It’s a good month for reading

This month’s Fantastic Strangeling Book Club choice is so, so good. It’s The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean.

I devoured this atmospherically creepy and gorgeous novel.  Well, not literally.  But after reading the book I kind of wanted to.   In fact, I loved it so much I made my own book house inspired by the cover and only got glued to it four times.

A truly unique premise in a dark fairytale that kept me guessing until the end.  Want a taste?

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.

Eerie.  Unsettling.  Beautiful.  Heartbreaking.  Fascinating.  A story about the complexities of family, of neurodivergence, of impossible choices, of parenthood, of misogyny and consumption.  It’s a modern take on vampires and like nothing else I’ve ever read.  I immediately knew I needed to share it the moment I finished it.  

The first chapter is the perfect appetizer that will leave you hungry for more, and the rest of the of the book is a tasty feast of dark treats to consume. (I’m so sorry about the food puns. I can’t help myself.)

Need more than one book to get you through the month? SAME.  August has some fantastic new releases and a few of my favorites are:

All of This by Rebecca Woolf – A provocative and complicated memoir about the complexities of grief, desire and being human.  The most gorgeous prose in an honest and fascinatingly authentic voice.  I loved it so much I wrote the blurb for it.

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy – An utterly unexpected, raw and hilarious and heartbreaking memoir by the star of iCarly and Sam & Cat.  She candidly shares her struggles as a former child actor – including eating disorders, addiction and a very complicated relationship with her dysfunctional mother…and how she took control over her life. Dark, hilarious, maddening, hopeful…all the things you want in a good memoir. I loved it so much that I’m doing an online book event with her and you need to come.

The Last Karankawas by Kimberly Garza – An emotional novel about a tight-knit community of Mexican and Filipino American families in Galveston, Texas. It reads more like a collection of short stories than a novel.

The Liminal Zone by Junji Ito – Another outlandish body horror manga from the award-winning and relatively twisted mind of Junji Ito. Guaranteed to make you say, “What the shit am I reading?” but in a good way.

Paris by Andi Watson – A sweet, quick sketch about two star-crossed young women who fall in love in Bohemian Paris in the 50s.

And now I’m going to open up the FS facebook page to discuss last month’s book (Florida Woman by Deb Rogers) but if you don’t do facebook you can check out my thoughts in the comments. And it’s always the perfect time to join the club if you’re looking for a great monthly read with fascinating books.

Happy reading!

18 thoughts on “It’s a good month for reading

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Here there be spoilers:

    I loved the twists and turns with this story. I kept thinking I knew who to trust and it kept me guessing until the end, which is why I read the whole thing in a single afternoon. This book was basically my summer vacation, which meant I spent my time hanging out with monkeys

    Things I loved:

    How it showed how slowly and insidiously cults get into your head. At first I was like, witchy, girl-power environmentalists saving monkeys…yes please! And then slowly the marks of mind control start to show up…keeping people underfed and calling for “sacrifice” whenever Sari got angry to subconsciously keep people from questioning her. Love bombing and then withholding affection. Separating people from their family or looking for people who don’t have family ties or who had past trauma that made them easy to manipulate. Drugging people or getting people hooked on drugs. Making them sign a contract that they won’t tell anyone if they get bit by the monkeys. All classic hallmarks of cults but it happened so slowly that I could almost understand how Jaimie became so entrenched so quickly (even though I wanted to shake her more than once.)

    I did see from the beginnings that they were trying to kill Flora so Sari could have more money but it took me until the end to see that the real motive of the monkey adoration cult was to get people addicted to the sense of belonging (and drugs) and then have those people leave everything to Sari in their will and then quickly kill them by monkey infection. (Death by monkey infection – you never see it coming.) That point changed from me feeling almost sorry for the monkey ladies because I assumed it was just callousness caused by desperation, but the further it got the more they just seemed evil.

    I loved how Jamie saved the pelican and saved Bee, caring more for the animals than herself and how Bee (and the other monkeys who didn’t attack her) did exactly what Sari and the others were “praying” for…to show that they were chosen and special…but in the end only Jaimie achieved this level.

    I love that Jamie is again featured in a viral video with monkey and the youtube comments (“Obviously a deep fake” and “these monkeys are clearly puppets” etc.) were hysterically accurate.

    I loved that in the end Jaime became stronger as a result of her trials, although I felt bad that she was alone.

    There were a few things I still had questions about in the end. I wish I knew more about Argos and Vessel because it felt like there were some messed up stories that happened there that were just hinted at. And I wondered what Jason’s motivation was for getting Jamie to Atlas. I thought at first it was because he wanted her close and to be part of a family but I wonder if it’s more likely that he just wanted another person who wouldn’t be missed to use and she was an easy choice. You don’t hear very much from him and that makes me wonder if he’s under Sari’s spell and is just as much of a victim or is he a sociopath as well? I’m leaning toward the latter since he never came back for Jamie when she was a kid, but he “took the fall” for Sari and her first cult when they were young and were caught dealing drugs and I suspect it wouldn’t have gone down that way if she hadn’t always been the one ultimately pulling all the strings and putting herself before everyone else. My assumption is that he wanted her to work for the cult and Sari was like, “Yeah, if she does everything without question but if not we’ll have her get bit by monkeys on a live feed on the darkweb and that will attract thrill-seekers to us and convince anyone not bitten by monkeys that they’re special.”

    What did you think? Would you have fallen for the cult? Did it give you more empathy for the characters or did it make you angrier at the characters. For me, it was both…I felt badly for Tierra and Dagmar because they’re clearly broken but I still wanted them to all go to jail for being assholes. To me it was very similar to the Manson girls, who did evil things and deserved jail but also deserved a bit of compassion because they were so broken and brainwashed. Such interesting topics…when are you responsible for evil…when are you a victim…when are you both?

  2. I am so excited THE BOOK EATERS is your August selection! Sunyi and I share an agent and we’ve all been qatching the building buzz for this wonderful and creepy book! I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of it!!!

  3. I felt bad for Jamie for being alone in the world and having been screwed by becoming a viral sensation. That whole thing, plus her experience in Altas, has messed her up for a long time, I feel. She was such a good character that you had to like her. The others, well, not so much as the book went on. I did suspect Sari had killed Flora, which seemed very mean, but as you point out, Jenny, she was an evil person.
    I liked this book and felt the Florida heat. Ugh. I’ll share it with my daughter, who went to grad school in Florida and loved the heat.
    Thanks for another good book for us Strangelings to read!

  4. Anything blurbed by Seanan McGuire AND Christopher Buehlman has got to be good!

    Chris used to make a living touring Renaissanse faires as a professional insulter, and I have had the pleasure to watch him work many times, so I KNOW he knows he way around words!

  5. The only thing I was frustrated by was the “magic” appearance of Jason at the end. It felt a little deus ex machina to me, but maybe a more generous view was that more and better hints of his role (when did Wolfie even show up? Like right at the end, right?) were lost in editing somewhere. Enjoyable to read but deserved a more refined ending IMO. All four women were so real & richly described. Would read again

  6. I really loved this book!

    Wolfie is mentioned in the website threads, early in the book Sari asked Wolfie if something was okay and says “Wolfie thinks…” but Wolfie doesn’t actually write in the website stuff until the end of the book. (Which I realized – how many people are supposed to be participating in the website? Is Zelda included too? I loved that you just think it’s the 3 of them at the beginning. No wonder Sari was so frustrated)

    At the beginning, I thought Wolfie was Sari talking to her wolf rug since Jamie said that the rug looked like it could come to life! But then it became obvious that Wolfie came and went like location to location, not in and out of psychic communication with Sari. And since it didn’t feel like we were going to get macaques AND werewolves, I figured Wolfie was a person, just didn’t make the Jason connection right away.

    I think everyone fed into each other at Atlas: repeatedly we were reminded of a long history on the property and before Sari, her parents named it something else and somewhere it talked about how her parents were almost “reverends.” I think Flora was supportive of Sari and truly wanted her to succeed where she and her husband had failed as cult leaders. Especially since it seemed like there was more than Argos and Vessel remnants on the property. So I think Flora really did want to be bit of her own volition – I have met a few elderly people who were very much satisfied with their life and ready to move on. I think Sari’s earlier attempts at building her “community” attracted Tierra and Dagmar because those two also had a thirst for power and their own ideas of a “perfect world” which made them all equals. Their skills complimented each other creating this, like, Power Rangers’ Megazord. I think Jason saw an opportunity to reunite with his sister and “test run” their ability to successfully recruit new members through new avenues.

    But I mainly wished they didn’t have to be so dark. that they could have just been trying to grow a happy macaque sanctuary and live less wasteful lives without all the cult and shady animal stuff.

    Also – what was with the alligators and water mocassins? They felt like their own story.

    Did anyone else get confused at the end of the book when Jason kept saying “James?” I was like, “Wait, Jamie is known as ‘Florida Woman’ or did I miss something?” I mean, sure it was probably a childhood thing or maybe I forgot something from earlier in the book…

    Oh and I loved that Bee had kept the little eagle and was picking locks! So many stories out there of how animals get out of their enclosures, my favorites are from octopuses, but this reminded me of the orangutans in Omaha(I think it was Omaha?). The discrepency between how the Atlas crew talked about the macaques and their actual actions was really crazy but showed how they could self-justify their own actions.

    I have so many more thoughts but I’ve already said a lot. Looking forward to next month’s book!

  7. I’m very interested in your event with Jeanette McCurdy. My daughter watched her shows ergo I did to. I feel angry that yet another female child star has come out of the Nick/Disney realm with scars. It’s unacceptable. And the people who should be protecting these kids, their parents, turn a blind eye or shrug.

  8. I was already going to buy that Jenette McCurdy book because my daughter grew up watching iCarly and Sam and Cat, and Sam was always my favorite character. The cover and the press around it sealed the deal that I would love her writing style. Then I saw the blurb from Jenny, and immediately hit BUY. Then I thought to check here, and lo and behold there’s an event with Jenette! So I bought the book twice. Not even the first time I’ve done that (happened with Broken if I remember correctly). Yay ADHD! I’m not even mad- either I’m gonna gift the extra to someone or find a Free Little Library to add it to. I’ve also been known to put my Happy Endings Book Club picks in a Free Library when I’m done. I’m a giver like that.

  9. A little late to the party (and on the uptake, apparently), but . . . I can’t believe it took me until finishing the book and mentally chewing on it later for me to put together this small but delightful detail: our main simian contact out of the group of “rescued” macaques is, of course, Bee. She is also one of the former lab subjects, and therefore a carrier of the dreaded pathogen. She isn’t Typhoid Mary. She’s Hepatitis Bee.

  10. The “magic” reappearance of Jason at the end was the only thing that bothered me. It seemed a bit deus ex machina to me, but maybe a more charitable interpretation would be that more and better clues of his participation (when did Wolfie even arrive up? Like, right at the end?) were lost somewhere in the editing process. I thought the finale might have been more developed. All four ladies were vividly detailed. I’d read it again.

  11. I enjoyed the unexpected turns this narrative took. I read it cover to cover in one sitting because I couldn’t figure out who to trust and didn’t know if I should till the very end.

  12. The conclusion could have been better explored, in my opinion. All four of the women were richly described. I’d read it once more.

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