Books on My Fall Tbr

“My cozy fall tbr” posts flooded my socials last week, so I wanted to write my own minus the “cozy.” The titles on my list are spooky-ish, speculative, thrilling, or just weird enough to get my attention.

Here they are:

(Note #1: There are amazon affiliate links in this post. This means if you click and buy through them I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This would be an excellent way to support the blog if you’re so inclined.)

(Note #2: The blurbs [text in green squares] aren’t “official blurbs.” It’s me writing what the book is about gathered from interviews, reviews, blurbs, and/or from me actively reading the book. One day I’ll have to write my own blurbs for my work, so I guess you could say I’m practicing 😀 )

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Lara’s daughters return home to North Michigan and beg her to retell a story about a past romance. The story causes the daughters to reflect on themselves and their relationship with their mother. It’s a story about coming full circle in life. From child to parent.

Ann Patchett is one of those authors I’ve heard about, but never read (it’s also probably the “coziest” book in my fall tbr). After having my two little ones and watching my own parents say things my grandparents use to say, Tom Lake sounds like a story I could relate to right now.

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck

Newlyweds Wren and Lewis suffer a blow to their marriage when Lewis is diagnosed with a rare disease: he’s turning into a shark. Wren struggles with coping with the diagnoses and begins reliving repressed memories of her past. Meanwhile, Lewis is trying to cope with turning into a shark and make peace with his unfulfilled artist dreams.

Shark Heart sounds like a modern day Metamorphosis. While I’m sure it says something about grief, I’m interested in the unfulfilled dream aspect of the story. I’ve seen people of all ages battling with this fear of not fulfilling a dream they’ve held for years lately. Perhaps it goes beyond my circles and it’s a fear of the times. I just want to see how Lewis manages it all.

Babel by R.F. Kuang


Robin, an orphan from 1928 Canton, became Professor Lovell’s ward under the condition that he studies Latin, Greek, and Chinese so that he can enroll in Oxford’s prestigious translation institute: Babel. Dabbling in magic known as silver working, exploring the beautiful city of Oxford, and finding his place among friends, everything seems to go well for Robin. But Babel is the center of civil unrest within the world as it pressures other countries in the name of Britain. Robin faces questions about his identity as a foreigner in Britain something his peers, faculty, and guardian wont let him forget. Then, Britain launches a war against China and suddenly Robin must pick a side.

This is my current read and I’m enjoying myself. It’s full of dark academia vibes, big questions, and features a rich world.

Yellowface by R.F Kuang

June Hayward witnesses her literary rival, Athena Liu, die in a freak accident and steals her unpublished manuscript. Sending the work to her agent after a few edits, June achieves literary stardom. However, evidence about Athena’s death surfaces and threatens June’s new life.

I’ve seen Yellowface on so many people’s fall tbr lists and for good reason. R.F. Kuang’s writing draws you in!

How Can I Help You by Laura Sims

No one knows about Margo’s dark past as a nurse nor her real name. That all changes when her coworker and aspiring novelist, Patricia, uses Margo as inspiration for her work-in-progress. As Patricia studies Margo, she notices that there’s something not right with her and begins to dig deeper.

Ooooh, trouble in the library. There’s something about characters who are writers going through turmoil that’s fun to me.

The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei

The passengers on The Phoenix are on a mission to repopulate a distant, livable planet with human life. But things change when an unknown bomber on the ship kills three passengers in a deadly explosion. Asuka is the only surviving witness, and she must find the bomber before they strike again and before the crew loses hope in the mission.

It’s giving Among Us vibes and is the first book on my fall tbr list that’s spooky.

The Possibilities by Yael Goldstein-Love

Hannah experiences a difficult childbirth that’s left her traumatized. Symptoms that she believes is just new mom anxieties give way to extraordinary abilities. When her newborn disappears, Hannah taps into those abilities and travels through multiple versions of herself to bring her son back.

I’m really into time travel stories by default, but this one features a new mother in her post partum stage. I don’t often read fiction exploring motherhood and I hope this will be the first of many.

Black River Orchard by Chuck Wendig

There is an orchard in a small town that’s home to seven apple trees. Those who eat the apples become better versions of themselves, but also inherit a hunger for more. The townspeople learn of the dark history of the orchard and dark days follow when the leaves begin to fall.

I’ve followed Wendig’s blog, Terribleminds, for years and sometimes he shares his love for apples. It’s like a running joke! But to see this obsession turned into a horror story is priceless. Plus it sounds interesting.

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

Flor can predict when someone will die and she suddenly arranges a living wake to celebrate herself. Everyone is confused whether the wake is for Flor, someone else, or if Flor has ill intentions. She refuses to tell anyone and tensions rise, poking at long held secrets.

I learned about this one from an interview Acevedo did with Book Page. She spoke about telling her truth in her stories despite how others may feel and showing up as an artist for her work. I thought it was a brave interview and wanted to see how it all plays out in the manuscript.

I write what haunts me. The family I come from and the families I grew up around—including extended family—practiced a good amount of enmeshment. In trying to piece apart my self-identity and self-worth, I had to undo threads that bound me to others. It was—and is—garbage dumpster work. It’s sifting through so much junk I carry that doesn’t innately belong to me. It’s reconsidering what it means to be a part of a community for yourself, not how perfectly you can perform yourself. I still don’t recognize sometimes how I’m thinking of every single person in my life and whether or not they’ll approve. So my novels agitate these webs because my mind agitates those webs.

Elizabeth Acevedo

Bridge by Lauren Beukes

Bridge ran away from her mother, Jo, when she was a teenager. Jo is an eccentric scientist who spent her life looking for the “dreamworm”: an artifact capable of traveling the multiverse. Bridge hoped to one day return home and reconcile with her mother, but those plans were ruined with Jo’s sudden death. Or, is she really dead? Bridge finds the dreamworm and consumes it while going through her mother’s belongings. Armed with the artifact, she embarks on an universe hopping quest to find out what really happened to her mother.

I also learned about this via a Book Page interview with the author. Like I said, I love a good time travel story and the author mentions that it’s very trippy.

It’s the appeal of the road not taken, all the might have beens in your life and the choices you didn’t make. How useful would that be, to be able to audition other versions of you, correct your mistakes, learn from your successes? 

Lauren Beukes (when asked why a time travel story)

What’s on your fall tbr? Have you read any of the ones I listed above?

Untroubled (my poem) was Published by Redrosethorn Magazine

My haibun, Untroubled, was published in Redrosethorn’s second annual issue: Home/Belonging.

Born in South Africa, raised in Cape Town, moved to Nelspruit, and immigrating to California, Kritsy Anne describes being stumped when asked “where are you from?” in their editor’s letter:

“…in the current political climate—the question of where we are from seers into the rhetoric that someone does not belong to the place they are living. I felt that cut when Americans asked me this question. I had the sense that I was being ‘othered’, reminded that was not one of them. And I began to discover the microaggressions hidden in plain sight uttered through our tongues.”

What’s your idea of home or place of belonging? This is the question the magazine asked every contributor.

“From these stories, I gleaned that what we are seeking is a planet that is protected so that she may thrive; freedom of movement and the liberty to express and be one’s true self, without prejudice, and being surrounded by love and support with people we care most deeply for. I think that this speaks volumes about what home and belonging truly mean to us.”

So, what’s my idea of home and belonging?

Untroubled, details a moment in a small family’s life. It’s physically messy with the caretakers obviously exhausted, but happiness is present despite the haphazardness of the scene.

I wrote this after weathering a tantrum. While I can’t remember the details, I do remember my son’s sweetest smile after I got him to calm down. That moment of calm after a whirlwind of chaos was so vivid and raw that I wanted to portray it in writing somehow. It made me think about my own parents and how, despite their exhaustion, home felt like home.

Anyway, I’ve spent the better part of my day reading the journal and love it. There’s amazing work by other writers and it’s aesthetically pleasing in my opinion.

Links:

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Check out my other publications, here.

A Letter to Writers who are Parents: Writing and Parenting is Possible (my guest post on NaNoWriMo)

Between late night feedings, tantrums, and saying “don’t eat that!” for the umpteenth time, I wondered how authors balanced their careers with parenting. So I googled (“is writing and parenting possible?”) and regretted it.

Not only is this rarely talked about, it’s believed to be impossible in some circles 1 .

But it’s absolutely possible 2 !

Continue reading “A Letter to Writers who are Parents: Writing and Parenting is Possible (my guest post on NaNoWriMo)”

My August Childhood

The water hose hissed and, for a moment,
The faint scent of sunbaked rubber
Filled the humid air.

Water tickled small, laughing bodies
Running barefoot through lush grass
Peppered with dried needle leaves.

They take refuge behind a rundown car
With cracked windows that resembled
A spiderweb glistening in the sun.


Prompt: Poetics: Sometimes August isn’t recognized by Sanaa Rizvi (from A Dash of Sunny) on d’Verse ~ Poets Pub. Join in on the fun by posting your response to the prompt via Mr. Linky.

A Peaceful Summer Afternoon

A shaded balcony
Chlorine wafting from the pool like a Siren's song
Children's laughter
Scrape of colorful chalk, tattooing concrete
Flowers in bloom
Red petals dancing in summer's light
Cyclist meandering by
Wheels cracking and spokes creaking
Wind in grass
Dried morning trimmings blanketing the walkway
Peaceful observer

Written for d’Verse ~ Poet’s Pub poetry challenge: MTB/Poetry Form: The Eleventh Power & More.

Funny story: I accidentally locked myself on my balcony while I was drafting this.

My Writer’s Journey so far… (aka Hello!)

For the last two years, I’ve been on what I could only describe as a personal journey. Almost like a Hero’s Journey (or a Writer’s Journey 😉 ).

The beauty of the Hero’s Journey model is that it not only describes a pattern in myths and fairy tales, but it’s also an accurate map of the territory one must travel to become a writer or, for that matter, a human being.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers 3rd ed

I needed a reason to write and thought, why not take part in a coffee share? So, welcome visitors and HELLO to everyone still reading (I love you <3 ).

Continue reading “My Writer’s Journey so far… (aka Hello!)”

A Treasure of Nightmares

There is nothing more torturous than an agitated mind.

It’s like a treasure chest of unspoken riches

Selfishly guarded, every jewel meticulously analyzed

Accumulating over a short time–

Epiphanies, suspicions, fears, schemes–

Until it overflows

And the tortured realizes too late

That it was easier to open than shut.


Written in response to Patrick Jenning’s Pic and a Word Challenge: Experience ~ Pic and a World Challenge #313

The Death Sentence

The year is 3020 and time travel is an execution method.

A few years back, it was a hopeful science experiment. “Humanity’s next great breakthrough,” said World Union’s propagandists. It earned them a few willing volunteers. A couple hundred if I remember right, but after humanity’s next great breakthrough turned its volunteers into charred corpses, WU couldn’t find a soul patriotic enough to step into a pod.

So these bastards used it to kill “criminals” or, better said, revolutionaries like me.

I wish I kept quiet. If I hadn’t written those papers. If I’d just stayed an obedient citizen

My feet felt heavy as my handlers led me to my pod. My heart beat rattled my body and I couldn’t find the strength to walk anymore. Hands yanked me from the ground and tossed me into my pod. They strapped my arms to my seat and, when I was secured, pressed a button that lowered the pod’s door. It made a hiss as it sealed me in.

A priest stood outside and prayed for me, but I couldn’t hear him. Not over my loud breathing. Not over my heartbeat, now thundering in my ears.

The machine whirled to life when he disappeared from view. I felt it attack my body first, pulling me apart atom by atom, then it went for my mind and crushed it.

***

The year is 1985; I live in London with my wife, and I’m the first human to survive a time jump.

Credits
Photo: Clock by Splitshire via Pixabay.

Our Escape

I want to be alone… with someone who wants to be alone.

Dimitri Zaik

We rented a motel room in a city far away from our respective lives. The moment we entered, we killed our phones then sequestered them in the old drawer – charging be damned – officially going off grid.

Two chocolates and a courtesy “Hope You Enjoy Your Stay” note sat in the center of the bed. We pushed them onto the floor and stowed away under the cold covers, embracing each other for warmth and, at some primal level, a need to belong.

But when our embrace didn’t scare away the loneliness that festered within us, we resorted to kissing it away.

Our respective decomposing worlds faded into a fog, leaving us alone.

Under satin sheets
Your soft snoring in my ears
Sheltered in your warmth

Credits
Photo: Morning Blankets by Cottonbro via Pexels.
Prompt: Solitude ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #257 by Patrick Jennings via Pix to Words.
Quote: Dimitri Zaik
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