Tag: Megan Abbott

First Steps: Suburban Noir

Posted June 14, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in First Steps / 6 Comments

First Steps is a new segment that was inspired by the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. I plan to talk about what books might be great to read from different themes, genres or maybe authors. Not necessarily all easy to read books but the ones that are worth the time and effort. My goal is to have First Steps guide you to some great books in places you don’t normally venture.

I was asked in the comments about the sub-genre suburban noir and at first I didn’t want to write a post about it, but the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. I need to revive my First Steps guides, but first I think it might be necessary to firstly explain what noir is before looking at suburban noir. Noir is a crime genre that came from the age of pulp fiction; it tends to focus on a plot where the protagonist is the victim, suspect, or perpetrator. It is a genre that normally plays with gritty realism and the psychological.

Suburban noir plays with the idea that there is something sinister going on in the nice quiet neighbourhood. Is there a killer living next door? Are you teenagers hiding a deep dark secret? There is often an element of crime and psychological suspense that runs through the narrative. While most novels are most likely to be classed as something more generic like crime or thriller this sub-genre (like the millions of other sub-genres) does exist.

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Beneath the glitz and glamour of this high school cheerleading squad is something dark. Beth Cassidy is the head cheerleader, her best friend Addy Hanlon is her right hand woman. While Beth calls the shots, Abby enforces; this has been the long established hierarchy. But when the new coach arrives, the order is disrupted. While coach draws the girls in and establishes a new regime, a suspicious suicide will put the team under investigation.  Think of this as Mean Girls to the extreme; you have the bitchiness of the girls, the struggle for popularity, and the angst but this is all turned upside down due to the shake-up caused by the new coach and the mystery surrounding their lives.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

When Amy disappears in suspicious circumstances all eyes fall to her husband as the primary suspect. Nick claims he is innocent but the evidence is not in his favour. Did Nick kill his wife? As this novel progresses any ideas of what happened will be shattered, any presumptions you’ve made about the characters will be wrong. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a dark and twisted journey with so much unpredictability that you will be up all night trying to find out what really happened to Amy.

The Fever by Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott is the Queen of suburban noir, her books epitomise the genre. The Fever is a dark and chilling story that explores the ideas of desire, guilt and secrets. A mysterious contagion that is causing seizures to a group of girls is also promoting mass hysteria within this community. In an effort to make sense of this mystery, the community focus their blame on anything they can think of, from HPV, vaccinations, toxic algae and whatever else might make sense of the situation.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

Jodi and Todd are in a bad place in their marriage, and their house and their lives are now at stake. The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept. This novel questions marriage, our way of life and how far you will go to keep what is rightfully yours.

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk about Kevin  tells the story of Eva, who is writing a series of letters to her husband recounting, and trying to understand what happened to cause their son, Kevin into a sociopath. From the very start, you are going to hate Kevin – you’ll probably even hate Eva – their relationship is far from perfect and it is possible that this may scare you from wanting to have kids. There was nothing really wrong with Kevin’s childhood, he was given everything he could ever need; he was just stuck in suburban hell. This book explores the nature versus nurture debate. It could have been Eva’s ambivalence to Kevin and motherhood that affected him, or something else.


ArmchairBEA 2014: Author Interaction & More Than Just Words

Posted May 27, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 29 Comments

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Day two here at Armchair BEA and we are talking author interaction & more than just words. Where I live we tend not to get many authors up, but when we do, I often try and catch their readings, book signings or talks. It can be difficult when they are authors that you’ve never read or have no interest in reading; I want to be supportive of the authors that do come to this city but I also don’t want to be stuck buying books I don’t plan to read.

I’ve had some great experiences with authors, from hanging out with them at a cocktail party (Trudi Canavan, Rachel Caine and Felicia Day), to having great conversations them on Twitter (I still get excited when Megan Abbott replies to a tweet or Gary Shteyngart favourites a tweet) to awkward book signings (I’m thinking about the time Nick Earls signed a book ‘My apologises for not being Russian and long dead’). Some authors know how to interact to the public and I have to respect them.

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However there is the other side of the pendulum, the authors that should just get off social networking or take a leaf from J.D. Salinger’s book and avoid all people. Authors need to remember and accept the fact that not all readers are going to enjoy their books. I write negative reviews and I do try to be constructive when I do so but authors can get so defensive and venomous towards negative feedback that they should stop reading their reviews. I’m not just talking about personal experience, I’m talking about comments you see on Twitter or the bullying on Goodreads. I do understand this can be an issue for reviewers as well but I tend to think if you can’t handle negative feedback (this goes for reviewers too) then stay away from the internet.  I’ll end my rant there.

Moving on to the topic of more than just words, where I want to discuss a few things. Firstly audiobooks (as long as they are unabridged) counts as reading. Just because you are getting a book read to you doesn’t mean you are not experiencing it. Sure an audiobook is a completely different experience but I think it does not matter that the listener has not read the book. Our brains are wonderful and complex things, I think to read the book aloud in my head and an audio book is similar but someone else reading it. I still process it in similar ways and retention levels tend to be the same (for me anyway). I listen to a lot of audiobooks; mainly become I work on a computer all day with headphones in. Sometimes music is good, but I find audiobooks (especially when it comes to non-fiction and hard novels) can be a great way to experience a book while working.

Now there is the concept of graphic novels, I’ve seen people really take them on board and others avoid them at all cost. For those who do avoid graphic novels I’d love to know why. I worry people get the wrong idea about graphic novels and think they are all about superheroes with powers, but there are some great ones out there. If you want some recommendations check out my post where I suggest five different graphic novels to try that don’t feature super heroes.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Button by Sarah of Puss Reboots


The Fever by Megan Abbott

Posted May 15, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary, Pulp / 12 Comments

The Fever by Megan AbbottTitle: The Fever (Goodreads)
Author: Megan Abbott
Published: Little Brown and Company, 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary, Pulp
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

If you have not read Megan Abbott before then you need to do so as soon as possible. Originally working in the noir genre she has recently switched and become the Queen of suburban noir. Combining the elements we all know and love about noir and adding it to a modern back drop. Dare Me was a dark glimpse into the world of competitive cheerleading; think Mean Girls but meaner. Now Megan Abbott is back with The Fever, set in a small community, a mysterious contagion is threating their suburban utopia.

I may have said this before; just because a book has a teenage cast does not make this a YA novel. Dare Me may look like chick lit or YA but it is not; don’t let the cover fool you. I’ve seen on Goodreads that The Fever has been shelved as YA and horror and I can’t help but shake my head in disgust. While I’m sure plenty of young adults may enjoy this novel, I see nothing that connects The Fever with the YA genre. There are no horror elements within this novel either, a little suspense and I’m guessing this genre tag came from the cover. Now that my rant is out of the way, time to look at the novel.

Like Dare Me (and I’m sorry to keep mentioning this novel, I really need to read more Abbott) The Fever is a compelling noir that exposes the secrets that might be hiding in a suburban community. The Fever is a dark and chilling story that explores the ideas of desire, guilt and secrets. The mysterious contagion that is causing seizures to a group of girls is also promoting mass hysteria in the community. In an effort to make sense of this mystery, the community focus their blame on anything they can think of, from HPV, vaccinations, toxic algae and whatever else might make sense of the situation.

At the heart of this novel, I found an interesting exploration into sexuality, especially between the groups of teenage friends. These girls are in the midst of blossoming into women; their emotions are running wild and boys are become a popular source conversation. In the darkness and confusion they are dealing with these changes all alone. Abbott is putting the focus of the community on the contagion and this really amplifies that feeling of being alone and dealing with a budding sexual awaking without any help or guidance.

The Fever has everything you expect from a Megan Abbott novel; it is deliciously dark and sinister, it packs a huge punch and in the end you are left contemplating life. She has once again got the voice of the teenage generation perfect, not only the way they talk and interact but their thoughts as well. I like how Abbott integrates mobile phones and social media into her novels so effortlessly, I’ve seen it down poorly far too many times.

I know I’ve only read two novels to judge Megan Abbott on but she continues to impress, I know The End of Everything will be consumed pretty soon before moving onto her old school noir novels. I love her modern suburban noir style, she has really found her voice and style and it is working well for her. Don’t go in expecting a nice coming of age story; this is gritty and this is what Megan Abbott does better than anyone else.


Monthly Review – September 2012

Posted September 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

Now that September comes to a close, I would like to hear what people thought of As I Lay Dying. Did you read it? Did you find it difficult? Or any other comments you want to make of this book. Personally I found it difficult to read, and while I wouldn’t say I really enjoyed this book, I did find the writing style very interesting.

Next month’s book is to help celebrate banned booked week (which is currently on now) and we will be reading Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses which has been often described as one of the most controversial and acclaimed novels ever written. I’m sure this book will spark some interesting conversations but I do worry that it may cause fights. I hope everyone reading and  discussing the book, does so in a respectful manner. Also as a reminder that next month we will be reading House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski as part of the Horror theme and we will be looking for a book to fit the Road Trip/Travel theme. If you’re not aware, the book discussion and everything else will be happening over on the Goodreads forums, so feel free to join in there.

During the month I’ve read some great books, but I wasn’t as productive as last month. Some of the highlights from the months reading include, Justin Cronin’s The Twelve which I was lucky enough to get an advanced review copy of, Dare Me by Megan Abbott and He Died with his Eyes Open by Derek Raymond. But my favourite of the month was The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers; which is a heartbreaking work of beauty. A book of friendship and loss, The Yellow Birds follows the story of Private Bartle and his time served in Al Tafar, Iraq and the aftermath. What have you been reading this month and what did you enjoy? I would love to hear about your reading life in the comments below.

  • Soulless by Gail Carriger 
  • The Geneva Trap by Stella Rimington 
  • Live by Night by Dennis Lehane 
  • 11.22.63 by Stephen King 
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner 
  • The Transport Accident by Ned Beauman 
  • One Night Stands and Lost Weekends by Lawrence Block 
  • Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann 
  • The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco 
  • The Twelve by Justin Cronin 
  • He Died with His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond 
  • Dare Me by Megan Abbott 
  • The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers