Thursday, November 2, 2023

What I Read in October

 So I was wrong you guys! In September I finished 13 books and thought that was going to be the best I'd get for the rest of the year but nope. I managed to read 13 books again in October. One of them was for publicity purposes, so I won't include it here, but dayum! My reading has been on fire these last couple months. Can I keep it up? I don't know but I sure hope so!!

So let's take a look at what I read in October: 

Apparitions by Adam Pottle

Imagine being a young deaf boy, sheltered from the world by a druggie mother who tries to do her best for you but fails miserably. Imagine your estranged father coming to drag you away, kidnapping you, and locking you away in a basement room with a light that never turns off and only a dirty mattress and bucket to piss and shit in. No one ever taught you to sign, to communicate. No one ever taught you anything. All you know is what's inside those concrete walls with you. And the dogs. You also know the dogs. The ones they make you fight, fight and kill before they kill you. Until one night, you are dragged out of the room and into the yard and made to stand by a hole that was dug just for you. Your father with a gun to the back of your head, and you running suddenly, running for your life. Escaping one hell just to be plunged into another. Only you don't know this new place is hell. Not yet. You'll learn that later, after you escape from there too.

A dark, horrifying look at longterm child abuse and trauma, deafness, sexual exploration, and the cult-like manipulation of someone who appears to be your savior but who instead becomes just another kind of captor.

I Saw Satan at the 7-Eleven by Christopher Brett Bailey

his book was absolutely gonzo! A quick, fun romp in which our protagonist accepts a ride in Satan's little red Corvette and ends up having the worst, and best, time of his life. Prepare for insane amounts of alcohol, violence, sexual deviance, and yes, Satan's firey ejaculate.

It reads like lightning and will likely melt your face off.

4 sulfur smelling stars!

Little Miss Apocalypse by Danger Slater

Danger Slater knocked it out of the universe with this one. I've been a big fan of his writing for years and this is quite honestly his best book yet! It's by far my favorite. And that's saying a lot because I love everything he's written.

Good lord! Channeling the wonder of 80's John Hughes films, our protagonist Elizabeth believes she's living smack dab in the middle of one - she's a loserish high school girl who's madly in love with the jerkwad basketball star Trevor. He's got a steady girlfriend and doesn't even know she exists but she won't let those social odds stand in her way. While she's obsessively planning their first kiss, her sidekick goth pal Stevius, who is secretly pining for her, agrees to help make her dream of going to the prom with Trevor come true, with world-annihilating repercussions.

This was the most fun I've had reading in a while! It's cutesy, it's crass, and it's full of creative new alt words for our unmentionables. Vaginas are now cupcakes, buttholes will forever be turd cutters...

If Little Miss Apocalypse wasn't on your radar before, it is now. Get this novella into your TBR! You deserve this!

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

This was my first Riley Sager novel and overall, I really enjoyed it. It was fast paced, despite the fact that almost the entire thing is set inside a car, lol. The first half of the book gave off serious "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" vibes - a guy and a girl on a long road trip together, the narrator is obviously very unreliable, the tension is palpable, we know something super weird is transpiring but we're not really sure what... I was totally hooked.

But my feelings started to change once we get to the twist(s). And that ending? That's the kind of bow we wanted to tie this story up in? Naaah. I wasn't a fan.

Five star read up front, the twisty stuff was ok, not super great but I rolled with it, and then the ending was just a two star wtf for me.

So while I liked it, I'm just not sure I liked it enough to want to run out and by more of his backlog.

Have you read this one? Did you feel the same? Or are my expectations just too high?

Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies by EM Roy

Let the Woods Keep Our Bodies just released this week. I was in the mood for a quick creepy read and I had the digital review copy on my phone. This hit the spot! It was so good, I practically read it in one sitting.

It's a queer, small town, urband legend, cryptid cosmic horror story. I know it sounds weird but trust me on this, it fucking works!

Leo and her girlfriend Tate are no strangers to trauma. While Leo is trying to put distance between hers, Tate's all about exploring and understanding it. Scared of the forest, yet intriqued by the local disappearances and deaths that have been reported in the woods surrounding the town's cemetery, Tate convinces Leo to go on a walk that ends with Tate going missing and Leo under suspicion.

Leo refuses to believe Tate's dead but she can't remember what happened in those last moments they were together. In an attempt to jog her memory, she leverages some of Tate's recent research into the town's history, and her parents' gruesome deaths, and uncovers a unique link between that and the strange door she and Tate stumbled across while out there.

What are some of your favorite 'small town with dark secret' stories?

I Died Too, But They Haven't Buried Me Yet by Ross Jeffery

Grief horror for the win!

Henry is grieving. His daughter Elsie went missing 12 years ago and every year on the anniversary of her disappearance, he buries another piece of her. His ex-wife's moved on but he's stuck in this terrible cycle of regret and pain. The only relief seems to come during the time he spends with his friend Josh at their grief counseling group meetings, but honestly, it's just an excuse to hit the bar afterwards and soak his sorrows in alcohol.

That is, until a stranger named Rowen pops by one evening and offers Henry the opportunity to join a seance - promising him some much needed closure. If she comes through, he'll be able to grieve her properly. If she doesn't, it might mean she's still out there, alive somewhere.

And oh boy, does Elsie ever come through! Henry is now being haunted by her, but in ways he never could have imagined.

This one takes its sweet old time, a slow burn for sure, but one that I read in nearly one sitting. It was a solid 4 star read for me until we hit the twist at the end and then BAM! Jeffery took the whole thing to a new level and there went my head and my heart!

Get this on your radar. You won't want to miss it. I promise you.

They Came From the Ocean by Boris Bacic

I picked this up as an ebook for a couple bucks because it sounded like it'd be a fun, campy horror novel and as long as you go in knowing that, it'll totally meet, and possibly exceed, your expectations. I really enjoyed this one.

Our narrator Ellie takes what appears to be her dream job with a mining company stationed 8,000 feet under the ocean. When one of the maintenance guys disappears while performing a routine repair on one of the drills, Ellie and a handful of others convince their chief to let them go out there and attempt to rescue him. No one seems to question the fact that he only had 8 hours of oxygen when he went out there, and didn't activate his distress signal until nearly a day later. Or that he seems to be 3,000 feet further down from where he should be... they just know he's alive and they've got to try to save him.

What initially felt like a good idea quickly becomes a chilling, claustrophic nightmare as Ellie and crew realize they may never make their way back up towards the surface. Their search finds them exploring a hollowed out underwater mountain, complete with strange obelisks and hieroglyphics on the walls. It doesn't take long for the crew to realize that they are not alone down there in the deep inky darkness. Something is out there stalking them and you'll never guess what it is!

If jellyfish and shark weren't enough to keep you out of the water, whooo boy! This book sure will! You'll be gasping for air in no time.

Let Him In by William Friend

Ugh. Not as good as I was hoping it would be and definitely a book I could have waited to buy once it came out in paperback. Sigh.

Alfie is left to raise his young twin daughters on his own after his wife passes unexpectedly in the cellar of their home. One evening, months after her death, the girls sneak into his bedroom claiming to have been spooked by a man standing at the foot of their bed. The man slowly becomes a new oppressive presence in the house, an 'imaginary friend' the girls refer to as Black Mamba, who can shape shift into anything he wants and who demands a seat at their dinner table.

With no one to turn to, Alfie calls on his sister-in-law Julia, a psychotherapist, for help and soon discovers there might be more to Black Mamba than he originially thought.

While atmospheric and unsettling, Let Him In rarely goes much farther than that. Sure, it keeps you guessing, right up until the last page, but there's no real pay off. All that lead up for ... what, exactly?

Good enough to get to me to read it cover to cover in one day, but it left me all kinds of let down.

Have you read it? Did you feel the same way?

The Employees by Olga Ravn

A space novel but told solely through interviews and recordings with the human, and humanoid, crew members over a period of eighteen months. Because we're just thrown right into it, it takes a handful of pages to get a grasp on what's happening, but hang in there. It's quite the read!

From what I can gather, something's happened on Earth and a bunch of scientists and blue collar workers boarded a space ship. Robotic co-workers were hatched and continue to be subjected to a series of upgrades and reboots as together, they locate a new planet and begin to collect 'objects' from its surface. These objects are stored in a couple of rooms aboard the ship, and seem to have a positive impact on crew morale. Over time, however, the ship's employees, human and humanoid both, develop slightly obsessive behaviors towards the objects, which appears to then impact the way they work with and behave towards each other.

Oooh that ending, you guys! What a stellar and stunning way to tell the story of space exploration and mental dysphoria - in people and machines alike.

If you enjoy science fiction and non traditional storytelling, this is a must-read for you!

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

In The Silent Companions, we meet the pregnant and recently widowed Elsie as she moves into her dead huband's crumbling mansion with his cousin Sarah. She and Sarah are eager to explore the property and all the rooms of the house and stumble across a locked attic door. When they ask the house staff about it, no one seems to have a key. Then one night, while chasing a strange hissing noise that was keeping them awake, Elsie and Sarah end up in front of the now unlocked attic door and locate some strange relics up there - a diary of Sarah's ancestor Anne, and an odd, slightly creepy wooden painting of a young woman.

Sarah becomes obsessed with the secrets the diary's been keeping and Elsie develops a growing fear of the 'companion' painting, which seems to be moving around the place on its own, popping up in rooms it wasn't in previously, while more creepy 'companions' begin appearing around the house too, blocking doorways, stationed on stairways, always where you'd least expect them. And then some of the stable animals and staff start turning up dead...

It's atmospheric and mysterious and it flips between three timelines - opening with Elsie at the insane aslyum, and then moving between that storyline to Elsie and Sarah's time at the creepy manor and Anne's timeline during the period in which she wrote the diary.

Is it a haunted house story? Is it a possession story? Is it the story of a woman slowly losing her mind? Sounds like a pretty compelling read, doesn't it?

But for some reason it just fell a little flat for me. I think part of it is the time period - where the men treat the women like hysterical lunatics and the women prance around without a care in the world and everyone has servants and act all hoity toity and become easily put out whenever things don't go their way. It's just so tiresome.

Where's my fainting couch? I'm feeling a little peaked.

Strega by Johanne Kykke Holm

Gorgeous cover. Interesting premise. Boring execution.

This is another book I bought in hardcover but should have waited to grab. The description makes it sound more weird and creepy than it actually was, so I had much higher hopes for it and was a little let down with how it all played out.

Nine girls respond to advertisements for seasonal help at a remote hotel located in the village of Strega. They are instructed on maidy things like how to properly wash sheets, present food, speak when spoken to, etc. The women that run the hotel are a bit brutish and cruel, maintaining a strict schedule for the girls, and the girls form pretty quick bonds with one another... smoking on their breaks together, walking through the grounds, musing on life and death, and reading books to each other. They follow their maidy routines day in and day out to prepare for guests that never arrive.

Until one evening, when the hotel hosts a party and one of the nine goes missing. Then the girls spend the rest of the novel trying to discover, somewhat unenergetically, what has happened to her.

Mostly told in first person plural, the reader feels distanced from the action on the page, if you can define what's happening here as 'action'. There doesn't seem to be much, if any, character development. It's almost as if the group of girls were basically one big inseparable protagonist. Outside of the prose itself, which I was quite drawn to, it makes for a very slow and tedious read. They just seemed to hover and experience time, and things in general, passively.

Don't believe the blurbers for this one - it didn't transport me, it wasn't evocative, and it definitely didn't leave me breathless.

The Paleontologist by Luke Dumas

The Paleontologist was one of those books I was eyeing for a bit before I requested it on netgalley, wondering if it would be too sciencey for me. Turns out, I was worrying about the wrong things. While fully enjoyable, it starts off strong but then gets a little too bogged down in the supernatural stuff for my tastes.

Simon is returning to Pennsylvania and the Hawthorne Museum of Natural History nearly twenty years after his little sister Morgan's disappearance. Taking the job as Director and Curator will allow him to not only pick up where his predecessor left off, preparing the bones of their most recent discovery, but it also gets him closer to uncovering what exactly happened to Morgan all those years ago when she was snatched out from under his watch in that very building.

When Simon arrives at the Hawthorne, though, it's closed due to the pandemic and he learns it's in severe financial distress. As he settles himself into his basement office, he begins to hear strange noises that he initially shrugs off as old pipes and boilers, only to learn from the sole maintenance employee Maurice that there's something much more sinister stalking the halls of the museum.

His determination to locate his sister's killer finds Simon face to face with forces he never expected to encounter. Hell, forces he may not be able to survive...

While I had anticipated this would be more of a dark thriller - a sort of who-dun-it murder mystery - it quickly switched gears on me. Think Night at the Museum but with less laughs and a whole lot more prehistoric supernatural horror. Within these pages are ghosts that won't be easily sated.

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