If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader. Here are the fiction and nonfiction books I’ve read this quarter with my attempt at cogent, one-sentence reviews.
Quiet, by Susain Cain. I didn’t know you could be an introvert and not be shy until I read Cain’s well-researched, nonfiction book about introverts.
Well, now I know what a “close” is.
The Haunting of Henderson Close, by Catherine Cavendish. Time-slips and an eerie, 1891 setting color this novel about a haunted Scottish precinct.
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark. Clark’s lesson-and-example book is aimed at journalists, but his strategies apply to fiction writers, too, and I recommend it if you’re trying to improve your writing skills.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass. I was dreading this short book about Douglass’s painful life as a slave in the early 1800s and his subsequent escape, but I wanted to read it for research (for a novel), and found it horrific at times, but also philosophical and engaging.
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. The author of Eat Pray Love proffers her advice on the writing life, and while it’s a little out there (after all, she personifies and builds relationships with Creativity, Ideas, Failure, and her External Genius), I found hope that my own Creativity and Ideas will eventually dig deep roots and blossom.
Hellish, by Tina Glasneck. Hellish, book one in Glasneck’s The Hell Chronicles series, is a new adult, dark fantasy novella infused with intriguing Norse mythology, dangerous time travel, and magical swords.
Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand. Wylding Hall is a Gothic, haunted mansion story about a folk-rock band who retreats to said haunted mansion to create music, and it’s an awesome, slow-burn, foreboding novel told in interview-style.
Owl Manor, by Zila Harrison. Owl Manor is a fem-lit, Gothic horror novel that gets a little heavy-handed on the feminism, but the ghost story woven throughout is excellent.
Perfect Little Murder, by Yawatta Hosby. In this YA horror novel with an unreliable narrator, a teen girl sees her brother’s ghost and things go downhill from there, a super fun read!
Shirley Jackson the humorist? Who woulda thunk?
Just an Ordinary Day, by Shirley Jackson. For Jackson’s fans, this is a collection of her stories ranging from the humorous, to the pithy, to the spine-chilling.
House of Skin, by Jonathan Janz. House of Skin is a haunted house novel that reads like a well-written crime story.
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. With humor, Lamott dishes out writing advice, shares her family’s secrets, and even encourages new writers to share their own “family’s horrific secrets and crimes . . . just change their names and give the men tiny [organs] so they’ll never come forward and sue you.”
Bone Manor, by Renee Leigh. Lucifer and Lilith make an appearance in this bloody haunted house novella, narrated in protagonist Sidney’s energetic, youthful voice.
The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux. My English translation was frustratingly awkward, but the novel features a real-life setting (the Palais Garnier) and has a delicious, love-murder-madness plot.
Ghost Song, by Mark L’Estrange. L’Estrange uses a framing device to write a neo-Gothic, haunted mansion story complete with a family curse and a jinxed song.
Bitter Pill, by Richard Mabry. If you’ve read too many scary Gothic horror stories, this Christian, medical-thriller novella is a good palate cleanser, and a fun read, too!
The Halley Branch, by Trent McDonald. This ghost story in which the main character, Trevor, has to battle multiple generations of his family’s spirits including the insane ghosts of the Halley branch, wasn’t the best paranormal novel ever, but it was spooky enough to give me chills during the mausoleum scenes.
Innocent, by Jo Michaels. In this fun novelette, a single mom witnesses a murder, then another murder, and we start to wonder if she’s as innocent as she claims.
Creep factor = 10.
The Witching House, by Brian Moreland. What if it’s not just a haunted house, but a dilapidated, isolated house that was once inhabited by a family of witches with a vile grandmother at its head? (This novella has a creep factor of 10!)
Deep Work, by Cal Newport. Newport’s nonfiction book drives home the message that shallow “busy work” is addictive and common while deep work, requiring intensive thought processes and challenging learning, is fulfilling but increasingly rare. (This is a damn good book, y’all.)
So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport. Newport makes a convincing argument not to follow your passion but to develop it and then explore the avant-garde periphery of your field.
When Danger Calls, by Terry Odell. In this skillfully-written, military-ops/suspense/romance novel, a single mom falls for a covert operative and finds herself surrounded by gunfire, theft, and explosions.
You’ll never skip another workout again.
Spark, by John Ratey. I listened to this nonfiction book on audio because I thought it might be a tad too science-y and dry (and it was), but I learned fascinating facts about exercise’s beneficial chemical and even structural effects on the brain.
The Death Chute, by Ambrose Stolliker. Jake, a likable protagonist, puts his elderly mother in a nursing home that’s haunted (of course).
A book called Rose about a woman named Rose who turns into a rose.
Rose, by Rami Ungar. This recent release, a scary, fem-lit, dark fantasy novel about a woman who turns into a rose, is freakin’ creative, and OMGosh the plot twist I didn’t see coming . . .
Captivate, by Vanessa Van Edwards. I should have read the blurb more carefully because this is not a book about using words to capture an audience’s attention. (Shrugs.) Well, now I know where to stand if I’m a sales person at a mealtime meet-n-greet! (Near the end of the drink table.)
Waverly Hills Incursion, by Bryce Warren. What starts as a basic, haunted institution story takes a sharp turn into the occult.
The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. This neo-Gothic, haunted mansion novel is set in England in post WWII . . . literary, character-driven, beautiful!