One-Sentence Reviews: My 3rd Quarter 2020 Reads

During the past quarter I read a bunch of awesome horror (and other) books, but I had a DNF, too.:-(

“A Good Provider” by Willian F. Aicher. Frank, the main income-earning for his family, is scared of the dark . . . and he should be. I dare ya to read this story in the dark using only the light of your e-reader.:-)

Guns of Perdition by Jessica Bakkers. Western splatterpunk at its best with a no-nonsense, gun-slinging protagonist, Grace, and her adorable sidekick, Jessie, who had me all teary-eyed at the end.

Fort by Rob Boley. It’s not a perfect story, but I admire Boley’s creative concept of placing a kid in a blanket fort (you know, like those indoor clubhouses we all made when we were kids and then got in trouble for disassembling the living room couch) for four years while the apocalypse rages on outside.

I can’t believe I felt sorry for a serial killer!

In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce. In this superb, historical, literary novel about the serial killer Belle Gunness, Bruce made me feel sorry for Belle and terrified of her at the same time.

The Garden of Bewitchment by Catherine Cavendish is an historical, Gothic, haunted house story featuring two spinsters and a dollhouse-type toy, and I LOVED this story with its rich details, nod to Victorian sensibilities, moor setting, powerful ghosts, and numerous secrets. I was flabbergasted that some reviewers gave this story only meh-reviews because it’s a five star book!

Climbing Over Grit by Marzeeh Laleh Chini is Chini’s real-life horror story about growing up in Iran.

Is he human or alien?

“The Scout” by D.L. Cross. In this science fiction, planetary-exploration short story, Cross cleverly hides the protagonist’s identity until the very end, increasing the suspense as to whether or not the protagonist is a human or alien.

Targeted by L.A. Daane. I wish I could say I enjoyed this debut, science fiction, horror novel, but the political proselytizing was too strong for a good reading experience.

The Priest of Orpagus by P.C. Darkcliff. I’m not the right audience for this occult story featuring an American teacher in Turkey, but I can see why other readers dig this demon-fighting adventure.

“Workhorse” by Syon Das is an extreme horror short story with lots of bloody acts that seem gratuitous, but Das takes you inside the head of the villain so you understand the disturbing “why” of the violence.

Ramblings of an artistic genius.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. This book about Dillard’s writing philosophy is best described as ramblings of an artistic genius. (I actually loved the book, but I almost sprained my brain reading it.)

Gabby Makes a Friend by Chris Elle Dove. Yes, I read a toddler’s book, but it’s a delightful story about how things change with time, and it’d make a great gift for a young one.

Bottled by Stephanie Ellis is a modern Gothic horror novel with a phantasmagoric twist and a unique concept (secret worlds inside the bottles), but I was bothered that the protagonist Tyler had little agency in the storyline.

Hunger on the Chisholm Trail by M. Ennenbach. Everybody loves this splatterpunk Western, but I didn’t because of the way the omniscient point-of-view danced across the plot without giving me a chance to understand the characters. This was my DNF.:-(

The best graphic novel I’ve ever read.

History of Her Future by Ron Falzone and Julian Grant. This dark, sophisticated, historical fiction story about Lizzie Borden is hands down the best graphic novel I’ve ever read.

The Isle by John C. Foster. Delightfully Gothic, yes, atmospheric, yes, a three-dimensional protagonist, yes . . . but I couldn’t get past the luscious, overdone prose that got in the way of the plot.:-(

Show, Don’t Tell by Sandra Gerth. In this writing book for newer writers, Gerth clearly explains how to spot “telling” and how to “show” instead.

The cancer part is real.

“The Thing in the Ward” by Nicholas Gray. Gray is a cancer survivor, and you can tell he called upon his experience when writing this engaging novelette because it’s so real. (Well, the hair-raising Thing isn’t real, at least I hope not.)

“Dead of Winter” by Lionel Ray Green. Green uses a frigid winter setting to increase the scare factor in this short story about abduction with a twist that I did NOT see coming!

“Tap” by Lionel Ray Green is a tension-filled short story about road rage, and it’s so frightening because road rage is real.

Suburban Secrets by Tiffany Renee Harmon. In this fun, fast-paced whodunit with a feminine vibe, Harmon creates a relatable protagonist, Angela, whom I couldn’t help but cheer for.

Silly me, I thought it was cricket the game, not cricket the bug.

Cricket Hunters by Jeremy Hepler. Kids hunt crickets with sticks in this coming-of-age (light) horror story infused with a murder mystery and suburban witches, and Hepler nails the plot twists to maximize the suspense.

Urban Legends by Yawatta Hosby is a New Adult slasher novella that strings the reader along because you can’t tell who the real villain is until near the end, great fun!

“Wait for Night” by Stephen Graham Jones. Using vivid prose, Graham tells a gripping horror story about zebra characters but without ever using the word “zebra.” (Except they’re not zebras; they’re something else, and I didn’t want to give it away and ruin readers’ fun.) Five fantastic stars!

Not, you know (trashy stuff).

Interludes 2 by Harmony Kent. This collection of 10 erotica short stories puts a fresh spin on sex scenes, and I never felt like I was reading, you know (trashy stuff), because Kent is a good storyteller regardless the genre.

The Midnight Lullaby by Cheryl Low. In this modern Gothic haunted house story that doubles as a murder mystery, the plot is a tad predictable, but it’s a fun read nonetheless, especially if you enjoy mystery stories.

Not Again, Grandma by Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko. In this story for early-reader children, Lo-Bamijoko addresses a serious subject, age-related dementia, through the eyes of a forgetful grandmother who leans on her Catholic faith, sensitive and well-done.

Never Trust a Demon, Never Wake a Nightmare, and Never Love an Angel (Books 2-4 in the Never series) by Kelly Martin. YA isn’t my normal go-to, but Martin’s breezy prose is a nice change of pace, and I liked the scary angel-demon-human fight scenes and especially enjoyed the final book which had me in tears.

The Emissary 3: Love Hurts by Marcia Meara is the third book in Meara’s angelic trilogy, and this feel-good, sweet story seeks to define what real love is.

The perfect ending . . . for a horror story.:-)

“Out at Sea” by Aiden Merchant. Hooray, a creature-feature short story that’s gory and fun with a killer of an ending!

“The Squirming Disease” by Aiden Merchant is wonderfully gross and buggy and will make you “squirm.” Do not read with a stomach full of food.

A Stick of Doublemint by Gene O’Neill is a contemporary, crime-noir novella with an old-school vibe, and the story features a detective duo with hints of the supernatural, perfect for readers who like pulp fiction.

A buddy read with my handsome husband.<3

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper. The hubster and I buddy-read this classic science fiction story which reflects sexist viewpoints and cheesy writing style of the time (1962) , but it raises the interesting discussion question of how do you prove sentience?

The Possession of Natalie Glasgow by Hailey Piper. The entity that possesses the 11-year-old girl is beastly, ravenous, heavy, and deadly, and it has a specific reason for being in the Glasgows’ house . . . a superb possession novella.

“Conscience” by Jonathan Pongratz is a science fiction short story with a high-stakes premise involving societal thought control, and I flinched at the deftly written scenes of blood and gore.

No One’s Home by D.M. Pulley. This modern Gothic horror story is atmospheric and thematic (addressing wealthy privilege), and it’s an engaging read even if the omniscient point-of-view isn’t perfectly handled.

The Midwives by Duncan Ralston. This is my second Ralston book, and like the first, it’s almost my cup of tea, but I had a hard time connecting with the characters.

Art and the serial killer.

Stone Angels by Paula R.C. Readman. OMGosh, what a sophisticated, character-driven, serial-killer novel with lots of art world details, I loved this one!

Unsafe Words by Loren Rhoads. In this collection of dark short stories, Rhoad’s polished, skillful prose drew me into the characters’ fears and sufferings and left me pleasantly disturbed. Not for the weak-kneed.

To Be Devoured by Sara Tantlinger is an emotional tale about Andi, a woman whose grief and anger steer her toward unusual ways of eating. Poor Andi, this one “gutted” me.

The Haunting of Cabin Green by April A. Taylor. Seems like a lot of folks enjoyed this modern Gothic tale with a progressive message, but the prose rubbed me the wrong way with its passivity and its ability to distance me from the Ben, the protagonist.

Gutterbreed by Marty Young is a crime thriller with a supernatural bent, a creative, purgatory-like setting, and menacing, other-realm creatures, but crud, I got lost in the meandering plot.

For the feature image in this post, I learned how to create a grid of smaller images. All the cool kids do it, and it was fun, but I don’t think it suits the aesthetic of my blog, so I probably won’t do it again. Besides, I see now that it doesn’t come through as a grid on the email notification or on the home page, blech.

58 thoughts on “One-Sentence Reviews: My 3rd Quarter 2020 Reads

    1. Several of the titles are short stories, so it’s not really that many pages. Horror hits me emotionally more than any other genre, so that’s cool. And I like the feeling of being in control. You can always close a book if you’re too scared in contrast to real life when you can’t just “close the book.”

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Thanks for sharing your opinions on all those cool books, especially for the spooky season! I’ll be checking out some of these. The book covers “Stone Angels” and “The Thing in the Ward” definitely popped out at me.

    Keep smiling,
    Yawatta

    P.S. I’m glad you had fun reading Urban Legends 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You always give so much insight in your reviews with so few words. It’s a talent for sure.
    Several of these intrigued me, including your DNF. I kept hopping back and forth to Amazon every time I hit on one that made me want to investigate further. You’ve clearly been busy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on The Official Blog of Horror and Fantasy Writer Lionel Ray Green and commented:
    One of my all-time favorite features of any blog on the Internet is “One-Sentence Reviews” by horror author Priscilla Bettis. In her 3rd Quarter 2020 reads, she packs more than 40 brief but substantive reviews into one easy-to-digest post. She even included reviews of my short stories, “Dead of Winter” and “Tap.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, Priscilla, you have certainly read a lot of books this quarter. I have just finished Guns of Perdition by Jessica Bakkers and also enjoyed it a great deal. I have both Harmony and Marcia’s books on my kindle. I also try to read a good mix of books, it is the best way of learning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PS I meant to mention that I felt quite supportive of Jenifer Ruff’s character Brooke Walton in her series. Brooke was just so perfect and her reasons for her murders seemed almost reasonable and justifiable. It was very clever, I thought, to create those feeling in a reader.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, Priscilla. I love horror but seem to read much more in other genres (I come across many more books and authors in other genres) so I’m happy you’ve come up with so many great recommendations. I’m going to check them out. Have a great week.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. LOL, I had a surreal moment, Priscilla. My first finished novel (unpublished) is named The Dead of Winter. Although I did research and found the title had been used countless times. But the phrase was integral to the story, and with so very many out there, I figured I might as well keep it.
    Now that I snapped back out of the surreal and back into the real — thank you for these quick reviews. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you so much for your support for my writing, Priscilla. Especially for recommending my novel to others. I’m finding marketing tough and time consuming, and it takes me away from my writing too. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing money can’t buy when readers recommending books to others readers. Thank you. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Stone Angels is a great book! I also think your future books will help sell your current books because readers will read something and then go hunt for what else you’ve written. I’m glad you stopped by, Paula.:-)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My goodness, you have been so busy reading! I don’t know how you find the time!

    Your one-sentence reviews are perfectly concise and informative. Personally, I don’t like reviews which banter on and on and on — yours are refreshing!

    There are a few books on your list which are still to-be-read by myself, The Priest of Orpagus and Stone Angels. I thought I saw another one which is on my Kindle, but, I was mistaken.

    By the way, I think you did a wonderful job making the book cover grid. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for all the kind words, Sue Marie! There are a lot of titles in my list, but it’s over three months’ time, and several of them are short stories or novellas, so I didn’t really read that many pages. I’m glad you stopped by.:-)

      Like

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