Fiction, hardback, library book
“It’s astonishing what you’ll accept when you want love. When you need it. You’ll welcome it in any form, from anyone, anything, regardless of circumstance, however peculiar. However fantastical.”
Like every other 30-something New Yorker recently dumped by her longtime boyfriend, Annie is looking for a fresh start. Her new job upstate isn’t exciting, but her apartment is cute and the townspeople are kind. Especially the charming Sophie. Annie is glad to have a friend, even if things get a little…scary around her.
I read this book at the beginning of the month and still can’t decide how I feel about it. On one hand, I appreciate the themes of female empowerment and the importance of independence; on the other hand, I don’t think Annie ends the book in a better spot than she started. In the beginning she was obsessed with the idea of being “with” her boyfriend and being loved by him, and in the end she’s obsessed with the idea of being with Sophie. She talks a big game about being independent and powerful, but to me she still seems just as trapped as before — only by a different person.
This would have made an interesting book club read, just for the discussion I think it would have sparked. But I can’t say I recommend Cackle.
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
Non-fiction, hardback, secondhand, DNF
“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you are.”
Some of the coolest things were created using design thinking. Why go to the video store when you can stream your favorite movies on Netflix? Why rent a hotel room when you can hang out in that cute bungalow you found on Airbnb? Designing Your Life takes the reader through the design thinking process to showcase how you can use it to develop your jobs, relationships, and life.
I always have such high hopes for personal development books, and generally I am disappointed. I found the exercises confusing and unhelpful, and gave up less than halfway through when I realized none of it was bringing me any additional clarity. The only interesting aspect was the authors’ concept of “gravity problems” — things you can’t actually fix, shouldn’t be considered problems, and you can just ignore because it’s not worth spending your energy on them. The Stoics would be proud.
Give this a try if the concept of design thinking resonates…but honestly, just work through What Color is Your Parachute? if you want to learn more about yourself from a work perspective.
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime
Non-fiction, audiobook, re-read
“…for crime, especially murder, is very pleasant to think about in the abstract: it is like hearing blustery rain on the windowpane when sitting indoors. It reinforces a sense of safety, even of pleasure, to know that murder is possible, just not here.”
Murder is as old as Cain and Abel, but it took center stage (literally) starting in 19th century Britain. It was reported obsessively by newspapers and broadsides, turned into penny dreadfuls and “borrowed” for plot points by famous authors, and became fodder for melodramas, operas, and even puppet shows. The cases covered in Flanders’ book inspired the establishment of Scotland Yard, the creation of the detective novel, and paved the way for true crime as we know it today.
I recall reading this book several years ago, and when it popped up for free on Audible I couldn’t resist grabbing it again. Like Judith Flanders, I’m endlessly fascinated by the ongoing effect of the Victoria era on so many aspects of the modern era — including murder. The author covers the details of the crimes, but the deeper focus is on showing how those details seeped into the culture and eventually impacted Britain’s justice system.
Read The Invention of Murder if you like the Victorian era, detailed history, and of course murder. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to add every Flanders book to my TBR.
“I still missed the girl I had been before the war, but staying alive was more important than pretty dresses. And since I was legally dead, I avoided cities and other people like the plagues they sometimes carried.”
Shining Smith is no brainiac, but it doesn’t take a genius to guess that the stranger motoring toward her junkyard is probably related to the dead body locked inside her recent black market acquisition. And chances are good that if one stranger knows where she is, others will too. Time to break out the guns, drones, and cats.
I’m not totally certain what I read, but I’m 100% sure it was a blast! This is the first in the Junkyard Cats series and I’m here for all of it. Badass chick? Yes please. Alien lifeforms and tech? Absolutely. Facerolling bad guys? Bring it on. Cats with quasi-telepathic abilities? Hell yea!
Give this a try if you’re looking for something short, sweet, and snappy. Forget about the worldbuilding not making complete sense — strap in and enjoy the ride!
Payback’s a Witch
Fiction, paperback, library book
“ ‘You know what, fuck it.’ I slammed my hands flat on the table, my fingers flexing. ‘I’m in, witches. Let’s run amok.’ ”
Returning to Thistle Grove was not high on Emmy Harlow’s wish list. She’s done her best to put distance between her hometown, her family, and embarrassments of the past. But as the oldest Harlow she has responsibilities, namely as the Arbiter of a magical tournament that’s been going for centuries. Emmy wants to do the official stuff and get back to her normal life — but a chance encounter with the charming Talia threatens to upend both her plans and Thistle Grove itself.
The stars aligned on this one. It was either Amazon or Audible that said people who read Cackle were also reading this, and then what do I spot on the shelf during my very next library trip? I went in with very little context and enjoyed myself immensely. The characters are fun, and I loved the magic system and worldbuilding. A great read all around.
Check out Payback’s a Witch if you enjoy lush writing, snark, and a little Sapphic spice.
One Dark Window
Fiction, audiobook, book club
“Be wary. Be clever. Be good.”
The city of Blunder is cursed, and it will take a maiden, a highwayman, and a monster to save it.
I tried crafting a more useful teaser, but any time I tried to include more it felt like that moment when you pull a loose thread on the edge of your sweater and it unravels the entire hem. To me it felt like this book was having an identity crisis — was it meant to be a sappy YA novel, a deep dive into a complex magic system and world, or a horror story? I’m not saying those can’t coexist, but it doesn’t work well in Gillig’s novel. Setting aside the fact that I don’t connect with YA much anymore (which is not the fault of the genre or author), I think the book needed more editing and a better structure. This was a book club selection, so I’m very interested to see what my fellow bookworms think.
Read One Dark Window if you’re interested in a unique magic system and world, but be prepared to skim over a lot of fluff.
The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootlegger King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder that Shocked Jazz-Age America
Non-fiction, hardback, library book
“The crack of the bullet shook the birds from the trees.”
Prohibition made a lot of people rich, including lawyer turned bootlegger George Remus. He used his millions to live in luxury, throwing lavish parties and spoiling his second wife Imogene. But just like the life of Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, Remus’ life is undone by a woman — and leads to scandal, betrayal, and murder.
Abbott is one of my favorite non-fiction authors. I stumbled across Sin in the Second City years ago, and read Liar Temptress Soldier Spy in March. In all instances she shares detailed stories about complicated people that the reader quickly becomes obsessed with. I love that this book focuses on murder — not only because I like true crime, but because Abbott presents the facts and leaves it up to me to decide what really happened. Was Remus insane at the time of the murder, or did he plan it? Was there a conspiracy against him, and if so far, how far up the chain did it go?
I recommend The Ghosts of Eden Park to lovers of history, old crimes, and mysteries we may never really solve.