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October 2, 2020

September Reading Roundup

It's time for this month's reading roundup, but first, a little announcement that no one but me will care about: I'm staying off the internet until the election. Well, mostly. I'll still post to Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram when the mood strikes me or when I have a writing update. I'll still post Rant Rave Reviews on here and Youtube (the theme this month is spooky stories, of course). But I won't be interacting much (ie, I won't be spending hours reading through Twitter and Tumblr and watching random Youtube videos I've already seen). If you @ me or retweet or reblog a post, I'll probably respond in a day or two, but other than that, I'm becoming a recluse.

The reason for this is twofold. First, I'm offering it up. For those of you who aren't Catholic, "offering it up" is sort of like giving up something for Lent. You discipline yourself by enduring some deprivation (either natural, like pain, or of your own choosing, like not watching hours of Youtube). At the same time, you offer up your (albeit, in this case, slight) suffering as a sacrifice for some good. I'm offering it up for America. Not the election, America. Because, not to get political or anything, but no matter who wins the garbage fire that is the 2020 election, America is doomed unless our culture changes. As I said to a friend recently, if this was the 90s, we could weather whatever storm Trump or Biden brings, but people hate each other so much right now that our country is pretty much over. Unless...

I don't know what I'm praying for, but I'm praying, praying that come what may, God in his Providence will drag something good out of all of it, kicking and screaming if need be. I will also be doing a rosary novena with my diocese October 14th through October 22, and then another one with the USCCB October 26th to November 3rd. Join me if you would like.

On a lighter note, I'm a volunteer writer-in-residence again at my hometown library, so I'm obligated to focus on writing this month, and need write, research, and workshop without distraction. I have two Forensics and Fiction books all tabbed and ready to read, plus a book about army nurses in the Vietnam War. The plot of book one in the alternate-history/fantasy/mystery trilogy is fast congealing, and I want to strike while the iron is hot. I need to focus! My ultimate goal is to be ready to write a little each day in November, returning to my heretical NaNoWriMo ways.


I'll let you know how it all turns out in my first Novemebr post, which will be a reading roundup of October. Until then, let's take a look at what I read this month:


 

Two Six Shooters Beat Four Aces: Stories of a Young Arizona by Barbara Marriott Ph.D

  • Genre: History - Anecdotes
  • Why I read it: Arizona book club pic
  • What I thought of it: While it's clear that Marriott is an excellent researcher, she is either a bad writer or in serious need of an editor. Individual paragraphs proved internally repetitive, and the overall structure of each chapter was slapdash. It needed smoother transitions from anecdote to anecdote or more section breaks and section headers. 
  • Would I recommend it: No, everyone in my book club, including myself, hated it.

 

7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

  • Genre: Supernatural Mystery
  • Why I read it: I'd been wanting to for a while; the premise caught my eye
  • What I thought of it: The body-hopping time-loop stuff was brilliant, the characters likable, and the story delightfully twisty. The last twist and conclusion were unsatisfying, though.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes!! Despite it's flaws, it was an exciting, fun, and original book. I will definitely be reading Turton's next book (which involves a closed circle of suspects and, possibly, demons!?).

 

The Exorcist by William Blatty

  • Genre: Horror
  • Why I read it: I'd been meaning to for a while, and writing research gave me an excuse to do so
  • What I thought of it: I like that it doesn't pull it's punches; I'm kind of shocked that it's only been censored a couple times, actually. It presents demons as they are: hateful, grotesque jerks who get off on picking on humans. I also liked that there was a murder mystery subplot. I'm not sure I approve 100% of the ending, theologically speaking, but that's a pretty minor quibble.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes, but it is not for the feint of heart. Trigger warnings for child sexual abuse, adult sexual abuse, language, violence, the works.

 

How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps by Ben Shapiro

  • Genre: Nonfiction - politics
  • Why I read it: It's a long story that I shall tell about in my memoir of library life, but not here. Also the cover is 10/10
  • What I thought of it: It was ok. I already knew most of what he said. I disagreed with some of it, like seeing the constant moving of people from town to town in 1950s as a positive thing; in actuality, "company men" in the 50s were moved around so they wouldn't have community ties but instead ties to the company, which is anti-human to the extreme. I did think it was interesting that he combatted the idea of America's greatness being built off the backs of slaves by pointing out that slavery was actually terrible for the south, as reliance on slavery retarded their economic system well after the Civil War.
  • Would I recommend it: If you're into political books, sure.

 

American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson

  • Genre: True Crime - forensic history
  • Why I read it: I love historical true crime
  • What I thought of it: It was ok, but kind of didn't make the case for him being "The American Sherlock Holmes" (even though people really did call him that back in the day), in that a lot of his conclusions ended up being a little dubious. Still, from a research perspective, it did establish when various forensic practices started being used in the USA.
  • Would I recommend it: Maybe? I personally liked Father of Forensics more. I'd say this book is, like, 3/5 stars, just because it could have been tightened up a bit.

 

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

  • Genre: Horror
  • Why I read it: It's spooky season!
  • What I thought of it: Having already seen the movie, I knew pretty much what was going to happen, but I love Gaiman's turn of phrase. 
  • Would I recommend it: Yes, especially for children who are too young for scarier fair but still want a creepy story.

 

The Horror at Red Hook by H.P. Lovecraft

  • Genre: Horror
  • Why I read it: It's still spooky season!
  • What I thought of it: I honestly liked this a lot more than the Cthulhu mythos stuff. Rather than vague demoniac blasphemies or black cyclopean gulfs, there's a real tangible cult that sacrifices (reanimated?) corpses to a pale, dancing, snickering Thing on a golden pedestal. I dig it.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes. Just... ignore the racism. That goes for all of Lovecraft's stuff, by the by.

 

Herbert West: Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft

  • Genre: Horror
  • Why I read it: Turns out I like HP Lovecraft. Who knew?
  • What I thought of it: You gotta love mad scientists who try to reanimate the dead, right? I think this one would make an excellent mini-series.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes. 


Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

  • Genre: Essay - illustration/comics
  • Why I read it: I loved Hyperbole and a Half, and was excited when I saw Brosh was coming out with another book. 
  • What I thought of it: It was okay. Not as good as her first book, but for an understandable reason: medical complications and her sister's suicide (that's not a spoiler, as the book is dedicated to her sister). Thus, the book had a heaviness to it that the first one didn't. Still there were some parts that made me laugh so hard I cried.
  • Would I recommend it: Maybe? I'd say borrow it from the library, but don't buy it, unless you are also suffering a loss. It might be really relatable and cathartic in that case.

 

The Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft

  • Genre: Horror
  • Why I read it: I like HP Lovecraft
  • What I thought of it: Not as scary as I had been led to believe by my brother, but still a good story. I plan on reading Lovecraft Country at some point, which supposedly flips Lovecraft's racism on it's head, and so help me, if it doesn't make reference to this story and chattel slavery, I'll throw a fit.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes. I like that the cat didn't die. :)


The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft

  • Genre: Horror
  • Why I read it: I just... I just really like Lovecraft, okay?
  • What I thought of it: I find the sea inherently creepy, so when you have a decrepit backwater filled with a fishy stench and secrets, it's gotta be good.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes, especially if you liked the Fishing Hamlet part of the Bloodborne DLC (which I could not help but think of the whole time reading this novella).


The Thing on the Doorstep by H.P. Lovecraft

  • Genre: Horror
  • Why I read it: You know why.
  • What I thought of it: So if you've read enough Lovecraft, especially Dunwich Horror and Shadow Over Innsmouth, you already know what's coming... or do you? Right away, HP establishes that there is a special knock the guy uses with his friend, so I assumed the twist end would involve the Thing appearing in the guy's body but not using the knock, thus revealing itself to be (redacted for slight spoilers). I was wrong. That's not how it played out, and the way it played out was so much creepier!!!
  • Would I recommend it: Yeah! I really liked this one!


Haunter of the Dark by H.P. Lovecraft

  • Genre: Horror
  • Why I read it: Yup
  • What I thought of it: Same ol', same ol, but what I thought was cool in this one was that the supposedly superstitious Italian Catholic immigrants totally know what's up and spend their stormy nights keeping the Haunter at bay with nothing but candles and flashlights. What a neat detail!
  • Would I recommend it: Yup. :)


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