Got a lot of reading time in the past couple of weeks, so let’s get to it…
–What I’ve Been Reading–
Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars
The story of siblings Anh, Minh, and Thanh told through the decades, from their fleeing Vietnam in 1978, to their relocation from a Hong Kong refugee camp to a London resettlement center, and their life journeys to modern day. This is a beautifully written story, and will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride (Dao’s chapters absolutely broke my heart). Highly recommend.
The Hobgoblin of Little Minds by Mark Matthews — 4 out of 5 stars
Kori enters an abandoned psychiatric hospital, a place where her father was last seen being treated, hoping to find some clues to his whereabouts. What she finds instead is unimaginable horror. It took me a bit to really get into this story, but once I did, I could not put it down. There’s some weird stuff happening here (as to be expected with any book set in a psychiatric hospital), and overall is a creepy, frightening read. There were a couple of things that felt “off” to me, but it may just have been my expectations of what I wanted to happen. A good starting point for those new to Matthews’ work.
End of Watch by Stephen King — 4 out of 5 stars
One of my March TBR selections. It’s been a few years since I started the Bill Hodges trilogy (Mr. Mercedes), so I was a bit afraid of some disconnect on my part. But I have to say, I think this installment was the best of the three. Brady Hartsfield is still as cunning and evil as ever, and Holly’s character has really grown. I think King has a certain fondness for inserting telekenesis into his storylines, and I am here for it. This could possibly be read as a stand-alone, but you would be missing out on the character development that has happened from the start. Gonna miss you Bill Hodges, but thanks for the ride.
American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts by Chris McGreal — 4 out of 5 stars
This is a stark look at the making of the opioid epidemic that has destroyed the lives of countless Americans over the last two decades. McGreal exposes the backstory of corporate greed that fueled the over-prescriptions of dangerously addictive opioids (OxyContin, among others) and their targeting of poorer, undereducated communities. I found this not only informative, but emotional as well. Well-researched and accessible writing makes this a must-read.
Beasts of 42nd Street by Preston Fassel — 4 out of 5 stars
So just how fucked up is this story? Where do I even begin. Fassel’s tale of junkies, snuff films, and revenge set in 1970’s New York City makes Nic Cage’s movie, 8MM, look like an episode of Sesame Street. It’s brutal, it’s disturbing, it’s graphic. I could smell the filthy rooms and back alleyways, I could feel the grime that covered every surface. This book is not for everyone (fair warning: if you have any triggers, just walk away now, as this pretty much has them all), but if you like to immerse yourself in depressing stories of depravity, then you really need to check this one out.
Tell the Rest by Lucy Jane Bledsoe — 3.5 out of 5 stars
This novel focuses on Delia, a basketball coach forced to return to her small hometown where she will have to confront her past experiences at a Christian conversion camp. I liked the book overall and felt it did a good job at addressing the traumas that many have endured at these camps and other forced conversion “therapies.” But while I appreciated Delia’s story, I would have liked to know more of Ernest’s and Cal’s stories as they seemed to be the ones who bore the brunt of the abuses.
Malorie by Josh Malerman — 3.5 out of 5 stars
One of my March TBR selections. The follow-up to the hit Bird Box takes up a few years after Malorie and her children found shelter at the school for the blind, then takes another ten-year leap, which is where the main focus of the story is based. This had been one of my highly anticipated reads as I really liked the first book, but this one was a bit of up-and-down for me. The story felt disjointed at times, like Malerman wasn’t sure which direction to go. And there was a certain plot point that kept getting thrown around that I was expecting some grand finale only to have a two sentence blase conclusion. Overall, I am glad I finally read this one, I was just expecting more.
Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies
The Forbidden by Clive Barker — 4 out of 5 stars
This Barker short is technically a reread for me, but I haven’t read it since the early ’90’s so I don’t remember it, let alone remember it for being the inspiration for the horror movie, Candyman. I’ve been getting back into Barker’s works after twenty-plus years away from them, and while this short isn’t one of my favorites (so far), it does excel at building suspense and the creepiness factor is right up there. A good place to start if you’re new to Barker’s work.
Stay safe, and Happy Reading!