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Books I've Been Reading: Dispatch #2

As an indie bookstore owner, I read a lot of books -- which you probably would've have guessed! I love talking about books I've read, past and present, and thought it would be nice to make a little online spot here for faraway friends or those who can't visit the shop in person. In irregular dispatches, I'll collect all the story-feathers and tale-winds I've gathered out in the meadow of pages. I hope you find your next favorite story here!

Summer clings on stubbornly here in hot gusts of wind and oppressive humidity -- but the shift to autumn is, I think, complete, with Mabon settling its soft cloak over this corner of the world. The weather forecast promises what we can hope is the final break into cooler days, and I'm beyond ready to curl up with my favorite horror tales, a worn sweater and a hot cup of tea. The stories below definitely speak to that!

The Gates by John Connolly

Samuel and his dachshund, Boswell, accidentally witness some strange happenings at 666 Crowley Road just a few days before Halloween. The neighbors have summoned Satan, not entirely on purpose. The gates to Hell threaten to open. Terrifying beings yawn and itch just beyond the gap. Who is poised to save the world? Little Samuel and even littler Boswell, of course. This story is sheer delight from start to finish with Connolly's trademark dry wit and wonderful imagination. I re-read this tale every Halloween season and it never disappoints. $8.99 in paperback.

Love, Chai and Other Four-Letter Words by Annika Sharma

Sourcebooks kindly sent me a review copy of this title, and I'll be honest -- I sort of wondered if I should even bother or just hand it off to one of my friends or booksellers. I'm not really one for romance books, generally, but I think the ~general horror of literally everything ever~ made me say, "you know what, I'll give this one a try." (It also helped that this title looked much more interesting than other similar books, to be honest.) I'm so happy I did start reading -- Sharma has created a love letter to New York City and India nestled within a whirlwind romance. Though the general plotline is delightfully cheesy and just what you want, Sharma also skillfully addresses the issues of interracial relationships and the reality of trying to live with one foot in two very different worlds. $14.99 in paperback, restocking next week! (You all seemed into this one as well!!) 

It's Your Funeral! by Kathy Benjamin

The lovely Rebecca at Quirk Press knows exactly the kind of stuff that's perfect for Spiral, so I was excited when she dropped off a copy of this book. It's a pitch-perfect guide to planning the kind of death ritual you'd like for your loved ones when you kick the bucket. I know this sounds incredibly morbid, but Benjamin strikes an effortlessly funny and backhandedly comforting tone to guide even the death-anxious through the reality of ensuring your end-of-life ritual is exactly what you wanted. This guide is definitely aimed at Americans who lack a cultural heritage around how to process death, but for that demographic, it's just wonderful. I'm pretty comfortable with my own mortality and have absolutely already thought about what rituals I would like for my loved ones at my end, and I still found it helpful and super engaging. It also features a workbook-like structure where you can fill out different prompts, which is a lovely addition, I think.  $16.99 in hardcover.

I've also decided to include at the end of this little dispatch some things I didn't like so much -- not to be negative, but to be transparent with you folks about books you might be interested in yourself! I always love when people enjoy things I don't, so don't let this stop you -- let it inform you.

Neon Gods by Katee Roberts (published 6/1/2021) -- a promising Hades and Persephone retelling is marred by a complete lack of chemistry between characters, weird -- not steamy -- sex scenes, and really bizarre dialogue. I was more interested in the politics and worldbuilding of this book than the erotica, which is ... not a good sign.

A Spell of Rowans by Byrd Nash (due out 10/26/2021) -- I was excited for a thriller blending magic, murder and romance, but this fell very flat for me. The characters were painfully one-dimensional, the grand conclusion was eye-rolling and the worldbuilding was question-inducing at best.