Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (My Rating: 5/5) This one has the distinction of being my favorite read this month. It was a very emotional story regarding bullying, but it maybe doesn’t go to the places you expect. It’s poignant and truthful, and I related to it more deeply than any bullying-centric story I’ve ever read, but it’s not preachy or full of moral anvils to be dropped on your head. It’s lyrically written and incredibly subtle. It’s a new favorite for me, and it’s got me raring to pursue more of Atwood’s work.
Tar Baby by Toni Morrison (My Rating: 4/5) Here’s a slightly controversial one. If there are readers out there that hate this book, I’d totally understand. We follow two characters, one who has lived a life of privilege and one who hasn’t, and their love affair. Things go sour to say the least. Just how they go sour might really put some people off. For my part, I found the dynamics among all the characters and their various levels of privilege to be fascinating even when it was ugly. Just don’t go into this expecting high romance, because that it is surely not.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (My Rating: 3/5) I wanted to like this so much more, and there is a lot to like here. The main character, Charlie, goes through such a dramatic transition, and it’s expressed so well through the writing style. The plight of disabled people that this showcases makes it a very important read. And yet I never felt 100% engaged with this book. Something kept me at arm’s length. I think in part it was that I expected more science from this SF tale when it was really more about people. And even when it did focus in on the characters, I felt numb to it more than involved. Still, it’s a classic that I recommend everyone at least try.
The Wilds by Julia Elliott (My Rating: 4/5) This is a short story collection that bends genre all over the place. Full to brimming with a Southern Gothic aesthetic, it showcases horror, fantasy, science fiction, and does it all with a quirky flair. Chances are you’ve never read anything like it. My nitpicks would be that Elliott’s feelings about the South confused me. It was hard to determine if she was proud or ashamed of her origins there, if she was making fun of Southerners or making fun of the people who make fun of them. Either way, this was a great debut, and I look forward to more from her.
Clans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick (My Rating: 5/5) I love Dick. WAIT. I love Philip K. Dick. Sorry, I had to go there. In any case, his books are always such an incredibly wild ride, and this was no exception. It twists, it turns, it thrills and chills. It’s full of his usual creativity and insight. I will always recommend him, because every book I read by him wows me.
Indignities of the Flesh by Bentley Little (My Rating: 5/5) Sometimes you just need to have some fun. This horror story collection is just that: straight up frightful fun. Little can always be counted on to deliver that. It starts with a story about an evil rodeo clown and just barrels on through, leaving you not knowing whether to laugh or cringe. Love it. Also, just from a totally shallow standpoint, this book is a thing of beauty. I’m proud to own it for that alone.
The Merciless by Danielle Vega (My Rating: 4/5) If you’re a fan of the 90s film The Craft, read this. That idea of the Mean Girls getting into occult stuff and taking it too far is simply delightful to read. But don’t think this is some silly romp, because Vega brings the violence and the shocks. After I finished it, I found out a sequel is due this summer, and I can’t wait.
Reasons She Goes To The Woods by Deborah Kay Davies (My Rating: 5/5) I love when my dark fiction is literary. If you do, too, then here’s the perfect book. It’s written beautifully, downright poetic, about a little girl who… isn’t very nice. It’s hypnotizing and great for readers who like to peek into dark minds. Also, while the way it’s written is experimental, it’s perfectly balanced so it’s engaging and not distracting.
Mind Fields by Harlan Ellison and Jacek Yerka (My Rating: 5/5) Yerka provided the surreal art, and Ellison provided a story for each, beautiful piece. I love experiments like this, to see how artwork can spark the idea of a story in an author. Ellison was the perfect person for something like this. He’s prolific and creative, and both those things suited this perfectly. It’s short, and it would’ve been a quicker read if I could’ve stopped staring. So much pretty.
Insomnia by Stephen King (My Rating: 3/5) I hated to end the month on a low point but… yeah. Not his best. It was overly long, full of useless details that didn’t lend to anything except the length of the book, and the plot was full of conveniences and deus ex machina. All to introduce a character that would eventually play a part in The Dark Tower, and it’s not even the part he was promised to play. There were things I liked here, obviously, because I didn’t give it one star. But it was vastly disappointing. Any book that long shouldn’t be a waste of time the way this felt.