If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader. Here are the fiction and nonfiction books I’ve read this quarter with my corresponding stabs at coherent, one-sentence reviews. (I’ll try not to cheat and string a bunch of sentences together with and!)
The Genius of Solitude by William Alger is a century-old collection of difficult (mostly over my head) essays and reflections about how creative people need human connections yet crave solitude.
The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman. I loved the plot of this eerie ghost story, but the short, choppy prose wasn’t to my liking.
Strangers by Michaelbrent Collings is hands-down the most gory, claustrophobic, scary home invasion story I’ve ever read!
This Darkness Light by Michaelbrent Collings has bizzaro, Lovecraftian creatures that make this fast-paced, scary book almost science fiction, but no, it’s definitely apocalyptic horror with a good-vs-evil theme.
Double Take by Kevin Connolly. Connolly’s engaging, feel-good memoir is about his life as a lower income kid in Montana, a professional photographer, a boyfriend, a buddy and brother and son, an athlete, a traveler, and someone born without legs. (It’d make a great gift for anyone interested in photography or traveling.)
Murmurs of Evil by Carrie Dalby is a Southern Gothic paranormal story with wonderful historic details and an emphasis on (clean) romance.
The Nest by Gregory Douglas. It’s older (1980) and sexist, but it’s the best bug-critter (roaches!) horror novel I’ve ever read, and now I’m scared to walk around at night barefooted!
Wasp Farm by Howard Evans. All bug and nature geeks would enjoy this fascinating journal about Evans’ wasp observations. (Did you know there are tens of thousands of species of wasps?!)
Willard by Stephen Gilbert. This classic 1963 novel about rats has the best protagonist character arc of any horror story I’ve ever read. (Highly recommended if you can stand the rats!)
Another Rat Story?!
The Rats by James Herbert. In this 1974 novel, Herbert brings giant mutant rats to life in the London suburbs . . . ew, gross . . . awesome!
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. In this 1959 Gothic ghost novel full of slow-burn, foreboding prose, Jackson takes a tiny thread of insanity and pulls on it until the protagonist’s mind has come completely unraveled, making this a five-honking-big-star read!
5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing by C.S. Lakin et al. This thick, useful book with practical exercises teaches basic writing skills like POV, but it’s got more complex stuff, too, like pacing and tension.
Invisible Chains by Michelle Lane. In this debut novel, Lane skillfully writes from the prospective of a young woman slave in the 1800s and creates a frightening story of voodoo, vampires, werewolves, and, scariest of all, the brutality of slavery.
Dark and Deadly Things by Kelly Martin. OMGosh, I did not see the fun plot twist coming in this first book of Martin’s Haunted Houses series, a collection of ghost novels aimed at New Adults.
Forbidden Fruit by Gail Pellett. Pellet’s (kinda whiny) memoir, documenting her rough time as a foreign journalist in 1980-1981 China, really made me feel sad for all the political turmoil the Chinese people have endured.
Tales for the Camp Fire edited by Loren Rhoads, an anthology of bizarre or gross or clever horror stories, has a story called “The Quarry” by Ben Monroe that truly scared me and reminded me why I will never go swimming in a lake where I can’t see what’s lying in wait under the surface!
Evil Lurks edited by Samie Sands. Eh, like all anthologies, there are a couple of stories I liked (“Cat Food” by Armand Rosamilia, for example) and some I didn’t.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris is supposed to be funny, but this stand-up comedian’s story didn’t click for me as it did for other reviewers.
Kill Switch edited by Dan Shaurette. This nicely curated anthology of science fiction horror is all about technology misbehaving with “Subroutines” by Phillip Stephens freaking me out the most.
The Mind’s Plague by Morgan Tanner is a collection of genre-heavy short stories with imagination, gore, and weirdness.
314 by A.R. Wise. This is book one in Wise’s Widowsfield trilogy, and I found the prose immature, but I did notice that books two and three in the trilogy have higher ratings, so I think Wise improved with time. (Hopefully we all improve with time!)
Kindle photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash.
Rat photo by vaun0815 on Unsplash.
Hissing cockroaches photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash.