I read a book: Future Skinny, by Peter Rosch

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and didn’t get around to it until long after it had been published. So I was reading the e-arc and completely engrossed because the idea of someone who can tell the future when he binge eats is such an interesting and unique plot. When I became aware of the up to 85% off everything Audible sale, naturally I looked for this book and bought it.

I’m a terrible reviewer, I know. But in my defense, I try to write honest and thoughtful reviews and I end up buying the audio companions to the ones I loved. This is one such book.

As I often do, I listened to the audiobook as I read along. Quick note about the audiobook, this is my first experience with the narrator T.W. Robbert. His reading is crisp and clear and while not overly emotive, it is just enough to accentuate this story perfectly. His vocal shifts between characters is enough to differentiate them but not so dramatic that it’s annoying. I know a lot of readers love full cast audiobooks or those whose narrators do elaborate voices, but I just find that distracting. T.W. Robbert has a talent that I can appreciate.

This is the story of an anorexic man who discovers future seeing abilities aided by bulimia, binge eating and purging. Eat to see, see to live. The story is told from the points of view of alternating narrators, one in the moment and one as an interview at an institution. We meet Casey Banks and Lylian Ayer (Spanish for yesterday…intentional?) in the middle of a reading. Casey is stuffing his face with fervor, trying to cram more and more because he believes that the more he eats, the more he will see. We learn that Casey and Lylian do readings from time to time to make money. Eventually, the criminal element (who happens to be Lyl’s ex) gets word of his ability and compels him to work for them, to read for them. As expected, things get complicated and weird and I’m here for it.

If descriptions of body dysmorphia and eating disorders are triggers for you, maybe skip this one. I have no experience with either and can’t say if the descriptions are super realistic, but I found this book to be overall well written. The imagery is top notch. I read a lot of extreme horror. Descriptions of blood and gore barely phase me but some of the descriptions of eating and purging scenes are both beautiful and disgusting. As I read, I found myself appreciating the interview sections more and more. I loved getting to dig in Casey’s head. And this is a minor thing, but I appreciate the little Texas references scattered throughout. A quick look at Peter Rosch’s Goodreads profile shows that this is his first novel in a while. I hope it won’t be his last.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star read for me. The story is original and engaging and layered with surprising depth. There are twists and turns throughout that make this one difficult to put down. If you can stomach the eating scenes, you should read this book.

Big thanks to Peter Rosch, Art Cult Books, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy Future Skinny, by Peter Rosch on Amazon or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription. Go on now, read it!

I read a book: Like Me, by Hayley Phelan

So let me tell you about this book. But first, let me share a tangentially related tidbit from my life.

The other day, I was munching on some blueberries and came across probably the biggest blueberry I’d ever seen. I actually chose this pint because it had unusually large blueberries compared to the others on the display. I snapped a couple pictures of it and shared them with a friend in messenger, whose response encouraged me to do the thing I felt was probably silly and post it for everyone to see. My big ass blueberry made it to my Instagram and FB and I spent the next half hour looking every time I got a comment or a like. And I thought about this book.

You say you’re a model, it’s evident you’ve never met
A mirror you didn’t love (ooh la la)
You say you’re an angel with your halo and your crown
As you fly up to the sun and melt your wings
It’s not a want, it’s an obsession
You wanna hear the people screaming out your name
Whispers at night in your midnight confessions
You’ll do anything for fame, célebutante, célebutante

At the beginning of this month, Megadeth released a new album. One of the catchier tunes is called Celebutante, which felt like a theme song for this book. Every time I hear this song, I think about Mickey and Gemma and this review that I’m finally getting around to writing. I think about these young women and their melted wings.

Like Me, by Hayley Phelan follows the journey of Mickey, a 19 year old aspiring model as she navigates her way to what she considers success. Her career is pretty much stalled and she is getting desperate to get her moment in the spotlight. We get a glimpse of her superficial friendships and lifestyle choices concerning men and excess. We see her carefully composing her social media posts and then comparing herself to popular Instagram model Gemma. She is obsessed with Gemma to the point that she memorizes her photos and tracks her activities. She knows where to find her at any time of any day. She talks about Gemma as if she knows her and eventually her friends call out her obsession, but in a teasing sort of way. It took a bit for anything to really start happening. According to my notes, it took me until around 36% to be fully invested.

At this point I was speculating different paths this story could take. I felt the tension rising as Mickey got deeper into her Gemma fixation. At first, it just seemed like an innocent celebrity crush thing. But will it become more? Mickey seems the type who could easily go full on stalker. I found myself hoping that would happen. The clues continue to point in that direction. One day she runs into Gemma and her photographer boyfriend in public. It is painted as a chance meeting, but is it really? Anyway, the boyfriend comments on the near familial resemblance between Mickey and Gemma and everything starts to spiral from there.

The day the boyfriend calls Mickey to do a photo shoot is the beginning of the end of life as she knows it. He is a major creep, but like many young girls who are desperate to break into modeling, Mickey leans hard into his creepiness. You’ll do anything for fame, célebutante. His photos prove to be wildly popular, and Mickey is still comparing herself to Gemma and seeking validation by means of a like or follow or anything.

So Gemma goes missing and it’s like Mickey is the only one who notices? Are they actually the same person and this whole story is one of them going through the motions and imagining that they’re watching it happen to someone else? There’s the scene where Mickey is talking to her friends and she keeps mentioning Gemma but they ask her who Gemma is. And the way Benoit and his crew look around awkwardly when she mentions Gemma. Feeling like this whole story is Mickey’s spiraling mental health.

Taken from my notes in Book Lovers Cafe

Solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. Lots to unpack. I found it to be quite relevant to today’s social media focused world and highly relatable, even to those of us who just want people to look at our big ass blueberries. I will say this, if you have access to the audiobook, I highly recommend it. Perfectly cast narrator who effectively portrays the main character’s deteriorating mental health throughout the book. I don’t want to give away the whole book, so I won’t answer any of those questions. It kept me guessing and I think the narrator really added to that experience. One of my guesses was correct. Read it and discover it for yourself!

You can read Like Me, by Hayley Phelan as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription, or buy it for a couple bucks. This was one of Amazon’s First Reads earlier this year.

I read a book: The Magpie Coffin, by Wile E. Young

The Magpie Coffin is an unrelenting tale of revenge, with precise brutality and extreme violence – the first in the Splatter Western series from Death’s Head Press.

My first experience with the splatter western genre was a book called Bloodletting, by J.R. Curtis. I thought it was great and decided that I needed more of the author and more splatter western in my life. It’s been a minute since I read that book though, and was finally able to pencil in another splatter western by making it one of the Cool Ghouls Book Club selections. My ever growing unending TBR sometimes demands that I do this to push some books to the top of that list. Cool Ghouls is currently doing a series of 2022 Splatterpunk Award winners. Enter The Magpie Coffin, by Wile. E. Young, winner of Best Novel in 2021.

As I often do, I judged this book by its cover. That amazing cover art helps set the stage for me. It gives off old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western vibes that only got stronger as I read. I imagined Salem Covington carrying himself like every old west Clint Eastwood character, with his outlaw hat tilted low, hiding his trademark snarl and stony gaze. When I was a kid, we had one television in the house and Dad’s beloved copy of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on 2 VHS tapes. I remember him putting it on fairly often, much to my siblings and my chagrin. Even now, old westerns are common background noise in my home. Of course now I love those old movies. And while it might be a weird thing to say about a splatter book, it was giving me all the feels. I was a kid again, watching Clint Eastwood take bloody vengeance on the people who’d tortured and killed his mentor. Covington uses a combination of black magic and his special Gun, which is capitalized to emphasize the fact that it’s not a regular gun. It speaks to him, reminds him of how many souls he owes, and encourages him to kill.

There are some things that I felt were lacking in explanation. Maybe I missed it. That happens. But I never really understood how Covington got into his deal in the first place. Who was the coffin maker? There were mentions of souls owed. But to who? Why? How? We know that he is unkillable by all guns except the one he carries and the one that used to belong to his brother. He learned the way of the People from his shaman teacher, Dead Bear, and there are mentions of how he perverted the teachings to suit him. He picked up other black magic from other teachers. There are questions, but the story flows and wraps up in a way that doesn’t require answers. I’m left wanting more. It has all of the fast sharp brutality I love in a good spatter novel with an old western flair.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. I want more Wile E. Young. I want more splatter western. This was a great start for Death’s Head Press‘s Splatter Western series and I will be reading more of them.

You can get The Magpie Coffin, by Wile E. Young on Amazon, Godless, or directly from Death’s Head Press.

I read a book: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

I put off reading The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins for a long time. It was published long after my YA days and was often mentioned adjacent to the hype of other popular YA series of the time that I was completely uninterested in for various reasons. My kid was never interested in it, so I didn’t have it on our shelves. There are some from that era that I loved (Divergent, The Giver), some that I will get to eventually (The Maze Runner, everything Rick Riordan has ever written), and others yet that I will never read (Harry Potter). If you’re sensing a pattern here, it’s because there is one. I like bleak dystopian stories and demigods and I don’t care about child wizards written by turds.

My knowledge of The Hunger Games was limited to what I’d gleaned from memes and Jennifer Lawrence’s appearances on late night comedy interview shows. I never read a synopsis and never saw the movies (not even clips!). I picked this up on a whim while browsing Kindle Unlimited. And because I enjoy listening to the audiobook while I read along, I checked it out from the library on Libby. Reading can be an expensive hobby if you buy every book you read. I read so much and am eternally grateful for the existence of libraries, not only because I have the joy of working at a great one, but because I don’t have to buy as many books as I read.

So, the games. This story takes place in a place called Panem, which is a post apocalyptic North America. There’s a huge gap between the haves and the have nots. Katniss and her family have not, and she spends her days illegally hunting game in the woods outside her district and then hustling to sell what her family doesn’t need. The game itself is a fight to the death. The contestants are children, whose names are basically drawn from a hat. Scrawny little 10 year olds are pitted against brawny teenagers. All these kids are thrown into an arena that looks like a forest that the game masters have complete control over, given minimal opportunities to acquire survival supplies, and everyone else must watch these kids kill each other off until one remains. If they aren’t killing each other fast enough, the game masters will trigger things like forest fires or torrential rains. It’s like a weird reality show and the prize is survival and PTSD. And what is the point of the game? Why do they have to go through this year after year? It is never really spun in a positive light, as the story is told by Katniss. The games exist to remind people of how good(?) they have it after the remaining population was districted off. Remember how we used to fight for our own survival by reliving it year after year. But the people are smarter than that and understand that the games are a means of control.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I thought this book was great. While the premise is about the deaths of many children fighting each other for survival, I didn’t feel like it was overly violent or gory, and the reactions of our heroine were realistic. I felt like a spectator rooting for my district representative to win. The ending is the beginning of a whole new trial for Katniss. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that considering that there are two more books in the series. And I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

You can borrow The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins from Kindle Unlimited, your local library, or buy it at any major bookseller.

Monthly roundup – August 2022

August reads. So many good ones this past month, I can’t pick a favorite. I am pretty partial to the Murderbot Diaries series though. 22 total, my least favorite two not pictured because only 20 fit in the grid template.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Dad Jokes, by Justin Hunter
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
The First Day of Spring, by Nancy Tucker
Artificial Conditions (The Murderbot Diaries #2), by Martha Wells
Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3), by Martha Wells
Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4), by Martha Wells
These Alien Skies (Black Stars #4), by C.T. Rwizi
Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries #5), by Martha Wells

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Left to You, by Daniel J. Volpe
The Lady and the Orc (Orc Sworn #1), by Finley Fenn
Or Else, by Joe Hart
We Travel the Spaceways (Black Stars #6), by Victor LaValle
Heartstopper: Volume 1, by Alice Oseman
Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries #6), by Martha Wells
The Heiress and the Orc (Orc Sworn #2), by Finley Fenn
Hidden Pictures, by Jason Rekulak

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Everything else in the collage.

Let me start by saying that some of my favorite reads this month won’t have wide appeal. Dad Jokes was short and not particularly well written, but it was a wild ride that had me laughing and WTFing, typical of the bizarro genre that I love so much. Full review incoming. Left to You was dark, combining the real world horror of the holocaust with fictional extreme horror elements. I’ll think of Josef every time I shit my guts out. Thanks for that, Daniel J. Volpe. Read my full review here. And the Orc Sworn series, well, orc smut. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me. ‘Nuff said.

I can’t say enough about The Murderbot Diaries, so I won’t say much. I loved the whole series. I have a little crush on Murderbot. Not sure what that says about me.

Two titles not pictured were ⭐️⭐️ reads for me. I didn’t call them out on the ‘gram or Book Lovers Cafe, but I did rate them on Goodreads and I will list them here. The first ⭐️⭐️ was The Vital Function of Constant Narrative, by Marlys West. This was an ARC provided by NetGalley. You can read my complete review here. The second was 2043…a Merman I Should Turn to Be (Black Stars #3), by Nisi Shawl. I am only now learning that this was based on a Jimi Hendrix song. Most of the stories in the Black Stars series left me wanting more of the story and more from the author. This one just left me wanting.

On the agenda for September? More orcs. One Book Lovers Cafe book club read. Two Cool Ghouls Book Club reads. The Obituaries. Heartstopper 2. Hunger Games 2. Maybe I’ll make a dent in the ever growing TBR. Maybe I’ll even complete some more of my review drafts. I’ve got lots of them in the works.

I read a book: Bunny, by Mona Awad

I finished Bunny yesterday. I read that it was sort of Heathers + The Craft + Frankenstein, but I’d switch out Frankenstein for Fight Club. That’s all I can say about that without super spoiling things.

I would rate this one ⭐️⭐️⭐️. I did really like this one despite being super annoyed at the bunnies’ baby talk early on. I listened to the audiobook and read along on my kindle. The narration was on point. She did a really good job of portraying the main character’s state of mind without giving away the twist too early in the story. I think I might have missed some of the nuances without the audio narration. Actually, I think I might not have finished the book.

I would also probably not consider this one horror. Early on it was creepy in a horror/cult sort of way but then it was more a study of mental illness manifesting itself by means of a fantastic story about a young woman making her way through her MFA. And it reads like it was written by an MFA student…comments about “overeducated poverty” and “skins glowing with health insurance”, overly descriptive comparisons (Her voice is the feathery baby voice of children in horror films.), ridiculous vaginal/sexual references that would get a response from other MFAs but make the average reader roll their eyes (The legs of her voice wide open.). Was this book Samantha’s (or the author’s) thesis? I do feel like a big part of this was critique of MFA programs and fancy schools as well.

I borrowed the audiobook version Bunny, by Mona Awad from the library on the Libby app, but you can buy it on Amazon or any major bookseller.

I read a book: Or Else, by Joe Hart

There was a lot that I liked about this book. Every time the main character thought he had figured it out, new info would pop up and he’d be back where he started. And then when the case was considered solved, the reader gets a glimpse at what really happened. But is that what really happened? Or just Andy’s writer brain writing up a more interesting ending? Either way, I find both endings satisfying enough.

I also enjoyed the idea of a mystery book author who lives out a real life mystery and makes all the mistakes he’d never write into his books. There were so many times I found myself saying “Oh, Andy…no….” and the like. Which. Is fun.

That last line cracked me up. Andy doesn’t know when to quit.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars for me. This was an Amazon First Reads choice recently. If you picked it up because it was free, maybe read it? It’s short and fast paced and pretty good.

I read a book: The First Day of Spring, by Nancy Tucker

There is so much to say about this book, but I need some time to digest it fully. The story is told through two perspectives of the same person, a ”bad seed” of a child and that child as an adult with a child of her own. It is unlike any story I’ve ever read, and helps the reader imagine what happens to children who kill once they’ve done their time and grown up and get their second chance at life. I kept waiting for some focus on mental health, but it never went there. I really enjoyed watching the story unfold. It seemed very straightforward in the beginning, but as it went on between perspectives, it becomes very clear that it’s much more than a case of just being a bad seed.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. If you like disturbing stories without sexual violence or gore, I highly recommend this one.

You can find The First Day of Spring, by Nancy Tucker on Amazon or at your local library.

Monthly roundup – July 2022

I didn’t get to most of the books that I planned to read this month. My TBR is fluid and ever growing. Still, I read some amazing books and some mediocre books.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Visit (Black Stars #1), by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Legends & Lattes, by Travis Baldree
All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1), by Martha Wells
Tears of Amber, by Sofia Segovia (BLC Book Club)
Corsairs: Mathiras (Corsair Brothers #4), by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Undead Possession Series (book 1: Infestation), by Justin Boote
The Half-Orc’s Maiden Bride, by Ruby Dixon
High Plains Cyborg (Cyborgs on Mars #0.5), by Honey Phillips
Captive of the Horde King (Horde Kings of Dakkar #1), by Zoey Draven
The Groomer, by Jon Athan (CGBC)
Fucking Filth: An Extreme Gross Out, by Matt Shaw
Beth and the Barbarian (Alien Abduction #2), by Honey Phillips

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
One Day in December
The Good, the Bad, and the Cyborg (Cyborgs on Mars #1), by Honey Phillips

Anything not listed I rated at 3 or below. The first four of the Digital Desires series were hilarious. Three stars for entertainment factor. The last couple didn’t have the laugh out loud moments so I rated them lower and decided against reading more of that author’s work.

On the agenda for August are the group’s book club reads, more of the Black Stars and Murderbot Diaries series, and whatever other weird stuff KU suggests.

Have you read any of these? Do you have recommendations similar to anything I’ve listed?

Monthly roundup – June 2022

So. I love books and I love reading them. I post these collages every month knowing I’m probably the only one who cares about what I’m reading and whether I enjoyed them or not. Maybe someone will see something new and interesting to them and ask questions. Maybe someone will see a favorite and want to talk about it. Maybe I’ll scare off a distant relative. My taste in entertainment is eclectic at best, worrying at worst. I’m sure some of the stuff I read has some folks wondering what is going on in my head, and that amuses me.

As usual, the month went by and I felt like I didn’t get much reading done. Then I started compiling the collage, and…15 books. And most were so good!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color, by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez
Dark Fire, by Ruby Dixon
Sworn to the Shadow God, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry for Your…Brains, by Ryan Mecum
Daisy’s Decision, by Ruby Dixon
POLYEMBOLOKOILAMANIA: An Extreme Horror, by Matt Shaw
The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum
Bound to the Battle God, by Ruby Dixon
Wed to the Wild God, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The rest.

That’s a lot of three star reads, but three stars is not a bad rating in my book. That just means I liked them but I’m not still thinking about them.

On the agenda for July are two giant tomes, Swan Song and The Dragon Reborn (Wheel of Time #3), the latest addition to Ruby Dixon’s Corsair Brothers series, and maybe some of the Star Trek novels I’ve been collecting. A handful of the kindle editions go on sale every month and my collection has grown quite a bit.

Have you read and loved any of these books? Hated? Leave a comment!