February 2020 Wrap-Up

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While January seemed to last forever, February seemed to pass in a blur. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get through my entire TBR pile, but this is no surprise, as I    always tend to stray due to mood reads. Between work being crazy busy, illness, and travel, my reading time was decreased this month. Despite all of the distractions, I managed to read 7 books, which isn’t bad.

I  have to say, the highlight of my month was the opportunity to beta read again. I had the privilege of reading two novellas early on, and I can’t wait to write a proper review for the release of those books.

In March, I’ll be hosting my first book challenge on Instagram. It’s a 60s/70s classic rock-theme, and I’ll be joined by a couple other music lovers as co-hosts. There will be weekly book giveaways for those who participate. I’m excited for this, and hope that a lot of readers will join in!

You can see my monthly wrap-up on the chart below. Stay tuned for my March “TBR Talk” post tomorrow!

Title Author Rating Recap
Miscreations Various (Edited by Doug Murano & Michael Bailey) 4 Discovered several new authors while reading this collection; solid mix of stories
Forest Underground Lydian Faust 5 I loved this story—looking forward to reading this author’s new poetry collection next
Mandibles Jeff Strand 4 This was a fun read! Hilarious and creeptastic at the same time; I didn’t know what to expect, and I’m definitely interested in reading more from Strand
Lucid Screams Red Lagoe 4 Solid short fiction collection- every story was unique. Atmospheric and haunting.
The Switch House Tim Meyer 5 A unique story; really creeped me out (which is rare) and I read it in one sitting
Communion (Beta Read) Steve Stred 4 Really enjoyed this follow up to RITUAL; left me in suspense for the next installment and there were many creepy moments.
Calamity (Beta Read) Matt Hayward 5 Proof that Matt Hayward can write anything in any genre and it will be awesome. Can’t wait to have a hard copy of this and to post a review as the release date is closer.

Book Review: THE SWITCH HOUSE by Tim Meyer

As I was selecting my February TBR reads, I could no longer ignore the stack of Tim Meyer’s work calling to me from across the room. I decided to make The Switch House my first read from this author, and I think it was a great place to start.

I have to mention that the cover is cool and creepy, and that influenced my choice a bit. But the content inside the book is what counts, and this story surely matches the cover vibe—it met all of my expectations for a great horror tale. While I enjoy most of the classic horror tropes, there’s nothing I love more than a fresh spin on those tales, and I think that’s what the author has done here.

Tim Meyer has certainly created a unique story in this novel. To me, The Switch House is ultimately about haunting, but it’s not limited to one entity. In this short novel, the reader experiences haunted happenings not only in the house, but also through the characters. Angela, Terry, and Rosalyn are all haunted by their past choices, and their pain is enhanced by the supernatural elements at play. Strong character development is important to me as a reader, as it weighs heavy on my connection to the story. I thought the characters in this novel were relatable, and found myself empathizing with them all at different points in the story.

The pacing is spot on, and I just loved the overall creepiness I felt while reading this one. As I ventured through the story, I couldn’t help but think of some of my favorite horror films (Poltergeist, Insidious, and Drag Me to Hell, just to name a few). I’m not sure if the author was influenced by these, but there were certain scenes that created an atmosphere or a feeling similar to what I experienced while watching those films. I think this was because of the supernatural and occult elements to the story, and some of the visual images that came to mind for me. This really enhanced my reading experience.

As I always mention, I love author notes. This novel closes with an afterword, which gave a bit more insight into the creation of this story. I enjoyed having this information, and was  pleasantly surprised to find a few short stories at the end of the book. The short stories were also great, and those combined with the main story in this novel are enough to guide me toward more of Meyer’s writing. I loved that this novel was unlike any other horror stories that I’ve read. It’s unique, creeped me out (which doesn’t always happen), and I read it in one sitting. Everyone knows I love a mix of humor, horror, and heart, and this story has a bit of each. I’ll definitely be adding more of Tim Meyer’s work to my reading list soon.

5/5 Stars

Book Review: MANDIBLES by Jeff Strand

Prior to this novel, I’d only read a couple of short stories from Jeff Strand. I enjoyed both, so when I came across a couple of his books during a recent book haul trip, I had to pick them up. The cover alone for Mandibles made me chuckle. I plucked this one off the shelf recently when I felt like I needed a strong dose of humor with my horror, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The author wastes no time getting to the action in this story, and for that I was grateful. I was immediately pulled in, and quickly gained interest in many of the characters. I will admit, at first I was a bit nervous about the number of characters introduced, as the writing switched back and forth between different storylines. This never turned out to be an issue for me, as Strand did a great job with pacing and eventually weaving all of the characters’ stories together. The characters in this story are vivid and there’s a great mix of personalities along the way. I found myself rooting for some, while feeling a bit of satisfaction as others met their fate.

The ants are gross and over-the-top at times, and it’s perfect. I’m definitely going to have some images of these creatures that linger long after reading this book. It’s creepy and fast-paced, with witty dialogue and a solid plot that keeps the reader engaged along the way. I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as substance, but this story was well-developed and just an overall fun read.

If you like books that read like a B-rate horror film, with a hearty dose of humor and an entertaining storyline, I’d recommend picking this one up. I’ll definitely be seeking out more of Jeff Strand’s work in the future. When the mood strikes for something a bit lighter, this type of book does the trick.

4/5 Stars

Book Review: LUCID SCREAMS by Red Lagoe

Lucid Screams is an impressive collection of short fiction from author Red Lagoe. The cover and the title immediately drew me in, and I loved that it started out with an introduction from the author (by now most of you know that I love author notes of any kind, even if it’s just a foreword or introduction).

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There were no stories in this collection that I rated below 4 stars. Each one was entertaining, and I enjoyed that there were a few shorter, flash-fiction style pieces in the mix. This author did a great job of creating stories that leave a lasting impression on the reader, even in just a few pages. Overall, the writing was atmospheric and haunting. These stories all gave me a different feeling—some pulled at the heartstrings, some left me shocked, and there were a couple of moments that made me giggle.

As usual with a collection or anthology, I’ve selected my Top 5 stories from the bunch. They are:

-THE GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE

-ABANDONED SOULS

-HELPING HANDS RETREAT

-SEVERED CONNECTION

-SLICE

I’d also like to give an honorable mention to the story Memory Lane, which I read previously in a Tales from the Lake volume from Crystal Lake Publishing. This story had a strong effect on me both then and now.

Red Lagoe is definitely an author to watch. I’m looking forward to her future work, and would recommend this collection if you enjoy short fiction. Lucid Screams has something for everyone; the writing is strong and covers a variety of topics. It’s a collection full of original ideas and unforgettable stories, and a great introduction to a fresh voice in horror.

4/5 Stars

Publication Date: February 28, 2020

Note: I  received an advance copy of this book from the author for review consideration.

Book Review: FOREST UNDERGROUND by Lydian Faust

Forest Underground has been on my shelf for much too long—I finally remedied this situation by making it the first read from my “official” February TBR list. Knowing that it’s Women in Horror Month makes it even more significant. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t read many books by women authors, at least when it comes to the horror genre. I’ll be keeping that in mind throughout the year (not just this month) as I work on diversifying my reads a bit more.

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Lydian Faust is an author I’ve been following on social media for awhile now. I enjoy her sense of humor and her posts in general, as I think we are close in age and share some common interests. Basically, I already thought she was cool, and now I’ve confirmed that fact because I absolutely loved this novella.

In just 100 pages, the author has crafted a story that’s tough to put down. It didn’t take long for me to feel a connection to the characters, despite the short length of the story. The mood and the setting that the author created are stellar. For me, this one has dark fairy tale vibes, and the setting was almost like its own character, lending a gothic, haunting atmosphere to the story. I love abandoned buildings and places, as well as stories featuring asylum horror or mental illness as a theme. This tale has supernatural elements lurking throughout, but it’s also heavy on human-based horrors—mental illness, neglect/abuse, and trauma, to name a few. I enjoyed how we got to know the main characters in present day, but also were given a glimpse of their past and how it shaped them. I want to avoid spoilers, but will say that there are some scenes in the book set during a character’s younger years at school, and Lydian does a fantastic job in writing those scenes. I felt so much understanding and empathy for one of the main characters as I was reading. Another aspect I enjoyed was simply how the story is split into three sections, each focused on one main character, yet they are all present from beginning to end. Not only do we see how their stories intertwine as the story progresses, but in each section, we’re given a deeper glimpse into that specific character’s past.

I recently picked up a copy of this author’s new poetry collection, and judging by the writing in this novella, I’m even more excited to read it. Just from this one piece, I have a sense that Lydian Faust is an author who “bleeds onto the page” when she’s writing, and that’s something I love. Her writing has a dark, magical quality, imbued with feeling. This is another one to file under “Books I Want to Hug”.

5/5 Stars

 

 

Book Review: MISCREATIONS: GODS, MONSTROSITIES & OTHER HORRORS (Edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey)

Let it be known that 2019 was the year I fell in love with horror anthologies and began hoarding them on my shelves. In 2020, have no plans to slow my roll when it comes to this type of book—each time I open an anthology I’m not quite sure what I’m going to get, and I enjoy the anticipation.  I love not only the fact that it means new stories from some of my favorites, but I also tend to discover new authors in the process. Before I can finish the book, I’m often so enamored with a new-to-me author that I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of looking up all of their work and adding it to my TBR list (or online shopping cart, if I’m honest).

One thing I enjoyed about MISCREATIONS is that it’s unique and unlike other anthologies I’ve read so far. The foreword by Alma Katsu is an excellent introduction, and I love the illustrations featured prior to each story. All of the little touches that might go unnoticed come together to add something special to this one—the layout and title font were other characteristics I enjoyed, and having read two other anthologies co-edited by Doug Murano, when I see his name on the cover, I know I can expect a well-edited and polished book. That brings me to a side-note: the more I grow as a reader and reviewer, the more I notice all of the factors that go into making a great book, and solid editing is one of them. I think Doug Murano and Michael Bailey did an excellent job with this one.

In keeping with my typical trend for anthologies/collections, I narrowed my favorite stories down to a Top 5 (listed here in the order with which they appear in the book):

-MATRYOSHKA by Joanna Parypinski: a haunting tale with a unique concept; I’d love to read more from this author.

-YOU ARE MY NEIGHBOR by Max Booth III: my first and definitely not my last read from this author. This was creeptastic and a bit heartbreaking at times.

-SPECTRAL EVIDENCE by Victor LaValle: Sorry to say this was my first read from this author; this was another haunting tale that pulled on the heartstrings. Adding more of his work to my list.

-MY KNOWING GLANCE by Lucy A. Snyder: I loved this story—the whole concept was great, and I just got a great vibe from Snyder’s writing style. I immediately went to my bookshelf after this, as I realized I have her short fiction collection, SOFT APOCALYPSES. I added it to my TBR cart and will likely read it this month.

-RESURRECTION POINTS by Usman T. Malik: another new-to-me author, and I’ll definitely seek out more of his work. This one was hauntingly heartbreaking as well (notice a trend here? Can’t help what I love).

I’d also like to give some honorable mentions to other favorites. These stories made it tough to narrow down my top 5:

-A HEART ARRYTHMIA CREEPING INTO A DARK ROOM by Michael Wehunt

OPERATIONS OTHER THAN WAR by Nadia Bulkin

IMPERFECT CLAY by Lisa Morton

NOT ERADICATED IN YOU by Bracken MacLeod

THE MAKING OF ASYLUM OPHELIA by Mercedes M. Yardley

 This was overall a very solid collection of stories, and the only thing keeping me from a full 5-star review was honestly that there were 2 or 3 in the bunch that fell flat for me. I  found myself skimming a couple of the stories, and did not finish one of them. I think it was just my personal lack of interest in the subject matter and style of those particular stories—it does not mean that they were poorly written.

I eagerly anticipate reading more from the new authors I’ve discovered through this anthology. Many of the names were familiar, but had I not picked up this book, it would’ve taken me much longer to get to their work. My shelves and book piles will continue to grow thanks to this mix of stories, and that warms this book lover’s heart.

4/5 stars

Publisher: Written Backwards

Release Date: February 18, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

February “TBR Talk”

As usual, time seems to be going faster, and I can’t believe it’s already February. This month marks the start of my “TBR Talk” blog posts. As my reading and reviewing opportunities expand, I feel it’s important to branch out and include more variety on my blog.

If you’ve been following me for a bit, you probably know that I struggle with sticking to a set TBR list each month. I still feel compelled to make a list, as it keeps me on track with review copies, but I’m no longer stressing if I stray from what’s in my pile.

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In this month’s stack, we have:

BY BIZARRE HANDS by Joe Lansdale:

I’ve been hoarding books by this author for months now, and have yet to take the plunge into his work. Now is the time, and I’m beginning with a short story collection, because you know how I love those. 

FOREST UNDERGROUND by Lydian Faust:

I’ve been following Lydian on social media for awhile, and have had this book on my shelf for way too long. This is one of my Women in Horror Month selections. I also recently purchased a copy of her new poetry collection, Severin, and plan to read that soon. 

GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION by Matthew M. Bartlett

An author whose work was recommended by John Boden. Enough said. (I’ve had this book for too long and I’m finally making it a priority to read it).

THE SWITCH HOUSE by Tim Meyer

I hoarded several signed books from this author around the holidays, and have yet to start one. I’ve heard so many positive reviews, especially about this novel, so this is where I’m starting. 

LUCID SCREAMS by Red Lagoe

Another Women in Horror Month selection– Red was kind to send me a review copy of her short fiction collection. I’m excited to read this one!

IN DARKNESS DELIGHT: VOL.1: MASTERS OF MIDNIGHT: 

I’ve had this anthology on my shelf for awhile– graciously sent to me for review consideration by Corpus Press and Erin Al-Mehairi. I’ve got to have at least one anthology in my stack each month!

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In addition to the books in my stack, I’m finishing up several others that I started toward the end of January, and I’m sure I’ll throw in a few other mood reads along the way. Now that I have a Kindle, I’ve got plenty of e-book reads waiting for me as well.

I’ll wrap this up now, but before I go, I’d like to say thanks again to all of you for reading my reviews and interacting with me on social media. I’m grateful for all of the bookish opportunities that have come my way, and looking forward to what’s ahead as the year progresses.