March Wrap-up!

I am a tired human being and have not been updating as often as I would like. I don’t feel like I’m reading as much as I’d like, either, although I’m still reading quite a bit. I’m still here, still chugging along, and still trying to post when I’m not falling asleep at my keyboard. I’m working on getting back into the swing of things — whatever those “things” are — and while this is a little later than I’d like it to be, I still want to update with my March reads!

Reads for March

Here’s all I read in March:

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

Dark Screams: Volume Ten (ARC) edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar — 3 of 5 stars — review here!

Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds — 5 of 5 stars

Meet Me In The Strange (ARC) by Leander Watts — 2 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson — 5 of 5 stars

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold — 5 of 5 stars

American Street by Ibi Zoboi — 5 of 5 stars

The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova — 5 of 5 stars

Maus I by Art Spiegelman — 5 of 5 stars

Maus II by Art Spiegelman — 5 of 5 stars

 

Reading stats:

  • Number of books read: 12
  • Number of nonfiction books: 3
  • Number of ARCs: 2
  • Number of books by marginalized authors: ~8
  • Number of books read for class: 2
  • Number of library books: 6

Okay, I think I actually read more than I thought I did this month — I only read 9 books in February, so 12 for March is actually pretty good in comparison. I guess it’s mostly about perspective. I really need to read more ARCs — I went on a requesting spree on NetGalley because I thought there was no way that most publishers would actually say yes to me, and now I have a list 15 books long just on NetGalley… And that’s not even all of my ARCs. April to-do list?

On The Personal Side…

I’m almost exactly two months away from graduation and I’m SLIGHTLY panicking about it because I’ve been a student for two solid decades and I have no idea how not to be a student. The last time I wasn’t a student, I was three years old — three-year-old me isn’t exactly the ideal person for twenty-three-year-old me to turn to for life advice. I am pretty thrilled that I’ll have a graduate degree in just a couple months, and I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to do this.

I’m thinking more about my online presence and about possibly starting a Patreon to support my writing, both on my blog and my own stories. I’m still working out the details and how I’m feeling about it, but this might be a thing soon! Many Patreon rewards would be Coco-related, so if you like cute cats that’d be a good place to put your money, maybe? Speaking of Coco, she has a Twitter now! You can follow her at @CocoTheTux, where she Tweets out photos and self-care messages. Coco loves self-care.

I’ve been trying harder to cook more despite my exhaustion, and I’ve been trying Blue Apron to help with this and found that I really like it. A lot of the vegetarian dishes use tomato paste and I’ve been swapping that ingredient out for peanut butter (seriously!) quite a bit and have had really good results. Also, I have like five free boxes available to give to friends, so if anyone would like one just shoot me an email at librarybenni@gmail.com and I’d be happy to give you one (US only). (This isn’t sponsored — I’ve just been given more free boxes for friends than I actually have friends and wouldn’t mind giving some away to people who want some free food!)

What did you read in March? Let me know in the comments!

ARC Review: Dark Screams: Volume Ten edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Dark Screams: Volume Ten

Editors: Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Category: Adult Horror Short Story Anthology

Publisher/Date: Random House (Hydra)/13 March 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35669193-dark-screams

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Dark-Screams-Brian-James-Freeman-ebook/dp/B072SSVKBF/

Simon Clark, Clive Barker, Heather Herrman, Wrath James White, Marc Rains, Lisa Tuttle, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch unleash the terrifying truths behind love, loyalty, and obsession in a sextet of twisted tales presented by preeminent horror editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. This book has content warnings for violence, war violence, death, child death, gun violence/shootings, and homomisia.

After really enjoying the ARC of Dark Screams: Volume Nine a while ago, I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much as I’d enjoyed the previous volume in the series. I feel like this was largely because the first story of the anthology, “Bastion” by Simon Clark, took up a full 50% of the length of the entire anthology, and I didn’t care for it at all. It felt under-developed for its size, and I thought that a lot could be cut out of it without harming the story at all. If it really wanted to be something of a longer length, it could have gotten made into a novel with deeper character development and more worldbuilding. For its size, that story fell really flat with me — I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and there wasn’t enough explanation behind the war that was going on that these children were fighting for me to care. If a story is going to take up a full half of an anthology then it really needs to be something that shines, and this one didn’t do it for me.

I did enjoy several of the other stories; “The Woman in the Blue Dress” by Heather Herrman was a standout for me that was really creepy and connected with me really quickly. Likewise, “Seven Years” by Wrath James White was hard-hitting and powerful, and I really enjoyed it.

I didn’t run across any stories in this anthology that I truly disliked, but there were more stories that I felt ambivalent about than ones that I really enjoyed, and that was a bit disappointing. This anthology is a pretty quick read, and there are several stories that I would recommend. If you don’t like Simon Clark’s story, though, you might feel a bit disappointed with this one.

Final rating: 3 of 5 stars

ARC Review: Dark Screams: Volume Nine edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Dark Screams: Volume Nine

Editors: Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Category: Adult Horror Short Story Anthology

Publisher/Date: Random House (Hydra)/9 January 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34884588-dark-screams

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Dark-Screams-Nine-Kelley-Armstrong-ebook/dp/B071RB1D9H/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513315767&sr=8-1&keywords=dark+screams+volume+9

Kelley Armstrong, Stewart O’Nan, Taylor Grant, Jonathan Moore, Peter Straub, and Lee Thomas weave six hair-raising yarns proving that appearances can be deceiving—and deadly—in this horror anthology assembled by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

Overall, this was a great anthology! I love a good horror short story, and there were a bunch of them here. My three favorites:

  • “Invitation to the Game” by Kelley Armstrong was a VERY strong start to this anthology. The pacing was perfect, and the use of power imbalances was extremely powerful. I am so glad they put her story first in this collection.
  • “The Dead Years” by Taylor Grant was just creepy. It’s a story of lost love and doppelgängers that ends up being somewhat sweet with a huge dose of terrifying.
  • “Torn” by Lee Thomas tells the story of the aftermath of a young girl’s disappearance. This story was a bit longer and more of a slow burn, and it’s engaging through every page. (This story debatably has a “punishment for being gay” aspect to it; I don’t believe any homomisia was intended, and I still haven’t quite decided how I feel about this particular part of the story, but it could potentially be off-putting for other queer readers. There were also a couple of racial microaggressions; they didn’t feel that big to me while I was reading, but because I’m white I am not in a position to make that call.)

Overall, this was a solid anthology with some great stories that are worth reading.

Final rating: 4 of 5 stars.

ARC Review: Reading Stephen King edited by Brian James Freeman

Image of book cover from GoodReads
Image of book cover from GoodReads

Title: Reading Stephen King

Editor: Brian James Freeman

Category: Nonfiction Essay Collection

Publisher/Date: Cemetery Dance/November 2017

Edition: ARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34827716-reading-stephen-king

Cemetery Dance: https://www.cemeterydance.com/reading-stephen-king.html

Stephen King has inspired millions of readers with his writing for more than four decades , and this special volume of essays gathers together some of his high-profile fans to discuss why they love reading the works of Stephen King.

Many of these fans are acclaimed authors of fiction in their own right. Some of them have written insightful books about Stephen King’s work, exploring how King’s natural storytelling gift has allowed him to create stories that reach people in every language around the world. A few of them have even written, produced, and directed movie adaptations of King’s most acclaimed works.

In this book you will join Clive Barker, Stewart O’Nan, Richard Chizmar, Frank Darabont, Stephen Spignesi, Justin Brooks, Tony Magistrale, Michael R. Collings, Rocky Wood, Robin Furth, Kevin Quigley, Hans-Ake Lilja, Billy Chizmar, Jack Ketchum, Bev Vincent, Mick Garris, and Jay Franco as they discuss their love of reading Stephen King…

I read an ARC of this book before it released, but I also pre-ordered a copy before I knew I was getting an ARC, and then I ended up with another copy from a grab bag box. So now I have an ARC, a signed hardcover, and a regular hardcover. Oops.

How has Stephen King affected your life? For me, he first dropped into it when my partner sent me this photo back in high school:

A pile of approximately 45 various Stephen King books.

I distinctly remembered replying to that text with “0.o That’s a lot of Stephen King books…” He had ended up with his mother’s collection, and by doing so he brought King into both of our lives. We went from that one pile to almost two full sets of King’s novels (my collection is a bit bigger, but we’re more than happy to share with each other so we can buddy read the ones we both have or pass back and forth the ones we don’t). We’re still working our way through them; he’s going through The Dark Tower series, and I’m going to be reading Under the Dome next. These books, both the ones we like and the ones we don’t, have led to some of our stranger conversations, and we’ve bonded over them.

Questions like this one are the kinds of questions that the essays in Reading Stephen King were based on. Each essay tells the story of a writer’s own interactions with King and his work, and I loved reading all of them. A few highlights:

  • “Sometimes You Go Back” by Stewart O’Nan opens the collection by bringing in the feeling of nostalgia from a person’s first King books, and as someone who clearly relates to this I felt like this was an excellent way to open up the book.
  • “Disappearing Down That Rabbit Hole” by Justin Brooks starts with the line “Let’s get it all out there in the open: collectors are a weird bunch.” After reading this essay, I’m more than a little inclined to agree. This is a look into the world of collecting King’s work from a variety of perspectives; with all of the smaller pieces and lost work that’s out there in the world, it’s not as easy as you might think at first. My eyes kept getting wider and wider as I read this, and after I finished this essay I had to stare off into space a bit to digest all of the complexities involved.
  • “Reading the Lost Works of Stephen King” by Rocky Wood discusses a bit more narrowly that notion of reading all of King’s work by focusing on a few certain pieces that are unavailable to the general public and yet not entirely unattainable. Another excellent look at reading deeper into King’s work.
  • “Being a Non-US Stephen King Fan” by Hans-Áke Lilja was probably my favorite essay in the whole collection because while many other essays focused on work that wasn’t generally readable by people, this essay focused on just how hard it can be to get ahold of books when you’re not in the country the author lives in or you can’t read in English, and it involves a lot of waiting. This is something that gets forgotten far too often, and reading Lilja’s perspective was something I greatly appreciated.

I loved this essay collection overall, and I think it’s a wonderful treat for any King fan.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars