Review: Crossroads by Laurel Hightower

Crossroads

Buy it here: Off Limits Press, Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

How far would you go to bring back someone you love?

When Chris’s son dies in a tragic car crash, her world is devastated. The walls of grief close in on Chris’s life until, one day, a small cut on her finger changes everything.

A drop of blood falls from Chris’s hand onto her son’s roadside memorial and, later that night, Chris thinks she sees his ghost outside her window. Only, is it really her son’s ghost, or is it something else—something evil?

Soon Chris is playing a dangerous game with forces beyond her control in a bid to see her son, Trey, alive once again.

Review:

I started reading this novella on September 10, 2020. I finished it 393 days later. This means that I averaged a page every 3.5 days. These statistics skew the rest of the story. I remember starting to read Crossroads and getting halfway through when I realized I could not read it. I don’t know if it was because of the state of the world in May 2020, and while working the front line of Covid-19, managing patients on life support, I was seeing a great deal of tragic family loss, but the story of Chris and her grief for losing her only son, Trey in a car accident, and being so grief stricken that she had a daily visit to the roadside cross where he died was just too much at the time. I put it down until a few days ago. Mostly because I kept looking at it on the shelf and kept thinking about how I had heard nothing but good things about it. So 526 days later, I have finished Crossroads, and even though Covid has not changed as much as I had liked, my need for dark literature has returned.

 Crossroads is dark, sad, and filled with grief and heartache. I know that there are only 110 pages, but the story seems to be much much longer. We feel so much for Chris and even the secondary characters like Dan, the neighbor who is watching her struggle, and Beau, Chris’s ex-husband and Trey’s father, that the connection between reader and character is so strong, especially for such a short novella. Maybe because we naturally feel empathy for those who have lost someone, and especially when it comes to losing a child, those stories of grief really suck us in. This may be because of the genuine disbelief in how we would act if given the situation, and a little bit of relief that it is happening to someone else and not us.  Or maybe it is the result of a skillful writer. Laurel Hightower does such a masterful job of telling the story. She weaves so much emotion into the story that you feel the desperation of Chris to see her son again, that you feel the longing that Dan feels for Chris to have some peace in her life. Hightower does not hold back on making the reader feel the things her characters feel.


I enjoy this novella and I cannot recommend it enough. Not only is it a good story, but it is a great example of what a masterful writer can do with this form. I feel like Crossroads is one of the novellas that will be discussed as one of the end classic of the horror at the novella length. Do not wait as long as I did to finish this book.

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Review: The Forest by Lisa Quigley

The Forest

Buy Here: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Everyone in Edgewood believes their annual tithes at the fall festival are what purchase Edgewood’s safety, but as Faye and her husband prepare to take over as town stewards—a long tradition carried out by her family for generations—they learn the terrible truth: in order to guarantee the town’s safety, the forest demands an unthinkable sacrifice.

In the midst of everything, Faye is secretly battling debilitating postpartum anxiety that makes her all the more terrified to leave the safe cocoon of her enchanted town.

When everyone turns against her—including her own husband—Faye is forced to flee with her infant son into the forest. She must face whatever lurks there and, perhaps most frightening of all, the dark torments of her own mind.

The Forest is an adult folk horror novel appealing to fans of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and Bird Box by Josh Malerman, with a hint of The Changeling by Victor LaValle. It is Quigley’s debut novel.

Review:

Lisa Quigley’s debut novel, The Forest, is one of those novels that sucked me into the plot and characters quicker than I expected. When the story started with Faye, the main character, running away from her town with her infant son to hide in the forest, I could not help but think about another book I read this year, Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon. I love Sorrowland, and I tried not to compare the two, but the plots in the beginning felt fairly similar. Both have mothers running away from a society that has their own rules, rules they cannot be a part of. The difference is that the main character in Sorrowland is much harder and much more angry than Faye. Faye had had a good life in Edgewood, mostly because Edgewood is a mystical town where nothing bad happens. Her husband came to this town to help his mother heal, and the town healed her so he stayed. Her parents and siblings are happy and satisfied people, and even though Faye does have a few wanderlust tendencies in the back of her mind, her life is so good that the thought of leaving the town was not too overpowering. Until now.

I wanted to dislike this much because of how much I enjoyed Sorrowland, but it did not take long for me to latch onto these characters and the dilemmas they faced and forget about comparing books. The Forest is it’s own novel, and even though I loved it, there are some things that start to get a little redundant, like the way she uses breastfeeding as a plot device. It seems like there is not much that Faye knows about how to soothe her infant son besides giving him her breast. There are times when he is hungry, but there are more times when she breastfeeds him because she does not know what else to do to soothe him. Something so normal becomes one of the few actions between her and her son. Another thing that she repeats often is the infant’s “downy” or “soft” hair. She uses this as a repeated way to give Faye some comfort. These things (and a few others) are very noticeable, but this does not get in the way of the fact that this is a great book. 

There are things about the premise that I wish was explored more. I want to know more about Edgewood and what it is like to be a citizen of the town. I want to know more about the role of the town stewards and what that entails. I want to know more about the background of Faye’s postpartum anxieties. I know that it exists but I don’t know how it manifests. I want to know more about the forest and the fears that the town has of it. Lisa Quigley builds a world that we want to visit, and despite some of the imperfections of this novel, I will be recommending it to many of my friends and be looking forward to what comes next.

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Review: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

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Buy here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges… a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

Review:

Originally published at www.mysteryandsuspense.com

Stephen Graham Jones has been publishing for twenty years, and he has been highly revered in the horror community as one of the greatest living horror writers. Last year was a good year for him. He published the novel The Only Good Indians in July and the novella Night of the Mannequins in September.

He won both of the 2020 Shirley Jackson Awards for novel and novella with these two. His newest novel, My Heart is a Chainsaw, is highly anticipated, and there are some huge expectations for many readers based on this success.

My Heart is a Chainsaw does not disappoint. The novel surrounds Jade, an half-indigenous outsider at school with an absent mother and a drunk father. She does what she can to survive, which is to delve into her love of slasher movies and be convinced that her small town of Proofrock, Idaho is going to be the victim of a huge massacre. There are several settings in this novel that can be seen as old sets from slasher movies. Proofrock is on one side of Indian Lake, which might have a Lake Witch, the other side is an old summer camp called Camp Blood, and there is Terra Nova, a rich suburb that is still in construction on top of what very well might be a Native American burial ground. Jade is convinced that this is the perfect recipe for bad things to happen. Throughout the novel, she is trying to warn the town, trying to get someone to listen to her, and getting in trouble for her efforts. She latches onto Letha Mondragon, one of the new girls from Terra Nova, and knows that she is going to be the final girl. Unfortunately when she tells Letha this, she gets into even more trouble with the police. In the end, Jade does not give up; she needs to warn everyone of the impending doom the town is going to face, even though most of her insights are based on slasher movie logic and not reality. 

Stephen Graham Jones loves slashers, and he pours this love into Jade. He has been on many podcasts talking about his love for the slasher genre, and when Jade talks about slashers in this book, she does not only talk about the big ones, like Friday the 13th and Halloween. She describes some deep cuts, like Just Before Dawn and A Bay of Blood. There are also essays written from Jade to her history teacher about the rules and history of the slasher genre and how it fits into the life and events of Proofrock. These rules and history of slasher segments are things I have heard come from Stephen Graham Jones himself during some podcasts, so listening to Jade, I feel like I am also listening to the author. He has poured his love into this character, and it really shows.

My Heart is a Chainsaw is a novel for horror fans. Jade is written as a horror fan that many horror fans can understand. Many fans were outsiders through high school or do not have a good home life, so many use a world of horror movies and fantasy as coping mechanisms. Jade might be a little more obsessed than many horror fans, but the sentiment is there. Horror is a way that many people have coped with a tough life or tough times. Stephen Graham Jones makes his character someone that many horror fans can relate to, and in the end,  Stephen Graham Jones is not only writing a horror novel but he is writing a love letter to a genre.  

I received this as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Ratio of Brookes to Ashleys by Wol-Vriey

Ratio of Brookes to Ashleys

Buy Here: Amazon,

Synopsis

SOMETHING IS VICIOUSLY KILLING MIKE’S GIRLFRIENDS!

After being cursed by a dying woman, Mike Broadman’s love life completely nosedives. One girlfriend cheats on him and the next one dies a very messy death.

Next, a psychic informs Mike that he’s under an evil spell that will keep killing his girlfriends, and that the ONLY solution (the ONLY way that he’ll ever have a happy love life again) is for him to only date women named either Brooke or Ashley from now on.

Mike tries to comply with this, but still, the deaths continue, and now they’re becoming even more brutal and bloody. Mike now finds himself in a race against time. He needs to ‘equalize the ratio of Brookes to Ashleys’ before it’s too late.

And then, just when it seems things can’t get any crazier or deadlier for Mike, he meets ‘Brash’ — the twins Brooke and Ashley Lawrence . . .

And the body count keeps rising . . .

Review:

Wol-vriey contacted me years ago to review one of his novellas, Big Trouble in Little Ass, a crazy western that I loved enough to recommend to everyone. Years later, he has requested again that I look at Ratio of Brookes to Ashleys. I did not hesitate to agree. I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Mike has broken up with his girlfriend, Ashley, and she takes it hard. So hard that she casts a spell on him during a ritual suicide. Mike then starts to see everyone he is dating die in horrific ways. He needs to find out this curse does not apply to girls named Ashley or Brooke, the first and middle name of his ex-girlfriend. Mike is that twenty something character who hangs out with other twenty something characters. They all go to their menial jobs, drink on their time off, and sleep with each other. It is not hard for Mike to find Ashleys and Brookes to date.

Except there might be a killer following Mike killing pretty much everyone he knows. 

There are a few different layers to this novel. You have the aspect of Mike trying to deal with this curse. You have the serial killer mystery. And this is all wrapped up in a party lifestyle that Mike and his friends participate in. I like Wol-vriey’s plots and his characters are pretty funny. I was put off by some of the writing. Some of the turns of phrase and sentences just did not really fit well. The story is meant to take place on the East Coast. Wol-vriey is from Nigeria. Some of this feels like when all of the Italian movie makers were making films in America, like New York Ripper and The House by the Cemetery. It is not that there is anything particularly wrong as much as the tone feels different. Wol-vriey uses some words and phrases that people in New England would not use. 

As a whole, I really liked Ratio of Brookes to Ashleys. It is a fun horror novel that mashes up two of the great subgenres of horror, the evil curse and the serial killer story, and he spares no detail in talking about blood and guts. Wol-vriey has a ton of books out, and all of them are good fun. 

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Review: Slattery Falls by Brennan LaFaro

Slattery Falls

Buy it here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Travis, Elsie, and Josh, college kids with a ghost-hunting habit, scour New England for the most interesting haunted locales. Their journey eventually leads them to Slattery Falls, a small Massachusetts town living in the shadow of the Weeks House. The former home of the town’s most sinister and feared resident sits empty. At least that’s what the citizens say. It’s all in good fun. But after navigating the strange home, they find the residents couldn’t be more wrong. And now the roles are reversed. The hunters have become the hunted. Something evil refuses to release its grip, forcing the trio into one last adventure.

Review;

The best subgenre of ghost story is the ghost hunter story. You no longer have to buy or inherit a haunted house from a creepy person who cannot get away from there fast enough. With a ghost hunter story, you dip into a house or building, collect evidence, and leave. This modern way to get paranormal activity also turns into a great deal of changes in story structure. Libraries and priests are no longer needed when you can get all of the information you need off of the internet. There are enough people who write about historic buildings and events, some of it true, some of it built on rumors and town lore. All of it is used for history on the event that is about to take place. The ghost hunter story is the more modern version of The Amityville Horror or Haunted, and with this comes the fact that some of the stories  will be better than others. 

Slattery Falls is a  short ghost hunter story that spans over ten years. The hunts are started by Travis, the narrator, and his friend Josh, whom he met in college and bonded over Josh’s love for haunted locations. The first hunt is of the Hale House, just the two of them. They see some weird things in the basement and it stops them from hunting again for a while. Josh then finds a new place, The Benson House, and the two guys have an interloper, Josh’s cousin, Elsie. The three of them have some very dangerous paranormal things happen on the Benson House haunt, so they stop for years. This is the first 50 pages of a 134 page book. Slattery Falls moves fast, and there is not any wasted time. The second half of this book happens ten years after the Benson House events because they all give it up afterward. When Josh finds some information about the Weeks House that ties it into the events that happened in the Benson house, there is no choice but to go on one more hunt. 


I enjoyed this book in a way that this is a rainy afternoon, one sitting read. So many different things happen that it does not get bogged down with repetitive action. The Weeks House exploration turns into a dark and dangerous haunt, and the anxiety that the characters are feeling really translates in the writing. I cannot help but think of the house in House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski, which is a rare comparison for any book, but they both have the feeling of exploration and danger. Slattery Falls is a good novella, and a good example of how to write an effective, if not uneven, ghost hunter story.

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Review: Billy Summers by Stephen King

Billy Summers

Buy it here: Bookshop

Synopsis

Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?

How about everything.

Review:

Review originally published at Mystery And Suspense

Stephen King has been writing novels since before many of his fans were alive. We have grown up reading his books, waiting for the next in the Dark Tower series to be published or the next film adaptation to be released. Many of King’s rabid fans collect different editions of his novels, show off their collections on social media, and greatly anticipate the next book.

For all of his fans who grew up on reading his horror novels, the last few years have been tough. King has not written a “horror” novel since Revival in 2014, and so when every new book is announced, many of his fans clamor for a new horror novel, but get a book that King wants to write instead. Stephen King loves crime fiction. 

This is not a new revelation. As far back as when he wrote articles for Entertainment Weekly from 2003 to 2008, most of the books on his “best of the year” lists were crime fiction and mysteries. Most of the art that he champions on his social media accounts are crime fiction and mysteries. It is no surprise that in the past seven or eight years, with an exception of a short story here and there, he has wanted to write crime fiction. 

Billy Summers fits squarely into this phase of Stephen King’s career. The story starts with an ex-military sniper hired to kill a person while he is entering the stairs to a courthouse. Billy ingrains into the building and neighborhood where his cover is that he is a writer who is trying to finish a novel. He spends a great deal of time meeting the neighbors, writing a little, and waiting for the day where he is going to blow off Josh Allen’s head. 

There are a few interesting things with this story. The first is that Billy Summers uses a mask of sorts when he is talking to people. He reads Archie comics in front of people with his books of French literature buried  in his suitcase. He says that he shows people his “dumbself” because he does not want people to know the real him. This “dumbself” act is famously portrayed by the main character in the Jim Thompson novel, The Killer Inside Me. This character, like Billy Summers, is able to get away with more because nobody suspects much from him because he seems dense. The truth is that Billy is cunning, smart, and one step ahead of those who are chasing him. 

The second interesting thing is that the actual story is over about 200 pages into the novel. After this point, King changes the story a great deal, makes it into Billy Summers after his job is finished, and turns it into a neo-noir story. King introduces the damsel in distress, the danger out to get Billy Summers, and the finale that you expect from this type of book. The step that Stephen King misses is that in a good neo-noir book or film, the main character is much closer to the danger than Billy Summers ever is. King writes him as smart enough to outwit everyone, and this does not make for a great crime thriller. With this said, Billy Summers is an interesting character, and the book is one to read if you are interested in King’s crime writing.

The biggest impression that I received from reading Billy Summers is not about the book but about Stephen King himself. He still publishes two books a year. He still writes what he wants to write. He still has many loyal fans, but the interesting thing is that most of his novels are not set in the past. He does not hark back to the old days by setting all of his novels in the 50s and 60s. He actually tells modern stories, set in the present, and even though he might talk about history, like the war in Iraq in the case of Billy Summers, his stories are modern. King talks a little about the political climate of America, he talks a little about Covid being on the horizon when this story is taking place, and he writes in a way that a reader from the future, who reads all of his novels in order, can figure out a good timeline to the history of America, through King’s eyes of course. There are not many writers that have been this prolific throughout their careers that are still writing about current affairs. This makes the works of Stephen King more important than maybe we realize.

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Review: A Touch of Jen by Beth Morgan

Buy it here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Remy and Alicia, a couple of insecure service workers, are not particularly happy together–but they are bound by a shared obsession with Jen, a beautiful former co-worker of Remy’s who now seems to be following her bliss as a globe-trotting jewelry designer. In and outside the bedroom, Remy and Alicia’s entire relationship revolves around fantasies of Jen, whose every Instagram caption, outfit, and New Age mantra they know by heart.

Imagine their confused excitement when they run into Jen, in the flesh, and she invites them on a surfing trip to the Hamptons with her wealthy boyfriend and their group. Once there, Remy and Alicia try (a little too hard) to fit into Jen’s exalted social circle, but violent desire and class resentment bubble beneath the surface of this beach-side paradise, threatening to erupt. As small disturbances escalate into outright horror, Remy and Alicia tumble into an uncanny alternate reality, one shaped by their most unspeakable, deviant, and intoxicating fantasies. Is this what “self-actualization” looks like?

Part millennial social comedy, part psychedelic horror, and all wildly entertaining, A Touch of Jen is a sly, unflinching examination of the hidden drives that lurk just outside the frame of our carefully curated selves. 

Review:

There are some things about Beth Morgan’s debut novel, A Touch of Jen, that make it very polarizing. The story can be broken down in many different ways, from many different angles, because this is a journey more than a story. Split into four parts, the sections all have a different feel, as if the story is parts of an Instagram scroll. The first part is an introduction to Remy and Alicia, a couple who are obsessed with Jen’s Instagram page, Jen being someone who Remy used to work with. The relationship between Remy and Alicia shows that there is a great deal of connection, almost with some borderline codependency tendencies that could be unhealthy. The second part is about a trip Remy and Alicia take with Jen and her friends. This section delves into Remy and Alicia as individuals, some of the weird things that they feel and the way that they interact in social settings. This section makes us understand that these aren’t normal and healthy people. Part three is where it all starts to fall apart in earnest. And Part four is a horror novel. 

Many readers probably find the first two parts uninteresting with boring people doing boring things, but I liked these parts for what they were just as much as I liked the ending for what it was. The main focus of Remy, Alicia, and Jen really make for a tense and sometimes one sided love triangle that honestly reeks of unhealthy connections. I didn’t like any of these characters, but I also liked that I did not like them. Remy is just like that one prick that we all know who is cruel and negative about everything, Alicia is the girl who is hanging on the arm of the worst man in the room, and Jen is the fake on social media that really does not have as good of a life as she pretends. When all of this is added up, it feels like a quirky, depressing, and subtly insane indie movie, like something by Miranda July or Yorgos Lanthimos.. It is easy to compare this novel to one of these films because there is a cinematic quality to the whole thing. 


I liked that the novel breaks really are breaks. From part one to part four, A Touch of Jen is a completely different novel. Beth Morgan really puts space in the story, and the directions that it goes do not fit together perfectly. This makes A Touch of Jen one of those novels that I will remember structurally as well as for the content. I do not know if I can recommend this to any reader, but there is definitely a group of readers that will find this novel to be one of the must read books of the year.

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Review: Four Minutes by Nataliya Deleva

Buy Here:

Open Letter, Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Giving voice to people living on the periphery in post-communist Bulgaria, Four Minutes centers around Leah, an orphan who suffered daily horrors growing up, and now struggles to integrate into society as a gay woman. She confronts her trauma by trying to volunteer at the orphanage, and to adopt a young girl—a choice that is frustrated over and over by bureaucracy and the pervasive stigma against gay women.

In addition to Leah’s narrative, the novel contains nine other standalone character studies of other frequently ignored voices. These sections are each meant to be read in approximately four minutes, a nod to a social experiment that put forth the hypothesis that it only takes four minutes of looking someone in the eye and listening to them in order to accept and empathize with them.

A meticulously crafted social novel, Four Minutes takes a difficult, uncompromising look at modern life in Eastern Europe.

Reivew:

There are many different things happening in Four Minutes, the debut novel by Nataliya Deleva, so many different ideas compacted into a 135 page book. The larger story is about Leah, a gay woman who has aged out of a orphanage and is trying to make sense of her life. She is haunted by her childhood, but she still continues to volunteer at the orphanage, seeking answers. She does connect with one child, Dara, but the politics of her adopting the child makes it impossible. Interjected in the story of Leah is nine short pieces, each one about a different, non-connected person, each one in theory is supposed to take four minutes to read. The four minutes theme is a tribute to a social experiment that says that if you look someone in the eye and listen to them for four minutes, you will accept them and find empathy for their stories. 

There are so many things I love about this novel, but the main one is the tone of the book. There is not a single moment when the darkness and sadness of human reality is not on display. There is very little hope, very little joy in any of this story, and the tone is so heavy that you cannot walk away from this novel without being affected. From the very first paragraph, when the girls are huddled in the dark, waiting for daylight, hoping that they are not picked for the nightly abuse, we know that we are in for a heartbreaking novel.

If you are invested in someone’s heartbreak, you know that you do not come out of the other side of the story feeling good. This is a prime example of this. Four Minutes will not make you feel good. You will not be happy at the end. You will feel that empathy and sadness that is pressed on every page of this novel. I am a person that likes a novel like this periodically, one that is bleak and beautiful. I want people to read this novel. I want to share the sadness that I now feel. 

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Review: The Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro

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Buy Here:

Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

2018: Belinda Alvarez has returned to Texas for the wedding of her best friend Veronica. The farm is the site of the urban legend, La Reina de Las Chicharras – The Queen of The Cicadas.

In 1950s south Texas a farmworker—Milagros from San Luis Potosi, Mexico—is murdered. Her death is ignored by the town, but not the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacíhuatl. The goddess hears the dying cries of Milagros and creates a plan for both to be physically reborn by feeding on vengeance and worship.

Belinda and the new owner of the farmhouse, Hector, find themselves immersed in the legend and realize it is part of their fate as well.

Review:

In V. Castro’s first of two books published this year, The Queen of the Cicadas, the story starts with Belinda flying to Texas to attend a wedding. The wedding takes place at an old farm where a vicious murder of Milagros, a farmworker, occured and is still haunted by an urban legend, the Queen of the Cicadas. The rest of the novel is Belinda’s journey into the past, to find the truth and try to show respect for Milagros and for the Queen of the Cicadas.

I like the way that V. Castro uses the theme of women, particularly marginalized women, taking control of the situation after putting up with so much from the world. Belinda and Milagros have the same motivations, trying to get the power back from the social structure that has taken it from them. Belinda is trying to find the source of the power that Milagros has found, and her companion through most of the journey is Hector, a gay man who is a friend and not a love interest. Hector works better as a companion because all of the men that are portrayed throughout the first 3/4ths of the novel are those in control. If Belinda would have found a relationship at the wedding, which is kind of what she was hoping to do, the next journey probably would not have happened. Not having that masculine voice in her ear to make Belinda question herself or just quit the quest to learn the truth behind Milagros and the Queen of the Cicadas before it is finished, Belinda is able to open the world she belongs to. There needs to be more books like this, those that give the power and control back to women without a male to try to convince her that she is wrong or wasting her time, because so much of horror and crime have a female victim, the damsel in distress, that needs saving by the strong male influence. The Queen of the Cicadas is one of the strongest examples of this trope being worn out that I have read in a long time. 

I liked most of this book. The beginning and the end are very engaging. I found the middle to be too unfocused. There were so many voices and ideas coming from so many different directions that it was hard to keep track of what was happening. This was more when the narrative slipped too far off of Belinda and Hector and onto other characters and narrators, just for short periods of time, but long enough to stop any momentum that was built. If the focus would have stuck tighter onto those two there would not be a single flaw in this story. Even with this muddled middle part, I still love this story, and I love the ideas behind it. I cannot wait to read V. Castro’s other books because she is another must read female horror writer. 

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now by Andre Perry

Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now

Buy it Here: Two Dollar Radio, Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

With luminous insight and fervent prose, Andre Perry’s debut collection of personal essays, Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now, travels from Washington DC to Iowa City to Hong Kong in search of both individual and national identity. While displaying tenderness and a disarming honesty, Perry catalogs racial degradations committed on the campuses of elite universities and liberal bastions like San Francisco while coming of age in America.

The essays in Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now take the form of personal reflection, multiple choice questions, screenplays, and imagined talk-show conversations, while traversing the daily minefields of childhood schoolyards and midwestern dive-bars. The impression of Perry’s personal journey is arresting and beguiling, while announcing the author’s arrival as a formidable American voice.

Review:

Andre Perry’s first collection of essays Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now is an exploration on being out of place. He splits the essays up into three different sections, “Coastland” where he is living in San Francisco, “Heartland” where he is living in Iowa City, and “Heart” where he is living inside himself. There is a great deal of commentary about being a black male in America, where you can never fit in anywhere because of the color of your skin, and if you do start to feel comfortable in a situation, it is only a matter of time before someone comes along to remind you that you should not feel comfortable. 

Some of these essays are really interesting even though they ask questions more than answer them. The first essay, “Language and Other Weapons” is probably my favorite, not only because of the questions that it raises, the use of the “N-word” and the “F-word” and how the racial and homophobic slurs are used to separate and degrade people. There are no answers to these questions, but the thing that draws me to this essay more than some of the others is the structure. Perry uses a variety of voices and styles that keeps the reader off center and so that the punches Perry throws land better. 

Most of Perry’s motivations in these essays are going to see bands and drinking. For the highlights brought by his essays on race and feeling out of place and how it is never comfortable to be a black man in America, the lows of him going from bar to bar, meeting friends, watching bands, and going to sleep on some ratty couch or bed (sometimes with a girl). Those stories of his life, the moments that lean toward a memoir of a poorly guided 20s, are not very interesting. I found myself thinking that I might be too old for some of these stories, that I have enough late night bar stories that I don’t need anyone else’s. 

Some of these essays are really interesting, but there is too much time telling about his wild nights and his struggles with relationships (and leaving them). I do not expect him to be profound and have depth at every moment of his life, but I also think that there are so many times when I am trying to find the thread that I feel like all of it, even the important concepts and ideas, feel more like bar musings.

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