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Killing the 'Dead Girl' Theme in Crime Fiction
Posted by Cybil on July 16, 2018

dead girls


We asked Alice Bolin, author of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, and journalist-turned-crime novelist Laura Lippman to discuss a recurring theme in crime fiction: "a beautiful girl dies, and a man feels bad about it." What we got was a rollicking conversation about women readers, the power of noir, and why there's something sinister in romantic-comedy plots.

Dead Girls is Emma Roberts' July pick for the Belletrist Book Club.



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Alice Bolin: Hi, Laura! Let me say how excited I am to have this conversation with you. Thank you!

I wanted to start by asking you a little about Sunburn. Reading this novel was when I first realized that the femme fatale is sort of like the Dead Girl if she hadn't died—we have this idea of "a woman with a past" or, in other words, "a woman." I so admire the compassion you've shown to your femme fatale and how totally human you've made her: a woman who is complicated but who has survived. I was wondering what first inspired you to flip this trope, to make a character who is normally opaque so sympathetic?


Laura Lippman: Although I can almost always pinpoint the exact inspiration for a novel, I have tried and failed to do that for Sunburn. Without really noticing it, I had moved from being inspired by real-life crimes and started rethinking my favorite novels. What if the events of To Kill a Mockingbird took place in what people believed to be a more enlightened time? What if I took the setup of Anne Tyler's Ladder of Years and married it to The Postman Always Rings Twice, but now it's a woman passing through, a man stuck behind the stove?

And there really was—spoiler—a movement in the early 1990s in which the governor began commuting sentences of women who had killed their abusers, but the vetting was poorly done and some women were pardoned when they shouldn't have been. So that's where I started.

Where did Dead Girls start? Was the titular essay the first one?

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AB: Well, my book really started with me just wanting to make fun of True Detective, a show I considered hilariously mediocre. My editor told me I needed a more timeless book, so I started with Twin Peaks, and now I will be associated with Dead Girls for the rest of my days.

I thought I was writing in a formal way “about the noir,” but I was also obsessively watching Dateline and reading Raymond Chandler to learn about my new life in Los Angeles (this is not a good way to learn about life in L.A.) and thinking about the weird murders that marked my childhood in the Northwest. It took me a long time to realize that a noirish mood had defined my entire life and that trying to figure out why was a lot of what the book was about—how these dark narratives shaped how I narrated my own life.

I’ve been thinking so much about how when crime fiction is dismissed as a genre, it is often explicitly because it is so feminine. Even Edmund Wilson, in his famous takedown of the detective novel, said it was a genre that was for old ladies. I wonder if you have thoughts about how crime fiction, or certain strains of it, became so associated with women?


LL: Please, let's circle back to True Detective. I know the writer had written a book that was "genre enough" to be nominated for the Edgar, but I was appalled by the viewers who thought they were seeing something new or revolutionary. I knew from episode one that the ending was going to be a terrible letdown. The works that advertise themselves as subversive, the ones where the writers themselves all but declare they are "transcending the genre" (loathsome phrase), almost always disappoint—and are frequently written by people who don't know very much about the genre they're supposedly upending.

It's long been my observation that a lot of crime writing, even very good crime writing, can be summed up this way: a beautiful girl dies, and a man feels bad about it. Maybe he's a mourning husband/father/brother/lover. Maybe he's falsely accused. Maybe he did it, but he has, you know, REASONS. And now we're seeing more and more female writers asserting for their ownership of crime fiction, and it's very exciting.

But, dammit, women ARE the readers. Why shouldn't we own this genre? I mean, I know the NFL makes pink T-shirts and is happy to have female fans, but I don't see them worrying that football isn't female-friendly enough. Well, it's great that lots of men read crime fiction, but I don't think we need to cater to them. And the next step is making crime fiction a lot less white/heterosexual.

When you say noir has defined your entire life, what does that mean? How have those narratives shaped your life?

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AB: LAURA, YES. Those are some of the most satisfying few paragraphs I've ever read! Clearly writers like Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, and obviously you have achieved their success by exploring hidden corners of womanhood, particularly desire and rage. It's so funny that post-Gone Girl, "psychological thriller" is code for "woman on the edge," when before it was so synonymous with Alfred Hitchcock and his paranoid and pathological men.

Growing up in rural north Idaho, I was aware from a very young age that the region was the subject of many bizarre crime stories, including those of the prolific serial killers who haunted Spokane and Seattle and disgruntled separatists like Ted Kaczynski and Randy Weaver. I was such an anxious and spooky child, very invested from my earliest memories in mythologizing my own life. When I moved to L.A., I heavily romanticized my experience, seeing myself as the protagonist of some coming-of-age tale, because if I didn't, I would have to face the fact that my life was desperate, boring, and sad. Untangling myself from the narratives I'd invented about the character who was myself actually made me braver, because I saw that I had control over my own destiny.

So I was just in a hotel room in Times Square by myself last weekend, holing up in the busiest few blocks in America and watching television with the blinds drawn, speaking of romanticizing my life. I happened to watch the rom-com 27 Dresses, which I described on Twitter as "a movie about Katherine Heigl being really lame and jealous." As I kept watching, I realized that it's a movie about two sisters with different but equally severe personality disorders: the passive-aggressive martyr played by Katherine Heigl and the narcissistic compulsive liar played by Malin Akerman. This premise could be repurposed for other "female" genres: thriller (probably something Single White Female derivative), Lifetime Movie (Did I Kill My Sister?). I know you have thoughts about this movie, but I will lob you this question, which is: What do you think rom-coms and thrillers have in common?



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LL: When I think about 27 Dresses, I think about what you wrote about Amy in Gone Girl: “Amy bears no resemblance to any person who has ever walked the planet, but she bears a resemblance to women as conceived of the nightmares of men like Nick.” Those two sisters don’t exist, but they are hardy staples in our culture. The Good Girl, the Bad Girl, the Dead Girl. Seriously, those three types cover the waterfront. And now we have so many self-aware writers (mostly female, but I know a few guys I’d throw in there) who are trying to undo this, broaden it, challenge it, question it.

There’s a line in your book—I won’t get it right exactly—about the responsibilities of the personal essay. That strikes me, in the best possible way, as a very female concern. And maybe a concern for anyone who’s not cis [cisgender] male white heterosexual. The greatest luxury is to speak for one’s self alone and then expect that to be understood, without context. Dead Girls is all about the context—geography, age, experience, your parents, the books you read, the television shows you watched. It is like the thing I like best about 27 Dresses, the montage sequence in which she tries on all those bridesmaid dresses. Only without the male gaze.

AB: Yes, that montage is astounding—showing how mutable women’s identities are and how often we ask women to dress up in one archetype or another.

Shall we recommend some books now? I’ll start with two:

1) The Crime of Sheila McGough by Janet Malcolm, a very strange extended character sketch about a lawyer who tells the truth so scrupulously that she is bad at her job; she can’t wrestle all of the details of her case into a coherent story. Also has some great meditations on con artistry.

2) Dark Places, Gillian Flynn’s second novel, explored the ghoulish aspects of true-crime fandom way before it was a thing.



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LL: Dark Places is my favorite—I said we shared a brain.

I also love My Dark Places, James Ellroy’s memoir about his mother’s death. It’s a masterpiece and one of the ultimate Dead Girl stories. I am constantly recommending Mary Gordon’s Good Boys and Dead Girls: And Other Essays. The titular essay is a primer on how to read a Dead Girl story. And I recommend Hollywood Babylon in all its gossipy apocrypha because it’s the under-the-bed book referenced by so many writers I love.

You owe me three; I owe you two. One of mine will be a Didion.

AB: OK, here are my remaining three:

1) One of the most daring and fascinating crime novels I've ever read is The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes, about a middle-class black man accused of a young white girl's murder. She brilliantly explores why an innocent person might act paranoid or suspicious, particularly when they are the target of racial profiling.

2) I adore Maggie Nelson's first book, Jane, a collection of poems about her aunt who was murdered before Nelson was born. This shows possibilities for sort of a true-crime poetry as well as being a profound work of compassion toward Jane and Nelson's parents and grandparents.

3) I can't recommend Kali Nicole Gross' Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso highly enough. This is an academic book unearthing a story of a bizarre murder in postbellum Philadelphia. Gross not only tells a fantastic story, but also explores the ways racial categories were redefined in urban centers after the Civil War and how her antiheroine exemplified the kinds of freedom black women could claim at that time.


LL: My penultimate book is On the Contrary by Mary McCarthy. The essay "The Fact in Fiction" changed my life. It convinced me that maybe I could do this novel-writing thing.

And I promised I would include Didion in my final selections, but a confession: I don’t love Didion as much as I think I should, yet your explanation for why you love Play It as It Lays, which gives me an easy out about why I don’t love Didion, strikes me as ungenerous (to you and all the smart women I know who love her).

I do love Slouching Towards Bethlehem, particularly "Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream." I learned an important lesson from Didion, one I’ve paraphrased in book after book, in which I tell stories of people who try to get other people to tell stories. And it is this: Dare to be silent. People lean into silences, fill them.

Am I right that Updike said that the good thing about the dead is that they make space? I guess that’s a kind of silence, and it’s what Dead Girls do. They create spaces for us to fill, with our stories and our theories and our insights. There’s a booming economy in Dead Girls, one in which you and I both trade in (although with perspective and sensitivity and context, of course). But I have a hunch that you and I would happily give up our obsessions with Dead Girls if that meant a world with no more Dead Girls.

AB: I think you’re so right—the Dead Girl is a cipher, or a mirror where people, and especially men, see their own preferred stories reflected back. That’s why I’m so much more interested in survivor stories now, and in women who insist on telling their own stories, even when they are imperfect, inconsistent, and dissatisfying.

P.S. I recently finished Evidence of Love by Jim Atkinson and John Bloom, as recommended by you and Megan Abbott, and I meant to include it in my recommendations. It is one of the craziest true-crime books I’ve ever read, about a gory ax murder in suburban Dallas. It’s pulpy but told in an ingenious way, where you know who did it from the beginning, but not until the end do you figure out why.





12 New Graphic Novels to Keep Kids Reading All Summer
Posted by Cybil on July 13, 2018

kids summer reading picks

This post is sponsored by Graphix

Graphic novels are the perfect way to keep your kids glued to their books all summer long. And, just in case your young readers have already burned through their all-time favorites, we've rounded up some new releases for readers between the ages (roughly) of nine to 12.

Kids' graphic novels have come along way since today's parents were children, says Tina Lerno, chair of the YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee.

"The most common thing I hear from parents is, 'It’s not a real book.' It is a real book. They’re thinking of the old comic books from their childhood and not these novels. These books are meaningful. Kids will get a life lesson, and they'll finish the book."

These very popular kids' books span genres, from science fiction, to nonfiction, and even semi-autobiographical works.

"They’re not picture books or children’s literature, they are true middle grade," says Lerno. "And reluctant readers—often boys fall into this category—don’t always find something appealing, and graphic novels fill that gap. These books aren't babyish, they're interesting."

Her advice on how to keep kids reading during the summer? "Give them stuff they like!" she says.
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What middle grade books do you recommend for young readers this summer? Let us know in the comments!

Check out more recent blogs:
Careful or You’ll End Up in My Novel: The Romance Novelist at Work
Jennie Shaw Really Nails Her Book Reviews
Sugar, Spice, and Ruthlessness: What Unconventional YA Heroines Are Made Of

Careful or You’ll End Up in My Novel: The Romance Novelist at Work
Posted by Hayley on July 12, 2018

Susan Mallery is listening. The bestselling author of Chasing Perfect and You Say It First finds inspiration for her humorous, heartwarming books everywhere—from fictional families to real-life "meet cutes." Here Mallery shares why she loves meeting new couples, how relationships shape the characters in her new romance, When We Found Home, and what she wants to know about you.



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Whenever I meet a couple at, say, a cocktail party, I always ask, "How did you meet?"

Then: "What brought you together? What got in your way? And how did you overcome that to ultimately be here today, talking to a writer who asks too many questions?"

I'm endlessly fascinated by human behavior and, in particular, by the infinitely nuanced interactions between two individuals. No two stories are exactly alike, even if on the surface they're similar. Every person's emotions, perceptions, actions and reactions are influenced by everything that happened in his or her life to that point. The story of a person's life impacts every subsequent moment of that life.

This must also be true in fiction for the characters to feel genuine, particularly in the character-driven stories of popular women's fiction. The relationships aren't beside the point—they are the point. Relationships drive the plots.

Dorothea Benton Frank's By Invitation Only does this well. It is an entertaining study of two very different families—the haves and the have-nots—brought together for the wedding of a beloved son and daughter. The mothers are forced into an odd sort of intimacy, family but not really family, as they play their roles in helping to plan the wedding.


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What makes it so compelling is that it's not just about the wedding. A wedding is fleeting, but the mothers are facing the reality that they'll have to put up with each other for the rest of their lives. Their interactions ring true because Frank created characters whose personal histories color every moment. And then the events of the story cause the characters to grow and change, which ultimately reshapes the relationship between them.

Mary Kay Andrews adds an intergenerational twist in The High Tide Club. The action takes place in the early 1940s and in present day, and it's a testament to Andrews' skill with characterization to see how the events of 70 years ago still resonate. What happened to the characters long ago affected the way they lived their lives, which in turn affected how the main characters of the present-day part of the tale were raised.


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In my latest book, When We Found Home, I bring together three siblings who never met—who never even knew each other existed for that matter—until the truth was discovered in their late father's paperwork. Because they come from very different circumstances, they're instantly wary of each other, as we humans tend to be.

The stories of their past shape their relationships today, and the growth of those relationships shapes the stories of their future.

So…how did you and your significant other or best friend meet? What brought you together? What got in your way? And how did you overcome that to ultimately be here today, answering a writer who asks too many questions?

Susan Mallery's When We Found Home hits bookshelves on July 10. Add it to your Want to Read shelf here.



52 Books That Hooked Readers on YA
Posted by Marie on July 11, 2018

The breadth of the young adult genre has only grown wider since the days of The Outsiders and Sweet Valley High. Now there are plenty more YA heroes to choose from: heroes who fight in dystopian arenas, navigate treacherous faerie courts, explore alternate realities, and more.

And while the main characters may be teens, that doesn't mean they won't appeal to all readers. So if you’re curious about the genre but aren’t sure which books to read first—we’ve got you covered.

We asked our followers on Twitter and Facebook to tell us which books hooked them on YA and made a list of some of their most popular responses. Since YA books come in all kinds of flavors, we divided them into subgenres for easy browsing.

Don't forget to add your favorites to your Want to Read shelf!


Fantasy
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Contemporary
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Science Fiction & Dystopia
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Romance
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Mystery & Thriller
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7 Great Books Hitting Shelves Today
Posted by Hayley on July 10, 2018

Need another excuse to go to the bookstore this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day.

To create our list, we focused on the top books Goodreads members can't wait to read, which we measure by how many times a book has been added to Want to Read shelves. All these highly anticipated titles are now available! Which ones catch your eye?


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You should read this book if you like: Fantasy, Uprooted, fairy tale retellings, turning silver into gold, women in charge, woods full of dark magic and demons, kings with ulterior motives

Check out our interview with Novik here.


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You should read this book if you like: Nonfiction, gripping accounts of modern-day scandals, tireless activism and long battles for accountability, the truth behind the headlines



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You should read this book if you like: Historical fiction, A Hundred Summers, lifestyles of the rich and glamorous in the 1950s and '60s, Shakespeare's The Tempest, resort islands

Read our interview with Williams here.


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You should read this book if you like: YA fiction, The Conqueror's Saga, Vlad the Impaler—reimagined as a young woman, ruling the world and destroying your enemies, alternate history

Find White's essay on angry girls in YA fiction here.


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You should read this book if you like: Memoirs, bumpy journeys of self-discovery, modern women not defined by marriage or motherhood, exhilarating adventures, living by your own rules



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You should read this book if you like: World War II history, sweeping sagas of survival and sacrifice, new research and interviews with eyewitnesses, fights for justice



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You should read this book if you like: Fiction, Eileen, disturbing and darkly humorous tales, self-imposed hibernation, terrible psychiatrists and questionable amounts of medication

Discover Moshfegh's book recommendations here.



Jennie Shaw Really Nails Her Book Reviews
Posted by Cybil on July 09, 2018

jennie shaw's nails


Goodreads member Jennie Shaw loves books and incredibly elaborate manicures. Luckily for us, she's combined her two passions in her blog, Jennie's Nails and Tales. Goodreads recently chatted with Shaw from her home about an hour outside of Toronto, Canada, where she lives with her husband and her two dogs, Pickle and Pepi. Shaw told us about her reading habits, her love of magical books, and her tricks and tips for getting those amazing book cover manicures just right.

Goodreads: Tell me how you got started both blogging book reviews and painting book cover manicures?

Jennie Shaw: I started blogging about eight years ago. I'd developed an autoimmune disorder—I'm actually a former rape crisis worker with a master's in legal studies, so I was hoping to work with at-risk young women and survivors of sexual violence—and then I got this autoimmune disorder, so that stopped what I thought was going to be my path and I had to regroup. I started blogging: lifestyle, letters to nobody, just nonsense. Then I found a community online with other bloggers who had book review linkups and nail polish linkups—suddenly I was doing these things.

About three years ago my interests merged. It was the first time I was mentioned in a book's acknowledgements, and I wanted to do something a little more exciting than just a basic review for The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase. There was a little blue sparrow on the book cover, and I thought, "Oh, no big deal, I'll just paint a bird on my nail." It took me so long. If you go back and look at it now, it's embarrassing how long that took me to paint! But I did it. Then I found people online who were doing the same thing but not really including a book review. I was like, "Oh, well, maybe I can do that."

I love it. In my heart, I'm a book pusher. I want everyone to read! You know, I'll meet that person who doesn't, and it hurts my soul! I'm like, "Come on! No books? Like, zero books?!" Whenever I'm in a bookstore, I'm always seeing what people are interested in and then absolutely giving my opinion and sort of forcing them to buy books before they leave. They love me at Coles bookstore.

jennie shaw's nails


Goodreads: How do you approach your blog? Do you start with the book you want to review, with the book cover, with the nails?

JS: It's evolved a little bit. I started out doing "cover-inspired" manicures, but I've moved toward trying to paint the covers as accurately as I can. As I've evolved, I've started getting ARCs [advance review copies of books sent out by publishers], so my reading schedule is filling up! Since I'm not going to love every book that I read, I decided early on that I'm not going to pee on anyone's parade. If I don't like a book, I have no interest in spreading the reasons why I didn't like it. What I don't like, someone else will love. I don't want to contribute to not having wonderful things to say. If I don't want to scream at people about how great this book is, I don't review it and I don't paint the mani. The manis take a long time, and I need that fangirl enthusiasm.

Goodreads: So, you find a book that you love and are going to review. Now tell me about the manicure part of this.


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JS: I've learned to streamline my process a bit. Now on the first day, I'll do the book cover's background as my base coat. And I'll do that at night. It's usually the easiest part. It's just matching the background color and texture. And then I'll come in the next day and usually do the title first, because that typically takes up the most space. Then I'll work in the background. When I look at a book cover now, I almost see it in layers.

And then it dries, and I let it dry forever because there's nothing that makes you want to cry more—I mean, like crawl into a fetal position—than when the top coat smudges! The top coat is important, but it can also make me shake my fist at the sky when it ruins hours of work!

Goodreads: That brings up a quick question: How many polish colors do you own?

JS: A lot! Well, my husband made me a nail polish rack, and I think it held 150 bottles, and I outgrew that pretty quickly. It's really been the last six years that the polish has gotten out of control. Then he built a rack for me that's double the size; it is also full now. China Glaze put me on their mailing list in the fall, and that's changed everything. Now the polish comes in the mail like magic!

I mean, I live in the country, in the middle of nowhere, and it's crazy to hear from people that they like what I do. When anyone sends me anything, a message or follows me on Twitter, I'm like, "Really?!" I just love it so much! It's beyond any warm and fuzzy feeling, really.

Goodreads: What was the hardest book cover to paint on your nails?

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JS: Oh, recently it was probably All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother by Danielle Teller, because there were 4,000 details. When I saw the cover, I knew it was complicated, but it's Cinderella's stepmother's origin story! I talked myself into it by saying, "You can maybe, even if you don't do the whole thing, maybe you could do a fern and that one flower."

Usually with those book manis, I only do one hand because I'm going to do a picture and then take it off. But if I'm going to go meet an author, I'll do it on my other hand, too. And that's probably the hardest because I'm painting with my nondominant hand.

Goodreads: So, let's talk books. Tell me, what are your favorite reads so far this year?

JS: OK, I loved All the Ever Afters. The author is a doctor, and how does she use both sides of her brain so well? She took that fairy tale we know and love and traced it back with things like, "Where does the glass slipper come from?" "What about the evil stepsisters?" "How does a truth become myth?" She did this with, here's a pun, a surgical retelling. She really made Agnes her own character, and I felt for her. And, trust, by the end of it, I was like, "Cinderella who? I'm team Stepmother!" I've read a lot of retellings, and I've never read one that does quite what she did.

I loved She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop. That book took me by surprise. I was not expecting to get as sucked into that. The writing was almost melodic to me. I loved The Favorite Sister, I loved Tell Me Lies, and the male point of view with that one was just extraordinary. And The Map of Salt and Stars was so good. That book was so beautiful; mixing the modern story with the fable gave you a break from that raw emotional content. It almost seemed to have more impact, because you had that chance to catch your breath and go back in.

Goodreads: So, that's a lot of genres! What do you like most?

JS: I'm a very greedy reader. I just want to have a taste of everything, like it's a big buffet. First and foremost, magic. It's like I'm upset that I'm not magical! Victoria Schwab? My gosh, I could read her all day. Leigh Bardugo! Holly Black! I should preface this with darker magic. I will read anything if there's magic. Even if I'm not super sure about the premise, the magic will make me want to give it a chance.

Goodreads: How many books are you reading? I mean, you're only reviewing books that you really love.

JS: I average around 80 a year. My Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for the last few years has been 80, and I think I hit 81 a couple of times. I'm ahead this year. Last year, there were so many amazing books, and I'm finding even more this year. So I'm reviewing a little more than I usually do, because there's so many great books that I want to scream about. For reviews, I do anywhere from about 35 to 40 a year. Again, this year is shaping up to be the most ever. I review everything: mystery, thriller, dystopian, adventure, horror. I'm not really a big romance reader. Again, I need something a little darker, like Tell Me Lies with toxic romance? I'm like, yeah, OK.

Goodreads: Is this still a hobby for you? Is this a career?

JS: I've been pretty adamant that I don't want it to become a job. I genuinely love doing this. And I do it first for love. I don't want it to feel like a chore. Yes, I feel pressure, like anyone who uses social media does, to keep posting and keep to a schedule. But I don't want there to be anymore pressure than that. The sensation that you're drowning in your TBR [To Be Read list] is bad enough, and I already have that on the daily. I really only try to have four or five ARCs a month, however many weeks there are, so that I can still read a book for pleasure, and if I want to review one of those, I'll try to squeeze it in. But I don't want to have two books to review in the same week; that's too much. So, I'm slowing it down a little bit.

every single secret nails

Goodreads: What are your best tips for creating these cover nails?

JS: First of all, I have to say your enthusiasm has to be high, because it's probably going to be frustrating at first.

For me, I worked on my tools, and that made the biggest difference. So, I started with standard brushes you find in your average Sally Beauty. Although they look thinner than the brushes that come with the nail polish bottle, they still aren't overly precise. But I worked on my technique with those brushes. You have to get used to the angle. A lot of nail artists paint their nails upside down; I do not do that. I do them in sort of "claw formation." You have to be comfortable doing line work. When I first started, the hardest part was trying to get that straight line. Start on a piece of paper first and try to get the right pressure. Once you get good at that, then move to a thinner brush.

If I had started out with the brushes I have now, I would have been completely overwhelmed. You have to have that steady hand before you can be precise. If you're really shaky, it's going to bum you out, and it's supposed to be a positive experience. So I'd say first and foremost, you have to get a separate nail brush. After that, you could use acrylic paint. A lot of nail artists do that. You get a crisper line right off the bat. I use nail polish. I very occasionally use acrylic to do very small lettering, but 99.9 percent of my manis are nail polish.

Goodreads: What are some of your favorite book cover manicures?

JS: Wicked Like a Wildfire: That cover was my favorite cover of 2017, absolutely stunning. I also loved one from early on, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson, because there's Rory the Raccoon. I was so proud of his little teeth; that was the first time I thought I could do finer details like Rory's tiny little teeth. Oh, The Fireman by Joe Hill! That turned out really well. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. Anything with a matte finish! I'm loving this trend of matte covers. There's something so slick about them and ominous. And matte nails, it's amazing how putting that top coat on changes the whole feel of the photo. Take out the light! I just posted The Outsider by Stephen King; I liked that one as well.
Joe Hill nails



Goodreads: So, you spend all this time on these elaborate manicures, but how long do they last?

JS: Oh, anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.

Goodreads: That's heartbreaking!

JS: I know! There's a part of me that does get sad to take it off. But I'm excited about the next thing at that point. It's not like there's a lull. I'll already be 150, 200 pages into another book, and hopefully be jazzed about it and will start planning out what I'm going to do. I'll start studying the book cover to figure out how I can break it down into four little tiny canvases.


Sugar, Spice, and Ruthlessness: What Unconventional YA Heroines Are Made Of
Posted by Marie on July 06, 2018



What if Vlad the Impaler had been a young woman? This is the question that sparked Kiersten White’s bestselling young adult trilogy, The Conqueror's Saga. In this alternate history, the Wallachian "girl prince" Lada Dracul pursues power by any means. Here, White explores the importance of allowing YA heroines to be flawed, ambitious, and even a little cruel—in other words, fully human.



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Sugar and spice and everything nice—that’s what little girls are made of. We’re taught that from infancy. There’s a song I love by Snow Patrol called "Empress" that starts with the line "You’re angry, but you don’t know how to be that yet." And that resonates with me, because for a lot of years I didn’t know how to be angry. Or, more specifically, I didn’t know how to allow myself to be angry.

In one of my earlier books, The Chaos of Stars, the main character is an angry girl. She’s mad at her family. She’s mad at the world. And even though she eventually begins to heal, a lot of readers responded very negatively to her.

I carried that feedback with me for a long time. Here was a character with every right to be angry, and I was being told she shouldn’t have felt that way. If she had been a boy, would that criticism have existed? Would she have been so hated for being flawed? I didn’t think so.

In the meantime, I discovered Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles and the incomparably, masterfully unlikable Quintana in Quintana of Charyn. Then I was given Robin LaFevers’ Dark Triumph and the fiercely livid Sybella, who was allowed vengeance and love without ever softening. And then Marie Lu, who is one of the kindest people I know, gave us the horrifying Adelina in The Young Elites. Lu made a villain her hero, turning what made Adelina awful into what made her great.

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I used this inspiration like armor. When I began writing Lada Dracul in And I Darken, I was fully prepared to channel all the rage I had never been allowed. I thought it would be fun. It surprised me because it was terrifying. I worried that people wouldn’t respond well to Lada, that they’d hate her, that she would repulse them. But every time I found myself looking for ways to soften her, to make her more likable, I siphoned some of her strength, steeled myself, and wrote angrier.

And much to my shock and delight, people loved her. Readers needed to read an unapologetically ruthless and brutal girl as much as I needed to write one. Even the final book, Bright We Burn, changed over the course of drafting as I found myself unwilling to "punish" Lada for what she wanted and how she got it. The world does that enough to ambitious, powerful women.

There is tremendous strength in kindness, in femininity, in gentleness. But giving anger its rightful place in girls' lives is long overdue. Screw likable. I want my heroines determined, relentless, even vicious. I want them to claim the portions of the world that have been denied them. I want them to have the same agency and the full range of emotions that we give to male characters. I want our heroines to need no one’s permission to be human.



Bright We Burn, the final installment of The Conquerer's Saga, will be available on July 10. Don’t forget to add it to your Want to Read shelf!



Inside Gillian Flynn's Dark and Rage-Filled Empire
Posted by Cybil on July 05, 2018

gillian flynn


You're about to be hearing a lot from Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, beginning this month with HBO's eight-episode adaptation of her debut novel, Sharp Objects, starring Amy Adams. The series will take readers back to the town of Wind Gap, Missouri. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: She must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. She'll also have to face her neurotic mother and the half-sister she barely knows.

But that's just the first entry from Flynn. There's also a Steve McQueen film, an Amazon TV show, and—of course—that long-awaited book her fans have been clamoring for.



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Goodreads: So your debut is finally getting the adaptation treatment. How does it feel to see your first book come to the screen?

Gillian Flynn: It’s vindication. I always felt that this was a book that felt so ripe for the screen. It’s also just a vindication of people seeing it and discovering it. It was a book that a lot of people weren’t that interested in. It got good reviews, but it was not a screaming success, let’s put it that way. And, to me, it’s a great f---ing book.

It's a book about dangerous women. And because it was a book about female rage and female violence, it was—particularly at that time—a topic that people weren’t that ready or interested in talking about. That was 2005, and when we were trying to sell [the film rights], we heard a lot of, "You know, maybe the next book. Maybe not this one."

Goodreads: It seems that your books have changed the mystery and thriller genre in that way, by bringing forward these female characters who are imperfect, who do show rage and violence.

GF: Yeah, it took a while. I mean, Dark Places came along, and Libby’s a really unlikable female narrator and she’s full of rage. She kicks people, and beats people, and attacks people. And people weren’t that into that one, either! And that’s a great book, as far as I’m concerned. I mean, I love that book, personally. I’m proud of that book. Again, it was a time period that those kinds of books weren't common, that I know of. Certainly not as common as they are now. Now you can walk into a bookstore and say, "I want a book with a dark female narrator," and they can walk you over to any number of books. That did not happen back then.

It goes along with time’s changing. To me it’s no surprise that Sharp Objects is coming to life right with the #MeToo movement, with the #TimesUp movement, that women have, over this 12-year time period, found rage and found their voices and said "enough."

Goodreads: You're an executive producer and wrote three of Sharp Objects' eight episodes. What can fans of your book expect from the series?


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GF: It’s a loyal adaptation, but you get to see all its warts…here is a phantasmagoria of a place brought to life. There’s no other place like Wind Gap. So to get to see it bloom to life, to get to see Adora's lush Victorian house and her hog farm and Wind Gap's parks and lush places, where it seems if you left a car for too long, a vine would grow over it. You'll see the femaleness of the place and the ominousness of the place. You can feel that in a way that’s so striking. And to see the actors and actresses really bring these people to life is really something different and exciting.

Because we did have that room in the series, we were able to play with more subplots and add a few more twists. It’s faithful to the book, but we’re able to take a few more loop-de-loops and add a few more weird cul-de-sacs to Wind Gap. And play with certain characters’ backstories. You get to know more about a few more characters…we just got to have room to play with those characters and grow them more. And say, "What would these people be like? What would they be doing?" It’s fun to get to revisit it now. I had not looked at it in those 12 years since it’s been published. And to look back and say, "No, really, what was the deal with this guy?"

Goodreads: What did you find is the main difference between adapting your novels from films versus the series?

GF: It’s purely the decadence of not having to figure out what to include and what not to include. Just being able to sit and have a big feast in the writers' room and say, "OK, here it all is!" Then it becomes more about "Where do we put it all, and how do we do it?" We just get to enjoy it.

Goodreads: What's your review of the adaptation?

GF: It lives up to its gothic creepiness. It keeps all the female rage and isn’t afraid of that. It doesn’t try to make Camille into some likable, easy-to-digest female. It presents her in all of her difficult true character and lets you decide.

Goodreads: You are a very busy woman! In addition to your work on Sharp Objects, you also co-wrote the upcoming film Widows with director Steve McQueen, and wrote and serve as showrunner on the American adaptation of the U.K. television series Utopia for Amazon. And that's just the TV and film work. You're also signed up to take on Hamlet as part of The Hogarth Shakespeare series, and then there's the secret book you're currently working on!

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GF: This is a house that runs on Red Bull and 5-hour Energy right now!

Goodreads: How are you balancing the work you're doing for television and film with your writing?

GF: I get up kind of early and write on my novel. And that is kind of coming together the way Sharp Objects did, which is piece by piece, and then all of a sudden you look up and it’s done.

And then the other thing I’m doing, which the writing is completed for, is I wrote all nine episodes of a show called Utopia, which is an adaptation of a U.K. series that’s about a group of comic book nerds that come across a graphic novel that may be hinting to a possible end of the world. Light stuff like that! I created and am showrunning that, and it will go into production at the end of the year.

Goodreads: You seem to be building your own media empire!

GF: It’s sort of interesting…I mean, in a way, it makes perfect sense if you look at my parents and my childhood. My parents were junior college teachers. And my mom taught reading, she had her master’s degree in reading, and she taught reading comprehension. She was always putting a book in my hand. And my dad taught theater and film. So I was constantly either going to the movies with my dad or reading with my mom. I was constantly toggling back and forth in those worlds. And so now, I’m still kind of doing that! For me, it feels so right and perfect.

It’s just being able to maintain it. I can’t possibly maintain this level I'm at right now, so as soon as I’m done with Utopia, I’m excited to go back to purely the book world for a couple years. Because I do owe—I make it sound like the Mob—"I do owe a number of people some books! They’re going to come after me pretty soon!"

But it’s true. As much as I love the collaboration of TV and movies, I’m actually ready to go back to my little hidey-hole for a year or two and be in book land and write those books, because I know exactly what they are, I just need the time.

And what happened is I got swept up in Utopia, and I just love the idea so much, I get so excited about that. But, yeah, as soon as I’m done with that, I’m going back to book land for a little bit.

Goodreads: What can you tell us about the book you're working on? We're all dying to read it!

GF: I’m not saying too much, but it’s kind of an ensemble. There’s a shifting number of voices, about four different characters. I will say that I started writing it right after President Trump got elected. But I’m not saying too much more…. It’s political, well, it’s mainly a dark psychological thriller, for the most part. I think that’s the most accurate way to say it.

Goodreads: I’ve read that you’ve described it as an alternative reality set in the current time. Is that accurate?

GF: It has shifted since then, but I think that’s still fair to say.

Goodreads: Gone Girl was one of the most successful thrillers of the last 20 years. How did its success change your life?

GF: It’s given me the chance to write more, that’s basically been the great thing about it. I mean, I would say before Gone Girl, I was always proving myself so that I could write. And hoping that I would always be able to write for a living, which was my dream. And Gone Girl has given me that calling card and confidence that I would be able to be a writer forever. I feel that under my feet, which is a great place to be able to write from: to know that I can experiment more, that I can try more things, that I’ll always have that ability to stretch even more.

Goodreads: Your books are so dark. How do you get in that frame of mind? Where do you go mentally to write these characters?

GF: It’s frighteningly easy for me to slip into the darkness; it’s crawling back out that’s trickier. I’m an empath, so I can get into most people’s brain space. I think most writers are. You grow up feeling like an outsider, and grow up trying to figure people out and what makes them tick. And you have that sort of ability.

Goodreads: What books are you currently reading and recommending to friends?

GF: I loved This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins, How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. Like everyone else, I loved Tangerine by Christine Mangan. And then, randomly, the one I just finished reading was The Murder at Sissingham Hall. I finished it last night, and it’s by Clara Benson. It's absolutely delightful, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of Sarah Caudwell, or Agatha Christie, or anyone who loves really clever British murder mysteries set in the '20s. I’m literally going to read the next book in the series tonight.


Readers Choose Today's Great American Novelist
Posted by Hayley on July 04, 2018



The Great American Novel is something of a moving target. The term, used to describe a work of fiction that accurately shows the culture of the country at a specific time, was first coined in 1868 by writer John William De Forest, who thought such a book should be by and about “eager and laborious people."

That was 150 years ago. Who's best reflecting our society now?

We asked you on Facebook and Twitter to tell us who you think is the greatest living American novelist. Check out the top picks—along with each author's most popular books on Goodreads—and join the comments to debate your fellow readers.


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Did your favorite not make the list? Share your pick for the greatest living American novelist in the comments!

Check out more recent blogs:
7 Great Books Hitting Shelves Today
July's Poetry Contest Winner: Portrait of My Family as a Pack of Cigarettes
The Best Audiobooks of 2018


7 Great Books Hitting Shelves Today
Posted by Hayley on July 03, 2018

Need another excuse to go to the bookstore this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day.

To create our list, we focused on the top books Goodreads members can't wait to read, which we measure by how many times a book has been added to Want to Read shelves. All these highly anticipated titles are now available! Which ones catch your eye?


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You should read this book if you like: Thrillers, Final Girls, summer camps haunted by tragedy, socialites and sociopaths, cryptic clues, mean girls, missing-person cases



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You should read this book if you like: Historical fiction, World War II, The Other Typist, daredevils and stuntmen, explorations of race and loyalty, the uglier side of American history



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You should read this book if you like: Memoirs, small English towns, coming-of-age tales set against the music and literature of the 1970s, Franz Kafka, reconciling your past and present



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You should read this book if you like: YA science fiction, space travel, alone time, marginally helpful Earth therapists, unexpected friendship, harrowing plot twists



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You should read this book if you like: Fantasy, The Legends of the First Empire, rebellions and conspiracies, cruel godlike beings, fragile alliances, magical and epic adventures



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You should read this book if you like: Fiction, seemingly happy marriages, dogs, wondering how much we know about the ones we love, over-the-top plans for relationship success



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You should read this book if you like: Nonfiction, moral philosophy, the musical Hamilton and Ancient Greece, recommendations for mending a divided country



What are you looking forward to reading? Let's talk books in the comments!

Check out more recent blogs:
July's Poetry Contest Winner: Portrait of My Family as a Pack of Cigarettes
The Best Audiobooks of 2018
What Is the Perfect Beach Read Anyway?

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