Weekly Mash-Up #128

Not a lot happened this past week, but I did finish some great books!

The Week in Books

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby — 5 out of 5 stars!

S.A. Cosby created a huge fan in me after I read his 2020 hit, Blacktop Wasteland, so when I first heard about this upcoming novel back at the end of 2020, I just knew I had to get my hands on it.  Thankfully, my NightWorms July package totally surprised me by delivering a shiny new copy!  I immediately dropped everything else I was reading and dove head first into this Southern Noir/crime thriller.  And it did not disappoint!  The story of two fathers, both hardened ex-cons, one black, one white, who set out to find their own type of justice against the killers of their sons (who were married to each other and raising a small daughter).  Cosby once again creates memorable characters struggling with their inner demons, with fast-paced action and emotional chaos.  Highly recommend!  (Fair warning:  some gruesome scenes, as well as themes of racism and homophobia)

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado — 5 out of 5 stars!

One of the most unique memoirs I’ve read, Ms. Machado takes us on a very personal journey examining the abusive relationship she endured, and questions the lack of acknowledgement towards abuse in same-sex relationships.  This is written mostly in second person narrative, with each short chapter its own story…a style I know many people find annoying but I found it worked extremely well.  Don’t let the writing style turn you away, be sure to check this one out.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker — 5 out of 5 stars!

There are so many layers to this outstanding novel that an onion would be jealous.  We have Walk, the local chief of police, still feeling guilt over his involvement in sending his best friend to prison; Vincent, the best friend who has paid dearly for a tragic mistake; and Duchess, a thirteen year old self-proclaimed “outlaw,” who is already world-weary, bitter, and unable to trust anyone, especially the adults in her life.  The story involves murder, small town secrets, family dynamics, love and loss.  Whitaker’s writing immediately swept me into the story, and I had a difficult time putting it down (sorry dinner was late a couple of times, kiddo!).  Be sure to add this to your must-read list…Highly recommend!

North by Brad Kessler — 4 out of 5 stars

This story focuses on young Somali refugee, Sahro, who has fled her homeland in hopes of finding asylum in the United States, only to find herself trying to escape to Canada.  A snowstorm lands her in the care of Brother Christopher, a monk at a Vermont monastery, and Teddy, a war veteran and the caretaker at the monastery.  The story is beautifully written and brings to light the plight of immigrants.  However, I did feel like it needed a bit more development with Teddy and Brother Christopher.

The Snake Pit by Mary Jane Ward — 4 out of 5 stars

Originally published in 1946, Mary Jane Ward takes us on a semi-autobiographical journey into the mind of a young woman suffering from a mental breakdown, and her subsequent stay in a mental hospital.   Some may think the writing is a bit disjointed, but I thought it was an intriguing look into the reality of mental illness, as well as a glimpse into some of the antiquated practices now considered barbaric.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin — 3 out of 5 stars

Steve Martin shares his early career experiences, from his first job at age ten at a newly opened Disneyland, through the early 1980’s, when he stopped doing stand-up comedy for good.  The bulk of the memoir focuses on the pre-SNL years (Saturday Night Live fans take note:  the show is only referenced a few times in the last ten or so pages, and fans of Martin’s movies should know the only film referenced is The Jerk, also in the last ten or fifteen pages).  As a fan of Martin, I was expecting some of his trademark wit and humor; instead, I found the writing to be dry and dull, even downright boring at times.  I liked learning about his early days as an entertainer, I just wish the book had been more entertaining.

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich — 3 out of 5 stars

One of my July selections.    This is one of those stories that promises great things but fails to completely deliver.  Emily Ruskovich is a very talented writer, but by the time I finished her debut novel, I was feeling overwhelmed by the prose and underwhelmed by the plot.  I’m fine with unresolved conflicts and ambiguous endings, but this one just left me feeling disappointed.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

NightWorms July Theme — Sweet Revenge

The monthly arrival of my NightWorms package always brings great surprises, but little did I expect to find my number one must-read book for 2021!

I did a happy dance when I found S. A. Cosby’s new release, Razorblade Tears, as one of this month’s selections.  I dove into it immediately…and it did not disappoint!!  Be sure to check out my review in Weekly Mash-Up #128!

Savage Mountain tells the story of some friends stranded in the woods and running into a group of men involved with drug cartels, who don’t intend on letting the friends escape.  I’ve watched enough movies with this storyline to know it probably won’t end well for most of the characters!  But I love these kind of stories and I’m looking forward to this one.

A cold brew coffee sample, bookmarks, and signed bookplates round out yet another great month.  Now I better get some reading done to make room for the August package!

Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #127

Book mail, a trip to the library, and the latest NightWorms all in the same day??  Yes, it truly felt like an early Christmas around here on Tuesday!

I don’t know why I always feel the need to bring home a stack of books from the library when I have a literal mountain of unread books taking up one side of my bedroom.  But I couldn’t resist these four titles, all of which are on my must-read list…I started In the Dream House this morning and am already almost through it.  Amazing writing, I’ve had a hard time putting it down.

I’ve been in this mood to get back into the works of Clive Barker (I think the last book I read by him was sometime in the late 1990’s!), so I found one of the volumes of his Books of Blood series, The Inhuman Condition, as well as one of his darker fantasy novels, SacramentBaby Teeth comes recommended by many people and sounds like something right up my alley (is a little girl trying to kill her mother?  Or is the mother losing her mind?), and The Human Son was one I recently came across at the library and was instantly intrigued, enough so to buy a copy (it’s difficult to explain with a short synopsis but if you like sci-fi, check out the blurb on Goodreads).

As for the July NightWorms package?  I’ll be posting a full reveal soon!

The Week in Books

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my Goodreads Group Reads for July.    Once again, Backman brings us a novel filled with emotion and character with a bank robbery gone wrong and a  strange hostage situation at a nearby apartment.  I’ll admit it took me a bit to get into this one as the characters were really hard for me to empathize with, but about the midway mark something just clicked and I wound up caring for the characters more than I expected.  And even though the story was totally predictable, it was still engaging and entertaining.

The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne — 4 out of 5 stars

Be sure to look for my full review here and at MrPinkInk on July 31!

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Not All Monsters edited by Sara Tantlinger — 4 out of 5 stars

An amazing selection of short stories by women authors from the horror writing community.  Each story examines some sort of monster, whether it’s a literal creature or inner demons.  There are some interesting takes on classic fairy tales, and a heartbreaking story of a girl held captive and tortured in a basement, yearning for freedom.  From not-so-nice faeries to a tattoo artist you definitely don’t want to meet, the variety and caliber of stories is terrific and a great starting point for discovering new authors.  Highly recommend.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!!

Mid-Year Mash-Up

New Years resolutions have never been something I’ve really taken seriously.  Over the years, I’ve started various diets and exercise regimens, made plans for visiting new places, and promised to cut back on my excessive cussing, only to have things fall apart within weeks of the new year.

But a resolution that involves more reading?  Now that’s something I can do!

Since 2021 is officially past the halfway mark, I thought I’d share my progress on my personal reading challenges for the year.   My 20 Plus 1 For 2021 is moving right along.  I’ve finished eleven of the books on that list, plus I’ve made a dent on my “Plus 1” selection, The Crimson Petal and the White.   For my yearly Goodreads reading challenge, I put my goal at 150 books.  So far, my total is 89, with 23,898 pages read!  No wonder I’m feeling a bit tired!

One of my Goodreads groups created a scavenger hunt for 2021, with 49 prompts ranging from reading a book with a mostly white cover to name a non-book item on your bookshelf.  At last check I’ve completed 23, but I haven’t updated it for a few weeks so that number will go up a bit.  (And if anyone has a recommendation for an author with the initials G.M. that’s not a) a romance author or b)  Graham Masterton, please let me know!!)

And as for the rest of 2021?  Besides finishing these challenges, I’ll be starting my yearly 31 Books for Halloween in early September.  Thanks to my NightWorms subscription and great recommendations (plus a lot of Kindle freebies!!) I have plenty of full length and short stories/novellas to choose from.  Can’t wait to start this one!

What have you been reading?  Did you make any bookish goals for 2021?  Drop me a line and let’s talk books!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

July — Road Trip

Ah, the summer road trip.  With more states fully reopening (my state just did on June 30), many folks are gearing up to get out and about, making up for the lost time from the past 18 months.  Personally, I have no plans other than some day hikes…as far from other people as I can get!!  But I can still go on a road trip through my books!  I picked this month’s TBR based solely on the titles.  Let’s see what we have…

California sounds like it’s going to take me into a dystopian future, where a young couple leave the crumbling city of Los Angeles for the wilds of the Sierra Mountains.  It’s tagged from science fiction to survival adventure fiction so this could be a good one.

Idaho goes a different direction, listed as literary fiction with a mystery/thriller aspect.  Ann is determined to find out what happened to her husband Wade’s first wife and children, and why first wife Jenny is currently incarcerated.  It sounds like this will involve the strength of family ties and love, a theme I’ve been reading a bit more of lately.  Looking forward to this one.

And finally, what road trip would be complete without some Travelers Rest?  I know I’ve stayed at some questionable places during my travels over the years, and it sounds like this little town of Travelers Rest may just put those creepy places to shame.

Goodreads Group Reads

If you’re looking to challenge yourself for your July reading, maybe check this one out…

Yep, that is a “normal” page from Mark Z. Danielewski’s strange and headache-inducing House of Leaves.  I read it a few years ago and I remember giving it 4 stars because  a:)  I actually finished it;  b:)  I actually understood some of it;  and c:)  I have to give props to the sheer creativity behind it.

While I won’t be revisiting House of Leaves, I will be enjoying one of my other group reads:  Fredrik Backman’s latest, Anxious People.  This has been on my to-read list since it was published and, as luck would have it, my library had a copy available.  I love Backman’s writing and characters (except Britt-Marie, that woman still bugs me!) so I’m putting this at the top of my July reading pile.

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

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #126

Well, the week-long readathon that I’ve been participating in is just a few hours away from ending.  Not a bad week with 964 pages read and three books completed (see below).  I still have some time left so I’m going to try to hit the 1,000 page mark…stay tuned!

The Week in Books

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave — 5 out of 5 stars!

I absolutely loved this story, a novel based on events that happened in 1617 where a storm killed the men of a small community, leaving the women to fend for themselves, with later allegations of witchcraft surfacing.  This beautifully written story tells of love, loss, friendship, and betrayal, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Vivid by Jana Jones — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Rounding up to 4 stars for NetGalley and Goodreads.  Based on a true story, mother of three Sheri Calloway brings her young children to Baltimore looking for a better life.  A chance for their own home leads to health issues, a demand for answers, and changes in the system.  While the ongoing nightmare stemming from the offer of affordable housing is a main component, the real focus of this story is the importance of family and friendship.  A promising debut, I look forward to reading more from Ms. Jones in the future.

Candle in the Wind by George Bernau — 2 out of 5 stars

If Sidney Sheldon and Jackie Collins had a love child, then made that love child write a cheesy soap opera, it would probably be better than Candle in the Wind.  The premise sounded good (especially back in the early 1990’s at the height of my Marilyn Monroe mania):  what if Marilyn had survived her overdose?  This novel follows “Marilyn Lane” and a variety of characters that will be familiar to anyone with the slightest knowledge of those who surrounded the real Monroe in her life, from the wealthy political Kerrigan family (Kennedys),  to a Joe DiMaggio figure who is always there for Marilyn (yeah, I’ve already forgotten his name, that’s how much this book stuck with me!).  The writing is dated, the plotline cliche, the sex scenes laughable.  But I’ve read worse so I’ll bump this up to two stars.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Nonfiction — Stonewall

Stonewall by Martin Duberman

Published May 1994 by Plume Books

3.5 out of 5 stars

For June I wanted to find a nonfiction book that would complement Pride Month.  After looking at various memoirs, essay collections, and other topics, I decided to take a closer look at the history behind  the month, starting at what is considered the turning point in bringing change and acceptance.

The Stonewall Riots of 1969 are often considered the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement.  What started out as a police raid at a gay bar (typical back in the day) turned into a violent clash between police, patrons, and onlookers and wound up lasting five days.  According to the blurb, the author “now tells for the first time the full story of what happened at Stonewall.”  Sounds pretty self-explanatory, right?  Well…

Duberman does do an excellent job with his research, giving strong descriptions of the Stonewall bar and its patrons, as well as the ensuing clashes between the police and the public.  But this is only about 20 pages of the 282.  The bulk of the book looks at the lives of six individuals from various backgrounds and their personal struggles, accomplishments, and contributions to the LGBTQ community during the ’60’s and in the first year after the riots, up to the first Gay Rights March in 1970.

The personal stories of the six individuals take us from their childhoods through the early part of 1970 and are as varied as the people themselves.  From Foster, a privileged young man unsure of himself but later becoming the archivist of the movement, to Ray (later known as Sylvia), a hustler and “street transvestite**” who would later start an organization to try to help those who had endured the same struggles trying to get off the streets.  (**Please note:  as this book was published in 1994, many of the references and descriptive terms used are much different from today;  this was the terminology used by the author).  I found myself caught up in the lives of all six people, but why only three stars?  The writing.  I thought it felt a bit too textbook and dry, pretty much devoid of any sort of emotion.  And one of my biggest pet peeves, the info dump, started to become the norm around the 1/3 mark.  I truly appreciate the author’s extensive research but the barrage of random names and organizations without adequate background or explanations quickly turned this into a bit of a confusing read.

Despite my personal peeves about Stonewall, I would still recommend giving it a try, especially if you are interested in the early politics of the Gay Rights Movement.  I may not have like the writing but there are some truly interesting and inspirational stories that make it worth the read.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!


Weekly Mash-Up #125

Summer is here, and in my little corner of the world, this weekend looks to be bringing in summer with a vengeance!  Temperatures in most of western Washington are supposed to go over 100 (in my area it’s expected to get to 110 or even higher!).  Around here, we’re used to rain and gloom, not frigging triple-digit temps!!  So how will I be attempting to beat the heat?  Why, participating in a readathon of course!!  One of my Goodreads groups is having a week-long read-fest, from June 24 through June 30.  I’m hoping to finish a couple of NetGalley ebooks I’ve been neglecting, and make some progress on The Crimson Petal and the White (I started this a few months ago and am only on page 153 of 835…yikes!).  With some good books and a lot of iced tea, I will make it through this upcoming mini-heatwave!

The Week in Books

The Nightly Disease by Max Booth III — 4 out of 5 stars

Isaac is the night auditor at a Texas hotel, where strange guests and even stranger occurrences are the norm.  I had a lot of fun reading this mix of bizarro and horror, and anyone who has ever worked in the hospitality business and has dealt with those more challenging guests will likely enjoy it as well.

Later by Stephen King — 4 out of 5 stars

Mixing a crime thriller with some paranormal activity pretty much sums up King’s latest release.  Young Jamie can see dead people, and he finds out that’s not really a good thing.  As always, King does a great job with the coming of age storyline and creating memorable characters.  There was one aspect I didn’t care for that kept this from being a 5 star read (I won’t give any spoilers, let’s just say I thought it could have been handled differently and still had a satisfying outcome).  Great read for King fans and for those wanting to check out some of his “tamer” work.

Stonewall by Martin Duberman — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Look for my review here and at MrPinkInk on June 26!

Winterbourne’s Daughter by Stephanie Rabig — 3 out of 5 stars

One of my selections for Pride month.  This retelling of Snow White was a bit up and down for me.  I liked the overall storyline and some of the characters were well fleshed-out, but at times things felt confusing and random.  While this one wasn’t a home run for me, I’m still looking forward to reading more of Rabig’s works in the future.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

NightWorms June Theme — Darkest Fears

Darkest Fears indeed…

I was lucky to have received an early ecopy of Josh Malerman’s Goblin a few months ago, and I am happy to now have this hardback edition to add to my library!  Six very different novellas set in the same strange little town with a host of strange characters and happenings.  Perfect for some summertime reading.

Beneath a Pale Sky is a collection of shorts by Philip Fracassi, an author I’ve heard a lot of great things about.  Described as “combining old school horror with the modern weird,” it sounds like something right up my reading alley.

Also included was a tea sampler (Sacred Grove, which combines gunpowder green tea with peaches and apricots) from Evil Tea Company…and I immediately checked out their website and ordered several more of their teas to try out!!  I am happy to say they have awesome teas and great customer service and my tea-loving heart is looking forward to ordering more from them in the near future!!

Another great month, and still trying to guess what July will bring from the ‘Worms.  I will say this:  if one of the July books is Kristopher Triana’s Full Brutal, I’m going to be a very happy horror camper!  Stay tuned!

And Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #124

Have you ever had those moments where you get behind on some task or chore, then another, and another…and pretty soon a couple of weeks have gone by and you realize you haven’t accomplished anything?  That’s the way it’s been for me so far this month!  I mean, eleven days without finishing a book??!?!  What’s wrong with me??!!

On the plus side, once I got my ass in gear I was able to finish some great books!  This week is short and sweet, but already planning for next week so stay tuned!

The Week in Books

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt — 5 out of 5 stars!

One of my June Pride selections.  Make sure you have some tissues on hand when you read this one!  Set in 1987, this is the story of young June who loses her beloved uncle to AIDS.  This book not only explores family dynamics, love, and forgiveness, but also profiles the prejudices against the gay community as the AIDS epidemic soared.  Highly recommend!

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old Jade’s obsession with ’80’s slasher movies helps her deal with her real life horror story.  But when strange things start to happen in her small town, will her encyclopedic movie knowledge save her?  This is far from your standard slasher horror tale.  This is not really a story about serial slashers  (fair warning though, there are some pretty gruesome scenes!), but rather one of an outcast girl who finds the idea of killers running amok better than her own reality, who finds bravery behind her own fiction.   I fell in love with Jade and I hope you do, too.  Be sure to mark your calendar for the August 31 release date!

The Hours by Michael Cunningham — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my choices for June Pride month.  I hadn’t watched the movie and had heard very little about this book before starting it, and I wound up being pleasantly surprised.  While I thought the storyline itself was in the three-star range, the beautiful writing more than made up for it.  This is one of those “quiet” reads perfect for a rainy afternoon.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!