Book Club Finish: Mexican Gothic

I know this is late, but I went back and relistened to some parts, just to make sure that the ending meshed with everything that had happened.

It did. I will probably read (well, listen since I have it as an audio book) this one again. It made it really hard to start another book, whether reading or listening.

This book was satisfyingly Gothic. It was dark, it was eerie, it was creepy, even a little gory at times, but it was sooooo good. To me, it clocked in just shy of horror (which I don’t really like), so I loved it.

Set in the 50s in Mexico, it is written entirely in third-person limited, which is my favorite pov. It allows for the misunderstandings and guessing that plays such an integral part of this story. It wouldn’t be half as creepy if you knew things beyond the main character’s knowledge.

As an aside, I see the mention of fungi in articles and documentaries everywhere now, and that creeps me out a bit. Overlap into the real, so to speak. Still love mushrooms on my pizza, tho.

If you like the Gothic tales of the 1980s, you will love this story. It is even creepier, and more adult, but considering our advanced age if we enjoyed those 80s books when they were published…I think that’s okay. If your teen wants to read, I suggest you read it first to make sure the adult bits aren’t more than they are ready for. This isn’t a one up from R. L. Stine.

Since I listened to this on audio, I thought I would mention the narration. It was well done, the Spanish words clear, and the subtle British accents of some characters just as well done. The narrator made it easy to know who was speaking even before the text tagged the speaker.

This story has eerie overtones that reflect on current events and opinions, and I had an inkling as to what was going on…but it was so much worse!

I won’t write too much more, as I don’t want to give anything away, but there is sweet romance in it, too, as well as misogynistic bad guys and the strong female character that leads you through this tale.

5 stars all the way!

Book Club Start: Mexican Gothic

A little late posting this, as I’ve already started this book. And no, it isn’t an independent-published book. Which is one reason I’m late posting…

Because I’d meant to only do this with indies..

And now I’m half way through (listening as I finally got a Libro.fm account) and I am just loving this. I’d forgotten how much I like Gothic novels (although, there are hints of Gothic in my own work).

And that Libro.fm supports indie bookstores, there’s still a hint of indie in this. Right?

Anyway, there are themes I love, so I figured I would do a book club post on this one, too, probably finishing next Sunday at the rate I’m going.

Then, I’ll get back to indie books if I can. I promise. 🤞

Book Club Start – Cut Her Out in Little Stars

Cut Her Out in Little Stars is by indie author Daniele Kasper, and it is available as a Kindle Ebook (purchase and download here).

Daniele lives in Central Michigan and is married to a horse trainer. According to her bio, she’s lived quite the traveling life; a part of me is so jealous. You can read more about Daniele here.

From the book blurb: A woman lost in time. A star system on the brink of war. A man haunted by past sins. Traitors lurk in the shadows while secrets threaten to put everyone’s life in danger in the cold depths of space. Can a woman trapped in a strange new future be the one to save them or will be she the spark that ignites the war?

I will admit, I’ve already started reading this book, so if you want to read along with me, I’ll wait to post my thoughts until next Saturday (May 29). I thought I’d just gotten the book for this “book club read-along” thing I’m trying to do, but it was part of a book swap, so I need to catch up and write a review.

Anyway – happy reading!

Book Club End – God’s Mountain by Midori Bamba

I finished this book and I think I need to schedule more time to read these. But that will come in another post

For this book, I want to continue the discourse on author voice, as it is quite distinct, and as I mentioned before, to me very Japanese.

I mentioned previously the shorter sentences and limited description. This makes the voice come across as young, but also, and more importantly I think, naive. It is not so much the voice of a child, but the voice of someone who has little experience in the world.

This is true for the main POV character in God’s Mountain. She has not left her small, poor village, and the amount of work it takes to survive means she has thought very little of the rest of the world.

There are religious and mystical undertones in the story from the outset, with the description of a man escorting his elderly father to the mountain to die so as to not be a burden on the family. It is not the young man’s choice, but the father’s. There is a dignity in the father’s words that dug deep into my emotions. For me, the emotion in this scene is palpable, even with the sparsity of description. In my opinion, the lack of descriptors for the mountain and the journey makes the reader focus more keenly on the emotional turmoil.

The naive and unworldly quality of the character voice lends to the mystical feel of the story. It sounds very much like a mythical retelling of folklore, which it is, in a way. But it is told close and first hand, pulling the reader closer to the turmoil in the story.

The simplicity in the telling also lends to the idea of innocence in the telling. That first scene hints to the reader what is coming, but leaves the main character unburdened by that knowledge. You feel for her from the beginning. It roots you firmly in her corner.

The author’s voice in this piece is so much a part of the story, that if you knew Midori, as I did, you would wonder if it was fable or fact. So much of the story is shared in the way that Midori would share stories in person.

This is a well-worth reading tale, even if it is hard to get into at first as the voice seems so foreign to what i would identify as the Western author voice. We all (I mean, we all should) know and love reading Haiku, and there is that quality to the words chosen in God’s Mountain, the dense compaction of emotion in very few, but highly measured, words.

If you read along with me, what do you think of the author’s voice? Is there another voice you would compare it to? Contrast it to?

Book Club Middle – God’s Mountain by Midori Bamba

I know I am late for a concluding post for this book, but…I am not finished reading it. I am struggling…not because there is an issue with the book, but because I am rereading it so close to Midori’s passing.

And the whole book is about the traditional, ritual sacrifice that Japanese elders would make for their families when they became older. It hits a little close to home when I think about Midori’s mind set when she told me she’d been diagnosed with cancer, and that she was simply going to put her affairs in order so that her children’ would not be burdened by it after she passed.

In that first post about starting this book, I mentioned that I expected a lot of Midori to be in this book, I just wasn’t prepared for how much would be in there. I have cried.

But I want to give you something, Make a start on discussion, and I think I would like to discuss the author’s voice, that elusive quality that editors and agents talk about so often but can never seem to really describe. They just know it when they see it.

Midori, in this book, uses a very distinctive voice (she also wrote as O. Snow). This voice, to me at least, is very Japanese. The sentences are short and to the point. Very reflective of Midori, the person.

When speaking to her in person, it is obvious that this is because English was her second language, and Japanese was her native tongue. And though you cannot read the Japanese accent she spoke with, having that personal, prior knowledge, I can hear her speaking the words to me. I think anyone familiar with the cadence of the Japanese, whether speaking in Japanese or English, would hear the words in a similar manner.

As an editor, when I first read this book several years ago, I cringed. I didn’t like the short, somewhat stilted sentences. My own writing, then as now, uses longer sentences and sometimes flowery wording. Back then, I had only spoken to Midori long enough at a writing conference for her to gift me a copy of the book. Back then, I thought I could help her tell her stories.

She didn’t need help.

This story is moving, and the somewhat formal, stilted language seems appropriate now. It adds an authentic quality, making it seem more memoir than fiction, though it cannot be. It makes the characters more Japanese, in a way, setting their language apart from the flowery, long-winded English so often used in Western story-telling.

It is an authentic voice that many an editor may have destroyed if given the opportunity, believing it needed to become more “westernized” for the American reader.

With this reading, I don’t think it does. I have learned an appreciation for the Japanese “voices” made truer by the sentence structure and formality.

If you are reading along with me, what are your thoughts about the “voice” of this story? Do you think it lends to the story, or takes away from it because it is so far from what we would usually read?

Book Club Start: God’s Mountain by Midori Bamba

For this next book I’m going into a slightly different direction with God’s Mountain by Midori Bamba. This is another novella, since so many of us are getting busy again right now and finding time to read can be hard.

I knew Midori (and honestly, I know most of the writers I’ve read books for these book club posts). Midori passed away last September from cancer. I wasn’t able to go see her before she died because of the pandemic.

She didn’t want to give me COVID just because she had cancer. I think she was bitter about her diagnosis. That came across in her emails and socially distanced conversations. I think anyone would; she was diagnosed at stage 4. It was basically a fait accompli that she was dying.

She was also conscious that this brought back memories of my mother’s diagnosis of stage 4 lymphoma back in 2012. My mom died in 2018.

Midori was deeply religious, but also deeply Japanese (she was born in Otaru), and I think this book will reveal something of that. Please join me in this read. You can find God’s Mountain at Amazon.

Book Club Finish – The Wen by Nyall Robert Frye

[Ya know, this is a day late because I failed to hit the “publish” button last night. Sorry.]

Well, for this novella, let’s discuss genre. Over on LinkedIn, where these posts are shared, we discussed whether or not this novella is truly horror. One review on Amazon stated it wasn’t. (You can see more of this over at the Book Club Start post on my LinkedIn account).

And while this LinkedIn reader agreed that it wasn’t horror, he still thought it was a good read. Especially as the story wrapped up in a novella and he doesn’t have much time to read.

I think novellas have made a comeback, not just because of ebooks, but because folx don’t have the time to read like they used to. Our lives have sped up so much and we have so much to do every day.

But, on to genre.

What makes a book horror? I’m probably not a great judge of what is horror, since I don’t usually read horror, and since I liked this novella, maybe thats a sign it isn’t?

Wikipedia defines horror as a “genre of speculative fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, or disgust”. It can invoke fear and repulsion. It further explains there are two type of horror: psychological and supernatural.

By this definition, I would consider The Wen to be horror, a mix of the two subgenres (I won’t go into detail as that would be a spoiler, and I do hope you go read it.)

Now…is it Stephen King level horror? No. But I tried reading Cujo back in high school and couldn’t. Thats probably why I don’t consider myself a reader of horror. 

This one, I could read. And yes, I experienced a bit of fear and revulsion in the end. That anyone could be.. like that…(ooh…no spoilers).

Now, I also read Maverick Heart by Pamela K. Kinney, not realizing it was in the horror genre, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now I should have known, since that’s what she writes.. but I digress.  I’ve also been told my Dhampyr novels (as E. G. Gaddess) are horror. I never knew that when writing them.

So let’s consider intent, as that is a part of the Wikipedia definition. Did the author intend for the story to invoke fear and loathing? I think so, or it wouldn’t be labeled horror. And it did this successfully with me as I read it. With other readers, it did not as that is something they mentioned specifically.

Now I definitely think this story is solidly in the realm of speculative fiction. I think that’s where most of this author’s stories fall. (I have read others by Nyall Robert Frye.) Speculative fiction is a broad, overarching term that encompasses a wide swath of genres, so I’m not certain that helps anyone define a specific genre.

It isn’t science fiction, nor is it fantasy. It isn’t magical realism or alternate universe. It is set solidly in today’s world, with today’s science, but hints at something supernatural.

There is a solid psychological aspect to this tale. There is violent murder. One man playing with the mind of another. Someone doubting their sanity at times. This manipulative character is what caused me to feel revulsion, so yeah, psychology plays a big part in this story.

The supernatural mythology presented in the telling of the story would mean it’s not a pure psychological horror, bleeding over into the supernatural horror. Which is why I think it overlaps the two subgenres.

Maybe the big defining part of whether someone would consider this horror or not is how much other horror they read, and what other books they are comparing it to. As someone who reads only a little horror and has only done that recently, I consider this horror. Maybe it’s accessible horror? Horror light?

Is genre only in the mind of the reader? What do you think? Please share your comments.

Book Club Start – The Wen by Nyall Robert Frye

The Wen by [Nyall Robert Frye]

Our next read is actually a novella – The Wen by Nyall R. Frye (you can get your Kindle copy here). Things are getting busy job-wise for me and my husband, and I’m starting back on Write Night podcast now that it has a slightly different taping schedule (hosted by Travis Tavern Talk; find all his streaming info here).

I have read this author before – he seems to specialize in shorter formats – and enjoy his work immensely (yes – I have also acted as his editor). But I don’t edit stuff I can’t get behind or don’t enjoy. Even if we’re bound by blood.

I hope you enjoy this quick read, and meet me back here on March 6 for my take on his characterization and wade into the horror genre.

Book Club Finish: A Timely Revolution

I hope you got to finish book 1 in this series by Tempie W. Wade. Alert, there may be spoilers here if you haven’t, so proceed with caution.

Let’s continue discussing character; especially the advice that you have to like a main character from the beginning to keep reading.

I didn’t like Maggie. She is young and a bit selfish when the book starts, and frankly, she pisses me off. However, the time travel aspect kept me reading long enough to discover that Maggie grows and develops into someone I start to like by the end.

Writing wisdom states that a reader needs to connect with a character and like them to keep reading. This is an example of how to not do that, and succeed. Maggie matures in this book, and though is sometimes a bit of a “Mary-Sue”, in the end that makes her mistakes much worse.

This is an author who did her research into history, but then gives us characters that our modern sensibilities can relate to. Hint hint: I mean Gabe. You want to know more about Gabe, read the book.

Not just the main character, but side characters (like Gabe) who I hope will stay with us through the series. I mean, there are 5 more books after this one!

I hope Maggie keeps developing and growing, and that I learn to not just like her as a character, but grow to love her. I think that is definitely in the cards.

Did you like Maggie from the start? Why? Or why not? Let me know in the comments.

Book Club Start: A Timely Revolution by Tempie W. Wade

We’ve finished our first book, and if you need to make a comment on that one, visit yesterday’s post. I focused a bit on character, and we can keep discussing that first book while we read this one.

Our next Indie Book Read will be A Timely Revolution: Timely Revolution Series Book One by Tempie W. Wade. Let’s see if we can finish this book by Friday, Feb 5. From what I can tell, if you like romance and magic and history, this is one you won’t want to put down.

This book was the WINNER OF BEST HISTORICAL FANTASY OF 2019 in the American Book Fest American Fiction Awards.

Can’t wait to dig in and read. Should we focus on characters again? Comparing with our last read? Or focus on world-building?

Let me know in the comments if you have a preference. 🙂