Below are all the books I read July-September of this year; the first twenty or so reviews a bit more in-depth (whether because they are thoughtful and nuanced or I just tend to ramble idiotically, you can decide) and everything that follows is just some brief thoughts on each book. Hopefully, you will either find something that you’ve been curious about or that will pique your interest!
I had this blog post ready to go last week, but in double-checking my Goodreads stats, I discovered an extra nine books that I had forgotten to include here. I didn’t feel like writing reviews for these stragglers (though some of them are definitely deserving!) but I did go back and add them to the various sections below.
Jo Nesbo’s The Night House was a quick, fun read that had a YA haunted monster house vibe…until it abruptly didn’t, and it cycles through a few of those “…until it didn’t” iterations throughout the story. It was the sort of read that you munch cold pizza and guzzle icy diet cokes with on summer vacation while inhaling as many trashy paperback novels as your part-time babysitting money will buy from the musty beachside bookstore in your town with the amazing horror selection. In this story, 14-year-old Richard goes to live with his aunt and uncle after his parents have died in a tragic fire. Coming from a big city to a small town, Richard is lonely and bored on top of grieving the loss of his mom and dad, and is angrily acting out by bullying his classmates…who then begin disappearing in ways that he can’t even begin to explain to the authorities (because they are getting sucked into telephone booths and being turned into cicadas and other such horrifying things.) These disappearances also involve a house deep in the woods and a mentally unstable black magic-wielding individual, and the whole thing feels like maybe the whole town has gone a little nuts, or else the whole thing is happening in Richard’s head. or maybe, could it be that all of these things are true at once?
The Centre by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi Anisa is a 35-year-old translator getting along in a somewhat privileged and rather aimless way, translating Bollywood films and living on her family’s money when she learns of an institute called The Centre where one may learn a language in the span of ten days through some sort of very hush-hush, esoteric immersive technique. Dissatisfied with her life, and bored and frustrated with her lackluster relationship with Adam (from whom she learned of The Centre), she commits to spending a week at The Centre, figuring that learning a European language like German will lead to her becoming the serious translator she’s always wanted to be. The whole place has a weird vibe, it’s all very creepy A24 energy, lots of meditation and seclusion, but hey, the meals are tasty and top-notch, so it’s not all bad. Nothing’s clicking language-wise until Anisa suddenly realizes she’s absorbing the lessons, and five days in, she understands every word of German; it’s wild! Outside The Centre, she goes on to translate a book that hadn’t previously been translated from German into English and makes a small name for herself and realizes that even as she’s become a more “serious” translator, she’s neither satisfied nor happy, and goes back to The Centre for more lessons. As she undergoes this immersion for the second time, she is becoming more friendly with the woman who manages the place, Shiba, an individual who, culturally, and perhaps in many other ways, Anisa has much in common with. And Shiba. as it turns out, is eager to share The Centre’s secrets. But is Anisa really ready to hear it? There are a lot of ideas to engage and negotiate with in this book, in exploring these characters’ relationships with each other, in how they treat language, but also in terms of feminism and friendships, class and conformity, power and consumption. I think what I found most interesting is how this author doesn’t give you a clear answer about anything, at the end, of course, in the treatment of the “big reveal” but also just in how mutable a character Anisa is. She’s really a cipher. I did not know what to make of her at all! And I really loved that.
At the End of Every Day by Arianna Reiche I am not sure if this is a book that rewards your patience or punishes it… and if I’m honest, it was a bit of a slog to get through, but then again, I can’t stop thinking about it or talking about it. This is one of those books where the author seems to have had a lot of different ideas; this could have been many separate stories, but somehow they all came together in a deep dive into the minutiae of behind-the-scenes amusement park engineering and separately, neon glass crafting? As well as old-world superstitions and modern-day celebrity worship, but not just that, really, how cults and religions are built around these things, and not just cults and religions but maybe entire experiences like movies and theme parks that shape generations and entire cultures? And there’s something about twins and doppelgangers and echoes, and oh yeah, L.A. is burning, and what if it’s not just L.A. –is there even a world outside at ALL anymore? This book is getting a lot of low reviews, and many folks are saying, “I don’t have the patience for this,” but people. You gotta. I need someone else to talk about this with. Have the patience. It’s not rewarded in the end, not really. But I think it the reward comes somewhere beyond that in some other story. I don’t know what I mean by that, but that’s why we keep reading, I guess. I’m still giving this book five stars. Don’t ask me to explain it.
Beholder by Ryan La Sala Did Ryan La Sala scour my brain for all my favorite stuff and weave it all into an electrifyingly imaginative horror adventure just for me? Threads linking the sublime nature of art and beauty, weird occult practices and secret power struggles at the heart of the elite art world, the startling and tragic connections between what we create and what we destroy, hallucinatory wallpaper (!!), and how beauty too dreadful to behold could be lurking behind any and every mirror–or, perhaps, inside the person gazing into its surface.
Midnight Showing by Megan Shepherd Take all of the bonkers ideas and concepts in Malice House – a horror/fantasy/thriller with an MC who, in the process of clearing out her estranged father’s house after his death, encounters more and more increasingly weird stuff and is eventually led along a horrific journey ending with the knowledge she is of a lineage whose artistic talents, either writing or art, brings monsters to life…and then drop this story in LA with creepy movie sets and haunted films and Hollywood urban legends and even more weird magic, murder and mayhem. Very into this series, wherever it heads next!
Let Him In by William Friend The atmosphere in this book of a father handling the tragic loss of his wife and the monstrous manifestations of his twin daughters’ grief was utterly exquisite. Combine the timeless melancholy and *extremely British* autumnal glooms of The Haunting of Julia (even the sunny scenes in this book felt remarkably bleak) with the “creeping dread in dark corners of a broken home at midnight” factor of Hereditary, and it made for a book that I couldn’t put down—an absolute stunner of a story.
The Clinic by Cate Quinn is one of those books that you can see it happening on screen in your mind’s eye, a story that seemed like it would be wildly popular as a ridiculously fun, twisty, and binge-able murder mystery series on Netflix. Strung-out Meg works undercover at a casino in L.A., catching cheaters, loan sharks, and related nogoodniks. Upon learning that her famous, manipulative rockstar twin had died after having checked into a remote, luxurious rehab facility and that the death is being passed off as a suicide, Meg decides to check herself in and investigate, believing that her selfish narcissist sister would never do such a thing. Also, Meg is in desperate need of a detox herself. The story unfolds both through Meg’s perspective and Cara’s, an individual who manages the facility and prides herself on the orderliness and beauty of the resort…and with whom Meg immediately butts heard. Meg learns the stories of the other residents, all of whom could be suspects, as well as the shady tactics of the clinic’s head psychologist and doctor, all the while Meg is struggling with her own addiction and finding herself quite against her nature, making friends and becoming vulnerable. I understand that the author struggled with addiction and has her own experience to draw from in terms of rehab and what may go on there, but I oftentimes found myself struggling with the book’s explanations of trauma and addiction and how it talked about sociopathy. From an outsider’s POV, I don’t know how much I can comment on it, but some of it felt a little irresponsible. Then again, this book was pretty absurd overall, so maybe I am overthinking it. Still–it was one of those compulsive, impossible-to-put-down reads, so maybe just don’t get caught up in the details.
The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins spins and churns with secrets and scandal, centering on the wealthy McTavish family and its notorious matriarch, Ruby, who was kidnapped as a child and miraculously returned to her family only to grow up and develop an infamous reputation for very different reasons than her childhood disappearance (she was widowed four times over!) The story takes place in past and present timelines, spilling through a dead woman’s lips in the form of revelatory letters from Ruby about her storied life as well as the current circumstances of Ruby’s adopted, estranged son Camden. Camden wants nothing to do with his family, but his wife Jules is weirdly obsessed with getting Camden back into the familial fold despite his reluctance to reconnect with his shady relatives and tragic legacy…and, of course, claim his sizeable inheritance. Although Camden and Jules are clearly devoted to each other, you learn that they are both withholding secrets from each other and while that would seem like the worst time to reconnect with your despicable cousins in their creepy old mansion and attempt to stake your claim on the whole den of vipers, we probably wouldn’t have much of a story if they didn’t, right? And it was a pretty twisty, captivating story too, right up til the end, which I thought was exceedingly clever.
Ripe by Sarah Rose Etter was a panic attack on speed. This story, both all-too anxiously, heartbreakingly real, and yet vaguely, weirdly magical realist, follows Cassie from the cruelly competitive environment of her Silicon Valley tech/marketing job to her home life, which includes toxic, terrible friends, an occasional lover that technically belongs to someone else, and a long-distance relationship with her parents that does more harm than good. And while we follow Cassie, so too does the ever-expanding black hole that’s accompanied her for her whole life. Cassie’s loneliness and desolation –and that of the city she lives in–are captured in the author’s lush, dreamy prose and passages in which I forgot for a moment that I was reading about profoundly unhappy characters who deeply hate themselves. At this story’s heart is the question, “How does anyone bear themselves?” And the end shows us, in the starkest manner possible, that they simply don’t.
The Trap by Catherine Ryan Howard Told from multiple points of view, The Trap explores the circumstances of three missing women in Dublin and the people who are resolved to find them and/or decipher the mystery of their disappearance. There is Lucy, the sister of Nikki, who had gone missing the year before and whose life is on hold, unraveling with the unknowing. There is Angela, a civilian working in the Missing Persons Unit who hasn’t yet passed her physical but is determined to prove her worth, and, unexpectedly, the killer himself, who shares their history of urges and crimes. Though I found the premise and the individual stories intriguing, as the story unfolded and the twists were revealed, it felt like the story fell apart with the decisions and behaviors of the characters not making much sense at all. I had a lot of fun with and quite enjoyed Run Time and 56 Days by this same author, but I’m not so much a fan of this title.
In Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine, Anna, an actress approaching middle age who has finally secured the role that’s put her on the map, is desperate to have a baby with her husband Dex. She has undergone several painful rounds of IVF to achieve this dream and finally becomes pregnant. For what should be a joyous time, however, the pregnancy is immediately fraught. Everything feels “off”, Anna is experiencing much more pain and discomfort than is normal, and there are strange and unsettling occurrences happening around her. It seems that externally, someone–perhaps a stalker?– does not want her to have this baby, and internally, the baby seems…well, rather monstrous. In this twisty, creepy thriller, nothing is quite as it seems for either Anna or those of us following along …is someone threatening Anna and her unborn child? Or trying to warn her of the danger posed by what she carries inside her? I kept shuffling this one to the bottom of my TBR pile, and shame on me for that because it’s intense and atmospheric and SO GOOD. CW: lots of pregnancy body horror and scenes of miscarriage.
The Followers by Bradeigh Godfrey As irritating as I find social media influencers, I am also hopelessly fascinated by them, so I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing them as characters in mysteries, thrillers, and horror novels. At their best, we’ll get to see their humanity and a peek behind the “highlights reel” of their life, and at worst, well…perhaps they’ll get what they deserve. Mommy influencer Molly Sullivan is more or less a good egg and in the former category, and we read of her struggling to find like-minded friends in a new town and balancing a new marriage to a Scott, a private, introverted fellow, with sharing her life on social media, maintaining engagement with her followers and making good in her promise to always let them in on her authentic life journey. Meanwhile, she does make a new friend. A young woman named Liv, who is temporarily living locally to Molly and who thinks that Molly’s husband is actually the man who killed her sister and kidnapped her niece over a decade ago. As Molly and Liv’s friendship deepens, Liv is increasingly convinced that she has tracked down the right man…but then, who is the stranger creepily sneaking around and watching all of them? I don’t love romance mixed into my thrillers and there is a lot of that in this one but it’s not shoehorned in or handled sloppily, so it’s tolerable in a story that’s fast-paced and a lot of fun.
Never Whistle At Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology From the beautiful cover art to the exciting line-up of authors and the enthusiastic forward by beloved contemporary master of horror Stephen Graham Jones, I had high expectations of this right from the start–and I was not disappointed. Never Whistle at Night is an outstanding gathering of eerie stories that speak to an expansive range of indigenous experiences, exploring the darker aspects of their history and culture. This felt like a thoughtfully–even lovingly–curated collection of tales involving both everyday, mundane horrors of colonialism, identity, and power dynamics as well as fantastically supernatural curses, creatures, and monsters–the monsters calling from both within the house and outside in the darkness. Though there were some offerings I liked more than others, I enjoyed almost every single one of them, with a good handful of them I would have liked to have seen in longer form because they were just that incredible. But I say “almost every single one” because there was one that bored me stiff after a few pages, and I gave up. That story aside (and who knows, I may give it another try), this was a phenomenal anthology.
The One That Got Away With Murder by Trish Lundy What are the chances of becoming involved with not one–but two– suspected murderers when you’ve transferred to a new school to run away from your own checkered past and all its demons? Lauren and her mother move to the idyllic-seeming town of Happy Valley, Pennsylvania, after a fiery incident that leaves her a mentally and emotionally scarred social pariah. Things aren’t looking so great in her new school, either, when Lauren’s classmates and soccer teammates begin avoiding her and harassing her when they realize she’s hooked up with local-rich-boy-with-a-bad-reputation Robbie Crestmont. Folks in the town blame Robbie for the death of his girlfriend, and funny enough, Robbie’s brother Trevor also has a relatively recently deceased girlfriend himself. In desperately trying to unravel the mystery of the murders and the family at the heart of them, Lauren is also tangled in the guilt and grief from her own past–which may be blinding her to dangers that are much closer to her than she can even conceive. I read this propulsive thriller pulsing with secrets and twists over the course of a single evening, and it was a great time all the way through.
Green Fuse Burning by Tiffany Morris Struggling with grief after the death of her father and coming to terms with the unsaid but inevitable dissolution-in-progress of her current relationship, artist Rita is primed for my favorite horror subgenre of a story: “artist goes off to create in seclusion; weird shit ensues.” Spending a week at an isolated lake local to where her father grew up, Rita takes advantage of her girlfriend having forged her application–and having won– an artist’s residency complete with a creepy cabin in the woods, with some local folks behaving weirdly, as an extra treat. Rita begins to experience strange visions/hallucinations and possible instances of lost time or what might seem to be out-of-body experiences, and her resulting artworks reflect both her mood, the atmosphere, and her either literal or metaphorical (both? neither? not sure what was going on, really) journeys and experiences while exploring the land and the lake around the cabin. Morris’ writing is breathtakingly gorgeous, from the descriptions of the landscape to the artful essays detailing each painting, in the voice of an art critic. Overall, I’m not sure I completely loved the story but I definitely appreciated the lens of beauty, terror, and decay that it was written through
Mary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy This is a title that had been languishing in my TBR pile for a year or so, and man I really slept on it. Turns out that middle-aged, menopausal Mary is probably my all-time favorite character and I am sorry I waited so long to get to it! Hot flashes are one thing, but grotesque hallucinations, losing time, and homicidal urges? Mary’s pretty sure something’s not quite right but of course, her doctor just pooh-poohs her concerns. I know I haven’t said much but don’t want to say anything else and risk having said too much! This book is gross and fun and you might think “What business does a man have writing about a middle-aged woman?” I thought that, too. Make sure you read the Afterword.
Lapidarium: The Secret Lives of Stones by Hettie Judah. Have you ever gazed into a stone and wondered as to the stories it stores? The powers it possesses? In her fascinating book, Lapidarium: The Secret Lives of Stones, Hettie Judah explores the hidden history of these lithic marvels, from their role in ancient cultures to their modern-day influences and uses. An absolute feast for the senses, the book itself feels very much like a collector’s treasure hoarded wunderkammer of mythic and mysterious curiosities. It is split into six sections (Stones and Power, Sacred Stones, Stones and Stories, Stone Technology, Shapes in Stone, and Living Stones), and each section reveals a chapter devoted to unearthing an individual stone with imaginative, artful descriptions and a pretty wild, or wildly fascinating story connected to each stone. It’s a stunningly presented and designed book, with color-coordinated pictures and beautiful illustrations by artist Nicky Pasterfield for each stone, evoking the charming pictures in old geological and scientific publications. Referencing science, history, chemistry, physics, literature, philosophy, and pop culture, Lapidarium is an extravagantly storied chamber of stones, the next best thing to having a secret sparkling cache of curios at your fingertips. Writing with humor, compassion, and wit (I cackled out loud more times than I can count), Hettie leads us sure-footedly on our craggy journey down a glittering path of 60 mineralogical eccentricities, ancient souvenirs of deep-Earth drama, and travelogues that cross the strata of time as well as space. I wrote an in-depth review of this book here on the blog earlier this summer.
Rabbit Hole by Kate Brody The older I get the more I devour stories about the messy lives of 20-somethings who seem to be perpetually teetering on the brink, or maybe perpetually trapped in free-fall. Wildly careening out of control, numbing with sex, drugs, and dangerous, stupid scenarios, it seems like they never quite hit bottom, yet it’s always too late to stop from tipping over the edge. They fixate and fuck up and fail spectacularly–out of school, jobs, relationships–they can’t seem to get a grip on the messiness of their lives and it spirals ever further into chaos over the course of the story. I might be so obsessed with these characters because, in my late teens and early twenties, my life was practical and predictable; I held down jobs while attending school and paying rent. I didn’t always get it perfect and my family had its own issues, but my life looked nothing like these books. Then again, my sister did not disappear and eventually become an unsolved cold case, and my father did not die by suicide, consumed by grief and guilt, ten years later. That’s a lot of loss and trauma, and that is what our main character Teddy is grappling with. Teddy begins to piece things together from Reddit threads and accounts she finds on her father’s computer, she falls into an uneasy friendship with an amateur internet sleuth, and becomes involved in a fraught relationship with an older man that she suspects had something to do with her sister’s disappearance. Her job performance as a teacher at a local private school becomes more and more erratic and her life is basically going to shit –and she’s not doing anything to stop it. It’s such an uncomfortable, unrelenting study of a grieving person that it feels almost exploitative in a morbidly fascinated “I can’t look away from this train wreck” kind of way. It wraps up confusingly and abruptly, and I am a little embarrassed to say that toward the end I had no idea what was going on. It’s not that it seemed all that complicated or twisty, and yet I still couldn’t really figure out what was happening. Up until that point though, I couldn’t tear myself away.
The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell A young mother and her boyfriend go missing in an English village after partying with some friends. A year later, a writer moves into town and is drawn into the mystery thanks to some strange clues left on her property. This was a thoroughly engrossing story, I’m learning that you simply cannot go wrong with a Lisa Jewell novel.
The Family Game by Catherine Steadman Novelist Harriet Reed is finally getting to meet her fiance’s wealthy family and soon realizes that there’s gonna be a lot of weird and dangerous hoops to jump through if she wants to be part of the clan.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley A group of friends get together at an isolated hunting lodge during a winter storm, and the usual secrets and murders ensue. Lucy Foley’s always fun with multiple POVs and timelines that shift from the recent past to the heart-pounding present, and there’s usually never a dull moment.
I Didn’t Do It by Jaime Lynn Hendricks A murder at a mystery/thriller writer’s convention! Could anything be tackier or more sensational? If you think you know from the get-go what’s going on, you’re probably right.
The Vanishing Hour by Serafina Nova Glass After a horrifyingly traumatic experience, Grace has sequestered herself away from the world working at a small, coastal town bed and breakfast. As the season comes to an end for the summer, she is startled by a last-minute guest who brings with him the very kind of trouble she’s been trying to run away from. This is the second or third thing I have read from this author and while they all seem wildly implausible, they’re so well-written, I don’t care. (How are nit-picky details in a thriller more implausible than say, ghosts or vampires? Shut up!) On A Quiet Street x
The Last Word by Taylor Adams Even more implausible (but fun as hell so who cares) was this book about a woman staying at an isolated beach house who becomes the target of a stalker after she has written a negative review about a really terrible horror novel…and the author doesn’t much care for her opinion.
Wonder Woman: Ars HistoriaThis story of how the goddesses of Mount Olympus were just fed up with men, and how the Amazons subsequently came to be, was breathtakingly gorgeous and a powerfully moving read.
Trve Cvlt by Scott Bryan WilsonWeirdly enthusiastic fast food employees get caught up in the lunacy of a satanic cult’s search for an ultimate weapon.
Night Fever by Ed Brubaker This was a noir-type story of a middle-aged traveling salesman who gets caught up in a nightlife-fever dream of brutality and debauchery on one of his business trips abroad. A “shining the light on the violence within men’s hearts” series of vignettes.
Hauntology by Jeremy Haun An interesting diversion
SUPERDOOM by Melissa Broder I did not love these poems nearly as much as I loved the title of the book. There was an unholy number of instances of the word “cock.” I like my poetry dickless, honestly. Dick-free poetry only. No thank you and good day.
Small Crimes by Andrea Jurjević An intimate wander through the horror and beauty in early 90s Croatia during the war, and then later in America, after the war. Raw and rich with hope amidst ugliness and despair, dark with the scraped and scabby wit of a perpetually open wound, this collection affected me and resonated with me much more than the one above.
The Hocus-Pocus of the Universe by Laura Gilpin Unfortunately, I think the devastating two-headed calf poem gave me higher expectations than this book could ever deliver on. At this point to make such a reference is sort of low-hanging fruit, but there was definitely a Rupi Kaur-like quality to several of the poems, a bland vapidity that was so on-the-nose that nothing actually meant anything, everything felt shallow and empty. I was disappointed to discover that, because again–that two-headed cafe poem! I cry if I even think about it! The rest of the collection gave me nothing to think about at all. That feels like a really horrible thing to write. Let’s chalk it up to an instance of over-inflated expectations.
Lone Women by Victor LaValle Adelaide is an isolated homesteader making a new life for herself out west, and her story is one of monstrous secrets and terrible burdens and dark pasts, and there is an aspect of it that reminds me in a way of a book that I desperately want to mention, but I feel like if I do, that will somehow spoil a little something about both books. I’ll just say the book that springs to mind is by Terry Pratchett. If you’ve read both and somehow are reading my mind and the connections I am making, please tell me! At any rate, never has a story drawn me in with such immediacy and immersed me so quickly and completely.
Weyward by Emilia Hart I had been putting off reading this for the longest time. The reason is that I kept seeing on friends book lists, and these are friends that I associate with Fantasy with a capital “F.” Which is all well and good for visual art and cinema, but as an adult, I like my fantasy a little more low-key, sneaking into the lives of regular people who are firmly rooted in my world. It turns out Weyward is more witchy than fantastical, following the lives of three women across multiple genergarions who are born with mysterious gifts, and who are either learning of, accepting, or dealing with the consequences of their remarkable powers. It’s a really lovely book, and if you dream of living in a lonesome little cottage with a garden just outside your window, where you hear lashes of rain in the springtime and birdsong in the summer, you will love this book as much as I did. As I am the last one in the world to read it, I am probably preaching to the choir here.
Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle This is an unfair assessment, but I’ve never read Chuck Tingle’s books, only giggled at their silly titles. I was surprised at how…lucid… this story of conversion therapy via demonic possession was. I realize “lucid” is a very low bar for reading material.
We Spread by Iain Reid You never know what you’re going to get with Iain Reid but at least I didn’t want to hurl this particular book about an unsettling elder-care home and its appalling secrets into the sea, like I did with I’m Thinking of Ending Things. I’m afraid the title “We Spread” somewhat hints at the mystery, but even recognizing that, there’s still about about the story that I didn’t quite get.
Finna by Nino Cipri This was a quick little read about navigating codependent relationships and the messy breakups that sometimes follow…which is even worse if you have to work together. Even worse than that, when interdimensional wormholes open up at the IKEA-esque superstore where you’re both employed. Very queer, weird, anti-capitalist fun.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix I loved Patricia, a gracious southern housewife whose family kind of sucks but who finds connection and kindred spirits in the women in her community and their unexpected book club. An interesting new element is introduced to the neighborhood in the form of James, a charmer under whose thrall the majoirty of the town eventually succumbs. Patricia begins to suspect terrible things about James and this is where the book becomes massively uncomfortable for me. The gaslighting is off the charts, the community’s treatment of Patricia–even from her friends– and the way her husband and children behaved toward her, made me nearly physically ill. And these next issues are not typical of a Grady Hendrix story (at least not that I can recollect) but I hated the male gaze-y way the characters were handled; I am referring to scenes with both Slick and Patricia’s daughter, after their individual assaults. And even the fact that there were instances of sexual assault at all–I found pretty shocking. Not shocking for horror. Not shocking for horror written by a man. But shocking to have read it in this author’s books. It made me sad if I’m being honest. I expect all manner of marvelous, freaky ridiculousness from Grady Hendrix. But I don’t expect this.
The Watchers by A.M. Shine This tale of a remote forest, the people who become trapped there, and the sinister inhabitants of its ancient realms is intense and creepy, but the writing is a bit weird. For example: our main character for reasons that sort of make sense as they relate to the story, gets lost in the forest with a parrot. The author frequently refers to it as “the yellow one”–not “the bird,” not “the parrot,” not even by its name. It’s one of those things that becomes stupid and annoying after a while and you’re just like, “WHY? and it begins to affect your overall enjoyment of the story. That twist at the end, though!
You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron This was a lot fun
She Is A Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran I loved this one, recommend for sure
These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall I did not care for this one
Monstrilio by Gerardo Sámano Córdova This one was super interesting, highly recommend
Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak This was just sort of whatever
LITERARY FICTION (not trying to be pretentious here, but really didn’t know how to categorize these)
Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura Middle-schooler Kokoro is shy and struggling and has not been to class in quite some time. Her classmates are bullying her, and what begins as anxiety and fear about going back to school becomes a phobia about even leaving the house at all. Her parents are frustrated and are seeking out alternative schooling options, but for the time being, they allow Kokoro to stay home while they work during the day. One afternoon, a portal appears in her bedroom mirror, and she enters to find herself in a castle …where six other kids her age have apparently found their way as well. They learn they have some interesting things in common and were summoned for a reason, but they only piece it all together over the course of getting to know each other and becoming friends. I loved this magical, heartwarming story, and guess what! It’s a movie, too!
The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya Two musicians connect, and briefly share a profoundly close friendship; fame, envy, self-doubt, and the internet ruins everything
The Guest by Emma Cline Alex is a hot mess express, pretending to be someone she isn’t at every turn, grifting and scamming her way through the Hamptons. I read this in an afternoon and was stressed out every second.
All-Night Pharmacy by Ruth Madievsky See above Rabbit Hole review re: chaotic 20-somethings and their messed-up, violent, strung-out, sexy lives. Sprinkle in complicated siblings, magical realism, mysticism, and a more satisfying (although maybe the slightest bit cheesy?) ending.
Maddalena and the Dark by Julia Fine An atmospheric, dark academia(esque) fairy-tale (sorta) about the budding friendship between Maddalena, the daughter of a wealthy Venetian family, and Luisa, an orphan at the Pieta, where girls are schooled in the musical arts. At turns devoted to each other and obsessed with each other, the shifting power dynamics and feverish desire between the two will be the undoing of one of them. Which is all to say…ooof, I hope you never have a friend like Maddalena.
Chrysalis by Anna Metcalfe Captivating and frustrating
The Vegetarian by Han Kang Skip it
Yellowface by RF Kuang Definitely do not skip it
I did not finish the following books. In the majority of these instances, I didn’t even make it a quarter of the way through. In a typical reading year, I might have been a bit more forgiving of plots that did not immediately hook me in, or whatever other various issues I had, but for these purposes, I figured I just didn’t have time to dick around if I am trying to reach a goal.
The Witcher this was gross and rapey, I’ll just watch the shows and play the games
The Force of Such Beauty Barbara Bourland this was taking to long to go anywhere; life is short and who knows how much time I have left
The Handyman Method under no circumstances will I partake in the tedium and existential angst of a long, boring trip to Home Depot
Everything the Darkness Eats sorry Eric LaRocca, I could not get into this at all
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