The premise is something out of a nightmare—the mysterious “man Jack” kills an entire family, intending to end with the toddler in the upstairs bedroom. Instead, the child escapes, and makes his way to the graveyard’s gate, where a kindly “ghost” immediately takes the child in. As a mother, the image of this baby crawling up the hill, alone in the night, to a graveyard absolutely chilled me, but what happens there is the best possible outcome.( Read more... )
It's called the R.I.P. Challenge, aka Readers Imbibing Peril, and it's all about reading stories that haunt, terrify, and spook, tales that poke into the dark corners and wake the ghosts and explore the unknown. Which is what I do every year at this time anyway, leading up to Halloween! That's when I revisit Shirley Jackson and some of my favorite Stephen King stories, and when I look for new horror novels (and also pull out my DVDs of The Haunting and other scary favorites).
As the challenge states, the goals are pretty simple:
1) Have fun reading.
2) Share that fun with others.
It's running now through October 31st, and started September 1st (actually a day or two before that, I think), but it's early days! If you want to pick some books about things that go bump in the night (and they don't have to be YA, to be clear), you can simply read them and enjoy them, or you can sign up and post reviews, as well.
Which is what I'm planning to do! So far I'm planning on:
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
Magic For Beginners, Kelly Link
Valiant, Holly Black
But I may try to pick up a few more! Check out the link above -- there are actually different ways to tackle this, if you want to be more organized about it.
It's got everything -- ghosts, twins, madness, incest, a crumbling old estate, a governess, a secret baby, and most importantly books themselves. The power of story here is the point, and it's magnificent.
I'm finishing up The Sweet Far Thing, by Libba Bray, right now -- I have no idea why it took me so long to get to this book, which is the third in her series. After that, I'm wide open, and remembering what summer usually means to me when it comes to books.
For years, of course, some lucky summers meant a new Harry Potter, and almost every summer means a new Julia Quinn and/or a new Nicci French -- light, sexy or suspenseful beach reads. There's no more Harry (::sobs bitterly::), and I think I've grown out of Quinn and French, much as I liked them in the past.
I did this here because I wanted to write a little about each title, and Facebook sometimes seemed a little cramped to me. So. Post your own list! It's fun.
And if you go here, you can see her gorgeously redesigned website, the fabulous Gothic Charm School, where you'll find all sort of tidbits about her new book...
which looks like this:
Go! Browse, buy! And take note of the subtitle: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them. It's as charming as Jilli herself, and a fascinating read (even for those of us whose Goth stops with a love of haunted houses and an affinity for the Addames).
This is a collection of short stories, and first of all, I'd forgotten how much I love this form. It's one I never mastered (I write long, I guess -- all of my short stories sort of ... stop, rather than end, because I realize I'm running out of space). I was interested in it because his Heart-Shaped Box had gotten so much praise, and because I love good, thinky horror.
I think what surprised me most was that this collection isn't simply horror -- "Better Than Home," for instance, is simply a story about a boy and his dad (and a really gorgeous one, full of the kind of realistic, almost uncomfortable detail that makes it ring true). And some of the pieces are more dark fantasy than anything else, or maybe closer to dark magical realism -- "Pop Art," for example, which is about, very literally, an inflatable boy. (And broke my heart in about a million ways -- it's sharp and exquisite and incredibly true on every level.)
When Hill breaks out the horror, though, he doesn't hold back -- "Abraham's Boys" is horrifying on a very realistic level, and "My Father's Mask" is so startling and dreamlike and surreal, it made actually me squirmy. "Best New Horror" goes exactly where you think it shouldn't -- couldn't possibly -- go, and it works so well, it's like a gut punch.
If you like horror, or simply like excellent writing, take a look. And check out Hill's blog -- he's running a Love Your Indie Bookstore contest this month, which is awesome of him.
Now to finish Heart-Shaped Box, which is *thisclose* to giving me nightmares.
This isn't a typical romance, in that the couple involved is already married. It was originally intended to be part of Harlequin's Everlasting line (see the hot pink oval there?), which unfortunately didn't last long. Everlasting was created to showcase relationships, in all their complicated glory -- decades-long marriages, for instance, or the stories of love lost and found again later.
This is that kind of story. Tess and Michael may be married when the book begins, but their history isn't as simple as a high school romance with a happy ending...and their future is suddenly more uncertain than either of them would have ever predicted.
Stay tuned for more teasers...
NEEDED: ONE HOT MAN...
Soon-to-be ex-husband in the rearview mirror. Hometown straight ahead. Grace Lamb at the wheel, beginning a whole new life in an about-to-drop-dead old VW bus. She plans to start a gardening business in the charming hamlet of
WHO'S READY FOR ROMANCE
WHO'S READY FOR ROMANCE
At last. Something to do. Wrightsville isn’t the most exciting beat, despite nabbing the hardened criminal who stole the library’s Harry Potter collection. Nick can’t take his eyes off the drop-dead gorgeous redhead with the broken-down VW bus. Grace’s looks may have changed for the better (way better) since she was a kid following Nick and her big brother around, but he’s about to find out that she still gets into the strangest scrapes. And from messing with the mob over a bunch of vintage sex toys (don’t ask) to making Nick forget that he has a brain when she happens to touch him, Grace still drives him crazy. Except now he’s falling crazy in love…Stay tuned for reviews, what I was listening to when I wrote this, why Hot Date is the wrong title (heh), and excerpts...
Of course, the other day I forgot to bring my book to work. With an hour break for dinner, the idea of being bookless struck me with terror. So I wandered over to the Waldenbooks and not only picked up a new Laurie R. King, The Art of Detection (which I didn't even know was out -- my radar must be faulty), but I found ROOM SERVICE on the front wall under New Releases! Very cool.
Here are a few of the snippets that made me preen:
"I really enjoyed this book; it was fun, had an interesting plot, and featured likable characters. My mouth watered reading about Rhys’ cooking and his food descriptions. Rhys and Olivia were interesting people."
"This sweet and entertaining novel is lots of fun. I recommend it highly."
Want to read the whole review? Look here.
One last note: AAR has come under fire in the past for being too brutal. I disagree. One of the reasons I love the site and love their honesty is because books cost money. I don't want to buy something that's going to turn out to be a waste of my time *or* my hard-earned dollars.
And in this review, of my book? Every nit they pick is something I can nod at and say, "Yup, I should have done that, I should have developed that plot point or that character." The AAR reviewers are smart women (and men), and I appreciate their frank reviews, especially when romance is so often accused of being a rainbows and kittens girls club.
Here's the back cover copy:
WELCOME TO CALLENDER HOUSE
Olivia Callender needs a wake-up call. With a hundred-year-old hotel to rehabilitate, a staff of lovable eccentrics to marshal, and guests to keep happy, she has no one but herself to blame for daydreaming through the past few years--or her uncle's threat to take over the hotel.
And Rhys Spencer isn't helping. When the sexy British chef checked in, Olivia's common sense checked out. She doesn't have time to let him distract her, even if he is feeding her hottest fantasies. But the heat they create together is too much to resist, and when they spend a luscious night in bed, Olivia truly wakes up for the first time--only to realize just what a mess her beloved hotel is. Throw in a pair of bumbling saboteurs, a cranky ex-ballerina, a gorilla costume, a lovesick writer, and tofurkey for fifty, and Olivia has her work cut out for her. All of which might be easier than convincing a certain brash Brit that he needs to wake up, too--and realize that he's hungry for her love.
Sound good? You can find the book in stores or online, through Amazon or B&N.com! If you read it and like it, let me know! If you read it and hate it, well...you can let me know that, too, but I won't be as happy about it.
It's my first mass market release, which is cool (the others have all been in trade) and it's got a brand-new cover, too. Yay!
Clicky link for your convenience...
( So here it is, in all its relative glory, in order: )
So, 39 books. And probably nearly a dozen more I started and put down, including The Time Traveler's Wife (which I really want to get back to), Twilight (which sucked), and Rosemary Edgehill's Bast novels, which seemed weirdly dated and not all representative of the New York I know (or even knew fifteen years ago). I'm reading The China Garden by Liz Berry right now, and really enjoying it, but no way will I be done by tomorrow.
I devoured all three of her connected novels, The Vanished Child, The Knowledge of Water, and A Citizen of the Country, and just finished her latest, Chasing Shakespeares.
Chasing Shakespeares is very different -- one of the things I loved most about the other novels was the early twentieth century setting, in New England and in Paris (the details about 1910 Paris and the great flood that swept through it were one of the things that fascinated me in The Knowledge of Water). Chasing Shakespeares is set in 2000, and narrated by a self-conscious graduate student named Joe Roper -- self-conscious about his beginnings in a nearly dead little town in Vermont, and his place at Northeastern, instead of Harvard. In the end, though, Joe's perspective (as opposed to that of Posy Gould, the Hollywood-born rich Harvard student who sweeps him off to London in an attempt to authenticate a letter from Shakespeare) is exactly what makes his musings about Shakespeare so valuable.
I'm not a Shakespeare scholar (hell, I haven't read half the plays, and almost none of the sonnets), and I was never very interested in what's called "the authorship question," but this book isn't (really, much) about who is specifically responsible for the beloved lines of all of those plays and poems. It's about imagination and history, and how the two are intertwined. It's about what you believe that goes beyond facts, and how we invent ourselves every day. It's about what gets left behind, the footprints that we all leave on the world.
In an interview at the back of the book, Smith says that she chose Joe as the protagonist because the events of the book need to *matter* to someone, in a world-about-to-end way. The authorship question never mattered to me before, but Smith sold me on why, and how much, it mattered to Joe Roper. Fabulous book.