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!

Weekly Mash-Up #123

This past weekend I participated in another readathon, this one through the  24B4Monday Goodreads group.  Over the span of Friday through Monday, I was able to read a total of 796 pages,  and finished 4 books!  I’ve become a bit of a readathon junkie over the past year or so, and I’m already looking for the next one!  If you have any suggestions for future readathons, be sure to drop me a line!

Oh, and did I  mention this past week’s book mail?!?

I’m pretty sure when I log into Thriftbooks they just automatically pull up my debit card and get the packaging ready to go!!  I ordered another eclectic mix, from These Women (the lives of five women connected by one event/person) to Road Seven ( a strange-sounding tale involving a man running from his past and a random unicorn sighting!).  Indigenous author Carol Rose GoldenEagle’s Bone Black takes a fictional look at the underreported and unsolved crimes against Native women.  The Mercies, based on true events which took place off the coast of Norway in 1617, sounds like a tale of not only survival but also of unexpected love.  And as for The Nightly Disease?  I just couldn’t pass up this bizarro fiction/horror novel written by someone who, like me, has worked in the hospitality business for many years and knows what it’s like to deal with those sometimes strange late night customers.

The Week in Books

New Veronia by M.S. Coe — 4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 stars, rounding up for Goodreads

I don’t know how to sum up this book in an awesome review that will make everyone want to pick it up, because I am honestly at a loss for the right words. Giving new meaning to the standard “coming of age” story, this is a mash up of dark, disturbing, and uncomfortably erotic, and I could not put it down. M.S. Coe is a voice to watch and I am already looking forward to all future works!

Matters of Doubt by Warren Easley — 3.5 out of 5 stars

The first in the Cal Claxton series, originally published in 2013 and getting a reboot May 2021 (I’m guessing there is a new one in the wings?).  There was quite a bit I liked about this mystery, which starts with a young homeless artist trying to find out the truth behind his mother’s death, then goes on to include  more murders, an escort service, and a wide array of intriguing supporting characters.  My main problem falls with the protagonist, Cal.  I can’t quite place what it is, but I could not get behind him as any sort of “hero” or as a wanna-be sleuth.  His often random political observations made me believe this was setting up the series to become more political in nature and less mystery and entertaining.  I am willing to read the next book in the series, if nothing else to see if my view of Cal changes in any way.

In the Still of the Night:  The Strange Death of Ronda Reynolds and Her Mother’s Unceasing Quest for the Truth by Ann Rule — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

I’ve read many of Rule’s true crime books over the years, and this is definitely not one of her best.  This particular book interested me as the events happened not far from my home in Lewis County, Washington.  I was hoping Rule could maybe cut through some of the bullshit that went on with the investigation like she’s been known to do with past cases.  Sadly, for me, this was just a rehash of all the rumors I’d already heard that had been circulating in this area for years.   While I applaud Ronda’s mother, Barb Thompson, for her tenacity and her fight against the “good ol’ boy” system that makes up our local sheriff’s department, this is one book that really shouldn’t have been written without more concrete proof and with less conjecture and rumors (Quick note:  As of June 2021, there is still nothing new in the case, at least nothing that has been shared with the local media.  I’m not sure it’s even still considered active).

The Dinner by Herman Koch — 1 out of 5 stars

One of my May selections.  This started out as a pretty solid 3 star read, but by the halfway point I was beginning to lower my opinion.  By the end, I just wanted to chuck this book against the wall.  I find it entertaining that so many reviewers are labeling this the “Dutch version/answer to Gone Girl.”  Let me tell you….It.  Is.  Not.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Dimentia by Russell Coy — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

This was one of the weirdest things I’ve read in a while…and you know that says a lot!!  I can’t even begin to describe it, but if you like alternate realities filled with strange creatures and some fast-paced storytelling, then be sure to check this one out!


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

June — Pride Month

June is Pride Month, and to celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, I wanted to pick some books either featuring characters or written by an author representing the community.  My first thought was to go back to where the movement began.

The Stonewall Riots of 1969 was considered the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement.  Stonewall is not only about the riots and the aftermath, but about the people who took part ( Quick note:  I started this on June 1;  Duberman is featuring the stories of six individuals from various backgrounds, telling their early stories and later their involvement at Stonewall).  Be sure to look for my full review here and at MrPinkInk on June 26!

When it comes to fiction, there are so many talented authors and wonderful books now available that it’s difficult to choose.  From my unread shelves, there were a few titles that popped out, including The Hours by Michael Cunningham, The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, and Stephanie Rabig’s ebook, Winterbourne’s Daughter.  I’m sure I’ll find other great titles when I go to the library next week so I’m going to keep my fiction options open for now.

Goodreads Group Reads

All of my Goodreads groups have selected some amazing reading material for June.  Here are three that I’ve read and highly recommend.

The Joy Luck Club is a true classic, and if you haven’t had a chance to read it you need to fix that!  The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a quiet little novel with Neil Gaiman’s trademark strange twists.  There have been skeptics over the years who have argued that When Rabbit Howls is more fiction than not.  However, I believe this memoir (of sorts) from a woman who developed 90+ distinct personalities to help deal with the extreme torture and abuse she suffered as a child is true, which makes it all the more heartbreaking.


 

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

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

 

Nonfiction — Do Something For Nothing

Do Something for Nothing:  Seeing Beneath the Surface of Homelessness, Through the Simple Act of a Haircut

By Joshua Coombes

Published May 18, 2021 by Akashic Books

5 out of 5 stars!

Joshua Coombes never planned on becoming a hairdresser.  Through a chance opportunity in his mid-twenties, he landed a job cutting hair, which would ultimately lead to even bigger, life-changing opportunities.

“I learned how to talk less and listen more.”

In 2015 he would start down a path that would soon lead to a worldwide movement, Do Something For Nothing, aimed at spreading kindness and compassion.  While talking with a homeless man who he frequently saw on his way home, Coombes offered the man a haircut.  While listening to the man’s story while he cut, Coombes felt a sense of connection with the man, which led to the formation of a friendship.  After meeting some of the homeless man’s friends, Coombes soon found himself taking his supply kit around London, offering free haircuts to men and women living on the streets and, most importantly, listening to their stories.

Coombes set out to spread these simple acts of compassion throughout communities abroad, and this book takes us on his journeys around the world.  We meet a family in Los Angeles living in a tent under an overpass while trying to maintain some structure for their young son;  Zero in Denver asking for birthday wishes;  young children in Mumbai with heartwarming smiles;  the charismatic Eelco in Amsterdam who was optimistic about his future; and many others.   Before and after pictures accompany each story, and you can almost feel the emotional changes through the after photos that a simple haircut can bring.  And as for the man on the cover?

Monty, from Sydney, Australia, who shared snippets from his past and a coffee with the author.

I’ll admit that I’ve become rather cynical as I’ve grown older, but Coombes portraits of real people and the effects of a simple kindness at turns broke my heart and gave me hope for humanity.

Highly recommend.

Thank you to Akashic Books for sending me this copy for review!


I hope everyone is staying safe and sane out there.  Feel free to drop me a line anytime, let’s talk books!  Until next time, Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #122

I love participating in read-a-thons, and as I previously mentioned, I joined in on the latest Unexpected Readathon Time group’s marathon.  My totals for the three days:  706 pages read, and I was able to finish FOUR of my current reads!  And I’m looking towards this weekend,  as there is another one of my Goodreads groups (24B4Monday) doing their monthly challenge…which I will accept!  Since it’s a holiday weekend here in the States, this will cover May 28-31.  I haven’t made any real goals on this one, but I’ll let you know how it turns out.

The Week in Books

Do Something For Nothing by Joshua Coombes — 5 out of 5 stars!

Look for my full review here and at MrPinkInk on January 29!

Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson — 4.5 out of 5 stars

Jenny Lawson’s third memoir takes a bit of a different approach from her previous ones.  Her often raunchy humor is still intact, and she continues to share the random weirdness that is her life.  But the difference is in her approach to her mental and physical illnesses.  From sharing experiences with insurance companies to describing her daily battles, this comes across as much more personal, and I applaud Jenny Lawson for opening up as she does.  Highly recommend for fans and first-time readers.

The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste — 4 out of 5 stars

“Something’s happening to the girls on Denton Street…”  and believe me, it’s not what you expect.  Kiste does an amazing job of incorporating coming-of-age angst with what I think of as literary horror.  The result is a tale of girls being consumed by the town they live in, with no means of escape (or is there?).  Highly recommend.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides — 4 out of 5 stars

I am so glad I was able to avoid spoilers and finally read this thriller…what a twist!!  I can’t really say much about the plot without spoilers so I will just say this:  I went into this best-selling psychological thriller with kind of low expectations as I’ve been disappointed with over-hyped books in the past.  I was happy to find out the hype is real!  A bit slow at times which brought it down to four stars, but still highly recommend!


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #121

After an extended reading slump, I’m back!  I couldn’t tell you what finally snapped me out of it, but I have to say I’m enjoying this renewed reading energy.  I’ll even be participating in a readathon this weekend.  I know Saturday I will have limited reading time, but Friday and Sunday look promising!  I’ll let you know how I did in next week’s mash-up!

The Week in Books

An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina — 5 out of 5 stars

I’ve watched the movie, Hotel Rwanda, a couple of times, but it wasn’t until recently that I had heard of Rusesabagina’s autobiography (I guess that shows how little I pay attention to movie credits!).  I cannot even begin to fathom the horror that the author, his family, and every other survivor witnessed during the genocide.   It’s difficult to read at times, but seeing the acts of kindness and even heroism in the face of such evil makes this an inspirational must-read.

The Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen — 4 out of 5 stars

In this amazing debut, we follow the journey of a Vietnamese mother and her two sons who find themselves living in New Orleans after escaping their homeland in 1979.  Told over the span of 25 years, it’s a story of finding one’s true self, family relationships, forgiveness, and redemption.   I truly enjoyed this new voice and I look forward to reading more of Eric Nguyen’s works in the future.

How to Walk With Steve by Robert Fromberg — 4 out of 5 stars

Robert Fromberg shares memories of his life: his dysfunctional family, his early escape to college, marriage, and his relationship with his autistic brother, Steve.  Each paragraph tells its own story, creating a mosaic of thoughts, emotions, and small moments that led to Fromberg’s personal growth.  I was expecting a little more about his relationship with Steve, but overall I enjoyed this memoir.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Faster Redder Road:  The Best Unamerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my May selections.  I’m a huge fan of SGJ, but I had really only read his newer works (Mongrels, The Only Good Indians, etc.).  This collection is definitely a must for fans as it showcases his earlier short stories.  There is a wide range of topics, from his well-known take on horror to some experimental works.  And his notes at the end of each story lends some interesting insight into his creative process.  If you haven’t read any of Jones’ work, give this collection a try as it’s a great introduction for his later writing.


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

NightWorms May Theme — Take Me to Your Leader

Two years ago this month I signed up for a little monthly subscription called Night Worms.  With each package that arrived, I was treated to great horror fiction (even some poetry and nonfiction) with the focus being on indie publishers and new voices in the horror genre.

May was no exception!

Horror with a sci-fi edge was the theme this month, and I’m totally down for that.  Russell Coy’s novella, Dimentia, is the story of a washed-up writer having disturbing visions that begin to cross over into his real life.  Murder at a remote space outpost is the storyline of Dead Space, which will undoubtedly raise that old question:  In space, can anyone hear you scream?

And of course there were the goodies, including Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream flavored coffee from Bones Coffee.  Now, I usually don’t drink coffee, but this flavor sounds delicious…maybe iced and over some vanilla ice cream?!?!?  I’ll let you know how that turns out!

Friends and business partners Ashley and Sadie have worked hard to put together these monthly themed packages, and I applaud them for keeping their home-based operation committed to showcasing great indie horror fiction.  Keep it up ladies, I’m looking forward to next month already!


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

 

 

Weekly Mash-Up #120

Ah, the dreaded reading slump.  We’ve all been there.  Sometimes it’s the total lack of enthusiasm to pick up any reading material, other times it’s the feeling of not connecting with what you are currently reading.  This past week I fell into the latter category.  I found it so hard to concentrate on my current reads so I decided to try another book…then another…then before I knew it,…I now have 10 books I’m currently reading (all of which I made to at least page 75 or so, so not just “one-page wonders”).  *Sigh*

And it didn’t help matters when I received this awesome stack of bookmail today!!

Where do I begin?!  For nonfiction, A House in the Sky and Gone at Midnight couldn’t be more different.  Sky is the memoir of a woman who was held captive for 460 days by Somalian kidnappers.  Midnight focuses on a strange unsolved death at the notorious Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles (and if you’re not familiar with this hotel, be sure to google it.  It’s a truly extremely creepy place!).

For fiction, I went for some potential tear jerkers.  I’ve heard nothing but positive about Betty, a tragic novel based on the lives of the author’s family.  Valentine is a debut novel that also comes highly recommended, a story of injustice against women in 1970’s Texas.  Finally, The Animals in That Country involves a strange virus spreading around the world, one that allows those infected to “hear” what all animals, birds, insects around them are thinking and feeling.  This one could be very interesting.

Even with my current slump, I was able to finish a couple of books this past week…

The Week in Books

What’s Good:  A Memoir in Fourteen Ingredients by Peter Hoffman — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

There were a lot of things I truly enjoyed about Hoffman’s memoir.  Each chapter is its own little story, from childhood tales to the love and pain of owning a restaurant, and every little bit in between, all revolving around his passion for good food.  And then there’s the actual food stories.  Shrimp, tomatoes, apples, kale, and beyond, each of the food-related chapters were not only informative regarding the histories but involved the stories of the real people who grow and harvest, the people who devote their lives to providing amazing foods  (the chapter that was my personal favorite was all about the making of maple syrup the “old school” way.  I loved it!!)  And let’s not forget the recipes!   It’s obvious that Hoffman has a deep love and appreciation for all food and has created a memoir to bring his passion to the masses.  My only complaint?  The seemingly petty and self-serving diss of a deceased chef which really had no place in this otherwise wonderful book.  Other than that, highly recommend.

The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell — 4 out of 5 stars

The fourth installment in the Kurt Wallander series has Wallander returning to work after a year’s leave to investigate the murders of two lawyers tied to a mysterious CEO billionaire.  As with all of the books I”ve read in this series so far, there are some great twists and secondary stories that keep the narrative moving.  If you haven’t checked out this series, I highly recommend it…however, be sure to start at the beginning with Faceless Killers.


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

May — Matthew’s Choice

Last year I had my son, Matthew, help me make my monthly reading list on a couple of occasions.  He did such a great job that I had him go through my massive piles of unread books to pick out some good material for May.  And he did not disappoint!

When he picked The Faster Redder Road I was extremely pleased.  This collection of early works by one of my fangirrl fav authors, Stephen Graham Jones,  is a mix of short stories, excerpts, and essays.       Rise the Dark was chosen for its cover (“It looks like a creepy book.”).  The synopsis certainly sounds creepy, with a released killer on the hunt for revenge.    And the reasoning behind choosing Herman Koch’s The Dinner?   It’s Matthew’s favorite meal.  Hey, I can’t argue with that!

Looking through my Goodreads groups, many of the books featured this month have been picks of the past.  So I will use this space to ask you…What will you be reading this month?  Feel free to drop me a line, I love talking books!

Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!

 

Weekly Mash-Up #119

This week’s book mail!

I’ve been watching the television series The Terror, a story about a doomed Arctic expedition with some supernatural twists.   When I found out it was based on a book by Dan Simmons I knew I had to get a copy.    Things We Lost to the Water is a debut novel about a Vietnamese family trying to adjust to their new life in America…and a Goodreads giveaway win!  Many thanks to Knopf/Penguin Random House for sending me an early copy, I’m looking forward to this one.     I’ve been reading Clive Barker since the early 1990’s and I can’t believe I’ve overlooked his Books of Blood collections.  This copy, combining volumes 1-3, include 16 of his earliest, scariest works.  Hmm, sounds like a good start for the Halloween reading season!   And finally, Michael Symon’s Playing With Fire is a cookbook I’ve been wishing for since it’s 2018 publication.  I’ve already picked out some recipes to try once summer grilling season begins!

I don’t know where my reading time went this past week, but I did get to finish a few books…

The Week in Books

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy — 5 out of 5 stars

Based on historical events, McCarthy delivers  a harrowing, haunting, and often brutal novel that deserves all the praise.  Much like The Road and No Country for Old Men, I can’t stop thinking about this book and the deeply flawed characters.  And knowing that the brutalities depicted throughout were carried out in the not so distant past makes it all the more horrific.  While not for everyone, this is one I highly recommend.

The Girl in Cell 49B by Dorian Box — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Book 2 in the Emily Calby series finds teenage Emily facing prison time for a past crime.  While awaiting trial, she finds herself in a series of subplots ranging from prison corruption to first love.    Overall I found this fast-paced story entertaining but a bit predictable.  Since I hadn’t read the first book I appreciated the author offering enough background so this could be enjoyed as a stand-alone story.  Recommend for fans of strong female leads and trial procedures.  Thanks to NetGalley for offering an early e-copy for review.

Antioch by Jessica Leonard — 3 out of 5 stars

Antioch is Leonard’s debut novel, one that I would categorize as psychological thriller over the horror label it’s received.  Six women have been abducted and murdered, a seventh has gone missing, and local bookseller Bess gets involved after picking up a strange message on her short-wave radio.  The beginning really sucked me in, but along the way I started to feel a disconnect from both the characters and the storyline.  And the ending?  Don’t get me started on that!  While this wasn’t a home run for me, I am looking forward to reading more of Ms. Leonard’s works in the future.


Stay safe and Happy Reading!