November is for reading

So last month my Fantastic Strangelings Book Club (CLICK HERE TO JOIN NOW) read Lute by Jennifer Thorne (or at least placed it on our TBR pile with very good intentions to treat ourselves to more reading time) and we talked murders during our online craft hour while I made nipple pasties for the cats.

Coming up next? This month’s book, which is getting rave reviews for very good reason:

Usually Dorothy Barker is in the picture but I couldn’t get a physical advance copy and had to read it on my phone and it would be weird to take a picture of Dottie next to my phone, especially since I use my phone to take pictures.

It’s White Horse, by Erika T. Wurth, a gritty, vibrant debut about an Indigenous woman who must face her past when she discovers a bracelet haunted by her mother’s spirit.  And it’s a perfect read for Native American Heritage month, which I didn’t even plan but yay for happy coincidences! (The author is of Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee descent and she is fantastic.)

Heavy metal, ripped jeans, Stephen King novels, and the occasional beer at the White Horse have defined urban Indian Kari James’s life so far. But when her cousin Debby finds an old family bracelet that once belonged to Kari’s mother, it inadvertently calls up both her mother’s ghost and a monstrous entity, and her willful ignorance about her past is no longer sustainable.

Haunted by visions of her mother and hunted by this mysterious creature, Kari must search for what happened to her mother all those years ago. Her father, permanently disabled from a car crash, can’t help her. Her Auntie Squeaker seems to know something but isn’t eager to give it all up at once. Debby’s anxious to help, but her controlling husband keeps getting in the way. Kari’s journey toward a truth long denied by both her family and law enforcement forces her to confront her dysfunctional relationships, thoughts about a friend she lost in childhood, and her desire for the one thing she’s always wanted but could never have.

Part murder mystery, part ghost story…a beautifully atmospheric story about grief, generational trauma, race, class, family and friendship.  It’s listed as horror, but to me it feels more thriller/mystery.  And it made me put down the book to google several times, which is always a wonderful sign that I’m reading something that is making my mind expand.  So good.

And if you, like me, need more than one book to get you through the month then you are in luck because November has some amazing new releases that you’re not going to want to miss. A few of my favorites are:

Small Game by Blair Braverman – A gripping debut novel about a survival reality show gone wrong that leaves a group of strangers stranded in the northern wilds.

Sign Here by Claudia Lux – A darkly comedy about a guy who works in Hell (literally) and is on the cusp of a big promotion if only he can get one more member of the wealthy Harrison family to sell their soul.  Like if The Good Place was a murder mystery.

The Boy and the Dog by Seishū Hase – One dog changes the life of everyone who takes him in on his journey to reunite with his first owner in this inspiring tribute to the bond between humans and dogs and the life-affirming power of connection. You will cry.

Gilded Mountain by Kate Manning – Set in early 1900s Colorado, the unforgettable tale of a young woman who bravely faces the consequences of speaking out against injustice.

A Coastline is an Immeasurable Thing by Mary-Alice Daniel – A poetic coming-of-age memoir that probes the legacies and myths of family, race, and religion that spans from Nigeria to England to America.

Con/Artist: The Life and Crimes of the World’s Greatest Art Forger by Tony Tetro and Giampiero Ambrosi – A memoir of a forger who reveals his secrets and exposes the art world as being much nastier than I could have imagined.

We Are the Light by Matthew Quick – A timely, heartbreaking and poignant novel about a town surviving after a mass shooting.  A terrible but hopeful look at the mind-altering destruction left behind after such a tragedy.

Quilt of Souls by Phyllis Biffle Elmore – a multigenerational memoir that paints the portraits of extraordinary Black women born before and after the civil war.

Toad by Katherine Dunn – This lady wrote Geek Love (one of my fave books of all time) so I was excited about this but I also understand why she didn’t publish it when she was alive. It’s a very depressing book about depression but her prose is so incredible.

I’m about to open up the discussion thread on our Fantastic Strangelings facebook page so we can talk about Lute, but if you don’t do facebook I’ll leave my thoughts in the comments below.

Also, a giant thank you to all my fantastic strangelings. Nowhere Bookshop would not stay afloat without you and you make such a difference to our authors as well.

Happy reading!

12 thoughts on “November is for reading

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Okay, here are my thoughts on Lute. WARNING. HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

    This book was such a dark delight that I felt a little guilty for enjoying it. SUCH A ROLLERCOASTER.

    I loved that I had a hard time figuring out what this book is really about. Is it about duty? Is it about obligation? Is it about faith and brainwashing? Fate or free-will? Is it pro war or anti war? And ultimately…is it a good deal…this idea that the islanders are blessed for 7 years at the expense of 7 lives?

    I loved the otherworldly Celtic idea of forgotten Gods and pagan tithing, and I could almost imagine the misty, strange world of Lute. I love the building sense of suspense that never fell entirely into doom or hysteria…it reminded me very much of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” sort of English mentality during the blitz. And the way that time seemed to slip back into the past in a dreamy but also frightening way.

    There was so much I was drawn to with this story, especially Nina coming into her own as a leader, a mother and hero (of sorts) while also really disliking her sometimes, which is a tricky thing to pull off for a writer.

    Some of my favorite questions the book brought up for me…the question of whether we have free will or if we are willed by fate or the gods? In the book, so often the characters were almost used as puppets by the island (the wind pushing her to Matty, Hugh being led to Nina, Charlie being told to hide at the tithing stone so they miss the boat) but I wonder if some of that was more the way we have a way to say that things happen because of fate because it’s harder to admit that we are responsible for our actions…good and bad.

    I hated seeing some of the characters go (especially Avery…that one killed me) but I did like that their death seemed like a beautiful obliteration…the idea of joy and release in death, especially a death of purpose. In a way it felt like the people on the island were soldiers and were willingly giving up their lives to protect others. But in the same way you have to thank the Island for its protection, wouldn’t you also have to blame the island for killing seven people? It’s such a moral ambiguity I’m not sure if I would say it’s worth the debt. (Although I guess in times of war or plague it might be?)

    I loved how the villagers all seemed to savor life and the food and the colors and each other…how being close to death can make the air crisper and the grass greener and remind you to enjoy life and not settle or take it for granted. Maybe that’s the real gift that makes it worth the deaths.

    My favorite part was the idea that we keep each other company in our grief and in our joy. We come together or split apart, and this choice makes our lives unique. And I loved when Nina left the door open for Gran’s ghost, just in case.

    I can’t decide if I hate Hugh or not. Was he responsible, or was he acting at the behest of Lute? If he was fighting against Lute by killing people, wasn’t he ultimately sacrificing for Lute? He became like a soldier who becomes a weapon of war because he wants peace, but at too high a cost. Like, what did he think would happen after he killed Nina? That they’d all still let him be Lord? Or was he just so traumatized and terrified that he wasn’t thinking? Or did Lute have him try to kill Nina so that she could kill him for good reason and be the ruler they really needed?

    I loved how in the end they were able to change the sacrifice to a system of assisted suicide for those at the end of life who wanted to leave with a sense of community. Death seems very lonely and there’s something lovely (but odd) about meeting it head-on with love and celebration when you reach the end of your journey.

    So many questions about this book…so haunting.

    What did you think? Would you live on Lute? Is it worth the price? I think…maybe yes for me.

  2. So, I had real trouble with Hugh. I wonder if his dad (the previous lord) died before or after he found Nina? I feel like Lute claimed his Dad because Hugh refused his duty, then lead him to Nina to replenish the line. Once Lute secured her and the kids, it was Hugh’s time to go. He had to pay his debt.

    I didn’t say before, but I loved this book. The sense of anxious suspense was just right and te writing was really gripping. I satiated up late, hours past my bedtime, because I had to get to the end. I NEVER do that with a real paper book. So. Good.

  3. It’s a yes for me, that it’s worth the price. Don’t know if it was strange that I didn’t love the ending. They’re given what I consider a beautiful gift/reward of their life on the island. Shuttling outsiders in felt wrong to me. Not in that they’re harming them, but in the sense that they’re no longer earning what the island offers them. I guess ungrateful would be the word I would use. It felt like a harmonious pact was made through the ages and they’re reneging on their end and belittling the spirit of the island. If I were the island, I would be pissed.

  4. Roller coaster is right! As I was reading the passage on the Day, when Nina follows the silly dog into the woods… my house was silent, everyone one else was afternoon-napping… and as soon as Nina knows something is wrong with the truck, as soon as we *know* the first accident has just happened, and she starts turning around to find —- and my work pager went off right next to me, shrieking and buzzing on the tabletop. I jumped so hard I nearly fell out of my chair – It was actually kind of a perfect October moment! Thank you for inviting us into these kinds of experiences! 😀

  5. Part of me wants more details on the nipple pasties for the cat. Part of me never wants to think about that phrase again.

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