I read a book: Unknowing, I Sink, by Timothy G. Huguenin

I was initially drawn in by the cover art and interesting title. And if I’m honest, Nick Roberts’ blurb calling him a “Southern-fried Clive Barker”. Bring it on.

This was a short read, coming in at a scant 92 pages. But as the saying goes, good things come in small packages. Unknowing, I Sink is the story of a young man named Julian who takes a summer job cleaning the mansion of an old eccentric recluse. The job is strange from the start. Julian performs his job duties while being instructed via intercom. His first in person interaction with his employer is at lunch time, and it is thoroughly strange. He becomes aware of his employer’s mysterious medical condition, but doesn’t really know what’s going on. He’s just happy to get out of that room and back to work. He feels like something is a little off, but he has no idea.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This book is delightfully creepy. Huguenin really pulls off the whole impending doom thing, as I felt the tension and dread right along with Julian. It checked off a lot of boxes for me. Interesting cover? Check. Well written? Check. Creep factor? Double check. Ick factor? Oh yes, check. I’ll be reading more of Huguenin’s work for sure. I’ve already signed up for his newsletter.

Big thanks to Timothy G. Huguenin and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Unknowing, I Sink on Amazon and begin reading it on October 1, 2022. This will also be available via Kindle Unlimited and Audible.

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: What Flies Want, by Emily Perez

There are certain things I look for when browsing NetGalley. First and foremost, I look for books I want to read. I mostly request horror and poetry because those are two genres that I am always in the mood to read. And I do judge books by their covers. Authors should not underestimate the value of great cover art. Something that I don’t necessarily look for but always catches my attention is Latino authors, particularly if they write about border life and bicultural life experience because that is something to which I can relate. And she grew up in my neck of the woods. Naturally I requested Emily Perez’s Iowa Poetry Prize winning book, What Flies Want.

Perez tackles a lot of familiar issues in her way, but it’s not hitting the mark. Perhaps I am desensitized to some of those shared experiences. The formatting made it somewhat difficult to read. Every poem is stylistically different. Some read like rants, others like run-on sentences that leave me breathless. The whole collection seems disjointed.

But there are some that stand out, like How I Learned to Be a Girl. It’s not even really the poem that stands out, it’s the feelings that it evokes. I think of the time I told an ex that he frightened me. He laughed at me, declaring that it couldn’t possibly be true, but he backed off. We learn to tiptoe around the landmines.

If the beast is unpredictable you must traverse
in postures of submission. Easier to crawl
with your face down toward the earth, nape
exposed, expecting to be struck, which may draw
cold contempt, at best compassion. Fragility may
inspire a desire to protect. I learned young to dance
those careful steps around the unexploded mines
where ground was not yet gutted.

How I Learned to Be a Girl

Then there are poems like Yes, All Women which expresses sentiments of which most women are familiar. The reader knows what it’s about despite the vagueness of the words. Maybe that’s intentional. It’s that thing we all understand but haven’t really talked openly about until recently. #MeToo, anyone?

My favorite is probably Correccion/Correction. I found I could relate to this one more than any others in the book. My mother is German and my father is Mexican American. They also chose names for us that sound good in multiple languages, though fortunately they did not decide to call us by middle names. I can’t imagine my life as Irene! I feel like I have probably spent more of my life in the RGV though, so while my experience does not match the author’s, I do understand what she was saying.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars for me. It’s certainly not bad, but I’m not seeing the groundbreaking revelations that other reviews claim are there. This is the type of poetry that makes me feel like maybe my reading comprehension skills aren’t quite as sharp as I think they are.

Big thanks to Emily Perez, University Of Iowa Press, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book wasn’t for me, but it might be for you! Check it out. You can buy What Flies Want, by Emily Perez on Amazon and other major booksellers.

I read a book: The Creeper, by A.M. Shine

Picture borrowed (stolen) from the author’s website.

Generally my tastes in horror lean toward monsters, both supernatural monsters like zombies and real world monsters like, well, humans. I love my zombies and I love me some extreme horror and splatterpunk. Give me all the gore!

However, every once in a while I pick up a book or one by an author I’ve seen highly recommended in one of the many bookish online communities that I follow. Something thematically different than my usual favorites. A.M. Shine is one such author. You may recognize him from his earlier work, The Watchers, which is also on my staggeringly long TBR.

This one took me a minute to get into, as it is somewhat of a slow burner and I tend to prefer a faster pace. But much like that children’s tale of the tortoise and the rabbit, slow and steady wins the race. This is the story of a pair of researchers, Ben and Chloe, who are hired by an old eccentric to visit the village from which the superstition of a monster called the creeper originates. They make the trip and are warned off, but allowed to stay for one day on the condition that they conclude interviews by dark and leave the following morning. Ben makes an earnest attempt at learning the origins of the story from the village folk and feels like he’s failed due to the villagers’ unwillingness to talk, until he and Chloe are visited by a child as they’re getting ready to settle in for the night before leaving in the morning.

The author was really good about including little details, both about the legend and events as they are happening, to tie everything together. He left no big glaring loose ends. And if you’re a skeptic like Ben and myself, the ending and epilogue are quite satisfying. My one gripe is that maybe the build up was a bit too slow burning. There were some slightly creepy things early on, but it didn’t get truly terrifying for Ben and Chloe until about halfway through the book. By then I was definitely on the edge of my seat, right up until we get to the twist. And at that point, the reader is resigned to their fate same as Ben is resigned to his.

Solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. Before the twist, it would have been one star lower. It is well written, but there are some things my brain just isn’t frightened by. So the ending was pretty satisfying. Was it scary? I didn’t think so. But it was suspenseful and had lots of creepy parts that kept me engaged and rooting for the unlucky researchers. Highly recommend adding it to your spooky season reading list.

Big thanks to A.M. Shine, Head of Zeus, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy The Creeper, by A.M. Shine on Amazon for a couple bucks, or read it as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: Little Astronaut, by J. Hope Stein

I have had this ARC for longer than I care to admit. I’d read a couple disappointing books of poetry and decided to put this one aside a while. Now that I’m reading it, I wish I had dug in sooner.

This is a collection of poetry about the experience of being a new mother. Generally I don’t like to read motherhood themed books because of my own complicated feelings and experiences. In a lot of ways, this is a collection of more of the same old thing. New mom doesn’t get enough sleep. Motherhood becomes identity. Partner has different expectations of parenthood. Strangers bombard you with unsolicited advice. Breastfeeding.

The space theme gives it a fresh feel. There are space metaphors sprinkled throughout that sort of tie the whole thing together. Yes, it’s a new mom venting about the usual new mom experiences. Some of the poems blend together, a result of their sameness. There is some repetition, but it flows from one space metaphor to another on the inertia from the strong prologue and titular poem.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. A more sentimental person would probably rate it higher, but like I said, I have complicated feelings on the subject matter. This was a good read though.

Big thanks to J. Hope Stein, Andrews McMeel Publishing, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Little Astronaut on Amazon and read it beginning on September 20, 2022. And according to the author’s website, there’s a little something extra in it for you if you pre-order! I love when authors do things like that.

I read a book: Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe, by Wayne David Hubbard

I spent some time browsing the poetry section of NetGalley on my break this morning. I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I admit I am more likely to click a title with interesting titles and cover art. Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe, by Wayne David Hubbard has both of these elements.

While the description is a bit vague, the poetry itself is not. Hubbard employs elements of modern poetry that I enjoy; poems are short and straight to the point without a ton of flowery language. While it does not tell you directly how you’re supposed to feel, it is written in accessible language without obscure references.

Proof of Life had me laughing unexpectedly. I found myself rereading it and smiling to myself. It reminded me of the conversational poetry of Justin Grimbol in a way. I really like Justin Grimbol. This poem was the only one reminiscent of Grimbol though.

Despite its wordy title and having been completed over the course of 10 years, this book clocks in at a slight 68 pages. Don’t confuse brevity with value though. There are some real gems in this small volume. This verse from In a Time Lapse 2 is one of my favorites.

A solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. Big thanks to Wayne David Hubbard, Atmosphere Press, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe on Amazon and read it beginning on October 8, 2022.

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: The Vital Function of Constant Narrative, by Marlys West

The Vital Function of Constant Narrative, by Marlys West is marketed as both memoir and poetry. I love poetry and I love memoirs, and a crossover of the two genres is something I haven’t seen before.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel like this was executed particularly well. I was bored a quarter of the way through. I know it’s a bit harsh to say that the story of someone’s life is boring, but it didn’t feel like a memoir.

And it barely felt like poetry. This is coming from a person who reads and enjoys a lot of bad poetry. Here’s the thing. Poetry is emotion. I don’t care about the technical aspects of poetry if it doesn’t make me feel things.

This collection isn’t bad, but it is largely forgettable. It’s the type of book an academic library adds to the collection because the author is faculty.

I usually try to share some passages that touched me, but nothing really stood out. Every page is like the title of this book, unnecessarily verbose without leading to a point. It’s the kind of poetry that makes me feel like I’m missing something. Or like maybe I’m not smart enough to get it. That puts me off reading more of this author’s work.

⭐️⭐️ for me. I’m sure there’s an audience for this, but it’s not me. Big thanks to NetGalley & V Press LC, Independent Book Publishers for the ARC.

I didn’t love it, but you might! You can buy The Vital Function of Constant Narrative on Amazon, BN, or Indie Bookstore.

Monthly roundup – May 2022

No real stinkers this month. Once again I didn’t get through the third Wheel of Time book, but I made a decent dent in it. The big standout this month was The Keeper of Happy Endings, which surprised me because historical fiction isn’t my genre of choice. It was really good. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting a little sappy in my old age. Probably the same reason I liked The Space Between Us so much.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Space Between Us: Poetry and Prose, by Courtney Peppernell and Zack Grey
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
The Keeper of Happy Endings, by Barbara Davis
Choice, by Jodi Picoult
Fire in Her Dreams, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Stolen Tongues, by Felix Blackwell
Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory, by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Fire in His Chaos, by Ruby Dixon
Fire in Her Eyes, by Ruby Dixon
The Slob, by Aron Beauregard
Goldenrod: Poems, by Maggie Smith
I Live You, Call Me Back: Poems, by Sabrina Benaim
Fire in His Veins, by Ruby Dixon
Yard Work, by David Koepp

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Winterset Hollow, by Jonathan Edward Durham
When She’s Lonely, by Ruby Dixon
The Fifth Survivor: Bacon Nightmares, by Angel Ramon
Anonymous, by Uzodinma Iweala
Ungirls, by Lauren Beukes
The Night Shift, by Alex Finlay

Winterset Hollow is pretty popular in the horror group on Facebook, so popular that there have been several posts by people with fresh tattoos if the rabbit on the cover. I wanted to love it. I usually love the books that are popular there. This one didn’t quite hit the spot for me. I know they can’t all be great, but I guess I had higher expectations for a tattoo worthy book. That said, I did like it.

On the agenda for June is that same Wheel of Time book, the last of Ruby Dixon’s dragon books, and a couple of book club selections. I may even catch up on my ARCs and finish up some drafts.

I read a book: NOT A LOT OF REASONS TO SING, BUT ENOUGH, by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

Guante’s poetry takes me back to that one time I went to the Nueva Onda cafe with my friends many years ago. One friend was active in the local poetry community, and while I did want to be supportive, I know I did a poor job of it. There was a big slam poetry presence there and it didn’t speak to me. I didn’t get it so I wrote it off. My relationship with poetry has changed over the years and while I still mostly consume it in its written form, I find my self loving spoken word and slam more and more.

When I told my friend that I’d received an ARC of this book from NetGalley, his response was that he was just looking at it on Button Poetry’s website. I was already loving this book, but I found my friend’s response encouraging and continued on.

This collection of poems sets out to redefine your view of what poetry is and assures you that you don’t have to like poetry, and that maybe poetry just isn’t what you’ve been taught. Poetry doesn’t have to pretentious romantic rhymes. Anyone can enjoy it or write it. Or not.

Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough tells a story through the memories of a robot recovered from a post-apocalyptic world. The format is unique and beautiful and a delight to read. I found myself rereading several passages and coming back to the illustrations that punctuate the collection over and over again. Guante hits on a lot of topic near and dear to my heart without being super direct and preachy. I’ll be buying a copy for my shelf, and if you are even remotely interested in poetry, you should too.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. Read this book. Do it.

You can buy a signed copy of Guante’s latest book NOT A LOT OF REASONS TO SING, BUT ENOUGH directly from the publisher Button Poetry. If you love his style and want to learn from him, check out his Button University Workshop.