A Is for Appalachia

People who have never been to northern Virginia don’t appreciate that it’s a whole different world from the rest of the state. My day consists of going into million dollar houses* to walk the dogs of well-to-do yuppies, hitting up a few Little Free Libraries, playing with my chihuahua, watching booktube on the flatscreen, and maybe a visit to the organic market. (* – To be fair, a million dollar house in my area is just a house in most of the country. The big McMansions go for 1.2 – 2 million dollars here.)

Bearskin takes place in part of that other world deep in the Appalachian mountains. This is the land of forest, working class or working poor, trucks, hunting, and hillbillies. (Hillbillies are rednecks at elevation.) Rice Moore flees the desert he’s always known and the Mexican drug cartels to the sanctuary of a Virginia mountain preserve. All is mostly well until he finds bears turning up skinned and missing parts on sanctuary property.

This story is as much about Rice and his past as it is about the land he takes care of. We hear Rice’s story in bits and pieces as the present story of the nature preserve unfolds. Despite being a beer-drinking country fella, Rice is also a scientist. He is a complicated and flawed character I enjoyed getting to know. He’ll risk his life to care for the preserve but he has also taken the lives of others.

It was described as a thriller but it had other elements that makes this label feel misplaced. It was literary and smart while still being simple and compelling storytelling. There were even a few words I had to look up but it never felt pretentious. This is an impressive feat given it paired big words with rural Appalachia. There were elements of magical realism provided with the forest taking on its own role as a character. The thriller element still exists with outlaw biker gangs, local criminals, and Mexican sinaloas.

I made a playlist to have in the background. I’m not exactly sure why but I loved losing myself in this story and this world and the music helped. Maybe because it was so close and yet so far from my own. It was similar to The Trees by Ali Shaw but much rougher and grittier, more grounded in reality while still being mystical. 4.5 stars. Definitely recommend.

Book Hauls

You may have noticed I stopped doing book hauls a while ago. 2018 is the year I realized my favorite local indie gives away ARCs every month. They also give away (lightly) damaged copies of books they don’t want to sell.

I’m not big on keeping ARCs and would rather pay it forward once I’ve read it. I’ve also gotten some finished copies of books I want to read but not necessarily keep once I’m done. I immediately put myself on the library waitlist for Born Trump before lucking into a copy. I’m around halfway done and will either sell it or give it away once I’m done.

The trouble comes in with me having a lot of ARCs and other books that need reading. I’m not sure if I ultimately want to count some of them toward books I own. This is something for me to ponder but it means hauls are less straightforward than they’ve been. My goal of only bringing in 50 books is obliterated and the number of books I own is well above 500.

I’m hoping to incorporate some of this into next year’s challenge. We’ll see what happens in the coming months. In the meantime, here’s some books that recently made their way on to my shelves via giveaways, Little Free Libraries, store credit, and Kickstarter fulfillment.

K Is for Killer

Another score from August’s first Friday at One More Page Books. Every month they do a wine tasting and giveaway ARCs or damaged copies of books they can’t sell. Since August was Hubs and my trip to the mountains, it seemed a perfect time to read Campfire by Shawn Sarles.

It’s a debut YA horror story about a camping trip gone very wrong. I’m not sure what James Patterson presents means but it sort of fit into that general genre. Very easy to read, fast moving, high action toward the end.

I’d put the quality of writing as middling. There were moments when it came very close to cheesy and hackneyed. The ending was a surprise but fit well with the comparison to Scream. The sort of deus ex machina you expect in Fear Street type books.

However, the character development and motivations seemed a bit convenient at times. Their moves served the story rather than the characters themselves. To stand out, Sarles could have gone a little deeper into the adults motivations and flaws.

The book did its job of being entertaining and creepy but it was ultimately a bit forgettable. 3/5

Trump Presidential Library

Inspired by this tweet by Stephen Colbert, I present you with a list of books appropriate for the Trump Presidential Library.

Memoirs and tell-all’s from former staffers.

All of the books the mango Mussolini pretends to have written and book-like works from his spawn.

Nonfiction books about the 2016 election.

Nonfiction books by noteworthy journalists about the Cheeto in Chief and his spawn.

All of the parodies inspired by this insanity.

All books by HRC and Obama because Captain Combover will not shut up about them.

Various nonfiction books about Putin and access to his very catchy propaganda songs.

Books about fascism and the demise of democracy.

Prepping and survivalist books.

No copies of the constitution or bill of rights. Nobody with anything to do with this madness has anything to do with those documents.

Trump Presidential Library

Inspired by this tweet by Stephen Colbert, I present you with a list of books appropriate for the Trump Presidential Library.

Memoirs and tell-all’s from former staffers.

All of the books the mango Mussolini pretends to have written and book-like works from his spawn.

Nonfiction books about the 2016 election.

Nonfiction books by noteworthy journalists about the Cheeto in Chief and his spawn.

All of the parodies inspired by this insanity.

All books by HRC and Obama because Captain Combover will not shut up about them.

Various nonfiction books about Putin and access to his very catchy propaganda songs.

Books about fascism and the demise of democracy.

Prepping and survivalist books.

No copies of the constitution or bill of rights. Nobody with anything to do with this madness has anything to do with those documents.

Great Opening Line

I looked at books with high priority on my TBR before quickly realizing Rising Out of Hatred had a fantastic opening line

The Klansmen and neo-Nazis arrived for their meeting in the fall of 2008 dressed in suits with aliases written on their name tags and began sneaking into the hotel just after dawn.

I lucked into an ARC of Eli Saslow’s phenomenal book at a Little Free library near me. It tells the story of Derek Black, the would-be heir to American white nationalism, who walked away from his legacy.

The country has been gradually moving to the (alt) right ever since Obama was elected. A competent black man in power made a lot of quietly racist people uncomfortable. The fact that Obama was scandal free and did a damn good job with the tough hand he was dealt made the same people even more uncomfortable. Their lives were hard, things were unfair and they wanted someone to blame. White nationalism/supremacy fit well with working class strife and prejudice.

With the country casually embracing the same ideals as David Duke, we need to hear the story of how to change those minds. Black was literally described as ‘the great white hope’ for the movement. His pedigree and education within the community was impeccable. He was also a kind, thoughtful, and charming young man. What caused one of the most indoctrinated and dedicated members of this group to change so fundamentally?

Saslow creates a compelling and fact filled narrative that is deeply personal to Black but also addresses some of the wider context. This book was moving, very readable, and deeply relevant in 45’s America. Black’s transformation is so nuanced and gradual that you need to read his story to fully understand. Highly recommend with the highest of 5 stars.

Casual Reading Challenge Update

It’s been a minute since I’ve done one of these. Life has been busy but things have somewhat stabilized.

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

  • Western – Unbury Carol
  • Published Posthumously – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
  • Independent comic – Manfried the Man
  • First in a new-to-you YA series – A Date with Darcy
  • Comic written and illustrated by the same person – Big Happy Mushy Lump

Unbury was sold as a ‘buried alive horror’ which was very misleading. It was a western with horror elements. Had I been prepared going in, I might have liked it better but as it was, I was solidly meh. (3/5) IBGITD was a fascinating true crime story that was published after McNamara’s tragic accidental overdose. It was very good and would have been excellent had McNamara been able to finish it. Either way, she helped finally bring the killer to justice. (4/5)

Manfried is about a cat who owns a pet man. It’s a fun twist on a coming-into-adulthood story. (4/5)  BMHL is another delightful collection of comics by Sarah Andersen. It’s about being female, bookish, geeky, and figuring out what being an adult means. (5/5)

PopSugar Reading Challenge

  • True Crime – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
  • Feminism – This Will Be My Undoing
  • Author is a different ethnicity – Ayiti
  • Alliterative title – A Date with Darcy
  • Local author – The Hunger
  • Tied to your ancestry – Be Prepared
  • LGBT+ protagonist – World of Wakanda
  • Favorite prompt from past PSRC – The Curious Case of the Werewolf that Wasn’t

Undoing is a series of essays about being black, female, and feminist in modern America. I highly recommend it. (5/5) Ayiti is Roxane Gay’s first book and it’s a series of short works about being Haitian. Poignant, painful, and beautiful, it’s another one I highly recommend. (5/5)

Prepared is a mostly true graphic memoir about growing up Russian in America and attending Russian summer camp. One of my great-grandmother’s was a Russian immigrant. This isn’t a big part of my identity but I’m more concerned with where the world is going than where I’ve been. (5/5) I picked up WoW when I learned Roxane Gay helped create it. It’s the comic universe, not film, but it’s still very easy to follow along and enjoy the stories. The main story involves two members of the dora milaje (royal guard) who fall in love with each other. Highly recommend. (4/5)

There were several past challenges I liked the sound of but steampunk fit a short from Gail Carriger that I read this summer. It is a short foray into the the past of Alexia Tarabotti’s father. The Parasol Protectorate is one of my favorite series so it was fun to revisit that world. (4/5)

GoodReads 52 Books

  • Own voices – Ayiti
  • Inspired by true events – This Is Where It Ends
  • Plot centered around a secret – Unbury Carol
  • Set in Africa or South America – World of Wakanda
  • Map – The Hunger
  • Whole Sentence Title – This Will Be My Undoing
  • GoodReads Best Book of the Month – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
  • Surviving a hardship – Can’t Help Myself

TIWIE will break your heart and should be a must read for anyone who wants to participate in the gun control debate. (5/5) CHM is by Meredith Goldstein who writes an advice column in Boston. Throughout the course of her memoir, she endures a break-up and her mother’s cancer diagnoses and treatment. She touches on dating and the strained relationship with her father. It’s beautiful and human. (4/5)

Reading Glasses Book Challenge

  • First in a series – A Date with Darcy

ADWD is contemporary YA romance and is the first in a series all of which will be inspired by classics. This was a perfect palette cleanser after some serious nonfiction. (4/5)

Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge

  • Recommended by someone with great taste – The Hunger
  • Author is a different race, religion, or ethnicity – This Will Be My Undoing

Hunger is a retelling of the ill-fated Donner party with some horrifying twists. I requested it from my library because Stephen King hyped it. I had no idea the author was local until I already had the book in my hands. (4/5)

Hopefully I won’t go so long between updates next time but I think I’m all caught up.