Top Ten Tuesday: My Fall TBR

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Fall, my favorite season!! So far it’s been unusually warm and sunny over here, I’d love a few degrees less but hey at least it’s dry, that never happens! Fall is when I start buying IKEA candles in bulk and get out all the quilts and spicy teas. My typical fall reading is either cozy or suspenseful lit and with the Diverse Detective Fiction Month starting this weekend, I know I’ll be reading a lot of mysteries. I’ve posted a bit already about what horror lit I want to read and what’s on this week’s list, but anyway here are 10 reads that would make an ideal fall tbr for me:

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1. Affinity by Sarah Waters gr-pic

One of my favorites to reread, it’s got Victorian England, lesbians, séance and is wonderfully atmospheric and twisty.

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2.Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova gr-pic

Latinx fantasy including brujas, monsters, LGBTQ, and kick ass women of color! Reading it for Diverse SFF Book Club.

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3.Blanche On the Lam by Barbara Neely gr-pic

One of my choices for #DiverseDetectives and I cannot wait! A smart middle-aged Black woman housekeeper turned sleuth? Hell yes!

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4.How to Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison gr-pic

Always creepy, sometimes funny, horror prose and poetry! There is not enough silly and funny horror, I need more!

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5.The Agüero Sisters by Cristina Garcia gr-pic

I loved Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban and this one is supposed to boast some Latina gothic elements. How to resist!?

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6.My Soul To Keep by Tananarive Due gr-pic

No fall list is complete without some of Due’s fiction. It’s time to start her African Immortals series, it’s got Ethiopia, vampires and (im)mortality!

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7.Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films From the 1890s to the Present by Robin R. Means Coleman gr-pic

And some good old non-fiction, how could I possibly resist the intersection of horror and race!? It’s an exploration of the visual representation of Black social history and possible spaces for challenging and subverting stereotypes.

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8.Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu gr-pic

A complex heroine, fantastic art and steampunk horror, I’m in! Everyone’s been gushing about this one, so now I only need to get my hands on a copy.

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9.Haiti Noir edited by Edwidge Danticat gr-pic

Noir lit and Haitian culture all in one! I’ve read a few in this anthology and have been meaning to get back to it for a while.

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10.Tropical Gothic in Literature and Culture: The Americas by Justin D. Edwards and Sandra Guardini eds. gr-pic

More non-fiction cause I feel the need to expand on my gothic lit knowledge and Southern gothic is a gateway to “tropical” gothic! 🙂

Now let me know which books have made it onto your fall tbr!

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo- READALONG Part 1

girl with the dragon tattoo readalong

Excuse my tardiness, I’ve been sick and around the doctor caroussell, which usually ends with some lame diagnosis of stress. So that’s been a bit frustrating, but I finally managed to get my readalong post up.

Deepika, Lucia and I are currently doing a ‘We’re the last ones to read it’- readalong of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and you’re  welcome to join in! So, here are my impressions on the first 7 chapters, which kinda include spoilers, but I’m going to assume everyone’s already read it 😀

Larsson starts his book of with an intriguing prologue of two old dudes talking about the yearly gift of a flower one has received.Which is apparently related to an unsolved case, so dum dum dum.

Unfortunately, the next bit was not really for me. I don’t get economic intrigue and white somewhat rich dudes tripping each other up in their clever spider’s nests is BORING. That time is better spent reading critiques of capitalism. But maybe the boring details will tie into the rest of the story in a satisfying way. Who knows? Okay probably everyone but the three of us. I laughed at the nickname Kalle Blomkvist though and felt all proud I didn’t need the reference explained, because I grew up with Astrid Lindgren’s children’s literature.

Mikael Blomkvist doesn’t leave much of an impression on me, I have to admit. He blew the whistle, turns out he was tricked, he gets to pay a huge libel fine and maybe spend a couple months in prison. Apparently he’s a good guy, with a complicated non-manogamous  off-again on-again relationship with Erika, the co-partner of their magazine.

Oh and we finally get to meet our heroine, Lisbeth Salander, who is very young, broken somehow and extremely smart and capable. Of course she is attractive apparantly despite the everything-but- her- skin black she rocks. Hopefully the other women characters get more showtime soon, they are intoduced and I want to know more about the feminist lawyer sister etc, but, as of yet, Salander looks like the typical ‘only female and therefore superawesome’ character. Hope it doesn’t turn out this way though. Also, her boss’ thoughts of her are just plain creepy, but at least it looks like it took an okay turn with his protective angle. But so far Salander is interesting, I love her concern for others and her skills and I’m half-afraid of finding out all the shit that probably happened to her.

And then Blomqvist gets offered a job with Vanger, to solve the mystery of Harriet’s disappearance. So, the mystery part can begin and I’m curious about it. I want to see much more of Salander and hopefully there won’t be too much of the business intrigue stuff.

What’s most interesting to me is that the work’s original title is “Men Who Hate Women,” did that make the  US/UK publishers panic? There’s two quotes of statistics about violence against women and domestic violence against women in Sweden written on the part 1 and part 2 title pages. So now of course I want to see more of how Larsson handles this, is he successful in his ambitions?

On to the second part! What did you think, Deepika? Lu? Everyone else, did you enjoy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when you read it (probably ages ago)?

Thoughts: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

cutting-season

Belle Vie is a beautiful, sprawling estate in Louisiana, the ideal place for wedding parties. Oh, and it’s a former sugar cane plantation turned museum theater. As the general manager, Caren Gray works and lives on the property, where her ancestors were slaves. On the land outside the gates a huge corporation exploits cheap workers from Mexico. Tensions mount when one of the workers is found with her throat slit and Caren finds that the murder, the disappearance of a former slave in the past and her own family history are all intertwined.

This was my first of Attica Locke’s works and it is pretty much perfect. Mystery is one of my preferred genres and combine that with the social commentary, it makes my social justice warrior heart swell. And Locke is clearly very talented in that she manages to wrap complex characters, social justice, literary writing style and an exciting mystery all in one book.

The setting of the story, the eerily beautiful antebellum plantation Belle Vie really becomes a character in its own right and Caren’s late-night movements across the estate evoke a haunting atmosphere that was hard to shake after I finished the book. Not being from the US maybe I just don’t get the normalcy of it, but the re-enactments, that’s pretty messed up. I mean I understand the importance of bringing history to life, of refusing denial and forgetting to white people. But the trauma of standing where your ancestors were enslaved and taking on that role? As always, taking on the labor of teaching anti-racism in the hopes of working towards dismantling it. For more anti-racist work about slavery museum theater, let me recommend the webseries Ask A Slave.

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I also really appreciate the connection Locke draws between the antebellum slavery economy and current forms of exploitation of labor, such as cheap and often undocumented workers from Mexico. In an interview, Locke states: “I do think that for people of color – and also for women, frankly – that our economic ascent is always complicated by the fact that you’re aware of people who aren’t coming up with you” (NPR). That’s the spirit of solidarity I’m always hoping for in social justice work!

As a thriller by a woman of color writer, reading The Cutting Season counts for both R.I.P. X and Diversiverse. Aarti wrote that reading more diversely does not mean you have to change your book reading habits and I think this work is a great example of that. If you’re a mystery buff like myself, pick up this one!

Have your reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

Other thoughts:

Olduvai Reads

Thoughts on Audiobooks and The Girl on the Train

wpid-img-20150411-wa00002.jpg.jpegI never thought I’d say (or write) this, but here I am blogging about audiobooks. Except for a couple of years during childhood, when I was kept entertained on long car rides or during bath time with the children’s story hour on radio and endless cassette tapes of Pippi Longstocking, Bibbi Blocksberg and others, I have never quite gotten the hang of audiobooks. It’s always been fine for other people, good for them and how do they do it…but me and audioooks? Nope. The problem in my case was mostly that I didn’t like strange voices narrating, and I never really had situations where I couldn’t simply open the book, so why press play and stare at the wall or whatever you’re supposed to do while listening.

Turns out, and everyone figured this out at the dawn of time, there’s people who are trained to narrate well and some of them are blessed with truly amazing voices. Also, I was off to a friend’s wedding party using the bus (so much cheaper) rather than the train (my preferred way of travel) and since I get awful motion sickness from reading in cars or on the bus and had 5 hours to kill I downloaded The Girl on the Train. Well, let me tell you I couldn’t wait for the 5 hour journey home.

Also, as of this month I have a half hour commute on the bus to get to the uni library each work day. So, I decided to stick with the audiobook thing, and while I would prefer to read, it’s been working out quite well. Since my work day consists of some heavy reading and academic writing, I have chosen to continue thrillers, mysteries and other escapist audiobooks to listen to, my most recent one Before I go to Sleep. My only problem is that audiobooks are so expensive and the small library doesn’t have that many audiobooks, hardly any English ones and most are still actual CDs I have to convert. So I’m using audible.com at the moment. I know there’s free audiobooks, via librivox and ones in the public domain, but I’ve read most of the classics and apparently I’m picky about the narrator. For now, I try to get by with the one audiobook credit per month and usually find a second book via daily sale etc. You’re probably all blessed with amazing libraries and I guess preferring the national language also helps. Is anyone using audible?

As for The Girl on the Train, I’d been eyeing it for a bit, but usually all the hype puts me off books and I only go back and read them after the fuss has died done. I’m so glad I decided to take a chance, because for me it was certainly worth it. As the story follows Rachel on her commute for a big part of the book, it was really the perfect choice to read it while traveling. This one’s been compared to Gone Girl a lot (all the time, way to much!), and though I’ve only watched the movie, I have to admit to enjoying this one more. None of the characters are likeable, if you care about that thing, I really don’t, the female characters were mostly well-rounded, complex and contrary. There’s plently of suspense and interpersonal drama, but not really too melodramatic (which is what I got from Gone Girl). The comparison’s to Hitchcock’s Rear Window are much more apt, and Rachel’s imagining of the perfect couple Jess and Jason and the discrepancy between what people seem to be and what is going on behind closed doors would be suspenseful enough for any thriller, but add Rachel’s inability to let go and her own connection to the area and the narrative unreliability will keep you entertained to the last page. Since the story is told from other perspectives as well (though Rachel’s remains the biggest contribution), the different readers added weight to their characters and I found thm well-chosen. Since the book is told in a series of diary-like entires, the only thing I missed was being able to quickly turn a couple pages back and check the date. But other than that, a wonderful audioook experience.

Have you read The Girl on the Train? What did you think?

Review: The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge

“The bodies were found early in the afternoon of New Year’s Day. “

The bodies are discovered in a forest in France, adults and children in pyjamas are laid out in a semi-circle. This is not a murder scene but the mass-suicide of members of a sect only known as the Faith. This ‘departure’ calls commissaire André Schweigen and judge Dominique Carpentier to the scene, and they have seen this kind of thing before in Switzerland. Schweigen is explosive, angry and in love; the judge values rationality above all else. But she is “la chasseuse de sectes”, and investigating the Faith leads her on a journey that will disturb her equilibrium.

The problem with the Faith is that its members are all part of the elite, scientific and artistic. They are all successful, intelligent and no-one would have expected them to be members of a sect, let alone a suicide cult. In the judge’s investigation everything leads back to the composer, Friedrich Grosz.

The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge is a mystery and even a thriller, but it is often metaphysical and slow-paced. Duncker focuses on philosophical questions, and the relationship between the composer and his judge, between passio et ratio is the core of this book. This novel is by no means boring, in fact it is rather tightly plotted, however you have to be interested in Duncker’s forays into the mystic, apocalyptic (the millennium looms large here) and occult.

This novel requires you to suspend your disbelief at times, but what you get in return is a contemplation on the genre, an intellectual game and the fine arts. It also reads best curled up with strong coffee and dark chocolate.

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!