Weekly Mash-Up #141

For those who will be celebrating this weekend, I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though this year has been another one full of ups and downs, our little family will be giving thanks for the good things that have blessed our lives while enjoying a mini feast of turkey and all the trimmings.

I will also be participating in a four-day readathon, which will be perfect for the predicted cold, rainy weather coming our way.  Granted, I don’t know how much I will be able to read on Thursday and Friday, but I plan on curling up on the couch with some favorite teas and diving into my current reads on Saturday and Sunday!

The Week in Books

Without You, I Would Be Nothing by Brooke L. Davis — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this very personal memoir…one hundred different memories and events, each told with one hundred words.  From the simplicity of planting flowers to dealing with a loved one’s decline, Brooke Davis shares her life in a very unique and touching way.  Highly recommend.

The Forest of Smoke and Fog by Alex McGlothlin — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

Rounded up to 3 for NetGalley and Goodreads.  There was a lot of potential with this one:  John Kelton returns home after his father dies in a mysterious  hunting accident and finds himself battling for control of the family company while trying to find out the truth behind his father’s sudden death.  Overall not a bad story, but…I try not to lower my ratings on advance copies due to typos, grammar errors, etc. since many times the story has not gone through a final editing, but between the scattered narrative and other glaring errors, it became too annoying to overlook (example:  sequins are used in art projects, not sequences).   And as for the ending?  It felt like a last-minute “Hail Mary” that was thrown in and wound up falling flat.  If the final published copy addressed some of the bigger issues I found in this ARC then I will gladly revisit this book to reevaluate.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!


Weekly Mash-Up #140

Hard to believe, but this week marks the third year of All Dragons Read!!

I’ve been having a lot of fun sharing my bookish thoughts and hope you’ve been enjoying them as well!  Here’s to another year in the Book Dragon Lair!

The Week in Books

The Hidden by Melanie Golding — 4 out of 5 stars

A young girl is found wandering alone in a small seaside town.  A woman claims to be her mother and the pair disappears.  A man is found badly beaten and left for dead. Detective Joanna Harper is trying to figure out how her estranged daughter, Ruby, is involved.  Sound straight-forward?  Believe me, it’s not!  A tightly woven mystery/thriller with a hefty dose of magical realism mixed in, this page-turner kept me guessing until the very end.  A solid four-star book that I highly recommend.

Rust Belt Femme by Raechel Anne Jolie — 4 out of 5 stars

Be sure to check out  my full review here and at MrPinkInk the weekend of November 26-28!

In the Land of Dead Horses by Bruce McCandless III — 4 out of 5 stars

Set in Texas in 1908, this mix of western and supernatural horror tells the story of hard-drinking ranger Jewel Lightfoot who is hired to track down the killers of a local farming family.  What he and his companions, Ernesto and Antonio, don’t realize is that they are about to come face to face with evil itself.        This was one of those fast-paced, engaging reads that I found difficult to put down!  The characters are well developed, and I found myself saying “oh ****” more than once when a favorite character was heading towards a bad situation.  Horror westerns are here to stay, and I highly recommend adding this one to your reading list.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Mestiza Blood by V. Castro — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

3.5 stars, rounding up for Goodreads and NetGalley.    V. Castro is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine, and this collection of short stories showcase the broad range of her writing talent.  Focusing on the Chicana experience, these stories are blends of fantasy, horror, sex, and urban legend/local folklore.  As with any collection, I thought some were more successful than others.  There is a common theme of the inner strength and powers of women, and all are truly unique.  If you haven’t had a chance to read any of Castro’s works, I recommend this as a great place to start.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

November — Nonfiction Month

I actually had another theme in mind for this month, then I was reminded that November is National Nonfiction Month so I knew I just had  to get involved!

This month I will be focusing on these two books…

I started Five Days at Memorial in early September, then when my focus shifted to my Halloween titles this was set aside.  While I’m only 100 pages in, I am completely immersed in this account of the tragedy that took place at this Louisiana hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and the doctors who were put on trial after having to make many difficult and painful decisions.

Raechel Anne Jolie tells her story of childhood trauma and alternative lifestyle in Rust Belt Femme.  I’m a big fan of memoirs where the average person overcomes trauma and life obstacles and learns to be true to themselves.  I will be featuring this one both here and at MrPinkInk at the end of the month (November 27-ish).

Goodreads Group Reads

A couple of books stood out for November’s group reads.  The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is one that my friend’s local book club has chosen.  I’m going to try to fit it in since I’ve had this copy sitting on my shelf for a couple of years now…no more excuses!  And as for The Last House on Needless Street?  After just recently finishing it, I can’t recommend it enough to be added to your to-read list!

What are your reading goals for the month?  Drop me a line and let’s talk books!  Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #139 — The 31 Books of Halloween Grand Finale!

Happy Halloween!!

Haunted House Animation GIF by Satellite Center IM

I put off my weekly mash-up so I could include my final reads from my personal Halloween reading challenge.  With only a few hours to spare, I wrapped up my 31st book this morning!  So without further ado…

The Week in Books

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward — 5 out of 5 stars!

(H 22/31)  I am so glad I was able to avoid spoilers for this one!  What seems like a story about a man and his cat living in a creepy house turns out to be so much more.  I can’t say anything else without giving away major spoilers but I will say that the hype is real!!  Highly recommend!

A Taste For Poison by Neil Bradbury — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 23/31)  Be sure to check out my full review coming here and at MrPinkInk on October 31!

The Cassowary by James Sabata — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 24/31)  The world’s deadliest bird just got an upgrade…   The latest in the creature feature horror series that started with The Roo,  Sabata takes us to a wildlife park in Arizona, where a possessed cassowary escapes and wrecks havoc around town.  Good ol’ creature feature fun, with lots of bloodshed, standard horror characters, and tongue-in-cheek humor.

Riley’s Excellent and not-at-all Fake Exorcism Service by Sophie Queen — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 25/31)  Riley has a feeling that something has come over her in-laws…just wait until she finds out exactly what that is.  Overall a pretty funny story and quick read.  I did find myself wanting to know more about the supporting characters than I did about Riley.  If you’re looking for some lighter “horror” with minimum ick factor, this isn’t a bad choice.

Rings by Koji Suzuki — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 26/31)  This is one of those rare instances where I actually like the movie much better than the book (and I’m talking about the 2002 movie).  The general storyline is still present, with a mysterious videotape that makes anyone who views it die within a week.  I think my biggest issue was with the book’s characters, I just didn’t really care about any of them, even the girl in the well.  Maybe if I’d read the book first I would have a different opinion, but for now I’ll just stick to rewatching the movie.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Midnight Meat Train by Clive Barker — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 27/31)  One of Barker’s classic short stories, this has us riding along with Leon Kaufman as he discovers what’s at the end of the line on this subway train.  It’s been several years since I’ve picked up a Barker novel or story, and this reminded me of how much I always enjoyed his writing and how atmospheric his stories are.  Great place to start if you’re new to his writing.

Trick or Treat by Jamie Stewart — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H 28/31)  A mother seeks revenge against The Reaper Man, the mysterious entity believed to have abducted her child on Halloween night.  This was a great surprise find in the kindle freebies, one that held my attention and offered a good ending (something that some short stories often lack).  I agree with other reviewers that it sets the mood for a creepy Halloween.

Slush by Glenn Rolfe — 3 out of 5 stars

(H 29/31)  This was definitely the darkest writing I’ve read from Rolfe so far (one story I noted as simply “gross!”).  Stories range from cursed coins to zombies, revenge to a disturbing look at teen love.  I probably wouldn’t recommend to first-time readers of Rolfe, but do recommend for his fans who want something edgier.

Deadly Women:  A Horror Short Story Collection by Mav Skye — 3 out of 5 stars

(H 30/31)  There was a lot of potential in these twisted tales, but definitely something lacking since I promptly forgot what I had read within 24 hours.

Put on a Happy Face by Terry M. West — 3 out of 5 stars

(H 31/31)  A young girl lives with her twisted brother, a young man who wears different masks to hide his deformities.  What else could he be hiding?  Not a bad story, but one that really needed a touch more background to really  make it whole.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Nonfiction — A Taste For Poison

A Taste For Poison:  Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used Them by Neil Bradbury

Expected Publication Date:  February 1, 2022 by St. Martin’s Press

Four out of Five stars

For the month of October, I wanted to find some nonfiction that would tie in with my favorite holiday, Halloween.  After looking at titles involving ghost hunting, unsolved mysteries, and even witchcraft, I happened upon this one on NetGalley and I couldn’t resist.  I mean, really, what’s scarier than a tiny molecule capable of killing within seconds?!

With A Taste For Poison, my inner science geek got to hold hands with my inner true crime junkie, embarking on a dark and interesting journey.  This book is primarily science-based, with each chapter focusing on a different poison that has been used for both good and evil through the ages.  Bradbury explains the origins of each, as well as a pretty detailed account of the poison’s  effects on the human body (let me tell you, it’s not pretty!).  He breaks them down into two categories:  biomolecules (ricin, digoxin, insulin, atropine, strychnine, aconite, and cyanide) and molecules from the earth (chlorine, arsenic, polonium, and potassium round out this section).  There are historical notes as well, especially on the subject of creating accurate testing/detection methods which helped in the early prosecutions of those who thought they could get away with murder.

For those who enjoy the true crime aspect, Bradbury introduces us to various criminals who have used these poisons as their weapons of choice.  Many of the cases are much older (1800’s to early 1900’s) but there are a few from more recent times, including the man who laced several bottles of tonic water at a local grocery store with atropine just to get to his wife, and the former spy who died a terribly slow and painful death from polonium poisoning.  Compared to the scientific explanations, I found the true crime aspect to be a bit lacking at times.  Even though they were thoroughly researched and well presented, I thought some of them just didn’t rise to the same level as the scientific narratives  (or perhaps it was the case studies themselves that lacked a certain shock factor, I’m not sure).

What I enjoyed most about this book is Bradbury’s writing style.  While the information can be overwhelming at times, it is written to be easily accessed and understood by everyone.  Even with such a weighty topic, he keeps the narration on the lighter side, with some darker humor thrown in as well.  In short, if you’re like me and have an inner science geek and/or inner true crime junkie, be sure to put this book on your 2022 reading list!

Happy Halloween!  Stay safe and Happy Reading!



Weekly Mash-Up #138

Book mail is always exciting, and this past week was no exception!

Not only did my order of Rings and Rust Belt Femme arrive, but I also received a new ARC that I won in a recent LibraryThing giveaway!  The Hidden sounds like it’s right up my alley, blending mystery/thriller with British folklore.  I’ll be diving into these in the very near future so be sure to look for my thoughts in upcoming mash-ups.

And if those weren’t exciting enough, check out this month’s NightWorms delivery!

The Last House on Needless Street has been on my must-read list since I first heard of it so finding it in this month’s package was truly fantastic!  I’m over halfway through and all I can say is “wow!”  Dark Matter is a 200+ page “magazine” that features a wide variety of short stories, poetry, and artwork from the science fiction and horror genres.  I’m seriously considering treating myself to a subscription for my upcoming birthday.

While I didn’t get a lot of reading in, I did manage to finish a couple of books.

The Week in Books

The Narrows by Ronald Malfi — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 21/31)  One of Malfi’s earlier works is the story of a small town harboring deadly secrets…and some pretty nasty creatures.  I thought this was a perfect Halloween read, even though it was a bit predictable.  The twist on the vampire was unexpected and truly creepy.  Recommended for fans of moderate horror.

City of Ash and Red by Hye-Young Pyun — 3 out of 5 stars

I picked up this book based on the cover synopsis promising a tale of a man stranded in a foreign country while a pandemic rages around him (sounds pretty timely, right?).  Well, not so much.  This is more the story of the main character’s personal failings, with flashbacks to events that have led him to his current state.    I agree with another reviewer’s comment that this book leaves you feeling filthy; from the reeking garbage and systematic rat deaths to the filthy soul of the unnamed main character, it’s not light reading by any means.  The writing was impressive, but for me the story was unsatisfying.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!


Weekly Mash-Up #137

I started this week’s mash-up with lofty goals of talking about Halloween, social media, autumn preparations, but…

Fx Networks Shadowsfx GIF by What We Do in the Shadows

The Week in Books

The Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 17/31)  In 1950’s Texas, a young female farmhand is brutally murdered.  Her death calls to an ancient goddess seeking vengeance.  In 2020, Belinda finds herself staying at the site of the crime which spawned the urban legend of La Reina de las Chicharras (the Queen of the Cicadas).  She will soon find out that the legend is all too real…    I really, truly like this book!  It has the perfect storyline for a Halloween read (an urban legend that may be real) and Ms. Castro does an excellent job at setting the mood and bringing the characters to life.  What kept it from being a full five stars for me was a bit of a downturn at one point (just my opinion, of course) which broke up the story and the momentum a bit.  But overall, highly recommend.

Mango, Mambo, and Murder by Raquel Reyes — 3.5 out of 5 stars

A new series in the cozy mystery genre, this one features Miriam Quinones-Smith, a food anthropologist-turned-television cooking show host.  As with many first books in a series, this one focuses more on character development with the mysterious deaths being more of a secondary plot line (not that it’s a bad thing).  This checks off most of the standard cooking cozy checklist, including the ride or die best friend, supportive husband, meddling in-laws, and seemingly tough-as-nails detective (and don’t forget the delicious recipes!).  While I enjoyed this book overall, I had issues with the “caper climax.”  I felt that after 300+ pages, the criminal conclusion scene was a bit of a let-down for me as it felt abrupt and almost like an afterthought.  I couldn’t help thinking “That’s it??”  Even with this personal  disappointment, I would still recommend giving this new series a try and I am looking forward to checking out the next one.

Gone at Midnight by Jake Anderson — 3 out of 5 stars

(H 18/31)  This nonfiction selection made me think it would be looking into the strange circumstances behind the death of Elisa Lam at the notorious Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles back in 2013.  Her death became a media sensation:  after her body was found in one of the hotel’s water tanks, a mysterious surveillance video was posted online seemingly showing Lam trying to escape something unknown, prompting speculations ranging from hotel insiders to the paranormal being involved in her death.  While Anderson does address Lam’s disappearance and the still-unresolved mystery, he takes the bulk of the book to examine his own mental health issues.  He even goes as far as to compare his issues with hers, saying that “it could have been” him.  While I appreciate the author’s health struggles, I found it in poor taste to exploit a young woman’s death as a sounding board for his personal issues.  However, I gave this three stars for the content involving Elisa Lam as it was well written  and well researched.

Trick or Deadly Treat by Livia Washburn — 2 out of 5 stars

(H 19/31)  I enjoy cozy mysteries.  There, I said it.  They’re predictable, quick little stories with the same basic story lines and the same characters that offer a relaxing respite between darker or more difficult books (kind of like a literary palate cleanser).  With that being said, it takes a lot for a cozy to annoy me, but this one was able to achieve that with flying colors.  It was a little bit of everything that  got my eyes rolling, from the stilted conversations to the weird dog “adoption” at the beginning.  Plus, the fact that this was advertised as a Halloween themed story and the holiday was mentioned once really peeved me.  In summary, I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of this series anytime soon.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Find Us and Other Stories by Elford Alley — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 20/31)  A strong four stars to this collection of shorts from a new-to-me author.  Sometimes the scariest stories are those where the ending is unknown or ambiguous.  When an author can do this successfully not just once, but for every short story in a collection, well, he has found himself a new fan in me!  These tales range from ghostly encounters to cryogenics (if you’ve ever thought that freezing yourself after your death might be a good idea, after this story you might have second thoughts!), and with only one exception all were four and five star reads.  Highly recommend for Halloween reading!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #136 The 31 Books of Halloween Continues!

I thought I’d use this week to share my progress on my annual 31 Books of Halloween personal challenge.

read addams family GIF

As of October 5, I have officially hit the halfway mark, with 16 titles under my belt.  There have been some great ones, as well as some ho-hum ones, and I can’t wait to get to the next 15 titles I have lined up!  Plus, I think I’ve found a great nonfiction to share not only here but at MrPinkInk…watch for it around October 29/30!

The Week in Books

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 12)  A young boy goes missing from the small town of Deer Valley, bringing back horrific memories of another boy found brutally murdered years ago.  Will this latest disappearance end the same…or with something even worse?   I’ll admit I thought the first bit of this novel felt a bit slow for me, but once it got going…wow!  I went into this one blind and I’m glad I did as the twist is perfectly evil!  I’ll be putting more of Ahlborn’s works on my to-read list, that’s for sure!

The Shadow People by Graham Masterton — 3.75/4 out of 5 stars

(H 13)  Supernatural Squad Detectives Jamila Patel and Jerry Pardoe are back, this time investigating a series of bizarre deaths linked to a cannibalistic cult.  Part gruesome horror, part thriller/mystery, with a dash of history and a large splash of the supernatural and ancient gods, this will keep you turning the pages while wishing you could erase some of the cannibals’ graphic ritual imagery from your mind.  This book is not for everyone!  But if you’re a fan of graphic horror with a supernatural twist, be sure to check this one out at its release in December 2021!

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Death Watch by Lisa Shea — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 14)  This fifteen page short takes us into the mind of a mentally ill killer and his last hours on Death Row.  Not scary per se, but a bit uncomfortable and creepy.  Very good writing has me looking into more of Shea’s work.

Badwater: A Horror Story by Travis Liebert — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 15)  With vibes of mythology and local folklore, this is a tale of a creature/being that lives in the local waters and the townspeople who keep it in check.  Another well-written short that drew me in immediately and kept me wondering until the end.

Stone Hill: Book of Crane by Dean Rasmussen — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 16)  An underground crypt located beneath a church, a not-so pious pastor, and a tentacled creature should have been a home run Halloween story.  Overall I thought it was good, but I really think this would have been a better story if it had been fleshed out a bit more as 25 pages just wasn’t enough to create a truly creepy atmosphere.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #135

Is everyone ready for the spooky season that’s just around the corner?

Wake Up Morning GIF by What We Do in the Shadows

I know I am!  The leaves are turning colors, the weather is rainy and cool, and I have my stockpile of favorite horror movies and books ready to go!  Added bonus:  with the arrival of our new internet satellite last week, I’m finally able to check out all these streaming channels I’ve been hearing about, especially the ones featuring the scary and the paranormal.  Time to pop some popcorn and settle in!

The Week in Books

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Lydia has a good life in Acapulco, until a local cartel guns down her family, forcing her and her young son to flee for their lives.  Their goal:  to reach the US/Mexico border and start a new life in the United States.  The author tells a heartbreaking, thought-provoking story that attempts to shed light on the current plight of immigrants fleeing to the border in search of a better, safer life.  While well-written, at times I did feel like I was reading the script for a Lifetime or Hallmark movie.   Recommend, especially as a stepping stone for learning more about the current immigration crisis.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Festering Ones by S. H. Cooper — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 10/31)  As a child, Faith watched her father get dragged underground by strange spider-legged women.  As an adult, she sets out to find answers and revenge against these strange creatures.    A truly creepy, fast-paced read that delivers quite a punch in only 130 pages.  And while not a cliffhanger, there is a set-up for another installment…looking forward to that!

Of Witches… by Steve Stred — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H 11/31)  Another Steve Stred you may ask?  Yeah, I had forgotten how many freebies I picked up last year when he was doing a weekend kindle giveaway, ha!  These six short stories feature witches (of course!) and lean heavily on family themes.  There’s the water witch who returns for her son; the grandmother who reaches beyond the grave to teach her selfish grandson a lesson; three sisters accused by a local village of witchcraft; and others along these lines.  Overall, a solid collection that offers a good variety.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #134

Happy First Day of Autumn!

Fall Season Cartoon Sticker by Peanuts

Happy White Girl GIF by Trey Kennedy

Yes, my favorite time of year is here!  Time to make some spiced cider, pull out the fuzzy socks and cozy sweaters, and take time to curl up with a good book!

The Week in Books

The Cipher by Kathe Koja — 3 out of 5 stars 

(H 7/31)  One of my September TBR selections.   Part-time lovers and full-time nonbelievers in personal hygiene Nicholas and Nakota find a strange hole in the supply room of their apartment building.  This mysterious otherworldly black hole eventually leads them down a road of obsession and violence.        First off, this is written in stream of consciousness style, one that I personally am not a big fan of.  There were some good parts, but mainly I found this just, well, boring.  Maybe if I had read it when it first came out in 1991 it would have wowed me, or maybe if I had dropped some acid while reading it I would have been blown away, but this one just didn’t stand out for me.

Under the Table by Vern Smith — 3 out of 5 stars

Touted as a “snappy heist novel,” this nostalgia-filled story left me with mixed feelings.  I enjoyed the ’80’s references, and a couple of the characters were a hoot, but the overall story just felt muddled and incomplete.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Scratches by Joshua Marsella — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 8/31)  Conner and his mother Janet move back to Janet’s childhood home, a place of real life nightmares for her.  Then Conner starts to see a dark figure in the basement…what evil still lurks in there?     A blend of the real horrors of childhood trauma and the Vietnam War  mixed with the supernatural,  Scratches delivers a fast-paced, chilling story that will make you think twice about those strange noises you may hear at night.

Wagon Buddy by Steve Stred — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 9/31)  What could be more benign than a child’s imaginary friend?  How about one that actually takes care of the bullies and bad people in the child’s life, then follows him into adulthood to help out as well!  That’s the premise of Wagon Buddy, a novella I would term as “horror lite.”  I can totally see this being made into a movie for the scy fy channel.  This is only the second story by Stred that I’ve read, and I have to say I am quickly becoming addicted to his work!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!