Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Best of 2011 Countdown: #26

You know what's fun about associating with Gianna?  The various ways such a connection pops up in my life.  Random House recently launched a cool book recommendation site called Everyday eBook, and our RH pals asked if they could use some of our blog's reviews on their site.  Who are we to say no?  However, it was a real delight for me to discover that the site also pulled Gianna's biographical statement off of our blog, and it reads:
i am the sales manager for the university of texas press. previously i worked as a sales manager with random house for about 8 years or so until liz sullivan made my life so miserable i had to change jobs. we are now married, have 9 children and vote republican. we are not happy.
It's my fervent hope that everyone I know now knows of my miserable love with Gianna, so you should follow Everyday eBook (even if you don't read eBooks; they have great picks that are available as print books too).  Anyway, moving on to our picks....

Best of 2011 Countdown: #26


Close Your Eyes
Amanda Eyre Ward
Random House

This dark novel was inspired by an actual double murder that happened in the author’s neighborhood when she was a teenager. Ward grew up in a small, quiet town (Rye, NY where I have attended a couple of Random House sales conferences…I could have been killed!), and the fact that such a brutal (and for many years, unsolved) crime could happen would be enough to shake you. As it would turn out, the crime was committed by a drunk teenager that Ward and her group of friends actually knew. The specifics of that crime are bizarre enough that you will want to read about it, trust me, so here is a link to Amanda Eyre Ward’s website where she explains the murder (and there is a picture of Amanda at the tender age of 17…worth the trip to the website).

Amanda Eyre Ward
(the adult version)
Close Your Eyes doesn’t use that plot exactly; it takes that idea and makes it more intimate. Young Lauren and Alex are sleeping in their tree house when their mother is brutally murdered. Their father is convicted of the crime and their lives are forever changed. The books moves ahead twenty years and while the sister and brother remain close (who else would understand this kind of life?), Lauren is convinced that her father is guilty while her brother is sure he is not.  While it would of course be easier for Lauren to try in some way to move forward with her life--her attempts at normalcy--she begins to dig into the past, and things get…interesting.

Amanda has hit a home run with this novel. It's dark, it's creepy, the characters are rich, and the story is perfect. A good comparison is Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places or Sharp Objects…and if you didn’t like those two books, well, what the heck is wrong with you?


Your Voice in My Head
Emma Forrest
Other Press

I admit that I am fascinated by memoirs that are heavily psychological.  Just like I'm drawn to damaged characters in fiction, I am most intrigued by memoirs that are more internal, and at the risk of being flippant, the crazier the better.  It's the same reason that I love the HBO series In Treatment, too.  What can I say?  I've got my issues.  So there was no question that I'd be reading Your Voice in My Head when I heard the editor discusses it at our sales conference.  It didn't disappoint.

Emma Forrest
Emma Forrest has composed an intimate--sometimes uncomfortably so--memoir about the two major relationships in her life at a time when she was most vulnerable.  She was 22, living a furious existence in New York that spiraled out of control and toward depression and suicide.  Salvation came in the form of a psychiatrist, a man who became her touchstone as she began to dig herself out of the psychological hole into which she'd slipped.  In the meantime, Forrest meets and falls in love with another man, her "Gypsy Husband," an A-List Hollywood actor (Google Emma Forrest and you'll find out who it is).  Their romance is intense and idyllic...and then troubled.  One day Forrest attempts to make an appointment with her psychiatrist, only to discover that he's died.  The Jiminy Cricket on her shoulder, this man who'd seen into her darkest thoughts without flinching, the voice in her head, was gone, and she realized she'd never known anything about him.

Your Voice in My Head belongs in the same category as Girl, Interrupted and The Glass Castle, though I think that Emma Forrest is a more talented writer.  It's unsettling, loving, moving, and brilliantly written.  I love this book.

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