone Girl harder to put down than this one and I would recommend that first, but I would also recommend this as a thriller.

A Book Recommended by Your Local Librarian/Bookseller (Modern Mrs. Darcy):

Murder on Astor Place: A Gaslight Mystery by [Thompson, Victoria]

Murder on Astor Place, Victoria Thompson

I have the pleasure of knowing the library director in my small town, so naturally I cornered her (at an annual local soup contest, no lie) for this recommendation.  Her blanket recommendation is usually Outlander, and seeing as I read Outlander last December as a vacation read to accompany me through binge exercising/crafting, she switched it up for me.  (sidebar:  I have not continued reading the Outlander series because I heard the later books have less sex and more anxiety provoking situations for the characters and she couldn’t deny this fact and she has read the series through at least twice).  But then she was like, what about historical fiction/cozy mysteries and I was like yes and yes.  And I can’t deny I like that the cozies run a few dollars cheaper.  This one is about a midwife in 1920’s New York City who figures out who murdered a society girl who was living under cover in a boardinghouse. I would read more of these, even though sometimes the history exposition woven into the plot seemed to be a little stilted at times.  I mean, I do like the trend of the setting being an active and relevant part of the story, so if it is a little stiff at times, I suppose I could handle that.  I would recommend Rhys Bowen’s Murphy’s Law possibly first, if you are okay with the fact that Bowen’s heroines always struggle to find a consistent place to live and a steady stream of income.  Both Molly Murphy and Georgianna Rannoch of her Royal Spyness series are always living at the brink of ruin.  At least Sarah Brandt in Murder on Astor Place has a consistent and reliable base for life and independence.  And the distinct advantage of straddling between the world of the poor, in the clients she serves, as well as high society, from which she comes.   I am also eyeballing The Yard by Alex Grecian.  But I have more reading list challenges to scale before that.

I am glad that all three of these books were placed in my path with very little soliciting.

Comments/likes/shares/love.

 

 

Mental Illness then and now: Part II

 

For the second part of this two part series I am going discuss modern books about mental illness.  The last post involved mental illness in an earlier time, the quintessential mental illness novels for the mid century, but today is about conceptualization and treatment of illness in today’s world.

A word on treatment today versus then: I do not claim that we have everything figured out for the mentally ill, but at least there are no longer hospitals where people who are annoying but really do not belong there get dumped.  Even the people who struggle too much on the outside to be there are constantly being considered for how they can get there, and halfway houses with trained staff are there for people who need to work on getting back out. Electric shock is only used for treatment resistant depression with full consent from the patient.  Some people swear by a few treatments of EST to keep them feeling right.  And there are no more lobotomies, thank the good lord, and parents are not being blamed for autism and schizophrenia (although the original story of how parents got blamed for autism was misinterpreted.  Theorists believed that autism may be genetic, which it is, and not that autistic parents create autism in a child that was not there before).

The importance of these books lies in their frank discussion of the thoughts and feelings that are a part of the illness. They do not try to romanticize or make the illness different than it really is, rather, they do their best to help the reader understand their worlds.

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Challenger Deep, Neal Shusterman

I wish this book was available back in the early 90’s when I could have read it. The nonfiction books I did find on mental illness listed symptoms and had weird pictures of hollow eyed women in the shower with swimsuits and life vests on.  It did not help my thirteen year old brain slow down and consider what life must be like and what symptoms must be like for these people. Challenger Deep would have made all the difference to me back then in my understanding.  I am glad it has earned all the attention that it has (National Book Award Winner!) to get it into the hands of more teens who want to know about abnormal psychology and what it is like to be a patient.

I do agree with some reviews that this book takes a little to get into.  For me it was because the alternate illness world of the sea voyage was hard to initially make sense of, but it does weave into the other narrative, Caden with his family and friends and school, and those relationships slowly change as Caden is changing. There are other digressions into the world of the illness in the other books I posted on last week, so slipping in and out of those narratives is not an uncommon way to portray the illness.  And they are like the illness in real life in that way:  you start off thinking that this is something happening in the real world, and then as you go you find something is off.  I liked how Kesey does this when his narrator talks about the great machine in the walls, the great Combine.

Once the two narratives started to gel in my mind, I plowed through it.  The writing is sharp and poignant and makes mention of things in life we experience but often don’t give a second though to.

Caden is much more reachable and relatable than the characters in the books from last week’s post.  He takes place in the modern world, he is a regular teenager before everything hits, he is only in the hospital until he stabilizes on medication and he can be sent home to parents who are just as unsure as he is.  The book talks about how the family changes the way they interact with him in the hospital and after, how he is Caden still in some ways, but in others is a changed person.   I love YA that tackles difficult topics and helps teens to build empathy into misunderstood pieces of life.

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Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay

This one was a little less clear cut mental illness.  It addresses the age old question of what is mental illness and what makes it not a spiritual explanation, like possession?  A modern family’s eldest daughter starts acting strange and it is more in line with the the popularized forms of demon possession. There are some suggestions of schizophrenia, like when the older sister admits to hearing voices and having to listen to music to drown them out, but often she claims that she is faking and making it up in order to save the family.  That she is ‘going along’ with her father’s concern that she is possessed. This is in keeping with some family therapy theories where there is one member responsible for manifesting the issues in the family dynamic.

It is told from the perspective of the younger daughter, Merry, who is eight years old at the time that her sister falls ill and the family agrees to allow a reality show to be made due to financial straits.  She tells what she remembers as well as writing a blog as an adult about the show where she talks about its similarities to the portrayal of possession in other movies and books and shows, claiming that it was all fabricated, especially the pieces in which she had direct involvement. The unreliable narrator is another layer to this, especially with the ending.  We don’t know how it really gets to end up the way it does.  Which I won’t say because I won’t spoil it.

The eldest daughter does short stints in the hospital, she takes medications, she does not get shock therapy or a lobotomy, no one talks about her marriage prospects or are concerned with her fitting into the larger society.  She struggles to attend school like a typical kid, she has evidence of self harm in parts, and the whole time the reader is wondering if this is about illness or possession, or maybe both.

I blasted through this book in a short time, it was that quick and readable.

Both of these books feature troubled teens battling illness in today’s world.  I am thankful for more choices and more freedom to choose, and that there is a constant effort to integrate and for the world to accommodate them.

And thus concludes my two part blog piece on mental illness then and now.

Comments?  Questions? Shares?  Sweet!!

 

 

 

 

The First Annual Donovan Reads book awards!

New Year’s weekend.  There are no more holidays to romanticize the cold and snow.

I can’t be a book blogger, however new to the game, and not have a best of the year list. Those end of the year lists add as much to my TBR list as I check off as the year goes on!

I am trying to take a fun twist on it though and instead of writing about which were my favorites, I will mix it up with some different categories:

Favorite indie:  When I was conceptualizing this blog last spring, reading here and there about what it really would be about, I knew I wanted to look into reading and promoting some self published works that were worth getting out there.  I looked into other blog book review policies and they mostly said they were not open to considering indie work, and while I understand that, I also saw a niche for myself.  So far the books I have reviewed have been ones that I chose.

renewal

Renewal, H Perry Horton

This was a tight competition. Of the self published books that made it to my review here, they all had their merits.  Renewal had sharp,clear writing and the dialogue sounded authentic, despite one of the characters in my opinion being more challenging to write.  Authentic dialogue is hard to pull off and I felt that H Perry Horton did it well. He has let me know on Twitter that he has another book out and that has gone on the list.  Maybe he will let me know who he used for editing.  Other contenders were:  I Was a Teenage Ghost Hunter and A Fatal Family Secret.

Favorite book with magic in it:  I love books with magic and I struggle to understand those who do not. I don’t judge people who do not like it, I just see both books and magic as opportunities to live the impossible, so in my mind, they complement each other nicely.  But of the books I read this year, my favorite book with magic in it was

the magicians

The Magicians, Lev Grossman

I liked this better than other books with magic because the characterization did not get lost with magic also being a piece of it.  Different magical people in the book handled magic and thought about it in completely different ways.  It held different roles for different people. It kept the elitism about magic.  People who were magic in the book were fiercely elite and did not fit into the regular world.  And sometimes not even the world of magic.  Other contenders were the Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Jackaby, The Magician’s Lie, Hidden Wings and Broken Wings.

Favorite YA:  I read so much YA.  I have so many books that I chose this year for categories that all were written for a teenage audience. I think YA is fun. I don’t find it as appealing to read about people whose lives are where mine is at this moment:  marriage, job, child. I don’t want to read about not being pretty anymore or ten pounds that I can’t get seem to get rid of.  I understand that’s not an entire representation of books read to my demographic, but, I just like YA.  But of this overflowing category I choose:

the absolutely true diary of a part time indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

So funny, so different, so intense, so poignant.  I won’t harp on it.  Other contenders: The Princess Diaries, Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Pretty Little Liars, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Virgin Suicides Hidden Wings, Broken Wings, I Was a Teenage Ghost Hunter and A Fatal Family Secret.

Favorite Gothic Novel: I do love the old school Gothic genre.  The supernatural, mistaken identities, the dark side of human nature.  But the best edge of my seat ride had to be

Castle of Otranto

The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole

This was full of drama from the first.  Other contenders: Frankenstein, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Turn of the Screw, and Carmilla.

Favorite Reread:  Many books need more than one pass.  It is a fact of life. Books mean something different as our own contexts change in our lives. I have been lucky enough to have college, and better yet, college English courses, between books I read as a teenager and ones I picked up again as an adult. I have more that require revisits than the ones I tackled this year. I am thinking Ethan Frome and, ugh, The Age of Innocence probably need another drive by.  Although I am not ready for more Edith Wharton after The House of Mirth. And The Bell Jar, which fit right into the teenage angst at the time.  But as for this year, my favorite revisit was:

the secret life of bees

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

I already discussed this book this year under my posts about books that deal with race.  I read it for a book my mother loves, and because it was time. Being a mother and working with people who are determining their self-worth added another level of depth to this story that seemed more whimsical to me when I read it as a teenager. Unfortunately race issues have also become more obvious to me the longer I work in the middle of the fray.  Other contenders were:  Watership Down, Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, and The Scarlet Letter.

More Donovan Reads in the New Year!  I have to think about what my reading and writing resolutions will be.