What I’m Reading: August

Another month has come and gone. It’s September, and school is back in session, which reminds me… If you’re a teacher or librarian, I am giving away hardcover copies of TAKEN for your school/library/classroom. Enter to win here.

Also, if you are a Harry Potter fan you might want to check out this podcast episode, where I discuss (and defend) my top ten side characters. (Warning, the episode is long, but good for a commute or car ride.)

Okay, on to the goods. Here’s what I read in August:

Bennett Madison’s SEPTEMBER GIRLS seems to be a book that people either love or hate. Having read, I can see why there is such a strong divide–it’s not an easy read, and Madison puts the reader deep into the mind of his teen protagonist–but I’m in camp Love. This book floored me. Truly. It is a strange, powerful, haunting little story, and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do it justice. After his mother bails, Sam’s father drags him and his brother to the beach for the summer. A beach that just happens to be populated by gorgeous girls who all take a strong interest in Sam, and who have a terrible, heavy secret.

Having read a bunch of reviews, it’s obvious this book has rubbed quite a few readers the wrong way. I’ve seen it called sexist and misogynistic, but I didn’t have that experience with the novel. I had quite the opposite. I thought this book touched upon some complex societal issues in an incredibly powerful way. In my opinion, it questions what it really means to “be a man,” and shows us just how damning the objectification of women is in our current culture.

I’ve got a lot more to say on this point, but it contains some light spoilers, so I’m hiding them behind a tag in my goodreads review. Click through to read.

SEPTEMBER GIRLS is magical realism at its finest. It’s complex and fantastical and familiar all at once. It holds a mirror up to our culture and lets us draw our own conclusions. It brings out strong emotions and sparks conversation. I’ve been thinking about this book since I put it down, and I have a feeling I won’t soon stop.

 

I also read Neil Gaiman’s newest work of fiction, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, in which a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home after attending a funeral. Memories resurface as he stares at the duck pond–a pond his neighbor Lettie once told him was an ocean–and the reader is launched into a flashback.

I’m almost surprised this is marketed as adult fiction. I mean, I know exactly why it is, but take out the prologue and epilogue and it’s a story about childhood–monsters and memories and the loss of innocence–not unlike Coraline. Still, I love love loved it. Gaiman has a knack for taking the ordinary and making it magic. This books begins rooted in reality and then bleeds into much more; a dark, timeless fairy tale. It moved me. And it demands to be re-read.

 

I got my hands on two Thirteeners ARCs this month, the first, Shannon Messenger’s LET THE STORMS BREAK, sequel to LET THE SKY FALL. Vane and Audra are back, but Raiden is strengthening. He’s got a new weapon (one that ties into the title so well I actually beamed when I made the connection), and it’s crippling for the Gale Force.

Vane is a reluctant hero, still adjusting to his new-found role among the Gales, and his voice is as authentic and charming as ever. Audra is running from her past. Her mother makes another appearance, shedding some more light on her character, and a few new faces join the cast. The romance is swoonworthy, but the pages are also packed with action. And that ending! *shakes a fist at Shannon* Fans of LTSF are going to gobble this up, and desperately await book three.

 

The second Thirteeners ARC? Megan Shepherd’s HER DARK CURIOSITY. This sequel picks up shortly after where THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER ends. Juliet has returned to London and is trying to rebuild a life for herself, but her illness is taking a toll. Her father’s serum is losing effectiveness, and she has yet to find a better cure. As people close to her begin falling prey to a murderer, Juliet worries that some of her past–things she hoped to forever leave on the island–have followed her to London.

As in book one, this sequel takes inspirations from a classic; this time, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Shepherd’s prose is as fluid as ever, and London comes to life on the page. She’s also perfected the art of the cliffhanger chapter ending–I literally could not put this book down. Equal parts mystery, horror, and romance, this sequel is as good, if not better than the first. To say I am anxiously awaiting the final installment in Shepherd’s trilogy is an understatement.

 

Lastly, LONG LANKIN by Lindsey Barraclough. This horror story, set in 1950’s rural England, follows Cora and her younger sister Mimi, who are sent to stay with their aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon. Their aunt does not welcome them warmly, and forbids them to crack a window in the house or visit the nearby church. What follows is a bit of rule breaking, which leads the girls to uncover a grim evil that has been plaguing the town for centuries.

This is a slow, atmospheric read. There are plenty of “everyday” scenes, which dispel tension on occasion, but also make the characters and town feel that much more real. Which in turn makes the events that unfold–apparitions in a graveyard, ghostly songs sung in the night, the sound of scratching in the walls–that much more disturbing. There’s multiple narrations, and while I’m still not convinced the entire story couldn’t have been told from merely Cora’s point-of-view, one thing is certain: this is a highly effective horror story. I couldn’t read it at night. I shuddered many, many times and was thoroughly freaked out. This won’t be for everyone, but horror fans, and those willing to immerse themselves in a slower read, should pick this up. The last hundred pages pack quite the punch.

Phew! That’s all for me. What did you read in August? Anything awesome? Tell me in the comments!

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