First, this year brought me a six-month-long reading slump. Now that seems to be in the past, but a writing slump has now taken hold. I’ve sat down to write this blog at least ten times in the past week and have drawn complete blanks every time. Sigh.
On the plus side, my favorite time of year is here! And with that comes some great reads!
The Week in Books
The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars
(H 8/31) Mario takes a job as a hit man in order to pay the medical bills for his young daughter. When tragedy tears his family apart, he finds himself on a journey into the violent world of drug cartels, helping an associate hijack a cash shipment in exchange for a cut and hope for a fresh start in life. But will Mario wind up losing his soul? I would describe this as barrio noir meets the supernatural. It’s dark, bleak, and disturbing, and the supernatural elements made my skin crawl. I read one of the the author’s earlier works, Coyote Songs, a while back and knew this was an author to watch. The Devil Takes You Home may be a brutal read, but it’s one that I highly recommend.
Anybody Home? by Michael Seidlinger — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars
(H 9/31) This is one creepy-ass story that will have you double-checking your locked doors on a regular basis. The premise: our unnamed narrator is walking you through the planning and execution (no pun intended) of a home invasion and the bloody aftermath. The kicker is this is all being filmed (presumably for some twisted televised series). The thought of someone breaking into my home is bad enough, and this takes that fear to a whole new level. Highly recommend, but fair warning: not a great selection for bedtime reading!
Dead Leaves by Andrew David Barker — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars
(H 10/31) This “love letter to the horror genre” takes place in October 1983, when British parliament was vilifying horror movies, and three teen friends were hell-bent on getting an elusive copy of the movie, The Evil Dead. A very nostalgic look at the ’80’s and the growing pains of facing adulthood.
The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson — 3 out of 5 stars
(H 11/31) One of my September selections. Strange things start happening in a small town, directly linked to a large biotech company. A small group of teens fight for survival in this violent new reality. This was one that I thought I would enjoy a lot more than I did. Characters, pacing, and storyline were okay, but I felt there should have been a bit more explanation for the mysterious company and these experiments. I also wasn’t sure if this was meant to be marketed as a YA or adult novel (the set-up felt like a YA novel but the violence was definitely for more “mature” horror readers).
Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight by Riku Onda — ??? out of 5 stars
Set during the course of one night, Aki and Hiro spend their last evening together in their shared apartment, wondering what the other did during an earlier ill-fated mountain trek. Is one of them a murderer? Okay, this hooked me from the beginning as I love a good psychological thriller and unreliable characters. It was great until…it wasn’t?? There came a point that I seriously thought some pages went missing or that I totally overlooked something from an earlier chapter. The ending left me feeling both unsatisfied and confused. Overall not bad, just not the thriller I was expecting.
Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies
Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women in Horror — 3.5 out of 5 stars
(H 12/31) Twenty-one essays blending themes of family, loss, and identity with spirits/ghosts of Asian folklore. While this wasn’t what I was expecting, I did enjoy these very personal writings, as well as the backstories of the Asian spirits and their roles in various cultures.
Stay safe and Happy Reading!