Here are the fiction and nonfiction books I read during the last three months. It LOOKS like I read a lot, but there are quite a few short stories and novellas, so I didn’t really read that many pages. Anyway, I’ll attempt a coherent, one-sentence review for each without cheating and stringing a bunch of sentences together with and!
For fun, this time I put them in reverse alphabetical order by author.:-)
Telecommuting by L. Marie Wood. There is (practically) only one character in this contemporary, slow-burn mystery novella, but Wood makes it work by feeding the reader clues and creating an anxious, believable setting. KU.
I can’t believe Tidepool is Willson’s debut. It’s SO good!
Tidepool by Nicole Willson is a Gothic-Lovecraftian novel with a misty, dank atmosphere, a protagonist you can root for, and a plot you can sink your teeth into. Kindle.
“The Horror of the Broken Child” by Rami Ungar, House of Stitched The Magazine, August 2021. In this insightful essay, Ungar explores the trope of the once-traumatized-child-now-adult in horror literature and why it’s so popular. Kindle.
Blood and Paper Skin, Part 1, by Rami Ungar, The Dark Sire magazine, issue 8. This suspenseful first part of Ungar’s serial novella features a group of hooligans who have been kidnapped by a terribly misguided man. E-magazine purchased through their website.
“Negative Space” by Tim Waggoner, Nightmare magazine, Issue 104, May 2021. This is the kind of story that only an experienced writer like Waggoner can deliver because he conjures dread and an existential nightmare that leaves the reader wondering what the role is of men in modern society. Free story on Nightmare’s website.
Almost Dark by Letitia Trent. Trent is an accomplished poet which is why her prose in this contemporary Gothic novel is so spot-on and evocative even if the story itself is too meandering. Library.
Creatures of the Cryptoeroticos: A Fantasmagoria of Erotic Tales by K.M. Strange. Strange’s bold collection is all about the characters’ enjoyment of sensual pleasures, even when the characters are hairy beasts, vampires, ordinary humans, or Lovecraftian creatures. Kindle.
Malinae by Josh Schlossberg is a fantastic, Lovecraftian horror novella with a delightfully different protagonist, an elderly man with mobility issues. Ebook from publisher.
The best anthology I’ve read all year.
The Jewish Book of Horror edited by Josh Schlossberg is an anthology of skillfully penned, fresh stories that are highly emotional while simultaneously “light” on the horror part . . . basically the best anthology I’ve read all year! ARC from the Denver Horror Collective. (The book is due out on Halloween.)
“The Attic” by Hunter Shea, Weirdsmith Magazine: Number Seven. In one of the scarier haunted house stories I’ve ever read, Burt returns to his childhood home to discover the ghost-beast is still there after all these years, and Shea reveals the ghost bit by bit to stretch out the scare. KU.
Let Me Take You Down by Marc Shapiro, Short Sharp Shocks! number 66. Shapiro, an accomplished poet, delivers a literary, lyrical story that takes place in the jazz age and is full of stimulating musical metaphors. KU.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Within the pages of this book are stunning, poetic prose and a head-scratching (confusing!) family saga that takes place in India. Library.
This Morbid Life by Loren Rhoads. Rhoads is the adventurous woman who’s done all the outrageous, morbid, and brave things people like me are too scared to try, and she’s lived to write about them in this fascinating collection of memoir-style essays. Kindle.
In Petrified Women, Ray describes PTSD in the most palpable, relatable, compassionate way ever.
Petrified Women by Jeremy Ray. In this enthralling horror novella about a skilled sculptor and his traumatized girlfriend, Ray describes PTSD in the most palpable, relatable, compassionate way ever. KU.
Waiting Out Winter by Kelli Owen. I think this must have been one of Owen’s earlier novellas because the prose isn’t developed, and it distanced me from this apocalyptic disease story. KU.
The Headless Boy by Kelli Owen. Owen takes hold of a fantastic concept (grief and the ghost of a stillborn child) but lets the story meander off on its own. KU.
Trusting Uncertainly by Terry Odell. Once again Odell shows her skill at weaving suspense with romance in this undercover operatives thriller in which a missing woman falls victim to human trafficking (without too much traumatizing description). ARC from author.
Does your email inbox control you, or do you control your email inbox?
A World Without Email by Cal Newport. It’s a dry read, but this valuable book helps businesses and individuals control email rather than email controlling them. Kindle.
Miracle Girl by Sivosethu Ndubela. In this feel-good memoir, a teenager in South Africa describes her journey from grief and illness to hope and health. Kindle.
Zoo of the Dead & Other Horrific Tales by Iseult Murphy. In this collection of nine short stories, Murphy shows off her writing range from delightful humor to gut-twisting sorrow. Kindle.
Savage Island by Brian Moreland. An uninhabited island, drunk couples, and ancient island gods . . . what could a talented storyteller like Moreland do with that?:-) KU.
Hollow Skulls and Other Stories by Samuel Marzioli. In this collection of literary horror stories, Marzioli capitalizes on his mature writing style and character portrayal rather than plot to draw the reader into his family-themed tales. E-copy from author.
The Forest Dreams With Teeth by Madison McSweeney is Short Sharp Shocks! number 69 and deals with a loathsome teenager, his disturbing art, and the Satanic Panic of the 1980s all wrapped up in an edge-of-your seat plot. KU.
At Home in the Shadows by Gary McMahon is a collection of literary short stories with mature prose, an eerie vibe, and more than one ambiguous ending. Kindle.
“What have you done today to deserve your eyes?” -Eric LaRocca, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca. This horror novella portrays a sick-twisted-abusive romance with well developed characters even though LaRocca uses a contemporary epistolary style (thus, all instant messaging and stuff). Kindle.
Fornever After edited by Jonathan Lambert and Autumn Miller is an expertly curated anthology of love gone wrong with polished authorial voices, clever plots, and vengeance when due. KU. (I recommend Petersen Schoonover’s “The Digging Place,” a thoughtful, engaging read with a strong sense of place.)
Only the Stains Remain by Ross Jeffrey. This novella is your basic broken-child revenge story, but Jeffrey does it so well and with scenes so brutal that I flinched while reading. KU.
Milk Kisses & Other Stories by Ross Jeffrey. In book 68 of the Short Sharp Shocks! series (I love this series!), Jeffrey creates believable characters in a serial killer, a mom haunted by grief and ghosts, and a child dealing with body horror. KU.
The Faulkes Chronicle by David Huddle. In this brilliant literary novel, Huddle uses a plural first-person protagonist (“we” and “us”) to tell the heartwarming adventures of a gaggle of siblings whose mother is terminally ill. Paperback purchase.
Below by Kev Harrison. In this horror novella, Harrison takes the reader inside an abandoned, haunted silver mine and delivers a dose of claustrophobia and blood tempered by familial love. KU.
A Primer to Ramsey Campbell both entertains and educates.
Exploring Dark Fiction #6: A Primer to Ramsey Campbell, edited by Eric J. Guignard. You get six of Campbell’s well known horror stories (suspense and dread rather than gore) plus insightful academic commentary explaining why his stories endure. NetGalley.
The Razorblades in My Head by Donnie Goodman. The title of this short story collection hints at the bizarre, gory tales within that are narrated by a distant, chilling voice. KU.
Dead of Winter, Journeys 7, 8, and 9 by Teagan Riordain Geneviene. In these three installments of Geneviene’s serial fantasy novel, the protagonist, Emlyn, matures and becomes braver while the doorway scenes highlight the author’s imagination and descriptive skills. Kindle.
“How to Be Good” is disturbingly good. And free to read.
“How to Be Good” by R. Gatwood. In this expertly written, near-future science fiction story, the real horror is not the terrorists but the effect of the (off-screen) interrogations on the interrogators. Free online at Apex Magazine’s website.
The Weight of Their Souls by Deby Fredericks is an entertaining, sword-and-sorcery novella in which clothing and disguises help define the characters. Kindle.
Tree Fairies and Their Stories by D.L. Finn. This is a middle-grade, feel-good, fantasy, mosaic novel that reveres nature, celebrates family, and prompts the reader to look for fairies on his or her next hike! Kindle.
Haunted Remains by Carrie Dalby. In book 7 of Dalby’s Southern Gothic romance series, I was overwhelmed with details of early 20th century Mobile, Alabama, but a life-or-death climax followed by a a sweet ending made me cry. Kindle.
Into the Deep edited by Tiffany Curry and Seamus King. In this worthwhile anthology of deep, dark waters and the monsters therein, there are a couple of clunky stories, but for the most part the stories are entertaining or downright eerie. Kindle.
I read a lot of horror; stories rarely scare me anymore. But The Awakening of Artemis was one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. Kudos to Calia for his research of current events and his extrapolative plot of the future.
The Awakening of Artemis by John Calia is a plausible, near-future science fiction story told in Dan Brown style with huge stakes and a frightening plot full of politics and science gone wrong. ARC from the author.
“Donn, TX 1952” by Eric Butler is pure genre gore with a freaky scarecrow and page-turning excitement. Free download from author’s website.
“Deathly Fog” by Adam Breckenridge. In this atmospheric short story, Breckenridge creates a fog that feels dense and alive and sinister, so you fear for the young man who must live near the constant mist. KU.
Floaters by Garrett Boatman. With a name like Boatman, it’s no wonder the author put a dank, drippy twist on the zombie trope in this action-packed novella. ARC from publisher.
How to Write a Novel by Harry Bingham. Because Bingham covers all aspects of writing novels down to the sentence level, this book is in my top three writing craft books (along with Word Painting by McClanahan for the artistic side of wordsmithing and Writing in the Dark by Waggoner for horror writers). KU.
Happy reading! And if you are a writer participating in NaNoWriMo, best of luck with your Preptober!
Feature image by Quentin Durand on unsplash.com.