Reading Mash-Up #193

I was able to get a lot of reading done the past couple of weeks, so let’s dive right in…

What I’ve Been Reading

Slewfoot by Brom — 5+ out of 5 stars

(H 13/31)  I first heard about this book through posts on a facebook page and became intrigued (plus the cover art won my instant attention).  There was a ton of praise being given to it, so, on a whim, I decided to give it a shot.  The hype is real on this one.  Set in the year 1666, at the height of the witch trials, this is the story of Abitha, a creature named Samson, and the Puritan society that surrounds them.  This is all the info I really want to give out, as I went in with very little knowledge of what the story was about and I think that’s the best way to discover this amazing tale.  I have read thousands of books in my lifetime, and I don’t get to say this often, but Slewfoot instantly shot into my top ten all-time favorite stories.  Highly recommend.

Brother by Ania Ahlborn — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

(H 14/31)  Ahlborn goes full dark with this novel of an Appalachian serial killer/cannibal family.  Michael, the youngest son, is the main focus of the story, and as I fell farther down this rabbit hole of twisted family “values”, I couldn’t help but feel for the guy, the quiet one of the clan who actually questions his place in the horrors.  Ahlborn’s writing is fast and furious, and the characters, no matter how vile, are well executed (no pun intended).  Highly recommend, but proceed with caution.

Lay Them to Rest by Laurah Norton — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 15/31)  Absolutely fascinating, especially for anyone interested in true crime and forensic science.  Laurah Norton, a host of a popular true crime podcast, takes us on a behind-the-scenes journey into the many steps and layers it takes to identify the unknown.  In this case, it revolves around the partial remains of a woman known only as “Ina Jane Doe.”  Norton details her personal experiences as well as offers chapters explaining some of the science involved.   I found this to be informative while also paying homage to the many victims who have yet to be identified and laid to rest.  Highly recommend.

Jarvis Street by Amanda McCormack — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 16/31)  The second installment of the North County Paranormal Unit series picks up a month after the first story left off.  This one puts the focus on James as he tries to adjust to his new role in the unit.  As with the first story, this one focuses on the character building and not so much the paranormal aspect.  No matter though.  I am really getting into this series.  Added bonus:  it makes for a nice mental palate cleanser after some of the darker tales I’ve been reading lately.  If you’re looking for a lighter read (I hesitate to call this series “cozy”) but still want some Halloween vibes, I recommend giving this series a shot.

Fairview Hills Cemetery by Amanda McCormack — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 17/31)  The third installment of the North County Paranormal Unit series, and now we’re really getting into the paranormal side of things!  Just in time for Halloween, the group has to investigate some disturbances at a local cemetery after some kids use a Ouija board and unwittingly bring forth a malicious spirit.  The character focus goes back to Gabriella, and while this was fine (and good to see she’s finally growing a bit), I do hope the future installments will center around some of the other characters, especially Bradley.  I want to know what the hell happened to this guy that he has a perpetually bad attitude (seriously Bradley, check your attitude at the door for an hour).

Ghost Eaters by Clay McLeod Chapman — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 18/31)  “Pop a pill and see the dead.  Side effects may occur.”  An interesting premise to be sure.  Erin’s ex-boyfriend overdoses, and in the aftermath of his death, she is introduced to a new drug called Ghost.  Wanting to find (escape? peace? answers to the unknown? I’m still not really sure), she spirals into addiction with some truly terrifying side effects.  I liked the story itself, but for some reason I had a hard time gaining any traction or momentum while reading it.  There were some great unnerving scenes throughout, but I guess not enough to keep the story moving for me (or perhaps it just didn’t fit my mood at the time).  Even though it didn’t totally work for me, I would still recommend it for some creepy late-night reading.

—Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies—

Linghun by Ai Jiang — 5 out of 5 stars

(H 19/31)  In a mysterious town known as HOME, people can bring back the ghosts of their beloved ones…but at what cost?  There are many layers to this novella while also tying in the themes of love, loss, and grief.  This had me feeling all kinds of emotions while reading it, and I really didn’t want it to end.  But I guess that also could sum up the book:  grieving loved ones not wanting to let go of the dead.  Highly recommend.

Attack of the Crawling Hand by Nicole Prestin — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 20/31)   The title pretty much sums up the story, where we have a waitress at a truck stop diner having to battle a dismembered hand that is seeking revenge.  Apparently, there is a series of short stories featuring this diner and some of the characters, and if they are as silly and amusing as this one was, I’m definitely going to check them out.

Snowman Shivers:  Two Dark Humor Snowmen Tales by Mark Leslie — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 21/31)  Snowmen and Halloween don’t really go hand in hand, but I thought I’d include these two short stories in my October reading list since we’re dealing with walking, living snowmen (you have to admit, that is kind of creepy).  These were more along the line of emotionally darker tales, and, while not bad at all, wasn’t what I had in mind after reading the blurbs.

Dig Two Graves — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 22/31)  Twenty-two stories of revenge and retribution, with varying degrees of success.  There were some great standouts, like my personal favorites Steadfast Shadowsong (Andy Rausch), Samantha (Jeremy Megargee), and Nemesis (C. Derick Miller) to name a few, many good stories, and a couple that left me scratching my head and wondering what the hell just went on.  Recommend for those looking for dark tales with not-so-happy endings.

Spine by Steven Jenkins — 2.5 out of 5 stars

(H 23/31)  Eight tales that promised creepiness and, for me, failed to deliver.  The writing was technically good and there were some good ideas, but all the stories just seemed flat and emotionless.

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

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