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December 2020 - How Many??

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    December 2020 - How Many??

    Finished 8 books in December.

    The Handyman is probably the first novel I've read by Bentley Little in 15 years. In the past I've tended to find Little's novel length work rather formulaic. While The Handyman does retread some of those themes from previous novels, it is fresh enough, and at times, down right creepy enough, to overcome that shortcoming. One complaint I had about the book was I wish Little had explained more about the connection between the events in Vietnam and the character of Frank (the handyman). But this is a minor quibble and for the most part I enjoyed The Handyman. 4 / 5

    Different Kinds of Dead & Other Stories by Ed Gorman. A great collection of stories by a master story teller. Stories range from noir ('Muse), horror ('The Brasher Girl", "The Broker", "Emma Baster's Boy"), fantasy ("A Girl Like You", "Yesterday's Dreams"), western ("Junior", "Deathman"), and science fiction ("Lover Boy", "Survival"). Gorman could truly tell a good story in any genre. There's not really an uninteresting story in the entire collection. Highly recommended. 4.5 / 5

    The Chrysalis by Brendan Deneen is about a young couple who are forced to leave their NYC apartment & move to the suburbs, where they just happen to get a great deal on a huge house. After moving in they come to find that the house is harboring some very dark secrets. The Chrysalis had some good things going for it, mainly the throwback feeling to horror books from the 80's & early 90's. Some things I didn't like; the pacing was glacially slow at times, too many unanswered questions at the end of the story, and most importantly, an ending that just felt total disconnected (the last 10 or so pages) to the rest of the story. 2 / 5

    In The Governess, a self published chapbook by Stephen Gallagher, the characters of Malone & Prof. Challenger (from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World) reunite after being estranged for several years (due to the failed marriage of Malone to Challenger's daughter) to save the ghost of Malone's recently deceased son. This quick read should appeal to fans of quiet ghost stories and Gallagher's work in general. 4 / 5

    The Only Good Indians was the first novel length work I've read by Stephen Graham Jones. It is essentially a story of revenge, and ultimately redemption. It revolves around four young Blackfoot Indian men who commit a crime in their mid 20's. It is a crime not only against the law, but more importantly, against their Indian heritage. As the 10 year anniversary of the act approaches, something seeks out the men to avenge their deed. I found TOGI to be a slow, and at times, difficult read, especially during the first half of the story. Also, there wasn't much differentiation between the four main characters, none of whom I had much interest in. I found the most interesting character to be Gabe's daughter (Gabe being one of the four lead characters), and she's not introduced until the second half of the book. I also felt there was an ambiguity about the crime; was the reader supposed to be sympathetic towards the four main characters, despite the crime they committed, or unsympathetic. Maybe this ambiguity was by design on the part of Jones? I liked how Jones ended the story, but don't know if it was worth the journey. I feel that TOGI would have worked better as a novella length piece, focusing on the sins of the father revisiting the daughter, rather than an overlong tale of vengeance against the four Indian men. 2.5 / 5

    The Lake is Life by Richard Chizmar tells the story of a troubled teenager who goes to spend the summer with her maternal grandmother after her parents decide to separate. While at her grandmother's lake house she meets a boy, but is he actually a friend or not? 3.5 / 5

    Full Throttle by Joe Hill was every bit as good as his first collection, 20th Century Ghosts, and that is saying something, since I think 20th Century Ghosts is one of the best collections in recent memory. Favorites were 'By the Water of Lake Champlain" (Bradburyesque fantasy about 2 young friends that discover the corpse of a plesiosaur); "Late Returns" (an antique book mobile that sometimes caters to the dead); "Thumbprint" (a war veteran can not escape from the wrongs she committed during her tour of Iraq); "Mums" (a young boy raised by a white supremist father finds out the truth about his mother's disappearance): and "You Are Released" (how would you react to receiving the worst possible news during a transcontinental flight??). Both "Late Returns" & "Mums" saw their first publication in Full Throttle. 4.5 / 5

    In Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a young Mexican debutante (Noemi) is summoned by her recently married cousin for a visit at her new family's mansion in the mountains. Once there, Noemi sees that her cousin is not well, and soon she also begins to experience strange occurrences. Mexican Gothic was the first novel length piece of work I'd read by Moreno-Garcia, and I have to say I was impressed with the story The first 2/3 reads like a gothic mystery. I kept expecting (like in any good Scooby Doo episode) for there to be a non-supernatural cause for all the goings on. But the final 100 pages reads like a full blown horror story. Moreno-Garcia pulls out all the standard gothic tropes in Mexican Gothic, but ultimately the story works because in the second half she completely reimagines the classic haunted house story. 4.5 / 5


    Books read and recommended for December, 2020.

    Hard cover -

    1. Wormwood by Chad Lutzke & Tim Meyer from Thunderstorm. Excellent character-driven novella and a few good shorts. Horrific for sure but also heartfelt.

    2. Pig Iron by David James Keaton from Thunderstorm. New author for me. Felt big time dread the entire book. Then it ended. Left me yearning for more.

    Paperback -

    3. Jedi Summer With the Magnetic Kid by John Boden from Thunderstorm. Wow. Excellent coming-of-age story. Brought tears more than once.

    4. Candy Coated Madness by Jeff Strand. Strand writes very good short fiction. Witty, catchy and good endings.

    5. Tales From Circadia by Tom Deady from Bloodshot Books. Excellent first short story collection. Not one bad one.

    6. Dead Sea Chronicles by Tim Curran from Bloodshot Books. Man Curran sure can keep the sense of ultimate dread in your head.

    Favorites = #1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

    Support Indie Publishers and Enjoy


      December was slightly better than November with three books finished. The good news is I finished with a strong re-read:
      A Christmas Story by Jean Sheppard:
      This is an annual read and I absolutely love this story. If all you know is the movie you should read the book.
      4 Stars

      The Auctioneer by Joan Sampson:
      Introduced to this from Suntup. The story is suspenseful and had a slow burn feel to it. By the end I was very satisfied with the read but the slow burn was a little too slow at times. I think it could have been a shorter story.
      4 Stars

      The Running Man by Richard Bachman:
      Been years since I last read this. I loved it much more than I remember loving it. Great story. Will probably re-read Rage next.
      5 Stars