Hey, you there. Yeah, you. Looking for some books to read? Well, I’ve been reading and since I read a little bit of everything there’s probably something in the below list you’ll like. I recommend them all. So, in reverse chronological order, the last five books I read were …
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. My friend Shiela recommended this one to me, partly because it mentions my hometown of Opelousas about a hundred times. The novel starts out centered on twins Stella and Desiree, Black girls born in the fictional Louisiana town of Mallard. But Mallard has an interesting history. It’s a town settled and populated by light-skinned black people who could pass for white (which might sound familiar to folks from the area). No spoilers, but that ability is central to everything that follows in this multigenerational novel that leaves Mallard for New Orleans, D.C., Boston, L.A., New York and back to Mallard again.
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. Drew recommended this wild ride about Willis Wu, a man unable to see himself as much more than Generic Asian Man in the film of life. His outlook is so constrained that his biggest dream is maybe one day becoming Kung Fu Guy. It’s a weird, wild ride and a refreshingly challenging read.
White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton. I came across this one on Twitter. I think I was following this Denver-based author before I knew he was an author. I’m always looking for fun reads, especially ones that update or play around with a genre and that’s exactly what White Trash Warlock does. There are elves and gnomes and warlocks (and Lizard People!) here, yes. But “here” is modern America, with the action starting in Oklahoma and moving to Denver — with side trips to a parallel universe. It’s the first in a series.
The Halldark Holidays anthology, edited by Gabino Iglesias. What if we took the concept of those cheesy Hallmark holiday movies and … turned them into horror stories? That’s the premise that Iglesias, the author of the mind bending novel Coyote Songs, dreamed up late last year. He put out a call for submissions, found a publisher, picked stories, paid writers, and put this anthology together in three months. (I submitted but my piece was chosen.) The result is 22 stories that range from gory to terrifying to downright funny. My favorite of the lot is “What Happens in the Dark Will Soon Happen in the Light” by Michael Harris Cohen.
Last One Out Shut Off the Lights by Stephanie Soileau. Full disclosure: To my knowledge, I’m not related to the author, but Louisiana being Louisiana, I half expect one of my Soileau relatives to make the connection for me. This literary debut of short stories is set mostly in Southwest Louisiana, and anyone from the area will recognize the humor and warmth of the people — but also the pig-headedness and less charitable traits. Cajuns, rednecks, and immigrants move against backdrops of swamps and refineries. The last story in the collection, “The Boucherie,” was probably the most charming. But I’ll say that “Haguillory,” which started off funny, took a turn that had me almost throw my phone across the room.
If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear what you think. And if those don’t do it for you, you can always pick up my latest, Duck Duck Gator. It’s available everywhere, but the e-book is on sale for $1.99 for a limited time.