I read a book: They Take Your Skin, by J.R. Curtis

I’ve read two other books by J.R. Curtis. I don’t remember much about Satanico. Bloodletting was pretty good and introduced me to a subgenre of horror that I didn’t know I needed in my life, horror westerns. And now I’ve read They Take Your Skin. I have owned the kindle version for a while, but when the author offered Audible codes in exchange for honest reviews, I moved it up to the top of my TBR.

Before I get into my thoughts about the book, let’s talk about the Audible narration. Curtis tends to take his time setting up his stories. He is meticulous with his world building and while it can feel slow, it pays off when everything falls into place and all the action happens and you find yourself sucked into that world. Some narrators, like the man who narrated Bloodletting (John Gladden), are well suited to this descriptive style of storytelling. It’s a style that is difficult to get right, and unfortunately the narration of They Take Your Skin fell short for me. Sherry L. Neiman is a narrator I haven’t come across before, and while I did listen to the entire audiobook, I had to speed it up considerably to make it palatable. Her reading is painfully slow, lacking rhythm, and there were some pronunciation issues, particularly her pronunciation of one of the main character’s names (Guzman). I don’t expect perfect pronunciation of Spanish language names, but putting emphasis on the correct syllable goes a long way to looking like you made the effort.

That said, They Take Your Skin is the best J.R. Curtis book I’ve read yet. He recently released a new one that I haven’t read yet, but right now, this is my favorite thing he’s written. Since the big bads in this book are aliens, I’d classify this one as a sci-fi horror. This story takes place in a small mining town and follows the usual small town cast of characters. There’s the sheriff who is a little too big for his britches and the deputy who follows him blindly. There’s the troubled teen with the alcoholic father and the teacher who tries to reach him. There’s the old man who isn’t taken seriously until it’s too late. There’s the visitors who become instrumental in defeating the town’s dark secret. And of course, there’s the dark secret. In this case, the town isn’t hiding anything as they are unaware of what is lurking deep underground, and I feel like that makes this story unique. The descriptions of the aliens peeling the skins off their victims and then wearing those skins are visceral enough to make a person flinch but not in a gratuitous way. One character calls them peelers and the name catches on. There’s an old horror movie vibe (think Invasion of the Body Snatchers) about this book that I find really appealing.

Get it? A-PEELing? I crack myself up.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. If I have one complaint, it’s that it can be a bit wordy. Verbosity can become tedious if you’re not careful. It’s one of the reasons I just can’t get into Stephen King. Other than that I really enjoyed this book. I think it would make a great movie. Not sure I’d listen to this narrator again, but I will read more Curtis.

Big thanks to J. R. Curtis for providing an audio ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy They Take Your Skin, by J. R. Curtis on Amazon for a couple bucks or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: Bloodletting, by J. R. Curtis

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.

You can find Curtis’s books available on Amazon, Kindle Unlimited, and Audible. Borrow Bloodletting on KU or just buy it like I did!