Here are some of the books I’ve read lately that I’ve really liked:
The Bleeding Season by Greg F. Gifune (horror): I’m a fan of horror, but I’m pretty picky about what I like (as I am with all genres). So I was thrilled to find this very disturbing gem, a “classic” of sorts, recently re-published (and now available as a Kindle book for a mere $1.99!). In the story, four childhood friends have become middle-aged losers. One friend kills himself — and leaves behind some very disturbing secrets that cause the other three to question how well they knew their friend (and themselves). I especially liked that this is a book that very convincingly deals with the issue of “class.” I was a little disappointed by the ending (which is of the “there are many things we can’t understand!” variety), but the “horror” imagery is some of the best I’ve ever read.
Under the Skin by Michael Faber (literary/science fiction): This is the source material of the recent movie of the same name starring Scarlett Johansson. In it, the main character, a women, drives around picking up fit young men on the Scottish countryside. She seems to be looking for a particular “type” of man. But why? It’s not about sex (even if the men think it is). I’m not spoiling things too much to say that she’s not quite “human” — and her plans for these men are incredibly creepy. I’ve been a huge fan of Faber’s since I read and loved The Crimson Petal and the White (2002) but this, his first published novel (from 2000), is an entirely different animal — a book that will (or at least should) forever change the way you look at factory farming, and the way we view other species as objects or “meat” to do with what we will.
Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman (fantasy): I used to read a lot of fantasy (and, in theory, it’s still my favorite genre). But I’ve read so much derivative, badly-written fantasy over the years that I’m now pretty skeptical when it comes to giving a new writer a chance. But I’m really glad I gave this author one. In Feast of Souls, women can be healers, but only men can be wizards. One girl is determined to change that — but the answers she finds aren’t like anything Harry learned at Hogwarts. A sweeping, epic fantasy — and the start of a trilogy that thankfully doesn’t read like it’s all set-up for the “real” story that’ll come later down the line.
Raiders of the Nile by Stephen Saylor (mystery/ historical): I’m a long-time fan of Stephen Saylor, and his Rosa Sub Roma series of mysteries sent in Ancient Rome, featuring a “detective” known as Gordianus the Finder. The mysteries themselves are usually fine, but what’s always fascinating (to me) are the details of life in Ancient Rome. This particular book isn’t quite as good as the previous “prequel” book, Seven Wonders (wherein Gordianus visits, and solves a mystery at, each of the Seven Wonder of the Ancient world), but it’s still a solid entry in the series. If you haven’t read the others, start with the first book in the series, Roman Blood, and work your way through them all.