I had a delicious list of books to read this past quarter, everything from classic literature to extreme horror. Well, the extreme horror stories weren’t so “delicious.” I definitely needed a sweet romance palate cleanser after those!
Here are my one-sentence reviews for 1st quarter 2022:
The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood. Seriously, Atwood was ahead of her time as this book proves with its questioning of traditional family makeup, its point-of-view manipulation, and its hugely symbolic storyline. Library.
Flesh Rehearsal by Brian Bowyer. Bowyer’s extreme horror novel is written in his signature style that borders on stream-of-consciousness, and I admit that the book went over my head. KU.
Road Narrows by Brian Bowyer. I’m glad I gave Bowyer’s style of writing another shot because this brutal story with high-brow existentialist and theological themes had me in its grip and would not let go! KU.
Good Liniment by C.S. Boyack. OMGosh, this is the weirdest, crime-horror-fantasy mashup I’ve ever read, so creative! KU.
All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg is a memoir in Southern Gothic style that reminded me to have compassion for people I don’t like. Christmas gift.
Isn’t “Jasper Peacock” a cool name for a character?
“Jasper Peacock” by Paula Cappa. Cappa’s suspenseful, Gothic short story has the coolest title which is also the murder suspect’s name. Kindle.
Future Tense by Michaelbrent Collings is a science fiction short story collection worth it just for “I Am an Ocean” which explores bliss vs terror when AI gives humanity its deepest desires. ARC from author.
“Salted Earth” by Willow Croft in Neon Druid, an anthology edited by I. E. Kneverday, is a Noah’s Ark retelling with environmental horror overtones and a delightful surprise regarding the two main characters. KU.
Barren Devotion by Carrie Dalby, book 8 in Dalby’s Possession Chronicles series, is a slow burn drama full of family ties, religion, sex, and true love. KU.
Seeking by Cage Dunn. Dunn’s amazing descriptions set the reader’s five senses on fire in this collection of emotional-to-weird-to-dark short stories. Smashwords.
Eclectic Nightmares: Spoken Word Poetry by Jeremy Fee. Like the title implies, there are loads of alliteration, assonance, and internal rhymes to make Fee’s teacher-life poems fun to read out loud. KU.
Who knew fantasy author Deby Fredericks could write such spooky passages?!
“Abandoned in Time” by Deby Fredericks from the Time Capsules anthology edited by Carol Hightshoe. This is an abandoned house story (haunted or not I won’t say because of spoilers) with loads of creepiness and not-your-typical ending. Kindle.
Dead of Winter: Journey 13 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene. Battle scenes, chaotic goddesses, and a dragon make this penultimate installment of Geneviene’s serial fantasy novel a fast and fabulous read. Kindle.
Storm Dancer by Rayne Hall. Dark, grim passages and complex characters populate this epic fantasy novel that was so real that I actually prayed for one of the characters, forgetting that he was just a character in a book! Kindle.
Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel. Book clubs will love this book because the engaging, quiet-horror plot raises so many questions about feminism and motherhood. NetGalley.
The New Girls’ Patient by Ruthann Jagge. Brutal violence, cruel men, and a stubborn will to survive combine to make this extreme horror novella a page-turner despite my irritation at a particular character’s passivity. Kindle.
Tyrant’s Rise by Bella Dean Joyner. Joyner, an emerging writer, pens a story of adult siblings who have to deal with a creepy town, an even creepier, old cabin, and very scary “witch’s pets.” Kindle.
Geordie and the Beam of Light by J.D. Holiday is a children’s picture book that had me totally engaged trying to guess what the mysterious light was! KU.
“Trigger” by Tyler Jones from his Burn the Plans short story collection. A Southern Gothic, literary short story with lyrical passages and a gritty plot. KU.
Alma Katsu’s story needed to be told.
The Fervor by Alma Katsu is a spider-filled horror story set mainly in a Japanese internment camp in Idaho, and I could tell the story is very personal to Katsu. NetGalley.
Unlucky Charm by Aidan Lucid. Lucid’s novel is a YA occult story with themes of revenge and guilt, and its fast pace kept me eagerly turning pages. KU.
You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood by Eric LaRocca is a sophisticated mosaic novella with transcripts, footnotes, poetry, and Easter eggs all mixed up to form a compelling horror story. Kindle.
Cannibal Creator by Chad Lutzke. Lutzke creates three-dimensional characters and a surprising new angle to cannibal stories in this fast paced horror novella set on a tropical island. Kindle.
It felt kinda blasphemous getting Hell House for Christmas!
Hell House by Richard Matheson was published in 1971, but it stands the test of time and is still the best possession novel outside of The Exorcist. Christmas gift.
Immortelle by Catherine McCarthy. With an Edwardian Wales setting and lyrical, quotable prose, McCarthy writes a haunting story of a mother’s love and the art of pottery. Kindle.
Aussie Sickos by Simon McHardy. Apparently, McHardy’s goal was to write a story with as much grossness and violence as possible to the point of absurd hilarity. KU.
All of Me by Iseult Murphy. In this body horror novella, Murphy does an excellent job exploring the whys, the effects, and the emotions surrounding obesity (not for those with weak stomachs!). Kindle.
In the Crosshairs by Terry Odell is a contemporary Western set in Colorado complete with cattle rustlers, lightning storms, and a murder mystery (which stumped me on the “howdunnit”). Kindle.
Chouette: There may be blood. There is also compassion for any mother struggling with a child who doesn’t conform to society’s norms. Highly recommended.
Chouette by Claire Oshetsky. Nature goes awry (there may be blood . . . and feathers) in this brilliant, deep point-of-view, allegorical story of motherhood. Kindle.
Insides by Freya Pickard. This expertly penned poetry collection dealing with Pickard’s body’s insides as it fights a cancerous intruder is a gut-punch to the reader. Kindle.
The Insurgent, the sequel to Polen’s Subject A36, will be released May 19th!
Subject A36 by Teri Polen. This YA science fiction story about gene manipulation and designer babies has one exciting twist after another! Kindle.
The Exorcist’s House by Nick Roberts. Roberts takes the possession horror trope, polishes it up, and delivers it new with a gleaming, soul-cutting edge. ARC from Crystal Lake Publishing.
R. Saint Claire aims to publish something every month in 2022. So far she’s meeting her goal! Find her on YouTube.
Women in Trouble by R. Saint Claire. Saint Claire’s prose is dark and dramatic, perfect for this collection of soft-to-intense horror and fantasy stories. (Seriously, she has some gems in this collection.) Kindle.
“Mallard’s Maze” by Joseph Sale in Burnt Fur, an anthology edited by Ken MacGregor, is a literary horror tale using the brutality of nature to portray the difficult, corkscrewed relationships between humans, brutal and brilliant. KU.
“Feeding Babies” by Kristi Petersen Schoonover from The Colour Out of Deathlehem charity anthology (for The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation) edited by Michael J. Evans and Harrison Graves. In this sophisticated winter horror story, grief and a mom’s love play key roles while sounds play up the atmosphere. Kindle.
Mastodon by Steve Stred. The cover art, the Canadian wilderness setting, and the story’s familial love are surprisingly beautiful in this creature-feature horror story. KU.
Sophisticated Beasts by K.M. Strange is a five-star crime novel with despicable villains, heartfelt love, wonderful plot twists, and Strange’s signature erotica scenes (the window scene, OMGosh!). KU.
Between the Vines by Staci Troilo. This delightful romance novella with the theme of words, how they can hurt and how they can heal, made me laugh and made me cry. KU.
Pour It On by Staci Troilo. A clean romance novella centered around a restauranteur and a wine maker, Pour It On had me laughing out loud and left me feeling good. KU.
“Azazel Dances” by Rami Ungar and Richard Gerlach in Dead of Winter: An Anthology presented by the Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative. This is a clever retelling of Romeo and Juliet except this time we get to see the role Azazel the demon plays in all the tragedy. KU.
Blood and Paper Skin, Part 3 by Rami Ungar in The Dark Sire literary journal, issue 10. In this last installment of Ungar’s serial novella, the violence escalates, and a stunning, awesome surprise greets both the main character and the reader! E-zine from the magazine’s website.
I felt like I needed a shower and a brain floss after reading Volpe’s Only Psychos.
Only Psychos by Daniel J. Volpe is an extreme horror novel with shallow characters and an irritating omniscient point of view that felt more like head-hopping, but the book is frightening and impossible to put down. Kindle.
And in other news, it’s almost April, time for a new 34 Orchard literary journal, and this time the journal has one of my stories! Oh, happy days!
Feature image by Debby Hudson on unsplash.