If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader. Here are the fiction and nonfiction books I read during the last three months of 2019 with my corresponding stabs at coherent, one-sentence reviews. (As always, I’ll try not to cheat and string a bunch of sentences together with and!)
22 reads, some were good, some were awesome!
The Kraken of Cape Madre by J.P. Barnett. Who’s up for a good, ol’ fashioned, monster story that takes place off the Texas shore? (It’s the second book in a series, but you totally don’t have to read the first book to enjoy this one.)
Scavenger Hunt by Michaelbrent Collings. Despite the complex timeline and multiple POV’s, this gory, psychological thriller is easy to read, and you totally end up cheering on the flawed characters who are trapped in a crazy person’s revenge scheme. Five stars!
Coyote Rage by Owl Goingback. Goingback is a creative and captivating story teller, but I think people who enjoy mythology would like this book about animals and the Native American spirit world more than I did.
Doorways to the Deadeye by Eric Guignard. Effective prose, unusual settings, interesting details about early 20th century trains, and original ghost-symbol-myth thingies make for a satisfying read even though, unfortunately, it did drag a little during the first half.
I learned so much about Gothic fiction from Hall’s book.
Writing Gothic Fiction by Rayne Hall. This short how-to book has lots of fine examples (including one of Hall’s own short stories) and is crammed full of useful information. I learned so much!
Black Wings by Megan Hart. Written by a romance author who nailed the story’s relationship dynamics, this contemporary mother-daughter horror novel scared me, but I don’t think it’d frighten anyone who’s not a parent.
Stoker’s Wilde by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi. This slightly too-long, epistolary, Gothic horror novel stars Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde who fight vampires and werewolves, and yeah, it’s as humorous as it sounds.
The Bedwetter by Lee Allen Howard. Caution: extreme horror by a talented author who makes even a budding psychopath come across as empathetic . . . if you have a strong stomach, The Bedwetter is expertly penned and deserves five bloody stars!
“The Ghost at Willow Creek” by Debbie Johansson. Johansson sets her first story (yes, her first) in the 1800s in Australia, and though the story isn’t perfect, I enjoyed her multi-sensory descriptions and especially the way she portrayed the main character’s madness (or is the ghost real?).
In Extremis by Danielle Kahuaku. Take a Louis L’Amour western and throw in a scary supernatural element, and you’ve got the six-shootin’ fun of In Extremis.
Blood Sugar by Daniel Kraus. Blood Sugar is a heart-rending story of inner city youths just trying to survive and form their own family bonds when their real-life families fail. Heads up: There’s a witch on the cover of this book, but there are no witches, ghosts, or anything supernatural in the book. It’s like a contemporary version of Hinton’s The Outsiders. Five razor-edged stars!
This ain’t your typical rainbows-and-glitter unicorn!
Black Heart Boys’ Choir by Curtis Lawson. Lucien, a troubled, cerebral youth, goes mad and takes us along for the ride as he deals with high school bullies, plunging family finances, and, worst of all, a smoky, sooty, unicorn demon. Five frightening stars!
Hearthstone Cottage by Frazer Lee. Read this Gothic horror novel that takes place in the Scottish Highlands when you want a solid, eerie, ghost story that doesn’t try to get all highbrowed.
The Murder of Jesus Christ by John Little. The plot in this time travel story doesn’t quite live up to the uncomfortable and provocative title.
No men, no plants, no animals. Only women, and they’re all starving.
Ration by Cody Luff. Ration is a dystopian story with an all-female cast, and oh, it’s heavy and emotional and makes you thankful for every meal on your table. This here’s some quality writing, five stars!
Canni by Daniel O’Connor. Read this zombie thriller for fun, not for edification or profundity, because the “cure” gets a little silly.
And Then Came a Lion by Cecilia Marie Pulliam. And Then Came a Lion is a Christian, organized-crime thriller that was Pulliam’s very first book (from 2013), so it’s not perfect, but it held my interest and made me feel good. (After I read Blood Sugar, I immediately read Pulliam’s book because I needed a palate-cleanser!)
Ghostland by Duncan Ralson. A YA Jurassic Park except with ghosts.:-)
Three short stories by Anthony Renfro. “A Zombie Christmas” and “A Vampire at Christmas” and “The Dead of Winter” are all laid-back, light-horror reads with Renfro’s typical tug on the heartstrings.
A great buddy-read.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. This nonfiction book with a feminine feel inspired me to create my own happiness project for 2020 to make sure I’m experiencing life, not just muscling through. (P.S., it makes a great buddy-read!)
Inside by D. M. Siciliano. Siciliano’s debut novel is your basic YA haunted house story except the house is sentient and has a fire obsession.
They Kill by Tim Waggoner. They Kill has elements of urban fantasy, cosmic horror, zombie fiction, science fiction, and body horror, and the book is frustrating and doesn’t make sense unless you read to the very end, and then you’re like, “Oh, that was really good.”
I trust everyone enjoyed their holidays. Happy New Year!