The month of August completely got away from me! I originally started this post on August 10, but life happened as it usually does and, well, here we are. As of today, the 30th, I’ve completed thirteen books this month, by far one of my most productive reading months this year. Not all of them were noteworthy, but here are some of the highlights…
What I’ve Been Reading
Ghosts of the Orphanage by Christine Kenneally — 4 out of 5 stars
Subtitled “A Story of Mysterious Deaths, a Conspiracy of Silence, and a Search for Justice,” this is a powerful and heartbreaking expose of the horrific abuses, physical and sexual, that went on in various church-run orphanages throughout the twentieth century. The author was able to interview some of the survivors, as well as find various documents to back up these tragic stories. This is not an easy read at all, but one that definitely needs to be told. Highly recommend, but proceed with caution.
Broad Street Bastard by Chad Lutzke — 4 out of 5 stars
The back cover blurb describing this latest from one of my favorite authors pretty much sums up the feeling of this novella: “Slice-of-life, coming-of-age with the bruised face of Dazed and Confused and the dark heart of River’s Edge.” This is a prequel to two other novellas (Slow Burn on Riverside and The Same Deep Water as You) where we meet young Jex, a struggling burnout whose life choices always seem to gravitate towards the dark and sinister. I would recommend these three stories to anyone who likes their early 1990’s coming-of-age stories a little on the darker side.
The Elephant of Surprise by Joe Lansdale — 4 out of 5 stars
Book 13 in the Hap and Leonard series. In the middle of a high-powered storm in East Texas, the duo come across a young woman who has had her tongue cut out and is being pursued by some seriously bad men. What happens next is the chaos that always seems to follow Hap and Leonard. This is extremely fast-paced with no gaps in the action. One of the things I like about this series is that you don’t necessarily have to read the titles in sequence. This is one I would recommend to anyone new to the H & L series as it’s a quick read and a good introduction as to what to expect from the other stories.
A Fatal Groove by Olivia Blacke — 4 out of 5 stars
The second book in the Record Shop Mystery series. Juni and her sisters are excited to be a part of the local Bluebonnet Festival. But when Juni discovers the town’s mayor dead in his office, things take an unexpected turn for the worse. The first book in the series, Vinyl Resting Place, captured my attention with interesting characters and a well-paced story. This second title did not disappoint. The mystery is solid, and the characters are becoming some of my favorites in the cozy mystery genre. There is no sophomore slump here, and I’m looking forward to the next story in this fun series.
A Place For Sinners by Aaron Dries — 4 out of 5 stars
Two siblings, an American businessman, a German hitchhiker, and a strange woman named Susan travel to a remote island off the coast of Thailand…sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but there is no joking with this intense horror novel from Aaron Dries. The slow buildup pays off, as once the action starts it doesn’t let up. And today, a few weeks after finishing this novel, I am still totally creeped out by the Susan/broken glass scene (shudder!!). I can usually brush off scary horror scenes, but this story got under my skin and is still haunting my dreams. Recommend for horror fans who like a good backstory before getting punched in the face with the brutality.
The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch — 3.5 out of 5 stars
One of my August selections. Thirteen-year-old Miles discovers a rare sea creature on one of his midnight outings to some local tide flats. What follows is a story about a young boys obsessions, and his relationships with the colorful characters in his life. Overall, I thought this was good, but there were times when I questioned the reasons behind adding certain elements or side-stories. I’m also still not sure how I feel about the ending. Added bonus points for this being set in an area I’m familiar with in my home state, and for the author keeping the setting pretty true to form.
Secret Santa by Andrew Shaffer — 3.5 out of 5 stars
Lussi Meyer is an unemployed editor, trying to find another job in publishing. She is given a chance at a prestigious publisher on the grounds that she must find “the next Stephen King or Anne Rice” in order to keep her job. Sounds pretty mundane, right? Well, now add a sinister little doll that Lussi receives as a Secret Santa gift and you have the makings of a darkly fun and somewhat twisted little novel.
The Devil’s Woods by Brian Moreland — 3.5 out of 5 stars
Kyle and his siblings travel to an abandoned area on the Cree reservation to find clues behind their father’s disappearance. With warnings of “Do not go into the Woods,” I mean, what could go wrong?? This story deftly combines mystery, horror, and Native American folklore. I enjoyed the story (those woods were definitely creepy!!) but I had problems when it came to the pacing, especially in the first half. One I would recommend for horror fans looking to add some sinister outdoor scenarios to their Halloween reading list.
Stay safe, and Happy Reading!