Weekly Mash_up #98 Happy Thanksgiving

It’s a couple of days early, but to everyone celebrating Thanksgiving (SAFELY!!!!) on the 26th, I say to you, that no matter what…

Sure, it’s going to be different this year for many of us, but what’s one Thanksgiving compared to the ongoing health of your loved ones??  Is Aunt Shirley’s root vegetable cheesecake and Uncle Earl’s drunken rants about the latest conspiracy theories really worth risking your health?  Of course, I can’t answer that for you, and I can’t hand out common sense.  But I truly hope everyone celebrating will stay safe…and thanks to zoom, you can still listen to your drunken uncle’s rants (and your stomach will thank you for not having to sample the questionable cheesecake).

Even though 2020 has been “a giant dumpster fire” (thanks to Tosh.O for the perfect synopsis!), I have still found things to be thankful for.  Family and good friends of course.  The love and companionship of my dogs and cats.  The knowledge that I still have the strength to find good hidden in a giant crap pile of bad.  Homemade raspberry jam.

But I think I’m most thankful for the bookish community.   To my fellow bookdragons, those I’ve known for years and those I’ve only just met, whether you are a fan of romance or horror, whether you review or write or just simply share with me your love of reading, you’ve helped me to keep my focus and my sanity this year, and for that I want to say thank you and much love to you all.

The Week in Books

Wormwood by Chad Lutzke and Tim Meyer — 4.5 out of 5 stars

Rounded up to 5 stars on Goodreads.    As you all know, I love me some Lutzke, so when I heard this new story was going to be a part of my November NightWorms package, I was beyond excited!  This is one of those stories that I could feel the vibes from the two authors (Lutzke does more emotional horror while Meyer is known for his pretty graphic scary stuff), but that doesn’t take away from the story…and if I didn’t just spoil that for you, you probably never would have known…sorry!!!  A coming of age story where who you pick as your friend really does have consequences.  Probably not for everyone but I highly recommend.

The Things That Last Forever by Peter W.J. Hayes — 4.5 out of 5 stars

Rounded up to 5 for Goodreads.

Vic Lenoski is a cop with a gravely injured partner, a missing daughter, a marriage on the rocks, and a need to find answers.  Taking matters into his own hands, he follows some leads to North Dakota, where he will face the blurred lines between right and wrong.

This novel has everything I love about a good thriller/mystery, from solid characters to head-spinning twists.  Although I hadn’t read the first two books in the series, the author provided enough back-story to inform me without bogging down the narrative. I really have no complaints about this one; highly recommend.

Trial By Fire:  A Devastating Tragedy, 100 Lives Lost, and a 15-Year Search For the Truth by Scott James — 4 out of 5 stars

I will be writing a review of this and a similar book, Killer Show by John Barylick, in February 2021, the morbid anniversary of the deadliest rock show in American history.   I will say this now though:  if you read true crime or have an interest in how screwed up certain laws are, or just want to read some truly amazing survivor stories, you can’t go wrong with Trial By Fire.


Respect your fellow humans…wear a fucking mask!!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #97 Has It Been Two Years Already?!?!

Yes, believe it or not, this week (the 18th to be precise) marks my 2 year blog-aversary!!!

I wish I could tell you I’ll be hosting zoom interviews with favorite authors, or giving away books but, well, yeah, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

However, I look forward to continuing to share my love of books, no matter the genre, and letting you know exactly how I feel about every book I read.  And most importantly, I look forward to talking to YOU!!  Please feel free to share your thoughts on whatever books I profile, or just stop by to say hi!!  I truly look forward to hearing from you!!

The Week in Books

Jedi Summer With the Magnetic Kid by John Boden — 4.5 out of 5 stars

Part of my November NightWorms package, this little novella truly hit a few of my usually numb nerves.  John Boden is quickly becoming one of my go-to fan grrrrl authors as he knows how to create characters and scenarios that not only resonate with those of us of a certain age but also for those too young to know why White Snake’s video was the hottest thing ever made.  This is one of those heart-breaking coming of age stories that also incorporates some supernatural aspects, and I loved all of it.  Highly recommend.

Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings by Liz Ireland — 4 out of 5 stars

I love cozies that take a different direction, and this one certainly fits the bill!  April finds herself living a fantasy life at the North Pole (well, Santaland to be precise) as Mrs. Claus after a whirlwind romance with Nick Claus.  However, all the sugar plums and spiked eggnog can’t hide the dark side: a murdered elf and a melted snowman, all in the few days before Christmas!  And with Detective Jake Frost (for Pete’s sake don’t call him Jack!!)  on the case, things should get sorted out in quick order, right??   This was a fun, sugary-sweet read that I really needed right now.  If you’re looking for a pun-filled good time to usher in the holidays, I recommend checking this one out.  And I’m looking forward to reading more in this series!    Thanks to Kensington Books and Goodreads for sending me an ecopy for review.


I’m participating in a read-a-thon this week, I can already tell you I’m excited to share the books I’ve already finished and will be completing by Sunday night!

 

Keep reading to keep your sanity!!  Stay safe, wear a mask, and until next time, Happy Reading!!!

Weekly Mash-Up #96

What a crazy, headache-inducing week…

But for the first time in a long time, some positivity is coming to the surface, and in this hell year of 2020, we should grab every little bit that comes our way.

Surprisingly, I was able to concentrate on reading…at least for short spurts here and there!

The Week in Books

Miami Noir: The Classics — 4.5 out of 5 stars

I’ve had the pleasure of reading 30+ books in the Akashic Noir series, and this one is definitely in my top 5!!  Classic is the name of the game, with stories from 1925 up to 2006.  The variety is great, from gumshoe-type tales to spousal revenge.  And let’s not forget the amazing lineup of authors including Edna Buchanan, Elmore Leonard, Zora Neale Hurston, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Vicki Hendricks, John Dufresne…..you get the idea.  Whether you’ve read other titles in the series or this is your first one, I highly recommend it!

Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist — 4 out of 5 stars

Lindqvist brings us the human side of zombies in this novel, raising the question, “What would you do if your cherished loved one came back from the dead?”  Not really an easy one to answer.  The story does meander at times, but offers a different take on the zombie trope…and a strange twist that ties it all together.  There are some icky moments, but if you’re looking for a milder form of zombie story, give this one a try.

Old School by Tobias Wolff — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is what I consider a “quiet” novel, and something that I embraced after the stress of the past week.  It’s a well written tale of a teen trying to fit in at a prestigious boarding school, with the main focus on trying to win a coveted spot with a favorite author who will be visiting the school and picking a winning story from the students.  I’m a fan of Wolff’s writing, and while I don’t rank this one among my favorites of his (probably because I’m  still in a reading funk since March!!   🙂   ), I do recommend it, especially if you are new to his works.


Stay safe and sane, and Happy Reading!

 

Weekly Mash-Up #95

Another Halloween in the books, and I can say this literally, haha!  I managed to meet my personal goal of reading 31 Halloween-inspired books (see my #31 below) and enjoyed a quiet weekend watching movies and reading.

Then there’s tomorrow.

I am posting this on the eve of the November 3 US Presidential elections.  I vowed to keep my blog politic-free when I started it, but I have to tell you all, for the first time with such an election I am truly scared.  No matter the outcome, there will be fallout for months, if not years.  I’m going to try to stay off of social media and avoid news channels tomorrow, watch some of my favorite sitcoms I have on DVD, and only come out of my self-imposed shelter when I have to.  **Deep breath**

But enough about the bad, lets focus on some good!!!

The Week in Books

The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz — 4 out of 5 stars

Book 31 of my Halloween challenge, I finished this around noon on Halloween!  One thing I love about Jonathan Janz is seeing him grow as an author.  While I didn’t really care for The Sorrows, one of his earlier works involving a bunch of people staying at a haunted castle on a remote island, The Dark Game (which has a bunch of people on a writer’s retreat/contest at a remote castle-like mansion in the woods) is so much better in so many ways.  Sure, there are the usual stereotypes, what horror story doesn’t have those, but they weren’t as cartoony (for lack of a better word) and the evil aspect was much more interesting.  Great read for Halloween!

Purple People by Kate Bulpitt — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

3.5 stars, rounding up.  The UK government is turning criminals who engage in anti-social behavior purple, and Eve Baxter, a journalist with a tabloid-like news agency in the States, returns to her hometown to figure out the how and why behind the purpling.      There was a lot I enjoyed about this book, from the wit, the satire, and the prose.  What brought it down for me (and this is all personal opinion and nothing to do with the author’s writing) was the random focus on lost love opportunities.  It seemed like every time I came across a two page paragraph focusing on this, my mind would shut down and I would put the story away for several days.  Other than my own personal tics with the storyline, I thought this was well-written, entertaining, and great at social commentary without shoving it down the reader’s throat.  Recommend.

A Sick Gray Laugh by Nicole Cushing — 3 out of 5 stars

Not since Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves have I been so utterly confused, yet strangely fascinated, with a book.  I can’t begin to explain this book, other than there are three distinct parts, and you’re basically reading a story as told by a mentally ill person spiraling into psychosis.  If you like a challenge, you might want to try this one.

Short Stories, Novellas, and Anthologies

Halloween is a great day to find horror freebies, and while it’s been hit or miss in the past, I managed to find some diamonds in the rough…

The Dark Side of the Room by Tyler Jones — 4 out of 5 stars

First, I want to thank BookDad Andrew for promoting this free novella on Halloween, I am now looking for anything written by this author!!  It’s a story about the descent into madness, or is it?  What’s real and what’s part of the dark corner??  I can’t describe this one in the way it deserves so I’ll just say read it and let me know what you think!!

Dollhouse by JC Bratton — 4 out of 5 stars

A man buys an antique dollhouse, complete with three dolls and a handwritten journal telling their eerie tales.  Only 25 pages long, this short story intrigued me and has me hoping Bratton will be writing longer stories in the future.  I saw a lot of potential in these tales and wished they were a bit longer to really create the creepy doll feel.

Sour Milk:  A Short, Sharp Horror Shock by Morgan Delaney — 4 out of 5 stars

An orphanage/school run by a sadistic woman and “Mr. Leonard.”  There’s a definite Psycho vibe going on, and trigger warning for child abuse.  But overall, it was a strange, horrific read and I would recommend it as long as you  make sure to read the author’s notes at the end of the book!!!


Please stay safe, stay healthy, and I will continue to say Happy Reading!!!

November — No Theme But Great Reads

At the end of July, I had my son pick out some books for my August theme, which I then postponed due to, well, shit hitting the fan around here.  Since I didn’t really have a theme set up for November, I thought I’d use my son’s picks for November…

After nearly two months of focusing on horror for my personal Halloween challenge, I have to say I’m really looking forward to these titles!  Ghost Girl and The Red Door are crime fiction/mysteries, both dealing with old crimes brought back to light.  Old School sounds like a nice quiet literary fiction choice, focusing on an out-of-place student at an exclusive prep school and a writing contest.    I asked my son how he decided on these three, the answer was simply “The titles.”  Can’t argue with that!

I’ll also be focusing on some recent giveaway wins, including the anthology Miami Noir: The Classics and Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings (doesn’t that sound like a fun one?!?!)

Goodreads Group Reads

My groups have some great reading choices for November.

These three are ones I’ve read in the past, currently featured in different groups, and I recommend them all.  Fair warning though, The Vegetarian is a bit odd, no, just downright strange, but well worth the read.

Some other titles featured for November that I have put on my personal want-to-read list include:

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig — I really enjoyed Haig’s The Humans, so I can’t wait to read this fantasy about the universal library that holds all of our stories, even those not chosen, and raises the question “Would you be willing to change/redo your life?”

In My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg — If my local library hold on this wasn’t months long I would read this tomorrow.  And this coming from me, a person who avoids political-based memoirs as often as possible.  But I think this may be a book that, in this day and age, really needs to be read by everyone.


So what will you be reading in November?  Do you have a list or are you just taking it day by day?  Feel free to drop me a line and let me know, I love seeing what everyone is reading!  Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and for my American friends with the upcoming presidential election, please stay sane and get out there and vote!!!!

Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #94

It’s almost here, the most haunting day of the year!

And I’m not talking about the presidential election!!

Our plans may be minimal (carving pumpkins, watching scary movies, eating candy and making caramel popcorn), but they will keep us entertained.  Added bonus is turning the clocks back one hour to standard time–an extra hour of sleep!!

The Week in Books

Finders Keepers by Stephen King — 4 out of 5 stars!

It wouldn’t be the Halloween season without a Stephen King novel thrown in the mix.  It’s been a while since I read Mr. Mercedes, the first in this trilogy, so I was worried I may have forgotten some key elements.  But not to fear, this is it’s own story, just with some of the main, unforgettable characters from the first book.  Fast paced, with the lurking evil and fiendish twists that makes King the master of the genre.  (28/31)

The Malan Witch by Catherine Cavendish — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This witchy novella started out great.  Cavendish does a wonderful job of bringing to life the isolated location (you can almost smell the salt water and feel the wind).   But, as things moved along and strange occurrences started popping up, it felt like it was written by a different person.  The conversations were abrupt and at times felt a bit off, and the little details that sucked me into the story at the beginning pretty  much disappeared.  In short, everything started to feel rushed and unfinished, and at the end I was left scratching my head over a few things (especially the disappearance of a certain character.  Why not more behind that?).  My copy was labeled as 2nd revision so I don’t know if any more was changed or if this was the final copy.  I do recommend giving this a try, though, especially if you’re looking for a dark tale for Halloween but without the blood and gore of other horror stories.  (29/31)

When the Lights Go Out – Ink Slinger’s Halloween Anthology — 3 out of 5 stars

One thing I love about anthologies is the diversity of authors and writing styles that are showcased in one book.  I was a bit confused with this one though.  Some of the stories were written like they were aimed at Middle Grade or YA readers, then suddenly there’s a story featuring weird beastiality or extreme violence.  Overall, of the 25 stories, I found only a couple to be in the 4-star range, most were 3, with several 2’s mixed in.  Not terrible, but not something I would recommend.  (30/31)


Ooooh, do you see that?  Only one more book to meet my goal of 31 books for Halloween!!  Hmmm, will Jonathan Janz’s The Dark Game be the one?  Or will Brian Keene’s The Ghoul come from behind?  Or will I go a totally different direction?????  Stay tuned…….Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #93

A quiet week around here, nothing out of the ordinary….

The Week in Books

The Frighteners:  A Journey Through Our Cultural Fascination With the Macabre by Reverend Peter Laws — 5 out of 5 stars!

Check out my full review posted October 17! (25/31)

Hunted Past Reason by Richard Matheson — 2 out of 5 stars

I’ve really enjoyed my Matheson reading experiences in the past (I Am Legend, Duel, Hell House, etc.), but I just couldn’t find any enjoyment with Hunted Past Reason.  The premise: two men go backpacking, one an alpha male wilderness survival fanatic, the other an out-of -shape author with zero backpacking experience…I’m sure you can see where this is heading.  We go from boring as hell to a conversation about religious philosophy, to a Deliverance-style rape scene, then a run through the wilderness (and let’s not forget about the whole ability to talk a rattlesnake, a mountain lion, and a black bear out of eating you, yeah, that’s realistic).  The idea was there, the potential was there, sadly the delivery wasn’t.  (26/31)

Scary Stories Collection: 5 Short Horror Stories by Stories From the Attic — 1 out of 5 stars

First of all, when there is no real author name, run far, far away!  These shorts were in desperate need of editing…actually, a couple of them should have just been scrapped altogether.  On the plus side, it was a kindle freebie!  That’s about the only good thing I can say.  (27/31)


I’m getting closer to my goal of 31 Halloweenish books by October 31st!  Fingers crossed my current reads are better than these last two!!

Stay safe and sane, and Happy Reading!

 

Night Worms October Theme — Creep It Real!

Every month is Halloween with Night Worms, and the October package brought two great-sounding books…

Kathe Koja’s The Cipher is horror with a sci-fi twist: when a dark hole appears in a storage closet, Nicholas and Nakota apparently decide it’s a good idea to jump into the blackness to investigate.  You know nothing good can come of that!  The Loop sounds like it also has a bit of a sci-fi element, with a biotech firm and a strange outbreak in the local area.  Both Jeremy Robert Johnson and Kathe Koja are new-to-me authors and I’m looking forward to diving into these books!

I’m always excited and looking forward to the next installment, but I know that November will bring a new book by one of my fan-grrrl favorite authors, Chad Lutzke!!  Counting down the days for that one!!

Until next time, stay safe and sane, and Happy Reading!

Nonfiction — The Frighteners

The Frighteners:  A Journey Through Our Cultural Fascination With the Macabre by Reverend Peter Laws

5 out of 5 stars!!

(**A quick note:  there are three or four editions, each with a different subtitle.  I am using the one from my kindle edition**)

From the Goodreads Synopsis

“… In accessible and light-hearted prose, Peter Laws takes us from the dark corners of his mind to the underbelly of various macabre cultures to illuminate society’s preoccupation with death and horror. The Frighteners combines psychology, religious theory, and personal memoir to create a dynamic and fascinating read that is informative and entertaining.”

So, an ordained minister takes a vacation to an ancient castle in Transylvania, looking for vampires…

Sounds like a weird joke, but it’s not!  From the beginning of this book, I was hooked, not only by Peter Laws’ sense of humor, but his ability to take us on a weird yet informative journey to some of the strangest and darkest aspects of humanity, while also giving the reader some reality checks on common horror tropes through actual scientific and psychological research.

Each chapter starts with Laws’ own experiences.  A much-anticipated “vacation” to Transylvania; wandering around back roads searching for the “werewolf of Hull;” exploring the cavernous basement of a supposed haunted hotel.  Laws introduces us to people who actually believe they are vampires, as well as those who have experienced other bizarre occurrences in the paranormal realm.

Perhaps the most disturbing chapter, not only for me but also the author, involved real life horror in the form of serial killers and those who collect “murder memorabilia.”  Laws visited a shop that not only specializes in the macabre, but their best-selling items are related to serial killers (locks of hair from Charles Manson?  Artwork by Richard Ramirez?  Aileen Wournos’s last TV Guide from her cell on Death Row?  If they don’t have it, there are plenty of places out there that do!).  It’s true, the truth really is stranger, and scarier, than fiction.

One of my favorite chapters involved children and horror.  Why are young kids drawn to the scary?  I know from my childhood, the first movie to totally scare the crap out of me was Child of Glass, shown on The Wonderful World of Disney no less!  Even though this show scared me every time I saw it (from age 5 to around age 10), I always looked forward to seeing it show up around Halloween.  Why?  After reading this chapter, maybe I’m not so weird after all!

Laws’ personal experiences, his humor and inquisitiveness,  mixed with historical references and scientific theories makes for an engaging book.  If you’re looking for a Halloween read that’s not only a bit creepy but also fun and fascinating, be sure to give this book a try!

Until next time, stay safe, stay sane, and Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Weekly Mash-Up #92

Being hit with wind and rain storms this past week has really brought out my hibernation tendencies.  This was how I felt over the weekend in the midst of a very long power outage….

Yep, curled up in a cozy blanket, munching on chips, and thinking this is going to be a very loooooonnnnng winter!    😀

On the plus side, I’ve had plenty of time to finish up some books, really a little bit of everything!

The Week in Books

Make sure to look for the x/31 to track my progress on my 31 Books of Halloween!

Tea and Croakies by Sam Cheever — 4 out of 5 stars

This was a fun cozy read, and one I really needed to lighten my mood a bit!  This is kind of like a mellow version of Midnight, Texas, with our MC Naida being a “magical artifact wrangler,” with a friend/co-worker who happens to be a Fairy Princess…and let’s not forget the intuitive grey kitten named Mr. Wicked, a frog who seems a bit put out, and a coven of witches who live up the street.  Great fun and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series!  (18/31)

The October Boys by Adam Millard — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

This was one of those mixed feelings kind of book.  For the most part, it was a solid 4 stars, with very heavy vibes of Stephen King’s IT.  I liked the build-up, and the characters were fleshed out pretty well.  But what brought this down for me was the ending.  I won’t say much other than I still don’t know how I feel about it, it was fine but I guess I was expecting something else.  Still, I recommend checking this out.  (19/31)

Shadow Vista by Charles Colyott and Mark Steensland — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Written and published exclusively for NightWorms, this is a tale made for a bad movie adaptation….and really, that’s a good thing!!  We have a serial killer who is using an abandoned housing development as their burial grounds, with  clueless security guards and a random homeless guy stumbling upon the carnage.  Yeah, it’s a bit predictable, there’s a lot of bloodshed, but it’s like watching a horror movie on the SyFy channel…you wind up being entertained more than being scared.  Recommend.  (20/31)

Evangeline by KC Franks — 3.5 out of 5 stars

So, I don’t know how to describe this without giving away the entire premise of the story, so I’ll just say this:  Evangeline like a tamer version of I Spit on Your Grave, but with a big twist.  There are a ton of triggers and I would only recommend this to die-hard dark horror fans.  (21/31)

Vampire Mountain (Cirque Du Freak #4)  by Darren Shan — 3 out of 5 stars

I found a few of these YA books at a used book sale a while back and thought I’d see if they would be something my son would like.  This is the first in the series I’ve read, and there are some definite pros and cons.  Pros:  I could easily slip into the story as there was enough backstory provided to keep me from being totally disoriented.  Cons:  it was basically a 190 page introduction to book 5.  There’s enough though that has me intrigued and I am now looking for the earlier books so I can catch up!  (22/31)

Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis — 2 out of 5 stars

The blurb sounded so promising!  An unusual town, a girl that comes back from the dead (or did she?), a creepy circus in the woods…Sadly, it was a hit and a miss for me.  I can’t even tell you the difference between the characters, nor do I care to.  I would put this book down for a couple of hours, and when I picked it up again I couldn’t remember what I had just read.  There were a few good (memorable) passages that kept it out of the 1 star shit pile, but overall a big not recommend (unless you need a sleeping aid, this will help!).  (23/31)

Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin — 1 out of 5 stars

Yes, the sequel to the famous Rosemary’s Baby is really that bad.  I took one for the team so you don’t have to subject yourself to this total shitshow.  You’re welcome. (24/31)


I hope you are staying safe, sane and healthy!  Happy Reading!!