“Ring Shout” Review

The cover of the book is read with a hooded KKK member in in the center the eye holes are ruined with teeth at the top and bottom. Black hands are held up in front of the figure. The authors name is near the top of the hood while the title is under the eye holes. Written by P. Djèlí Clark
Published by Tordotcom, October 2020
185 pages
Completed February 20, 2024

In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

This was a very cool short story. I really enjoyed the characters and the way everything played out. Maryse is a great character and I liked the development of her character as she learned more about what was going on and the resolution of everything. I liked that the story has a good resolution while still living things open for more. The fight isn’t over – because things never really end that way but this story has an ending that serves the purpose of the story.

“Mata Oti: Eyes of Death” Review

The cover is mostly blue and shows the upper corner of a persons face so just their eye and cheek are visible. The eye is bright yellow while the rest of the faces is tinted blue. There is a strand of DNA displayed diagonally across the cover as well.Written by Lani Wendt Young
Published by National Library, National University of Samoa, August 2021
295 pages
Completed December 25, 2023

From reclusive librarian to warrior guardian… Iva must safeguard her two nieces as Samoa battles a mutant variant of the deadly virus that’s raging across the world. It transforms people into savage creatures beyond all hope. She’s afraid, but determined to get the children through hordes of the infected to an emergency evacuation plane. It’s a race against time though as the variant rampages through her own veins. Can she fight off the Change for long enough so they all survive?

This was very good book – I really liked the characters and how things played out. The situation starts out very similar to the COVID pandemic with everyone trying to stay safe. The island of Samoa manages to keep the virus out for a while but things go from bad to worse pretty quickly once the virus hits. It also ends up being an engineered virus that got out of a lab accidentally which makes things much worse for everyone. There’s a lot of things going on beyond it just being a virus and the ending makes that very clear as well.

“Mexican Gothic” Review

A young Mexican woman is standing or sitting on the cover visible from the nose down wearing a red dress that wraps around her chest with no shoulders. She has her hands in her lap holding a bouquet of yellow flowers. The background is green wallpaper with floral designs.Written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published by Del Rey, June 2020
320 pages
Completed July 26, 2023

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

I really enjoyed this one. The story does take a while to get going with a slow pace as things unfold but it never really felt like it was too slow. I did think the last few chapters were a bit fast in comparison but it made sense for the story because once the truth came out things had to be dealt with quickly or no one was going to be freed from the house. The description is right that Noemí is an unlikely rescuer or at least she seems that way at first. Given that it’s set in the 50s her personality/behaviors aren’t much of a surprise but the way she handled everything still made sense. I liked the way the central mystery was resolved. There’s a lot that wasn’t explained but like most horror stories some things aren’t ever explained.

“Depart, Depart!” Review

The cover is dark toned water ripples at the top. There's a vague figure of a person in the background mostly under the water. The word Depart is reflected upside down in the water making the two words of the title - Depart Depart. The author's name is at the bottom Written by Sim Kern
Published by Stelliform Press, September 2020
94 pages
Completed June 22, 2023

When an unprecedented hurricane devastates the city of Houston, Noah Mishner finds shelter in the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball arena. Though he finds community among other queer refugees, Noah fears his trans and Jewish identities put him at risk with certain “capital-T” Texans. His fears take form when he starts seeing visions of his great-grandfather Abe, who fled Nazi Germany as a boy. As the climate crisis intensifies and conditions in the shelter deteriorate, Abe’s ghost grows more powerful. Ultimately, Noah must decide whether he can trust his ancestor — and whether he’s willing to sacrifice his identity and community in order to survive.

This a novella, so it’s shorter than my usual reads, but I still enjoyed it. It’s another ambiguous ending however I do think the main point of the story is made and clarified. I won’t spoil it by explaining further, but I felt like the main issue is resolved in a satisfying way so while I would have liked to see more I don’t feel like I need to. There’s an interesting group of characters and the way things played out was very realistic.

“How Long ’til Black Future Month?” Review

On the cover a young black woman is facing towards the right in profile with her long hair styled with decorations that are white geometric shapes. The shirt or dress she is wearing has a thick collar that looks like two rows of white balls. The title of the book and authors name are on the top and bottom of the cover. Written by N.K. Jemisin
Published by Orbit, November 2018
416 pages
Completed June 14, 2023

“Three-time Hugo Award winner and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption that sharply examine modern society in her first collection of short fiction, which includes never-before-seen stories.”

“Spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.”

This is a great collection of short stories all written by N. K. Jemisin. Some of them are early ideas that would become her larger works. Others are stories she had written for other publications. All are great. I also highly recommend reading the introduction to the book for more background and to know where the title of the book comes from. I really enjoyed each story and will likely read more by this author at some point.

“We Don’t Swim Here” Review

The heads of two young people, both Black, are on the cover facing away from each other. One is clearly visible while the other is almost entirely blurred out. The background of the cover is dark greenish blue water at the top and solid black from the middle down.Written by Vincent Tirado
Published by Sourcebooks Fire, May 2023
320 pages
Completed: May 20, 2023

“Bronwyn is only supposed to be in rural Hillwoods for a year. Her grandmother is in hospice, and her father needs to get her affairs in order. And they’re all meant to make some final memories together.”

“Except Bronwyn is miserable. Her grandmother is dying, everyone is standoffish, and she can’t even go swimming. All she hears are warnings about going in the water, despite a gorgeous lake. And a pool at the abandoned rec center. And another in the high school basement.”

“Anais tries her hardest to protect Bronwyn from the shadows of Hillwoods. She follows her own rituals to avoid any unnecessary attention—and if she can just get Bronwyn to stop asking questions, she can protect her too. The less Bronwyn pays attention to Hillwoods, the less Hillwoods will pay attention to Bronwyn. She doesn’t get that the lore is, well, truth. History. Pain. The living aren’t the only ones who seek retribution when they’re wronged. But when Bronwyn does more exploring than she should, they are both in for danger they couldn’t expect.”

This was a really fun read. I was one of those books where once I started I just kept going and finished it all in one go. I loved all of the characters and the central mystery was great. The town was suck in a trap of its own making from the past act and couldn’t see a way out of it because so much had gone into covering up what that act actually had been that only a few left knew the full story. I really enjoyed the resolution of everything though there was on plot point I wish had been explained. I believe I know the answer given what is said throughout the book but it’s never explicitly said nor does anyone in the town seem to realize the truth of that plot point of everything that’s gone on. Though to be fair the main characters are teens and it’s the kind of story where adults don’t entirely know what they should know. It works either way.