Sunday, January 28, 2018

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | January 28

Short update today! I spent some time reading last week, but the blogging just did not happen for me.

One of the things I wanted to share was the preliminary ballot for this year's Bram Stoker awards. All of my favorites from last year made the prelims. In the Valley of the Sun, The Final Reconciliation, Garden of Fiends, Paperbacks from Hell, The Last Harvest... I can't wait for the official nominations so I can read the ones I missed out on last year.

Read Last Week

I should have included Writing Horror on my update post last weekend, but I forgot so I'm including it this week. It was a reread from my shelf. I have several dark writing books that I have read over the years, and I'm enjoying revisiting them. Since this was published in 2000, the market advice is outdated, but it has recommended reading for each subgenre of horror which is nice for any horror fan.

I also read Truly Devious which I will try (crosses fingers) to write a review of this week. It was a library grab.

Current Distractions

I spent the night with my grandmother last weekend for her 88th birthday. She's a huge horror fan so I grabbed a few movies for us to watch. I had seen IT at the theater, but it was even better the second time around. Happy Death Day was a fun slasher flick, but it had exactly the type of characters that have earned horror its bad reputation. Mother was well done, but I will probably never watch it again.

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading (or watching) this week or leave me some links!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.


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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | January 20

I hope everyone is starting to warm up! We had a couple of "winter weather" days here that kept us all home from work/school. It snowed! But the snow didn't stick. It just helped contribute to the icy road conditions. It was beautiful to watch, though.

I used some of the time away from work to finally join Instagram. If you are on Instragram, come find me at bookdenjen!

Posted Last Week

Last week I posted about my 2018 Bookish Resolutions/Goals.

Read Last Week

You by Caroline Kepnes has joined the short list of books that have made me root for the bad guy. Oh, Joe. Joe is a stalker who works in a bookstore, and You is the story of his relationship with Beck. I listened to the audiobook version, and the narrator was fantastic. You wasn't a perfect book, but I don't care. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind I will remember this book.

9/10: Highly Recommended

Review Copies

Zero Day (The Hatching #3) by Ezekiel Boone - I grabbed an ecopy of Zero Day by Ezekiel Boone this week. Zero Day is the final book in his series about killer spiders. Half of me wonders what I am doing reading a series about spiders and the other half of me can't wait to see what's going to happen. I'm predicting this will be most intense of the series.

Current Distractions

Bright had so much potential, but my overall thoughts is it was just a bad movie. The writing and the directing were so bad. It turned out really cheesy for me. Have you seen it? I really hope a lot of people got more enjoyment out of it than I did.

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading (or watching) this week or leave me some links!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Tynga's Reviews' Stacking the Shelves, and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.


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Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 Bookish Resolutions/Goals

Top Ten Tuesday moves to That Artsy Reader Girl this week. This week's topic is Bookish Resolutions/Goals. I only have four bookish goals I plan to focus on this year.


My personal reading goal before becoming a book blogger was always 50 books a year so that's the number I set for my Goodreads goal each year. If I hit that goal at some point during the year, I'm good. It's great to read more than 50, but that's not something I set out to do.

2018 TBR Jar

I've already posted a list of the books I put into my 2018 TBR Jar. These are books that have been on my shelf for quite some time. Each month I plan to draw a title from the jar. There are 15 titles in the jar to allow for mood reading, and I would love to read at least 10 of them by the end of the year. I drew my January title over the weekend, and I'm so excited to pick it up this week.

Nonfiction/Children's Books

One great thing about blogging is I've been able to see patterns in my reading over the years. Despite my love of nonfiction, I don't read very much of it these days. The exception is when I'm in a reading slump. I tend to land on nonfiction when my regular reading comes to a halt. This year I'm going to try to plan for these slumps and purposefully read both nonfiction and children's books when I feel a slump in the works. I've been reading less and less children's books lately (outside of what I read with/to my kids), and this is not a trend I would like to see continue.

Short Stories

I want to do a much better job at tracking short stories this year. I will probably do a monthly wrap up that includes short stories. That may motivate me to read more of them, too. I have a lot of stories I'd like to make my way through this year.

That's it for me! Do you have any goals you really hope to accomplish this year?


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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | January 13

The first half of the week was great for reading and blogging. The second half... not so much. My oldest turned 11 this week. We had family over to celebrate Thursday night. He, then, had a slumber party last night so I have extra kids at the moment!

I'm in the middle of a couple of amazing books, but I haven't picked them up in days! Hopefully I can gush all about them next week.

Posted Last Week

Last week I posted about my 2018 TBR Jar and the book titles I will be reading this year.

I also reviewed Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Read Last Week

I loved having the contrast between the "old weird" and the "new weird" this week. (Thanks for the "new weird" term, Mogsy! It's definitely fitting.) My "old weird" read was another short story from Algernon Blackwood called The Listener. I could really see the influence he had on Lovecraft reading this one. I love Blackwood's writing, and all of his stories seem to be about hauntings. I'm loving making my way through his stories. I listened to a LibriVox recording of this one. If you aren't familiar with LibriVox, they are audiobooks of public domain works made by volunteer narrators. This recording was part of a collection called Short Ghost and Horror Collection 027. All of the stories were performed by different narrators, and the narrator for The Listener was Mike Pelton. He's really fantastic! He also narrated the H.G. Wells short stories in that collection so I will definitely be listening to those, too!

My "new weird" book was Jeff VanderMeer's Annihiliation. I know I'm a fan of old weird, but the verdict is out on the new. I did enjoy Annihilation - especially the beginning. You can read my full review here.

Review Copies

The Hematophages by Stephen Kozeniewski - I was offered a copy of The Hematophages by the author, and I immediately accepted. I have been hearing so many great things about this book, and it made several "best of" lists last year including reviewers I trust. I don't know much about the story itself beyond there being alien parasites. I'm looking forward to giving it a read.

Current Distractions

I finally finished watching The Punisher. I'm so happy! There were some twists and turns that did entertain me at the very end. The Punisher is definitely not one of my favorite shows, though. I do hear Jessica Jones will be back in March.

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading (or watching) this week or leave me some links!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Tynga's Reviews' Stacking the Shelves, and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.


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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book Review | Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation is the first book in Jeff VanderMeer's scifi/horror trilogy Southern Reach.

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Seeing the trailer for the Annihilation movie has jumped started me into finally reading this trilogy.

Annihilation follows the twelfth expedition into Area X. I can't really explain Area X to you because even though I've now read Annihilation, I still don't understand it. (I don't think I'm supposed to understand it, either.) The previous expeditions in Area X all ended in some form of death so we don't have very high hopes for the folks setting out on expedition twelve. There are four women heading out on this expedition - the biologist, the psychologist, the surveyor, and the anthropologist.

The characters are referred to by their profession instead of by their names. The lack of names bothered me at first. I felt like the author thought I was too dumb to remember both the names and the occupations of the characters. This aspect of only calling the characters by their profession grew on me, though. It made more and more sense as the story went on, and even became helpful when we started diving into what happened on the previous expeditions.

Another complaint that got better as the story went on was the backstory of the narrator and her husband. I didn't like the chemistry there so it was hard for me to get on board with their relationship or find any interest in that part of the story. It's something I was able to overcome by the end.

This isn't to say Annihilation started out weak. It was quite the opposite. I was really hooked to the story in the beginning. It was so creepy and so imaginative. As the book went on, though, the focus continued to change. Toward the end I wished I was reading a detailed summary of the book instead of trying to wrap my head around what I was actually reading. I think the combination of the writing and the unreliable narrator kept me pretty distant from the story. I wanted some sort of book translator to explain it all to me. I definitely had more questions than answers.

Despite my lack of interest in certain aspects of this book, I really, really liked what was going on with the ending. It has given me extra incentive to move forward with this series. I hope to dive in while I still have a bit of that strangely intriguing feeling happening.

As you can tell, I had mixed reactions to Annihilation through the entire book. I'm uncertain how I feel about it overall. There are aspects of Annihilation I can see growing in my mind and in my memory over time, but I also have a sense of wishing more had taken place and wishing the second half of the book had offered more of what I found in the first half.

I would recommend Annihilation to folks who like weird tales. I think it goes without saying that I would also recommend it to anyone considering watching the movie. I'm anxious to see how the movie makers handle bringing this strange story to the screen. The book feels incomplete (as series books tend to do these days) so I'm nervous that's going to carry over to movie going experience as well.

Any which way you look at it, though, I'm looking forward to watching the movie, and I'm curious to see how the rest of the series plays out in the next two books.

6/10: Good Read


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Monday, January 8, 2018

Ten Books I Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn't

Top Ten Tuesday is currently hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week is all about the books we meant to read in 2017 but didn't get around to reading. I'm listing the books that were published in 2017 that I missed out on. Hopefully I will be able to read some of these in 2018!

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She's not his mother. He's not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.

Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel.

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Aletheia by J.S. Breukelaar

The remote lake town of Little Ridge has a memory problem. There is an island out on the lake somewhere, but no one can remember exactly where it is—and what it has to do with the disappearance of the eccentric Frankie Harpur, or the seven-year- old son of a local artist, Lee Montour.

When Thettie Harpur brings her family home to find Frankie, she faces opposition from all sides—including from the clan leader himself, the psychotic Doc Murphy. But Lee, her one true ally in grief and love, might not be enough to help take on her worst nightmare. The lake itself.

Because deep below the island, something monstrous lies waiting for Thettie, and it knows her name.

A tale of that most human of monsters—memory—Aletheia is part ghost story, part love story, a novel about the damage done, and the damage yet to come. About terror itself. Not only for what lies ahead, but also for what we think we have left behind.

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.

The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you'd rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.

Bone White by Ronald Malfi

Paul Gallo saw the report on the news: a mass murderer leading police to his victims graves, in remote Dread's Hand, Alaska.

It's not even a town; more like the bad memory of a town. The same bit of wilderness where his twin brother went missing a year ago. As the bodies are exhumed, Paul travels to Alaska to get closure and put his grief to rest.

But the mystery is only beginning. What Paul finds are superstitious locals who talk of the devil stealing souls, and a line of wooden crosses to keep what's in the woods from coming out. He finds no closure because no one can explain exactly what happened to Danny.

And the more he searches for answers, the more he finds himself becoming part of the mystery. . .

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move—prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check—is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between ocean and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to settle into their home and their relationship, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The architecture—claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms—becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall—contracting, expanding—and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink. Together the couple embark on a panicked search for the source of their mutual torment, a journey that mires them in the history of their peculiar neighbors and the mysterious residents who lived in the house before Julia and James.

Written in creepy, potent prose, The Grip of It is an enthralling, psychologically intense novel that deals in questions of home: how we make it and how it in turn makes us, mapping itself onto bodies and the relationships we cherish.

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them, a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .

The Dry (Aaron Falk #1) by Jane Harper

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King, Owen King

In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons' friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia's.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

Have you read any of these books? Let me know if I need to make any of them a top priority!


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Sunday, January 7, 2018

2018 TBR Jar

One of my bookish goals for 2018 is to finally read some of the books that have been sitting on my shelf for years. Every year I hope to finally read them, but all of the shining new books I come across are my downfall.

Will this year be any different?

I've gone through all of my physical books and pulled out 15 books that I long to read but never have.

There are 15 books in my pile. I put all of the titles into a jar, and I will pull one book title from the jar each month. I'm a mood reader so I have a little wiggle room to put it back and draw another.

My 2018 TBR "Jar"

My biggest book confession is I've never read Peter Straub's Ghost Story. I plan to read it every. single. year. but I still haven't read it. I have a habit of saving books until the time is right. I'm dumb. I really hope I read it this year.

These are the books in my TBR jar for 2018:

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due
Neverland by Douglas Clegg
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The Fury by John Farris
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
Ghost Story by Peter Straub
Rebecca by Dauphne du Maurier
1984 by George Orwell
Little Brothers by Rick Hautula
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Tell No One by Harlan Coben
The Orchard by Charles L. Grant

I'm most nervous about American Gods because it was a DNF the first time I read it. That was in 2002 so we'll see how it goes this time around.

I was in the middle of reading Summer of Night last year when the IT read-along happened. Having already read IT, I knew I needed to put Summer of Night away for a while. I didn't want to be reading two really great coming of age horrors at the same time.

I suck at challenges so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can get some of these read before the end of the year. Wish me luck!


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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | January 6

It was back to the grind for me this week. I hope everyone is staying warm and safe. I know if it's this cold here, it's really, really cold elsewhere. We even had a tiny bit of snow collect in the valleys on our roof.

Posted Last Week

Last week I posted about my First Book of the Year. I'm loving it so far. I'm doing the slow savor so it will be a little while before it appears on my read list here.

I also posted the Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017.

Read Last Week

The Empty House is another Algernon Blackwood short story. After falling in love with his writing last year, I'm hoping to make my way through his catalog this year. I really loved this one.

Splatterpunk Fighting Back is a charity anthology. All of the proceeds from the book go toward fighting cancer. All of the authors, cover artist, etc. donated their work to the anthology. The current price is at $0.99. Unfortunately, my average star rating for the anthology was 1.5 stars. It's for a great cause, though, if you want to check it out. The first story by Adam Millard is worth the price all by itself.

Review Copies

Mark Matthews sent me a copy of Body of Christ. He's a great writer so I'm automatically down for what he's writing. This is one heck of a book blurb. Is it metaphorical or does this kid have his dad's flesh? WHAT. I'm a bit freaked out. Stay tuned for this one.

A boy readies for his First Holy Communion, but rather than eating the Body of Christ, he takes it home and secretly builds his own Jesus out of communion wafers and the flesh of his dad.

On Halloween night, Jesus shall rise.

After the death of her mother, a girl honors the sanctity of life by tending to the Cemetery of the Innocents, a memorial to the holocaust of abortion and children killed before their time.

On Halloween night, the children shall live, and they are hungry.

The Holy Spirit comes to life in this shocking, transgressive story of Christian Horror.

Gallery Books sent me a copy of Ania Ahlborn's Apart in the Dark. It's a print edition of her novellas The Pretty Ones and I Call Upon Thee. I haven't read either of them so I'm super excited to check them out. It was a great surprise so many thanks to Gallery Books for this one.

Current Distractions

My oldest son got his bottom braces put on early Thursday. Since he and his brother are still off for the holidays, we took the rest of the day to go see Star Wars. I highly recommend a second viewing if you are able to do so. It was even better the second time around. I'm really loving this new trilogy.

It has been nice having the kids home without the stress of homework and extra activities. We've been able to have movie nights and game nights. I've gotten away from posting about the games we are playing, and we've found several favorites. Our latest favorites are Dixit and Wits and Wagers. These are both really great games that anyone can play.

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading (or watching) this week or leave me some links!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Tynga's Reviews' Stacking the Shelves, and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.


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Monday, January 1, 2018

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is currently hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week is all about the new authors we read in 2017. I discovered some new favorites this year, and I finally read an author I've been hoarding for years. Here are ten authors I read for the first time last year (and the books I read by them).

Rachel Caine

I met Rachel Caine at a book signing last year, and I wound up loving her reading style. I'm glued to her Stillhouse Lake series. I need to go back and read the books I've been missing out on.

Grady Hendrix

Paperbacks from Hell is one of my favorite books from last year. It's a fun, gorgeous, witty, informative book on the history of the horror genre. I'm glad I grabbed a copy of My Best Friend's Exorcism because deciding not to read Grady Hendrix was a mistake.

Algernon Blackwood

Algernon Blackwood is probably my favorite discovery of 2017. I have several of his stories lined up for this year.

Todd Keisling

After reading and loving The Final Reconciliation, I was excited to read some more short work by Todd Keisling in his Ugly Little Things. He's an author I will continue to follow.

Edith Wharton

I may be cheating by adding Edith Wharton to this list. I DNFed Ethan Frome in a previous year. I really enjoyed her writing in Summer, though. Summer must have been quite the scandalous book back its day, too. I have a collection of her ghost stories on my shelf that I look forward to checking out.

Sarah Pinborough

This is the most shocking entry on my list. I've been buying books by Sarah Pinborough since the days of Leisure Horror, but I think this is the first book by her I've actually read. I have no excuses.

Richard Chizmar

It's possible I've read some short stories by Richard Chizmar, but this is the first longer work (albeit only novella length) I've read. I look forward to reading more of Chizmar's work.

Mercedes Yardley

Mercedes Yardley is another author I will continue to read. I have another book or two by her on my kindle I need to read. I love the imaginative quality of her writing.

Ira Levin

I finally read Ira Levin this year. Rosemary's Baby was a treat, and at some point I need to read more of his work.

Kim Liggett

I'm excited about discovering Kim Liggett. I haven't had much success with Young Adult Horror, but Kim Liggett is one to watch. The Last Harvest was straight up horror which is not something I usually find in the YA world.

Are these authors new to you or have you been wise enough to read them long before now?


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