Thursday, January 16, 2020

2020 Rah Rah Rah! Plus Horror Book Review: 120 Days of Sodom & Zombie

At this time of year, I'm usually reviewing my goals from the previous year to see what I finished, what I scrapped, and what I need to carry forward. However, a lot happened last year that kept me from getting much of anything done, and I've decided it's not worth looking back on those goals, as it would just serve to make me feel bad about what I wasn't able to accomplish. 

Instead, I'm making some simple, but useful, goals, with the intention of setting up a base to grow from through the year. Basically, I want to get things done, but I also want to be kind to myself concerning expectations. This is a year of healing as much as anything else.

2020 Goals:

Write at least one day a week.
Stay on top of submissions.
Release a collection.
Blog at least twice per month.
Read two craft books.
Walk regularly.
Read a lot of fiction!
Take some fun pictures.

Of course, I can't do anything about the much loftier goals in my head, but whenever I look back at these goals, I want to feel like I'm doing what I expected, at least.

Moving on, I've got two best horror reviews to do, and I figured instead of doing those as individual posts as I've been doing the last couple years, I'll just add them to other posts. Before I jump into those, here's a snapshot of some of the books I've read the last couple months:

Ebooks I've read include: The False Inspector Dew (Peter Lovesey), Clowns vs. Spiders (Jeff Strand), Poisoned by the Pier (Ellen Jacobson), The Haunted Forest Tour (Jeff Strand), Creepers (David Morrell).

My favorites from the above:

Salvage the Bones - Jesmyn Ward
Gorgeously written, this book is set over the course of several days leading up to Hurricane Katrina hitting a small, rural town in Mississippi. As the storm brews and grows, so do the struggles of the main characters, siblings whose mother has died and whose father is sunk in his addiction, leaving them to fend for themselves. A story about family, relationships, deep poverty, and so much more.

Trevor Noah: Born a Crime - Trevor Noah
With his characteristic candor and humor, Noah talks about his youth in South Africa, where his very existence is a crime. His mother does her best with a child who's a bit of a troublemaker (but also charming, innovative, and deeply intelligent.) I was in turns touched, amused, shocked, and sad. I'd like to listen to the audiobook read by Noah, himself.

The False Inspector Dew - Peter Lovesey
This was the fluff book I read after FINALLY finishing The 120 Days of Sodom (review below). It was a light murder mystery, with some solid twists. A man takes on a false identity aboard a ship bound for America. The identity of a famous police inspector. When a body is found in the water, he's called upon to solve the crime. After all, that's his wheelhouse, right? Clever and fun, a delightful break I sorely needed.

Unbury Carol - Josh Malerman
This one is set in the old west, which is an era I love. Described as a thriller, it qualifies as horror, as well. A woman has a condition where she goes into a state that makes her appear dead. Her husband, knowing her condition, takes advantage when she slips into this state. She's got money and fame, and he's tired of living in her shadow. Interesting characters and a hell of a ticking clock. 

Poisoned by the Pier - Ellen Jacobson
Ellen's books are always fun to read. Great cast of characters, interesting settings. Good, clean mystery fun.

Some movies I recently saw and enjoyed:

Knives Out. This is such a witty and well scripted murder mystery. Vastly engaging and amusing. Twisty and well acted.

Incident in a Ghostland. A movie hasn't kept me this tense in a long time. Not for the faint of heart. This one's horror, and though it has plenty of flaws, the suspense is incredibly well done. I had to keep forcing myself to relax.

TV show I'd recommend:

My husband and I both loved Fleabag and are eagerly awaiting the next season. It's a dramedy, irreverent and often inappropriate, but also funny. The humor is quite dry, which I enjoy. You'll probably know within the first few minutes if this is the show for you or better avoided.

Okay, the part I've been avoiding: Horror List Book Review. I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)

I finished two recently--The 120 Days of Sodom, by the Marquis de Sade, and Zombie, by Joyce Carol Oates.

The 120 Days of Sodom - Marquis de Sade
I'm not sure I have anything good to say about this one. It was a struggle to read. Admittedly, I was curious to read something by Sade after having heard about him for so long. Partway through this book, I convinced myself he couldn't possibly be encouraging or supporting the horrific things happening in this book. I actually thought it might be a commentary on the elite of the time.


I'm glad I waited until afterward to do research on him and realize I was giving him too much credit. It would have been even harder to get through if I knew what kind of person he truly was.

I really can't go in depth on this review, because of the subjects of the book. I described it to a friend as reading like it was written by a sexually deviant 8-year old with a feces fixation. There is extreme harm and mistreatment of children. Extreme. Sexual mistreatment, torture, etc. I'm going to need more distance before I can delve into what I needed to learn from this book. Do yourselves a favor: avoid this book and don't read the reviews on Amazon, because some of the readers are as bad as the Marquis. Disturbing.

Zombie - Joyce Carol Oates
This one was also deviant, but nothing like Sodom. It follows a man (I seem to recall he was 38 or so?) with a lot of mental issues. He wants to create a zombie lover by lobotomizing men he's interested in. The book is put forth in journal form. 

The writing is skillfully done in a way that brings the reader into the disorganized and frenzied mind of the killer. I imagine the writing style would drive some people crazy. Part of the horror of this book is how matter-of-fact the main character is about his plans and the results as he tries to figure out the right way to reach his goal.

CURRENTLY READING: Dave Barry's Greatest Hits (ebook) - Dave Barry
CURRENTLY WATCHING: Nightwatch Nation (Hulu)

Have you read any of the above books and/or seen any of the shows/movies? Did you set goals for 2020? Do you do long term or just short term goals? What book, movie, TV show, song, or other media would you recommend? What are you reading right now? 

May you find your Muse.


  1. Those goals sound manageable but will still make you stretch.
    Knives Out was great! Fun whodunit.

  2. Those goals can be set for weekly and monthly, giving you a sense of accomplishment.

  3. I love how you did this post and reviews Shannon! I am devouring poetry book right now. Next: crime novels.