Shelf Envy: Santino Hassell

I’m so excited to share Santino’s shelves and his passion for books. I love getting an author’s insight with regards to what influenced their craft as writers so reading about his inspiration is such a delight. We all have that one novel or that one author that blew our minds at one point in our lives so it’s great to see how far those favorites have influenced Santino. This guest post is chockful of great recommendations if you want to celebrate Pride month in all its queer glory so keep reading and discover some fantastic LGBTQ reads.

Thank you, Santino for letting me pick your brain a little bit. I adore these recommendations and I can’t wait to read your series!

 

Who are your favorite authors?

Big question, but if I narrow it down to paranormal and southern gothic horror, I’d say Jordan Castillo Price, Christopher Rice, LJ Smith, Sergei Lukyanenko, Poppy Z Brite, Charlaine Harris, and JR Ward. Of them all, I’d say I always find myself going back to Price’s psychic cop series—Psycop—and her series about a vampire hunter who falls for a swaggering bloodsucker—Channeling Morpheus. And I’m always excited when Rice releases a new book, whether it’s paranormal erotica or horror.

When I started editing and revising Insight, the first book in The Community trilogy, I was really inspired by both Rice and Price. Some of Rice’s books have this southern gothic atmosphere that I’m absolutely addicted to, and the entire idea of this huge psychic community running parallel to the rest of the world but remaining secret was inspired by Psycop, where the knowledge of psychics led to them being experimented on and used in various ways.

What was the last book you purchased?

The last book I purchased was The Mistress Files by Tiffany Reisz. I’m drafting a F/F novella, and this anthology just called my name. Her writing is so intense.

Where do you usually read?


What is the most controversial book on your shelves?

Probably Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite. It’s a southern gothic horror with queer vampires, queer grunge kids, and all kinds of blood lust and danger. It’s a book I adored as a young person because it was the first book I read with SO MANY queer characters, and I was always addicted to that kind of drippy romantic atmosphere (which I tried to reach that level in both Insight and Stygian, my paranormal southern gothic romance), but I reread as an adult and realized the treatment of the women in the book is intensely problematic.

What is the one book you would recommend to everyone you know?

Channeling Morpheus by Jordan Castillo Price, which contains the first several novellas in that series. There’s just something really special about Michael and Bill’s story. Michael starts out with a vendetta against all vampires to get revenge for his slain friend, but then he meets Bill… the vampire he falls for. There is a lot of sex in the first couple of novellas, but after the connection between them is made and solid, their relationship evolves until they’re constantly questioning who they are and what they want from this quest of Michael’s. Is Michael, a vampire hunter, actually the bad guy since he sometimes makes bad choices? Does he actually hate vampires or… does he want to become one?

It’s those kinds of questions, the hard questions that really make you think about these characters and their actions, that I wanted for Insight and now for Oversight. The main characters in The Community are up against this organization that they were always told was put in place to protect them from non-psychics, but now they have to come to grips with the reality that they’ve been living a lie. And that they can trust no one but each other.


Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Connect with Santino: Website | Twitter | Instagram | FB Group | FB | GR | Tumblr


 

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 208

 


Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia | Letters to the Lost by Bridgid Kemmerer | The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion | The Golden House by Salman Rushdie


In the Summer of My Discontent

Hi, guys. I know, I know. I’m still missing in action for most of the week in the blogosphere. I don’t know what tell ya. I can’t bleed a stone. I simply can’t find a good stride between juggling all the things I’ve got going on in my life. Because I’ve been sick, I’ve also missed time so of course, work has been hectic. I’m thankful that I’m still 19 books ahead of my Goodreads challenge, otherwise, that’s another pressure on my shoulders. I know I’m missing out on so many posts but just…thanks for your patience and continued patronage. I appreciate you.

The Beauty and Obese

Meanwhile, I just got my recent fitness assessment and it looks like my hard work for the last month has paid off. I lost 15 lbs and have managed to lose 10% body fat by working out; by walking, and keeping track of my macros. I’m fast becoming a boot camp worshipper and a calorie counter nut job (I’m not even sorry). My goal is to lose 50 lbs by October, but if I keep pace with this kind of weight loss, I might be able to reach my goal even before that. I’m absolutely floored when my trainer told me my new numbers. Even she couldn’t believe it! Especially since I lost 3 points of Visceral Fat in just a month of working out religiously.

Fit Readers

June 12, Monday = 14,645
June 13, Tuesday = 14,366
June 14, Wednesday = 16,542
June 15, Thursday = 15,592
June 16, Friday = 17,673
June 17, Saturday = 18,638
June 18, Sunday = 17,505
Total Steps for the Week: 100,316

Currently Reading

I am in the midst of reading all three books. So far, I can only complain about the repetitiveness of The One Memory of Flora Banks. Otherwise, I’m enjoying them all. I haven’t finished a book for a couple of weeks now. I also attempted to read Dating You, Hating You by Christina Lauren but I returned the audio book. It is not one of their best work, in my opinion.

This Week…

I don’t know, in all honesty. I’m hoping to finish any one of the books above so I can write a review. Otherwise, my priority is to catch up on Bloglovin’. I’m missing so much!

[723]: Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water
by Paula Hawkins


If you like unraveling twisted knots and threads, Into the Water is a must read for you. However, if you’re one of those impatient readers like me, you would probably have a hard time resisting the urge to DNF.

One of the things I typically don’t enjoy when I’m reading a book is when it has an overpopulation problem. Meaning, it’s laden with so many points of view that it had become difficult to discern whichever way the author wanted to take the story.

Paula Hawkins became an instant household name after her successful debut, The Girl on the Train. Many have waited upon bated breath for her follow up novel. While I can see the painstaking method to her mad talent, I just can’t see past all the POVs to consider myself a fan.

I’ve just about given up on this one. I grew impatient many a times while reading. It was like trudging through a jungle and having to whack my way past the overgrown vines just to clear a pathway. Eventually, I decided I couldn’t waste the time I’ve already invested in the story. And with due patience, I learned to ignore the white noise and focus on what was going on within the story.

The novel opens with a character casually telling the readers how she was about to die. Some hostile men, it seemed, were set on drowning her. When she came up for air, the man in charged told them to dunk her again until she drew her last breath. After, we’re introduced to Jules Abbott. The sister of the drowned woman that we’ll later know was a water creature all her life. That’s why Jules could not believe that she would kill herself by throwing herself off the river. Even mysterious still, was the number of women who have drowned in the same river.

Despite the 11 narratives featured in this book, the author would have you believe that Nel’s is the focal point of the novel. Let’s say that her story would drudge up some ugly truths, painful past, and mysterious deaths. But because the author withheld a lot of information as a way to build up the mystery, impatience leads the way to boredom and loss of interest.

It was a good story, all told. I just didn’t get it.

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 207


Dragonbane by Sherrilyn Kenyon | A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas | Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith | When It’s Real by Erin Watt | Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts


Slow As Molasses

Another sad, sad reading week here for me. Honestly, I’m disgusted with myself. So far, I’ve only finished one book in the last two weeks. Which sucks because I have so many books in my to-be-reviewed pile. In an attempt to spark some reading inspiration, I went to the bookstore yesterday just to see if it would make me want to get back to reading again. Wish me luck that it will do the trick.

On A Health Kick

Still on my health kick. I’ve realized a couple of things about why dieting never worked for me in the past. I’ve been so restricted to salads and chicken breasts. Time and again, I get bored, hungry, then quit. This time around, I decided that I can’t do this shit again. So anytime I get a craving for specific food, I find a healthier recipe. This weekend, I made pesto sauce. I used avocado instead of olive oil. I made some spirals of zucchini, added shrimp and cherry tomatoes. It was divine! If you have any other healthier alternatives to some decadent food let me know!

Fit Readers

I’ve been doing double fit body boot camps for two weeks now and I’m loving it. I’ve been sick this week but I didn’t let that stop me from working out. I have a fitness assessment on Thursday so I’m excited to see any progress. It’s been a whole month since I started this journey.

June 5 Monday 10,669
June 6 Tuesday 9,057
June 7 Wednesday 14,521
June 8 Thursday 11,820
June 09 Friday 8,354
June 10 Saturday 13,935
June 11 Sunday 13,944
Total Steps for the Week: 96,224

Well, this is it for me this week. Let’s hope I find something good to read soon. Sigh.

Shelf Envy: Roan Parrish

Happy Friday, y’all!

Remember when I used to do Shelf Envy posts? It’s when I invade other people’s privacy by asking them to send me pictures of their bookshelves and what’s in them. Well, today, author Roan Parrish talks about her favorite authors, her recent book purchase, and book recommendations.

Thanks for doing this, Roan!

On Her Favorite Authors:

Donna Tartt, China Miéville, Andrew Smith, Tana French, Santino Hassell, Garrett Leigh … I could go on forever.

On Her Most Recent Purchase:

The last physical book I purchased was Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris, which I bought to read by the pool on vacation. I definitely got a few raised eyebrows as I sat sipping margaritas and reading about cannibalistic serial killers, but it was pretty par for the course.

Her Perfect Reading Spot:

Usually I read on this pink velvet couch that I Craigslisted in New Orleans, and nearly always my cat, Dorian Gray likes to sit with me. Well, mostly on me. Sometimes she’s even kind enough to hold my kindle!

The Most Controversial Book on Her Shelves:

Hmm, I’m not really sure any of the books on my shelves are particularly controversial. I’ve gotten rid of most of my grad school books—political theory and philosophy, which would’ve been the real controversial ones. Perhaps Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, which lives in the category of a book I really like even while I think the author is horrible and problematic. It’s difficult and uncomfortable to feel legitimate admiration for a work when you have actively loathe everything its creator stands for.

Her Book Recommendations:

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander [http://newjimcrow.com/]. It’s about the ways that the U.S. criminal justice system operates as a modern day racial caste system due to the way black men specifically, and communities of color more generally, are targeted. And it insists that an analysis of mass incarceration must therefore be central to current social justice work.


Roan’s new book, Small Change came out on June 1st. The first in a series that will feature M/F and M/M romances.

Small Change
by Roan Parrish


Ginger Holtzman has fought for everything she’s ever had—the success of her tattoo shop, respect in the industry, her upcoming art show. Tough and independent, she has taking-no-crap down to an art form. Good thing too, since keeping her shop afloat, taking care of her friends, and scrambling to finish her paintings doesn’t leave time for anything else. Which … is for the best, because then she doesn’t notice how lonely she is. She’ll get through it all on her own, just like she always does.

Christopher Lucen opened a coffee and sandwich joint in South Philly because he wanted to be part of a community after years of running from place to place, searching for something he could never quite name. Now, he relishes the familiarity of knowing what his customers want, and giving it to them. But what he really wants now is love.

When they meet, Christopher is smitten, but Ginger … isn’t quite so sure. Christopher’s gorgeous, and kind, and their opposites-attract chemistry is off the charts. But hot sex is one thing—truly falling for someone? Terrifying. When her world starts to crumble around her, Ginger has to face the fact that this fight can only be won by being vulnerable—this fight, she can’t win on her own.

Roan’s Website | Amazon | Goodreads

Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.
When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.
She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

[722]: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper

Monster mash-up of epic proportions.


The Only Child
by Andrew Pyper

Lily Dominick lives for her job. As a child, she was touched by the horror of having witnessed her mother’s murder. One thing that keeps her up some nights though, was the reason why the murderer left her unscathed.

Despite that traumatic event in her life, she grew up to be an intelligent woman; independent and determined. But there’s a dark side in her that feeds her drive to understand the patients — clients that she encounters day in and day out at Kirby.  A psychiatric facilty that houses the most demented, depraved serial killers and murderers.

One of those clients was a recently arrested beguiling man who had some stories to tell. He claimed to know her before she was even born. He claimed to have done what he’s done if only to get close to her. Even more shocking was his claim that he knew her mother. Then he dropped the mother of all revelations by claiming he was her father.

Meeting “Michael” for the first time reminded me of a scene in Silence of the Lambs where Clarisse sparred with one psychopath named Hannibal Leckter. But Michael was incomparable to the famous cannibal. For one, when he’s not playing human he was a winged, clawed supernatural monster of sorts. What he is precisely is hard to tell. But he’s highly intelligent, indestructible, and possesses the kind of unmatched cruelty amongst serial killers in history. He’s also two centuries old – give or take.

Michael is also a cunning, manipulative monster. Dangling a proverbial carrot for Lily was his favourite. First, was his claim that he knew her mother. And then it was the knowledge that he was her father. There was something about Lily that yearns for this man. Both as a child to a father and in some ways, sexual, morbidly enough. In the end, I never knew which part of her longed for Michael the most. But either way, it neither was normal.

Throughout the story, readers will discover all the ways that Pyper derived from three well-known gothic classics. He seamlessly worked Michael’s character in the creation of the 19th-century horror fiction triumvirate. And as Lily continues her pursuit of the elusive Michael, she’ll piece together her mother’s life and death. All the while encountering a group of assassins who are also on Michael’s trail. This book never lacked for suspense; I flew through the pages like I was also in pursuit.

The Only Child was exactly what you would expect from Andrew Pyper. It’s a very dark fantasy littered with dead bodies and violence. The lure of the three horror classics was irresistible. But in the end, Pyper’s spin was even more incredible.

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 206

 


How to Survive A Summer by Nick White | Skitter by Ezekiel Boone | Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka | Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward | The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti | Once and For All by Sarah Dessen | The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

(Books courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada & Simon & Schuster Canada)

Hello. 

The start of a new month always brings me hope for better things to come. It also inspires me to correct my mistakes from the previous month. I completely spaced out in May hence the lack of posts and the very seldom visits you got from me. I would like to change that in June. I gave myself a pep talk along the lines of being physically active again is not an excuse to slack off over here. So I give you permission to give me a slap on the head if I start falling asleep on the job again.

Did any of you go to BEA? Relatively quiet on the social media front. No drama to be had – which is always a good thing. Lol. After I saw a few haul posts on IG, I started to tell my husband that I’m definitely going next year but then I remember that I’m sort of protesting the US’ new administration so I immediately scrap that idea.

Still haven’t been able to get my reading mojo back but I managed to finish Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. I just about gave up on it, to be honest. It was confusing af.  There were so many points of view and for a  while, you don’t know where the story was heading. I persevered and mildy enjoyed it. I think it would’ve been a good suspense story if she’d managed to pare down the POVs.

Stop by tomorrow for my review of Only Child by Andrew Pyper. Man, this book is so creepy. It’s his take on three well known classics melded into one:  Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula. My reading slump came at a bad time because my review is supposed to go up tomorrow and I’ve just started reading this over the weekend. It’s a good thing that this book is so compelling!

Anyway, this is it for me, folks. Let me know how your day is going so far.

Happy reading!

 

 

[721]: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt


In light of what happened in Manchester recently, I found myself re-reading the beginning parts of this book. Particularly when we witness the character Theo lose his mother to a bomb that went off in the museum they were visiting. We see him go through a self-flagellation of sorts and grieve for all the things that he could’ve done and should’ve done to stop it from happening.  I’m imagining the parents of those victims right now, who are probably going through the same thing. They’re probably thinking, ‘if only I didn’t let them go to the concert. If only I asked them to go to a different pickup spot. Because then, they wouldn’t be where the bomber was. 

The truth is, besides divine intervention (if one believes in such a thing), there was nothing anyone could’ve done to stop it. Terrorists can’t be swayed after all. They’re driven by one thing, and one thing only: their fanatic ideology.

For a brief moment, Theo went through the same thing. His mother was his best friend. But it was because of his troubles at school and a consequent summon from the principal that had them taking a pitstop at the museum. If he’d kept his nose clean, his mom would’ve been at work and not at the museum with him when the bomb went off.

You can say that it was the starting point of his story. A dot that grew into a series of dizzying circles for which it begins and ends with a small painting called The Goldfinch. While he was trying to escape the ruins of the smouldering museum, an old man who would serve as a catalyst to everything in his life gave him the painting as he lay dying. And while he had every intention of giving it back, the painting would remain with him throughout the course of his life until it was too late to give it back. Because he would realize that the painting would be considered as stolen and giving it back would cost him his freedom.

Theo started out as a boy in this novel. But the story had a very unusual structure. It began at some point right in the thick of the conflict of the story. And since the book clocks in at 800 pages or so, it would be a long journey to try and piece his sordid tale. Readers would either get hooked right away but grow bored along the way, or endure Theo’s many stupid decisions and plow through it. Be prepared for scenes of gratuitous drug use, or shake your head at his father’s negligent parenting skills. Perhaps you’ll even lose interest with all the times he grew agog over glimpses of a girl for whom he’d love from afar. Theo’s circle of people was not the most ideal, to be sure. His father was a recovering alcoholic and who’d soon found another vice in prescription drugs and gambling. His friend who would lead him astray many a time, but was yet far more dependable than any other person that had walked through his life. There was the restorer who would become the father that he deserves, but with whom he would ultimately betray.

It is always such an arduous task to review a book this big. I’m also not a very astute reviewer even on my good days, so to even attempt to write one for a Pulitzer Prize winner is a joke in itself. The Goldfinch is obviously way out of my league.  I wanted to love it to the depths of my soul. The good thing about this book is its readable quality that could appeal to people who likes being immersed in novels for weeks at a time. I’m not one of those people, obviously. While I can appreciate the industrious and meticulous plotting, it ran too long for my taste. And like I mentioned previously, I was severely out of my depth.

Life Lately: A Very Slow Month


Oh, man. May has been insufferably slow here on the blog. This is what happens when you have an obsessive personality. You can only focus on one thing and one thing only. Sigh.

So I’m not sure if you’re following me on Instagram but I mentioned how I found my fitness motivation again a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been eating healthy, going to boot camps, and walking whenever I get the chance. I’ve been pretty active. But now, my reading has suffered. I seriously have not picked up anything of substance for a couple of weeks now. And even though I’ve read a few good books that I’ve not reviewed, writing chops have taken leave as well. Oh, the struggle.

But it is June! I’m trying to figure shit out. I’m trying to make use of my time properly. My workouts are scheduled and I figure, if I can do the meal preps for the week on weekends, I might have some time to read and blog after the gym. Let’s hope.

Sadly, I only read a few books in May.

  • Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files, #2)
  • A Quick Bite by Lynsay Sands (Argeneau, #1)
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Ruby by Cynthia Bond
  • Exit West by Hamid Mohsin
  • Library Principle by Helena Hunting
  • Felony Ever After by Helena Hunting
  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Again, my apologies for being scarce everywhere. I do hope June will be better. Let me know what you got up in May, and thanks for your continued patronage!

[720]: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Ruby
by Cynthia Bond


This was such a difficult book to read and even harder to decipher. On the surface, it’s the story of a woman scorned for being a daughter of a black woman and a white man. Her beauty became the scourge that she carried most of her life; the source of her strength and frailties. The torment that had brought her insanity in her later life.

From the very young age, she’s known indescribable abuse. Her mother left her to escape the same abuse Ruby would be subjected to growing up. At 10, she was sold to a madam who would sell her every night to men of despicable character. At 13, she would lose her child who would torment her for the rest of her life. In 1950, she would escape to New York only to do the same thing over again.

This book is ripe with the kind of African American history that I never knew existed. In the South where satanism and sexual abuse seemed to go hand-in-hand in the darkest, depraved way possible. It was suffused in magical realism of the religious kind. Where the “power of the Lord” compels men to “train” girls of such young age to “hone their craft”. Is it any wonder Ruby lost her mind? A screeching, half-naked woman who carries with her the souls of dead children; forever haunted by a being who would never let her rest.

 In the midst of the overall depressing history was a slight ray of hope in the person of Ephram Jennings. He ignored ridicule and the scorn of everyone in town, including that of his sister whom he called, “mama”. They, too, came from a home who’ve seen the worst abuses from the hands of their father. In this effect, you can say that it’s love story. A love story in the simplest of form; one that had the ability to save a person from oneself.

Ruby is a heavy read – heavier than I’ve anticipated. I read it at a time when I was feeling a little lost myself so my initial rating was a little low. I remember being furious at the townspeople who have judged Ruby and the men who took advantage of someone who was not in their full mental capacity. Filthy or not, they came to her for sex regardless if she’s covered in weeks’ worth of grime. I was mad at Ruby for pushing Ephram away and I was mad at Ephram for not standing up to Ruby. This book was a real story of survival, of madness and of love. It was more often difficult but with a clearer mind, you’ll find the beauty of Ms. Bond’s words.