Monthly Archives: September 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall To Be Read List


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is the top ten books on my fall reading list.

I haven’t even read half of my most anticipated summer reads, but the great thing about book lists is that they can just keep getting longer, so here’s what I’m looking forward to this fall. It was unexpectedly hard, but I think it’s an exciting list.


The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P. D. Viner

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet

Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson



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Review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

cover29436-mediumTitle: Burial Rites

Author: Hannah Kent

Rating: 3 stars.

I received this book through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. 

Burial Rites is a novel based on the story of the last person executed in Iceland, Agnes Magnusdotter. Convicted of the murder of her lover and another man, Agnes is sent to live with a family in the country in the months leading up to her execution. She struggles to come to terms with her fate while slowly revealing the details of her life to the family and a young priest.

The language of this novel is beautifully atmospheric. The harsh landscape comes vividly to life, and there are beautiful and unusual metaphors. “Invigorated by a sudden curl of anger…” (p. 42) “It was only later that our tongues produced landslides…” (p. 164)  “Those who are not being dragged to their deaths cannot understand how the heart grows hard and sharp, until it is a nest of rocks with only an empty egg in it.” It’s absolutely gorgeous, and definitely compelling.

But, perhaps because it’s hampered by adherence to historical events, the structure of Burial Rites is unsatisfying. Reverend Toti is set up as a major viewpoint character, but then gets sick with an unspecified illness and drops out of the book for a long time, with only scattered references to Agnes wondering where he is. The daughters of the family, Lauga and Steina, have different reactions to Agnes’s presence in their lives, and Lauga wonders if they will ever be able to marry after what she perceives as the stigma thrust upon them, but while these issues are raised they are never sufficiently dealt with. In fact, most of the characters’ plotlines felt insufficiently resolved.

And Agnes is a difficult protagonist, to say the least. Because her sections are told in first person, unlike anyone else’s, the reader is constantly forced into her head. One can certainly empathize with a woman facing execution, but after awhile it starts to feel like relentless whining and my patience as a reader wore thin. Her first person narrative contained the best writing in the book, but I couldn’t help feeling it would be better served in a short story, where I would have less chance to become annoyed with the voice.

Burial Rites is a first novel, and while it isn’t perfect, it is solid literary fiction that promises good things to come from this young writer. I found it hard to be passionate about it, but those who read lots of historical fiction will almost certainly enjoy it.


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Top Ten Tuesday: Make a movie, please!

toptentuesdayIt’s been awhile since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, but this week’s was a topic I couldn’t pass up. Top ten books I Would Love to see as a Movie/TV Show!

20650911. The Nightrunner Series by Lynn Flewelling.

This has been the very top of my dream movies list since I first read Luck in the Shadows at 16. I’ve dream-cast it. I’ve made soundtracks. I would do bad things to achieve a Nightrunner movie.

2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.

There are certain scenes in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay that are so intensely visual that I can already see them in my head. I’m not sure a film could actually do them justice. But it could try.

3. The Passage/The Twelve by Justin Cronin

The scope of this soon to be trilogy of the vampire apocalypse is immense, but the human stories at the heart of it are compelling, and could make for the rare film that’s both action packed and well acted.

4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 2213661

Cheating  a bit, because I believe this is actually already in either development or production, but The Graveyard Book is one of my favorite Gaiman novels, and I can’t wait to see it come to life on screen.

5. The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

If we can get True Blood, I see absolutely no reason why we can’t have a cable show about a shape-shifting coyote mechanic raised by werewolves. I mean, come on.

6. The Immortals series by Tamora Pierce

Every YA fantasy series published these days comes with an automatic screenplay, but I’d love to see some YA fantasy classics on the big screen, and since Tamora Pierce’s Wild Magic was my first fantasy series it’s close to my heart.

7. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

How great would it to be the glamours Kowal creates on the big screen? 

665598. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Flynn’s Gone Girl and Dark Places are already both in production, one of which I’m ecstatic about, and one that makes me more hesitant, but I think her first novel would be a great film as well. The skin issue would cause plenty of challenges, but I think it would make for a stunning image.

9. Cleopatra by Stacey Schiff

Nonfiction can be surprisingly well adapted to the big screen (Team of Rivals into Lincoln, anyone?), and I think the time is ripe for a new silver screen version of the infamous queen based on better historical understanding than on Shakespeare and Liz Taylor (not that I don’t love Bill and Liz- I do!). Schiff’s biography is evocative and intensely detailed, and I think it would adapt well. While I was reading it, for whatever reason I kept picturing Cleopatra as looking somewhat like Oona Chaplain. Make of that what you will, big wig movie producers!

10. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

The story of two daughters of a bigamist father–one who knows she has a sister, the other who does not. It makes for dynamite drama, and I’d love to see it adapted to screen.

What are some of your dream adaptations?


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Review: Lost Girls by Robert Kolker

16248146Title: Lost Girls- An Unsolved American Mystery

Author: Robert Kolker

Rating: 4 stars

The disappearance of a young woman named Shannan Gilbert in Long Island in 2010, and the subsequent search for her that revealed the work of a still unknown, and un-caught, serial killer, is one of the most fascinating and disturbing stories I’ve ever heard. I first became aware of the bizarre events through programs on Dateline and 48 Hours. Now New York magazine contributing editor Robert Kolker has penned Lost Girls, an engaging, meticulous account of the lives of the victims, their families, and the investigation that consistently raises more questions than it does answers.

Shannan Gilbert, and fellow victims Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Overstreet Costello, were all sex workers operating through Craigslist. They all disappeared over a three year period and ended up, somehow, in Oak Beach, New York. Because of their lifestyles, the police were generally indifferent to their disappearances, and it is doubtful that, without Shannan, any of the other women’s remains would have ever been found. Shannan’s disappearance is the only one investigators really have any facts about, as they have her own voice on a twenty minute 911 call, and interviews with three people who were the last acknowledged to see her, and yet though her body has been found it was not with the others, and it’s even possible she was not murdered. And the story only gets stranger from there.

It is hard, really hard, not to judge these women for the lives they led. What happened to them was incredibly tragic, but it’s easy to blame them for making their own beds, putting themselves knowingly in danger. What Kolker does best with Lost Girls is give them their stories back, not presenting them as demons or angels, but as very human, empathetic and understandable. Even as I knew what would happen to them, I hoped that it would not. The smallest, strangest facts brought them to life. One was just six weeks older than me. One, in trying to outrun her demons, ended up in my tiny hometown. I could have walked past her in the grocery store. It was little facts like this that helped me realize, though they were addicts and sex workers with very different experiences than me they could have been my friends, my family, me.

The second half of the book gets bogged down in convoluted conspiracy theories, and is unsatisfying as there really is as yet no true conclusion to the story. But overall the narrative is tight, tense, and beautifully told. It’s also, somewhat surprisingly, a beautifully designed book. Each section is marked with a dark grey page that reveals a stark map of where the women came from, and where they ended up. The design and the typography did as much as as Kolker’s words to create a haunted atmosphere. The entire package is very well made.

Lost Girls is a story that will get under your skin. It shines a light on a very dark side of America, and though there are no easy answers here, it’s an important story to tell.

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