Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Book Review: The Haunting of Alejandra

The Haunting of Alejandra 
by V. Castro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Readers should be warned this is a horror novel. At first it may not seem as such but by the end there is visceral, gory, graphic events that may make some queasy or uncomfortable.

For another woman this book could rank extremely high. It’s about the female legacy of generational trauma; and how as women we often tend to take on everything that our families suffered, we suffered and that future children may suffer.
I broke this particular strain many years ago. Being unable to carry a child to term, and choosing not to try, have surgery, or adopt; as a childless woman I believe I hold less guilt than many. I am not guilty of what the world will look like for my children; nor do I begrudge anyone for my sacrifices. I think for many women this is reality and so I see a very important place for The Haunting of Alejandra on many women’s shelves.

I loved the Mexican culture entwined into this story. Castro does a wonderful job of telling the story of La Llarona and instead of twisting it to her needs she creates something a bit different. Her use of the drowned woman who took her children with her in the river remains intact while still allowing Castro room to tell Alejandra’s story (along with all the women who came before).

My biggest critique of this novel is that it feels a little too strong on its hatred for men. Yes men kept women down (and in some cases continue to) but to hang every woman’s happiness on the man in her life seems a bit unfair. By the end we get a reprieve of this; but it felt a little too late for me. I can’t condone hating all men. As then my husband would not be the wonderful man he is. Nor would so many other men I have known over the years. Yes history is fraught with awful things and arranged marriages and a lack of purpose for women; but if we begrudge this too much and hang on too tight we won’t be able to break the cycle. I want to believe that we are gaining ground as women to make our own choices.

I would remiss to write a review and not mention the transgender representation here. It snuck up on me and but unsuspecting but felt like the perfect inclusion of how trapped someone can feel inside their own skin. In a way that is what this book is about, or can be for some. Finding yourself and being okay with that self that you find. This comparison and inclusion nearly pushes The Haunting of Alejandra to four stars for me; but alas I cannot ignore the lull I felt and desire to just reach the end by about three quarters of the way through.

All that said I do believe many people, especially women, will really connect with this book. Just because it wasn’t that for me doesn’t mean it won’t be that for you or others. And so while I give it only 3 stars I think if your identity feels far away, you feel trapped in life by marriage, circumstance or otherwise this is the perfect read for you. I hope everyone can find the strength to fight back their demons and be comfortable selecting their own path that gives them some happiness. It may not be perfect; as life never is, but at least it can be yours. The Haunting of Alejandra may help you see those choices and give hope to fight those demons.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Book Review: Night of the Living Queers

Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror DelightNight of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror Delight 
by Shelly Page
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did I just finish these thirteen creepy blue moon stories moments before midnight on the evening of a Blue Supermoon while a thunderstorm starts overhead… yeah not joking, that’s for real what is happening right now.
And I didn’t even try to time it as I didn’t even know about Blue Supermoon until yesterday and I started reading after my hubby went to bed… so yeah are things feeling a little bit creepy right now?! They sure are.

Not unlike the stories in this book. Most are quite queer, quirky, and will make you quiver.

Story #1 - Welcome to the Hotel Paranoia by Vanessa Montalban
A fairly cliche horror story. Only really briefly relevant that the main gal is queer; but that was fine with me.
No real exciting twist or horror here; but the story set a mood that seems appropriate to kick off this anthology.

Story #2 - The Visitor by Kalynn Bayron
Sweet little story about why it’s important to obey the rules.

Story #3 - A Brief Intermission by Sara Farizan
Not really all that scary to me. Just lacked real substance.

Story #4 - Guested by Rebecca Kim Wells
By far the creepiest and best story so far.
Lacks any real ‘queerness’ to it; but I don’t even care because the concept and idea here is brilliant AND the execution is spot on.

Story #5 - Rocky Road with Caramel Drizzle
Finally a story where the gayness of our lead character is a major factor to the overall story.
A very sad, but well written story that rings of the kind of vengeance many likely wish upon those who’ve done them serious harm.

”Playing with the dead seems like a pretty loose interpretation of fun, but what else do I have planned?”

What else indeed…

Story #6 - The Three Phases of Ghost-Hunting by Alex Brown
Adorable, very YA or even MG. Super cute lesbians to round off the package.

Story #7 - Nine Stops by Trang Thanh Tran
This female author is taking the world of horror by storm. If you don’t know her name yet then note it now. She’s gonna be huge!
A clever will story with a twist I can’t help but love. Sadness in this story as well as our lead character copes with grief; but at end of the day it’s the horror you’ll stay for.

Story #8 - Layla Mendoza and the Last House on the Lane
”Nothing feels like home when you are not at home with yourself.”

Wow! A brilliantly written trans story that includes some magic to create hope. This is exactly the kind of story I expected in this anthology and I’m so glad it’s here.

Story #9 - In You To Burn by Em. X. Liu
Inspired by an Asian folktale, this story was overlayed to be modern but keep a direct connection back to its origin. I really liked it and would love to see it expanded into a full story or novel.
(I should confess I adore Liu and so may be biased. lol)

Story #10 - Anna by Shelly Page
Yes!! It might be cliche and mostly predictable but this is the kind of story I expected and hoped for in this anthology. It’s perfect in its trope use, lesbian romance, small children as the evil (sort of) and the blue moon Hallowe’en setting, all the authors have used, ties it all together

Story #11 - Hey There, Demons by Tara Sim
I should be fair and warn you I adore Tara Sim’s works to date. Go read Timekeeper trilogy if you want the sweetest gay teen boys romance ever (plus some cool clock magic!).
So it’s not surprising I enjoyed this story. Very much in Sim‘s vein with more gay teenage boys (and demons added in for flair).

Story #12 - Save Me From Myself by Ayida Shonibar
I’m not familiar with Kali Maa; but damn if I’m not going to ensure I learn more about this demon, god(dess), deity; because this story of wishing things into reality is fascinating. These body swaps are way better than Freaky Friday; and have more consequences.

Story #13 - Knickknack by Ryan Douglass
Creepy, cute, and courageous. What more can you ask for in the thirteenth story of a queer blue moon thriller/horror anthology?
For it to be a Blue Supermoon minutes before midnight as thunder rolls?
Cause that is literally what is happening in my life right now. No word of a lie!!!
Meanwhile my pitbull is scared and freaking, that’s not disturbing me at all… what timing to end a wonderful anthology!

While I received an eARC of this anthology I can honestly say it will be highly recommended to many by me; and will be getting a print copy in my personal library. I struggle to give anthologies 5 stars… as usually there is at least one story I don’t connect with, like here. This is a solid 4.5 stars and right on the topics you’d expect based on the authors included and the blue moon queer horror focus.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Book Review: Good Weather Suicide Cult

Reunion of the Good Weather Suicide Cult 
by Kyle McCord
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this story would make a better screenplay or mini-series than a book. I know the author is trying to be creative with the use of the ‘Netflix docuseries’ descriptive chapters. Unfortunately for me they were a bit too dry; even though they involved the key details of the mass suicide and the formation of the cult (which should have made them the most interesting).

At its core Reunion of the Good Weather Suicide Cult is about being a survivor. About how to cope, come to terms with, and ultimately accept that you were a part of a larger event but in a different way than most. Instead you were the only survivor, or one of the few who saw and now carries the horrific sight in your mind, or someone who got lucky and missed the event by some happenstance of fate or karma.

Personally, I would have liked more of our female cop character who witnessed much of the aftermath of the soccer field mass killings. She was very interesting and her conversations with our lead character were probably the best pages of this book.

Overall, this (Kindle only) novel was fine. It wasn’t a thrilling cult story as I had maybe hoped for; and it didn’t go deep enough into the psyche and characters as a true character study novel needs to. It sat somewhere in-between and thus I give it my mediocre rating of 3 stars.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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