Reading Mash-Up #185

The days are getting longer and warmer, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to sit outside with some fragrant flowers nearby and a tall glass of tea while catching up on some reading.  A great, relaxing way to tune out all the drama in the world…

—What I’ve Been Reading—

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay — 5 out of 5 stars

One of my February TBR selections.  It may have taken me a couple of months to read this, but I savored every moment spent.  An epic historical fantasy, the author uses the 8th century Tang Dynasty as inspiration for a tale of family honor, betrayal, love, and war.  The characters, including the minor ones, were well-crafted, and the descriptive narration made me feel like I was a fly on the wall witnessing the events unfold.  I originally picked this book up at a used book sale based on the cover alone, and now I feel the need to read more of Kay’s works in the immediate future.  Highly recommend.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James — 4 out of 5 stars

Carly’s aunt Viv disappeared while working at the Sun Down Motel in the early 80’s.  Determined to find out what happened, Carly finds herself in the small town of Fell, working the same shift at the motel that her aunt did.  She soon discovers that the motel and the town are hiding some dark secrets.   This has been on my must-read list since it came out in 2020.  While many list this as horror, I would describe it more like a dark mystery with supernatural elements.  The scenes of the haunted motel are well written, with good pacing and a creepy build-up. If you like a good mystery with some ghosts thrown into the mix, be sure to check this one out.

Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouie — 4 out of 5 stars

I’ve mentioned that I’m a huge fan of found-footage horror movies (think Blair Witch Project or Hell House LLC).  I don’t recall reading very many found-footage style books though.  I’d seen some random mentions of Episode Thirteen online, so when I found a copy at my local library I just had to grab it…and I was not disappointed.  Told through a series of journal entries, letters, and video transcription, we follow the members of the Fade to Black ghost hunting team as they enter an abandoned house to find answers to the strange happenings and disappearances that occurred in the early 1970’s.  They wind up discovering much more than they bargained for.  While I thought it was a little slow to start and I really felt little connection to the characters, I did find myself totally engrossed in the story itself, wanting to turn the pages faster to find out what was going to happen next.  And despite it’s length (400+ pages) it’s a relatively quick read.  A great addition to your Halloween reading list.

Fatal Fudge Swirl by Meri Allen — 4 out of 5 stars

The third installment in Allen’s Ice Cream Shop Mysteries, former CIA librarian Riley Rhodes finds herself playing amateur sleuth when a socialite is found dead on the morning of her Halloween-themed wedding, and Riley’s friend Mary Ann becomes the prime suspect.  This cozy mystery hit all the buttons, and had me staying up way too late playing amateur sleuth myself.  I have not read the first two books in the series, but I had no problems immersing myself in the story and quickly learning the characters (added bonus for the cast of characters at the beginning).  Another bonus for it being autumn/Halloween themed, my favorite!  This is one cozy series I will definitely be following in the future.

Behold the Monster by Jillian Lauren — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Serial killer Samuel Little may not be as well known as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer, but his crimes are no less horrific.  Little confessed to murdering over 90 women, and author Jillian Lauren heard the gruesome details in her jailhouse interviews with the murderer.  Along with the events that she recorded and witnessed, Lauren also adds fictionalized accounts from the victims, and this is where I had issues with the book.  I understand why she chose to do this (she explains in her introduction), but it just felt so over-the-top at times, which would have been fine for a fiction book (something she said she originally wanted to write).  As a true crime junkie, I appreciated the nonfiction aspect, I just wish there had been more of that and less fiction.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw — 3 out of 5 stars

I’m not going to lie, I was totally prepared to hate this as much as I hated Khaw’s last novella, Nothing But Blackened Teeth.  So it was a great surprise to find myself actually kind of liking this one.  Granted, I didn’t know what the hell was going on for most of the story (there’s a man-eating mermaid, her plague doctor traveling companion, some weird “cult,” and lots of body horror), and Khaw’s overdone prose alternated between remarkably brilliant to pretentious and annoying.  Overall, though, I found it intriguing enough to finish in one sitting…and I now wonder if I should check out her other titles or just chalk this up as a win and move along.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

May — May Flowers

Following April Showers last month, of course I had to continue the theme with May Flowers!  My plan was to find a book or two with either a flowery title or cover.  After searching through my massive TBR piles, I was worried I couldn’t find one.  Then some April book mail came to the rescue!

While the cover may look spring-like with the floral images, this is actually a dark tale that starts with the death of a brother and an obsession (perhaps??) of a florist named Maura who “has a penchant for carnivorous plants.”  Yeah, I don’t see anything going wrong here, ha!

Also up for my TBR list…

…this month’s random pick for my little book club my friend and I started.  I actually just finished this one, look for my review in my next reading mash-up.

I wrapped up April by finishing eleven books, including the two I picked for the monthly theme.  Sadly they were both a bit of a disappointment, but I’m shaking that off and on to the next!

What are your reading goals for May?

Stay safe and Happy Reading!




Reading Mash-Up #184

Good grief, where did this month go?  I actually started this a couple of weeks ago!  I guess now is as good a time as any to finally do some catching up!

–What I’ve Been Reading–

The Two-Bear Mambo by Joe Lansdale — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

Lansdales’ Hap and Leonard series is quickly becoming one of my favorite series, and the third installment is probably the best one I’ve read so far.  The unlikely duo head to east Texas to try and track down a woman named Florida, with whom Hap once had a brief affair.  The results are usual H and L chaos, sprinkled with dark humor and side anecdotes that will make you cringe.  Labeled as “country noir,” this series is not a good fit for everyone, and is far from being “politically correct,” but if you are a fan of well-written action stories that venture into the seedier parts of life and are filled with some pretty  memorable characters, be sure to check this series out.  I do recommend starting with the first book, Savage Season, as a way to get to know the characters, but I’ve been reading the series out of order and haven’t had any problems with ongoing character development, timelines, etc.

The Lizard King by Bryan Christy — 4 out of 5 stars

Subtitled “The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smuggler,” this takes a look at the Van Nostrand family, their internationally-known Florida-based business, Strictly Reptiles, and the multi-billion dollar industry of smuggling exotic reptiles and other animals.  Author Bryan Christy did an excellent job of researching and interviewing, and the writing is fast-paced and engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking.  I have always loved reptiles, and this book will now have me doing even more research and asking more questions on any future purchase I may do.  Highly recommend.

The Ruin Season by Kristopher Triana — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my favorite splatterpunk novelists takes a look at the darker side of mental illness.  Jake is nearly forty, divorced, dating a nineteen-year-old drug addict, and still carrying a torch for his ex-wife.  As his mental illness begins to take a deeper hold, Jake finds himself heading down a very dangerous and disturbing road.  There were a few stereotypical elements thrown in that got a bit worn out as the story went on (as someone who has listened to death metal since the late 1980’s/ early 1990’s, I can tell you from first-hand experience that not everyone who listens to it turns to shooting heroin and pulling trains for low-budget porn movies.  Just sayin’.), but overall this was a truly bleak tale with no fairy tale ending…and one I could NOT put down.  Not the usual gore-fest that is Triana’s trademark, but still with enough gruesome and unsettling scenarios for me to issue a “not for everyone” warning.

The Spite House by Johnny Compton — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Eric and his daughters are running from a mysterious past, and eventually wind up as caretakers at a mysterious haunted mansion in the middle of Texas.  The mansion’s owner is looking for answers behind the supposed haunting.  Will Eric and his daughters make it out unscathed?    I really did enjoy this one, especially since I’m a sucker for a good haunted house story.  And I honestly did not see the reveal coming, it genuinely took me by surprise.  My only problem was the pacing and flow (and this is probably a “just me” issue).  I don’t mind stories with multiple points of view, but I just couldn’t get a good momentum going with this narrative as it just felt choppy (?) to me.   That aside, this is good haunted house story to add to your Halloween reading list, and an author I will be following.

Splinters of Silence by Ann J. Loring — 1.5 out of 5 stars

One of my April TBR selections.  What started out as “not bad” quickly derailed and ultimately earned a spot in my top five worst books I’ve ever read.  A shining example of “just because you can self-publish doesn’t mean you should.”  I took one for the team by finishing this one.  You’re welcome.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Austin Noir — 4 out of 5 stars

Another great addition to the Akashic Noir series!  A strong assortment of stories set in and around Austin, Texas, taking the reader on a journey to the darker side of the city.  I was familiar with a couple of the authors and discovered some great new-to-me authors (one of the reasons I enjoy this anthology series so much is reading authors who would normally not be on my radar).  As with all short story collections, I found some stronger than others, but overall I would give a high recommendation.

Suburban Monsters by Christopher Hawkins — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

A creepy collection of stories dealing with dark desires, hidden secrets, and the depths of human depravity.  These tales run the gamut from bullying to body horror, spousal abuse to weird children’s television shows.  There were some tales that appealed to me more than others (as with any collection), but I truly liked the writing style and the variety.  I was unfamiliar with Hawkins work before this and now I can’t wait to read more by him.

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

April — April Showers/Autism Awareness Month

April is here, spring is finally in the air (even though we just got another couple inches of snow last night), and it’s time to pick another monthly reading theme.

This year I’m going with last year’s theme, April Showers, with books that have titles or covers that tie in to the rainy theme.  The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan  is not the same one that was made into a movie (although, strangely enough, both titles were published within a month of each other).  This story is set in Alaska at the end of World War II, and sounds like a good adventure story with perhaps a bit of romance thrown in.  The Master of Rain by Tom Bradby  is a mystery/crime thriller set in 1926 Shanghai, starting out with the murder of a prostitute, then falling down the rabbit hole of rival gangsters and corruption.

April is also Autism Awareness month, so I decided to add Splinters of Silence by Ann J. Loring to the TBR pile.  This is the story of Ghost, a ten-year-old autistic boy who must flee with his young sister after the murder of their mother.  I just started this last night, only about thirty pages in but so far, not bad.

Also up for this month’s reading is Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, the selection for our “unofficial” NightWorms reading group.

My reading goals for March were kept, with eleven books read, including one of my March “Finish the Damn Series” titles (Stephen King’s End of Watch).

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

Until next time, stay safe, and Happy Reading!

Reading Mash-Up #183

Flower Love GIF by Felicitate88

Got a lot of reading time in the past couple of weeks, so let’s get to it…

–What I’ve Been Reading–

Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

The story of siblings Anh, Minh, and Thanh told through the decades, from their fleeing Vietnam in 1978, to their relocation from a Hong Kong refugee camp to a London resettlement center, and their life journeys to modern day.   This is a beautifully written story, and will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride (Dao’s chapters absolutely broke my heart).  Highly recommend.

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds by Mark Matthews — 4 out of 5 stars

Kori enters an abandoned psychiatric hospital, a place where her father was last seen being treated, hoping to find some clues to his whereabouts.  What she finds instead is unimaginable horror.    It took me a bit to really get into this story, but once I did, I could not put it down.  There’s some weird stuff happening here (as to be expected with any book set in a psychiatric hospital), and overall is a creepy, frightening read.  There were a couple of things that felt “off” to me, but it may just have been my expectations of what I wanted to happen.  A good starting point for those new to Matthews’ work.

End of Watch by Stephen King — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my March TBR selections.  It’s been a few years since I started the Bill Hodges trilogy (Mr. Mercedes), so I was a bit afraid of some disconnect on my part.  But I have to say, I think this installment was the best of the three.  Brady Hartsfield is still as cunning and evil as ever, and Holly’s character has really grown.  I think King has a certain fondness for inserting telekenesis into his storylines, and I am here for it.  This could possibly be read as a stand-alone, but you would be missing out on the character development that has happened from the start.  Gonna miss you Bill Hodges, but thanks for the ride.

American Overdose:  The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts by Chris McGreal — 4 out of 5 stars

This is a stark look at the making of the opioid epidemic that has destroyed the lives of countless Americans over the last two decades.  McGreal exposes the backstory of corporate greed that fueled the over-prescriptions of dangerously addictive opioids (OxyContin, among others) and their targeting of poorer, undereducated communities.  I found this not only informative, but emotional as well.  Well-researched and accessible writing makes this a must-read.

Beasts of 42nd Street by Preston Fassel — 4 out of 5 stars

So just how fucked up is this story?  Where do I even begin.  Fassel’s tale of junkies, snuff films, and revenge set in 1970’s New York City makes Nic Cage’s movie, 8MM, look like an episode of Sesame Street.  It’s brutal, it’s disturbing, it’s graphic.  I could smell the filthy rooms and back alleyways, I could feel the grime that covered every surface.  This book is not for everyone (fair warning:  if you have any triggers, just walk away now, as this pretty much has them all), but if you like to immerse yourself in depressing stories of depravity, then you really need to check this one out.

Tell the Rest by Lucy Jane Bledsoe — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This novel focuses on Delia, a basketball coach forced to return to her small hometown where she will have to confront her past experiences at a Christian conversion camp.  I liked the book overall and felt it did a good job at addressing the traumas that many have endured at these camps and other forced conversion “therapies.”  But while I appreciated Delia’s story, I would have liked to know more of Ernest’s and Cal’s stories as they seemed to be the ones who bore the brunt of the abuses.

Malorie by Josh Malerman — 3.5 out of 5 stars

One of my March TBR selections.  The follow-up to the hit Bird Box takes up a few years after Malorie and her children found shelter at the school for the blind, then takes another ten-year leap, which is where the main focus of the story is based.  This had been one of my highly anticipated reads as I really liked the first book, but this one was a bit of up-and-down for me.  The story felt disjointed at times, like Malerman wasn’t sure which direction to go.  And there was a certain plot point that kept getting thrown around that I was expecting some grand finale only to have a two sentence blase conclusion.  Overall, I am glad I finally read this one, I was just expecting more.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Forbidden by Clive Barker — 4 out of 5 stars

This Barker short is technically a reread for me, but I haven’t read it since the early ’90’s so I don’t remember it, let alone remember it for being the inspiration for the horror movie, Candyman.  I’ve been getting back into Barker’s works after twenty-plus years away from them, and while this short isn’t one of my favorites (so far), it does excel at building suspense and the creepiness factor is right up there.  A good place to start if you’re new to Barker’s work.



Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

Reading Mash-Up #182

After teasing us with some beautiful sunshine last week, Mother Nature brought the snow back, reminding us all there is still a few weeks of winter left.  Thankfully I don’t have to travel in it, giving me plenty of time for books and channel surfing…

–What I’ve Been Reading–

Three-Smile Mile by Chad Lutzke — 4 out of 5 stars

The latest Lutzke is in the house!  This new offering goes in a different direction from Lutzke’s usual style.  Described as a “cat-and-mouse crime thriller,” we meet Cake, a line cook at a small diner.  A snap decision has him on the road with an attractive older woman, driving a classic car filled with stolen money.  An angry husband and murderous criminals round out the characters in this fast-paced, dark, bleak story.  I kept getting True Romance vibes while reading this one.  Great way to spend an afternoon.

Full Immersion by Gemma Amor — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my February TBR selections.  Imagine finding your own dead body on a riverbank, then walking through your memories with a familiar stranger.  Is this a sort of purgatory, or something more sinister?  This latest from Amor is a real trip, and had me guessing up to the end.  There is also a heavy theme of post-partum depression, as Amor mentions in her foreward.  I’m not one to need trigger/content warnings, but I have to say, there were a couple of sentences that brought back the emotions I felt when I went through my own struggles with PPD years ago.  A wild ride, highly recommend.

No Gods For Drowning by Hailey Piper — 3 out of 5 stars

One of my February TBR selections.  Set in a sort of alternate reality, this is a tale of old gods who abandoned humankind, leaving them to become prey to ancient monsters of the sea.  Throw in a serial killer, and that pretty much sums it up.  But it’s not as simple as that.  There is A LOT to digest, and so much is just thrown at the reader quickly and early on, that I found myself wondering if I should keep going or not.  I did finish it, and yeah, in the end it was worth it.  The story itself is truly imaginative, I just had issues with the delivery.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Tales of Sley House 2022 —3.5 out of 5 stars

One of my February TBR selections.   A lot of new-to-me authors and a wide variety of themes, including tales of aliens, golems, ghosts, and more.  As with most anthologies, I found some stories more to my liking than others, but overall a great way to discover new authors.

Festival by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon — 3 out of 5 stars

A music festival that commemorates an ancient Viking massacre, set at the very same spot where the slaughter took place?  Gee, don’t know what could go wrong with that.   This quick read was pretty entertaining, but I just felt like something was missing, either with the characters or the origin story (maybe both?).  While not my favorite from these authors, still a pretty good way to spend a snowy day.

–What I’ve Been Watching–

Nothing beats a good sitcom to brighten up dark, cold days, so over the past couple of weeks I’ve been catching up on season two of Abbott Elementary and Ghosts.  I just love these shows, they’re light fun that always put a smile on my face!

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

March — Finish the Damn Series!

I love a good series.  When the author is able to create a world and characters that I become wholly invested in, to the point of obsessing over the next installment, you know you have a winner.  Over the years, I’ve read my fair share.  Some I’ve finished in record time (I tore through The Hunger Games trilogy in a couple of weeks, with the only reason it took that long is that I was waiting for book three to arrive).  Other series I have been relishing, knowing that they will eventually end and I’m not quite ready to give them up (Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series, James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux, and Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole are at the top of this list).  And there are those series I enjoyed but will never get to finish (thanks a lot George RR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss!).

For the month of March, I decided to finally attempt to wrap up a couple of series that I started some time ago and just haven’t gotten around to reading the grand finales…

I started Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy back in 2016, and Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy in 2019.  I’m thinking its way past due to finally see how these stories play out.  I can’t guarantee I will finish both these month, with both of them being pretty hefty tomes, but I am hoping to finish one and have a good start on the other (while enjoying some aptly named tea from Riddle’s Book and Tea Company called TBR Brew!).

And as for the March pick for my “Unofficial NW Club”…

…as fate would have it, Malorie by Josh Malerman was chosen, another series that I started a while back and just never got around to finishing.  Sticking with the theme indeed!

As for February, I finished a total of nine books, four of those being my monthly TBR selections.  I did start Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, and I’m currently about 130 pages in and absolutely loving it!

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

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

Reading Mash-Up #181

Do you have a favorite spot to sit and read?  My couch is my preferred spot, as it’s near a south-facing window so there’s a lot of natural light (especially this time of year).  If you’re like me, you probably have a stack of books near your favorite spot, those you’re currently reading and those books hoping to be the next in line.  Tonight, this is the view from my couch, with current reads on the left and those next in line on the right (with a new addition, Tell the Rest by Lucy Jane Bledsoe, my latest win from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer giveaways and Akashic Books).  And, of course, my ever-present cup of tea (tonight’s flavor choice being Evil Tea’s Sacred Grove, a blend of green tea with apricot and peach flavors).

-What I’ve Been Reading-

Road Seven by Keith Rosson — 4 out of 5 stars

This is one of those strange stories that really defies description without giving away major spoilers, as well as defying genre classification.  I loved the weirdness of it, even when it got to the point of ridiculousness.  And alongside the bizarre, there is a heart to the story that had me rooting for the main characters.  Great read, especially if you’re looking for something off the beaten track.

The End of Drum-Time by Hanna Pylvainen — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Beautifully written historical fiction set in the Scandinavian tundra of 1851, this is the story of old traditions meeting new religion, of family, love, and betrayal.  I appreciated the research that went into creating this tale, and overall enjoyed the story.  But even with the rich descriptions and narration, I just always felt like something was missing, especially with some of the characters.  I would give this a strong recommendation to fans of literary fiction.

Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

After enjoying the first book, My Heart is a Chainsaw, I was super excited to be able to read this advanced copy of the second book through Netgalley.  I’ve been a fan of SGJ for some time, and Reaper was at the top of my most-anticipated reads.  That being said, for me, something just felt “off” with this one.  I didn’t feel the same draw to the characters, and there were several times when I felt like an outsider listening in on strangers’ conversations and not knowing what the hell they were talking about.  However, I did like the storyline, and the last 30 percent or so was the awesomeness that I had been expecting.  Even though this didn’t hit the mark for me, I am still looking forward to the final installment.

Good Time Girls by Lael Morgan — 3 out of 5 stars

Nonfiction looking at the lives of “disreputable” women of the Alaskan gold rush era (late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s).  Reading the synopsis, I thought this would be mainly about the working girls, but well over half the book focuses on the men who created the gold rush towns in the far north and their hardships.  It’s still an interesting read, just not what I was expecting.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Les Femmes Grotesques by Victoria Dalpe — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my February selections.  This is a great assortment of stories, ranging from creepy and disturbing to darkly humorous.  There is also an assortment of dark beings throughout the tales.  Standard vampires, witches, and ghosts are modernized, and there are some surprises along the way, including a strange moss-like being in love with a human, and one of the best haunted house short stories I’ve read in some time.  Highly recommend, especially if you’re looking for dark and atmospheric reads.

-What I’ve Been Watching-

Yellowstone (Season One, partial Season Two)

Okay, I’ve been hearing about this show since it started, so I recently set it up to record and lucked out when they had a marathon of all episodes back in early January.  It wasn’t until a few days ago I finally took the plunge and started it…and wound up watching the first seven episodes and forcing myself to stop to get some sleep!  Two days later, I finished season one and immediately started season two.  I really get what all the fuss is about, I freaking love this show!  I will say this though:  there are some scenes that are difficult to watch, and the first thirty seconds of the very first episode were especially so.  But I have quickly become so invested in the characters that I find myself talking/yelling at them…not something I normally do, by the way (and speaking of btw, Kayce, you were a complete asshole to your wife in the hospital, just saying).  I can only sum up what I’ve seen so far as if Dallas and The Sopranos had a love child, then dumped it in the middle of Montana to fend for itself, you would wind up with Yellowstone.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

February — Fantastical Shorts

Ah, February.  The days are getting a bit longer, and spring doesn’t seem so far away.  But around here, this month is traditionally the snowiest and coldest of the winter months, so there’s still plenty of days ahead that promise to be perfect “curl up under a blanket with a mug of tea and a good book” kind of days.

I think the shortest month of the year is the perfect time to dive into some short story collections/anthologies.  I’ve also been craving an epic fantasy, so I decided to try to fit in both of these themes.  I had my reading list all set, then some unexpected book mail on February 1 and an unplanned trip to the local library changed things up a little bit.

For my short story selection, I have been eagerly anticipating Victoria Dalpe’s Les Femmes Grotesques, where “…horror mixes with humor…and the ordinary with the macabre.”  Totally right up my alley.  My unexpected book mail on the first was an anthology that I won through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer monthly giveaway, Tales of Sley House 2022.  Glancing through this last night, I realized these are all new-to-me authors.  I love discovering new authors so this looks to be a potential treasure trove.

For me, epic fantasy and cold winter days just seem to go hand-in-hand, so I decided to finally start Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay.  This has been sitting on my shelf for way too long, and the description of “…a setting that evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of eighth-century China” has me intrigued.  At 567 pages, it’s a pretty big one for this month, but I’m hoping to read a majority of it by the 28th.  First up though, is my library find, Hailey Piper’s No Gods For Drowning, which sounds like a blend of fantasy and horror.  I was pleasantly surprised to find this one, and a shoutout to our local library for stocking more indie writers and publishers.

My friend M. is also a monthly subscriber to NightWorms, and we were talking about how many of those books we haven’t read yet.  So, we decided to create our own little unofficial NW book club.  We each picked five titles and we’ll be taking turns doing random drawings for our monthly read…

…and this month will be Full Immersion by Gemma Amor!  I’m familiar with Amor’s work through her short stories so I have high hopes for this novel.

As for January, I read a total of eleven books, including both of my January selections.  One of those picks, Garrett Cook’s Charcoal, was hands-down my favorite of the month.

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

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

Reading Mash-Up #180

I must say, January has started out with a bang in terms of reading.  Compared to last year at this time, I’m feeling motivated rather than feeling bogged down.  I hope to keep this streak going!

What I’ve Been Reading

Charcoal by Garrett Cook — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars

One of my January TBR selections.  Art student Shannon finds her life turning inside out after using drawing charcoals rumored to have been made from the ashes of sadistic artist Thomas Kemp.  Beautifully horrific are the first two words to pop into my head as I finished reading this.  The writing is mesmerizing, the characters flawed, and the ending sent shivers down my spine.  Highly recommend, especially for fans of “literary” horror.

The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick — 3 out of 5 stars

One of my January TBR selections.  The first in a series (or maybe only a duology?  Not sure), this quick YA/middle-grade read mixes fantasy, magic, and a bit of horror.  I know I’m not the target audience by a long shot, but I do think the characters could have been fleshed out a bit more as they felt flat to me.

Daphne by Josh Malerman — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

I usually enjoy Malerman’s work, but this story was a swing and a miss for me.  I can usually get over repeated sports references, and I’m familiar with the basketball game the girls were doing (basically Magic 8 Ball questions, only the answers come from making or missing baskets).  But by the end, I just felt unsatisfied with the whole Daphne spectre, and I really didn’t care who lived or died in the final showdown.  If you’re new to Malerman’s work, I suggest starting with anything other than this one.

Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

It’s been a long time since I read the first book in this series (Iron Lake), and admittingly I haven’t read the nine books between that one and this.  That being said, I don’t remember so much religion and misogyny in the first one  that infiltrated this story.  The first half was very good (Cork and his family caught in a deadly storm, Cork’s daughter, Jenny, stumbles across a dead woman and rescues her infant son), putting this on track for a good four stars.  Then it just started to go downhill fast with the introduction of a doomsday cult and Jenny’s obsession with her instant motherhood status.  When it was suggested that to be a real mother, one has to breastfeed the baby, I just about threw this into the trash.  I did finish it, rolling my eyes the last twenty percent or so.  If this is what the series has become, then I’m bowing out and donating my other Krueger titles to my local library book sale.

What I’ve Been Watching

American Horror Story:  NYC (season 11)

I’ve been watching AHS since the beginning.  Over the years, there have been some very good seasons, some “okay until the ending” seasons, and a small percentage that just simply sucked shit (season 8 Apocalypse, I’m looking at you).  I went into season 11 not knowing what to expect, and I wound up binging all ten episodes over a two day period!  Set in 1981 New York City, someone (or something) is targeting gay men.  I can’t say much more about the plot without revealing major spoilers, but I will say this is the strongest season AHS has put out in a while.  And a first for me with this series:  I cried not only once, but twice!!  The last twenty minutes just devastated me (and that’s saying a lot!).  All the stars for this one, and here’s hoping they keep up the momentum going into season 12.

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!