We’re all a little haunted: Reviewing This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno

Hi everyone! I hope you are all just living your best lives right now. It can be hard to do that sometimes, though. We all deserve a break now and then. There is no shame in taking a little bit of time for yourself. Spooky season is still afoot and I am still working my way through all of the horror novels in my pile. Some of them may roll into November, but that is totally fine. Let’s continue Spook-tober with This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno.

Trigger Warning: Loss of a Loved One, Mourning and Grief, Some Strong Language, Animal Death, Gore, Self-harm, Drug Use

Vera and Thiago, a young couple, finally move into their condo and decide to buy an Itza, a smart speaker that can answer and do just about anything. Things grow strange very quickly as their Itza seems to respond to no one and orders bizarre items that neither of them requested. Neither Vera nor Thiago think much of it, assuming it’s just a glitch. Everything changes, however, when Vera is killed in a freak accident. Deep in grief, Thiago moves from Chicago to rural Colorado. Thiago, though, can’t escape his sorrow and guilt. He finds himself fighting against a strange, evil presence that is feeding off all of his pain and using it to find a way into this world.

This book was a wild ride. Short but frightening, Moreno eloquently and honestly portrays grief while also delivering a unique and chilling narrative. I have not read a ton of possession stories in the past and have always found the idea to be truly scary. Moreno certainly delivers on just how truly terrifying such an experience would be. The added element of technology being an active part of the haunting makes it all the more interesting. (Itza is this novel’s version of an Echo Dot/Alexa). I enjoyed how creative this novel is and would love to read more unique horror like this. Definitely go ahead and give This Thing Between Us if you want to read a horror novel unlike any other.

Sharp and Deep and Merciless: Reviewing Gone to See the River Man by Kristopher Triana

Hello everyone! I hope you are still making your way diligently through your TBR list and not buying more books right now. I need to put myself on a book-buying ban, but I don’t have that level of self-control. I stumbled upon this particular novel via “Book Tok” and did not even bother looking up the synopsis before buying it. I did not realize that this fell under the category of “splatter punk,” which is reserved for only the goriest of books. If you have a weak stomach, I am going to tell you to stop reading this review right now. If you are a braver soul (or just kind of weird), then join me as we talk about Gone to See the River Man.

MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic scenes of violence, Extreme Gore, Offensive Language, Explicit Sex Scenes, Eating Disorders (Do further research if you are still interested in reading this novel)

Lori is a young woman trying to find solace from her dreary life and she does so by befriending serial killer, Edmund Cox. After gaining his trust, he entrusts her with an important task: she must go to his hometown, find a hidden key, and give it to the River Man. Lori undertakes the task with zeal, but must take her sister with her. The trip turns into an odyssey of nightmares that forces Lori to confront her dark past. As she and her sister journey to find the River Man, Lori realizes that they are facing a being much more powerful and terrifying than she could have ever imagined.

This was the first book I have read in a while that genuinely made my stomach turn. For better or worse, Kristopher Triana knows how to write a gory thriller that will make you morbidly curious. Honestly, though, I find the best horror media to be the ones that mess with your senses. Gone to See the River Man certainly succeeds in that with its incredibly graphic imagery and taboo subject matter. Being that is my first time reading a true “splatter punk” novel, I was not disappointed. I would recommend not going into this one blind like I did. My trigger warning is a little vague on purpose. Do a little more research if you are still semi-interested. If you are looking for something that will make your skin crawl, then I would definitely have to say go ahead and read this short but disturbing novel.

Without memory, there can be no retribution: Reviewing My Heart is Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

Hello everyone! I hope you are all living your best lives and find yourselves curled up with a good book more often than not. I am trying to get through as many horror novels as I can by the end of this month. I am incredibly excited because I have so many good recommendations that I’m hoping to get to before the end of the year. I also rearranged my bookshelves recently to make room for even more books! Now, let’s add another to the shelf and talk about My Heart is a Chainsaw.

Trigger Warning: Graphic Violence, Blood and Gore, Self – Harm, Discussions of Sexual Assault

Jade Daniels has always turned to the slasher movies of the 1980s to escape her rather bleak existence. She is an outsider in her small hometown of Proofrock, which is home to Camp Blood, the site of a massacre that happened fifty years ago, and Terra Nova, a development for the Uber-rich and mildly famous. When the bodies of a teen couple turn up by Indian Lake, Jade knows in her heart that this is the start of a slasher. There are patterns that these movies follow and Jade has the encyclopedic knowledge to help her survive whatever or whoever is piling up bodies. She takes it upon herself to train the final girl to survive what may come and finds herself taking a much bigger role in this would – be slasher flick.

Though I am not a fan of slasher films, I can appreciate the thought and care that Stephen Graham Jones put into this novel. Within My Heart is a Chainsaw is a pretty interesting analysis of the slasher movie and why the structures are so important to the genre. This is wrapped up in a gory and fast-paced story about a misunderstood girl just trying to find some semblance of control in her life. This was certainly unique compared to other horror novels I have read recently. You don’t have to be a fan of slasher movies to appreciate this film, but if you are a fan of bloody, gory horror, then this is certainly the novel for you this spot season.

They’re closer than you think…: Reviewing Parasite by Darcy Coates

Hello everyone! I hope you are finding enjoyment in all the ways that matter to you. This is your reminder to step away from the internet (for at least a little bit). Before I begin, I have to say that I weirdly stumbled across this book. I had never heard of Darcy Coates until I saw her books occupying most of the same space as Stephen King’s books. Obviously, I had to give her a shot for the spooky season. This was the only book I found of hers that wasn’t set in a haunted house. Please let me know if you have read other books by her and enjoyed them. In the meanwhile, let’s talk about Parasite. (Minor trigger warnings at the bottom)

A small crew on a remote station on a desolate planet stumbles across a parasitic alien creature that wears its victim’s skin and can mimic them perfectly. Humanity is blindsided by this invasion, leaving little hope of getting rid of this deadly species. It is up to a small group of unique individuals to fight against the ever-growing threat or face total extinction.

This book was very much Ridley Scott’s Alien meets John Carpenter’s The Thing. Overall, I enjoyed the plot of the book as I love space/sci-fi horror, but can’t seem to find a lot of novels in this genre. Coates certainly delivers a fast-paced and suspenseful narrative that made me want to keep reading. It was very plot-driven, though, so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to get attached to any one character. In fact, this novel was more like three stories mashed together and I kind of wished the novel just focused on one particular part. There also isn’t a ton of scientific explanation or an attempt at it, if you like that in your sci-fi novels. At the end of the day, I did enjoy this novel for what it gives and would recommend it if you want something more unique to read in the horror genre.

Trigger Warning: Violence, Gore

Like a caged beast born of caged beasts: Reviewing Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Hello everyone! It is officially October and a chill is in the air. I wanted to kick off spooky season ASAP for you all, so you could settle down with something chilling to read. I am fully committing this year and want to watch a couple of horror movies I have been meaning to get around to for a bit now. I will include a massive trigger warning for this novel before I get into it. I suggest you do some research for yourself, if you so desire. Let’s kick off October with Tender is the Flesh.

Trigger Warning: Violence, Gore, Animal Abuse, Sexual Violence, Derogatory Language

A virus has swept the world, infecting every animal and killing all livestock. In order to prevent starvation, society decided that the only suitable replace for animal livestock would be human livestock. Marcos Tejo makes his living at a processing plant, which he had to take over after his father developed dementia. Marcos is wracked by the guilt caused by his job, still mourning the loss of his infant son, and trying to get his wife back. One day, he is gifted a live female specimen by one of his business partners. Contact with her would result in Marcos being sent to slaughter, but that doesn’t stop him from developing feelings for her. For the first time in a while, Marcos has a sense of hope and may be able to create a better world for the future.

I’d heard amazing reviews of this novel and now I can say that it lived up to expectations. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting going into this, but I was shocked and riveted by every page. Bazterrica creates a terrifying introspective narrative that makes you question what it means to be human. The imagery is as gruesome as it is powerful. It was hard to look away from the violence being depicted on the page. It was a truly provocative experience that I want to read again, but will wait as I still have other spooky reads to get into. This novel isn’t for the faint hearts or the weak stomachs, which is what makes it all the more of an unputdownable novel.

To Be the Beginning and the End: Reviewing The Lady of the Lake (Book 5 of The Witcher series) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Hello everybody! Still holding up, I see. Good to hear. If you are not, then I do hope everything improves for you. I hope your books offer you just a modicum of relief from whatever it is you are going through. After this review, I will be moving right along to my horror novels, which I am super excited for. I, however, am still far too invested into the Witcher series and have two novels left before I finish it, which I was honestly not expecting. If you are so inclined, let’s have a chat about the fifth novel in the series, The Lady of the Lake. (Trigger warnings are going to be at the end).

After walking into the Tower of Swallows, Ciri finds herself in a completely different world that exists among many other worlds. As a child of prophecy, she is still being targeted for her powers and must learn to survive in a world that shouldn’t exist and find her way back home. Meanwhile, Geralt is still searching for her, as well as Yennefer, and continues to race to find them before their enemies catch up to them. A war still rages on and the world as they know it will never be the same.

This was probably the most stressful entry to The Witcher series, in my opinion. Sapkowski really knows how to make you wait for the good stuff. The lore goes even deeper than I originally anticipated with this series, though. This installment was particularly head scratching, but it made me read further. The action sequences were also particularly suspenseful and pretty devastating (no spoilers here). I was honestly surprised by how emotional The Lady of the Lake was. I am going to continue to recommend The Witcher series, if you are looking for a compelling fantasy series that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Trigger Warning: Graphic Violence, Sexual Assault, Strong Language, Gore, Drug Usage

Heroes and Villains and the Spaces Between: Reviewing For the Throne (Book 2 of the Wilderwood Series) by Hannah Whitten

Hi everyone! I hope you are enjoying the first days of fall and getting cozy with your favorite books. I have been looking forward to this drop in temperature for way too long now. I am looking forward to my TBR list more than ever before. I have quite a few novellas, if you are interested in quick, spooky reads. Before we get to that, let’s wrap up Hannah Whitten’s Wilderwood duology. (There will be a brief trigger warning at the very bottom if you wish to read it).

After having fought against a horrible darkness, Red and her Wolf have become a part of the Wilderwood and settled into a seemingly happy life. Her sister Neve, however, is trapped in the Shadowlands with Solmir, the man who tried to destroy the Wilderwood. The two set aside their differences, though, as they must destroy the Five Kings before they destroy the world. All the while, Neve and Red are trying desperately to reunite but their reunion might bring more ruin than they can imagine.

I liked the direction that Whitten took this deep, but richly created duology. Honestly, I think this could have made a good trilogy with all of the lore that Whitten packed into these two novels. If you want a high fantasy with a good journey, then this is will probably pique your interest. Neve’s story ended up being far more compelling than I though it would be since she wasn’t overly present in the first novel. While there are two love stories at play (an enemies to lovers one, if you are so interested), it is ultimately a story about familial love, which I greatly appreciated. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will recommend checking this duology out if a dark adult fantasy (with a little bit of spice) is something you are looking for this fall season.

Trigger Warning: Gore, Violence, Some Strong Language

We are nothing if not absurd: Reviewing Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink

Hi everyone! I hope you are all still doing well and just enjoying every big or small piece of happiness in your life. Books tend to fit that criteria, at least for me. If you know me, you know I have talked about my love for the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. I have read three books based off of said podcast and co-authored by Joseph Fink, so feel free to check those out. While Alice Isn’t Dead isn’t part of the Night Vale universe, it is a podcast by the some company with a similarly dark and intriguing premise which I highly recommend you check out if you are interested. Let’s talk about its novelization. (I will be putting trigger warnings at the very end of this review, by the way.)

Though Keisha Taylor had her own struggles, she had finally settled into a quiet and comfortable life with her wife, Alice. Alice, though, disappeared while on work trip and was presumed dead, leaving Keisha in a deep depression that she couldn’t seem to escape. Just as she begins to feel herself moving forward with her life, Alice appears, showing up in news stories covering different tragedies. Keisha begins to investigate Alice’s past, which leads her to taking a job as a long haul truck driver. Using her job as a cover, Keisha discovers a dark, hidden secret within the heart of America. Because of this, she finds herself being targeted by a seemingly inhuman serial killer who is trying to stop her as she finds herself in the middle of a war that extends beyond even time and space – all this because of one woman’s sudden disappearance.

Jospeh Fink creates an exciting and bizarre mystery woven together strange sort of comforting nihilism that is fairly common to Night Vale and Night Vale – related pieces of media. Fink does a great job with pacing and changing the perspective while keeping true to the heart of the story: a hopeful, but tragic tale of love. I am normally not a huge fan of road trip stories, but I loved the way that Alice Isn’t Dead had this fantastically dark atmosphere overlaying the journey. If you are American and/or have taken a road trip through America, then you will definitely appreciate the way this novel highlights those weird sights that catch your eye as you travel. Even if you are not American nor have travelled here, Fink does a great job capturing the unsettling atmosphere of manufactured towns. This is definitely just creepy and thrilling enough to be a good read for spooky season but I would recommend Alice Isn’t Dead all year round.

Trigger Warnings: Violence, Gore, Racism and mentions of racism, Graphic Death, Strong Language

Do You Ever Feel Haunted?: Reviewing Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Hi everyone! I hope you are all still doing as well as the last time you found one of my blogs. I am still impatiently waiting the arrival of autumn because I am sick and tired of being hot all the time. I’m over it. I need hoodie/sweater season to begin already. September is still young and there is still plenty of opportunity left in the year. Let’s discuss Borne by Jeff Vandermeer.

The world is in ruins ever since the Company created a massive, monstrous ursine creature called Mord. Among those ruins lives Rachel, a young scavenger just trying to survive, and her lover, Wick, who remains a mystery to her. One day, while scavenging in Mord’s wake, she stumbles across a strange creature she decides to take home. The creature, who she names Borne, begins to grow and evolve at a rapid pace. With no discernible shape or origin, Borne relies on Rachel to guide him and Rachel finds herself growing protective over this odd being. As Borne grows, though, Rachel fears he might be a danger to himself and the world around him. As a new force threatens to invade Rachel and Wick’s safe haven, she must make critical choices and the consequences will change her reality.

This is not my first time reading a Jeff Vandermeer novel. (Feel free to read my review of Annihilation if you wish). I find the way he portrays the power of nature to be fascinating and Borne was an interesting portrayal of an “eco-apocalypse.” Rachel served as an insightful narrator who helped to further enhance the strangeness and horror of the aftermath of man trying to mess with the balance of nature. Her relationship with Borne is as sweet as it is complicated. I liked how Vandermeer didn’t try to “uncomplicated” issues of people trying to control nature. His narrative is certainly thought provoking and it kept me interested through the whole novel. Though I am not usually a fan of apocalypse stories, I think Vandermeer breathes a breath of fresh air into the genre. If you want some eco-centric sci-fi, then you should definitely check out Borne.

Blood and Roots and Magic: Reviewing The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Hello everyone! Wow, I am on a roll with these books. It’s nice not being so mentally exhausted all the freaking time. I am not perfect, though, and like to re-watch my favorite shows far too often. That doesn’t stop me from powering through my TBR pile. Without further ado, let’s talk about The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina.

The Montoya family is used to magic and not knowing where it comes from. It provided them a good life but also created rifts. When their mysterious matriarch, Orquidea, tells them to come to collect their inheritance, they find her being transformed into a tree. She leaves them with mysterious gifts with no further explanation. Seven years after Orquidea’s transformation, cousins Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon, find themselves in danger as a mysterious figure is seemingly hunting them down for their gifts. Determined to learn the truth, they decide to travel to Ecuador to find what their grandmother left behind and it will change their lives forever.

I went into this book blind and enjoyed what I found inside. Zoraida Cordova crafts a fast-paced, magical, and touching story of a family being reunited after a tragedy. I thought the magic was portrayed beautifully and the mystery of the plot kept me intrigued. I wouldn’t exactly call this book a mystery novel, but it definitely has that exciting quality, while not losing its heart to thrills. It is a relatively short novel, but it is certainly impactful. If you are looking for magical realism or a story about family bonds, then I would go ahead and read this one because it has everything and then some.