May 2021 Reads

Time for May’s reading wrap-up. (A little late, but better than never!)

Afterlife With Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Illustrations by Francesco Francavilla and Jack Morelli. Issues #1 to #5.

Rating: ***

    

The beginning of the end. When Sabrina unwittingly unleashes an unspeakable evil onto Riverdale, the dead rise, and the gang must do all they can to survive.

I hit a bit of a reading slump around March, so I supplemented my usual reading with some comics just to break it up a bit. I don’t really know my way around horror comics, so I hit Kindle Unlimited and found the Afterlife With Archie series. I read #1 to #5 as the rest of them were not a part of the Unlimited subscription. Overall, I enjoyed them! They’re quick, fun reads, some great artwork, and the premise was neat if not a bit overdone.

My main gripes were just the pacing was a little off for me. Slow, picked up, then picked up a bit too much – #4 and #5 especially felt rushed. To me, at least. If they had been on Unlimited, would I have read the rest? Probably. But I don’t feel invested enough to buy them, unfortunately. Not bad, but not brilliant for me.

Note: if anyone has any horror comics or manga to recommend me, please send them my way!

 

Three Poems by Hannah Sullivan

Rating: ****

Hannah Sullivan’s debut collection. Three poems both apart and interconnected. A lurid exploration of life within New York, a point of upheaval and the experience of returning, a look into the notions of birth, life, and loss.

I actually purchased this book in a mystery package, so I had absolutely no clue what the collection was, what it would be like, etc. I’m glad I went in blind, honestly, because I think if I’d have heard about this collection beforehand, I’d have deemed it not my cup of tea at all. I’ve found, especially with poetry, others are so polarized and set in their ways about what they enjoy and praise, that I find it easy to be swayed away from exploring ‘unlikely’ candidates.

I think I will get more mystery bundles to branch out now. Because what do you know? I loved this. Whilst some may find the format difficult to digest, I adored it. The first poem was possibly my favorite of the three, though. So vivid it hurt in places. Almost a balance between brutal honesty and a rose-tinted outlook on life and all its jagged pieces. Loved the choice of second-person narrative, even if it felt a bit too heavy-handed in some areas. The looping and juxtaposition of the last poem were wonderful, as well. Shaved a star off simply because the second poem didn’t quite feel as strong, for me, as the open and close did.

 

Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite

Rating: ***

Trevor McGee, haunted by the horrific murder of his family at his father’s hands, returns to his North Carolina home in search of answers, and soon discovers he is being haunted by the same demons that plagued his father. Zach Bosch, running from his own misdeeds back in New Orleans, finds himself unwittingly entangled in Trevor’s search for answers.

Out of the gate, I have to say I love the way Brite writes. It’s captivating. Transports me back to my late teens when I was initially getting into darker fiction. There’s intense attention to detail, even with the most mundane situations, environments, or interactions. For some, it might be a bit of a chore or come across as extravagant and bloated, but for me, it was so lovely I savoured each line.

Brite beautifully executed the opening section in particular. It’s steeped with questions, mystery, a very morbid and brutal tone to set the cogs in motion. The environment is incredibly alive, as well as the characters. Brite demands you to be invested right out of the gates – and I was.

Admittedly, after such a shocker of an opening, it wasn’t a surprise to find my impatience grew as the story tried to progress, and we got a feel for who would come into play in this story. I did actually put the book down for a week because of this but quickly picked it back up because I wanted to know what happened. What was at play to lead to such horrors occurring in that house?

Unfortunately, this is where my appreciation dipped. The horror, which I was readily and eagerly expecting, became pushed to one side. Our secondary lead, Zach, and the manhunt attached to him felt so very far away, near instantly. Trevor’s return to his home to unravel his dark past grew smothered under romance, one that unraveled near-instantly. And whilst yes, I could feel a connection between the characters, and the more intimate scenes were very well done, I couldn’t stop pining for more terror from Trevor’s childhood home. And, it has to be said; Brite didn’t sell the ending to me, either. Satisfying enough? I guess. But it didn’t hold a candle to the gripping opening.

Overall, the initial half of the book holds strong promise, and the horror scenes we did get, while simple enough, were well done. It’s just certain aspects of this novel felt so far away. Blurred, or faded out, or not a whole, complete thing. Would I read this again? Honestly, yes. But I’d always wish it was just a little more.

 

That’s all my May reads! I’ll try to get June ones posted quicker next time around.

 

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