Fantastic Strangelings, Unite! (But in your own homes. And wash your hands.)

Did you know that you save me? You do. In strange ways I suspect we all save each other. But this week was a recovery week for me after a particularly brutal bout with depression and so I spent the week doing what my shrink recommended…reading.

It’s odd. Reading is an escape. It’s a medicine. It’s a luxury. It hurts and heals. And there’s something about spending the day wrapped up in books that can feel like the perfect antidote while also feeling impossibly decadent. But I’m not good at “decadent”. Especially when there is laundry to be done and emails to be answered and deadlines and expectations. But this week I gave myself permission to read the days away, and whenever I felt guilty I reminded myself that this was work, in a way. I was reading to find the perfect book for next month’s Fantastic Strangelings Book Club. And the book club sustains our book store, keeping the rent paid and our team busy, so it’s work I’m proud of even when it feels unfairly lucky to be able to pore through dozens of stories to imagine which ones you would love…to imagine reading them with you.

When I was a kid we didn’t leave the house much because gas was expensive and so was everything else, so most of the summer I’d get a library book and a thermos and go find someplace outside with a little shade to read for hours. I still remember where I was when I first read certain books. My grandmother told me she was the same when she was young. When the farm work was over she’d get on her bike with a book and a rifle (I asked why the gun…she seemed to think it was a ridiculous question) and ride until she found a good tree to read under. In fact, my grandmother inspires many of the Fantastic Strangelings book picks. My mom is also a big reader but she reads mainly biographies. My grandmother, though, was like me. She read dark and strange and magical stories and she would pretend not to notice when I would steal her copies of Stephen King or VC Andrews or Ray Bradbury or Agatha Christie. I always brought them back. Then last year I got them all for my library when she moved into a memory care clinic for dementia. She has a new Stephen King book that she reads the first paragraph of and then forgets. And reads again. And again. Even in the darkness (until the darkness inevitably falls) she still looks for escape. And every book I have ever selected is one I know she’d read and love if she could. I read them for her. I read them for myself.

All this week I escaped the house like I did when I was a kid. Just to the backyard, to an old cloth swing hanging from our oak tree. It smells a bit like mildew and sun. The cicadas are so loud it drowns out the sounds of everything else. I carry a book and a large glass of ice to keep the heat from being too overpowering. And I read.

I read about time travel and witches and magic and heroes and rebellion and loss and joy and struggle and intrigue. I reread this month’s book so we could discuss it today and I read next month’s book and I read so many others and it was precisely what I needed. And you were there too, even though you might not have known it, because as I read I thought about what you would like and what you would think and what was too dark and what was too much to share. And I thought about the things I’d say in the quiet of an actual book club and whether I could say those same things online. And I think I can. Because this club is more than just me and you…it’s my grandmother (who I speak to in my mind) and so many other people I see and remember as I read these stories that bring me back to my own memories. And I don’t think I would so easily dedicate this healing time to reading if I didn’t have a reason.

Thank you for being that reason.


Today I’m opening discussion up here and on the Fantastic Strangeling Facebook page if you want to talk about July’s book, Mexican Gothic. (Definitely the darkest book I’ve ever chosen but wasn’t it amazing?) As always, no rush and no pressure. The discussion stays open for whenever you want it and most people prefer to lurk so no worries. I’ll put my comments on the book in the comment section so there aren’t any spoilers.

And, I’m announcing next month’s book (if you’re a paid member you already got an email from me all about it and about a special zoom meeting so check your email if you haven’t seen it) and it’s a bit different from my other selections but I really liked it and I think you will too.

It’s called Crossings and it’s by Alex Landragon.

Dorothy Barker is equally excited about it.

A taste:

Alex Landragin’s Crossings is an unforgettable and explosive genre-bending debut—a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes.

On the brink of the Nazi occupation of Paris, a German-Jewish bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript called Crossings. It has three narratives, each as unlikely as the next. And the narratives can be read one of two ways: either straight through or according to an alternate chapter sequence. 

The first story in Crossings is a never-before-seen ghost story by the poet Charles Baudelaire, penned for an illiterate girl. Next is a noir romance about an exiled man, modeled on Walter Benjamin, whose recurring nightmares are cured when he falls in love with a storyteller who draws him into a dangerous intrigue of rare manuscripts, police corruption, and literary societies. Finally, there are the fantastical memoirs of a woman-turned-monarch whose singular life has spanned seven generations. 

With each new chapter, the stunning connections between these seemingly disparate people grow clearer and more extraordinary. Crossings is an unforgettable adventure full of love, longing and empathy.

I think you’ll really like it.

Also, I sometimes pick out bonus book selections if you need something extra to sing you to sleep. If you’re interested you can order them from us or from your local indie bookstore. Last month it was Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. This month it’s Lobizona by Romina Garber. It comes out next week but you can preorder now. It’s YA (young adult) and it’s sort of like an Argentinian Harry Potter with werewolves. Also, it is a wonderful book to read and then give a young reader because it deals with tons of important issues, from immigration to racism to feminism to LGBTQ+ stuff and I immediately devoured it and gave it to Hailey to read herself. Also, the cover is amazing. Just look at it.

So stick around if you want to discuss Mexican Gothic or if you want to just talk books. And membership is currently open if you’re ready to join the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club. You are always welcome.

Thanks, y’all. I super crazy love you.

55 thoughts on “Fantastic Strangelings, Unite! (But in your own homes. And wash your hands.)

Read comments below or add one.

  1. I’m so glad to hear spending time with the tree as you did in childhood helped pull you out of the darkness. And… of course… reading. Escaping our minds is so important and the more mysterious and magical the better. 😉 So glad glad glad glad you’re feeling better. I share your grandmother’s taste alone with you… she sounds amazing, as do you.

    I have no money at present (sorry, landlord) but definitely want to check out Crossings… thanks for the suggestions! If my Milwaukee branch library ever opens, I’ll get it!

    And here is a blog that will hopefully make you laugh… that’s its purpose, at least:

  2. Your childhood = my childhood.
    And that photo of you reliving that childhood today? I could cry, it’s so lovely and peaceful-looking.

  3. Here are my thoughts on Mexican Gothic. HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. Also, content warning…I’m about to talk about sexual assault:
    Okay, I LOVED this book but I was really afraid it would be too dark for everyone else. Because it was. Both really scary and also the content dealt with so much stuff that’s important to discuss but isn’t always easy. I really wrestled with choosing this book and with writing about how it affected me but in the end it haunted me and it helped me in dealing with some stuff that had been bothering me when I read it.

    So first off, I loved the prose. I loved how the author used so many amazing stories lightly woven into the main story…like the green wallpaper ink that made people go crazy during Victorian times and the different types of mushrooms and poisons. I loved how she blended the poisons that exist in nature and in humankind while also pointing out the wonderful magic in nature and it people. The subject of eugenics and white supremacy and colonialism seemed particularly important to examine and I loved that she made the heroine a bad-ass take-no-bs woman while still remaining true to the limitations that she would have had at that age.

    The incest storyline was particularly difficult but I think it was important. I’ve not written about this before but I dabble in genealogy. I think it’s fascinating to find stories that are hidden and I wasn’t
    surprised to find a number of unsavory ones. Not that long ago I found the records of my great grandfather, who we’d been told died after being kicked in the head by a mule but turns out he went to prison for raping his young daughters. I don’t know the full story because it was never talked about but recently I discovered that my great grandmother (his wife) had left her family and married as a child to escape her own abuse. There were more stories that aren’t mine to tell but you could see how the abuse continued through generations even as it was hidden. I wonder if it hadn’t been hidden or covered up as if the women who suffered should be ashamed if maybe it could have helped stop it from continuing. I don’t know. They’re all gone now so I can’t ask. But there was something about reading the storyline in Mexican Gothic that made me a little grateful that there is light on this now. Maybe it helps. Maybe it doesn’t.

    When I read it a second time I picked up on so many little nuances I’d missed the first time. Like when Francis picked up the mushroom that was called “a destroying angel”, the poisonous white mushroom that looks almost the same as all the others. It reminded me of Ruth going almost undercover to try to destroy the family. And how when Noemí and Francis are talking about the Holy Spirit and he mentions that one of the symbols is “fire, which transforms whatever it touches”. Such a beautiful foreshadowing to the fire that would destroy the building and family…but not so much “destroy” as “transform”, since it seemed to have broken the curse on Francis.

    Overall, I really loved this book. It was creepy, scary, difficult, fascinating….all the things you want in a gothic mystery while still adding so much more to discuss.

  4. I spend my lunch hour reading. It’s my escape from the stress and feeling like an alien among my human co-workers. I set my watch alarm, walk to the park, and sit on a bench under a large oak tree. And this is how I read your books. I discovered you by browsing through my co-worker’s “Give a Book – Take a Book” shelf. So, thank you for being present in my life without being physically present, or even knowing you were. You were a friend without you knowing it. That’s what books are to me. Cherished friends. Some old. Some new. But always inspiring and wanted (even the bad ones).

    PS. I’ve only read Stephen King’s book on writing (I know what rocks have I been living under). Even though he makes me feel guilty for not writing everyday, it was amazing.

  5. This makes me happy that you were outside reading all week and I love that you read your grandma’s books when you were growing up. I loved Stephen King and Agatha Christie, too. I used to go in our backyard and sit up in our tree and read. It was awesome. Also, I bought The Firm for my husband because he has never read it and I told him I remember reading it when I was 16 at my grandma’s house, so I feel like you and I are on the same wavelength this week.

  6. Jenny, your post today reminded me of my grandmother, who was a tiny lady with a head full of gray-white curls she had set and sprayed once a week and scotch taped it into a helmet each night before bed. She died over ten years ago and I still see her in every make-a-wish dandelion I see.
    I used to list my hobbies as reading, laughing, napping and crafting. Then, 14 years ago I had a terrible post partum depression from which I recovered with treatment, but left me with a fear of reading new books or watching new movies because what if they made me feel? (Everything makes me feel. Everything.) And what if what I felt was fear or grief or sadness or anxiety and it never went away just like my postpartum depression that I recovered from (actually) never went away (in my talented catastrophizing mind). So I shouldn’t read because I might not be able to handle it if I feel something while reading.
    Today’s post made me cry a little for my own grandmother and love her even more, and reminded me why I joined your book club to begin with. Reading is an essential part of who I am, and so are strong emotions, which, by the way, ceasing to read did not blunt any of the intensity of my every day anyway- but if I didn’t have words or feelings, there’d be no me, so your book club is helping me be brave enough to feel on purpose and get back a piece of me I excised thinking it would protect me from depression recurrence. It’s so hard because being emotionally intense as a trait is like walking through life with two tasks, one invisible, for other people’s one task. Many people, when hungry, walk to their kitchen, cook and egg and eat it. I gather up all the damn feelings, put them in my invisible backpack and eat the egg, and eating while happy is fine, but eating while sad is two jobs. First, I have to be sad. Then I have to eat the egg while sad, even when I start thinking there’s no point to eating because surviving sadness is a gd full time job. But I eat it anyway because that’s better for my body and thinking of any sort LITERALLY burns calories. Neurons use energy to fire. And I never stop thinking or feeling, so I definitely need to eat 3 meals a day. But that’s me. And soon, bit by bit, I’ll be a reader again, and welcome a part of me back, and maybe be a little more resilient due to being a little more whole.
    Thank you Jenny. ❤️

  7. The other day you helped me to laugh out loud. I was having a horrible day, and you made it better. So of course that meant I had to go order books. Which I did. (PS I would have ordered books anyway!)

  8. I just got Mexican Gothic day before yesterday so I haven’t read it yet. It’s my reward for making it to the weekend! I’ll come back when I’m done. Can’t wait for next month’s book too!

  9. Dear Jenny, Can I fund a bookclub scholarship? I would pay for someone to join for 6 months. I’m definitely a non-fiction girl, but maybe there is someone who’d like to join but can’t?

  10. Jenny, just thanks. thanks for being there. Even though. And in spite of. And because of. And always coming back to be there for us so we can be there for you and each other.

    this time period has me struggling so hard with depression and feelings of being hopeless and I know many share these feelings. I am vastly fortunate in all I have that others do not, but the world of human beings feels like a dark place to me these days.

    Thank you for being here. I love you. And I can’t wait to get your new book when it comes out.

  11. I absolutely loved this blog. Thank you. I absolutely LOVED your first book and will buy your next one at some point.

  12. When I was a kid the only safe place in my world was inside the pages of my books. I escaped it all from there. We had a beautiful weeping willow tree in our backyard, old and gnarled and the branches were long enough to gently sweep the ground. I would climb into its center and sit on this perfectly formed branch and read the day away. We had ferals and one in particular would come and join me, stretching herself out as she slept and in the truest sense I was happy. Things have always been complicated in my life but in those summer days wrapped in the sweetness of that tree with a feral cat as company I felt genuine peace.

    I don’t know why I’m sharing, I just felt like you’d understand.

  13. When I was growing up, I had few friends. I found out the likely culprit was autism (diagnosed in my 30’s) and my lack of awareness, not from lack of trying or because other people’s kids suck or anything (though some do). Books were my companions. They never looked at me strangely or were too loud or touchy. They whispered to me as I turned pages and sent me on dreamscape adventures where storylines would merge and evolve and disappear. Books saved my life many times over. I grew up in a ranching family so a bag of books, a bike, a rifle, and a shady grove of trees were a package deal. Ya never know what varmints and nerr-do-wells were lurking about. I’m glad books keep you safe when depression creeps in.

  14. I’ve always loved to read. It is my total escape. I too feel guilty sometimes when I’m reading and out of the corner of my eye I can a pile dishes needing to be washed, a stack of laundry that needs to be put away. As my anxiety ebbs and flows this year, I need to give myself more time to be lost in a book rather than have my nose glued to various news stories showing doom and gloom, hate and anger. Thank you for starting this book club.

    It makes my smile hearing about yours, your grandmother’s, and mothers love of reading. My mother was a big reader. We didn’t have a lot of money when we were growing up and the house we lived in didn’t have air conditioning. So my mom would take my brother and I to the library to get in some air conditioning for a while and pick out a bunch of books. We always joined the summer reading program and filled the pages with our lists of books we read. My great-aunt was a teacher and a librarian. In WWII she was a WAC and was in charge of a library for the troops in Europe. For Christmas every year, she bought all her great-nieces and nephews a book. I always looked forward to them. I still have everyone.

    Thank you for saving me too.

  15. When an author can write something so other worldly, and yet make it seem possible … that’s what creates the fear. The descriptions were painted with intoxicating beauty. And all those difficult topics are, as you pointed out, often kept as skeletons in the closet; all hidden away and no one wants to talk about those things. Many readers may find parts of the storyline relatable, either personally (I hope not) or through someone they know. But even if that isn’t the case, the characters are victims and caught in a complex web that made me connect and care about their individual tragic stories. It contained enough supportive scientific information to support believability. Those areas that cross over into the supernatural still seemed plausible, because the author had me accepting every other aspect. And certainly, the characters each had their own reality that one must accept as their truth. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the book at first, but I was immersed within a few pages.

    Excellent choice, Jenny.

    P.S. Genealogy is my passion. I believe in embracing the history that brought me into the world.

  16. I’ve also been telling myself to not feel guilty about reading for enjoyment as a return to e-learning looms around the corner. I like Charlaine Harris’s new Gunnie Rose series and I’m reading Last Days by Adam Neville which is creeping me out.

  17. I have really enjoyed trying the books you pick. Some are great (the Quan Barry We Ride on Sticks; I’m now a fan) – some, well, not my cup of tea. I love dark weird things so many of your choices (American Sherlock) are not things I would pick but then I enjoy them. A LOT.

    I just finished Dark Wake (about the Lusitania; fascinating!) and Darling Rose Gold which was VERY DARK (someone said Misery meets Sharp Objects – totally right) and can’t wait to start Mexican Gothic, Stay safe, stay cool, so glad you are indulging yourself by reading during this awful pandemic and heat!!!!! (90’s all week in NY.)

  18. PS My husband sees me finish a book…and then start a new one right away. “Really?” YES. He has stopped asking. He is used to it now.

  19. Crossings looks intriguing. Had my eye on it. But I am not a fan of Baudelaire. Poetry is hard for me to comprehend, but having to read Les Fleurs du Mal in French was the worst.

    If you want a book suggestion, I highly recommend The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. It’s strange, and weird and a great mystery. Has amnesia in it. And one theme/moral of the story is even if you’re timid, you can find the courage to kick ass when you need to.

    And while you’re reading some witchy/magic/urban fantasy genre, heck out the Air series by Amanda Booloodian.

  20. I just joined so this is my first Fantastic Strangelings book. I really enjoyed it. My junior high and high school reading was pretty much Stephen King and VC Andrews, but I haven’t really read anything dark/scary as an adult until recently. I’ve read a couple of Grady Hendrix’s books, and last year I read The Haunting of Hill House.
    I recently read Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and the heroine of that book daydreams of one day being in her own gothic romance.
    So I was thinking about Northanger Abbey and The Haunting of Hill House while reading Mexican Gothic. It’s intriguing to think that a house holds secrets or even has supernatural powers over its inhabitants.
    I liked how Noemi matured and grew throughout the book, learning to think of others. You could see her frustration at how she was constrained by the expectations of a socialite (to marry well), and that she wanted to do more but wasn’t really sure how to go about it without upsetting her family. Going through this traumatic event would probably put things into perspective.
    A couple of nit-picky things: I felt like I should have made a family tree or something. I was a bit confused on the lineage of the family and who was who. And I realize that the author needed a way for Noemi and Francis to communicate and had them speak Spanish because the others didn’t speak it, but it seems like after 200 years or whatever, that the old dude would have picked it up along the way?
    I also really love the cover of the book. It’s so lush and beautiful.
    I enjoyed this book and can’t wait for the next one!

  21. I read a book as I am listening to a book on audibles not the same book I do this so I can concentrate and it really works I really wish I could join your book club at this time I am not able but hopefully soon for sure I love your blog. Thank you for what you post.

  22. OK, Crossings is a book I can get my teeth stuck into. I’m in. Honorarily this month, and we’ll see from there. I am historically the world’s worst book clubber, because I love to read, I love to escape and I love to read to escape. So MOST book clubs read books that aren’t escapist enough for me, and then they make it worse by wanting to dig out extra applicable meaning to the author’s words, and I’m over here thinking: It’s not the BIBLE, ladies, RELAX. It’s not as if the author had the choice of every single word in every single language at hand to choose when they set these ones down or anything, but OH YES THEY DID. And they chose THESE ONES, so perhaps we should GO WITH THE ONES THEY CHOSE, HUH!@? and then the room gets that special kind of judgmental quiet, the stillness that hits right before the blade of excommunication.

    So I’m kinda IFFY on the book club aspect of it all, but so far, this book is making it into my shopping cart. This month. We’ll see. Also, please don’t hate me if I get an e-book version. I do SO love the printed page and am a Smeller of Ink Old and New, but money is tight just now.

    Can I get an e-book version from Nowhere? I’d totally do THAT if I could!

  23. Both books for this month sound amazing and I wish I could afford them! Alas, not to be, in this terrible time of job loss, and hospital bills.So sorry I can’t join you. I am a Strangeling at heart and will be adding these to my wish list. I WILL read them someday, just not this time around. Love to you all. 💕

  24. The peculiar structure of this book reminds me strongly of “Hopscotch” by Julio Cortazar, which I definitely recommend checking out.

  25. You have reminded me of two things I love so much – (memories of) my grandma, and reading. I’m having a hard time today and I think I may just curl up with a book ALL DAY.

  26. Love you Jenny, thank you for sharing your words. Escaping to a new printed world is such a joy!

  27. So, I always wondered why I love to go to the beach so much. I usually go at least once a week during the summer. I hate sand. I can’t stand having it on me and try to get it off of every part of my body except the bottoms of my feet even as I am sitting in a chair on the sand. I really do not like swimming in the ocean. It’s usually a bit too rough for my tastes. I wouldn’t mind being in the water so much, but I really hate trying to get through the breakers to the calmer water. So why do I feel this need to go to the beach? I finally figured it out recently. If I stay at home and lay in bed or sit on my couch readings all day, I’m being lazy. If I go to the beach and sit in a chair reading all day, I’ve done something. I’ve gone on an outing. 😉

  28. I escaped my childhood through books. My entire family worships books and in our dysfunctional sadness, and anxiety and grief and loneliness both my father’s side and my mother’s side of the family knew you could escape through books. My grandmother had marvelous old children’s books in the den where the tv lived. When we visited and we were tired of being outside to work off our childhood energy, we would come inside and find a chair, a bench or a cozy nook to read in. Every year my mother would take us to Cape Cod for two weeks in August camping in tents and the first day we arrived we would go to an army navy surplus store to get hoodies and other supplies and then we would go to the bookstore and get armloads of books. As a little child my mom or aunt would bring me stacks of books from the library for nap time, I didn’t have to sleep, but I had to stay in my bed and I could read the whole time. I usually finished the books before nap was over. (I suspect my mother who suffered from depression her whole life, found a little bit of afternoon peace and quiet from her children was the only way she could make it through the day.) Later in life one of my nephews was diagnosed with dyslexia, and reading was a tremendous obstacle for him, I was at a loss not being able to share our family’s greatest escape of reading. Thank goodness for audio books. As I get older and my reading vision starts to require stronger reading glasses prescription, I find reading while still wonderful, is harder to be able to sit still for, as I get stiff if I’m in one position for too long. So I read in short bursts to satisfy my soul, I just can’t give it the commitment I once could.

  29. Ooooo, the Argentinian Hogwarts sounds amazing. But I don’t understand how to best add it. Is it just like doing a new order or is there some magic way to add it to the monthly order?

  30. I’ve been struggling with what is either cognitive overload, executive dysfunction, or brainus bjørnus bjørnkers – inability to read. Sometimes I go through weeks when I just can’t pick a new book and that’s it. On good days I can re-read old ones (like yours or ‘Hyperbole and a Half’ which I could probably rewrite/redraw by now). On the bad days… nothing.

    Then the good days come back and I just EAT books. (Not literally, especially as I have an e-reader and I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be good for my digestion.) I feel so lucky that I get to lose myself in stories. Visit others’ worlds, minds, lives, history, future, today and tomorrow. I don’t watch much TV, most movies pass me by, I make my own movies as I read.

    Anyway, today I’m halfway through ‘Hyperbole and a Half’ again, but I have hopes for tomorrow. If not, then Tuesday. Books: saviours that start at $0.99 and you can have as many as you want.

  31. I have spent my time reading more as of late. I tuned out to the noise from social media in an effort to reclaim whatever sanity I have left. Seeing the image of you reading by the tree is what I remembered doing years ago when I was a kid. I remember going on camping trips with my parents and having a couple of books with me felt like the greatest thing in the world.

  32. I clicked to see the Labizona cover art and was immediately smacked with JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER! Holy gods I hate this fossilized old tactic. Make it stop. It blocks the user from looking at your website!
    Set it to appear after ten clicks, when the user has gotten what they came for and is prowling. That’s the right time for it.

  33. Not a book club comment, but a recommendation for your grandmother. Stephen King wrote a children’s book called Eyes of The Dragon. It’s not as supernatural and creepy as most of his other work, but it’s an engaging story, and perhaps more accessible to her at this point? We have a loved one on the same path, it is hard. Hugs to you both.

  34. This blog post filled my soul. Thank you. I’m gonna go toss the rest of my plans out the window and read now. K thanks byeeeee

  35. I love it that your grandmother took a rifle with her when she went to read!

  36. Mexican Gothic was my first book of the Book Club. I enjoyed it-and like some other folks, thought about The Haunting of Hill House quite a bit. Also-like someone else mentioned, I was slightly bothered that the patriarch of the family didn’t pick up *any* Spanish over the years…? I get that Francis and Noemi needed to communicate, but for me that pushed it slightly over the edge to make my roll my eyes a little. Other than that, however, I liked it. Funny, you mentioned how dark and disturbing it was- and it didn’t even cross my mind that much, to be honest. I’ve been reading horror and mystery and novels for so long, it seemed like sort of normal behavior in a book like this, I suppose. But upon reflection, I did appreciate Noemi’s maturation throughout the book, and related to her complicated feelings (although she also acknowledged she was under the influence of the mystery fungus). I suppose sometimes depression, anxiety, and PTSD manifest in ways that affect how we feel about other people-occasionally in inappropriate ways when we would not normally behave or react that way. At least that’s how I thought about it. The book was a tiny bit predictable, but the story still unfolded well. I was able to imagine myself in a tiny village, visiting the local healer and seeing her statues of saints with offerings of tobacco. An excellent escape for a while. Thanks, Jenny.

    Also-nice to be around people who don’t laugh or roll their eyes when someone says “I fucking love reading!” It sounds so cliche, but I honestly do. And then I get all judgmental when someone else says they love it, too, but I’m like, “No way you love it as much as me…” Haha! So, what I mean to say is that I will believe you guys when you say that you love reading. Maybe as much as I do. Maybe.

  37. The story of your grandmother reading the same paragraph…that will stay in my heart. So beautiful to share a love of reading.

  38. “I’d get a library book and a thermos and go find someplace outside with a little shade to read for hours.”

    I did that, too! I didn’t know anyone else who did that. My “someplace outside” was walking into the woods to find a pretty place I had never been before. When I found it, I’d clamber up onto the giant rock (glaciers dropped ’em just all over the place), pull out my lunch, and read in glorious solitude. When the light got low enough in the sky, I’d figure it was time to find my way home.

    Thank you for that memory.

  39. Jenny, I just finished the ARC of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I loved it so much I have preordered five copies from the Nowhere Bookshop. I am giving them to the important women in my life! Have you read it?

  40. Dear Jenny, Always appreciate your honesty About mental health and your unique humor! I devoured books as a kid – SV High to Gone with the Wind. If I ever get to SA your bookstore is first destination. Check out Out Of Salem – another YA fantasy novel with LGBTQ characters and BLM themes. Yes my son wrote it but it got nominated for a National Book Award so it’s not just my opinion it’s good. 😉 hugs and safety from squash Courtney

  41. My thoughts on Mexican Gothic. SPOILERS FOR: ‘Mexican Gothic’ and ‘Doctor Sleep’.

    Well, I’m very late, but here I am. So, Mexican Gothic. I loved it! I wasn’t sure I would, but I did. I can, however, say it’s the first book I’ve read in a very long time that scared the heck out of me. (I’m the person in my little group who is very good with horror genre stuff of all mediums, to the point where it’s hard to shake me, so something here struck a chord. However, I think a lot of it comes down to the author’s skill.)

    I do agree with another comment (I forget who made it, sorry! There are so many comments, and I can’t seem to keep track!) that the story was a tad predictable, but I would say a lot of Gothic style stories are predictable to one degree or another. I feel, (as I believe said comment did,) that the rich descriptions, use of tension, and characterization helped to make the story engaging, even if some of the beats were clearly going to happen. Still, I was surprised on a couple of occasions, I guess. Maybe surprised isn’t the word for it? Maybe I was just unsure what was reality and what was dream, which was what was meant to be happening, as it was from Noemi’s point of view, and she was also confused about it.

    On that note, I would like to take a moment to state my appreciation of Noemi as a character. She has so much fire and passion, and is strong, but in a way that is believable in the context of the story and history. (I think somebody else mentioned that, too.) She did develop and mature in the story, but was an interesting person from the get-go. (Sorry, I’m really not trying to just repeat what everyone else is saying!)

    I liked the touch about the toxin-laced wallpaper of the Victorian era. When I saw the cover design, (which I adore, by the way!) I figured that Scheele’s green would be worked into the story somehow. I did feel that a lot of the symbolism was very obvious and a bit cloying, but the fact that I was still creeped out and sucked into the narrative despite holding this opinion means the author is doing a lot right!

    It’s interesting that Jenny mentioned both Stephen King and VC Andrews in this post regarding her grandmother’s library, as I feel there are shades of both here. I far prefer Mexican Gothic to VC Andrew’s work, though, as I always felt Andrews was a bit on the side of Exploitation genre literature, while Mexican Gothic feels … a tad more genuine in its tackling of difficult subjects. I’m not always sold on Stephen King: I like some of his books, dislike others. But I do believe even King himself would have been proud of the conflagration of the mansion at the end of Mexican Gothic. (Speaking of which, has anybody here seen Doctor Sleep’s movie adaptation? 😉

    It was definitely a disturbing book, and I can see why maybe Jenny was worried about that aspect. I personally find that reading difficult things can help me deal with the horrors of real life more effectively, so I didn’t mind, even though it did get to me. I am also saddened to hear of the hidden stories in your own family, Jenny, and my wish is that, moving forward, more and more of these real-life ‘hidden stories’ will be brought into the light.

    I was also curious if anybody here had any opinions on what a movie adaptation of this book by Guillermo del Torro might look like? I think it’s interesting to speculate, as he is Mexican, and has the cultural heritage to make the most of it. He’s also famed for his striking visual style, and has, in fact, made his own, very Gothic, movie: Crimson Peak. (If you haven’t seen his work, and want to see something more related to dark fantasy-realism instead, you could try El Laberinto del Fauno, which is somewhat oddly named ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ as the English title.)

    So, to summarize my thoughts: eerie, haunting, beautiful, disgusting, well fleshed out and thoughtfully crafted, this is one of my favorite new books I’ve read all year. (Counting the library as ‘new books’ because if I haven’t read it before, it’s a new book, even if I don’t get to keep it!)

    I haven’t yet received my copy of this month’s book, as post is darn slow right now for obvious reasons, but the anticipation alone helps brighten up my life, and for that, I’m very grateful.

    Also, Jenny, I would like to thank you for sharing that amazing picture of you reading. It gives me the feels, as you might say. And I’m both saddened and encouraged to hear that, even in this time of her life, your grandmother is still so attached to the written word. The written word is a gift to the world that gives and gives and gives.

  42. I just finished Mexican Gothic this evening. At first I wondered if it was just a retread with a Mexican twist, but then everything got turned on its ear. Then 3/4 of the way through the book, I tweeted “OH MY GOSH” and that pretty much sums it all up. Today I read some 65 pages–which is a heck of a lot more than I can usually read in one day–because I just had to see how it ends.

  43. I finally read Mexican Gothic, and I really enjoyed it. I’m so late to post that I won’t spend much time on it, as I doubt now anyone is reading here, but I loved Noemi, and I really appreciated learning about 1950s Mexico. The story was creepy and captivating. I pretty much agree with everything everyone else here already said (but the speaking Spanish didn’t bother me). This ranks pretty high on my list of book club books read thus far. 🙂

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