Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review: Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand. 
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected. 
But some can never stop searching for answers. 
Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. Along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Review: Sleeping Giants was one of my most-anticipated book releases of 2016. It checks a lot of bookish boxes for me. It has a nontraditional format, a bizarre synopsis, and a twisty plot. I was pretty sure I’d love it. I bought it right after it came out. Then it sat unread on my shelf. For nearly a year. Yeah. I’m totally on top of my life and do everything in a timely manner.

I finally got around to reading it, and it lived up to my expectations.

The story is told through conversations between a team of scientists and a mysterious interviewer. The scientists have discovered giant robot-like body parts buried all over the globe. At first, they don’t know what the parts are made of, why they exist, or who made them. As the scientists start assembling body parts, they learn that the robot may be alien technology. The robot may also be the deadliest weapon Earth has ever seen. The way we think about ourselves and the universe will never be the same.

“What I am is very much a function of what I am not. If the "other" is the Muslim world, then I am the Judeo-Christian world. If the other is from thousands of light-years away, I am simply human. Redefine alterity and you can erase boundaries.” – Sleeping Giants

Even though this book is recommended for fans of science fiction and comic books, you don’t have to like either to appreciate this story. Sleeping Giants explores some of the ethical concerns that scientists face. If the robot has the power to destroy the planet, should they really keep working on it? How will this discovery change politics and the balance of power in the world? The characters all have an inner struggle between their personal desire to uncover the robot’s secrets and the knowledge that building a superweapon isn’t a good idea.

“I was smart enough to know it was wrong, but not brave enough to stop them.” – Sleeping Giants

The plot is full of twists and conspiracy theories. There were a few places where I stopped reading and went, Wait, did that really just happen? This is the type of novel that keeps you flipping pages to find out what crazy thing happens next. If you like plot-driven stories, then this is the book for you. The plot sucks you in and lets you escape from the real world for a few hours.

My only big issue with the book is the interview format. Sometimes it works really well, and sometimes it doesn’t. It works well for developing themes because the characters have time to reflect on their experiences and draw conclusions. However, I never felt truly invested in the characters because I only got to know them through dialogue. I never got to see them interact with each other in real time. The characters feel shallow. Most of them are stereotypical badass comic-book-style people. (Tough girl with a troubled past who is so badass that she can singlehandedly take on a whole submarine full of trained military people? Yeah, I’ve seen this character before. In every thriller novel ever.)

There are also a few parts of the story that I think would have been better if they’d been written in scene instead of dialogue. The book has action, but it’s not really “action” because it’s just a character describing an incident after it happens. The reader never feels like he/she is in the middle of an event. Having something described to you isn’t the same as seeing it. The format causes the plot to lose tension at some points.

Finally—this is just personal preference—but I like the beginning of the story more than the end. The end of the book becomes very focused on politics. I read the news every night. I’ve written more than enough strongly worded emails to my government representatives. I get a lot of real-life politics in my life. This book reminded me why I avoid political thrillers. Just . . . no more politics, please.

So, will I read the next book in the series? Definitely. It may take me years to get to it, but I will read it. Sleeping Giants is weird, thematically complex, and a lot of fun.

“Generally speaking, people tend not to question what they’ve been told was true. Scientists are no different; they’ve just been told a lot more things.” – Sleeping Giants

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood And Scientology – Leah Remini

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood And Scientology – Leah Remini

Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost. 
That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices. 
Indoctrinated into the church as a child while living with her mother and sister in New York, Remini eventually moved to Los Angeles, where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology's causes grew increasingly intertwined. As an adult, she found the success she'd worked so hard for, and with it a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists alongside people such as Tom Cruise, Scientology's most high-profile adherent. Remini spent time directly with Cruise and was included among the guests at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes. 
But when she began to raise questions about some of the church's actions, she found herself a target. In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a Suppressive Person, and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners, including members of her own family, were told to disconnect from her. Forever.

Review: Celebrity memoirs aren’t really my thing. The ones I’ve encountered have all been poorly written. I’ve also never been the type of person who paid much attention to celebrities. (Other than laughing at tabloids in the grocery store checkout.)

However, when I found out that Leah Remini had written a memoir about Scientology, I knew that I needed it in my life. I grew up watching King of Queens, and I’ve had a strange fascination with Scientology that goes back longer than I can remember. Me and this book were made for each other.

In Troublemaker, Leah Remini writes about growing up in poverty in New York. Her parents got involved in Scientology when she was young, so Leah and her siblings grew up in the church. (Literally grew up in the church. Their family lived in buildings owned by the Church of Scientology.) Scientology consumed Leah’s life. She dropped out of school in 8th grade because her religious education was more important. Her family had always struggled financially, but they had to live in some really nasty places because Scientology classes were so expensive. One of the reasons that Leah got into acting was to help her family. This memoir provides an honest look at Hollywood and at Leah’s life. Her acting career and her relationships weren’t always easy.

“Angelo and I had the nastiest “deaf fights” where instead of speaking, we mouthed the words—“Fuck you” or “I want a divorce”—because we didn’t want the baby to be any more upset than she already was.” – Troublemaker

For me, the most interesting part of the book is Tom Cruise’s wedding. Other than his involvement in Scientology, I didn’t know much about Tom Cruise. From Leah’s descriptions of him, he doesn’t sound like someone I’d ever want to meet. He seems very intense and very spoiled. He’s the most well-known ambassador for Scientology, and the high-ranking members of the church will do whatever it takes to keep him happy. They’ll even go against Scientology’s beliefs and rules. The hypocrisy of the religious leaders helped Leah see that Scientology isn’t as great as she once thought.

“I was once a big fan of Tom’s—before I got to know him. I’m sure many people could say the same thing about me or any other celebrity. But this is different; most actors are not in charge of your faith. I don’t doubt that Tom is in Scientology because he believes in it, but to me he has simply been given too much power by his church.” - Troublemaker 
“That sums up my problem with Scientology—despite its claims to the contrary, the practice doesn’t help you better the world or even yourself; it only helps you be a better Scientologist.” - Troublemaker 

“You were either all in or all out. It is an extremist religion. There is no middle ground. And there within its structure lies the danger.” - Troublemaker

I remember hearing the news that Leah Remini had left Scientology. I was happy for her because the religion is a scam, but I didn’t realize how difficult it was for her to leave. She’d dedicated 30+ years of her life to Scientology. When she left, she had to rethink everything she’d been taught to believe. Some of her family members abandoned her when she criticized the church. Leah is a brave woman. By the end of the book, I was cheering for her.

Like other celebrity memoirs, the writing in this one isn’t great. I didn’t really care, though. Leah is honest and funny. The book is a quick read. I finished most of it in one night.

If you’re interested in Hollywood or Scientology, then this book is worth reading. You get to learn all sorts of fascinating behind-the-scenes stuff about both of them.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Sunday Post #98

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini.
  • On Wednesday I review Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel.
  • On Thursday I wrap up May.

In My Reading Life

My suspicions that May will be a less-than-stellar reading month are correct. I didn’t read much last week. I finished The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick and started Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week (in photo form):

Birds in trees

Sunbathing squirrels

Melting snow

Flowers in the kitchen

Sleepy Cheyenne

Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other! See you around the blogosphere!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Massive Spring Book Haul (Part 4)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. I get to show off all the books I’ve gotten recently. I’ve acquired an insane number of books in the past few months. I’m going to show them to you in batches so that neither of us gets overwhelmed.

The One Hundred Nights Of Hero – Isabel Greenberg

In the Empire of Migdal Bavel, Cherry is married to Jerome, a wicked man who makes a diabolical wager with his friend Manfred: if Manfred can seduce Cherry in one hundred nights, he can have his castle—and Cherry. 
But what Jerome doesn't know is that Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women hatch a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred by regaling him with a mesmerizing tale each night for 100 nights, keeping him at bay. Those tales are beautifully depicted here, touching on themes of love and betrayal and loyalty and madness.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

For the past three years, Jon Ronson has traveled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us, people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly or made a mistake at work. Once the transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know, they're being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job. 
A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice, but what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people's faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.

The Stranger In The Woods: The Extraordinary Story Of The Last True Hermit – Michael Finkel

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? What did he learn?—as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.

State Of Wonder – Ann Patchett

As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness.

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives—presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: Sex With The Queen: 900 Years Of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, And Passionate Politics – Eleanor Herman

Sex With The Queen: 900 Years Of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, And Passionate Politics – Eleanor Herman

In royal courts bristling with testosterone—swashbuckling generals, polished courtiers, and virile cardinals—how did repressed regal ladies find happiness? 
Anne Boleyn flirted with courtiers; Catherine Howard slept with one. Henry VIII had both of them beheaded. Catherine the Great had her idiot husband murdered and ruled the Russian empire with a long list of sexy young favorites. Marie Antoinette fell in love with the handsome Swedish count Axel Fersen, who tried valiantly to rescue her from the guillotine. Princess Diana gave up her palace bodyguard to enjoy countless love affairs, which tragically led to her early death.

Review: This book does exactly what it says on the cover. The author chronicles 900 years of queenly affairs and marriages gone horribly wrong. The book mostly focuses on European royalty. It may also make you rethink your childhood desire to become a princess . . .

“When Marguerite caught malaria, she claimed the royal family of Tuscany was trying to murder her, but that she would, in fact, rather die than return to her husband. Louis XIV asked the pope to threaten excommunication if Marguerite persisted, and the pontiff sent her a harsh letter. She didn't fear hell, she replied. She was already living in it.” – Sex with the Queen    

Earlier this year, I read Sex with Kings, which is the companion to this book. As soon as I finished Sex with Kings, I knew I needed to get my hands on this one. Eleanor Herman has an engaging writing style that puts a trashy tabloid spin on history. Sex with the Queen is not a dry textbook. It’s funny, scandalous, and very readable.

Sex with the Queen doesn’t have the same flaws as Sex with Kings. I was happy for that because I often got confused by the structure of Sex with Kings. In the queen book, each queen gets her own section, so the stories are linear and easy to follow. I wasn’t constantly flipping back through the pages to remind myself who was who like I did in Sex with Kings.

I don’t know much about history, so I can’t tell you how accurate the information in this book is. I can tell you that it’s probably not a useful book for academic research. Eleanor Herman is not impartial. She villainizes some historical figures and makes jokes about others. This book is fun, but I get the feeling that accuracy is sometimes sacrificed to entertainment.

“Yet she (Princess Diana) suffered one ancient lament of many princess brides—her husband didn't love her, hadn't wanted to marry her, rarely slept with her, and far preferred his mistress.” – Sex with the Queen

Still, I’ll probably read whatever nonfiction history book Eleanor Herman writes next.

Fun Facts About Sex With Queens

1. Kings could have as many affairs as they wanted, but queens were expected to be monogamous. This was because the king was basically marrying a uterus, not a person. The queen’s job was to have the king’s children. Since monarchies are usually based on heredity, everyone had to be sure that the king’s kids really belonged to the king.

2. Queens were rarely left alone. A group of servants followed the queen wherever she went. Part of the servants’ job was to make sure the queen didn’t have affairs. Despite being followed everywhere by the sex police, many queens still managed to have affairs.

3. Getting the queen pregnant wasn’t always as straightforward as it seems. Some kings were secretly (or not-so-secretly) gay. Some royal couples hated each other so much that they refused to have sex. Other kings and queens were infertile, deformed, or sickly from generations of royal inbreeding. Getting pregnant and staying pregnant wasn’t always possible.

4. Kings who couldn’t get their wives pregnant had to be creative to produce an heir. Some kings encouraged their wives to have secret affairs. One king tried to impregnate his wife by using a golden turkey baster. It didn’t work.

5. Marriages between future kings and queens were arranged by their parents. Some young royals were too immature to understand the whole sex thing. One young couple spent their wedding night sitting in bed together, playing with toy soldiers.

6. Affairs are still common with modern royalty. Some royal families fiercely protect their DNA. They don’t want anyone taking it, analyzing it, and discovering that some members of the royal family aren’t “royal” at all.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: What’s In My Un-Beach Bag?

So, I’m totally not a beach person. Beaches in summer are usually hot and crowded. I am more of a mountain forest girl. Also, the term “Beach read” makes me cringe. It brings to mind fluffy, pointless books that I forget immediately after finishing. But, I do plan on reading this summer, so here are 10 books I’ll have in my un-beach bag.

*This post contains affiliate links. I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: IT – Stephen King

IT – Stephen King

The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by an eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. "It" primarily appears in the form of a clown in order to attract its preferred prey of young children.

Review: Now I know why my old dog had a strange habit of staring down storm drains. He wasn’t drawn to the drains by the putrid stench of drowned squirrels; he was checking for evil clowns. This makes so much sense! He was trying to protect me from cannibalistic sewer clowns. I knew he was the best dog ever. This just proves it.

Kota, the creepy clown killer. 2003-2015.

Anyway, I think most people know the basic story of IT, even if they haven’t read this massive doorstop of a book (1093 pages of itty-bitty font). The main plotline happens in 1958 and follows seven misfit 11-year-olds who call themselves the “Losers Club.” Something strange is stalking the small town of Derry, Maine. The police think it’s a serial killer who preys on children, but the Losers know the truth. The thing that’s snatching their classmates isn’t human. It’s IT: a shapeshifting demon that lives under the town.

The story takes place on two timelines. In the 1950s timeline, the Losers Club is trying to solve the mysteries of IT without being taken by the monster themselves. The 1980s timeline follows the Losers as adults. They learn that IT is once again stalking the children of Derry. This time, they won’t let IT escape.

It’s hard to know where to start with this review. IT is one of the longest books I’ve ever read, and there’s a lot going on in my brain right now. Prepare for a ramble.

The story is about friendship and how adversity brings people together. The Losers become friends because they’re all targets of the same bullies. The school bullies drive them together, and then they team up to defeat the biggest bully of all: IT.

Each of the kids in the Club has his/her own realistic struggles. Bill, the Club’s leader, has a bad stutter and is struggling to cope with the death of his brother. Eddie is an anxious hypochondriac whose mother tries to keep him sick. Ben is a chubby bookworm. Richie is an unintentional racist with impulse-control problems. Beverly lives in the poor part of town with her controlling father. Stan is a depressed Jewish kid. The seventh member, Mike, is one of the few black kids in town and has to deal with racist threats from people who don’t want his family living there. My favorite is Ben. He’s sweet, intelligent, and mature for his age. Stephen King tends to kill off the majority of the characters in his novels, so I was rooting for Ben to survive.

I like that King shows the Losers Club members together and separately. When they’re together, they battle a supernatural creature, but when they’re apart, they battle the real-life horrors in their daily lives. Some of the real-life problems are scarier than the shapeshifting clown. I think that’s the mark of a good horror story: There’s reality behind the monster.

“Maybe there aren't any such things as good friends or bad friends—maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you're hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they're always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that's what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.” – IT

IT is about memory and how friendships change over the years. The Losers are inseparable, but then they grow up and part ways. Eventually, they realize that it’s been years since they thought about each other. They forget the small things that were important to them as kids. When they meet up again as adults, they’re practically strangers. The reader knows that after they defeat IT, they’ll go back to their different lives and become strangers once again. It’s sad, but it’s real.

“Come on back and we’ll see if you remember the simplest thing of all – how it is to be children, secure in belief and thus afraid of the dark.” - IT

Like in all of King’s books, the setting in this one is fantastic. Derry is creepy because it’s relatable. It could be any small American town. “The Barrens” where the Losers play reminds me of the gulch where I played when I was a kid. The sewers under Derry are disgusting and the perfect place to battle an evil shapeshifter. Everything that happens in the story was easy for me to picture.

IT isn’t the first Stephen King book I’ve read. I think I would have been more impressed with IT if it was my first. Since it wasn’t, I had high expectations. In many ways, IT didn’t live up to them.

First, the book is way too long. The plot sometimes stops moving. There’s one part where the characters sit in a Chinese restaurant and reminisce about their childhoods for what feels like hundreds of pages. After the restaurant, they go to the library and reminisce some more. I have a deep love for Chinese food and libraries, but I was bored out of my freakin’ mind. There’s an evil clown-monster terrorizing children! The clown killers do not need to have a leisurely lunch!

Speaking of the clown, the clown killing takes up a surprisingly small part of the novel. Since the book is so huge, I expected the villain to be hard to beat. It isn’t. There’s a ton of buildup to a short battle. It made me wonder why we needed all that buildup.

A lot of the buildup is unnecessary backstory. We get the whole history of the town and the life story of every minor character, even the ones who will be dead in a few pages. I like that King writes about unwholesome small towns, but there’s too much history in this book. I wanted to get to the clown battle.

IT isn’t my favorite Stephen King novel (The Green Mile gets that honor), but I liked it for the most part. I loved the setting and was rooting for the characters to succeed. I just wanted the end to come earlier. I’m not patient enough for 1000-page novels.

“Eddie discovered one of his childhood's great truths. Grownups are the real monsters, he thought.” - IT   

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Sunday Post #97

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review IT by Stephen King.
  • On Tuesday I show you what’s in my un-beach bag.
  • On Wednesday I review Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics by Eleanor Herman.
  • On Saturday I have part 4 of my Massive Spring Book Haul.

In My Reading Life

It snowed again last week, so I actually got some reading done. I finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. Then I read There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In: Three Novellas About Family by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. Right now, I’m reading The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. The dogs got groomed. Now they’re fluffy, and they don’t smell like ass.
  2. I cleaned so much. I hated every second of the cleaning, but I’m glad my rooms are clean.
  3. I wrote some blog posts. You’re probably like “duh,” but it’s actually been about 2 weeks since I did any serious blogging. I’ve mostly been relying on scheduled posts.
  4. I accidentally acquired more books. Oops.
  5. Taking pictures of squirrels. Now I have a million squirrel photos to edit.

Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other! See you around the blogosphere! 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Massive Spring Book Haul (Part 3)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. I get to show off all the books I’ve gotten recently. I’ve acquired an insane number of books in the past few months. I’m going to show them to you in batches so that neither of us gets overwhelmed.

Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home. 
When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways.

The Lottery and Other Stories – Shirley Jackson

The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. "Powerful and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical reader responses. This collection, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson's lifetime, unites "The Lottery" with twenty-four equally unusual stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson's remarkable range—from the hilarious to the truly horrible—and power as a storyteller.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From The Crematory – Caitlin Doughty

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.

Company Of Liars: A Novel Of The Plague – Karen Maitland

The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them. 
Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group's leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all—propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.

The Stranger Beside Me – Ann Rule

Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that Ted Bundy, her close friend, was the savage slayer she was hunting.

Wow, I got some morbid books. Have you read any of these? What did you think?