I’m excited to share one-sentence reviews for my top 25 reads of first quarter 2021!
(In alphabetical order by author or editor.)
Wings & Fire: A horror anthology compiled by Dan Alatorre. There is such a wide variety of stories here, from dystopian to vampires, from not-so-interesting to excellent stories, the latter category making the anthology worth the read. (KU)
Hard for Hope to Flourish by Bell et al. In this anthology of three horror stories, all three tales (dark fable, African cosmic, and disappearance mystery) are sophisticated literary stories, heavy on character and theme, that make for satisfying reads. (KU)
“The Erstwhile Groom” by Laura Benedict is a domestic suspense short story with prose so perfect that it disappears and you end up existing inside the plot. (KU)
“The Ice Dream of the Crow” by Willow Croft is in an anthology called The Phantom Games edited by John Paul Catton. In this winter Olympics story, Croft uses real-life venue details and a poetic description of ice skating . . . only to wind up with a delightfully horror-ific ending! (KU)
Mosaic of Seduction by Carrie Dalby is book 1.5 in Dalby’s Southern Gothic romance series called The Possession Chronicles, and I don’t recommend Mosaic by itself because it needs the context of the series, but I do recommend the whole series with its attention to period detail in the Edwardian Deep South. (Kindle freebie.)
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin is a thoroughly researched and l-o-n-g biography of the famous author’s sometimes tragic life, but it’s a thoroughly interesting read, too. (Paperback Christmas gift.:-))
The Cheetah and the Dog by Patricia Furstenberg. OMGosh, this is the cutest, most interesting, rhyming children’s picture book about a real-life friendship between a South African cheetah and a dog. (KU)
Dead of Winter: Journeys 1, 2, and 3 by Teagan Geneviene are the first three installations of a fantasy serial novel set in Geneviene’s amazingly drawn fictional world with a restrictive religion, an oppressive patriarchal society, and a powerful spirit world. (Kindle purchase.)
“Bad Day at Black Canyon” by Lakota Grace is a prequel short story to her Pegasus Quincy mystery series, and just like the novels, this short story has a strong sense of place in its Arizona desert setting, and Pegasus is a likable, “real” character. You can only get the story by signing up for Grace’s newsletter at https://lakotagrace.com/
N00bs by Julian Grant is a YA dystopian science fiction thriller with entertaining teen banter set against a backdrop of serious ethical/societal issues. This is so out of my typical reading genre. I can’t believe I enjoyed it so much. (Kindle purchase.)
Starving Ghosts in Every Thread by Eric LaRocca is a horror novella with the most unique take on body horror ever, and despite the occasional, awkwardly worded sentences, I totally enjoyed this one. (Another paperback Christmas gift.:-))
I thought Kaplan’s book was so good that I reverse outlined it so I could study it.
It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan is an expertly paced (though slow burn), modern Gothic haunted house story with lovely lyrical prose . . . oh, the isolation and winter chill and nail-biting suspense, and what is that lurching down the hallway?! (Library.)
The Ruin of Delicate Things by Beverley Lee. Lee creates 3D characters full of grief and guilt and places them in a contemporary Gothic novel with typical woodland creatures that have turned scary as heck! (KU)
Give your brain every chance to be tiptop in its old age.
Successful Aging by Daniel Levitin. A neuroscientist writes science-y stuff about the aging brain but makes it understandable and entertaining for those of us who aren’t neuroscientists. (Kindle purchase.)
Lockdown Innit by MJ Mallon is a poetry collection that made me alternately happy and sad for its truthful depiction of covid’s effects on everyday life. (KU)
Congrats to Martin! She just signed a contract with Monster Ivy Publishing for a sequel to Fake Nora.:-)
Fake Nora by Kelly Martin is a Middle Grade horror story that kept middle-aged me entertained (and a tad scared) when young Nora got trapped inside an antique mirror. (Kindle purchase.)
Engaging with Aging edited by Rachael McAlpine is a blog-to-book creation from a blogger in her late nineties, not about being that old but from the voice of someone that old. It’s practical, sweet, and interesting. And yes, I realize I just broke my one-sentence rule.:-) (KU)
I Left the Room Burning by Beth O’Brien is a skillfully penned, easy-to-read, dark poetry collection, loosely connected, that has an overall, haunting story centered around family, fire, and painful memories. (KU)
The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh is a gripping supernatural and domestic horror story set in Nigeria during the devastating Nigerian-Biafran war of the 1960s, and it’s so convincing that I’m sure it’s partly Onoh’s real-life memoir. (KU)
You had me at “zombie poetry.”
White Noise by Rhonda Parrish is a fantastic, accessible, zombie poetry(!!) collection spanning emotions from humor to existential dread. (Kindle purchase.)
Reaper: Aftermath by Jonny Pongratz. In this YA science fiction fantasy novel, Pongratz builds a marvelous, colorful, creative, off-world setting and writes spectacular battle scenes (and throws in a little romance, too!). (ARC)
The Living Sand by Anthony Renfro. The monster in this YA horror novella is deliciously terrifying for a fun, fast-paced read. (Kindle purchase.)
I will never look at an ancient tree the same way again!
Wonderland by the talented Zoje Stage. In this slow-burn, modern Gothic novel, something’s wrong with the huge tree behind a family’s remote cabin, and the novel’s sense of aloneness is so palpable that I kept looking out my window to make sure cars and people were nearby. (Kindle purchase.)
Garden of Eden by K.M. Strange is a mosaic erotica novel within a mystery thriller plot when combined makes you feel indulged on so many different levels. (Be sure to read the book description for content warnings because this is NSFW!) (Kindle purchase.)
“Agoraphobia” by Rami Ungar is an atmospheric horror short story with a respectfully written detour into contemporary politics. (KU)
And in other news, April is National Poetry Month. Ugh, I should have saved the zombie poetry for April! Oh well. I am going to challenge myself once again to write a poem a day for 30 days. I think it helped my prose last year, so I’m happy to do it again.:-)
Feature image is by Geon George on Unsplash.