Highlights: September 2022

Summer has basically come to an end, and that means that Fall is here. For Kate this is great news, as it means the spooky season is nearly upon us. Serena isn’t as optimistic about the change in season, as that can only mean that Winter is coming. But before the cold really sets in, we have plans for the Fall, and that means that we also have some new books we’re looking forward to!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Foul Lady Fortune” by Chloe Gong

Publication Date: September 27, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Kate nabbed a copy of this one for me at ALA this year, so it’s a given that it would end up on my highlights list for this month! I haven’t read the previous duology, a reimagining of “Romeo and Juliet,” but it sounded like this would be approachable even to newbies. The story follows Rosalyn, a character originally introduced in the first duology, a young woman who has devoted her life to trying to make amends for previous betrayals by working for her country as an assassin. But her life takes a shift when she finds herself assigned not to an assassination job but to go undercover as a spy alongside one of the most infuriating young men she’s ever met. I love both assassination and spy stories, so I’m very excited to check out this book.

Book: “Notorious Sorcerer” by Davinia Evans

Publication Date: September 13, 2022

Why I’m Interested: This is one of those cases where I’d pick up this book based purely on the title alone. It also has two of my favorite fantasy things: alchemy and magical libraries. It’s the story of a young street rat turned low-level alchemist who accidentally performs a magical feat far beyond his supposed capability. Now with more attention than he knows what to do with, Siyon doesn’t know who or what to trust. And things are about to get much, much worse when a threat arises that calls into the question of his entire world. I received an ARC for this in the mail, and definitely excited to see what it has to offer!

Book: “The Golden Enclaves” by Naomi Novik

Publication Date: September 27, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Obviously! I mean…obviously! And here’s where I reveal the extreme spoiledness that I’ve now become accustomed to: I have to wait for the book to actually release before getting to read it, as I haven’t found any eARCs available anywhere! I mean, I get it. This is the third book in a popular series; not like you need much word of mouth to drive sales on this one. Or…is it because it ends tragically and all of the reviewers will be too busy crying under their covers to post reviews early anyways? I’m so excited. I’m so nervous.

Kate’s Picks

Book: “The Weight of Blood” by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publication Date: September 6, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Tiffany D. Jackson is a must read author for me, and given that “Carrie” is one of my favorite Stephen King novels, the combination here is too rife with possibility to pass up. Maddy is an outcast at her school who has always passed for white, but when an unexpected rainstorm outs her as biracial, a racially charged bullying attack goes viral. Hoping to avoid being seen as racist, the school community decides to finally integrate the Prom, and Maddy is asked by a popular Black football player to attend at the behest of his white girlfriend… And you can probably guess where things go. Jackson reimagining “Carrie” with social themes of racism, colorism, and identity is inspired, and given how well she’s done with horror in the past, hopes are high for this one!

Book: “I’m The Girl” by Courtney Summers

Publication Date: September 13, 2022

Why I’m Interested: “Sadie” was a gut punch of a read, and I love how Courtney Summers has a no holds barred approach to her YA fiction in that she takes on dark topics and doesn’t sugarcoat, trusting her readers to be able to process and handle the themes she presents. “I’m The Girl” is her newest thriller, and I’m sure I will be steeling myself for it. Georgia is a teenage girl who has always known she is beautiful, and that if you wield your beauty it can be powerful. She wants to work at the local luxury resort, knowing it is good money, and that she could achieve what her mother, a former ‘Aspera Girl’, never did. But when she is hit by a car, and then finds the body of a thirteen year old girl thrown from the vehicle, she is entangled in a web of privilege, opulence, power, and danger. This was a much anticipated ALA grab for me, so it had to make the list.

Book: “Ghost Eaters” by Clay McLeod Chapman

Publication Date: September 20, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Another ALA grab, though this one was autographed by the author himself (and he was a delight! He complimented my Motley Crüe tee shirt, in spite of the fact it was a clear indicator of last day fatigue, clothing effort wise)! I’ve been hearing deeply scary things about “Ghost Eaters”, so that makes me VERY excited for this book. After refusing to pick up her on again, off again boyfriend Silas from rehab, Erin thinks that setting this boundary will be far more healthy for them both. But after Silas ends up dead of an overdose shortly thereafter, the guilt is almost too much. Then, Erin hears whispers of a drug that allows you to see the dead, and that Silas had started messing with it, she wants answers to alleviate her guilt, and tries the drug herself in hopes of closure. Instead, terrifying visions of angry spirits start to plague her. Just in time for the Halloween season, and I’m definitely going to showcase it during this year’s Horrorpalooza!

What new books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Another Take: Summer 2022

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Don’t just take it from us, other readers like these books, too! And we have decided that we would like to showcase other reviewers and bloggers that have their own thoughts and feelings about books that we have loved. Here are a few of the books we’ve enjoyed recently and what other bloggers have to say about them.

“The Stardust Thief” by Chelsea Abdullah

Book Description: Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

Serena’s Review (9 Rating)

The Lily Café (4/5 Cups/Stars)

Simone and Her Books

Super Star Drifter (4.5/5 Stars)

“Half a Soul” by Olivia Atwater

Book Description: Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

Serena’s Review (9 Rating)

Blogging with Dragons

Howl’s Moving Library (5/5 Stars)

One Book More (4/5 Stars)

“The Darkening” by Sunya Mara

Book Description: In this thrilling and epic YA fantasy debut the only hope for a city trapped in the eye of a cursed storm lies with the daughter of failed revolutionaries and a prince terrified of his throne.

Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries. Failed revolutionaries. When her mother was caught by the queen’s soldiers, they gave her a choice: death by the hangman’s axe, or death by the Storm that surrounds the city and curses anyone it touches. She chose the Storm. And when the queen’s soldiers—led by a paranoid prince—catch up to Vesper’s father after twelve years on the run, Vesper will do whatever it takes to save him from sharing that fate.

Even arm herself with her father’s book of dangerous experimental magic.

Even infiltrate the prince’s elite squad of soldier-sorcerers.

Even cheat her way into his cold heart.

But when Vesper learns that there’s more to the story of her mother’s death, she’ll have to make a choice if she wants to save her city: trust the devious prince with her family’s secrets, or follow her mother’s footsteps into the Storm.

Serena’s Review (8 Rating)

Mom with a Reading Problem (5 Stars)

The Story Sanctuary

The Canid Cover (4/5 Stars)

Book: “Things We Do in the Dark” by Jennifer Hillier

Book Description: When Paris Peralta is arrested in her own bathroom—covered in blood, holding a straight razor, her celebrity husband dead in the bathtub behind her—she knows she’ll be charged with murder. But as bad as this looks, it’s not what worries her the most. With the unwanted media attention now surrounding her, it’s only a matter of time before someone from her long hidden past recognizes her and destroys the new life she’s worked so hard to build, along with any chance of a future.

Twenty-five years earlier, Ruby Reyes, known as the Ice Queen, was convicted of a similar murder in a trial that riveted Canada in the early nineties. Reyes knows who Paris really is, and when she’s unexpectedly released from prison, she threatens to expose all of Paris’s secrets. Left with no other choice, Paris must finally confront the dark past she escaped, once and for all.

Because the only thing worse than a murder charge are two murder charges.

Kate’s Review (8 Rating)

Vilma Iris (4.5/5 Stars)

Read This, Not That (5/5 Stars)

The Fiction Addiction

Book: “The Devil Takes You Home” by Gabino Iglesias

Book Description: Buried in debt due to his young daughter’s illness, his marriage at the brink, Mario reluctantly takes a job as a hitman, surprising himself with his proclivity for violence. After tragedy destroys the life he knew, Mario agrees to one final job: hijack a cartel’s cash shipment before it reaches Mexico. Along with an old friend and a cartel-insider named Juanca, Mario sets off on the near-suicidal mission, which will leave him with either a cool $200,000 or a bullet in the skull. But the path to reward or ruin is never as straight as it seems. As the three complicated men travel through the endless landscape of Texas, across the border and back, their hidden motivations are laid bare alongside nightmarish encounters that defy explanation. One thing is certain: even if Mario makes it out alive, he won’t return the same.

The Devil Takes You Home is a panoramic odyssey for fans of S.A. Cosby’s southern noir, Blacktop Wasteland, by way of the boundary-defying storytelling of Stephen Graham Jones and Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

Kate’s Review (9 Rating)

Considering Stories

Horror Bound

Crime Fiction Lover

Book: “The House Across the Lake” by Riley Sager

Book Description: Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.

With his trademark blend of sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy surprises, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake unveils more than one twist that will shock readers until the very last page.

Kate’s Review (8 Rating)

Eat, Live, Travel, Write

Opinions of a Wolf

Chick Lit Central

Diving Into Sub-Genres: Forensic Mysteries

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

We each have our own preferred genres of choice. Kate loves horrors and thrillers, really anything that will keep her up at night! And Serena enjoys escaping through hidden doors into realms of magic and adventure. We also read mysteries, historical fiction, graphic novels, etc. etc. And that’s not even counting the multitude of sub-genres contained within each greater genre. In this series, one of us with present a list of our favorites from within a given sub-genre of one of our greater preferred genres.

While I mostly review historical mysteries and detective mysteries on this blog, I’m also a huge fan of forensic mysteries. It’s actually a favorite subgenre for both Kate and I. Honestly, at this point, she’s probably more caught up on some of our favorite series than I am, considering the pivot I’ve made in recent years for my reviews here. But what is a forensic mystery?

While the detective mystery is the ruler of the mystery genre, with the story following a detective of some sort (lots of variation for how official this title is), forensic mysteries have exploded in the last 30 years or so, challenging this norm. The popularity of shows like “CSI” and “Bones” can perhaps be attributed to some of this increased popularity. Those examples alone do most of the work defining what makes forensic mysteries stand out: the stories will typically follow a scientist of some sort who is involved in solving crimes by close examination of evidence and expert interpretation of those nuanced facts. You have a lot of coroners, medical examiners, anthropologists, etc. Due to the nature of this type of evidence and work, most forensic mysteries rate high on the gruesome scale, with detailed explanations of anatomy and murder methods. While not exclusively so, the leading characters in this subgenre are often female, serving as a nice balance to the still male-dominated detective mystery genre.

As I’ve said, this subgenre has exploded in recent years. So my list here is just scratching the surface of what’s to be found. There can also be a lot of overlap between forensic mysteries and other subgenres. Let’s take a look at a few!

Book: “Deja Dead” by Kathy Reichs

Having mentioned “Bones” in my introduction, I couldn’t not include the long-running book series on which the show is based. Like the show, the story follows Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist. But really, that’s where most of the similarities end. This Brennan has a daughter, a precarious marriage, and, while she does have a few friends, no where near the level of quirky scientist lab friends that she has in the show. There is a character who Booth is loosely based off, but the romance is nothing like the show, with this character not even being a romantic interest at certain points. But Temperance herself is largely similar, being a very analytical and scientific individual. She also has a strong sense for justice which can get her caught up in crimes that then end up striking close to home. This is a long-running, current series with book number 21 coming out just last month.

Book: “The Crossing Places” by Elly Griffiths

Similar to the previous title, this is another female-lead forenstic thriller/mystery series. In this case, the lead is Dr. Ruth Galloway, a forensic archeologist. As such, her expertise is in bones, thus there is often a lot of cold cases involved in stories. This first book involves the discovery of a set of bones that are suspected to be those of a young girl who went missing years before. But this crime won’t stay in the past, and when another girl goes missing, Dr. Galloway finds herself dealing with a very real killer. Again, this is a very long-running series, with the most recent book involving Galloway’s experiences of the pandemic lockdowns.

Book: “The Bone Collector” by Jeffery Deaver

As a change of pace, this series follows a male lead. The series begins by introducing Lincoln Rhyme, once a well-known, respected criminologist. But he’s been out of the game for a while after an accident turned his life upside down. He’s drawn back into the game, however, when he is personally challenged by a diabolical killer. He must team up with a police detective and solve the complicated forensic mystery laid out before him. This one is a nice change of pace in that the lead has an expertise in criminology, opening up the series to cover a wide variety of various forensic techniques and clues. This series has been running since 1997, so you can guess as to its length so far…

Book: “The Lost Girls of Rome” by Donato Carrisi

Time for stand-alone options, for those not ready to commit themselves to double-digit-long series! This book offers a nice mix of genres, including several nice nods to historical elements that become integral parts of the mystery. The lead is a young widow and forensic analysist who, while trying to uncover the truth in her husband’s death, finds herself caught up in mysterious forces that trace back through Rome’s long and twisting history. While touching on the details and analysis that is at the heart of all forensic mysteries, this one has a lot to offer for fans of lots of different types of books. Plus, like I said, it’s not as much as a commitment as some of the other series on this list!

Book: “Postmortem” by Patricia Cornwell

Like the Temperance Brennan series, this is another cornerstone in the forensic thriller/mystery genre, so it is only fitting to finish up this list with it. This series follows Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner whose close eye and keen sense of justice sees her caught up in one investigation after another (seriously, this series started back in 1990 and the 26th book in the series came out this year, so…). This book is also often credited as the first book in the now popular forensic thriller/mystery subgenres. It’s also not a stretch to imagine that its success also helped build up the ever-popular, numerous, numerous forensic TV shows like “CSI” and the ilk. It’s definitely a must for fans of this subgenre (along with the Brennan series, this it the other series I regularly read, for what that’s worth!).

What forensic thrillers/mysteries do you enjoy reading?

Highlights: August 2022

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Hot, hot, hot. Have we mentioned that it’s been hot? But while Kate eagerly looks forward to the cool weather of the fall and the Halloween Horrorpalooza, Serena somehow remains sad to think of the hot weather going away. But either way (one of us sensibly staying in the AC indoors and the other sweating it out in the sun) we still have a lot of books to get through this summer. Here are a few we’re looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks:

Book: “Soul Taken” by Patricia Briggs

Publication Date: August 23, 2022

Why I’m Interested: I’ve been a faithful reader of the Mercy Thompson series for several years now. With all of that time, I’ve seen all of the highs and lows of the series. Currently, the series has been on a bit of a streak with some fun stories one after another. But that always makes me nervous that the trend could collapse at any moment. This story, revolving around an urban legend (a murderer with a scythe) that seems to have come to life, sounds kind of strange, but who knows? There also seems to be an emphasis on the local vampires, and as that is a particularly interesting supernatural group in this series, I’m excited to see what more there is to learn!

Book: “Wildbound” by Elayne Audrey Becker

Publishing Info: August 30, 2022

Why I’m Interested: I really loved last year’s “Forestborn.” It was one of those surprise hits where I really had no expectations going in, but by the time I had finished, I just loved it. It didn’t end on an outright cliffhanger, but it was right up to that line. So I knew when I saw this one coming out this summer that I’d be right at the front of the line. This time, it looks like the POV will be split between Rora and her brother, Helos. I’m not sure how I feel about that, as I really enjoyed Rora as a single narrator and Helos was not the most likeable character ever in that first book. But who knows? Either way, I’m excited to see this story wrapped up.

Book: “The Drowned Woods” by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Publication Date: August 16, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Ever since devouring “The Bone Houses” a few years ago, I’ve been stalking Emily Lloyd-Jones’s Goodreads page for news of another book from her. So I was beyond thrilled when I saw this book lined up to come out this summer. Even more exciting, I nabbed an ARC copy at ALA! Talk about a win! This book has been marketed as “Welsh Atlantis” and I have no idea what that means, but I’m excited. Really, I would have been excited if this had been marketed as “a book about a puddle of mud,” but a vengeful mage, a deadly assassin, and some sort of heist sounds right up my alley!

Kate’s Picks:

Book: “Shutter” by Ramona Emerson

Publication Date: August 2, 2022

Why I’m Interested: We all already know that stories about people who can see/communicate with ghosts are very much my jam, and that I have an enjoyment of crime procedurals as well. So when you take those two things, add in examinations of police corruption, and make it all from an Indigenous perspective, I am going to be 100% on board. I was lucky to snag “Shutter” by Ramona Emerson at ALAAC22, and I have been eager for it. Rita is a photographer who works for the Albuquerque police department, who has been able to see ghosts ever since she was a little girl growing up on a Navajo reservation with her grandmother. When a victim named Erma realizes that Rita can see her, she is hellbent on making Rita figure out what happened. But it gets Rita caught up in a dark underbelly of cartel violence as she reluctantly investigates. This has been a can’t wait read for 2022 and it’s finally here.

Book: “Kismet” by Amina Akhtar

Publication Date: August 1, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Far be it from me to be any kind of wellness or spiritual healing kind of person. The closest I get is the occasional bath bomb in the tub after a long day. But I am VERY interested to see what Amina Akhtar does with this culture, as she is known to be a balls to the wall thriller author. Ronnie has spent her entire life in Queens, living with an repressive aunt and wondering if she has any choices for herself. When she meets Marley, a self help influencer, they click, and Marley convinces her to leave her life behind and move with her to a wellness loving community in Arizona. Ronnie is excited to start over… until other wellness aficionados in their community start dying over the top deaths. Soon Ronnie starts fearing that their wellness based community is anything but. This seems like it could be raucous and fun.

Book: “The Devil Takes You Home” by Gabino Iglesias

Publication Date: August 2, 2022

Why I’m Interested: This has been on horror lists all year long in terms of most hyped and most anticipated, which is a strong argument on its own, but I read Gabino Iglesias’s previous book “Coyote Songs” and found it strange and unsettling, so that pushed it into ‘must read’ territory. Mario never imagined he would be a hit man, but when his young daughter was diagnosed with childhood leukemia, he had to take on this dangerous profession to pay the ever mounting bills. After she dies, Mario is left broken and despondent. When a friend approaches him with a very dangerous job, but one that would make him debt free and allow him to start over, Mario accepts. But their job takes them not only into the violent world of Mexican cartels, but also into otherworldly horrors that only progress as their mission goes on. Iglesias is a quickly rising star in the horror novel world, and this one will surely be on many horror fans lists this year.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Not Just Books: July 2022

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

Netflix Show: “The Umbrella Academy” Season 3

This is such a weird, weird show. And I love it so much. It’s one of those shows where you literally can’t guess what’s going to happen. And even if you try, you’re probably off by several degrees of insanity. This season, however, also really hit towards all of the feelings. The crew has been through a lot, and when they find themselves in the middle of a third apocalypse in the same number of weeks, they all react in very different ways. On top of that, the new version of the world they are existing in never had an Umbrella Academy. Instead, they have an entirely new group of powered individuals called the Sparrow Academy. And they’re not fans of our time-travelling dysfunctional family. If you like wacky shows about crazy families, this is definitely one to give a shot!

Movie: “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”

We waited until this came out on Disney+ to get to it. And while I think that some of the more crazy action sequences would have benefitted from a big screen, for the most part, I think this was the right choice. Don’t get me wrong, this was a fun movie in and of itself. But there were also some story choices that I was bewildered and disappointed to see (I’m looking at Wanda’s entire arc here). And Dr. Strange seemed often like a side character in his own movie. I’m also starting to feel a bit confused and concerned about exactly where Marvel is heading with all of these stories. I feel like every single movie I’ve seen from them recently has ended with its own, unique cliffhanger that points to a different big bad and different overarching conflict. At least with Thanos, as long-heralded and slow-coming as he was, we knew where we were headed. Now? I mean, pick any one of the five bread crumb trails, and best of luck to you! That said, Marvel fans should probably check this out, just in case this is, in fact, a precursor of things to come!

Movie: “Encanto”

I’m rather behind my Disney/Pixar watching. I haven’t seen the last several, in fact, since “Frozen 2.” But my kids listen to Pandora Disney almost every day, so I pretty much had pieced together this movie’s story purely by the ability to sing all of the songs in entirety. But on the plane ride back from ALA 2022, this came up as one of the options. Plane rides are stressful at the best of times, so I figured that that was the time for a happy Disney movie is ever there was one. And this movie was everything I expected it to be: fun, funny, and full of great music. I do have to say that I’m a bit sad to not see any romantic storylines in the last several movies that Disney has put out, and I’m bit confused by the decision. But this was still an enchanting film about family and self-acceptance and it was a great way to pass the time on the plane.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Only Murders in the Building”

Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez are back for more Upper West Side hijinks in this darkly funny and utterly charming show about murder and secrets in a snooty apartment building. I only recently picked up the end of Season 1 (for whatever reason I fell off even though I liked it so much), and it was just in time for Season 2! I wasn’t sure how they could believably make a Season 2 happen, but they did. Picking up immediately at the end of Season 1, Bunny, former head of the Arcadia Board, was found dead in Mable’s apartment, and she, Oliver, and Charles are the prime suspects. But once they were released with a warning, they decide that not only do they need to clear their names, they now have fodder for Season 2 of their podcast! Martin, Short, and Gomez continue to have great chemistry, and the show is suspenseful, funny, and still super bittersweet when it wants to be. And the new mystery is just as intriguing as Season 1, which is a bonus!

Film: “Compulsion”

This is an entry that isn’t new to me, but it had been a LONG time since watching it. When my favorite podcast did a series on the notorious murderers Leopold and Loeb, they mentioned this film, which I had once been super into because of a adolescent fascination with the case. For the unfamiliar, they were a pair of hyperintelligent teenage killers who murdered a fourteen year old boy just to prove they could, but were caught because one dropped his glasses at the scene of the crime. A media frenzy ensued. This is an adaptation of that story, and it is pretty well done. Not only are the two killers well portrayed (Dean Stockwell is the Leopold character and he’s intense!), but Orson Welles is their attorney, who is based on progressive lawyer extraordinaire Clarence Darrow, who defended the teenagers in real life. My friend Mark and I watched this on my patio and it held up after all the years I hadn’t watched it. And Welles gives a fantastic monologue about the hypocrisy of the death penalty that is SO damn good, which is very heavily based on Darrow’s actual closing arguments.

Film: “Last Night in SoHo”

So this is kind of funny as I had been looking forward to this one, but then I heard some not so great things about it and decided to hold off. And THEN my Terror Tuesday group wanted to watch it, so I figured why not, and ended up really enjoying it! Part mystery, part horror story, part coming of age, it follows Eloise, a young fashion design student who moves from her small town to London for her studies. When she seeks out independent lodging, she rents a run down flat, and as she dreams she starts having visions of a mysterious woman named Sandie. Sandie wants to be a star, but falls into an abusive relationship and starts being pimped out. And then is perhaps murdered. Eloise wants to solve what happened to Sandie, but the visions become more disturbing and more violent as other specters start to haunt her as well. I thought that the imagery was really striking, and while Eloise was a bit of a drip I really liked Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie. It’s unnerving and posh and creepy and supremely entertaining.

Highlights: July 2022

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Summer is fully here with all of its lovely humidity in tow. And sadly, ALA is now behind us and before us lies a summer with demanding kids who are still too young to take advantage of the swimming entertainment option. Ah, well, soon enough. Knowing us and the types of kids we’ll probably raise, they’ll likely grow up to be the ones reading on the beach instead of swimming anyways. When we get a chance, here are the books we’re looking forward to this month.

Serena’s Picks:

Book: “Ten Thousand Stitches” by

Publication Date: July 19, 2022

Why I’m Interested: I devoured “Half a Soul” in June, a Regency fantasy about a young lady going about life with half a soul and half the emotional abilities of a regular person. It was everything I love about the genre. That being the case, it was a no brainer that I would be checking out this second book by Atwater released just a month later. This time we follow a maid with a particular skill with embroidery who dreams of life beyond the limits of her station. Soon enough she gets caught up in a faerie bargain, and we all know where things go from there. After how much I enjoyed the first book, my expectations for this one are sky high!

Book: “Dead Water” by C. A. Fletcher

Publication Date: July 19, 2022

Why I’m Interested: This is probably one of my more anticipated releases of the summer. “A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” blew my socks off and took me out of nowhere. That being the case, I was waiting to see what the author would do next. Turns out there seems to be a theme of the summer and, bizarrely, it’s zombie bunnies? Taking a turn from the apocalyptical story of his first novel, this outing focuses on a remote island community and a strange illness? Force? That is overtaking the people. It sounds completely different than the first book so I’m really excited to see what’s in store this go around!

Book: “The Book of Gothel” by Mary McMyne

Publication Date: July 26, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Obviously, I always love fairytale retellings of basically all varieties. But there’s something extra fun about ones that refocus the story on a secondary or minor character than the original protagonists. Lately, there’s been a theme of telling popular fairytales from the villain’s perspective. And that’s what we have here, the story of “Rapunzel” retold from the perspective of the witch fabled for locking her in the tower. It promises to be an interesting medieval fantasy focusing on, what else, the theme of the fear inspired by powerful, mysterious women. Very excited for this one, too.

Kate’s Picks

Book: “The Pallbearers Club” by Paul Tremblay

Publication Date: July 5, 2022

Why I’m Interested: PAUL TREMBLAY, Y’ALL! I know I can’t leave it at that. So… PAUL TREMBLAY AND MAYBE VAMPIRES, Y’ALL (I got chided on another platform for supposed spoilers, but it’s in various big name reviews for don’t even try it). I love Paul Tremblay’s books with every fiber of my being, and I was amped when I saw he had a new one, and what it entailed. Art Barbara has written his memoirs, going back to his teenage years and reminiscing about a time when he started an extracurricular group that would help out at funerals… and how he met cool girl Mercy Brown, who changed his life. Their friendship was on and off for years, and Art has some interesting theories about her backstory… And someone has gotten their hands on the memoirs and has their OWN opinions on the backstory. This book is sure to be creepy and unnerving, but given that it’s Tremblay it is sure to be absolutely devastating as well.

Book: “Things We Do in the Dark” by Jennifer Hillier

Publication Date: July 19, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Jennifer Hillier is one of those thriller authors that not only knows how to create a dark and enticing thriller, but she also knows how to lay on the suds to make it all the more engaging and dynamic. In “Things We Do in the Dark”, Paris Peralta is a trophy wife to an aging comedian… who is accused of his murder when she’s found next to his very dead body. Paris has a good lawyer, and Paris didn’t kill her husband. But Paris IS nervous about some other dirty laundry coming out, secrets from her past that involve a notorious murderer named Ruby “The Ice Queen” Reyes. I love a good Hillier story and I”m sure this one will be filled with lots of surprises.

Book: “Mary: An Awakening of Terror” by Nat Cassidy

Publication Date: July 19, 2022

Why I’m Interested: This is one that flew under my radar for awhile, but then kept popping up on various social media feeds. So much so that I had to look into it. And when I read the description, I was snared completely. Multiple people kept using the phrases ‘peri-Menopausal’ and ‘Carrie-esque’. I mean, come on, aren’t you snared?! Mary is an ordinary woman who has been dealing with the starts of menopause. There’s hot flashes, dizziness, overall soreness…. and also strange voices telling her to do terrible things. When she leaves the big city after losing her job, she arrives back to the small town she grew up in. And then the strange voices and urges amp up. It sounds weird as hell, but I super appreciate that our horror protagonist is repping a group we may not see as often in the genre!

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Highlights: June 2022

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We’ve both been anxiously awaiting June this year. Not only does it finally feel like not winter anymore (here in Minnesota with all the humidity, summer’s a mixed blessing…but not winter? That’s truly great!), but June is the month of the ALA annual convention. We’ve been two other times before, once in Las Vegas (our cardigans really helped us blend in with the crowd) and again in Chicago. We meant to go several years ago, but, you know, Covid ruined everything for everyone. But finally, FINALLY, we are going again! It’s not until the end of the month, however, so here are some books we’re looking forward to reading to tide us over until then!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Half a Soul” by Olivia Atwater

Publication Date: June 28, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Fairie courts? Check! Strange curses? Check! Regency romance? Double check! I’m so excited to read this book, if you didn’t get the idea. The story follows Dora Ettings, a young woman who lost half her soul to a fairie curse early in her life. As such, she has no filter and practically no chances in the marriage mart. But that’s ok with her, being more than happy to simply support her cousin her courtship goals. Enter a grumpy sorcerer and a mystery surrounding children falling under strange magical sleeps, and even a cursed young woman can find life taking an unexpected turn! I had a hard time waiting until June to dive into this one, so look for a review to come shortly!

Book: “For the Throne” by Hannah Whitten

Publication Date: June 7, 20202

Why I’m Interested: I really enjoyed “For the Wolf” when I read it last year. It was an excellent stand-alone fantasy. But it also laid the groundwork for this, the sequel and Red’s sister Neve’s own story. After realizing the sheer folly of her past decisions and falling into a dark underworld, Neve will do practically anything to return to her sister Red. However, the longer she remains in this world of monsters, the more she begins to question whether she is herself one of them and this is where she truly belongs. There’s also an anti-hero love interest, so this entire thing very much gives off “Hades & Persephone” vibes. Given how much I liked the first book and Neve herself in that book, I can’t wait to see where the story goes from there!

Book: “Juniper & Thorn” by Ava Reid

Publication Date: June 21, 2022

Why I’m Interested: As faithful blog readers may remember, last summer was the season of the “Red Riding Hood” retellings for me. I ended up liking two out of the three. And even more luckily for me, both of those books came out with sequels/companion novels this summer! In this instance, “Juniper & Thorn” is set in the same world as “The Wolf and the Woodsman” but it introduces a new set of characters. This dark fantasy story follows Manlinchen and her two sisters who are essentially held captive in their own home by their cruel, cursed father. But soon enough Manlinchen finds a way to escape at night and an entire new world opens up to her. However, there’s a darkness haunting her city, and Manlinchen begins to suspect her family may be at the center of it. I’m not very familiar with “The Juniper Tree,” the fairytale this based on, so I’m curious to see what’s in store!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “The House Across the Lake” by Riley Sager

Publication Date: June 21, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Riley Sager is a must read author for me, his books always offering up something that I enjoy and look forward to every year. His newest book, “The House Across the Lake”, sounds like it’s a little bit of “Rear Window” with a little bit of “The Girl on the Train”. Casey has sought out the solitude of a cabin on a lake after she finds herself a widow and the victim of a tabloid frenzy. In the house across the lake she keeps and interested eye on Tom and Katherine, a seemingly happily married couple. Casey makes friends with Katherine, but then shortly thereafter Katherine disappears. Casey is desperate to find out what happened to her new friend, but as she investigates she uncovers secrets that were best left hidden away. Sager can always find a way to surprise me, so this should be a treat!

Book: “Never Coming Home” by Kate Williams

Publication Date: June 21, 2022

Why I’m Interested: You grab my interest when you describe a teen thriller that involves influencers in danger, and when it sounds like it takes inspiration from the Fyre Festival you have my full and entire buy in. This is why “Never Coming Home” by Kate Williams made the list. Ten teenager influencers have been invited to spend a vacation at Unknown Island, a resort that is so exclusive it is invite only, and only for people under 21. What this group of influencers doesn’t realize, however, is that they have been invited to Unknown Island for very specific reasons, as all of them have dark pasts and things to hide. And it seems that someone has found them out. This really sounds like it’s going to be a soapy fun thriller that will make the Fyre Festival seem downright tame.

Book: “A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons” by Kate Khvari

Publication Date: June 7, 2022

Why I’m Interested: Why, poisons, of course! I always say that I’m not a big plant person, but the plants that I’m a guaranteed sucker for are poisonous ones. And any mystery thriller that uses mysterious poisons as a murder weapon is going to end up on my to read list, hence “A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons” making the highlights this month. It’s post WWI England, and Saffron Everleigh is one of the only women researchers at her prestigious university, following in her father’s footsteps in botany and working with a kind and intelligent mentor. But when the wife of a colleague is poisoned at a party, and her mentor is the main suspect, she is determined to clear his name, and starts to look into the various poisonous plants that could be at the killer’s disposal. I mean, come on. That sounds super fun.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Not Just Books: May 2022

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

Netflix Show: “Bridgerton” (season 2)

While I enjoyed the first season of “Bridgerton” well enough, I wasn’t head over heels in love with it like some other fans. To be fair, the first book in the “Bridgerton” series wasn’t my favorite to start with, so the show had an upwards battle to begin with. Combine that fact with the fact that the second book was one of my favorites in the series, I was very nervous going into this second season. What if they ruined one of my favorite couples in the series?? What if they messed up Kate, one of the best heroines in the series?? Thankfully, they nailed it! I mean, on one hand, that should have been more of a given seeing as I think this love story was more translatable to modern audiences than the other. But they also seemed to re-focus the story on the sort of romance that most historical romance fans expect to see. Where all the tension builds in the ball scenes, where the briefest flick of a finger towards one another is as hot as any more graphic scene, where the first kiss is delayed until the 6th episode, believe it or not! Honestly, I loved this season and will likely rewatch it again soon.

Disney+ Show: “What If…?”

For all that I enjoy comic book movies (though my preferred DC characters have been sadly done badly by recently), I rarely watch any of the animated shows or movies. I made an exception for “Into the Spiderverse” of course because by all accounts that was…exceptional. But I’m also hoping to go see the new Dr. Strange movie soon and I had heard that a dedicated viewer would be served well by watching this show before that. So, here we are! I will say, I enjoyed it more than I was expecting, especially at first. When they say “what if” they really mean it. There are some truly, truly bizarre versions of these stories and characters. But then the show made an unexpected turn towards the final third which really pulled it all together in a way that I wasn’t anticipating. Fans of the Marvel series, and especially fans of animated comics, should definitely check this one out!

Movie: “Operation Mincemeat”

My husband and I pretty much ended up watching this because the preview was the first thing that popped up on Netflix when we logged in. So, I guess props to their algorithm this time? The story is of a British spy operation that set out to mislead the German army during WWII. To do so, they set up an elaborate ploy using a washed up body to deliver false information. It was a really interesting story, and definitely one of those true stories that is hard to believe was real until it’s fully confirmed with the follow-up facts right before the credits role. There are also a bunch of well-known British actors involved, so the quality was high all around. Definitely check it out if you’re interested in historical movies.

Kate’s Picks

Film: “X”

I made a whole night of sitting down to watch “X”, the slasher homage art house horror movie from A24. My husband was out of town, so I put the kid to bed, ordered in a whole lot of Indian food, and settled in. I had been looking forward to “X”, and it did not disappoint. It’s 1980, and a crew of pornographic filmmakers and actors go on location in rural Texas in hopes of making a great adult film that brings artistic flair to the genre. They are using a shed and guest house that belongs to an elderly couple, who don’t know what the crew’s intentions are. Until the wife observes just what it is they are filming. From there, things get twisted, violent, and really really creepy. “X” has a lot of love and references for the grind house slashers of the day, with a lot of nods to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and the entire feel of it just oozes nostalgia while creating something that feels fairly modern in its sensibility. I especially liked Mia Goth as Maxine, the lead actress who has dreams of stardom, but fears that it’s just out of reach. As well as her turn in another less obvious role. Ti West always has some creative horror perspectives, and “X” was no exception.

TV Show: “The Flight Attendant”

I had thought that Season One of the HBOMax show “The Flight Attendant” was a standalone series, as there was only one book it was based upon and it wrapped up pretty well (outside of Rosie Perez’s character Megan going on the lam after inadvertently giving U.S. secrets to North Korea… oops). So when it was announced there would be a second season, I was a little skeptical, thinking there wasn’t much else that could be explored in Cassie’s life, post nearly being murdered after getting caught up in an international murder. But I was wrong! In Season 2, Cassie has tried to get her act together: she has moved to L.A., has a new boyfriend, and prides herself on being one year sober. She’s also now an asset for the CIA thanks to fellow flight attendant/CIA agent Shane. But when she witnesses a murder, and the murderer seems to be trying to take on her appearance, her precariously placed new life starts to unravel. Kaley Cuoco is still hilarious but heartbreaking as perpetual mess Cassie, and it’s great seeing Zosia Mamet back as her acerbic best friend Annie. The new plot is just as compelling as Season One, and Cuoco is given even more emotional meat to chew on. I’m hooked again.

TV Show: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

After not being as into Season 3 of this charming show, I wasn’t in a rush to start Season 4. But my husband, after waiting a month or so, was insistent we put it in the media rotation. I’m happy to report that “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has once again risen in quality, perhaps not as high as the first season, but certainly to levels I was happy about! Fresh off of being fired from a world tour with singer Shy Baldwin (I still contend she deserved it and the show probably needed to make it clear she deserved it), Midge and Susie are back to square one, and Midge decides she wants to stop being an opener and start headlining. Taking a job at an illegal burlesque show is clearly the jumping off point she’s looking for! I thought Midge got some good growth this season, I liked seeing more emotional sides to Susie, and Tony Shaloub continues to shine as Midge’s constantly exasperated father Abe. This season his leftist past is a bit more explored as he writes for the Village Voice and he may reveal too much about some of the things he participated in. Next season is the last season, and they’ve set up some interesting final storylines. Hopefully it’s not too long of a wait!

Beach Reads: Summer 2022

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Back for 2022, here is a list of some more favorite beach reads! Perhaps a little early, but Memorial Day is the traditional kick off to Summer, after all, and that’s just a week away. “Beach read” is a very fast and loose term for books people read over the beautiful summer months when we really should be outside “doing things” but are instead reading…maybe outside. Some people see these months as an opportunity to slog through long classics (we’re looking at you “Moby Dick”) before the busy-ness of the fall starts up, but for the sake of this list, we’re limiting our choices to fast paced, mostly feel good books (though there’s some obvious leeway here for Kate’s horror tastes!) that could be easily brought along on vacations. So, still a very loose definition, but hey, we had to start somewhere! We will select one title for each of the genres we most read.

Serena’s Picks

Fantasy Title: “Bryony and Roses” by T. Kingfisher

I know I just got done reviewing this book for the blog, so it’s probably pretty familiar to regular readers. But when I sat down and thought of a fantasy beach read, T. Kingfisher immediately came to mind! For one thing, she writes a lot of standalone fantasy stories. For another, it’s a rare thing indeed to find a fantasy author who doesn’t feel the need to write 500+ page tomes with every book they release. All of this makes her a great beach read go-to for fantasy fans! “Bryony and Roses” is also a retelling of a fan favorite fairytale, “Beauty and the Beast.” But T. Kingfisher approaches the story with a fresh look on both her “Beauty” character as well as her Beast. I loved this book, and it has already found a beloved place on my shelf. Definitely check it out if you want a light-hearted, feel-good fantasy novel to read this summer!

Science Fiction Title: “Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves” by Meg Long

Science fiction as genre is also prone to long, sprawling sagas made up of several huge tomes. So it, too, can be hard to find a good beach read from within. This year, I’m going with a YA science fiction title that I think might have been overlooked by many readers in this genre. And that’s because, bizarrely, the cover art looks EXACTLY like fantasy title cover. But no, this is definitely science fiction. It’s a strange tale of essentially a life-or-death dog sled race that takes place on another planet. There isn’t a romance in this story; instead, the emotional resonance comes between our main character, a scruffy survivor herself, and the half-wild racing wolf she slowly befriends. It’s a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled story sure to please science fiction adventure fans.

Mystery Title: “The Murder of Mr. Wickham” by Claudia Gray

Another book that I’ve reviewed recently, but again, another perfect fit for this beach reads list! I had a hard time deciding whether to put this selection under mystery or history, but the title kind of forced my hand since, at its heart, this is a murder mystery. But I think the more important factor is the sheer joy that is found in a well-written Jane Austen continuation. As all Austen fans know, it’s truly hard to find a good adaptation of Austen’s work. And here, the author had to have a handle on not only one character, but ALL of the couples from the original six Jane Austen stories. On top of masterfully presenting these familiar characters, Gray also manages to introduce to two original characters who are able to stand on their own next to these famous faces. This is a must-read for all Jane Austen fans!

History Title: “Velvet was the Night” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Kate and I both read and reviewed this book last year, as we’re both huge Moreno-Garcia fans at this point and will fight over who gets to read her next (you’ll be seeing another such collaborative read this summer as we tackle the issue in the same way!) This is a perfect selection for a beach read in the history genre simply because it tackles a time period and place not often found in historical fiction: Mexico in the 1970s. The story is that of a reclusive secretary and an up-and-coming goon who both find themselves being caught up in the mystery of an art student’s death. Beyond belonging to the historical fiction genre, this is also a political thriller and tale of intrigue and deception. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a force across genres, so really, everyone should check out this and her other books.

Kate’s Picks

Horror Title: “When No One Is Watching” by Alyssa Cole

I reviewed this book last year with high praise after I pretty much sat down and read it in one sitting. And isn’t that exactly the kind of book you want to take on your vacation, one that will suck you in so fiercely? “When No One Is Watching” really fits that characteristic set, and it’s one you would LOVE to have on hand at the beach or pool because of it. Sydney is a homegrown Brooklynite, who has returned to her childhood home after being away in a fraught and troubled marriage. Her neighborhood, however, has started to go through some changes thanks to gentrification, with old neighbors leaving seeminly overnight. New people like Theo and Kim, a white couple that has just moved in, start to encroach, though Theo wants to be a good neighbor. He offers to help Sydney with a project that would delve into the history of the neighborhood. But something shady is afoot, and the old residents may not be leaving of their own accord… Addictive, scary, and super relevant, “When No One Is Watching” is a great horror novel!

Thriller Title: “We Are Watching Eliza Bright” by A.E. Osworth

It happens on occasion that I will read a book in my genres that doesn’t make it to the blog, usually because I didn’t feel like I had much to say about it, other times because of other commitments taking priority. And sometimes I really like a book but I just don’t get my shit together to write a good long review in a way I want, and that is where “We Are Watching Eliza Bringt” by A.E. Osworth falls. Eliza Bright is a female coder and game developer for an up and coming gaming company, but after experiencing workplace harassment she takes it to her superiors. When they do nothing, she takes it to the press. And once it’s made public, she is suddenly targeted by angry, misogynistic gamers who make it their mission to make her life a living hell. This thriller is action packed and really suspenseful/scary (I think I would call it both thriller AND horror), told through perspectives of Eliza, those who defend her, and the collection of dangerous men who are targetting her. It rattled me pretty deeply when I read it, but I also could NOT put it down, the very definition of what one may want in a beach read.

Graphic Novel Title: “Check, Please!” by Ngozi Ukazu

Perhaps it seems odd to have a graphic novel about hockey on a summer themed list, but don’t let the cold sport fool you! The “Check Please” Duology is quick and quippy and just a little bit romantic as well as funny and heartfelt! Eric Bittle is a former figure skater who has arrived as a freshman at college, and joins the hockey team to get on the ice and meet new people. It’s there that he meets Jack, the somewhat broody and serious captain, who takes Eric under his wing, and whom Eric suddenly becomes absolutely smitten with. There is also baking, banter, vlogs, and some decidedly adorable male friendships that don’t reek of toxic masculinity in spite of the masculine context of hockey. I really liked this coming of age hockey romance, and even though it’s two volumes it’s a really easy read that will keep you interested!

Non-Fiction Title: “I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir” by Harvey Fierstein

I knew that in my heart and mind that Harvey Fierstein was an icon, but after reading his memoir “I Was Better Last Night” it only confirmed that he is iconic on EVERY LEVEL. This memoir is candid, funny, sometimes sad, and a super interesting look into the mind and thoughts and craft of an amazing performer. Because of Fierstein’s range most people are sure to know him from something (it could be his activism, it could be his Broadway career, it could be his character in “Mrs. Doubtfire”!), and his voice is so genuine and so funny at times that this book was a quick and delightful read that had me laughing out loud and also tearing up. It’s charming to be sure and not cumbersome in the way some memoirs or autobiographies can be.

Diving Into Sub-Genres: Vampire Horror

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We each have our own preferred genres of choice. Kate loves horrors and thrillers, really anything that will keep her up at night! And Serena enjoys escaping through hidden doors into realms of magic and adventure. We also read mysteries, historical fiction, graphic novels, etc. etc. And that’s not even counting the multitude of sub-genres contained within each greater genre. In this series, one of us with present a list of our favorites from within a given sub-genre of one of our greater preferred genres.

I have been obsessed with vampires for a very long time. While in childhood I liked vampire stories just fine, it was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in middle and high school that really gelled with me, genre wise. And vampire horror is still a sub-genre that I really love, even if I have VERY picky standards for it. There is so much you can do with vampires, mostly because they are not only iconic in horror, they have so much history in folklore all around the world.

There are so many types of vampire stories to tell. The tried and true Gothic sensibilities with castles and or manors run by monsters. The deeply romantic vampire story with eroticism bubbling over. The feral creatures who are just out to destroy and eat. I’ve read many vampire tales and vetted through the highs and the lows (here’s a tip: if you aren’t into Amish romance, a vampire themed Amish romance isn’t going to do it for you). The books I’ve selected for this list kind of tap into the different themes, and are, to me, stand outs in the genre for various reasons. I could have listed many more but limited myself. Just know these are by no means the only good vampire stories out there! They’re just jumping off points.

Book: “The Vampyre” by John William Polidori

I mean, I’ve mentioned “Dracula” in other book lists, and while “Dracula” is absolutely a great vampire novel (like, the grandfather of the genre, really), I wanted to think outside the box. Instead, let’s talk about “The Vampyre” by John William Polidori, which was one of the influences on “Dracula”. Taken from the short tale that Lord Byron told on that fateful trip with Mary Shelley, Poliodori expanded upon it and created a complete short story that was published (and repeatedly misattributed to Byron, as much as both men tried to correct this misconception). It follows a young man named Aubrey, who travels to London and meets an aristocrat named Lord Ruthvern. They hit it off, and Ruthvern asks Aubrey to travel with him around Europe. As they travel together, people around them start dying in strange ways, namely their throats being torn out. By the time Aubrey has put two and two together regarding his friend, it’s too late. Poliodori was the guy who took the idea of feral creatures of folklore and made them into a predatory, enigmatic, and charming high class man of society who preys upon those around and below him.

Book Series: “The Vampire Chronicles” by Anne Rice

A lot of the sexy and erotic vampire themes we see in today’s vampire stories can be directly traced to the likes of Louis, Lestat, Armand, et al in “The Vampire Chronicles”, Anne Rice’s dreamy, vicious, and subtly steamy vampire series. Starting with a fairly simple “Interview With the Vampire”, in which a vampire named Louis tells his story of becoming a vampire and the way it changed him, and going to stranger realms with “Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis”, we follow a complex mythology and history of a group of vampires and their melancholy, or outlandish, backstories. From 18th Century New Orleans to 1980s America to BCE Egypt, Rice takes her characters to many settings and connects them through time and relationships and blood. Lestat is the clear center of the tale, his vain and over the top personality so much fun follow (seriously. I love Lestat), but with other interesting characters who pop in and out the stories have a lot of influence on today’s vampire mythos. And the simmering sexiness of Lestat and his implied and/or confirmed lovers is PALPABLE. While sexy vampires have always been a thing, Rice tapped into it in ways others had not, and it works. I haven’t read them all (I never went past “Queen of the Damned”), but I wholly intend to keep going. If only because Lestat is such an iconic vampire in literature.

Book: “Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist

If you’re looking for a claustrophobic vampire story involving children, loneliness, friendship(?), and coming of age, “Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist is going to be the one to check out. I read this around the time the film came to America’s arthouse movie theaters, and was immediately pulled in by how it was simultaneously sweet as well as deeply unnerving. Oskar is an isolated twelve year old boy who lives in a Swedish housing complex with his mother. Oskar has no friends at school and is repeatedly bullied, but then a new girl named Eli moves into the building with her father…. Although, he isn’t her father. And Eli isn’t a normal little girl. She’s a vampire who has been around for hundreds of years. Both Oskar and Eli are seeking connections, though their reasons are very different. On the surface this story seems like a lovely tale of friendship found between outsiders, and to some extent it is. But there is also the nagging sensation that Eli has darker motives for wanting a new companion, and taps into the ideas that vampires are, by nature, predatory, and even if they think they can love, they never really can. It hits ya right in the feels.

Book: “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black

I felt a need to have an example of YA vampire fiction on this list, but wasn’t going to highlight “Twilight” (it’s just not my bag, baby). Instead, I turn to Holly Black’s “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown”, a YA vampire story that is less romantic and more thriller and horror driven in its storytelling. Tana is a teenage girl who wakes up at a friend’s house after a raucous party… and finds most of the guests are dead, killed by a vampire. Her ex boyfriend Aidan survived, but looks like he’s been infected by vampirism. And there is a strange vampire boy who claims his innocence, and needs protection. So Tana opts to rescue them all and take them to the nearest Coldtown, a fenced off community where vampires and other creatures can live in sanctuary. But usually when you enter a Coldtown, you can’t leave. So Tana has to figure out how to get around that. This book is fast paced and feels a bit like a YA vampire “Escape from New York”, and Tana is a very enjoyable main character who kicks a lot of ass.

Book: “‘Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King

I’d be remiss if I left my man Stephen King off this list, and “‘Salem’s Lot” is his entry into the vampire zeitgeist. And because it’s King, he brings in not only some good vampire horror, but also some other more ‘elevated’ themes, as elevated as Danny Glick was outside Mark Petrie’s window. Ben Mears returns to the small town of Jerusalem’s Lot, where he spent a good chunk of his childhood, after years of being away. When he arrives, he finds himself in the midst of strange occurrences. Little does he know, at least at first, a new community member named Kurt Barlow is a vampire, and he intends on turning the entire town into a vampire community. So Ben has to team up with other towns people to stop him. So while we have our ‘vampire infiltrating a human community’ story, King also dabbles in the metaphors of homecoming and the darkness and dissipation of small town America.

Book Series: “The Strain Trilogy” by Guillermo del Toro, and Chuck Hogan

And finally, I wanted to tackle a vampire story that has a SUPER unique idea of vampirism and how it comes to pass, and that is “The Strain” Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. While many modern vampire tales stick to the tried and true ‘vampires sire other vampires’ mechanism, del Toro and Hogan ask ‘what if it was like a parasitic disease?’ When a commercial airliner arrives at JFK and comes to a halt halfway down the runway, with all the communication down and no signs of life aboard, the fear is bioterrorism. So when Ephraim Goodweather of the CDC arrives to check out the threat, he thinks he knows what to expect. But then he boards the plane, and finds everyone dead, he’s horrified. What Ephraim doesn’t know, however, is that this isn’t a bioweapon that anyone can conceive of. What it is is a vampire virus that infects people via parasites, and makes them in the thrall of a master who intends to wipe out humanity. The first book, “The Strain”, is pretty darn good. Admittedly the other two didn’t live up to it, but it’s still super unique and fun to see del Toro play with expectations of the genre.

What are some of your favorite vampire books? Let us know in the comments!

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