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January Reads: Jean-Patrick Manchette, Marky Ramone, Nikki Dolson, Jess Walter, Shirley Jackson

The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette
There's nothing better than a new literary crush, and Manchette has won my dark heart. Lean and mean and delectably absurd, the brutal scenes had me guffawing. Julie, unwieldy and tough, fresh out of the mental hospital, might be my favorite antiheroine ever. I loved it so much I read it twice.

Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life As a Ramone by Marky Ramone
I checked out Punk Rock Blitzkrieg after watching Marky Ramone spar Johnny Rotten during a very un-punk panel discussion. While his time as a Ramone was why I read it, my favorite chapters were about Richard Hell and the Voidoids and the NYC punk scene. But what truly knocked me out was his inspiring story about losing what matters most to find your higher self. Bonus: Hearing his NYC accent while reading adds a charming layer to his tales.

All Things Violent by Nikki Dolson
Staying true to the title, All Things Violent is a brutal, episodic novel featuring Laura, a crackerjack assassin who'll break your bones and your heart. Her fatal flaw is her unwavering love of her ex-boyfriend, who also happens to be her boss. Time after time, she battles bruisers and ruffians and somehow comes out on top. But she leaves you wondering just who she's trying to punish. 
Over Tumbled Graves by Jess Walter
I've been avoiding serial killer novels, but after reading Dead Girls by Alice Bolin, I checked out Over Tumbled Graves. Excellent writing and pacing — a real page-turner. I thought I'd solved the case early on, but the final twist proved I wasn't completely on-track. 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Rereading a book is an indulgence, especially when there's a menacing character like Merricat Blackwood, whose rituals, sorcery, and superstitions amplify the terror of a disturbing childhood. While Merricat's words and schemes betray her deadly heart, Constance's obsession with cooking and cleaning is also genuinely frightening. Outside of the Blackwood’s twisted family dynamics, Jackson tackles class struggle, with the Blackwood's snobbery being avenged by a vulgar village mob. Jackson is just simply one of the best. 


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  WE BITE We walk the streets at night. Me and the dangerous dog. Staring them down, daring them down, in the crosshairs of a feral gaze. To whistles, catcalls (and just plain cats), we bare wet teeth.  They think it’s fear.  But really, it’s love.