Monday Mash-Up #048 It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas!

There’s nothing like getting your Christmas tree all decorated, then finding it splat on the floor the next morning!!  :/  The hubby and I got it upright  and I finished the decorating (again!) earlier today….

Now that this drama has passed, time to get back into the Christmas spirit!  Plus I’ve been trying to figure out if I want to do anything special for my birthday weekend this coming weekend or just relax at home.  Of course, I do have plans to treat myself to a trip to a couple of bookstores (where else?!  😀  ).

The Week in Books—

Now That We’re Alone by Nicholas Day — 4.5 out of 5 stars!

This short story collection really does have it all, from killer turtles to vampiric revenge…..even serial killer John Wayne Gacy makes an appearance as a heavenly angel (yes, you read that right!!).  A great collection, and one I would recommend for anyone new to Day’s work.

Jimmy the Freak by Charles Colyott and Mark Steensland — 4.5 out of 5 stars!

A little novella with a lot of heart…as well as telepathy and some really bad guys.  I kept thinking of one of my favorite stories, Of Mice and Men, while reading this, as Jimmy and Mike reminded me so much of Lennie and George.  Be sure to check this one out.

Waiting Out Winter by Kelli Owen — 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Flies.  Disease-carrying flies.  That pretty much sums up this novella.  I enjoyed Owen’s take on an apocalyptic future, focusing on an ordinary family trying to survive in an altered world with an unknown future.  Added bonus–The sequel will focus on spiders!  Yep, I need to read that one as well!!

The Institute by Stephen King — 4 out of 5 stars!

I agree with many other reviewers that this latest King novel has some heavy shades of Firestarter.  I thought it started out pretty slow, but King is a master at keeping you turning the pages, even during the slow parts.  King’s style has also changed over the years, and while this definitely falls under horror it has more of a subdued horror feel and not the “in your face” extremes like some of his older works.  Another great story from the master.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh — 2 out of 5 stars

For me, this has not been a good year for books named after the main character (most notably  Gretchen and Zuleikha ).  Add Eileen to the list.  There was some potential and a good twist I really didn’t see coming, but after constant references to laxative-induced bowel movements and menstrual odors (among other bodily functions) I just couldn’t find that potential (or care about it) anymore.


Now to pull out my Christmas dvds and revisit some favorite movies.  Do you have any favorite holiday books or movies?  Are they traditional classics or something more recent?

Enjoy your week, and until next time, Happy Reading!

 

The Latest from @Night_Worms — Winter White, Winter Fright!

It’s that time again, where I sit and wait patiently for the mail to arrive (my husband is always surprised that I just don’t stand out by the mailbox after I receive the shipping confirmation!!).

And what a delivery!   Not just one picture’s worth of goodies….

….but two!!!!

Coffee, candies, stickers…..

And check out this totally amazing wooden bookmark from The Bookish Den!!

I would have posted this on Thursday, but I’ve been too busy reading two of the books, Jimmy the Freak and Waiting Out Winter, both getting 4.5 stars from me (I’ll include summary reviews in my next Monday Mash-Up).  I can’t wait to dive into the other books!

Happy Anniversary to Night Worms, here’s to another great year and many more to come!  Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!

 

Monday Mash-Up #047 December!!

It’s December!!

Along with all the holiday cheer, this month also rings in another birthday for me…..no, I won’t share how old I’ll be turning, so no need to ask!  😀

I’ve been working on some new blog ideas for 2020, including monthly themes and more in-depth reviews.  I am also narrowing down my “finalists” for this year’s edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Bizarre, which I will unveil after Christmas.

Even with the Thanksgiving holiday last week, I was still able to sneak in some reading time…….

The Week in Books

Lost in Hardyland by Shannon Heuston — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Although I found this listed under adult fiction, it read more like a middle grade or early YA so I based my rating on that.  The narrator, a super-smart 12/13 year old, loses her mother and goes to live with the father she never knew.  Of course, dad is the total opposite of the solid, intellectual deceased mom so there is a giant learning curve with the characters.  Overall I liked it, but by the end the characters were starting to get on my nerves.

Near Death in the Mountains:  True Stories of Disaster and Survival  edited by Cecil Kuhne — 3 out of 5 stars

All the stories are excerpts from longer works, and because of that there are times when the narrative starts in the middle of a scene and the reader is left wondering how things got to this point.  I recommend skipping this one and reading the original versions, especially Touching the Void by Joe Simpson and Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home by Nando Parrado.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley — 3 out of 5 stars

Precocious Flavia de Luce is back, this time for a Christmas-themed murder mystery.  Not a bad, quick little read, but really, how does Flavia get away with so much crime scene tampering?!?

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman — 2.5 out of 5 stars

Because I am stubborn and I hate giving up on books, I finally made it to the end after nearly four months.  Am I glad I did?  No.  While I give Newman credit for creating a new dialect for this post-apocalyptic story, I felt this dragged down my reading experience.  Instead of getting caught up in the action, I felt bogged down by the translation.  And the ending was one of the most unsatisfying ones I’ve read in a long time.  Don’t feel bad if you skip this one, I kind of wish I had.


Enjoy your week, and Happy Reading!!

Nonfiction—Gold Rush Dogs

Gold Rush Dogs by Claire Rudolf Murphy and Jane G. Haigh

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Dog lovers and history buffs will delight in this collection celebrating the beloved canines that offered companionship, protection, and hard work to their masters in the Far North.

I came across this little coffee table-style book at the library book sale and the dog-lover in me knew I just had to have it.  And it did not disappoint!

These are the stories of some of Alaska’s more well-known dogs from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  There’s Stickeen, the small but brave Tahltan bear dog who accompanied naturalist John Muir on many of his Alaskan adventures;  Patsy Ann, the homeless bull terrier who greeted the incoming ships at the Juneau seaports until her death in 1942; Togo and Balto, both having their parts in the famous serum run of 1925; Nero, the loyal Saint Bernard devoted to his mistress; and several others.  The stories are short but well-focused on the faithfulness and tenacity of these amazing canines.

There are side stories about some of the historical figures like John Muir, Soapy Smith, and Scotty Allan, as well as  historical notes and breed information.

And the photographs!!  These by far are the best thing about the book!!

At only 119 pages, this is a quick glimpse into some of Alaska’s lesser-known history, a great little read for a cold winter afternoon.  Highly recommend.

“Any man can make friends with any dog…but it takes a long time and mutual trust and mutual forbearance and mutual appreciation to make a partnership.”   From Gold Rush Dogs, page 46

5 out of 5 stars!

Monday Mash-Up #046 Happy Thanksgiving!

In just a few short days, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving……

Our household usually goes pretty low-key for this holiday, just the three of us and a giant feast that could feed 10!    😀

Personally, I’m looking forward to bringing out the Christmas decorations on the 29th!!

And so, the holiday season begins……….

 

The Week in Books

The Siren and the Specter by Jonathan Janz — 4 out of 5 stars

A haunted house story with a sadistic twist.  Another strong showing from Janz, but my problem centered around the Siren.  It just felt awkward, and didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the story.  Still a great, creepy read.

Last Ones Left Alive by Susan Davis-Goff — 3 out of 5 stars

Yet another take on the zombie apocalypse scenario, only here they’re called skrakes.  The story had potential, but I felt it was extremely slow moving, and when the action did pick up it felt jumbled and hurried.  There were also no clear explanations about some of the storyline, especially in regards to the “banshees.”  Really not a bad story though, just a little quieter than I expected from a zombie tale.

The Candy Cane Caper by Josi Kilpack — 3 out of 5 stars

If you’re looking for a holiday cozy mystery, this one definitely fits the bill.  It centers around the theft of some treasured antique ornaments, and like many cozies it offers some delicious sounding recipes.  A nice light read, perfect for the holiday season.

At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiessen  — 3 out of 5 stars

The first half of this book just didn’t work for me.  It felt like I was in some surreal dream, where the details are blurry and if you turn your head the scene changes to something totally different.  However, about half way through, the story really started to click with me, but I still never really felt any connection with the characters.


I am always thankful for my family, great friends, health, and happiness.  Wishing all of you who will be celebrating on the 28th a safe and happy Thanksgiving………and until next time, Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #045 Already a Year?!!

Hard to believe, but a year ago today I started my journey into the blogosphere…….

It’s been a year of trial and error, and one of finding my reviewing voice.  I’m looking forward to expanding my reviews and trying out some new ideas in the future!

The Week in Books—-

The Nightmare Girl by Jonathan Janz — 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Another strong showing from Janz, this time centering on a fire-loving cult who may or may not dabble in vampirism.  Truly creepy, and will definitely have you thinking twice before jumping into other people’s business.

Greenhorns:  50 Dispatches From the New Farmers’ Movement, edited by Zoe Ida Bradbury — 4 out of 5 stars!

Essays written by farmers highlighting the ups and downs of small-scale farming throughout the United States.  Some were entertaining, others were thought-provoking.  Very interesting and approachable.

Neverhome by Laird Hunt — 2 out of 5 stars

This one sounded like a win:  a woman disguises herself as a man in order to fight during the Civil War.  Sadly, the cover blurb offered more excitement than the actual story.  The narrator, main character “Ash,” was unemotional and flat.  The story really never showcased the Civil War, nor did it ever explain why Ash felt compelled to leave her husband and join the army.  And don’t get me started on the contrived ending!!  There was enough story to keep me entertained on a rainy afternoon, the only reason I upped the rating to two stars.


A huge thank you for joining me over the past twelve months, and I look forward to talking books for another year…or two…or ten!!  😀

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #043 and #044

Once again, the days flew by and I fell behind…..not that there was any major life events around here, but still…..

I am excited to say that I am looking at my first blog-aversary coming up on the 19th!!  And even better, my first year as a member of Mr Pink Ink’s Pink Blots!!  Then, with the month of December comes my “Milestone Birthday!!!!”  and some new ideas for 2020!!!   I love this time of year!!  😀

The Week in Books—–

The Devil’s Dreamland:  Poetry Inspired by H. H. Holmes by Sara Tantlinger — 5 out of 5 stars!

If anyone had ever told me I would be singing praises for a book of poetry, I probably would have laughed and given a witty comeback like “No way.”  But The Devil’s Dreamland is not just a book of poems.  Tantlinger took inspiration from the stories surrounding H. H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer.  This collection does read much like a story, starting in Holmes’ childhood and continuing through his grisly crimes and conviction.  There is great build-up through the collection; I could almost feel Holmes’ descent into madness.  If you want to give some poetry a try, I’d recommend this fantastic collection.

Grind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day — 5 out of 5 stars!

My Goodreads review—

Brutal and horrific, with the added bonus of beautifully written prose. I loved this book, even when I was feeling the need to scrub my soul clean. I will definitely be looking for more of Day’s work in the future.

And I will never look at a donkey the same way again.

Anthony Bourdain Remembered by CNN (Cable News Network) — 5 out of 5 stars!

This is a must-have for Bourdain fans.  A compilation of remembrances and tributes from friends and family, as well as some wonderful photography.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan — 5 out of 5 stars!

I am currently writing a full review and will be sharing it here and with my friends over at Mr Pink Ink.  By far one of the best biographies I’ve read.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum — 3 out of 5 stars

Set during World War II and the late 1990’s, this is really two stories:  first about surviving Nazi Germany and the second about mother-daughter relationships.  First off, this could have easily been shaved down by 100 or so pages, as by the mid-point I was feeling things starting to become repetitive.  I also think there should have been more about the daughter, Trudie, and her own struggles trying to understand her mother.  Overall, not bad, and this would probably make a good selection for a book club as there are definitely some interesting topics to discuss.

Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman — 3 out of 5 stars

I was expecting a bit more from this one after reading and enjoying The Suicide Motor Club, but by the time the story started to really get going I just wasn’t caring anymore.  And was it really necessary to the story line to constantly read about Frank and Eudora’s never-ending sex life??  When it was good, it was really good though, so a full three stars.

Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay — 3 out of 5 stars

I read the first Dexter book some time ago, and I remember it being a bit more entertaining than this sequel.  Dexter, that lovable serial killer who only kills serial killers, is back and itching to release his inner darkness.  I felt the story was lacking something, and the writing was choppy (no pun intended).  Overall, if you’re a Dexter fan, give it a go, but I probably wouldn’t recommend this one for a first-time reader to the series.

Chopping Spree by Diane Mott Davidson — 3 out of 5 stars

After non-stop horror reading over the past couple of months I needed to cleanse my palate, and this little cozy mystery did the trick.  The 11th book in the Goldy Schulz series features the usual murder and mayhem as well as some great sounding recipes.  If you need a quick entertaining read, this series always delivers.

Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf — 3 out of 5 stars

This started out as a solid 4 star story.  I was sucked in from the beginning and really couldn’t put it down.  But adult characters that seemed more like caricatures and a very unsatisfying ending dropped it down to a low 3 stars.


I’m truly getting excited for a new year here at All Dragons Read!  Thanks for following me and as always, Happy Reading!!

@Night_Worms #04 “Feasting on Horror”

Saturday’s mail brought the latest Night Worms package…….and I was beyond excited to find the following!!!

Oh…My…Gawd!!!  Grind Your Bones to Dust by Nicholas Day has been at the top of my horror to-read list, and Nicole Cushing’s A Sick Gray Laugh is one of those I saw on Goodreads and was beyond intrigued and added it to  my ever-expanding “must read” list.  And don’t get me started on The Devil’s Dreamland:  Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes…….I devoured this offering from Sara Tantlinger in a Saturday afternoon reading frenzy and enjoyed every bit of it!!!

Of course, there are the added bonuses of signed book plates and some awesome artwork (I love the Halloween magnet!!).

Another huge shout-out to Night Worms and their commitment to sharing some of the best horror out there.  I’m already looking forward to December’s package, it will mark Night Worm’s one year anniversary with FOUR books (plus added bonus of it being my milestone birthday month!!!  😀 ).

Happy Reading!!

Happy Halloween!!

 

Just in case I don’t get online on the 31st, hope you have a spooktacular Halloween!  Have fun and stay safe!!

 

Now the real question is—-will I finish my last 2 books to complete my 31 books of Halloween?  And will you mind terribly if I use November 1, the Day of the Dead, as a backup deadline?!?!?  😀

Happy Halloween and Happy Reading!!

Monday Mash-Up #042

Lost in a maze of corn, listening to the wind rattling the dry husks, trying not to think of Children of the Corn…….

…..and we reach a fork in the path.  Which to choose, left or right?   Will we find an exit or wander aimlessly?

Well, thankfully we found the way!  Time to search for some pumpkins!

Saturday we went to a local place appropriately called The Pumpkin Patch, a little tradition we’ve been doing since my son was 3 or 4.  It’s a small, family-owned farm offering hay rides, a corn maze, and a ton of huge pumpkins to choose from.  We went a little late in the season this year so the pickings were not as large as usual, but we still found some great ones!

Now to figure out what we want to carve!

It was also a great week for finishing up some Halloween and October-themed books, check these out……..

The Week In Books—

The Line That Held Us by David Joy — 5 out of 5 stars!

To say I love David Joy’s writing would be an understatement.  His stories are bleak, depressing, sometimes disturbing, but are well worth reading.  Joy blurs the lines between good and evil; in this story, several times I found myself wanting to give Dwayne, the “bad guy,” a big hug and have him cry on my shoulder, then within a few paragraphs I would be rooting for justice to be served against him. The “eye for an eye” mentality is strong in this book, and it will make you question if it is really the solution.  Highly recommend.

The Passage by Justin Cronin — 4.5 out 5 stars!

Vampires and the apocalypse?  Sign me up please!  It took me a while before I finally sat down to read this, and I was not disappointed.  I’ll admit I watched the television series first, which really stoked my interest in the book.  An interesting twist on the apocalypse, with my only complaint being some slower parts in the middle.  Make sure to read it with the lights on!!

Tales From the Shadow Side by Jonathan Janz — 4 out of 5 stars!

After reading the first short story in this collection, Old Order, I was seriously questioning being able to continue.   It was sick and twisted, even by my standards.  But I kept on and I’m glad I did!   Janz’s work is definitely not for everyone;  I consider myself a pretty hardcore horror fan but I found myself feeling a bit squeamish with some of the imagery.  But this collection is a definite must-read for horror fans, plus it gives a great introduction into the mind of the author.  Read if you dare!!

Blood Sugar by Daniel Kraus — 4 out of 5 stars!

This is not your typical horror story, but in a way it’s scarier than any ghost tale or gorefest pulp fiction.  The story is narrated by a young boy named Jody, who, along with his younger foster sister and a girl he secretly loves, befriend a local outcast named Robbie.  All of these characters are damaged, if not completely broken, living in horrific circumstances, yet all yearning for their own sense of family and belonging.  Then comes the plan to poison trick-or-treaters on Halloween and, well, things go even more downhill.  Fair warning:  the narrative is in Jody’s voice, which includes a lot of slang and run-on sentences.  But I think once you get used to his speech, you will find this little book as heartbreakingly horrifying as I did.

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire — 4 out of 5 stars!

I was having a lot of mixed feelings about rating this one.  Seanan McGuire knows how to write a ghost story (I’m a big fan of Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day).  I was hooked at the beginning, intrigued with this twilight of ghosts.  But around the half-way mark it started to feel slower and repetitive.  After putting it aside for a few days, I was able to jump back into the story of the ever-wandering Rose and devoured the last 130+ pages.  A bit of a spoiler though:  it is setting up for book 2, something I wasn’t aware of until after I started reading and saw there was a sequel.  It doesn’t diminish McGuire’s writing, just fair warning that not all questions will be answered.

Cutting Edge:  New Stories of Mystery and Crime By Women Writers — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Review to come.  I received this ARC from Akashic Books and LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Giveaways.


I just noticed on my Goodreads list I’ve completed 29 Halloweenish books…..hmmm, will I make it to 31 by the 31st??  Stay tuned……..and Happy Reading!