Monday, August 21, 2023

August reads

This month I surprised myself with the number of books I read! I've been mostly focusing on writing rather than reading, but a new book in a series I like was released August 1 while I was traveling for work, which set me up to read at least one thing this month. (Nothing's better than a new book on a plane!)

After that, I guess I just got on a roll!

While the book that got me started ended up disappointing me, I enjoyed two of the three books I read this month and I surpassed my 10-books-in-2023 goal!

The Bone Hacker by Kathy Reichs

The first book I read, and the one I had the highest expectations for, was The Bone Hacker by Kathy Reichs. This is another book in her Temperance Brennan series, which the TV show Bones is based on.

These books are always easy reads with real forensic details (the author is an actual forensic anthropologist) and interesting twists. Generally I expect the first body in the book to seem unrelated to the bigger case, but in the end they always connect in some way. Often this is done seamlessly, sometimes connecting decades-old cold cases with new murders.

The Bone Hacker was more of the same, but felt a little unwieldy from the start. Not only do we get a gunshot victim in Canada whose murder leads Brennan to Turks and Caicos, but we also have an apparent serial killer on the island and a lost boat filled with mysteriously dead people. Connecting these three plots felt like...overkill.

On top of that, I picked up on some anti-Jewish micro-aggressions (and some downright egregious antisemitism) that absolutely left me feeling disappointed. It was the sort of thing that, unless you're pretty well-versed in antisemitism, you might miss, so I was going to give Reichs the benefit of the doubt...until she called the Jewish suspect's dog a "Nazi dog." I actually said, "Really?!" out loud when I read that bit. This was the point where I would have stopped reading if I weren't already 85% in.

There are some weird, heavy-handed stereotypes about Jews and Israelis in this book, and an overdone mix of motives, attempting a mix of terrorist plots, incels, and serial killers. All in all, I was quite disappointed in this one and now I'm thinking I may not want to read the next in the series, which is a shame, because, 20+ novels in, I was really enjoying them, and it's nice to have a series on hand you know you can rely on.

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

The second book of August was How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix. I do like horror (Stephen King made me a reader and a writer!) but I haven't read a lot of it lately. I don't remember who put this book on my radar, but it was a nice change of pace!

This novel centers around a brother and sister who have lost their parents and need to sell their childhood home. Little by little, you see hints that things aren't completely normal with this family. There's an excellent mid-book reveal and a satisfying twist near the end. 

The haunting in this book is truly bizarre and left me rolling my eyes sometimes, but I think that's part of the fun. I wouldn't call this book scary but there was some body-horror (nothing too grotesque), and if you find dolls and puppets creepy, this may scare the pants off you.

What I liked most in this book was the exploration of the family dynamics and how keeping secrets and burying trauma can impact future generations. When you get right down to it, the best horror explores the human condition and relationships, making the haunting a lens for how circumstances impact us. 

Despite some moments of having to really suspend my disbelief, I enjoyed this book and will read more by Hendrix.

Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson

Finally, I finished the month with Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson. I came across this series accidentally when a book-Tuber I watch mentioned the genre of "gaslight mysteries". Google brought up this series and the first book title intrigued me (I'm a sucker for anything resembling my maiden name). The series sounded a bit like the Anne Perry series I enjoyed in high school so I thought I'd give it a shot.

I read this book in a day! The characters were intriguing and complex, although sometimes written a little obviously. The book takes place in the 1890s and the protagonist, Sarah Brandt, is bold, confident, and unconcerned with flouting society's expectations. Frank Malloy, the detective in the series, is boorish and cutthroat, but as his history is slowly revealed, you come to understand why he is what he is. Of course, Sarah influences him to change in small but important ways early on by just being her confounding self!

I know later in the series they end up married, so I'm looking forward to a slow burn as their relationship develops. You definitely get the idea that Frank finds Sarah puzzling and obnoxious, but soon appreciates how she challenges him. They're barely friends by the end of this book, so I'm assuming it takes them awhile to get together.

As for the mystery, I found it well done. It was satisfyingly twisty, I didn't guess the murderer ahead of time, and the outcome and motives were (unfortunately) equal parts believable and horrifying.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will be picking up the next book in the series soon!



  1. Oh Kathy Reichs...I read all of the Bones books up until she had her health problems and took a few years off. Then I heard that she was writing again but the books weren't the same so I held off on going back to them. Based on what you just said - I don't think that I'll be picking up her books again anytime soon.

    1. I had no idea there was a reason for the gap in her work, but that really explains why some of her more recent books are more convoluted and messy than the earlier ones. I'm happy I found a different series to replace this one with.