2019 Summer Reading: Something Unexpected

After years of drought we’ve gone from unreasonable unseasonable amounts of rain and cool weather right into the scorching heat of summer. Yes, but it is a dry heat, usually.

With summer comes the need to read. Be it a book, a blog, paper, or some sort of e-reader, or computer, some of us just HAVE to read.

Sooooooo, each Monday I’ll attempt to give you, my readers, some suggestions for interesting things I’ve read, I’m reading, or book in my “to read” proverbial pile of books. I will also (at the end of this post) provide links to past Summer Reading and other book related posts.

First a disclaimer: I suck at writing book reviews. Maybe I’ll get better as the summer goes on. Just get trough it. I won’t bore you with long descriptions. Just read the books. 

Right now I’m reading “The Big Kahuna” by Janet Evanovich and her son Peter Evanovich. It is light silly totally mindless summer reading. I picked up “The Big Kahuna” at Costco last week while picking up dog food and laundry stuff. It isn’t the author’s best (definitely not) but hey, if you want some light mindless fun it is ok.  I stopped reading Evanovich books a while back after the last Lizzy and Diesel book came out. I love those and recommend them. OMG you will fall in love with Lizzy and Diesel if you haven’t already. The Stephanie Plum books are laugh out loud funny and always good for what ails you, but fell off of my radar. I might eventually get back to them again.

Anyway… Here are books I  recommend for this summer, including books I’ve read and the next book on my list.

Red Darkling

The next book I’ll be reading (maybe even starting today) is “Red Darkling”, this summer’s runaway Science Fiction, Fantasy, Smart Thriller, Comedy, HIT.

I swear I’m the only one who hasn’t read it yet.

 

RedDarkling

I haven’t read this book yet but I’m a BIG FAN of Red and her cat and of course her Granny. For several years now I’ve been following Red’s adventures through L.A. Guettler’s short stories about Red. OMG you’ll fall in love with her. I am so excited about this book.

Here is the official description:

Red Darkling’s ship is a weevil-infested piece of junk. Her smuggling business barely brings in enough credits to buy cheap beer. Alien creeps think a blaster can get them favors when their charm fails. Her only company is a glitchy cat and the occasional hook-up. Her life is dirty, dangerous, and lonely: just how she likes it.It all takes a turn for the worse when things start going well. A little too well. Partying with movie stars, weekends in paradise, troublesome people turning up dead-it’s maddening. Who is this anonymous benefactor, and why does he think she needs protecting?

I’ll get back to you after I read it. I know I’ll love it so before I even start I’ll give it five stars…maybe six.

Also check out the great cover by artist Jason Kemp. Nice.

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Author L.A. Guettler

The Blinds

The Blinds is so unique, and different, and mysterious, and it will surprise you in such quiet ways you won’t be expecting.

TheBlinds

This one was a surprise to me. I picked it up because it was on a “staff” recommended list from a place I buy books.

As a rule I can’t stand books written entirely in present tense. I find them difficult and annoying. This book is one of the rare exceptions.

Adam Sternberg is a master storyteller. That is all I can say. He totally ROCKS at storytelling, and creating believable characters in such a twisted and unexpected way.

At first you won’t know what to expect but then you’ll get sucked in. This is one of those books I thought about a lot. It is so different, and so well written, and so unexpected. Wow. Just read it. I know in the future I will add more Adam Sternberg books to my reading lists.

Here is the official description:

Welcome to the Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by criminals and misfits who’ve been plucked from their lives, had their memories altered, and been granted new identities and a second chance. For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace—but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper must navigate an investigation amid questions from his ambitious deputy, the terrified citizens, and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down—all while protecting his own dangerous secrets. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway. It’s simmering with violence and deception, aching heartbreak, and dark betrayals.

 

Weirder Tales

I love this book so much. It isn’t because some of my stories are featured in it. I love this book because of the other well written, unexpected, and weird stories in it. As short story anthologies go this one is PERFECT for summer reading.

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I’ve given away so many copies of this book, and I’ve had so many people tell me that they’ve read it and loved it. I’ll be reading it again, and again, and again.

The official description:

The warped minds of WPaD are proud to present this tribute to the bizarre:

– People who eat Tide Pods turn into detergent-craving zombies
– A gift of a fishing bobber turns deadly
– A woman lost in the desert befriends an ancient creature
– A hole inside a closet holds unknown mysteries
– A grieving father consults a psychic to solve his daughter’s murder
– Two friends embark on a fantastic adventure during a game of Dungeons and Dragons
– A call for help from an abandoned house leads a man to his doom
– Strange explosions cause terror and speculation about the end of the world
– A meteor falls from the sky, leading a woman on a surreal journey

Enjoy these stories and many more in Weirder Tales: An Omnibus of Odd Ditties.

Featuring weird tales from: Benedict, Cooley, Daniels, Fletcher, Garcia, Guettler, Haberfelner, Hunter, Kemp, Kings, Lamb, Merline, Nocera, Roland, Todd, Turley, and White.

WPaD is the acronym for Writers, Poets and Deviants. We are a diverse group of writers who came together on the Internet to support and encourage each other.

Our collaborative works are charity fundraisers, with a percentage of royalties being donated to Multiple Sclerosis in support of members of our group who live with MS. WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook. For more information, please visit our website: http//wpad.weebly.com

The cover of “Weirder Tales” is by Jason Kemp. Love this one too.

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So what are some of my favorite books from the past? CLICK here to find out.

Happy Reading,

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Saturday (a short story)

Saturday is here once more. Due to a busy schedule with wonderful, amazing, lovely old friends, and a busy weekend looming I’m reposting a story about our favorite Vampire Hunter, Austin Durant.

I could post for Cat-Ur-Day but I can’t find my cats. So without any more silly explanations…

Saturday (A Short Story from The Hunter Series)

Austin Durant was spending Saturday morning with a pot of coffee and a folder full of research materials. His mind was on the article he was writing, but also on the end of the school year, his latest landscaping project, and his girlfriend Elizabeth.

He stopped at the sound of the doorbell, then sent to answer. He hoped it wasn’t anyone trying to sell him anything. Two large men, dressed in black, stood at his front door. No clipboards.

Austin looked them up and down. “I’m going to assume you’re not from the Sanders campaign,” he said.

The men pushed their way through the door. Austin backed away.

“I don’t know why you guys even bothered to knock. Can I get you anything?” Now more than anytime he wished his old German Shepard Dogs Lucy and Mina were still alive. They would have ripped these guys to shreds, or at least barked a lot. After three years he still couldn’t bring himself to get another dog. But this wasn’t the time to reminisce about lost loves – he had Vampires in his house.

Who would have thought that Vampires would be at his front door at 2:37 on a Saturday afternoon in May? Sure, alright, he was a part-time, sometimes Vampire Hunter, but not on Saturday afternoon. The plan was to do a little work on an article about the California art colonies in the 1880’s, then do a little yard work, then go over to his sister’s house to eat tacos and watch Dead Pool.  Such is the life of a single History Professor slash Vampire Hunter.

“You know guys, this is a bad time for me. Why don’t you come back later, say in about a hundred years.”

The Vampires stepped forward baring their long sharp fangs. Austin started to calculate in his mind how to distract them so he could get his sword. Then the doorbell rang.

Austin put his hand up. “Excuse me for a minute guys.”

The Vampires stepped back and withdrew their fangs.

At the door stood Austin’s fifteen year old neighbor Ryan. A tabby cat with white paws stood next to him.

“Hey, Ryan. What’s up?”

“I, um, forgot my key to my house. My mom said you had a copy.”

“Sure, wait a second.” Austin looked at the Vampires. “Don’t even think about it.”

He got the key from the kitchen drawer and brought it back to Ryan. The boy thanked him then looked inside the door.

“Seriously dude, you have some creepy friends.”

“They’re not my friends,” said Austin. “Just some guys dropping off some stuff for a research project.”

“Uh, thanks for the keys.”

Ryan and the cat left and Austin turned his attention back to the Vampires. “OK guys, time to go. I have things to do, places to go, tacos to eat, and if you don’t get the hell out of my house I’ll add Vampires to kill to my list. Got it?”

The Vampires showed their fang again. Then the doorbell rang. The Vampires stepped back into the shadows.

Austin opened the door. Dave the mail carrier stood there with a package. “Hey, Austin, I just need a signature.”

“Good, I’ve been waiting for this,” said Austin as he signed the deliver slip. It was a packet of letters from the artist Julian Rix to a woman who would eventually break the artist’s heart. Austin put the letters on the table in his entry way and turned his attention back to the Vampires.

“Sorry about that. I told you this was a bad time,” he said to the Vampires.  “What do you guys want? I don’t have all day.”

The two Vampires showed their fangs and stepped towards Austin. “Listen, I don’t want any trouble. I don’t have a problem with you. I don’t even know you. In fact, my girlfriend is a Vampire.”

The Vampires hissed through their fangs, then stopped. There was a soft knock at the door.

Austin stepped back. “Excuse me, somebody is at the door.”

At the door Austin’s neighbor from down the street, a guy named Bob stood with a clip board. “Hi Austin, I have the petition to close the street on the Fourth of July.”

“Yes, I’m looking forward to it. Just let me know what I can do to help.”

“Sure thing,” said Bob. “Feel free to invite your friends.”

Austin looked around to see the Vampires had moved just behind him in the entry way. “Sure thing. Hey guys, you’re invited. Bring your favorite pot luck dish and some sparklers. It will be fun.”

After Bob left, Austin turned his full attention back to the Vampires. “I know you didn’t come here to borrow a cup of sugar. What do you want?”

The Vampires showed their fangs. “No, I’m not going to do this today. You’ve already waited almost an hour of my time. Either I kill you, you kill me, or you leave. What is it?”

The doorbell rang again. “Shit,” whispered Austin. He opened the door. There stood two college students with a clipboard. “Hey, I know you. How’s it going Tiffany?” The girl was in his California history class.

“Dr. Durant. I didn’t know you lived in this neighborhood. We’re here for the mayor’s campaign.”

“Good for you. I encourage everyone to be politically active. I think a few other groups will be out today as well.”

“Cool.”

The kids talked with Austin about politics and school. All the while Austin could sense the Vampires behind him, lurking in the shadows of his living room. He then wished the kids good luck as they went on their way.

He turned back to the Vampires who were now looking at his book shelf and talking quietly to each other.

Austin approached them. “So do you want to do this or not?”

“You have all of Steinbeck’s books, I’m impressed,” said  the taller and paler of the two Vampires. “Too bad I have to kill you.”

Then the door bell sounded again. Austin went to the front door. His neighbor Joe who lived behind him was there.

“Hey Austin. I’m fixing the fence so Sammy and Shadow can’t get out. Do you mind if I go into your yard for about a half hour?” Sammy and Shadow were two shaggy dogs of unknown breeds.

“Sure, I’ll help you out. Give me a few minutes. I’ll meet you in the back yard.”

Austin turned to the Vampires. “Guys, we’re going to have to do this later.”

The Vampires looked at him with frustration on their pale faces then slipped out the front door and vanished into the cloudy afternoon.

Well, this is the first time I’ve killed a Vampire with boredom, thought Austin. Then he put on his shoes and work gloves to meet Joe by the fence.

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Slut

This morning I read that several fraternities at Swarthmore College are closing down due to “rape rooms.” College has long been a traditional place for rape culture, slut shaming, sexism, and general bad behavior. Some colleges are worse than others.

My daughter, whom I’m proud to say was just accepted into three of the University of California campuses, is accepting at at a campus which is known for not having a large Greek presence. That particular school is also known for not having a huge “party culture” which is fine for me. My son Garrett DID go to a school with a large party culture and survived and thrived. Like I always say, you have to talk to your children about these things long before they start college or high school – start before puberty.

So in light of all of this, I’m posting a story you might have read before about double standards, college, and general bad behavior. People might behave badly but it does not mean you, or your kids, have to put up with it.

Slut

My children are in college now which is sometimes even more scary than elementary or high school. One of the big things everyone is talking about is sexual assault on campus or in college towns. I’ve talked about it with my two kids who are in college. Everyone has, at least everyone who is a decent parent.

So I get this call from Hodge Williams. Yes, that Hodge Williams. Everyone remembers him.

“Bart, how are you?” As soon as he spoke I wondered what he wanted.

“Hodge. Fine. Great. Life is good. What’s up?”

“I’m writing a story on the history of sexual harassment and violence at universities in the US. I tried to contact your sister but she wouldn’t return my calls.”

“Beth?”

“Yes, Beth. She kind of got around so I was thinking she might have experienced first hand, you know, she was at risk.”

“What do you mean by at risk?”

“Oh come on, your sister was a slut. Everyone knew it.”

I sat there with the phone a bit stunned. He just called my sister a slut.

“Hodge, you’re an asshole. In fact you’ve always been an asshole.” I hung up the phone. What an asshole.

After sitting for a few minutes and collecting my thoughts I called my sister and told her about the conversation.

“What an asshole,” she said. “Sure I was sleeping with his best friend without the benefit of being his best friend’s official girlfriend. OK I also slept with another one of his friends but we were in college. We were young.”

“Did you ever sleep with Hodge?”

“No. Hell no. He was always making passes at me and grabbing me. Hodges had that Madonna/Whore things going on in his head. A girl was either a virgin until marriage or a whore. Plus we’re not like him, you know the religion thing, so he just assumed I was a whore.”

“But you didn’t have sex with him.”

“I know. That makes me a whore. He called any girl who wouldn’t have sex with him a whore.”

“What an asshole.”

“I know. Believe me, I know. I mean, if the guy had asked me to go see a movie or go for a walk or just spent time talking that would have been different but he was just all over me like…yuck. He really called you? I can’t believe he’d have the gall to do that. Asshole.”

After we got off the phone with the promise of a lunch date later in the week I got to thinking about my own kids.

I’d spoken with both my daughter and son about sexual predators. I’ve done the best to teach them not to be bully bait. I’ve taught them to stand up for themselves and for others.

From experience I knew that bullies never grow up and most don’t change. 

Hodge never got the answer he wanted. Over the years Beth had a few close calls with sexual predators but she always ended up safe either by being with friends or using physical force to get out of it (exactly twice as she told me.) That didn’t include unwanted advances by guys like Hodge. And even though Hodge didn’t use force it still hurt emotionally that he’d think so little of her or of any girl.

I wanted to pound the crap out of him. Then I thought about how many other women out there who thought the guy was an asshole. That made me smile. Spread the word ladies, spread the word.

That evening after work I talked to my wife about it. She shook her head and said she’d had similar experiences. More anger surged through my brain, then sadness deep in my soul.

We all judge others. We all make assumptions. We all call names even if it isn’t out loud. We all talk behind the backs of others. Maybe we need to stop. It isn’t easy. It isn’t even practical.

Anyway, if you see Hodge Williams call him and an asshole and tell him that Beth and Bart say hello.

~ end

 

Remember to always talk to your kids about these things. Also tell them to support, respect, and have compassion for others as well. In other words tell them not to be entitled judgmental assholes.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Springtime

Springtime

“A toast to springtime and love,” said Andy lifting his glass.

“To love? At least I know unicorns are real. I’m not so sure about love but, I’ll toast it with you. To love, and springtime,” said James lifting his glass and touching it to Andy’s. “I loved a woman once, but I didn’t know it. She was a Vampire of singular beauty and oddness. Nights with her were nothing but passion. We had a link between our souls where I gave and she received. Physically she gave and I received. I assumed she liked it, but then she left made a lot of bad choices. I wanted to be the only bad choice but I wasn’t. Then she told me to make a good choice and I didn’t pick her. I should have. She never contacted me. I assume that she assumed that I was with somebody else, and she would be right. But years passed, and I was with a lot of women I thought … well, I didn’t think. I never think. I really don’t care. I have fun. They have fun. But for some reason I’ve been thinking about her, and I know she knows.”

“Too late my friend,” said Andy. “It has been 112 years since you saw her. Do you really think she thinks about you?”

“No, but as long as I’m thinking about love. Actually I never think about love. But the wine is good tonight. Thanks.”

“You tried to seduce my sister once.”

“I tried to seduce your sister about a dozen times. It never worked but it was fun trying.”

“You’re going at it all wrong. James, my friend, I’ve loved a kind of love you can’t seem to understand. I’ve felt the soul of the woman I love leave her body when she died in my arms. Alas I fall for mortal women, but you…you act so uncaring, yet, you want that romance. You want perfection. You want goodness. You want something your heart can’t comprehend.”

James shrugged and opened the French doors leading to the garden. “I need some air.”

At 2:00 a.m. they could hear the song of a mocking bird in a tree down the block. They could hear the sound of a random car. They heard the quiet of a cool March evening.

“You hungry?” Andy asked, “We could order in.”

“No,” said James. “I don’t feel like it tonight. I’d rather go out, or just skip dinner altogether.”

“You’re always so crass and funny. What’s up with the somber lovelorn guy act?”

“I don’t know Andy. Maybe it’s the full moon. Maybe I’m just feeling my age.”

“Maybe you should look her up.”

“I did.”

“And?”

“Nothing. Married. Children. Her husband is a big time alpha Vampire guy. No. There are others. She was just one. So I move on. But it isn’t a bad thing.”

“You’re right. It isn’t a bad thing.”

James looked up at the night sky, searching for stars that were hidden by the urban lights.

On the edge of the fence pixies in tiny gossamer dresses walked in single file, their wings folded up on their tiny backs. The whispered among each other about lost loves and fools. Then they giggled in unison as glittering dust fell on the ground below them.

Andy glanced at them, but then turned his attention back to his friend, and the conversation changed to everything but love, romance, and most of all the women they’d known, and maybe loved.

~ End

 

Note: I first posted this in March 2016. I’ll try to have a new story next week. There is a an Artistic roller skating meet today so I’m off watching amazing things.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Short Story Sunday: Binge Watch

Sometimes even Vampires get bored on rainy Sunday afternoons. Andy knew that well, so he invited his friends over to binge watch. He’d gone out for snacks and come back to find everyone lounging around drinking wine and talking about other things.

“We tried to watch some Vampire shows but they were all so gloomy,” said Jayne.

“Don’t forget bad dubbing. There is nothing as bad as a mouth that doesn’t match up with the words,” said James.

“I dated a guy like that once,” said Elizabeth as she scratched Andy’s cat under it’s chin.

A swirl of color blasted through the air, then landed on the back of the couch. Six tiny fairies in pastel colored sat with crossed arms. “The Notebook. We want to watch The Notebook.

“No,” said Andy. “You’ve watched that at least fifty times. Let’s go upstairs. I’ll put on Bridesmaids, or Enchanted, or something else you haven’t seen yet.” He looked back at his friends as the fairies swirled around his head and pulled at his arms. “I’ll be right back.”

“We’re not watching Moonlight again,” yelled Jayne at Andy as he went up the stairs. “Alex O’Loughlin is absolutely gorgeous, but we’ve seen every episode five time at least.”

Andy settled the fairies in front of the upstairs TV in his office to watch Rebecca, then 27 Dresses.

Downstairs again he poured nuts in bowls, cut up some apples, and uncorked a few bottles of blood. “How about the movie Moonlight?”

“I’ve heard it is really good,” said James.

Elizabeth had seen it but said she’d gladly see it again. As a whole Vampires are pretty agreeable.

The four friends hunkered down to watch the movie.

They knew nobody would ever make an honest movie about people like them.  Then again, who said movies had to be honest. It was just entertainment.

After the movie Andy went into the kitchen to make dinner. Vampires never ate in movies. Tonight he’d fix rare tri-tip and a dark leafy salad. None of them felt like going out in the thunder storm for fresh blood. In the movies the weather was always bad, and everyone always wore leather. He thought about his sister who wrote stories about Vampires. Nobody else knew they were based on real life. She wasn’t about to give away the fact she wasn’t like her readers.

He could hear familiar music. His friends had found something else to watch. Twilight Zone. Go figure. Andy smiled and continued to make the salad. Nothing like friends and an afternoon of binge watching.

~ end

 

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: I’ll Return to You

They’d numbered many – the qualities needed to do the job. Passions and desires for secrets and more. So was the life of a spy. You give and in return you receive and take and steal away like a ghost in the night, leaving an empty safe and a broken heart behind. It was a good gig if you could get it. It was her life and passion.

In the dark of night she left him drugged in a deep sleep of happy dreams. She’d made sure of that. Still feeling his touch on her skin she dressed in absolute silence. In her bag were the documents she needed, along with photographs and other mementos, including a packet of love letters that she would keep for herself.

She might never find a love like his again. It was one of those loves that was once in a lifetime. It was the kind of love that would last forever.

He was the most well ordered and controlled man she’d ever met. His soul as full of adventure. He valued perfection. Best of all, he could exquisitely heat up the night unlike any other man she’d ever met. He was someone who’d never settle or compromise.

When he awoke hours later he reached for her, but that side of the bed was empty and cold.

Later that morning he was told she was dead. It had been an accident. That day he thought his life would end. He wanted to die. It was almost unbearable, but he made it through.

Ten years later he married a lovely, kind woman with a wicked sense of humor. They had two children. It was a lot of work and crazy living with a family and kids. Life was good, as it should be. In fact it was more than good. It was amazing.

Still, every time his wife was late or one of the kids didn’t call on time he had that feeling of dread and panic come up in his soul. He never told them, but it was always there. He couldn’t lose them. He couldn’t go through that again.

One afternoon he reached into the pocket of an old coat and found a note. It was in the script of his long lost love.

I’ll return to you.

He was beyond that. He was beyond dreams of seeing her again. He was beyond hope she was alive. He was beyond stupid thoughts. He was beyond the anger he had towards her. He was beyond the grief and the love and the memories so sweet of their time together. But something triggered his heart and he could feel a tear falling down his cheek. It was alright to mourn. It was normal. It was natural to feel and love and remember. There was no crime in that. It took nothing away from his life now.

Yet how many times had he caught himself asking “What if?”

He took the dog for a walk by the river, like he did each day.

On the bank, near where the geese always rested, stood a stunning woman with flowing gold curls and sky blue eyes. It was her. It was a his past and his dreams and his sorrow.

She turned towards him. “Hello Rob.”

The dog ran up to her wagging it’s tail. He froze.

“I was told you were dead,” he said barely able to get the words out.

“You were told wrong. I had to go. I know, I know, I know you must be angry but let me explain…”

He stood listening as she told him about adventures in a world he couldn’t imagine anymore. It sounded like more of a movie script or a spy novel than anything in his current life. It sounded like his old life.

Then she said, “I know everything about you. I’ve been keeping track the past twenty years.”

“That’s sort of creepy. I’m sure it was plenty boring compared to the life we used to have.” He watched his dog run down the beach then looked back to her. “Why did you come back?”

“For you of course. We can continue our adventure. You can get your life back. I still love you.”

He stood there thinking of all the times he would have given anything for one last chance to talk to her. Just one last chance to hold her. One last chance to start over with her and change the past.

Then he stuck his hand in his pocket and found a sticky mess of peanut butter and jelly. His daughter would always chew and lick the darned things a few times and end up with a mess over everything.

“I’m not that guy anymore. I’m different.” he said.

“How?” She stood with her hands on her hips. He thought she was still the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. “How are you different?”

“I have a wet gooey half eaten peanut butter sandwich in my pocket, and it doesn’t bother me.” Then he smiled and gave her a kiss on the cheek and started up the trail back home.

 

~ end