Bag of Bones // Stephen King - You've figured out by that point that I'm a huge Stephen King fan. He's been giving me nightmares since I was about 8 and probably shouldn't have smuggled Salem's Lot under my covers. Bag of Bones is more of a slow-building thriller than a horror story. Mike Noonan, successful author, loses his wife to an accident, and only afterwards discovers that she was pregnant. After a year of rarely leaving the house, having nightmares, and suffering from writer's block, Mike packs up and heads to his summer home, Sara Laughs. The story follows Mike while he deals with Jo's death and the secrets that he finds out she was keeping from him, while tentatively dipping his toes into the waters of a potential new relationship. He digs into the history of his house and the unincorporated Maine town that it is in. There is a slight supernatural element to the book, but the real horror comes from the actions of evil men. I'd venture this is one of King's best: well-written, slow-burning, with fully realized characters struggling with real life situations.
The Goldfinch // Donna Tartt - I caved and read The Goldfinch. Everyone was doing it and I had to see what all the fuss was about. There's a reason this book is trendy as hell. Theo is in a horrific explosion in a New York City museum, that he miraculously walks out of unscathed. Unfortunately, his mother is not as lucky. Theo finds himself basically an orphan, with his mother dead and his estranged father who-knows-where. A friend's family takes him in, but during all of this, Theo has been keeping a secret from everyone. After the explosion, Theo found and comforted an injured man who gave him both a ring and the instructions to save one of the museum's famous paintings, The Goldfinch. I devoured this book while I was on vacation last month and was devastated when it ended because I never wanted to stop reading it. It lives up to the hype.
The Bear // Claire Cameron - Anna is on a camping trip with her parents and her little brother, Stick. As she lays in the tent next to her brother, she begins to hear noises outside. Her mommy is screaming and her daddy is yelling and running. Anna is able to find her mommy, who tells her to take Stick and get in the canoe, to get away. Anna does what she is told, taking only herself, her brother, her stuffed bear, and a tin of cookies off into the wilderness. Told completely in the voice of five-year-old Anna, The Bear is heartbreaking and incredibly difficult at times, but also a great, smart read.
Zone One // Colson Whitehead - Zone One follows a survivor of the zombie apocalypse, Mark Spitz, as he works on a clean-up crew in a section of Manhattan. Through flashbacks and his telling of stories, we learn what Mark Spitz experienced during Last Night (the last night of normalcy, or really, the first night of everything going to shit) and the following years of survival. The remarkable thing about Mark Spitz is that he is utterly unremarkable. He has never been anything other than completely average. Yet against all odds, he is still here. Zone One is dark, it is grim, and it shows a world without hope. It's also beautifully written and full of surprises, both good and bad.