Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen

Let me start that saying that this is a book I never would’ve picked up had it not been for my friend Debi. And it will likely be my favorite book of the year. This is something that I’ve come to love so much about blogging. My reading habits have expanded so greatly and I’m a better reader and indeed, a better person because of that. I can find something in just about every section of the bookstore now that I’ll enjoy whereas I never would’ve been able to say that before.

I used to use the blanket statement “I’m not a fan of thrillers or crime fiction.” And that probably holds true for most novels written in the genre, but DAMN this book was amazing. Amazing in that makes you sob huge ugly disgusting noises while you’re reading it and then makes you laugh and then makes your heart just about beat out of your chest kind of way.

Shadow Man delves into everyone’s greatest fears. It pushes the boundaries further than any novel that I can think of that I’ve read, yet it’s also one of the most empathetic and character driven books I’ve read. Agent Smoky Barrett is trying to figure out whether or not she should go back into the FBI. She’s just recently had severe trauma inflicted upon her by a serial killer that she was hunting. She’s walked away with scars, both emotionally and physically. Her body is covered in scars that the killer inflicted upon her and her husband and daughter have both been killed by him. Everything she feared came true.

Until she’s contacted about a new case. Her high school friend has been killed. And not just killed, but raped, tortured, mutilated and tied to her still living daughter. I know you’re thinking “this book is not for me” right now…but read on. Me and Debi actually had this conversation. At this point, I think most of us would put this book aside. But what Debi pointed out to me which holds true for me is that this book is so touching and so amazing because he gives lives to the victims. It’s not just the FBI tracking a killer, but they’re also trying for justice for someone that we’ve come to care about.

But things really do get much worse before they get better. And as this is a thriller, I won’t tell you much more except for that the killer thinks he is a direct descendant of Jack the Ripper and kills in that fashion. Hunting “whores” and wanting to be hunted by the police. McFadyen’s characters are some of the best I’ve read. I felt such a strong connection to them. Especially Smoky, a truly AMAZING woman.

I remember writing a NaNoWriMo novel one year and writing Ana an email saying that I don’t think I could write a female character because I can’t put myself in their shoes. And then after talking with her some, realized that I was being a total ass. And I think this is a problem that a lot of writers fall into. They think “oh if I’m writing a woman character, I have to follow certain stereotypes” which is so stupid. Writing a female character is just writing another person. Same for a female writing a male character. And McFadyen gets this right. He’s written some of the most amazing female characters I’ve read. They’re strong people who all have their weaknesses and he makes them face those. And he had me sobbing as they did.

Did you read Ana’s sunday salon post? I think it’s one of THE most influential and inspiring posts I’ve read in a long time. I’m sitting here trying to think…what COULD I be critical about in this book…are there things that I feel ambivalent about here? And honestly, I can say “no.” This book was really just about perfect. Yes, it has some of the most disturbing scenes I’ve ever read in it, but they are there for a reason. It stresses the nature of certain people and gives us a peek into the minds of serial killers. And then it stresses the power of people and what the human brain can handle.

Anyway, can you tell I liked this book? Wow…I did!! Amazing. And there are three more out in this series!! So excited!!

Also, this wraps up my RIP reading for this year…here’s what I read…and yeah, my favorite was this book! Though all around I read some damn good books. The Night Circus and The Name of the Star are likely to be favorites this year as well.

1. A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
3. Spooky South by S.E. Schlosser
4. The Dreaming Volume 1 by Queenie Chan
5. Every You, Every Me by David Levithan
6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
7. Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist
8. Bad Blood by John Sandford
9. Halloween edited by Paula Guran
10. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
11. Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

I honestly did not expect to like this book as much as I did. I really don’t know why…I mean it’s Maureen Johnson…but for some reason, I thought it was just going to be so so…and it does start off a little slow, but STICK WITH IT!! This might be my new favorite series out there. And that’s saying a lot. My biggest disappointment in this book was the cliffhanger ending and my need for the second book right now!

Johnson’s heroine in this book is Aurora, a young girl from Louisiana. Yeah, liked that right off the bat. And Aurora is an AMAZING character. She’s moved to a boarding school in England when her parents decide to move there. Rory has never seen anything like it…it’s like something straight out of a Victorian novel. Her fears are quickly subdued when she meets her roommate, Jazza and they hit it off pretty much right away.

But all is not sunshine and roses. There’s a killer on the loose in the vicinity of her new school. A killer that is killing in the shadows of Jack the Ripper. There are strict rules put in place as to when they can leave the school and where they’re allowed to go. But it wouldn’t be a boarding school YA novel if those rules weren’t broken. On one of the nights that the new Ripper is supposed to attack, Rory and Jazza sneak out to the boys dorm roof to get a bird’s eye view of the town. When they sneak back, Rory is greeted by a man outside of their windows. A man that Jazza can’t see.

We quickly find out that Rory has an ability that no one else has. And she’s targeted by the paranormal police to aid in this investigation. And I really can’t say any more than that because this book is filled with twists and turns and surprises all along the way.

I will say that most of this book was pretty predictable. There weren’t any huge shockers to me until toward the end of the book when things just got crazy and I literally couldn’t put the book down. What I love about Maureen Johnson is that she can imbue humor into pretty much any situation. Hey guys..this murder book I just read…it’s HILARIOUS! For real. I read on twitter that this series will be at least three books long and I really just can’t wait for more more more!!!

50 Of My Favorite Books

So I made a list for Debi of 50 books that I want her to read before she dies and realized how much I absolutely ADORE this list!!! It is not all of my favorite books…it’s just 50 of my favorites that I know she hasn’t read yet. And I thought I’d share this list with you all. Any of these that are favorites of yours too? Any of these that you absolutely hated? Or any that you’re dying to read too? I think I just love lists and I love books and I love talking about books so making this list made me all kinds of happy :p

 

  1. Mirabilis by Susann Cokal
  2. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  3. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
  4. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
  5. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  6. Lisey’s Story by Stephen King
  7. Greenmantle by Charles DeLint
  8. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  9. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy (novella)
  10.  The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  11.  Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (Essays)
  12.  The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
  13.  Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell
  14.  Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  15.  The Book of Flying by Keith Miller
  16.  The Wood Wife by Terri Windling
  17.  The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Fleweling
  18.  When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (Essays)
  19.  Bonk by Mary Roach (non-fic/science)
  20.  Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
  21.  Dream Homes: From Cairo to Katrina, An Exile’s Journey by Joyce Zonana (autobiography/memoir)
  22.  A Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle
  23.  Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  24.  The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson (nonfic/memoir)
  25.  Wetlands by Charlotte Roche
  26.  Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  27.  The Screwed Up Life of Charlie the Second by Drew Ferguson
  28.  Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
  29.  Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters
  30.  The Wild Things by Dave Eggers
  31.  Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
  32.  A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
  33.  Luna by Julie Anne Peters
  34.  Looking For Bapu by Anjali Banarjee
  35.  Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis
  36.  Push by Sapphire
  37.  Transformations by Anne Sexton (Poetry)
  38.  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (memoir/environmental)
  39.  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  40.  The Bells by Richard Harvell
  41.  The Armless Maiden and Other Tales For Childhood Survivors Edited by Terri Windling
  42.  London Triptych by Jonathan Kemp
  43.  The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson
  44.  Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
  45.  Wicked by Gregory Maguire
  46.  Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
  47.  The Radiation Sonnets by Jane Yolen
  48.  Habibi by Craig Thompson
  49.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  50.  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

 

Bad Blood by John Sandford

So this past Saturday I was MISERABLE at work. I hate working weekends to begin with, but this weekend was made even worse by the fact that it was so dead at the hospital…I had nothing at all to do. So I told the receptionist to hold my phone calls that I was going to Walgreens to get a book. Now we all know how wonderful of a selection pharmacies have for books </sarcasm>. I searched through the ten books that they had to offer and decided this one would be the least disastrous. As it turns out, it was a truly thrilling and emotional read! I’ll be damned.

Frankly, I’ve never even heard of John Sandford, but apparently he’s kinda a big deal on the mystery/thriller/detective novel scene. I get that now. This is the fourth book in his Virgil Flowers series. Luckily, you don’t have to read these books in order. They have their own stories with just a central investigator named…you guessed it…Virgil Flowers. And he’s a pretty cool guy. I thought he was a total douche at first, but it turns out he does have a heart and he’s a pretty genuine guy.

Bad Blood holds a riveting story but one that’s not easy to read. The book starts out with a series of murders/suicides. We don’t know which they are at first, but the answer to that quickly becomes clear. The murders are centered around a local church called the World of Spirit. The church seems odd to some people, but until they dig into it, no one realizes just how fucked up things are. There’s some sick sexual shit going on here. Child abuse, spousal abuse, murder, rape, etc. These are your trigger warnings. If you can’t read about those things, you probably should not read this book.

It’s not gratuitous though. I’ve tried to pose the question to myself why do some books with rape really bother me (in that I think it shouldn’t be written about) and others don’t. And my answer is simple. When rape is glorified in a book or there is no retribution whatsoever because of it…it pisses me off. I’m thinking specifically of the Peter Straub story in the Stories anthology. I can never read anything by that man again because of his disgusting story. But when it’s shown as a part of what sadly goes on in this world and is shown as the disgusting, hurtful, did I mention disgusting act it is..I’m ok with it being in a story. In Bad Blood, it’s the latter.

Virgil Flowers is sent in to investigate and bring down this ring of crime in the small farming town and works with female officer, Lee Coakley on solving the case. Personally, I would LOVE to see a Lee Coakley series written because she was incredibly awesome!! Of course there’s some romance that spawns between the two, but I thought it was done very well. I enjoyed the love story as well.

So I went from skeptic to fan with this one book…I’ve now ordered the first three books in the Virgil Flowers series along with the first book in Sandford’s Prey series. Looks like I may have found a new favorite author to read when I’m looking for a good mystery/thriller.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

How do you review a book that you know is an instant favorite? How do you review a book that you can’t even fathom the writing process of? How do you do that and hope that it’ll live up to the experience of reading it. I don’t think you can do that successfully, honestly, but I’m going to try here.

Ana has been trying to get me to read Middlesex for years. Literally. I tried reading it three years ago and it was just the wrong time for me. I know it was ME and not the book because it’s now hard for me to put into words how much I loved this book.

The narrator of Middlesex is Cal, born Calliope. Yes, this is the journey of Cal transitioning to life as a male after being born with a genetic abnormality that caused him to be born intersex, but it’s much more than just Cal’s story. In fact, we don’t even meet Cal for the first time until halfway through the book. It’s the story of the Stephanides family.

Middlesex is the story of two greek immigrants, brother and sister, who become husband and wife. It’s the story of old traditions vs. new transitionings. It’s the story of immigration, of love, of self-discovery. It’s a history of Detroit in the 1920’s moving through the 1970’s. And yes, it’s a study in gender and how exactly our gender defines us. GENDER not SEX.

I couldn’t even fathom how Euginides wrote this book. It’s epic! All of the little details are there. The scope of the novel is huge. And yet the book remains so personal. I loved all of these characters so much. They won’t be leaving my mind any time soon. I fell in love with Cal from page one, but there are so many other amazing characters in this book.

Desdomona. Oh how I loved her so much. She’s the beginning of what will eventually cause the genetic deformity once she marries her brother. She’s an amazing woman! Holding so heartily to the traditions of her homeland as she travels to Detroit as a stranger. Always a strong woman who has her weak moments at times. But a true matriarch.

I was taken aback by my feelings towards the incestuous relationships in this novel. I found myself not being appalled by them in the least bit. Desdomona and Lefty loved each other. That was clear. They were not aware of the possibilities of genetic deformities being passed on. I still can’t really describe exactly why the relationship didn’t bother me. I think it’s Eugenides’ writing. Not that he made things appear to be one way in particular, but that he showed us the humanity and the love between these two. And showed me a family that I came to love so much.

I listened to this book on audiobook and I have to say that I think all other audiobooks are forever ruined for me. Kristoffer Tabori was the narrator and he is STUNNING!! He brought the characters to life so well. Like I was amazed by Eugenides, I was also amazed by Tabori’s reading and performance abilities.

Whichever way you choose to read this book, read it. I highly recommend the audio…it’s done wonderfully and is incredibly engaging…but of course for there to be great audio, there had to be a great book behind it. And this one indeed is.

Weekend Cooking – HAM!

Guys I made a freaking ham! All by myself! Well not entirely by myself…with the help of the Beekman Boys’ Heirloom cookbook which is absolutely amazing by the way and you should have it in your kitchen library. This thing tastes so freaking good!! The flavors are all definitely there and I kind of never want to stop eating this…but I have to because we plan on eating this on french rolls tomorrow during the Saints game. So here’s the recipe guys!! If you want more great recipes like this, visit Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking AND/OR go buy the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook.

Note: This recipe calls for no rosemary :p It’s just me trying to make the ham look pretty.

Currant Glazed Baked Ham:

Ingredients:

1 Fully cooked, bone in half ham (6 to 8 pounds), preferably from the butt end (Note: I actually got a boneless ham…used a Hormel Cure 87..half ham)
1 Cup Pineapple juice
1 Cinnamon stick, split
8 Whole Cloves
2 Bay leaves (used them from my own tree :))
1/2 Cup red currant jelly (I actually used black currant jelly for mine!)
2 Tablespoons Brown mustard
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the ham on a rack in a roasting pan with a lid. Using a sharp knife, score the fat on top of the ham in a diamond pattern. Pour the pineapple juice and 1/2 cup water into the bottom of the pan along with the cinnamon stick, cloves, and bay leaves. Cover the ham (if you don’t have a covered roasting pan, oil a large piece of foil and cover the pan, oiled side down); roast for 45 minutes.
In a small skillet, melt the jelly over low heat. Stir in the mustard, brown sugar, and ginger.

Uncover the ham and brush it with one-third of the jelly mixture. Bake for 10 minutes. Brush with half the remaining jelly mixture, baste with the pan juices, and bake for 10 minutes. Brush the ham with the remaining jelly mixture and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 140 degrees.

Let the ham rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

FREAKING ENJOY IT!

Sigh…Bad Bloggers

Seriously…I think it’s going to be time to purge my shelves again soon :/ I BUY TOO MANY BOOKS!!! But I’ll never stop, lol. I’ve tried putting restrictions on myself before and it just. doesn’t. work. I’m an addict and always will be, lol. I’ve accumulated so many books that I’m just going to list them here and dole out the blame…here’s what I’ve gotten:

1. Habibi by Craig Thompson (reviewed) (bought it!)

2. A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales edited by Brian M. Thomsen (Paperback Swap)

3. Halloween: short stories edited by Paula Guran (Bought it!)

4. Best of the Best From Lousiana Recipes Vol. 2 by Gwen McKee (Gift from Mom)

5. The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook by Brent Ridge and Joshua Kilmer-Purcell (Bought it…point to the Beekman Boys!)

6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Reviewed) (Bought it! Point to Andi!)

7. Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs (Paperback Swap)

8. Belly Up by Stewart Gibbs (Bought it)

9. The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block (Paperback Swap)

10. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells (Paperback swap…point to Heather at Age 30+!)

11. The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (Paperback Swap)

12. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (Bought it)

13. Wise Children by Angela Carter (Paperback Swap…point to Heather at Capricious Reader!)

14. The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctrow (Bought it)

15. Alligator Bayou by Donna Jo Napoli (Bought it)

16. 1491 by Charles C. Mann (Bought it)

17. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (Bought it)

18. The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (Bought it)

19. As Simple as Snow by Greg Galloway (Paperback Swap…Point to John Green!)

20. An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor (Paperback Swap..point to Nurse Katie at work!)

21. The Worst Noel: Hellish Holiday Tales edited by Symons Mitchell (Paperback Swap)

22. The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins and Dave McKean (Bought it…point to Ana!)