We all know how vital reviews are, and yet even we writers often forget to leave them. My goal this year has been to get better. I’ve read for 94 weeks in a row, and since my birthday last year, 192 consecutive days. Reading makes us better writers, and reviewing makes us better friends. Here are the books I made friends with in May.

Necrow by Querus Abuttu

How can I even begin to talk about this book without giving away spoilers? In Iron Shores, Chief of Police Judith Ware faces an ancient threat that’s killing the town’s men and desecrating women’s graves. Sludging through torrential rains that won’t stop, Ware collects an unlikely group of heroes that includes a minister, a physician, a bookstore owner, a paranormal celebrity, various kids and some supernatural allies to uncover the mystery. With rich Gothic descriptions that satisfied on so many levels, the perfect amount of tension and constant unexpected turns, I couldn’t stop reading.


Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

This book has been great! Clear provides a practical framework for improving daily habits. A leading expert on habit formation, he offers real strategies to build good habits while breaking bad ones. He argues that bad habits persist not due to lack of willpower but flawed systems and emphasizes that success stems from effective systems, not lofty goals. Drawing on biology, psychology, and neuroscience, Clear simplifies complex concepts into actionable steps and includes true stories from successful people to demonstrate how small habits can lead to significant achievements.


Creep This Way: How to Become a Horror Writer With 24 Tips to Get You Ghouling by Rebecca Cuthbert

Hilarious, fun and warm, Rebecca Cuthbert has written a book that can be a best friend for aspiring horror writers. This essential and pressure-free guide has been well-praised by industry professionals for addressing the practical aspects of a writing career from finding your community and embracing rejections to managing finances and seeking book reviews. Cuthbert’s advice, delivered in a friendly and supportive tone, offers clear, actionable steps to help writers navigate the path to publication. With insights from her own journey, this guide is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to turn their horror writing dreams into reality.


Alive in the Fire by Beth Hildenbrand

This book of poetry explores the emotional journey of love, from the initial sparks of desire to the profound experience of loss. As the passion wanes, feelings of rebellion, doubt, and intense emotions arise, leading to a period of introspection and renewal. This cleansing by fire allows for rebirth and rejuvenation, symbolizing the cyclical nature of love and personal growth. Hildenbrand’s poetry narrative captures the transformative power of these experiences, illustrating how they shape and renew us, celebrating the profound and invigorating process of being alive in the fire of our emotions.


Do Over by Juliet Rose

A respectful and well-researched presentation of undiagnosed dissociative disorder as experienced by Samantha Rutliff, a girl who has lived life disconnected from feeling. After she commits what she feels is an unforgivable betrayal, she finds herself driving through the night with a possible concussion, determined to start over. She takes a job as a waitress and finds the town she has inadvertently dropped into is growing on her. I appreciated how Rose handled the diverse characters in the story. Despite their flaws, or maybe because of them, each of them finds a way to not only be the hero in their own story, but in the people and stories they connect with.


100 Unusual Prompts for Writers of Horror, Weird, and Bizarro Fiction by J.W. Donley

I’ve loved writing from prompts for years, and some of my favorite poems and prose have been the result of my getting out of my comfort zone. Usually I wind up putting a dark twist on something nice, but Donley’s book is perfect for those of us whose imaginations stray beyond the boundaries of polite prose. I’ve never met a prompt book I didn’t like, but this collection offers 100 prompts specifically designed for horror, weird, and bizarro fiction. Anyone wanting to ease into these subgenres can simply flip to a random page to find plenty of dark inspiration. Writing from these prompts can break out of your comfort zone and possibly into a cold sweat. Looking to push your boundaries? Here you go.


Weird Fiction Quarterly – Monsters 2024 edited by Scott J. Couturier

I picked up this copy of Weird Fiction Quarterly because I was interested in writing a story for them. I didn’t expect to find such a well curated collection of nightmares that would keep my flipping pages until the sun was up several mornings in a row. How much story can you find in just 500 words flash fiction? All you need. The editors of WFQ manage to somehow make a collection of sinister mermaids, horrible Christmas sweaters and not-so-nice snowmen all tied up in a neat, monstrous theme. Even better, I read it in the southern hemisphere as winter was setting in so I got the full, chilly experience.


Becoming the Twilight Empress: A Theodosian Women Novella by Faith L Justice

I haven’t read that many historical fictions, but this book by Faith L. Justice has made me a fan. The story follows Placidia in A.D. 408, as she struggles to survive amidst violence and betrayal. Her world collapses when her emperor brother accuses their powerful foster father of treason. Placidia experiences many of the same issues women of our own time face, including toxic relationships and unreasonable expectations but add a little extra excitement with a forced marriage, assassins, and barbarian threats and you have a brilliant story expertly crafted. I was happy to find out this was a series, because I’ll be returning.


Find your Authortunities,
a free weekly calendar of author opportunities
for busy writers at authortunities.substack.com.
🦝🧡🦝

By Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is a third-generation Ryukyuan-American, award-winning poet, author, and publisher with 20+ years in newspapers. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), two-time Bram Stoker Awards® Winner, and HWA Mentor of the Year, she shares Authortunities, a free weekly calendar of author opportunities at authortunities.substack.com.

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