Later by Stephen King (5/5)

Jamie Conklin can see dead people. Yeah, kinda like that one kid in that one movie, with an interesting difference: ghosts must answer truthfully when questioned by Jamie. Raised by a single mom, Tia, a literary agent, Jamie is warned by his mother from an early age that others may try to take advantage of his secret ability. If only Jamie could also see the future. 

I’ve always enjoyed King’s characters, but I’m particularly fond of the way he writes kids and young adults. It’s as if King remembers what it’s like to be a kid as if it were yesterday, which, and I try not to think about the reality of this, has not been the case for King for a hot minute. With Jamie as our narrator, I found the dialogue engaging and funny. 

A line that caused me to laugh out loud and merit the stares of my fellow MetroLink riders: a character says that if a particular event happens, that character will “eat his hat.” When the event does indeed come to pass, Jamie, in what to me felt like a Shakespearean-style aside, says he wanted to ask the character “…if he wanted salt and pepper on his hat, but…nobody loves a smartass.”

Prepare to feel emotions for characters you likely won’t feel deserve said emotions, but such is the way of complex characters. Even the ghosts are, at least, not flat characters; Later’s ghosts all seem to have a particular emotion unique to themselves…but I won’t delve too far into that; I’ll let you discover that aspect for yourself, Dear Reader, as King frequently refers to his readers. 

If you enjoyed Stephen King’s Colorado Kid or Joyland but wished they were a little more “IT” or “The Shining,” I highly recommend you check this book out sooner rather than…well, you know.

This review was written for the Ferguson Municipal Public Library blog.

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Sacrifice by Andrew Boylan (4/5)

Thank you so much to the author for reaching out to me to review his book and providing me with a digital copy of the book!

Blurring fact and fiction, Sacrifice drags readers into a waking nightmare where the evils of the past collide with the secrets of the present.

Struggling filmmaker Benny Hernandez stumbles upon a brutalized body in the mountains. As he photographs the victim, he notices something hauntingly familiar about the wounds.

Growing up in New Mexico, Benny heard stories of a cult that rose from the ashes of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680.

As more tortured bodies appear, Benny discovers a pattern that might mean this centuries-old cult has risen again.

This could be the story of a lifetime…if Benny lives to tell it.

Summary from Goodreads

I love me a slow burn and this is one. One of the funnier opening lines I’ve ever read, too; it was a hook! There were times when I had to stop and try to remember who a particular character was, but OOH BUDDY this filled my need for something creepy, yes sir, right up to the very end. I’m not a fan of romance, but a sub-plot of the book presents a romantic element that didn’t make me nauseous and wasn’t jarring to be included with the likes of the rest of the book.

TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR THIS BOOK:

Car accident, injuries to child, graphic descriptions of injuries and gore, gun violence, murder, graphic descriptions of drug addiction and use.

You can find this review not only on this blog, but also on Goodreads, StoryGraph, and LibraryThing. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (4/5)

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I’m still not entirely sure what the “conduction” is, but DAMN Ta-Nehisi can tell a story! I especially enjoyed the love-story-sub-story; it’s the real deal. I won’t say anything else about that. I also enjoyed the moment when I realized a certain character was indeed part of the cast of characters in this story–I did indeed squeal a bit. I, of course, listened to the e-audiobook through Libby as usual and mad props to Joe Morton who did such a great job with the many characters in this title.

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The Drummer Girl by Tim Boiteau (3/5)

Deliriously rich world-building, clever creatures, a winding plot, and a cigar-smoking dragon await. Enjoy the ride.

I got a free digital copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review, and my review can be found in its original form here.

Deliriously rich world-building, clever creatures, a winding plot, and a cigar-smoking dragon await. Enjoy the ride.

Trigger warnings for this book: suicide, schizophrenia, mental institutionalization, very graphic descriptions of gore and death.

After rousing from a potentially illicit-drug-induced stupor Jing realizes she isn’t in Kansas anymore, nor her hometown of Detroit where she’s the drummer in a band, or even Earth for that matter: she discovers she has somehow awoken on an asteroid called Psyche. Jing decides also finds herself preyed upon by a cigar-smoking dragon that feeds on her memories, seemingly protected by an elephantine dog. Through Jing’s memories, the reader discovers that she remembers being committed to a mental institution called Glenbrook for a possible diagnosis of schizophrenia.

The Drummer Girl was clearly simmering in the author’s brain for a significant amount of time. The world-building and descriptions of the features of the world are well-developed and luscious, enabling the reader to picture Psyche in all its fictitious glittering glory. (Speaking of glitter, have you seen the fantastic book cover art?) The creatures inhabiting Psyche as well as the landscapes remind me of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation trilogy with a bit of Alice in Wonderland kissed by the horror fiction fairy.

Is schizophrenia what caused Jing’s mother to take her own life and now wreaking havoc in Jing’s own life? Is this diagnosis propping up Psyche as an schizophrenic-grade illusion, or is Glenbrook trying to tamp down Psyche? Is the asteroid, Psyche, ironically named? Is this all a really bad trip? While I can’t recommend eating while doing so, I do recommend reading The Drummer Girl to find out.

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Road Seven by Keith Rosson (5/5)

“Road Seven” is a magical realism journey during which I laughed out loud dozens of times, but also cried in anger and heartbreak caused by fictional characters. There’s also magical poop and a TV show about lasagna. I happily reread this book four times and of the hundreds of books I’ve read thus far in my life, I can count the number of books I’ve reread even once on one hand. Silly and strange, “Road Seven” is, ahem, a unicorn of a book.
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

This review is also published on Goodreads, and it appears here in its original form. Thanks to BookSirens, Meerkat Press, and author Keith Rosson for my advanced reading copy of Road Seven!

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An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten and translated by Marlaine Delargy (4.5/5)

I’m an elderly lady stuck inside the body of a late-twenty-something, and I want to be friends with the elderly lady who is up to no good.

And though she be but little, she is fierce.

Helena, regarding Hermia, in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night‘s Dream

I cackled all the way through An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good. Yes, a homicidal old lady is a hilarious concept, and none of the five stories disappoint. But my inner old lady and introversion felt a kinship to Maud, and that’s what kept me turning pages. I took off half a star because mysteries aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but I ended up loving these stories and there’s so little of this book!

I cannot tout Maud enough. Little Maud, as we discover, has lived quite a life. Her fiance spurned her because she was not rich. She made a career as a teacher. She cared for her mentally ill sister, Charlotte, until Charlotte’s death. Maud outlived her family and retained ownership of their large apartment. Her neighbors glared at her, a single, elderly lady, and she continued to live her life. Maud earned her comfortable life, which makes the intrusions all the more intolerable.



“Maud lived alone, and she went on vacation alone. That was the way she wanted it. Freedom, no idle chatter, and no problems.”

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good


I recommend this book to anyone rendered mildly homicidal by an overly-extroverted neighbor. If you, dear reader, have ever contemplated the pros and cons of murder to avoid an imminent social situation, I beseech thee: live vicariously through Maud.

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Only happy reading.

Edge of the Known Bus Line by James R. Gapinski (5/5)

This review is expanded from its original review on Goodreads, which can be found here.

My favorite books are the books that I read and simultaneously see as feature films in my mind. Edge of the Known Bus Line, directed by my imagination against a The Walking Dead-esque aesthetic, was queued up in my mind the entire time I read this novella in the few sittings it required.

This immersive story drips with dread and listlessness, however, I will say that I found the beginning to be slow but the rest of the novella was well worth it, especially discovering all the nicknames the jaded, passive-aggressive, and sometimes just aggressive main character gives to the folks she encounters. The nicknames clearly illustrate the resentment she holds for her new sh!thole-mates, and proves to be a dynamic character. Or is she?

Tidbits about the main character’s background and previous life are dropped like breadcrumbs, and are simultaneously an aspect of this novella that I enjoy and despise. I will not go into detail about the breadcrumbs here, because spoilers, but also because the breadcrumbs simply lead off to nowhere. This bothered me because it seems as though the author purposefully, and masterfully, crafted these backstory details to dangle in front of our metaphysical noses. I might be a little bitter.

Mr. Gapinski, if you ever read my blog for any reason, please give me more of this story!

Thanks to LibraryThing for my copy of this book!

Edge of the Known Bus Line may also be found on Kindle Unlimited.

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Only happy reading.

The Engine Woman’s Light by Laurel Anne Hill

You can find my review here. I was paid for the review (my first one ever!) by OnlineBookClub.org.

Not for nothing, OnlineBookClub is a decent starting point for people who want to learn about writing reviews and want to experience the process of writing a review by a deadline, submitting the review to an editor, possibly needing to revise the review because the editor said so with constructive criticism, and then submitting the review to be published.

You Are Not What We Expected (ARC) by Sidura Ludwig (3/5)

A cute little story collection ends up being what I expected.

This book is, indeed, what I expected.

How did I predict the landscape of this book?

The title blares self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe that’s just me.

You Are Not What We Expected is a short story collection in which the stories indirectly share characters, not unlike an ensemble film.

An aspect of this book that I really enjoyed was the setting, a Jewish community. I enjoyed looking up some of the Hebrew words and discovering some to which I was not privy. If you read this book, just know that I had a hard time not picturing Isaac, my favorite character, as Junior Soprano with George Costanza’s voice.

It’s very likely that the story two stories after the one you just read will have the literary equivalent of a reverse shot of a scene you just read. Don’t get me wrong, this is a clever literary device! It would just be cooler if I didn’t predict it the employment of said clever literary device.

Yes, I did enjoy the book at first. However, I knew my journey with it would come to a premature end when I realized that the stories followed an annoyingly similar formula. Sometimes you can enjoy the formula if it’s mixed with the right flavor of writing, but this one didn’t have it for me.

There are some moments, at least one per story, that took my heart strings and served them a good yank. Alas, the yank was in the vein of a kid sibling tugging hair and not the pull of a book that could keep my attention.

Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the ARC!

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Only happy reading.