No judgment on yet another Swift-inspired book review title. I can’t help who influences me!
OK, so thrillers and mysteries don’t find themselves on Big Little Literature that often. I can’t provide an explanation for this other than I usually get swept up in other genres. So I was looking forward to something different with my latest read, My Sister, the Serial Killer.
Despite what the title says, I didn’t get any thriller or mystery vibes — though a lot of readers and critics certainly did. Yes, there are some murders, and there is tension about the culprit being caught. But this novel, with themes of abuse, family, and loyalty, doesn’t remind me of any other book I’ve read in those genres. In fact, it’s completely different than any book I’ve read.
It’s funny and dark and has just the right amount of f**ked-upness. Do I feel weird saying I appreciated how refreshing this book was? Even if the “refreshment” stems from a serial killer and a sister who takes care of the body? Ehhh I never professed normalcy.
When I found out my colleague Sabrina loved books as much as I do, I knew I’d found a new soul sister. Now we spend many minutes during our work day chatting and calling via Skype about the books we’re reading. This often carries over to text after we complete our work day.
Many of those chats, calls, and texts in the past two months revolved around one book in particular: The Shadow of the Wind.
Sabrina was a superb guest in a preceding episode of The Biblio Files when we chatted with her friend Meghann about our shared love of libraries. I knew I’d have to snag her for another episode to discuss this superb book. In the latest, we explore the themes of family, friendship, love, mysteries, loyalty, book culture, and Barcelona in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s masterpiece. We also go on a travel tangent about European churches. You certainly don’t want to miss that.
Click on this link or search for The Biblio Files on your favorite podcast platform to listen. And, as always, don’t forget to subscribe and check out Anchor to see how you can support your favorite bibliophile.
Oh how I love to be swept away by a book. I love to feel the emotions of the characters, and I love exclaiming exasperation by their actions that cause as much harm to me as to them. I yearn to wander down the same streets they do, especially when that’s in a foreign land, and feel as if I’m peeking around the same corners as they. And there’s nothing like texting a friend constantly with the WTFs and the OMGs while the book is sweeping me away.
All of these things occurred while I read The Shadow of the Wind. The emotions that were felt during these 487 pages were immense and numerous, and the number of “what the f*%$” texts increased significantly as I neared the end.
The recipient of those texts, my friend Sabrina, had recently read this novel and had recommended it. She sold me with the following message after she finished it herself:
“And Shadow of the Wind is AMAZING! Love, loss, friendship, trust, Barcelona.”
“Need I say more?”
Actually, no, no you do not because that sounds darn right fascinating. Fortunately for me, this book had been sitting on my bookshelf for three years since Kyle and I moved in together (he also approved). And with that, I was transported to Spain in the 1940s, and I gladly didn’t return to the present for a splendid — albeit anxiety-ridden — two weeks.
Let’s look at my specs for the year. In 2019, I:
- Read 10,904 pages across 31 books — thanks, Goodreads!
- Averaged 351 pages per book.
- Explored 10 different genres with contemporary fiction winning most popular.
- Only read one author more than once — Kristin Hannah.
- Read five two-flame books (more than the number of the previous year-and-a-half) and six three-flame books.
- But I also had the joy of experiencing 11 books with four flames, and nine garnered a whole five flames. I’d call that a success!
But how did I do with the resolutions I set for myself in January? Let’s see how I scored (and check out the books I said I’d read at the beginning of the year in the picture below and compare them to my fully ranked list of 2019).
There’s no sense in beating around the bush here: I am one big wuss. I don’t mean physically (though I did go to the emergency room so early on with appendicitis that the doctors had a tough time diagnosing it). I’m talking anything and everything related to the horror scaries.
I refuse to watch scary movies or TV shows. If it has an inkling of creep, just count me out. I made the mistake of watching Paranormal Activity in theaters (younger Beth was more easily influenced by men), and I had nightmares for days. When I made the mistake of watching the sequel one year later, I vowed to never allow myself to be exposed to such fear ever again.
Except maybe in books.
It’s true: I do enjoy some mystery when I read, which is why I vowed to read more thrillers this year. Maybe it’s easier to put up a wall between a book’s fiction and that of the silver screen. Because I have to imagine it in my mind, maybe I envision something less scary. Who knows with this brain, but I do know I was excited to pick up Ruth Ware’s new book, The Turn of the Key (shout out to Lauren Murphy for this borrow). With this book though, Ware made me so intensely scared while also forcing me to turn each page with shaky hands that it made me love and fear the genre all at the same time. Let’s just say this was a bit of a mind f***.
Have you ever wished you could talk to your pet? I mean, you spend so much time with the little fur balls, why wouldn’t you? They can sense when you’re sad, and they comfort you with their cuddles and love. They greet you when you come home and wag their tails to communicate their excitement. It seems entirely unfair that they can’t whisper they love you and that everything’s going to be OK and that we can’t reciprocate how much they mean to us too.
Speaking with our pets is the main conduit through which author Carolyn Parkhurst tells a heartbreaking story in The Dogs of Babel. In the beginning, you think it’s just about a man trying to communicate with his dog. It seems a little crazy, but is it really the worst idea? Soon a story about grief, loneliness, mental health, and internal struggle unfolds. Just like our pets, sometimes words evade us, and it’s impossible to convey how we really feel.
With special guests Lucky (left) and Snowy.
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read more thrillers, and I’m making good on that promise. In fact, three of the last four books, including my most recent, could fall into this category. I love a good thriller or mystery because of how they intensify your emotions and captivate you. My Husband’s Wife had all of those elements. I finished the book in a week — though I admit I started reading it a few months ago but put it on hold for another attention-grabber. Once I started again, I experienced more than one night when I would tell myself “one more chapter” about five times. It kept me on my toes with its twists and turns and heightened my senses.
You’re probably wondering why, if this was a book I couldn’t put down, I only assigned it three flames? I know, that sounds like four- or five-flame material. Although I mostly enjoyed reading this book, it had a few head-scratching qualities that brought down its overall rating. If you’re looking for a quick, mysterious read, this is a solid book. Sometimes that’s exactly what we want, especially during the summer. But if you’re looking for that plus some brilliant writing and stunning plots from start to finish, you might want to keep searching.
I try to title every review after a pop culture reference — usually song lyrics — some of which are more obvious than others. The minute I finished Where the Crawdads Sing I knew I’d be choosing a song by one of two badass women: Martina McBride or Carrie Underwood. Both women are known for singing songs about wronged women who are often misunderstood and who take control of their destiny. Main character Kya Clark, aka the “Marsh Girl,” would be the perfect muse for a McBride or Underwood hit.
The Marsh Girl is the epitome of what happens when judgment innate in humans runs rampant. Author Delia Owens captures this societal flaw beautifully in her story that is still sitting pretty on the New York Times best seller list. That’s 38 weeks, people. Not too shabby. It’s easy to understand why when you read the lyrical ways Owens describes nature, specifically the marsh; the plight of a young girl who only ever yearned for some company; and how our judgments really could ruin someone’s life. Owens captures it all in this coming-of-age meets whodunit tale.
When bright-eyed 18-year-old me started journalism school in 2010, I had zero idea of what kind of magazine journalist I wanted to be. I never really envisioned what writing for a magazine actually looked like. It could have been sports, travel, or anything, though for the world’s sake, probably not makeup or fashion; it didn’t matter as long as I was writing.
Then I took my advanced writing capstone with a truly talented professor and writer (thanks for everything, Dr. Hinnant!), and I realized my future belonged to long-form, which I didn’t even know was a thing until the first day of that class. I became enthralled by the works of Jennifer Gonnerman, Tom Junod, Anne Fadiman, and Robert Sanchez (#humblebrag: I actually interned at the same magazine as the latter). I didn’t just admire them; I wanted to be them.
OK fast forward six years, and that clearly didn’t happen. I’ve never forgotten the impact it had — and still continues to have — on my life though. I still love reading long-form and still appreciate all the time and effort that goes into turning real-life events into the most-fascinating stories about the human experience. It’s why I can now add one more name to that list above: Truman Capote.
In Cold Blood sits on a certain pedestal and rightfully so. Capote clearly defines everything I love about long-form in this book: the details, the emotions, the power to force us into uncomfortable but necessary gray areas, and *swoon* the storytelling. His craft is unmatched, and it’s no wonder that this book is often considered quintessential long-form journalism — even if its journalistic integrity has been called into question a time or two.
Source: Kyle Magee.
…The creepy glass dwelling made someone crazy. Or maybe it was the mysterious past. Or the obsessive friendship. Or the sizzling sense of humor. Or the self-obsession. Or maybe even the unknown. Whatever it was, someone snapped in the middle of nowhere U.K., putting both the characters in this high-intensity novel, as well as its readers, on edge.
It’s no secret that the success of a mystery novel is its page-turning quality. You know the kind: the ones where your heart is practically beating out of your chest, and you know the feeling won’t subside until you reach the final page. Well, In a Dark, Dark Wood hits the mark with the hows and whys, and not to mention the where, becoming just as important as the who done what.