Hello, strangeling!

Every time I type out “strangeling” my blog turns it into “strangling” and it’s a fair guess but at a certain point you’d think it would learn.

Anyway, if you are a member of my book club (The Fantastic Strangelings – JOIN US!) then you are used to me apologizing for opening the discussion thread late, but in my defense, I am very lazy and never know what day it is.

BUT. I did just finish rereading The Hacienda so I’m going to open up the discussion post on the facebook page and I’ll also leave my thoughts in the comments in case you don’t do facebook.

And (just in case you missed it) this month’s book is:

Hurricane Girl by Marcy Dermansky.

“A fast-paced and daring new novel about a woman on the run from catastrophe, searching for love, home, a swimming pool, and for someone who can perhaps stop the bleeding from her head.” 

“Wait, what?” you ask me.  Keep reading, friend.

Allison Brody is thirty-two and newly arrived on the East Coast after just managing to flee her movie producer boyfriend. She has some money, saved up from years of writing and waitressing, and so she spends it, buying a small house on the beach. But then a Category 3 hurricane makes landfall and scatters her home up and down the shore, leaving Allison adrift.

Should she go home from the bar with the strange cameraman and stay in his guest room? Is that a glass vase he smashed on her skull? Can she wipe the blood from her eyes, get in her car, and drive to her mother’s? Does she really love the brain surgeon who saved her, or is she just using him for his swimming pool? And is it possible to ever truly heal without seeking some measure of revenge?

A captivating crazy train of a ride that alternates between strange, funny, horrifying and bizarre and I could not put it down until the fascinating end.  

How can something be funny and horrifying at the same time?  I don’t know.  How can french fries dipped in strawberry milkshakes be sweet and salty and hot and cold at the same time?  Sometimes it just works.  (Also, for real you should try milkshake fries because they are delicious.)  And it’s a very slim book which is nice since the last few have been AMAZING but also a bit long so you can finish this one quick and feel very accomplished while enjoying yourself.

Do you need more than one book to get you through the month?  OMG ME TOO.  June has some fantastic new releases and a few of my favorites are:

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill – A murder mystery with a story hidden inside another story, where everyone is a suspect.

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White – a queer, post-apocalyptic YA novel that is full of horror, rage and hope.  LOVED THIS ONE.

Horse – Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks absolutely nails this story about a discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic and the greatest racehorse in American history.

The Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris – A fascinating look at on surgeon’s battle to mend the disfigured soldiers of WWI.  

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine – A dazzling epic of betrayal, love and fate that spans five generations of an Indigenous Chicano family in the American West.

The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick – The house cleaner of a famous reclusive author must carry out her employer’s last wish…to complete her final novel.

You Know Exactly What You Have to Do by Paul Madonna – Is this a book of comic strips?  Yes.  Is it a haunting and thoughtful coffee table book that I adored?  Also yes.  Books are weird, y’all.

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen – Two Asian American women grow a counterfeit handbag scheme into a global enterprise. Lots of twists in this one.

Garden of Earthly Bodies by Sally Oliver – A Kafka-esque novel about trauma.  

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings  – A darkly fantastical version of New Orleans where music is magic.

Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer – An atmospheric historical fiction novel with a skeleton walled into a mansion that also shines a light on neurodiversity and complicated relationships.  (The novel sheds light.  Not the skeleton.  Although I guess the skeleton helps, inadvertently.)

 This is Not a Book about Benedict Cumberbatch by Tabitha Carvan – it’s a book about Benedict Cumberbatch.  Wait no.  Reverse that.

And how about you? Do you have any recommended summer reading? Are there new books coming out you can’t wait to read?

19 thoughts on “Hello, strangeling!

Read comments below or add one.

  1. My thoughts on The Hacienda:

    HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

    So when I first started reading The Hacienda I was like, “I wonder if this is too similar to Mexican Gothic?” and then a chapter in I was like, “Nope. And I love it in a very different way.”

    I don’t know why, but for some reason this book reminded me of the creepy-comfort books I’d steal from my grandmother in the 80s and I think maybe it’s because it reminded me a little of The Thorn Birds and a little of The Shining. Thorn Birds because it’s all sexy forbidden love priest (picture Flea Bag season 2 if you’re too young for this reference) and The Shining because of the idea of places being haunted by memories that refuse to leave.

    I love the historical backdrop of Mexico’s War of Independence even though I didn’t really know very much about it other than it was a war and that war is shitty always. But I loved how the idea of one side becoming the other side…the insurgents becoming the people in power and turning on the people who’d helped before because you see the same sort of patterns of fear and control and brutality in the story itself.

    At its heart it feels like this story is mainly about colonialism, misogyny, elitism, race and it is…but when I looked deeper it was also about how those things become echoes of themselves and continue on unless we stop them. Not just the echoes of ghosts in the stories but even the echoes of past that show up in the present. Like for example, when Beatriz first arrives at San Isidro she sometimes sees herself become a cruel mistress and has to stop herself when she recognizes the way she had been treated by her aunt is how she behaves at times. She is traumatized by the lack of power she had experienced and in some ways she repeats those patterns until she realizes it and works to be compassionate. It’s interesting to see Juana, who in some ways is very similar (as a woman and as a “bastard” she understands what that lack of power and fear feels like) but instead becomes bitter and vengeful and just as brutal as those around her. The power of choice seems important here.

    Similarly, Andrés’ conflicting choices about whether to stick with just being a priest or with using his power as a witch. I thought it was really interesting how he considered it a “dark” power and I wonder if that’s just a biproduct of his catholic upbringing, his fear of the inquisition, or from the idea that power often corrupts even when you start with good intentions. I liked that in the end he found a way to combine his Christianity and his magic as he recognized that he should use every gift he was given.

    I loved how the author explored the way that war and trauma build ghosts…sometimes literally but often symbolically…in the way that we carry guilt and hurt and in the way that we use past pain to hurt others or to help others. Our past is always with us.

    I loved how easily the author wove colonialism, colorism, and the caste system into the story…even noting in the cemetery that even in death the divide between the haciendos and the villagers extended beyond life. So pointless…even separating corpses with elitism.

    I’m glad Maria Catalina was brought back from the dead so she could get killed twice. But there’s a part of me that wants to know more about why she became who she was. It’s easy to just say that she was evil but what made her so? It felt like there was more there than was covered. Although I could say the same thing about a lot of the characters and actually, it makes me wonder if there’s a second book coming that would flesh some more of this out.

    I’m not always a fan of the open-ended novel and I really wanted for them to end up in each other’s arms in the end but I also like how the letter keeps it vague enough that you can decide yourself what probably happened. In my mind, Beatriz realizes that she can’t live without him and returns long enough to give full ownership of the house to Paloma and then Andrés realizes he can’t live without her either and they go live with her mom and raise the witch baby that she’s probably already pregnant with. Also, the baby is possessed. But just enough to make book 2 interesting.

    What did you think?

  2. Welllll… I loved Broken (In the Best Possible Way), by this wonderful author, what was her name again? Hihihihi! Other than that, i only read comics and graphic novels. These days, i’m re-reading the Jojo comic books by Geerts, and i love it so much! The little guy is so damn adorable…

  3. You should read Sin Eater by Megan Campisi. It was one of the strangest medieval-esque books I have ever read and yet I couldn’t put it down and I keep turning it over and over in my head. The author is either insane or a genius to come up with the plot she did. This is like a twisted historical fiction fantasy and I loved it.

  4. I’ve got “Hide” by Kiersten White on my Kindle. I’ll be starting it when we hit the beach. It sounds delightfully scary.

  5. I just finished “The Five” about the lives of Jack the Rippers’ known victims. They were not whom you believe they were. They had diverse backgrounds and were not prostitutes. Too little focus on the victims based on misconceptions. Fascinating read.

  6. I loved The Hacienda, it was a delightful read. Especially liked the ending. It was creepy and goth, I couldn’t put it down.

  7. I just finished the audio version of “Unlikely Animals” by Annie Hartnett and am recommending it to everyone I know! It’s got ghosts, a fox, family discord and love and a mystery and it’s the best book I’ve read in a long time. The kind where you really miss the characters when you’re done. Do yourself a favor and give it a read/listen (narration on audiobook was phenomenal!!).

  8. Ok milkshake fries rule. Haven’t them in ages cuz ya know lactose. BUT if you haven’t read The Poison Thread run and get a copy now. It’s so good.

  9. I just finished “Light from Uncommon Stars” by Ryka Aoki, about a trans violinist that gets the queen of Hell as a teacher, and there are intergalactic aliens thrown in. With that combo, how could you lose? It’s a fun story, well told.

  10. I read an arc of Boys and Oil by Taylor Brorby a few months ago – the book was released yesterday. It was just about the perfect gay coming-of-age memoir, setting Taylor’s coming out against the backdrop of environmental destruction in his home state. It’s not a light read, but it’s increible.

    Another book I enjoyed was Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire. It’s a companion to her book Middlegame, and we get to spend some time with beloved characters from the first book as we watch the battle for control of the seasons unfold. I love the world she’s built in these books – highly recommend!

  11. I am not a member of the bookclub (yet) but I just finished Broken today and loved it (obviously) we are sisters by another mother! I relate to everything I have read so far (well except the missing Obama comment. Honestly I have never known anyone who felt that feeling.) Otherwise we are twins born in different generations and I can’t wait to be bookclub pals as well!

  12. I am looking forward to Hurricane Girl – I also loved The Woman in the Library!

  13. Paul Madonna is a fantastic artist. And writer. I recommend all his books.

  14. I just finished the wonderful This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel. I think you’d love it.

  15. I enjoyed The Hacienda, but I admit it scared the poo out of me at first! I made a point not to read it at nighttime after that…. 🙂

  16. “I Never Thought of it that Way” Monica Guzman is about being able to communicate across the political and cultural divide by staying curious. Might just be The most important book of the year. Easy read, and so necessary these days. Not preachy and worth sharing.

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