Book Review: DISTINGUISHING FEATURES by Kealan Patrick Burke

If you’re already familiar with the work of Kealan Patrick Burke, then you know this—he’s great at crafting well-rounded stories that leave a lasting impact on the reader. Most of my experience with this author (thus far) has been through exploring his short fiction in novellas, collections, and anthologies. With each of those reads, I’ve found that “triple threat” combination that elevates storytelling to another level: horror, humor, and heart.

(Photo by It Came from Beyond Pulp)

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES is no exception to this standard. This story packs a punch in just a short number of pages. I was immediately pulled into the story, and carried along at a quick pace. Burke has a consistent ability to grab the reader by the feels and keep them going with moments of relatability mixed with scares and some scattered comic relief. This one has some authentic descriptions of struggles within the main character’s relationships, and I just found it to have excellent portrayal of his emotions at different moments throughout the story. There were also some flat-out chilling moments that brought unease, and the ending was certainly memorable.

Since this is chapbook, I’m extra cautious of giving too much away and ruining the details for other readers. Fans of Burke’s writing will not be disappointed by this one, as it’s the engaging storytelling style that you’ve come to expect, enhanced by the addition of artwork. Corinne Halbert’s illustrations are great, bringing the words even further to life. If you’re new to this author, this could also be a fun place to start—once you dip your toes in and get your feet wet, you’ll want to wade deeper into the expanse of his work.

Publisher: It Came from Beyond Pulp

Release Date: Mid-June 2020

Book Review: POEMS OF MY NIGHT by Cynthia Pelayo

Confession time: I still feel unsure when it comes to reviewing poetry. Aside from assigned reading in school, it’s not something that I’ve sought out over the years. There were definitely poems that I enjoyed, but I always felt like I just didn’t “get it”. In the past year, I’ve read more poetry than ever, and while I still consider myself a newbie, I’ve learned that it is something I enjoy—I think I was just never reading the write poems before. Now that I’ve ventured into the world of dark/horror poetry, I’ve come across some collections that I’ve connected with, but none have hit me in the feels like Cynthia Pelayo’s POEMS OF MY NIGHT.

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Up until this point, I felt a bit like I was stumbling through the art museum, watching others stand in awe and admiration of pieces that I didn’t understand– and then suddenly I found the piece that spoke to me. There were many things I loved about these poems. The most intense and effective for me were those centered on topics such as insomnia and death. I loved how the titles were in Spanish. This added an even deeper sense of culture and authenticity to the writing for me. Another unique fact about this collection is that it was written in response to the poetry of Jorge Luis Borges (whose work I’ve not read, but will be seeking out in the future).  Pelayo’s words come alive on the page, and while I had many favorites in this collection, my top selections were:

Insomnio

-La Noche Ciclica

-Poema conjetural

-La Luna

-Limites

-El sucida

-Signos

-La Joven noche

Several of these pieces made me tear up, and many of them had me returning to the beginning for a second read to savor the words. I feel that my experience with this collection is further proof that we’re missing out if not reading widely, especially within the horror genre. We don’t have to share the same cultural background and life experience as the author to connect with the writing. I’ve said it before and will again—I myself have a lot of work to do when it comes to adding variety to my bookshelf. I’m happy that Latinx Book Month was brought to my attention, and I was able to load my shelves up with some work I might’ve missed out on otherwise, including this collection. I sincerely look forward to reading more from Pelayo, and hopefully soon. I loved her voice and stories woven into these poems—this is quality writing that makes me want to seek out more poetry for my shelf.

 

Weekly Reads Roundup: Week of May 4

If you’ve read my posts on social media today, you already know that I’m making some minor changes in order to maximize the time that I have for reading and reviewing. On top of the stress we’re all dealing with related to Coronavirus lately, I’ve been struggling with the fact that I’m not moving through my reads as fast as I’d like. The fact is that my workload has increased despite working from home, and as much as I’d like to dedicate my time to all things bookish, that’s not possible right now. In order to ensure I get my day job done and also dedicate as much time as I can to promoting horror, I’ll be making these changes:

For the next 2 months or so, I’m going to prioritize my stack of review copies, as well as Latinx horror for the month of May. These books will still have a full review post dedicated to each individual piece.

During this time, any other reads that don’t fall into those categories will be featured in a Sunday “Weekly Reads Roundup” post on my blog. Each book will still have an individual review, but they’ll be grouped in one post and the reviews will be slightly abbreviated.

This does not mean I won’t be shouting out other books and authors that I read and love during this time. I’ll still be posting the reviews from the roundup individually on GoodReads and Amazon, and plan to continue social media posts highlighting each read.

Now that I’ve got the informative bit out of the way, let’s get to this week’s roundup…

CREEP HOUSE by Andersen Prunty:

This was my first read from Prunty and I really enjoyed it. This is a collection of short fiction, and each story is linked by the fact that they take place in the same town. There were several standouts for me in this collection that I’m not going to forget any time soon. My Top 3 stories were: The Calming Wood, Candy Heart, and The Existential Dread of Complacency. I’ve got several other titles from this author lined up and I’m looking forward to it.

4/5 Stars

 

BURNT OFFERINGS by Robert Marasco:

I’d seen the movie but never read the book, and figured it was time to remedy that situation. I like both, but the book was better, of course—there’s much more detail to the story. This book got under my skin. It’s a slow burn but it creeps into your mind, and I found it hard to put the book down. This is quiet, atmospheric horror at its best. I don’t think I quite realized how much I love a good haunted house story until recently. This book definitely brought it to the forefront of my mind, and I think I’ll be fixating on the haunted house trope for non-review books on my June TBR list. Also, I just love 70s horror and music. This one has an intro by Stephen Graham Jones, and in it he mentions how this was Marasco’s one true horror novel, and it’s a shame he didn’t release more later on when there was a bigger boom in horror fiction. I definitely agree and I think this one has been overlooked and underrated. I’d recommend to read the book and watch the movie.

5/5 Stars

Book Review: JEDI SUMMER WITH THE MAGNETIC KID by John Boden

John Boden became a favorite from the moment I first read his words. I’d been saving JEDI SUMMER for some time, because I hate to run out of work from my favorite authors. When I saw that there will be an upcoming new edition of this novella, I decided not to wait any longer. I wanted to take my time and savor these words, but instead I blasted through the book in a short time, because it’s THAT good.

There’s no shortage of coming-of-age stories, especially in the horror genre, but not all stories have those special qualities that lead to a fast favorite. The truly special stories in this niche transport the reader to a magical place. You know the one I’m talking about—it’s that safe space filled with warmth and nostalgia, and the longing for the happy parts of childhood that flew by in a blur. The right story can wrap you in a warm embrace and also slap you with a bit of heartbreak just as you let your guard down. My favorite coming-of-age stories take me to that place, and I can say with certainty that this story is one of them.

You’ve heard me talk about books I want to hug, and this one has officially been added to the list. My favorite authors write with unmatched authenticity. You can tell when a lot of heart has seeped into the story, and this rings true for everything I’ve read from John Boden, especially JEDI SUMMER. John is a true master with words, and in this story, takes the reader through a range of emotions. I laughed, smiled, and teared up while reading this one. Boden’s prose contains some of the most memorable and magical words I’ve ever read, and I always feel that his books are begging to be read aloud for full effect. For me, some of the best moments in this book are when he’s describing relationships, loss,  and the many little moments that we take for granted or wish to speed up when we’re young.

I’m not sure I can say anything more than what’s already been said about this book. It’s a gem and ranks high on my coming-of-age favorites list. I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you that John Boden’s talent is a treasure, and I won’t be the last. Do yourselves a favor and fill your shelves with everything he’s written, and then leave a little extra space for what’s to come.

5/5 Stars

May 2020 TBR Talk

I missed a TBR Talk post for April, but I’m back on track for May. I have a hard time sticking with a TBR list each month, as I’m a mood reader, but I still like to have the guidance to keep me on track. So, I’ve created a designated pile for this month, but it doesn’t include review copies or anything on my Kindle.

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I recently finished a great vampire story (Vampyrrhic by Simon Clark), and this sparked a desire to dig deeper into more of this particular genre niche. I’ve always loved vampires, but there are still so many books I’ve yet to read. This month, I’m planning to focus on the following vintage/classic vampire reads:

Midnight Mass by F. Paul Wilson

Live Girls by Ray Garton

The Traveling Vampire Show by Richard Laymon

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

This will also be my introduction to all of the authors listed above, aside from a short story that I’ve read from Ray Garton. Aside from vampire fiction, I’m also planning to start in on my pile of books from Valancourt. My first selection is Burnt Offerings, which I’ve seen as a movie, and absolutely loved. I figured it’s time to read the actual book, and I’ve heard great things about it. I’ve been working my way through some of J.F. Gonzalez’s work recently, and I’m ready to take the plunge into Survivor, so that’s on my list this month as well.

There will also be several books I’ll be pulling from my review copy shelf this month. I’m way behind on reviews, as my workload has actually increased during this lockdown, and I was also struggling to read for a bit. I’m back on track with reading now, but it’s just finding the time to do it outside of work and other obligations that’s been slowing me down.

Watch for reviews coming for these and other books in the near future. I’m also hoping to branch out a bit more with variety on the blog—posting something other than reviews, TBR lists, and wrap-ups. Thanks again to everyone who stops by to read my posts!