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  • Writer's picturethemadisongreer

Book Club Part 2

I've always enjoyed reading. In middle school, I would spend my weekends reading book after book, barely stopping. When I started high school and moved on to college, it became difficult to find the time to start reading again.

Now that I've settled into my job and my new home, I've used my spare time to pick up some books again. A while ago, I wrote a blog post (which you can find here) sharing with yinz my favorite books of all time, which included To Kill A Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye.

I've found a new genre recently that I cannot put down — and that is horror, or thriller, or suspense, or psychological suspense, or whatever you'd like to call it. Not quite Stephen King, but some books I've found in the store that look intriguing, often with some quotes on the back from a review in the New York Times saying, "You'll be looking over your shoulder the entire time."

I bought a book in 2019 right before I took a trip to Disney World to read on the plane. It was called In a Dark, Dark Wood, and I absolutely LOVED it. It wasn't necessarily scary, but it was suspenseful and it did have me on the edge of my seat. Since then, I've found myself wanting to read books that give off a similar vibe.

While not all of these are part of that genre, I wanted to share with yinz the books I've read so far this year (and a few from last year, too), so you can maybe put one on your reading list for 2021.

Also, it should go without saying that there are some SPOILERS ahead! Read at your own risk.


Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

You might recognize the name Chbosky — he's the guy who wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower. But don't let his previous work fool you... this book takes a completely different direction.

Imaginary Friend takes place in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, so a lot of the lingo comes from the area (they shop at the local Giant Eagle and root for the Pirates, although they fail to say "yinz"). A 7-year-old boy and his mother flee from an abusive home situation and wind up in a town with a patch of wood/forest that touches one side of it. The boy, Christopher, suddenly goes missing in the woods for six days, and when he is found, he has no recollection of his time there, only telling local authorities that a "nice man" saved him.

Months pass, and Christopher enlists the help of his friends to build a treehouse in the woods. The treehouse essentially serves as a method of entering an alternate reality called the "Imaginary Side," where the "nice man" teaches Christopher how to become God and asks for his help to kill an "evil force" within the realm known as the "Hissing Lady."

There were plenty of times during reading that I had to stop altogether and regroup. There were some really confusing parts at times where I had to Google what was going on. And about halfway through, there are plenty of religious elements thrown into the plot. It was an interesting and entertaining read, but did not leave me extremely fulfilled in the end, as I felt there were too many plot points that weren't tied up nicely in the end. Did I like it, and would I read it again? Yes. Would I recommend it to you? That definitely depends on the genre you read and your level of patience.

You can buy Imaginary Friend here.

The Toll by Cherie Priest

More along the lines of a traditional ghost story, the book follows a young newlywed, a townie kid, and a strange road that seems to vanish into thin air. Our newlywed husband drives himself and his wife through a National Park to get to their honeymoon when he crashes alongside a one-car stone bridge. When he comes to after the crash, his wife is missing, and so is the bridge. He stumbles along to the nearest ghost town in search of help, but his wife is never found.

The town speaks of a ghost-like creature who apparates the bridge only when it needs to feed — otherwise, the bridge is a myth and nonexistent. One of the only young adults in town, who lives with two elderly ladies who claim they've fought the monster before, winds up in the middle of it.

You can buy The Toll here.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

I figured I had to include this one since I mentioned it above! A young woman lives a quiet life in London as a writer when she gets an invitation to a bachelorette party for a girl who used to be her best friend in high school, but they haven't talked since. Even more strange, she wasn't invited to the wedding.

She goes along anyway, but after some drinks and a scary story, the groom crashes the party and is killed when the group thinks he's an intruder. The soon-to-be-wife tries to frame our heroin, who can't seem to remember a thing after the party is over.

You know how some people tend to lean more towards a scary movie about a break-in or another realistic occurrence? This book would be a great read for them. A classic story of "who done it?" with a modern twist. I find myself rereading this one often, even though I know who killed the groom.

You can buy In a Dark, Dark Wood here.

Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood

This book wasn't by any means scary or suspenseful, it was just a genuinely good read. It follows the story of a woman, along with her young son and her best friend, who takes the weekend to visit her daughter, who has down syndrome and is living in an institution (the story takes place in the 1970s). But the institution is under a lawsuit for treating children terribly, and the woman ends up on the run with her daughter so she doesn't have to send her back. Meanwhile, her husband, an attorney who is publicly representing the institution in the lawsuit, is worried about what this will do to his reputation.

You can buy Keeping Lucy here.

Next on the shelf:

The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

xoxo, Madison

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