By Daniel Ford
Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books we've read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.
I’ve spent a significant amount of time on trains throughout my life. Your mind wanders to some pretty strange places if you don’t have a traveling companion or you run out of reading material. After reading Paula Hawkins’ debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, I kicked myself for not writing down more of those train musings.
The novel, which centers around an alcoholic woman voyeuristically inserting herself into a grim love triangle (more accurately, a pentagon), is much better structured than Gone Girl and provides the reader with an ending infinitely more satisfying than the majority of popular thrillers. It’s the perfect popcorn read that has real depth to it. I was fully invested in all of the characters’ backstories, motives, and suspicions. Don’t wait for the beach weather, read this immediately (and plan on losing a few nights sleep while doing so).
I had never heard of M.O. Walsh or his novel, My Sunshine Away, before the book showed up at Writer's Bone HQ. After reading the dust cover and public relations material, Stephanie Schaefer said something that made me chuckle, “This sounds like something you would write.” Coming of age story that revolves around a despicable crime? That doesn’t sound like me at all…
Walsh’s crisp style and thought-provoking prose combines both literary fiction and a pulse-quickening thriller. Set in Baton Rouge, La., the novel explores the nature of “violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love.” Fair warning, if you pick up this book in the store and read the first chapter, you’re going to end up buying it and throwing out the rest of your reading queue immediately.
While I didn’t know who Walsh was before My Sunshine Away made its way to my desk, I can safely say I’m not going to forget him going forward. My Sunshine Away goes on sale Feb. 10, 2014.
I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, but, holy shit, this cover is all kinds of awesome. Better yet, there’s a well-crafted story inside! Inspired by the author’s adolescence spent in Western Pennsylvania, the novel follows the lives of three freshmen at St. Michael’s, a troubled Catholic school (is there any other kind?) known for “religious zealots fearful of public schools,” “violent delinquents,” a “declining reputation,” and “plunging enrollment.” Sign me up!
To pull a LeVar Burton, don’t take my word for it. Stephen King called the novel “funny and terrifying” and “a ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ for the 21st Century.”
If last month’s recommendation of A Midwife’s Tale was too obscure for you history readers out there, perhaps you’d be more interested in David Hackett Fischer’s Paul Revere’s Ride? While Fischer is better known for his excellent account of George Washington’s crossing the Delaware during the Revolutionary War, which is aptly titled Washington’s Crossing, his research into an often overlooked or sensationalized event refreshes one of the most critical times of our country’s existence. Revere, whose house is just a few blocks away from where I’m sitting, wasn’t just a simple silversmith or messenger. He was a complete badass! More importantly, the events leading up to the shots fired at Lexington and Concord were much more complex than they appear in most standard history textbooks. Fischer’s research and style gives both Revere’s midnight ride and the revolutionary movement relevancy at a time when the United States is struggling to adhere to its core democratic values in the face of domestic and international extremism. It should be required reading for members of Congress and every news commentator so that the next time they invoke the words “patriotism” and “forefathers” they know what the fuck they’re talking about.
Last month, I read the Hemingway Library Edition of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and loved everything about the volume. I received A Farewell to Arms, which the Hemingway Library released last year, as a birthday gift and hung my head after reading Hemingway wrote this when he was 30 years old (Seriously, dude, you’re killing the rest of us). After crying into my bourbon, I discovered I may enjoy this edition even more than The Sun Also Rises. From the gorgeous blue cover to the appendices that include a plethora of alternate endings (again, man, putting us simple writers to shame), this tome proves beyond a reasonable doubt that it deserves a prominent spot in every Hemingway fan’s bookshelf. Note of caution: When you re-read the story, keep in mind you’re reading a superior edition that doesn’t deserve a fate like that of Bradley Cooper's copy in “Silver Linings Playbook.”