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January 31, 2019

Death rituals, arsenic poisoning, and guilty feminism: What I’ve been reading, Nov-Jan

Metalheads Who Read, Plunder

Ever since I quit my day job (Feb 2017, yea-heh!), I’ve discovered how much more time I have for reading. I’m definitely not as fast as some of my readers who can plow through several books a day, but I read over 70 books last year and enjoyed pretty much all of them. Here are a few from the last few months that you might enjoy, too.

Cleo, Helen Brown

Helen’s son Sam begs them to adopt a tiny kitten. Helen agrees, hoping Sam will lose interest before the kitten is big enough to come home with them. Two weeks later, nine-year-old Sam is dead, and a black kitten named Cleo shows up on the doorstep of a grieving family and helps them to heal.

If you love cats and you want a good cry, then this is your book. I saw Helen speak at the Hawke’s Bay Writers Festival and she’s wonderful and hilarious and kind and so is this book. Read now.

From Here to Eternity, Caitlin Doughty

The second book by the Queen of the death-positivity movement, and just as fascinating as Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. Mortician Caitlin Doughty travels the world looking at different rituals surrounding death in the modern world.

Doughty describes rituals with a sensitive but close touch, creating an intimacy with death and mourning while also avoiding a relish for gory details. This book was infinitely fascinating, and it sparkles with Caitlin’s usual respect and thoughtfulness around all matters concerning death. It’ll get you thinking about your mortal remains. For me, it’s a re-read for sure. Read now.

Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty

Nine strangers meet on a wellness retreat in the middle of the Australian outback. They sign a waiver that says anything can happen in the name of personalised treatment. But what have they signed up for?

Liane Moriarty is my writer ride or die. I will read everything she writes because she is brilliant. She writes books filled with characters you fall in love with who do horrible things or have horrible things happen to them. I feel like I know everyone in her books and they will make you laugh and cry and gasp. This book is no exception. Read now.

The Guilty Feminist, Deborah Francis-Wilde

Last year I read Clementine Ford’s Fight Like a Girl and, while it was powerful, I didn’t really connect with it the way I do with Deb FW’s Guilty Feminism. The book from the podcast of the same name explores our goals as 21st Century Feminists and the hypocricies and insecurities that undermine them. Deborah is one classy, hilarious lady, and the book is made even better by including the voices of other performers, activists, and thinkers who can speak from their own intersectional experiences.

What I love so much about this book is that it doesn’t waste time demonizing anyone or making you feel as though you’re not good enough or haven’t done enough or you’re not angry enough. Instead, it uses humour, joy, and practical actions to inspire us to make the world a better place for everyone. If anyone asked me, “what is feminism?” or “why are you a feminist?” or “what’s all this feminism malarkey about, anyway?” I’d give them this book. Easily one of the best books I read in 2018. Read now.

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie, Kathryn Harkup

Agatha Christie revelled in the use of poison to kill off unfortunate victims in her books; indeed, she employed it more than any other murder method, with the poison itself often being a central part of the novel. In A is for Arsenic, Kathryn Harkup investigates the poisons used by the murderer in fourteen classic Agatha Christie mysteries. It looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with the body, the cases that may have inspired Christie, and the feasibility of obtaining, administering and detecting these poisons, both at the time the novel was written and today. 

I got this book originally for research, as I’m writing a poisoning case in Of Mice and Murder. I now know far too much about how to kill a person without being detected. Want to come to a dinner party?

This book is absolutely fascinating and my copy is already riddled with bookmarks as ideas for future books occur. Read now.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Kate Morten

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love, and loss. This book has all the gothic touches I adore – an artist tortured by love, plots and thefts and trickery, a crumbling house filled with secrets, a sweet protagonist (although honestly, she didn’t really do much at all). Flowing through the book is the narrative of the true protagonist, who – interesting for Morten – is a ghost. Morten usually hints at the supernatural but never directly acknowledges it.

Hugely enjoyable, although probably not my favourite Kate Morten. Read now.

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

The possessive, wild romance of Heathcliff and Cathy is part of our cultural landscape. Wuthering Heights was the first book my husband ever recommended to me, back when we first started dating. He even loaned me his copy. So you see, it has a special place in my heart.

I needed to re-read it as research for my new series. Honestly, I don’t much like either Heathcliff or Cathy. The whole book is a haunting, tormented story of horrible people doing horrible things to each other. But damn if that woman can’t write! Everything from the setting to the poetic allegory is perfection. Read now.

Those are just a few of the books I’ve been enjoying. What about you? What are you reading right now?