Seeing as I usually read a good amount of spooky books all year round I didn’t focus on reading just spooky for October. Turns out I should have. I read a pathetic amount of scary books, less than every other month. I make my own rules, usually through lack of planning and being too busy to realise what is going on in the world outside my lunchbox. In my defense, I did read 10 books and ended the month on an awesome spooky high.
Top Reads of the Month:
Quantum Rule: Terror Underground by Jay Sandlin – 4.5 stars – Best start I’ve read in a novella in a while. I was hooked from the get go. There were breadcrumbs that made you suspect what comes next but never enough for you to be sure. A few HA’s out loud as I got completely surprised a few times. This was an epic addition to the AFTER series. Great fight scenes and an intriguing world dynamics.
Born with Teeth by Kate Mulgrew – 4.5 stars – Oh my. Ten plus hours of listening to Captain Kathryn Janeway to fall in love with Kate Mulgrew. She narrates as the true actor she i s and oh how it’s a beautiful memoir of her life. Her memories, her perspectives of her life. The rawness she goes into. It’s riveting and heartbreaking. If you listen to the audio, the interview at the end is well worth it, and possibly bumped up my experience with the book at least half a star.
The Best New True Crime Stories: Serial Killers by Mitzi Szereto – 4 stars – Some lesser known serial killers and what we know of them and their crimes. A lot of speculation as many of the crime facts have been lost to the past, but they do a good job of piecing what they do have together and coming to very plausible outcomes.
Carry On by Holley Cornetto – 4 Stars – Delicious and dusty. I loved the characters and the realistic portrayal into human nature, and what we might be willing to do to survive. Absolutely loved and adored the main character, and the books look into the importance or lack there of to names.
A Quiet Death (The Dark Peaks #3) by Cari Hunter – 5 stars – WOW! What an ending to an amazing trilogy. I both love and hate that that’s the end. I want more of Meg and Sanne. One of my favourite things about this instalment to the dark peak series is seeing inside a third persons POV. Gotta love a woman in charge. The writing and story was brilliant, and Cari Hunter is definitely one of my top new found authors. If you like brilliantly written mystery with characters so real you discuss them as you would a mate up the street, check out this series. Incredible.
Freedom to Love by Ronica Black – 3.5 star. There was lots to love about this book. I loved the immediate plunge into the action of the story, it sucked me right in. I also loved that there were no chapters that dragged with the characters umming and ahhing about wanting to be together. They were adults thrown into situations and instead of lying or hedging, they pretty much said what they thought, mostly. I wasn’t a fan of the sex scenes, though I’m sure they are other peoples cup of tea.
Easy Nevada and the Pyramid’s Curse by Georgette Kaplan – 4 Stars – I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Navada is quirky with history and layers, and even with the self-referential mentions of being like Jane Jones or Lara Croft, it was that sort of fun adrenaline spiked adventure. Mix in some The Mummy feels, with Brendan Fraser being a hot chick and you’ve pretty much nailed how this read felt. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending but I’m still really looking forward to the next book in the series.
Unbreakable by Cari Hunter – 5 stars – OMG, the rollercoaster and speed of this book is epic and fantastic … the writing is natural and hooks you in the entire time. Characters are wonderful and real and flawed and hilarious. I love reading crime, I always have but there is something so much cooler about reading a genre you love that has representation you can relate to
Coming Home by KJ – 5 stars – Ok, so I may have read these books backwards but damn, I regret nothing. This book is so delicious and sweet and funny and Aussie. It’s literally everything I love about KJ’s writing. There are lines I wish I had written and lines that made me spit coffee with laughter … and yep, it’s true, there’s even a line that made this cold hearted bitch burst into tears. 4th book of the year, bugger I’m going to start getting a reputation of having a heart. It’s a truly delicious celebrity romance book with amazing characters and real people.
The Pseudopod thatRocks the Cradle by Time Mendees – 4 Stars – Perfect way to end the spooky month. This short story collection from Tim Mendees is twisted and titillating, terrifying and tentacle filled, so naturally I loved it, and highly recommend it. There was something disturbing to take away from each story but my stand out favourites were definitely: * Afterimage – feel the burn – such an intense story and idea. Blinked many times after finishing it. * Mr mannequin – anyone for a tattoo – the creepy crime that made me shiver. * The Face in the Fabric – looking at clothes never seemed so terrifying. So if you like twisted gritty stories about disturbed minds (or insanely normal minds twisted to insanity) and worshippers of the old gods this is the collection for you.
This month I completed ALL of my reading challenges for the month. Which is awesome. I made some sapphic reading challenge videos over on the Hyperactive Bookworm channel. Drop by and take a look, leave a comment, or if you like what you hear/see you can always subscribe.
Midyear and though life is busier and things get crazy from here on – because they have been so calm until now *rolls eyes* – I read 10 books this month. Reading remains my precious and sacred lifesaver.
My favourites for the month:
The Brutal Truth by Lee Winter – 5 stars. An Aussie in New York, an Ice Queen in Sydney, dying magazines, a bet, and beautiful designer clothes. A great read. I also love learning about worlds I have never and foresee myself never being intimate in, but with this book you feel like you get a real insight. My goal was to make sure I read this before it’s sidequel, The Awkward Truth comes out .. done and done. I also foresee a few more reads between then and now. Lee Winter gives us another wonderful exploration in to human nature, passion, the magazine industry, and ooh I love the theme of ‘bad’ things becoming the best things in your life. And of course, I am head over heels in love with Elena Bartell. There are Ice Queens and then there are Lee Winter’s Ice Queens.
Poppy Jenkins by Clare Ashton – 4.5 stars – Poppy Jenkins was an outstanding and in depth look into everyday lives and how scratching beneath the surface can reveal a rainbow of colours you previously couldn’t fathom. Did I get frustrated while reading this book? yep in all those parts where I was supposed to, I might also have wanted to shake Poppy a few times, but I loved how Clare Ashton showed all sides of the coins for the characters. I adore Rosaline, and I truly love Emma. I also used this book for my first ever Reading Vlog and it was such a fantastic book to do this with. Check out the Vlog here
Spiffing by Tim Mendees – 4 Stars – Spiffing was a fantastic read. While it builds slowly, engulfing you in the every day debauchery of the ensemble cast it soon speeds up and the horror is palatable through the use of humour and curiosity as you want to know what will happen next. I found myself a little confused at the beginning with the multitude of characters but this confusion cleared up as I continued to read. The description, particularly of the more horrific and terrifying moments of Spiffing, is fantastic and tangible. Mendees does himself proud with a fabulous horror short read, highly recommended for a dark and stormy night, just make sure you keep the lights on.
The Miracle Girl by T.B Markinson – 4 Stars. A brilliant start with a miracle girl going back to her home town twenty years after a heartbreaking leave. I got a little lost wondering where it was all go for maybe a chapter or two, and then the book became addictive, with a desire to throttle a few characters. I really like JJ as a character. I am really looking forward to reading the 2nd book in this series.
Sentinel by Drew Starling – 4 stars – A young family move to Bensalem, a small town with the beauty of nature surrounding them, what could possibly go wrong. Sentinel is a slow build up as we learn about the townspeople of this small sleepy town, which is not nearly as sleepy as first impressions give. Once the story speeds up, it drags you along, heart kicking and screaming. An ensemble cast, there were definitely some characters I felt a deeper connection to then others, but I cannot wait to see what they have in store for them in the next installment.
The Enchanted Woods by Enid Blyton – This book will ALWAYS be a 5 for me, for no other reason but for nostalgic purposes. I have such a love for the Magic Faraway Tree series. They were so important and influential to me when I was growing up. Now, listening to it read aloud by Kate Winslet, it’s so adorable and wonderful. She does a marvelous job, though I do cringe every time I hear Frannie – if you understand this, welcome to my age group ;-P
The Thing about Tilly by G Benson – 5 stars – Oh I just adore so much about this book. From the pace that made Tilly’s wanderlust thud inside my own chest, to the diversity and wonderful realness of the characters, to the truly beautiful way Benson describes everything that happens in and around the characters and the story.
Dani by Angelique Jordonna – 3 stars – A great premise, good story, promising writing. What I liked: A disturbing story with interesting characters. It reminded me of a lesbian cross between Silence of the Lambs and Dexter, with the authors unique flare shining through. What missed the mark for me: The 1st Person present POV was a little difficult to get into and slipped into immediate past a few times. I would have liked to see some more of the scenes as they played out, instead of being told about them after the fact. Overall a good read. Jordonna definitely has promise and I’m looking forward to seeing more from her.
Irregular heartbeat by Chris Zett – 4.5 Stars – I adored this book. There is nothing quite like the melting of an Ice Queen to make me smile. I really enjoyed the depths and dynamics of the two main characters. Some heartbreaking moments mixed up with some laugh out loud parts. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit at the intense coincidences of characters meeting. The writing was delicious and I’m always a fan of pop culture references in contemporary fiction. I really enjoyed this book and will definitely look at reading more of Chris Zett’s work.
The Creeping Void by Tim Mendees – 5 Stars – A short read with everything you could ever want from a post apocalyptic short read. Characters that are brilliantly flawed and trying to find a way to survive. Mendees influences and supplication to the elder gods. Brilliantly timed humour that helps to balance the heart pumping horror and deliciously decrepit descriptions. I can’t give this anything less than a five. Brilliant work.
A huge post here. January has been a big reading month. Which is a great start for the reading challenges I’ve given myself this year. Fair warning, there are some spoilers in some of the reviews, so *SOME SMALL SPOILERS BELOW*
The Queen’s Blade by Natasja Rose – An assassin, a poisoner, a Queen, her inner circle of hand maidens, demi-gods, and a constant presence of those wanting the Queen off of her throne. What more can one ask for? Oh, also a great many Women loving Women characters which always makes this little reader very happy. I finished The Queen’s Blade with a desire for more. Rose’s mastery of setting up the oomph impact of the ending was brilliant and the vulnerability she explores not just in her main characters, Sayfiya and Alexandra, but in many minor characters is beautifully human. I would love to see stories of the minor characters lives. A good read, with some beautiful prose. My favourite part of this book is how Rose sets up power and rips it away with heartbreaking strength. I also enjoyed the unexpected humour that rose it’s head a few times throughout. ‘If she has nothing else, she has the audacity.’ There were a few large chunks of telling that made me beg for just a little more showing, or at least broken up between action a bit more. At times there were A LOT of characters and I struggled to keep up with who everyone was but this tends to be a struggle for this reader when it comes to fantasy. The Queen’s Blade is a short easy read that taps into the emotions of those who love but are often limited. ‘Her voice was calm, in the way of the still air that came before a hurricane.’ (Note: I did a video chat with Natasja Rose on the facebook Les Fiction Book Club page, and will be up soon on my YouTube channel.)
The Funeral Birds by Paula R.C. Readman – I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this read. The murder! Mystery! Mayhem! gave me a very different idea of what this would be. But after the first few pages the humour and tone of the book became obvious. The relationship with the main character and his wife is great. The dialogue is realistic and the dynamics quite cute. The description is spotted throughout the book and seems to reflect the main characters personality, which is a huge tick for me as the book is written in first person. I loved the humour and there was a bit of a Pratchett feel, whether it was an intentional hat tilt or not, I really enjoyed that element. I kept waiting for a bigger reveal, a twist, or a bigger complication to the story line but there just really wasn’t one. I knew how it would end beforehand, the red herrings not entirely convincing for me. It’s a quick easy read, that is enjoyable and fun. While there was no big twist, the pace was perfect.
Hotel Queens by Lee Winter – An ice Queen and a Fire Queen with Lee Winter’s brilliant style and in-need-of-a-cold-shower sex scenes, Hotel Queens more than delivered. The humour and sarcasm, the layers to characters, the effects of caustic family, the emotive language that makes you gasp or laugh or cringe (sometimes all within seconds of each other) are just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) on the brilliance of Hotel Queens. Secondary characters Quinn and Millie are truly fantastic, sometimes a little too perfect at being the main characters right hands? Or perhaps I’m just dying to see more of them as the main characters, and find the nitty gritty behind their awesomeness. As in true Lee Winter fashion I found myself laughing out loud, both in humour and a little facepalming at times. Some of my favourite lines (it was hard to cut it down from the thirty I highlighted during reading). * Kai wasn’t called The Closer because she sold zippers. * Milly didn’t say a word. But the “we’re screwed” was loud and clear. * Finally Quinn cleared her throat and said. “I’ll leave you two to your eye-sex. I’m going to find Milly.” (Note: This was the second book for the Les Fiction Book Club January. I got to chat with Lee Winter and ask questions about this book and her writing. She’s a fantastic author well worth look up)
Whispers in the Dark by K. B. Elijah – A brilliant short read that had my internal (and sometimes external) dialogue ranting and trying to keep up.
I adore the writing of Whispers in the Dark. The dialogue is smooth and natural and the description is often beautiful even in it’s horrific subject matter. * No spark meant no extinguishment. No hope meant no disappointment. * defanging the vicious bite of time. * It was curious that the complete absence of light invented its own vision.
Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and girls by Tara Moss – My first ever Audio Book and I’m hooked. Tara Moss eloquently discusses cultural and systemic silencing of women and how that is not only in our past but continues to happen today. She gives some incredible and practical advise at how to combat the pressure females still received to shhhh and remain silent. She has used her own voice in calm and intelligent ways, with facts and research to back up her words. With her own experience mixed in with others (who have given her permission to disclose) she helps connect to readers and help them understand, they are not alone. Tara Moss does this without sugar coating the backlash we all might face should we choose to speak out.
Stone Cold Bastards by Jake Bible – I have such a love for Gargoyles. I have been obsessed with them since I was a child so my own experience in reading Stone Cold Bastards might be slightly biased. That being said, this is an incredibly well written story, the world building is phenomenal and the characters are brilliant. It has such a large cast of characters, and yet Jake Bible manages to make them all wonderfully unique enough that I never found myself asking who was who. The description of this apocalyptic second world is breath taking at times. The humour and sarcasm he uses is totally my jam, from the nasty demons to the gargoyle fairies with the sailor mouths.
A Woman Lost by T.B. Markinson – Oh my hell. The urge to smack Lizzie is so strong in this novel, while also giving her a cuddle and hair tussle at the same time. She seems so oblivious to just about everything around her, and yet I am eager to read more of her misadventures in the future. T.B. Markinson is really good at writing characters that make me shake my head at their actions, and yet I love them for their lack of perfection and crazy troubles they usually put themselves in to. I think it captures perfectly, human beings nature to self-sabotage. The writing is wonderful and by the end I really did like Lizzie, no longer in spite of her self centered views but with an understanding of this being the beginning of her growing up. From her bizarre and dysfunctional friendship with Ethan, to her inability to see anything but perfection as worth it, to her family, oh her family … * Ethan giggled as he stirred his coffee. “Talking to you about your family always makes me feel better about my own messed-up family.” * How was that possible? How could two people do something together and have two completely different experiences? * Maddie’s face paled and my stomach flipped. Enter The Scotch-Lady. * I had a hairline fracture. Not even a real break—a wimpy hairline fracture. Just like my wimpy illness.
A Heart this Big by Cheyenne Blue – I laughed so much during this book. A lot of my chuckles came from Nina’s internal dialogue and humour, as she runs Banksia farm. And then, wow we get Leigh Willoughby … the powerhouse lawyer. I am a complete sucker for a good slow burn, and this was brilliant. The interactions are sweet and often amusing … there is a lot of chicken shit involved, and the reasons they can’t be together right away make sense. While there were times it was frustrating, there was always a small glimmer of hope and light at the end of the tunnel which avoided the doom and gloom so many slow burns revel in too long for my liking. I also loved the way everyday things were beautiful and interesting in the way they were written. I wrote an entire blog about my love for this book. The story line was great, and the writing spot on. But what sold me was the landscape and the love of Australia that seeps through every page and wedges itself firmly in my heart. I can’t wait to read more of Cheyenne Blue’s books.
The Love Factor by Quinn Ivins – OH WOW! There is so much about this book I want to go on a raving spree about. I found myself smiling in a whirl of nostalgia while giggling at the late nineties and all that entails. I also found the pressure sit on my chest and make it hard to breath as the characters own trials were so relatable. I remember battling my own sexuality and place in the world at the same time as the characters (slightly different age). The writing is brilliant and the characters are entirely delightful. Molly’s enthusiasm is adorable. She’s a bouncy, energetic, and passionate person who finds common ground with the ice queen herself. Oh, how I crushed on so many lecturers at uni who were so similar to the powerful Carmen. The biggest shock was realising just how long ago 1997 was … surely I’m not really THAT old?!. Brilliant debut novel from Quinn Ivins. I can’t wait to see more of her work.
Winter’s Vindication (An Anthology edited by Abigail Linhardt) – Overall this anthology was good to read, not the best I’ve read but a long way from the worst. Here is my breakdown of the 9 stories: The Silent Tower by Abigail Linhardt – 3.5 Stars – A good story, with some lovely writing. The pace was great, the tension built beautifully. There were a few points where I was confused about who was speaking, but for me I felt like the end didn’t quite tie everything up as well as I would have liked. Still an enjoyable story to read. For I Hear you Calling by C. Murray Hultman – 3 Stars – This story was my least favourite in the collection. The writing was quite beautiful at times, but I felt as though the story itself was more a chapter instead of a short story that stood on it’s own. I got frustrated very quickly with the main character ‘talking to her son’. For Humanity by Christine Watts– 4.5 stars – A great piece, beautiful in story, pace, language use, and character. I was swept up in Lynne’s plight and could not devour it fast enough. The Snow Warrior by Erin Fanning – 4.5 Stars – Such a brilliant spine chilling story. I had goosebumps over my flesh, and absolutely adored the authors way of describing the snowman. Iced by Thaddeus Rutkowski– 3.5 stars – There was nothing wrong with the writing as such, but it read more like a series of journal entries. It felt like nothing ended up happening and while it reminded me a little of 19th literature, I didn’t expect to find a piece like this in this anthology. The Warden’s Game by John M. Floyd – 5 Stars – Brilliant. Everything about this was great. The writing, the characters, the story. Everything pulled me toward the end, which was wonderfully satisfying. The Saviors by David Green – 5 Stars – Another truly brilliant piece of writing. Right from the very first paragraph I wanted to know what was going on. Everything is done with skilled purpose and the pace is entirely spot on. A brilliant futuristic piece with gasps of shock to add to the fun. The descriptions are so perfect for the barren landscape. Freezings Greetings by Derek Power – 5 Stars – This is the most fun and quirky piece. I laughed out loud many times reading this story. I enjoyed the descriptions and Filthy Henry is a fantastic character. I’d love to see more of his adventures in this world that the author has created so brilliantly. Fractured Thinking by Louise Pierce – 3.5 stars – An interesting piece of writing. I wanted to know more though, as though this were merely a preview or trailer to the real story itself. A few questions unanswered and at times unsure who was actually speaking.
Mount Terror by E.L Giles – A brilliant short read to end out the month. Set in the mid 1930’s, Henry Chapelton embarks on a mission to rescue Captain Ernst Land after hearing the man’s last distressed communication. This story is beautifully written and the pace gets your heart racing right along side Henry’s. Several descriptions made me shiver alongside the characters and reading this was, to use Giles’ word from this book, an ‘orgy of madness.’ * It’s strange that sometimes only the most awful and gruesome things have the power to ignite out motivation and push us to work our hardest.
11 books done – 5 that can go toward Jae’s Sapphic reading challenge .. not too shabby 🙂
In a previous post I mention the awesome WLW author Jae and the Sapphic Reading Challenge 2021 she is running. It’s the most amazing challenge, and the work Jae has done for this is incredible. It shows her generosity not only to her own readers, but for other authors as well.
I recently received an email from Jae advising that my first novella ‘Cold as Hell’ was added to her upcoming recommended reads for the butch/butch category of the Sapphic Reading Challenge. It suits a few other categories as well, but so touched and humbled that she has added it, seeing as it’s not yet released until April.
It’s going to be a crazy wild ride for both reading and writing this year, but I’m looking forward to each book I get to experience, both sapphic and non-sapphic, as well as my own books stepping out into the big wide world.