November — Notable Nonfiction

After two months of nonstop horror for Halloween, I’m going in a different direction for the month of November and focusing on nonfiction.

I started In the Garden of Beasts a few months ago and set it aside for a variety of reasons, so I decided to make it a priority to finish it this month.  I have to say, the similarities between Hitler’s rise to power and the current political atmosphere of today are quite frightening.

For some lighter reading, I picked out a couple of books based on two of my favorite things:  tea and flowers.  Naomi Slade has a series of beautiful flower guides and Lilies is probably one of my favorites.  Taking in the gorgeous photos on dark, rainy autumn days is definitely a mood booster.  The Harney and Sons Guide to Tea offers histories, commentaries, tasting notes, and other information on a variety of teas from around the world.

And speaking of around the world…World Travel is a collection of quotes and travel/dining tips from Anthony Bourdain’s many televised travel series.

Mango and Peppercorns is part memoir, part cookbook, telling the story of a Vietnamese refugee and her friendship with a young American woman, that later turned into a successful partnership behind a beloved restaurant.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a movie called Mockingbird Don’t Sing which was based on the true story of a young feral girl discovered to be living in deplorable conditions in the early 1970’s.  I was intrigued by the story so I managed to track down Genie:  A Scientific Tragedy.   I am curious to learn more about this girl’s story.

What are your reading goals for November?  Drop me a line and let’s talk books!

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!


Reading Mash-Up #194 — Happy Halloween!

Cartoon gif. In front of a full moon in a dark sky, multiple bats fly toward us and scatter in all directions.

It’s hours away from my favorite holiday, and as of the afternoon of October 29, I completed my 31 Books of Halloween personal challenge!  Quite a few hits and a couple of misses, but overall a creepy fun time.

What I’ve Been Reading

The Beauty of Horror: Tarot Coloring Book by Alan Robert — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 24/31)  So why am I including a coloring book on my reading list?  Because this is more than your typical coloring book.  Alan Robert not only gives us his artistic versions of a tarot deck, but also provides some introduction on the meanings behind the cards.  Very entertaining, and some decent information for those new to tarot.

We Need to Do Something by Max Booth III  — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 25/31)  I went into this one knowing the basic outline:  a family of four hide in their bathroom during a tornado warning and wind up trapped.  What I wasn’t expecting was the sheer emotional and psychological terror that would happen as the story unfolded.  I don’t want to give away any of the spoilers so I will just say that I tore through this in one sitting and was left feeling disturbed and unsettled.

The Haunted by Robert Curran and Ed and Lorraine Warren — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H 26/31) An average American family moves into their new home, and shortly after, are plagued with strange noises, smells, and events.  World famous demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren are called in to help the overwhelmed family and to try to determine what evil is plaguing the residents.  Whether you believe in ghosts, demons, and other supernatural entities or not, this is still a good, creepy story, perfect for fans of The Amityville Horror.

Rovers by Richard Lange — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H 27/31)  When I saw this book referenced as “Of Mice and Men meets Dracula,” I was instantly intrigued and needed to check it out.  And yes, Jesse and his brother, Edgar, do fit the OMAM bill, and this is a story about vampires.  But that’s really where any similarities end.  The main plot point centers around revenge, from the father seeking revenge against the killer of his child to the vampiric biker group looking for revenge against wrongs done against them.  I liked this one, especially being able to see everything from the multiple points of view.  I would recommend this to anyone looking for a different twist to the standard vampire story.

Sundial by Catriona Ward — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 28/31)  Rob fled her childhood home in search of a normal life with her husband and daughters.  When the oldest daughter starts to exhibit some disturbing behavior,  Rob realizes she must return to her past to help her daughter.    I was excited to read this one after enjoying Ward’s last novel, The Last House on Needless Street.  I wound up having some mixed feelings on this one though.  I’ll admit, I found it difficult to really get any traction until the halfway mark, when things finally started to happen.  Even then, I found Rob to be annoying as hell which I just couldn’t shake off.  Were the reveals worth the read?  I’m still on the fence with that.  Not bad, but if you’ve read TLHONS don’t expect the same type of story here.

The Long Shadows of October by Kristopher Triana — 3 out of 5 stars

(H 29/31)  If you’re a fan of those 1980’s/90’s horror flicks involving horny teens getting taken out by deranged killers/evil spirits, then this book is for you.  Triana pays tribute to those movies with a tale about a couple of teen boys housesitting at a mansion filled with lots of secrets…oh, and a succubus.  Entertaining, and not the total gorefest that Triana is known for (oh, it’s still there, but in smaller doses).

Graveyard by Ed and Lorraine Warren — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

(H 30/31)  After reading The Haunted, I was really disappointed with this one.  The writing is disjointed, and all of the stories are similar to urban legends I have been hearing about for years.  However, if you’re looking for some spooky ghost stories to tell around the campfire, you might find a few here.

The Night Stockers by Kristopher Triana and Ryan Harding — ??? out of 5 stars

(H 31/31) The plot in a nutshell:  the employees at Freshway grocery store have to work a night shift.  The satanic cult employees at the rival grocery store across the street, Devil’s Food, decide this would be the perfect time to kill the competition.   Literally.  When I first heard of this book, I thought the story sounded like a really bad B horror movie, only with a lot more “splatter” (thanks to having two outstanding splatterpunk authors working in collaboration).  I’ve read my share of extreme and splatter horror.  In all of the decades that I’ve been reading horror, I’ve come across some vile shit.  Nothing prepared me for the two scenes in this book that pretty near broke me.  But, strangely enough, I couldn’t stop reading (mainly because I wanted to see if the most twisted character met an ultimate demise, also to see who fricking survives, kind of like when I watch slasher movies).  There is some great dark humor, and the various references to the death metal culture of the 80’s/90’s are spot on.  I can’t in good conscience give this one any stars, but I would recommend it for fans of extreme and splatter.

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

Reading Mash-Up #193

I was able to get a lot of reading done the past couple of weeks, so let’s dive right in…

What I’ve Been Reading

Slewfoot by Brom — 5+ out of 5 stars

(H 13/31)  I first heard about this book through posts on a facebook page and became intrigued (plus the cover art won my instant attention).  There was a ton of praise being given to it, so, on a whim, I decided to give it a shot.  The hype is real on this one.  Set in the year 1666, at the height of the witch trials, this is the story of Abitha, a creature named Samson, and the Puritan society that surrounds them.  This is all the info I really want to give out, as I went in with very little knowledge of what the story was about and I think that’s the best way to discover this amazing tale.  I have read thousands of books in my lifetime, and I don’t get to say this often, but Slewfoot instantly shot into my top ten all-time favorite stories.  Highly recommend.

Brother by Ania Ahlborn — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

(H 14/31)  Ahlborn goes full dark with this novel of an Appalachian serial killer/cannibal family.  Michael, the youngest son, is the main focus of the story, and as I fell farther down this rabbit hole of twisted family “values”, I couldn’t help but feel for the guy, the quiet one of the clan who actually questions his place in the horrors.  Ahlborn’s writing is fast and furious, and the characters, no matter how vile, are well executed (no pun intended).  Highly recommend, but proceed with caution.

Lay Them to Rest by Laurah Norton — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 15/31)  Absolutely fascinating, especially for anyone interested in true crime and forensic science.  Laurah Norton, a host of a popular true crime podcast, takes us on a behind-the-scenes journey into the many steps and layers it takes to identify the unknown.  In this case, it revolves around the partial remains of a woman known only as “Ina Jane Doe.”  Norton details her personal experiences as well as offers chapters explaining some of the science involved.   I found this to be informative while also paying homage to the many victims who have yet to be identified and laid to rest.  Highly recommend.

Jarvis Street by Amanda McCormack — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 16/31)  The second installment of the North County Paranormal Unit series picks up a month after the first story left off.  This one puts the focus on James as he tries to adjust to his new role in the unit.  As with the first story, this one focuses on the character building and not so much the paranormal aspect.  No matter though.  I am really getting into this series.  Added bonus:  it makes for a nice mental palate cleanser after some of the darker tales I’ve been reading lately.  If you’re looking for a lighter read (I hesitate to call this series “cozy”) but still want some Halloween vibes, I recommend giving this series a shot.

Fairview Hills Cemetery by Amanda McCormack — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 17/31)  The third installment of the North County Paranormal Unit series, and now we’re really getting into the paranormal side of things!  Just in time for Halloween, the group has to investigate some disturbances at a local cemetery after some kids use a Ouija board and unwittingly bring forth a malicious spirit.  The character focus goes back to Gabriella, and while this was fine (and good to see she’s finally growing a bit), I do hope the future installments will center around some of the other characters, especially Bradley.  I want to know what the hell happened to this guy that he has a perpetually bad attitude (seriously Bradley, check your attitude at the door for an hour).

Ghost Eaters by Clay McLeod Chapman — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 18/31)  “Pop a pill and see the dead.  Side effects may occur.”  An interesting premise to be sure.  Erin’s ex-boyfriend overdoses, and in the aftermath of his death, she is introduced to a new drug called Ghost.  Wanting to find (escape? peace? answers to the unknown? I’m still not really sure), she spirals into addiction with some truly terrifying side effects.  I liked the story itself, but for some reason I had a hard time gaining any traction or momentum while reading it.  There were some great unnerving scenes throughout, but I guess not enough to keep the story moving for me (or perhaps it just didn’t fit my mood at the time).  Even though it didn’t totally work for me, I would still recommend it for some creepy late-night reading.

—Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies—

Linghun by Ai Jiang — 5 out of 5 stars

(H 19/31)  In a mysterious town known as HOME, people can bring back the ghosts of their beloved ones…but at what cost?  There are many layers to this novella while also tying in the themes of love, loss, and grief.  This had me feeling all kinds of emotions while reading it, and I really didn’t want it to end.  But I guess that also could sum up the book:  grieving loved ones not wanting to let go of the dead.  Highly recommend.

Attack of the Crawling Hand by Nicole Prestin — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 20/31)   The title pretty much sums up the story, where we have a waitress at a truck stop diner having to battle a dismembered hand that is seeking revenge.  Apparently, there is a series of short stories featuring this diner and some of the characters, and if they are as silly and amusing as this one was, I’m definitely going to check them out.

Snowman Shivers:  Two Dark Humor Snowmen Tales by Mark Leslie — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 21/31)  Snowmen and Halloween don’t really go hand in hand, but I thought I’d include these two short stories in my October reading list since we’re dealing with walking, living snowmen (you have to admit, that is kind of creepy).  These were more along the line of emotionally darker tales, and, while not bad at all, wasn’t what I had in mind after reading the blurbs.

Dig Two Graves — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 22/31)  Twenty-two stories of revenge and retribution, with varying degrees of success.  There were some great standouts, like my personal favorites Steadfast Shadowsong (Andy Rausch), Samantha (Jeremy Megargee), and Nemesis (C. Derick Miller) to name a few, many good stories, and a couple that left me scratching my head and wondering what the hell just went on.  Recommend for those looking for dark tales with not-so-happy endings.

Spine by Steven Jenkins — 2.5 out of 5 stars

(H 23/31)  Eight tales that promised creepiness and, for me, failed to deliver.  The writing was technically good and there were some good ideas, but all the stories just seemed flat and emotionless.

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

October — The 31 Books of Halloween Continues!

The spookiest month of the year is here, and I am right in the middle of my Halloween reading marathon!  As of today, October 4, I have finished fifteen titles, and currently reading three others.  Will I hit the magic number of 31 before the end of the month?  Stay tuned…

Reading Mash-Up #192

Wow, these past couple of weeks have flown by, and now it’s the eve of my favorite month, October!  Autumn has already brought some cooler temps and some much-needed rain to my corner of the world, and between getting things put away for winter, hauling out the Halloween decorations, and lots of reading, I’ve been keeping pretty busy!

What I’ve Been Reading

The Human Son by Adrian Walker — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars

My September TBR selection.  In the distant future, humankind is extinct and human-like creatures called erta inhabit the earth, and have worked for centuries to reverse the damage to the ecosystems brought on by humans.  Now they must decide whether to reintroduce humans to the world, so they create one child to raise and see if they are worthy of coming back.   I fell in love with this book!  The writing sucked me in from the beginning, and Ima’s early approaches to parenthood had me laughing more than once.  There were a couple of times the narrative started to slip more into preaching than telling, which lowered it a bit for me, but overall this is sci-fi with heart and one that I would highly recommend.

Ghostly Encounters:  True Stories of America’s Haunted Inns and Hotels by Frances Kermeen — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 6/31)  It’s the bucket list I never knew I needed until I came across this book: a list of haunted inns to visit and take my chances with some ghostly encounters!  Frances Kermeen owned the Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana, a mansion known as one of the most haunted places in the U.S., so she knows a bit about creepy places.  She has put together a list of forty haunted inns and hotels, complete with detailed histories and eyewitness stories.  I had a blast reading this, with the only downside for me being a lack of any photos (I would have loved at least some outside shots of the various places just for visual references).

Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 7/31)  Rory moves back to her hometown to help out her pregnant twin sister.  Little did she know that a chance encounter late one night would lead to some major changes in her lifestyle.    This was one of the more entertaining werewolf stories I’ve read in some time.  Yes, there are some nasty bits, but the overall vibe is more Charlaine Harris/Sookie Stackhouse rather than in-your-face gorefest type of werewolf novels.  And I hate to admit this, but I wouldn’t mind a sequel to this one.  High recommendation, especially if you’re looking for a bit lighter Halloween reading.

The Toy Thief by D.W. Gillespie — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 8/31)  A young girl named Jack has seen the skeletal creature that enters her home late at night, but what does this creature want?  And will anyone believe her?   For me, while I thought the overall story was pretty good, I just couldn’t muster up any feelings for the main character, which is always problematic when it’s first-person narration.  I did eventually settle in to the story, and, though not what I was expecting, found it to be a decent creepy read fit for the Halloween season.

—Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

America’s Scariest Places (magazine) — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 9/31)  I came across this 100-page magazine and knew I had to bring it home for the spooky season!  The title says it all:  this is packed with photos, backstories, and encounters from places across the United States, from haunted hotels to creepy institutions, as well as sites of horrific tragedies or mayhem.  Makes a great check list for ghost hunters.

Sump Pump by A.E. Hodge — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 10/31)  If dark basements and lots of spiders are your go-to for a scary read, check out this short story (I found it as a Kindle freebie not too long ago).  The author does a great job of mixing dark humor in with the creeping build-up.  Fast and fun.

Wild Spaces by S.L. Coney — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 11/31)  A boy, his dog, his strange grandfather, and family secrets are the basis of this coming-of-age horror novella.  Coney breathes fresh life into this common trope and delivers a dark (but not too dark) slow-burn that I couldn’t put down.

A Darker Shade of Noir — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H 12/31)  If you’re looking for short stories featuring body horror that will take you on a disturbing, twisted, strange, and sometimes darkly humorous ride, then look no further than this latest offering from Akashic Books.  Every story is truly unique, even when incorporating common horror ideas like werewolves and vampires.  For my personal reading experience, there were stories I loved, others I liked, and a couple that left me wondering what the hell I just read, but the overall experience was entertaining and something I would recommend for the Halloween season.


Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

Reading Mash-Up #191

September is now well under way, and while it’s not quite autumn yet, there is definitely a change in the air with chillier mornings and leaves starting to turn colors.  We’ve still had some warm days, and I for one am looking forward to some much needed rain soon (the forest fires this year were getting a little too close to home).

My annual 31 Books of Halloween is well under way as well, be sure to check for the H x/31 to see how I’m doing!

What I’ve Been Reading

Body Art by Kristopher Triana — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 1/31)  Splatterpunk horror featuring a depraved undertaker, an aging porn star and a renowned porn filmmaker, a couple of eighteen year olds looking for a good time, and a mysterious red dust.  Add to this mix a liberal dose of extremely graphic body horror and the making of the ultimate snuff film and you have Body Art.  Now, I’m not a newbie to extreme horror, but I have to admit this one had me grossed out on more than one occasion.  Why the four stars if so disgusting?  Because Kristopher Triana has a way of telling a story that keeps me reading to find out what happens next, even when I feel like I need to bleach my brain after intense scenes.  Not for everyone, and probably not the first choice if you’re new to splatterpunk/extreme horror, but I have to say it was wildly entertaining.

Haunted Washington by Adam Woog — 2 out of 5 stars

(H 2/31)  Having been born and raised in Bellingham, Washington, and having lived in and traveled to many parts of this state, I was excited to find this “field guide” exploring various haunted sites around the state.  What a disappointment.  It served as more of a history lesson (and a poorly researched one at that), and the ghost “stories” were simply rehashing local urban legends and zero first hand accounts (any interviews were with people who scoffed at hauntings).  Which leads me to ask: why the hell would you write about “haunted” areas when you don’t even talk about the hauntings?  I would have given this one star but there were a couple of interesting things that caught my attention.

—Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies—

Cleveland Noir — 4 out of 5 stars

I’ve said it before, I love the Akashic Noir series and have read a few dozen of their titles.  This latest installment, with stories based in Cleveland, Ohio, may just make it’s way into my top five favorites in the series.  These are atmospheric, often dark, and I found them to be pretty addictive reading (I read this collection over the course of one day, I kept wanting to see what the next author would bring to the table).  If you haven’t tried any of the other books in this series, Cleveland Noir would be a great starting point.

Cold, Black, and Infinite by Todd Keisling — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 3/31)  If you haven’t read anything by Todd Keisling, this collection is a great place to start.  And if you’re already a fan, be sure to add this to your reading list!  This is one of those collections where every story shines in its own way.  I was invested in the characters, instantly drawn into the stories and settings.  There were some pretty dark topics so be sure to check out the content warnings at the back of the book.  A very strong and varied collection, highly recommend.

Dread by Jeff Wade — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 4/31)  There is a definite build-up of dread in this short story, but there was something about the dream sequences that threw the story off for me.  I get that there was a correlation between them and the “reality,” it just seemed a bit off (and really no other way to describe it without spoilers).  Not a bad read though, a decent way to start off spooky season reading.

Nineteen Claws and a Blackbird by Agustina Bazterrica — 3 out of 5 stars

(H 5/31)  Bazterrica’s novel, Tender is the Flesh, was one of my five-star reads a couple years ago, so I was excited to get this latest short story collection in a recent NightWorms package.  I didn’t know what to expect from it, but I didn’t expect the total roller coaster ride that it turned out to be…and not a fun roller coaster ride at that.  Some of the stories were very good, but I thought the rest were underwhelming at best.

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

September — Sci-fi and Scary/The 31 Books of Halloween

It’s here!  It’s finally here!  My favorite personal challenge of the year, The 31 Books of Halloween, officially starts today, and do I have some great-sounding stories lined up for the next couple of months.

I’m also celebrating the sci-fi genre with this month’s selection…

500 years in the future, humans no longer exist having been replaced by the  genetically engineered Ertas.  The Erta race must decide whether to bring back humans so they create one child to see if humankind can be reintroduced to the world.  I’ve been waiting for the right time to read this, and now seems as good a time as any.

As for my scary/Halloween reads, I have a multitude of authors to choose from, including Jack Ketchum, Grady Hendrix, Kristopher Triana, Clive Barker…well, you get the idea.  The hardest part will be deciding what to read first!

What are your reading goals for this month?  Drop me a line and let’s talk books!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Reading Mash-Up #190

The month of August completely got away from me!  I originally started this post on August 10, but life happened as it usually does and, well, here we are.  As of today, the 30th, I’ve completed thirteen books this month, by far one of my most productive reading months this year.  Not all of them were noteworthy, but here are some of the highlights…

What I’ve Been Reading

Ghosts of the Orphanage by Christine Kenneally — 4 out of 5 stars

Subtitled “A Story of Mysterious Deaths, a Conspiracy of Silence, and a Search for Justice,” this is a powerful and heartbreaking expose of the horrific abuses, physical and sexual, that went on in various church-run orphanages throughout the twentieth century.  The author was able to interview some of the survivors, as well as find various documents to back up these tragic stories.  This is not an easy read at all, but one that definitely needs to be told.  Highly recommend, but proceed with caution.

Broad Street Bastard by Chad Lutzke — 4 out of 5 stars

The back cover blurb describing this latest from one of my favorite authors pretty much sums up the feeling of this novella:  “Slice-of-life, coming-of-age with the bruised face of Dazed and Confused and the dark heart of River’s Edge.”  This is a prequel to two other novellas (Slow Burn on Riverside and The Same Deep Water as You) where we meet young Jex, a struggling burnout whose life choices always seem to gravitate towards the dark and sinister.  I would recommend these three stories to anyone who likes their early 1990’s coming-of-age stories a little on the darker side.

The Elephant of Surprise by Joe Lansdale — 4 out of 5 stars

Book 13 in the Hap and Leonard series.  In the middle of a high-powered storm in East Texas, the duo come across a young woman who has had her tongue cut out and is being pursued by some seriously bad men.  What happens next is the chaos that always seems to follow Hap and Leonard.  This is extremely fast-paced with no gaps in the action.  One of the things I like about this series is that you don’t necessarily have to read the titles in sequence.  This is one I would recommend to anyone new to the H & L series as it’s a quick read and a good introduction as to what to expect from the other stories.

A Fatal Groove by Olivia Blacke — 4 out of 5 stars

The second book in the Record Shop Mystery series.  Juni and her sisters are excited to be a part of the local Bluebonnet Festival.  But when Juni discovers the town’s mayor dead in his office, things take an unexpected turn for the worse.   The first book in the series, Vinyl Resting Place, captured my attention with interesting characters and a well-paced story.  This second title did not disappoint.  The mystery is solid, and the characters are becoming some of my favorites in the cozy mystery genre.  There is no sophomore slump here, and I’m looking forward to the next story in this fun series.

A Place For Sinners by Aaron Dries — 4 out of 5 stars

Two siblings, an American businessman, a German hitchhiker, and a strange woman named Susan travel to a remote island off the coast of Thailand…sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but there is no joking with this intense horror novel from Aaron Dries.  The slow buildup pays off, as once the action starts it doesn’t let up.  And today, a few weeks after finishing this novel, I am still totally creeped out by the Susan/broken glass scene (shudder!!).  I can usually brush off scary horror scenes, but this story got under my skin and is still haunting my dreams.  Recommend for horror fans who like a good backstory before getting punched in the face with the brutality.

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch — 3.5 out of 5 stars

One of my August selections.  Thirteen-year-old Miles discovers a rare sea creature on one of his midnight outings to some local tide flats.  What follows is a story about a young boys obsessions, and his relationships with the colorful characters in his life.  Overall, I thought this was good, but there were times when I questioned the reasons behind adding certain elements or side-stories.  I’m also still not sure how I feel about the ending.  Added bonus points for this being set in an area I’m familiar with in my home state, and for the author keeping the setting pretty true to form.

Secret Santa by Andrew Shaffer — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Lussi Meyer is an unemployed editor, trying to find another job in publishing.  She is given a chance at a prestigious publisher on the grounds that she must find “the next Stephen King or Anne Rice” in order to keep her job.  Sounds pretty mundane, right?  Well, now add a sinister little doll that Lussi receives as a Secret Santa gift and you have the makings of a darkly fun and somewhat twisted little novel.

The Devil’s Woods by Brian Moreland — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Kyle and his siblings travel to an abandoned area on the Cree reservation to find clues behind their father’s disappearance.  With warnings of “Do not go into the Woods,” I mean, what could go wrong??  This story deftly combines mystery, horror, and Native American folklore.  I enjoyed the story (those woods were definitely creepy!!) but I had problems when it came to the pacing, especially in the first half.  One I would recommend for horror fans looking to add some sinister outdoor scenarios to their Halloween reading list.

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

August — The Heat is On!

Aahh, the dog days of summer are here.  Through the years, August has symbolized many things to me, from back to school preparations to last minute road trips, county fairs to backyard barbecues.

Today, August is just the countdown to the beginning of my annual 31 Books of Halloween!   😀

This month, I searched my TBR piles for books that either take place during the summer or have summer vibes, and found these…

I picked out Instructions for a Heatwave for the title alone.  I mean, how much more appropriate can it be?  The story of a family in crisis that reunites during the historic heatwave that hit the United Kingdom in 1976.

The Highest Tide is set during summertime, with a thirteen-year-old protagonist named Miles, his childhood crush, and a lot of oceanic discoveries.  This sounds like it could be the “feel good” story I need in my life right now.

Another reason I picked these titles was simple–I really wanted to find some “lighter reads” before I start my two month journey into nonstop darker stories…and I can’t wait!

July Wrap-Up

I wound up finishing ten books, one of those being from my July selections, W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton.  I’m still a bit behind on my Goodreads goal of 150 books for the year, but I have a feeling that will change in the next couple of months.

What are your reading goals for August?  Drop me a line and let’s talk books!

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!


Reading Mash-Up #189

Summer may not be my favorite season (the heat and the constant fear of local forest fires takes a toll pretty quickly), but I do love the delicious produce that ripens this time of year, as well as enjoying my flowers.  These lilies are in full bloom right now, and they smell heavenly!

What I’ve Been Reading

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my July selections.  I don’t think I’ve read a book in this series that I didn’t like, and this one is no exception.  Two seemingly unrelated deaths takes Kinsey Millhone down a rabbit hole that involves medical research and family secrets.  These nearly 500 pages flew by, and even though it’s been a while since I read the last installment, I quickly fell back into Kinsey’s world.  This can easily be read as a standalone, and a great recommendation for any mystery fan.

Final Girls by Riley Sager — 4 out of 5 stars

I don’t know how I managed to avoid all the spoilers for this wildly popular thriller, but I did and it was worth it.  The plot is probably well known by now so I won’t try to summarize it.  But I will say this–I was hooked from the beginning, and every time I thought I knew where things were going some new curveball would get thrown in.  I am usually pretty hesitant to read popular bestsellers as I go in with high expectations and oftentimes wind up being disappointed.  This one did not disappoint.  A good choice for fans of psychological thrillers.

Daughter of Song by Doug Hood — 4 out of 5 stars

In 2007, seventeen-year-old Panna Krom was found guilty of murder after hiding her pregnancy and the newborn was later found dead.  Several years later, while volunteering for a prison writing group, author Doug Hood met Panna, and, after hearing her story, launched his own personal investigation into the “crime” itself and the inequalities of the judicial system.  This is not entirely about Panna and the legal system.  Hood also interviews Panna’s family, refugees from Cambodia, and takes a look at the generational trauma that Panna grew up with that ultimately lead to the choices she made.  This is a somewhat difficult read due to the subject matter, and truly heartbreaking at times, but it’s one that is thought-provoking and will certainly raise questions about the “fairness” of our legal system.

North County Paranormal Unit by Amanda McCormack — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

The first in a series of novellas that I think has the potential to be a fun addition to my Halloween reading list.  In this installment, we meet the people who make up the North County Paranormal Unit (think Ghost Hunters or the Ghost Adventures team).  There are a few paranormal encounters but the bulk of this story focuses on the character development.  I would label this as “horror lite,” and even with the couple of darker scenes I thought it was more amusing than scary.  Thanks to kindle freebies, I have the rest of the series ready to go and I am looking forward to following their adventures.

Inside the Wolf by Amy Rowland — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Rachel returns to her family’s North Carolina farm, where memories of a childhood friend’s death continues to haunt her.  When another child dies in a similar way, Rachel decides to confront her past and try to make changes to stop similar tragedies in the future.         First I want to say this was beautifully written and the characters, for the most part, were well developed.   While the many issues that were presented were definitely timely and thought-provoking, I felt that some things felt forced, as though they were last minute additions.  There was a lot to unpack in this story, and overall I would recommend it, but with caution.


Stay safe, and Happy Reading!