I received an Audible code for a review copy of J. R. Curtis’s book Bloodletting from the author last week. He offered review codes in one of my favorite book groups on Facebook and I happily requested one. I looked up the kindle version, as I like to read along with audiobooks, and found that I already owned it. Good sign! I found the premise of this book interesting enough to have acquired it twice! And so I read my first western themed horror novel.
The story begins with the description of a handcart company starting their journey and getting caught in a blizzard. Winter is harsh, and the group is in desperate need of food and supplies. Three men take on the task of traveling ahead to an old army fort to find help. The journey is long and difficult, and they find themselves overcoming the obstacles of weather and hostiles to get to their destination. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I was on the edge of my seat as one thing after another attacked them. Poor Caleb…that kid just couldn’t get a break! The three travelers make it to their destination, only to find the fort completely empty. This is where the story goes from survival story to an otherworldly tale of horror. As the title implies, it is graphic and bloody.
Come to think of it, none of them can seem to catch a break. We learn all about each of their tragic backgrounds as they try to survive in the abandoned fort.
There is a lot I loved about this book. The whole concept of western horror scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. The writing is descriptive in a way that makes the reader really feel the cold, isolation, terror, and despair. There is nowhere for our travelers to run, and that feeling is conveyed effectively. The audiobook narration was really good. Slow enough that even though I increased the playback speed quite a bit, it didn’t sound like chipmunks. And the narrator had just the right voice for this type of story. It had that same atmospheric feel that I got from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
That said, I feel like this book could have benefited from a little more time in editing. It gets repetitive at times. The dialog feels unnatural. But overall, it’s a good book.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, 3.5 rounded up for star rating. I’ll definitely be reading more of Curtis’s work.
Poetry is difficult to review. Poetry is emotion put to the page. How do you judge how someone expresses emotion? In the end, you don’t. Well, I don’t. I am not a poet, nor am I fully versed on the intricacies of poetry, so I don’t rate on a technical level. Poetry is as good as the emotion it elicits.
Unfortunately the emotions this collection of poetry elicits from me are mostly cringe. I try to find something positive to say about every book that I review, especially when I’ve received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for that review, but this one is proving to be a challenge. Rodriguez pours his heart out on the page in the form of poems and photos much like the example above. The poetry is reminiscent the words scrawled in a teenager’s journal with me + you scrawled in the margins over and over again. It brings up memories of scrolling through my LiveJournal feed back in the day. There are black and white photos throughout the collection, most are of a young man doing couple things on his own. Grabbing his own belt loop. Clawing at his own back. Photos of oranges. Squeezing them, biting them, gnawing on strips of peel. The whole thing is amateurish and unrefined.
But you know what, Rodriguez really put himself out there and that is admirable. The only way to get good at something is to be bad at something and keep doing it until you hit your stride. This is his first book and it does hold little glimmers of potential.
There are a couple instances where he takes a poem and writes it in English and Spanish in opposite directions. It is a format I find myself drawn to, even if the poem itself is not great. I am not fluent enough in Spanish to recognize if it is more impactful in Spanish. These dual lingual poems are my favorites of this book.
All that said, it feels like that first heartbreak when your emotions are all over the place because you haven’t learned how to cope yet.
⭐️⭐️. It’s okay. There is an audience for this, but I’m not it.
April is National Poetry Month. Poetry is part of my regular reading, but since it is a time of recognition, I will be doing reviews of both ARCs and other books on my shelf. First up, an ARC I received via NetGalley, Plenitude, by Daniel Sarah Karasik.
When I pick up a book by an author I have not read before, the first thing I do is Google them. Karasik is the author of five other books, including plays, poetry, and short stories. Five! How fortunate for me that there is a back catalog to read now that I’ve had a taste of their work.
This collection of poetry is a demonstration of how so many different issues intersect and overlap. Karasik tackles not only sexuality and gender, but human rights, Palestine. It’s personal and political. It’s the kind of poetry that you read and reread because there are just so many layers to unpack.
This one is for the folks who don’t understand what it means to be trans in the current political climate. It’s for the ones who are actively trying to be better allies. It’s for the trans people looking for representation and understanding. It’s for the people who think that it’s not for them.
It started with a friend request on Goodreads. I don’t accept every author friend request. I look at their profiles, I google them, I read their websites and their book reviews. According to his bio, William Pauley III writes sci-fi/horror/bizarre fiction and that was enough for me to accept the friend request and add a couple books to my TBR. Doom fiction? Count me in.
I’ve watched his name come up on my Goodreads feed for about a month now. William Pauley III is now friends with Hugh Mann. William Pauley III likes Hugh Mann’s status. William Pauley III wants to read Another Weird Book. This is not criticism of how active he is on Goodreads. It is merely an description of how that portrait of a shaggy haired man with his head tilted upward, pouty lips, eyes closed, one side of his face dripping with blood got into my head and led me back to his website. There I found Audible codes and YouTube links, making my decision of where to start easier.
Because I’m on a novella kick and because I’m a sucker for good cover art, I chose White Fuzz. It’s the story of a man who gets a text from a stranger, goes to her home, and proceeds to have the weirdest night of his life. My gears were turning early in the story, as I had just read Pest, by Matt Shaw and the premise of a guy meeting a strange woman in her home after one text interaction was feeling a bit familiar. That’s where the similarities between the two stories ends though. Pauley’s story starts out almost a cute rom-com with our two main characters teasing each other on the phone before Franklin decides, against his better judgement, to pay this mystery woman a visit. While things seem to be going well, Franklin notices a lot of strange things about the apartment and about his new lady friend. The apartment is filthy, permeated with the smell of mold, death, and cat. Lynda’s mood changes from flirty and a little awkward to a range of anger and sadness at the drop of a hat. Franklin’s shifting in emotional state is similar, but internal. Franklin didn’t know what he was getting himself into and neither did I. As I’ve come to expect from the genre, White Fuzz leaves you with that wtf did I just read feeling. The story is well written and the audiobook is actually really good. Perfectly cast narrator.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. William Pauley III is on my radar now.
You can read White Fuzz as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription. Or just buy the book. The eBook is only a couple bucks and the print version would look great on your shelf.