Spotlight: The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

In The Book of Delights, one of today’s most original literary voices offers up a genre-defying volume of lyric essays written over one tumultuous year. The first nonfiction book from award-winning poet Ross Gay is a record of the small joys we often overlook in our busy lives. Among Gay’s funny, poetic, philosophical delights: a friend’s unabashed use of air quotes, cradling a tomato seedling aboard an airplane, the silent nod of acknowledgment between the only two black people in a room. But Gay never dismisses the complexities, even the terrors, of living in America as a black man or the ecological and psychic violence of our consumer culture or the loss of those he loves. More than anything else, though, Gay celebrates the beauty of the natural world–his garden, the flowers peeking out of the sidewalk, the hypnotic movements of a praying mantis.

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Book Review: What Moves The Dead by T. Kingfisher

The dead don’t walk. Except sometimes they do.

PLOT SUMMARY

When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves. Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.

GRADE: A

REVIEW

This novella is a retelling of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, and let’s just say that the author blew it out of the park. Everything that made the original creepy is expounded on and one can’t help but like the protagonist, Easton who finds themselves at the house because an old childhood friend wrote them about this sister’s slow demise. The book is moody and dark, and you’re quickly wrapped up in the mystery and eeriness. However, there are moments of comedy when Eugenia Potter, a British mycologist is in the scene. She was by far my favourite character, and couldn’t wait for her to show up. If you love Poe and love dark gothic mysteries, then do yourself a favour and read this now!

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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3 Horror Books with Haunted Houses

Haunted homes are one of my favourite tropes both in horror movies and books. Here are three books with haunted homes that are bound to give you chills!

THE LITTLE STRANGER BY SARAH WATERS

One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.

THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED BY JOHN BOYNE

This House Is Haunted is a striking homage to the classic nineteenth-century ghost story. Set in Norfolk in 1867, Eliza Caine responds to an ad for a governess position at Gaudlin Hall. When she arrives at the hall, shaken by an unsettling disturbance that occurred during her travels, she is greeted by the two children now in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There is no adult present to represent her mysterious employer, and the children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, another terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong.
 
From the moment Eliza rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence that lives within Gaudlin’s walls. Eliza realizes that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall’s long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past. Clever, captivating, and witty, This House Is Haunted is pure entertainment with a catch.

KILL CREEK BY SCOTT THOMAS

At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. Soon the door will be opened for the first time in decades. But something is waiting, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests…

When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.

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Book Review: The Words We Keep by Erin Stewart

His lips touch my stomach, each wound, each scar.

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Release Date: March 15, 2022

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $11.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY

It’s been three months since The Night on the Bathroom Floor–when Lily found her older sister Alice hurting herself. Ever since then, Lily has been desperately trying to keep things together, for herself and for her family. But now Alice is coming home from her treatment program and it is becoming harder for Lily to ignore all of the feelings she’s been trying to outrun. Enter Micah, a new student at school with a past of his own. He was in treatment with Alice and seems determined to get Lily to process not only Alice’s experience but her own. Because Lily has secrets, too. Compulsions she can’t seem to let go of and thoughts she can’t drown out. When Lily and Micah embark on an art project for school involving finding poetry in unexpected places, she realizes that it’s the words she’s been swallowing that desperately want to break through.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

This was a gut-wrenching journey that vividly depicts the difficulty of dealing with an anxiety disorder while also dealing with people in your life that have attempted suicide. Lily’s world isn’t the same ever since her sister Alice slit her veins – but she’s trying her best to keep up a happy facade at school. But it all quickly crumbles the moment Alice returns home from rehab. In the midst of all this, she meets and falls for the new boy Micah – who also stayed at the same rehab center that Alice did after he tried to take his own life.

The reader can’t help but cheer for these very broken souls and yearn so much to see them heal and find some solace in the darkness.

Told from Alice’s POV and her poetry, this was a very emotional read that I simply couldn’t put down, in fact, I read it in two days. I highly suggest this book if you want to read a very raw yet ultimately uplifting story. However, there are many trigger warnings for those who suffer from depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and anxiety.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Teen Killers in Love by Lily Sparks

AN UNCONFESSED CRUSH IS NOTHING. IT IS AN AIRELESS VOID THAT WILL SUFFOCATE YOUR HEART QUITE COMFORTABLE.

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Release Date: August 9, 2022

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Price: $18.99 (harcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

The Teen Killers Club is on the brink of destruction, with one faction pitted against another in a deadly game of survival. Erik and Signal are part of the group who’ve had their “kill switches” disabled, and the others are under orders to hunt them down—or meet their own demise. Now, Erik and Signal have to find a way to neutralize the others’ switches and clear Signal’s name. In the middle of a manhunt that is going viral and turning them into an internet-age Bonnie and Clyde.
 
Erik and Signal are both Class As—the most dangerous and manipulative criminal profile—but Erik is the ultimate Class A, with ten kills to his name and a secret in his past that will change everything.
 
As if being hunted down wasn’t enough, Erik is determined to get Signal admit that she loves him. But Signal is hellbent on crushing her own growing attraction.
 
It’s a race against time to save the Teen Killers Club from its worst nightmare—having to kill the friends they need more than ever.

GRADE: B+

REVIEW:

I’m not gonna lie – I loved the first book of this series because it had such an interesting plot – teen killers sent to a camp of sorts to learn how to better fight and kill so they could be used as human weapons. Plus I really loved the characters Signal, Erik, and Nobody. So of course when book two dropped I absolutely had to read it. Now, while I enjoyed book two because I simply love the characters, for some reason I couldn’t get that motivated by this book’s plot. I don’t know if this was because of uneven pacing where it was fast-paced for so long and then suddenly stalled at the climax. But I found reading this sequel felt a bit like a chore. I don’t know how I feel about the ending – as it seems like there might be another sequel, and I will read it solely based on my love for the characters, but I really hope that the plot will have better pacing and hold my interest more than this one did.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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3 QUEER HORRORS TO CELEBRATE PRIDE MONTH

OUR WIVES UNDER THE SEA BY JULIA ARMFIELD

Leah is changed. A marine biologist, she left for a routine expedition months earlier, only this time her submarine sank to the sea floor. When she finally surfaces and returns home, her wife Miri knows that something is wrong. Barely eating and lost in her thoughts, Leah rotates between rooms in their apartment, running the taps morning and night. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home. As Miri searches for answers, desperate to understand what happened below the water, she must face the possibility that the woman she loves is slipping from her grasp.

THE MONSTER OF ELENDHAVEN BY JENNIFER GIESBRECHT

The city of Elendhaven sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats. A monster who cannot die. His frail master sends him out on errands, twisting him with magic, crafting a plan too cruel to name, while the monster’s heart grows fonder and colder and more cunning.

These monsters of Elendhaven will have their revenge on everyone who wronged the city, even if they have to burn the world to do it.

MANHUNT BY GRETCHEN FELKER-MARTIN

Beth and Fran spend their days traveling the ravaged New England coast, hunting feral men and harvesting their organs in a gruesome effort to ensure they’ll never face the same fate.

Robbie lives by his gun and one hard-learned motto: other people aren’t safe.

After a brutal accident entwines the three of them, this found family of survivors must navigate murderous TERFs, a sociopathic billionaire bunker brat, and awkward relationship dynamics—all while outrunning packs of feral men, and their own demons.

HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS? WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE QUEER HORRORS?


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Book Review: Suburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer

A Chicago cul-de-sac is about to get a new neighbor…of the demonic kind.

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Release Date: August 30, 2022

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Price: $17 (paperback)

PLOT SUMMARY

   Amy Foster considers herself lucky. After she left the city and moved to the suburbs, she found her place quickly with neighbors Liz, Jess, and Melissa, snarking together from the outskirts of the PTA crowd. One night during their monthly wine get-together, the crew concoct a plan for a clubhouse She Shed in Liz’s backyard—a space for just them, no spouses or kids allowed.
 
    But the night after they christen the She Shed, things start to feel . . . off. They didn’t expect Liz’s little home-improvement project to release a demonic force that turns their quiet enclave into something out of a nightmare. And that’s before the homeowners’ association gets wind of it.
 
    Even the calmest moms can’t justify the strange burn marks, self-moving dolls, and horrible smells surrounding their possessed friend, Liz. Together, Amy, Jess, and Melissa must fight the evil spirit to save Liz and the neighborhood . . . before the suburbs go completely to hell.

GRADE: A

REVIEW

If you love your horror with a pinch of comedy, then Suburban Hell is the book for you. Written in a manner that’s evocative of Grady Hendrix, the pace is fast and hella funny. Amy is convinced her good friend Liz is possessed after a hole in the other woman’s yard unleashes a foul odor and brings about unexplained incidents. The possession is slow, and at times one can’t tell whether it’s true or if Amy is overreacting, as she herself questions if she’s jumping the ship like in the 80’s Satanic Panic. But after a pivotal incident, Amy now knows that something sinister and supernatural has overtaken their suburban lives and she is dead set on proving her suspicions to her friends Melissa and Jess. Often while reading the book I wasn’t sure what was more hellish, having a possessed friend living next door to you or dealing with the ridiculous suburban wives that Amy had to deal with on a daily basis. The writing flows well and is pressed on a fast tempo, only slightly slowing down for a few moments to only pick up right away. The winning point of this novel is that sure, it’s a fun read, but when the horror sets in, it doesn’t disappoint, as it is dark and extremely creepy!

I recommend this book if you love your horror to have a dash of comedy to it. This book is a mashup of The Exorcist and Desperate Housewives.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Mean Baby: A Memoir of Growing Up by Selma Blair

Selma Blair writes her way through her pain.

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Release Date: May 17,2022

Publisher: Knopf

Price: $19.85 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

The first story Selma Blair Beitner ever heard about herself is that she was a mean, mean baby. With her mouth pulled in a perpetual snarl and a head so furry it had to be rubbed to make way for her forehead, Selma spent years living up to her terrible reputation: biting her sisters, lying spontaneously, getting drunk from Passover wine at the age of seven, and behaving dramatically so that she would be the center of attention.
 
Although Selma went on to become a celebrated Hollywood actress and model, she could never quite shake the periods of darkness that overtook her, the certainty that there was a great mystery at the heart of her life. She often felt like her arms might be on fire, a sensation not unlike electric shocks, and she secretly drank to escape.
 
Over the course of this beautiful and, at times, devastating memoir, Selma lays bare her addiction to alcohol, her devotion to her brilliant and complicated mother, and the moments she flirted with death. There is brutal violence, passionate love, true friendship, the gift of motherhood, and, finally, the surprising salvation of a multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
 
In a voice that is powerfully original, fiercely intelligent, and full of hard-won wisdom, Selma Blair’s Mean Baby is a deeply human memoir and a true literary achievement. 

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

Memoirs are a tricky thing, they can either be fascinating or they can fall short. I’ve watched several movies that Blair has been in, and just as though she felt like an outsider looking in when it came to Hollywood, the same can be said of the characters she has portrayed. Initially, I bought this memoir as an attempt to better understand the illness (MS) that has afflicted both a friend of mine and Blair. But as I tried to relate with my friend, I discovered that there was so much that I could relate with Blair. There are dark moments in Blair’s life that one wouldn’t readily imagine considering the positive image I personally had of her and wasn’t aware of the amount of darkness she actually had for many years.

She talks about heavy topics like alcoholism, suicide, and sexual assault. Her writing is honest, raw, and never tries to sugar coat even the worst moments. But the memoir isn’t only about darkness, but rather finding the light in the dark, and there are a lot of fun 90’s anecdotes. Blair talks about the time she convinced Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon that she was indeed friends with Puff Daddy as a way to impress them, or how she used to greet people with a bite until Kate Moss bit her back and made her lose the quirky habit.

There’s a lot to unpack in this memoir, and I recommend it, especially if you like reading about a time in Hollywood when actors still had an air of mystery to them prior to social media and the internet. Blair is an inspiring role model of fortitude and persistence, and I look forward to reading any of her future books.

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Book Review: This Is Not The Real World by Anna Carey

The nineties have never been so dark…..

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Release Date: May 24, 2022

Publisher: Quirkbooks

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

Months after Jess escaped from the set of Stuck in the ’90s, the nostalgic reality show she believed was her real life, the teen star is getting to know the outside world for the first time. But she can’t outrun her fictional life forever—or the media empire that owns it.

After Like-Life Productions tracks her down and forces her boyfriend to return to the show, Jess teams up with an underground network fighting to uncover Like-Life’s schemes. To expose the truth, Jess must go back to the set and take Like-Life down from the inside . . . but getting revenge might just cost her everything.

GRADE: B

REVIEW:

This is book two of a duology, the first being This Is Not The Jess Show, which was a mix of The Truman Show but with a 90’s spin on it. Our protagonist, Jess Flynn finds out that her whole life was recorded for entertainment purposes and while she was living on a set thinking it was 1998, it was actually 2035 in the real world.

Book two sees Jess return to the set she had escaped from as a means to oust the producers of doing nefarious things for the world to see. While this book was packed with action, and perhaps had more of a thriller slant to it, it somehow lacked in what made book one memorable. I loved book one because it was steeped in 90’s nostalgia, and while this book had some of it, the focus was more on trying to destroy the fictional town of Swinkley and bring down the organization behind it.

It’s still a fun read, and you definitely have to read book one in order to read this book. I recommend this book if you love the 90’s, the concept of The Truman Show and if you like unapologetic badass female protagonist because Jess gets even grittier than she did in the first book and I loved to see her take control of her life and narrative.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Quirkbooks for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: We Can Never Leave This Place by Eric LaRocca

When you’re given a gift, something else gets taken away.

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Release Date: June 24, 2022

Publisher: Trepidatio Publishing

Price: $12.95 (paperback)

PLOT SUMMARY:

A precocious young girl with an unusual imagination is sent on an odyssey into the depths of depravity. After her father dies violently, young Mara is surprised to find her mother welcoming a new guest into their home, claiming that he will protect them from the world of devastation and destruction outside their door.

A grotesque and thrilling dark fantasy, We Can Never Leave This Place is a harrowing portrait of inherited grief and familial trauma.

GRADE: A-

REVIEW:

I’m still trying to make sense of this fever dream that reads like a horror induced Alice in Wonderland tale. Mara has just lost her father, and she lives with her abusive mother who’s expecting a baby, while an unexpected visitor shows up and wreaks havoc in their lives. We’re frequently told that Mara is an expert storyteller throughout the novella (or liar as her mother likes to chide), so take what happens within the pages of this novella with a grain of salt. What is real and what is fantasy? And ultimately, does it really matter to know the difference? LaRocca weaves a dreadful tale soaked in trauma and grief that is easily gulped in one sitting, but that leaves the reader feeling a bit disorientated. If you’re a fan of Kafka, I think you might enjoy this horror novella very much.

*Thank you so much to Nightworms & the author for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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