Still Scared | What We’re Reading

LJ and School Library Journal staffers aren’t ready to give up the ghostly or ghastly books just yet—our post-Halloween reads are full of murder, mayhem, contagion, and most frightening of all, high-stakes, cutthroat businessmen. This week we have some guest WWR stars as well: debut author Graeme Cameron and some reviewers we met at his coming-out luncheon weigh in with their book recommendations below.

Sharp ObjectsMahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, SLJ
Halloween is behind us, but I’ve still got a case of the scaries. I’m reading Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects (Shaye Areheart: Crown) about a journalist who goes back to her hometown to cover the serial killings of young teenage girls. Though I found her aptly named Dark Places well written but too depressing, I’m really enjoying Sharp Objects.

Liz French, Senior Editor, Reviews, LJ
Like my colleague Mahnaz, I’m still scaredy-reading after Halloween. And also like MD, I’m reading about a serial killer. In my case, it’s a debut author’s darkly humorous title about a murderer in love: Normal by Graeme Cameron, which Harlequin imprint Mira plans to release in April 2015. It’s a twisted little tale, definitely reminiscent of Dexter (except this guy doesn’t just kill bad people; he just kills people). Things are going pretty swimmingly for our antihero, until he meets a vivacious 24–hour store checkout girl named Rachel—or is that Caroline?—and starts to feel well, almost normal.
Cameron really sets the scene, making it easy to picture the banal British suburban landscape with serial killer behind the next hedgerow. I’ve only just begun the book, but I’m enjoying the surprises and shocks and (so far at least) the offscreeniness of the violence.*

The Girl on the TrainAmanda Mastrull, Assistant Editor, Reviews, LJ
This week I’m reading Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train (Riverhead; Jan. 2015), which I first heard about at LJ’s Day of Dialog last May. It’s about a woman Rachel, who rides the train every day to London and at a particular stop signal looks into the backyard and terrace of a house adjacent to the tracks. A couple lives there, and Rachel makes up names for them (Jess and Jason) and imagines how lovely their life is together, when her own is in disarray. Then, one day she finds out that Jess is in fact Megan, and missing. Convinced she’s got information that could help (and that Jason, really Scott, is not a killer), Rachel becomes part of the investigation. The book is told in alternating perspectives by a few characters, and I really like it so far.

On ImmunityLisa Peet, Associate Editor, News & Features, LJ
I spent last week reading Eula Biss’s extended essay On Immunity: An Inoculation (Graywolf) on the subway, which I thought would be a scarier proposition than it was, given the whole Ebola thing…I saw people wearing breather masks for their commute, for goodness sake. But the book turned out to be a very smart and measured contemplation of the ways in which we view our bodies, health and illness, our immune systems—the term is recent, a 1970s construct—and particularly the subject of vaccinations. Within that context, Biss brings in a lot of interesting cultural touchpoints: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the history of inoculation, and the etymology of the metaphors we use for disease and the body—it’s a little surprising to note how many of the terms come from warfare. Or maybe it’s not. As someone who has a very uneasy relationship to doctors and medicine and illness, I found the book surprisingly reassuring. Good stuff, recommended.

Console WarsStephanie Sendaula, Associate Editor, Reviews, LJ
In LJ’s June 15 review of Blake J. Harris’s Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation (It: HarperCollins), reviewer M. Brandon Robbins states, “This book will either ruin memories or shed new light on them.” In my case, reading this business thriller has done a little bit of both. Harris explores how Nintendo, after years as a successful playing-card company, expanded into video game sales to make a little extra money. Spoiler: It worked. From there, the story becomes a revolving door of company jealousy. Mattel wanted to become Atari. SEGA wanted to become Nintendo. And, Nintendo, with Donkey Kong and Mario Bros., was content to hold the throne. Meanwhile, Sony decided it wanted to participate in the war of the consoles.
The highlights are the characters involved. Nintendo’s team included calculating naval officer–turned–lawyer Howard Lincoln, who successfully defended the company from numerous lawsuits; and marketing maestro Peter Main, whose business savvy helped make the brand a household name. SEGA’s story is told mostly through the viewpoint of Tom Kalinske, a former Mattel executive who revitalized Barbie’s image and was tasked with making SEGA the next Nintendo. Spoiler: It didn’t work.
I haven’t finished the book yet, but it’s fascinating to read about Sega’s attempt to dethrone Nintendo by creating Sonic the Hedgehog. I don’t think readers need an extensive knowledge of video games to appreciate this story, just an interest in boardroom drama and corporate infighting. Harris’s novellike writing makes this hefty book a fast-paced read.

Some Assembly Required*At a luncheon last week to introduce Graeme Cameron to journalists and book review types, I asked attendees what they’re reading:

Graeme Cameron, debut author, read fellow Brit Lee Child’s 19th Jack Reacher novel, Personal (Delacorte), on the flight over from England. He found the book easy reading yet page-turning at the same time.

Emer Flounders, Publicity Manager at Harlequin, reread Normal just to be on his toes for the introductory luncheon. He was also excited about Kristan Higgins’s forthcoming book for HQN, If You Only Knew, which will release next summer. At the insistence of his girlfriend, who also works in publishing (at Penguin/Random House), he read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (Crown) so they could go see the movie together.

As Director of Talent & Industry Relations at Sirius/XM, Laura Heywood reads a lot of books in preparation for author interviews at the satellite radio station. She was moved and inspired by two memoirs by transgendered youth: Katie Rain Hill’s Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition and Arin Andrews’s Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen. Both books were released in September by Simon & Schuster, and the memoirists were briefly a trans couple.
“There is some overlap” Heywood said, and added that “anybody who’s ever felt like an outsider, especially teens,” will be able to relate to both stories.

Rethinking NormalHarlequin Executive Editor Erika Imranyi laughed when she was asked what she’s reading. “I have a one-year-old, so I’ll probably be reading the same thing next year,” she said about John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton) and Jojo Moyes’s One Plus One (Pamela Dorman: Viking).

Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today Books Editor, is in love with all things Bloomsbury. She just got back from a trip to London to see a Virginia Woolf exhibition and to keep in that mind-set, she recently completed Jean Moorcroft Wilson’s Virginia Woolf’s London: A Guide to Bloomsbury and Beyond (Tauris Parke), and the last Woolf novel to be published when the author was still alive, 1937’s The Years (Hogarth Pr.). For work, McClurg was preparing to read Martin Short’s memoir, I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, out this month from Harper.

Amy Moore-Benson, head of AMB Literary Management and Cameron’s literary agent, recently came out of a “reading funk” with the help of Tana French’s fifth “Dublin Murder Squad” title, The Secret Place (Viking), which she loved. She was also pleasantly surprised that she liked Lena Dunham’s collection of essays, Not That Kind of Girl (Random). And for the transition time between “reading funk” and full-speed ahead, she liked “picking up and putting down” Women in Clothes (Blue Rider: Penguin), a collection of essays by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, & 639 Others (including Dunham). “It’s a beautiful book,” she added.

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Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email: efrench@mediasourceinc.com, Twitter: @lizefrench