Monday Mash-Up #058

The mid-winter blahs have arrived in full force this week!  It’s also that time of year when I start to get antsy, wanting to get out in the yard or take a nice long walk (without an umbrella!!).  So I’ve started my yearly ritual of thumbing through gardening catalogs and making wishlists of the plants and produce I would love to grow.  Now, whether I actually get any of them is another story, but it does help me escape the winter doldrums for a bit!

The Week in Books

All Smoke Rises by Mark Matthews — 4 out of 5 stars!

I’ve read my share of truly fucked-up shit, but this probably ranks up there in the top five.  It’s disturbing, haunting, and will strip you of your innocence.  Yeah, once you find out what “milk blood” is, and the fact that it’s a real thing,  you will never go back to the person you were before finding out.  My only complaint is that I didn’t know about the first book, aptly titled Milk Blood,  as I think this would have helped me understand a bit more about what the hell was going on.  It’s still a good stand-alone read though, but may trigger a lot of things you didn’t think would trigger…don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Unwinding of the Miracle:  A Memoir of LIfe, Death, and Everything That Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams — 4 out of 5 stars!

Julie Yip-Williams documented her battle with colon cancer on her blog, which was compiled into this heart-breaking, powerful memoir after her death.  What I appreciated most was her honest admissions of fear, her battles with depression, her day-to-day struggles just learning to cope with the knowledge of dying.  The only thing I found a bit overdone and off-putting was her constant reference to being able to afford the treatments, that “money wasn’t a problem” (even to the point of paying $7,000 a month for experimental drugs!!).  There are many people, myself included, who can’t afford to get sick so this started to grate on my nerves a bit.  Otherwise, I highly recommend this one.

Finger of an Angel by Panayotis Cacoyannis — 3 out of 5 stars.

I almost went with 2.5 stars but there was some great imagery so I rounded up.  This is a series of flashbacks and hallucinations that overcome a woman while she is driving home after having sex in the woods with a total stranger (who she now thinks is the love of her life).  It’s really weird and at times confusing, but it killed a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon.

Elegy For Iris by John Bayley — 3 out of 5 stars

Another one I almost went 2.5, I  must be in a generous mood this month!!  I was expecting a bit more from this little memoir/”tribute,” but it just didn’t deliver.  John Bayley, while claiming Iris Murdoch was the love of his life, showed little, if any, emotions in the writing (except for when he expressed his anger and frustrations over Iris’ declining health, seeming to aim it more at Iris than the disease).  Pretty much, the only things I learned about Iris was her ambivalence towards sex (even though it was well known she carried on multiple affairs with men and women throughout their marriage) and she was a total slob, bordering on hoarder.  Oh, and they went on walks, liked to swim, and rode bikes.  That about sums it up.


Back to my hibernation routine, but only for a few more short weeks!  Until next week, Happy Reading!

February Night Worms — Horror Addiction

It’s that time again!!!

Yes, time to reveal the latest Night Worms package!  This month’s theme centers around the horrors of addiction.  I knew Lullabies for Suffering was going to be included (one that I have been looking forward to for months!!), and I was stoked to also receive the following:

The Green Kangaroos by Jessica McHugh is described on the cover by Shock Totem as “The bastard love-baby of William Burroughs and The Matrix.  Its needle-sickness-meets-dopesick Blade Runner world is horrifying.”  My inner twisted soul can’t wait to start this one!  I just finished Mark Matthew’s All Smoke Rises, and I can honestly say I will never be able to mentally unsee some of the stuff in this one.

And to top off another great package, there is the new Night Worms logo magnet, signed bookplate, artwork sticker, and a coffee blend especially for Valentine’s Day:  Red Velvet ground coffee from Bones Coffee, described as roasted Arabica beans with hints of chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting.  I’m not a big coffee person but I may have to try this one out!!!

A huge shout-out to Ashley and Sadie, the awesome women behind Night Worms.  You rock, and I can’t wait to see what goodies you have in store for us in the coming months!!!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

 

Monday Mash-Up #056 and #057 I’m Officially Tired of Winter!

I’m posting this a bit early from the scheduled 2/10, but I don’t know how my internet and power will be then so I’m sharing now while I can.   🙂

It’s been a year since my last rant about winter sucking, and while this year we avoided record snowfalls and sleet storms knocking out power for days, instead we’ve had this….anywhere from 5 to 15 inches of rain in a 48 hour period, on top of the earlier snow and the minor flooding from last week; landslides, flooding, even more torrential rains…..  *sigh*

This is a typical shot of what’s been going on pretty much throughout western Washington state……

And this pic hit a little closer to home, outside of Mt. Rainier National Park.  And don’t let the pic fool you!  That muck is anywhere from 3 to 6 feet deep, covering a large amount of the local highway (and only one of several major landslides closing roads throughout the state).

We’ve been lucky at my house, only dealing with power and internet outages, as well as some damage to our driveway.  Oh, and a mini moat that popped up behind our house but is thankfully draining down the hill and not under our foundation.

Yep, I’m ready for spring.  The only bad thing is spring is usually the flood season around here.  More heavy *sigh*.

However, when I wasn’t worrying about the hill behind us coming down or trying to navigate the flooded roads, I read.  And I read a lot.  Added bonus was having my Kindle this year, I could read all I wanted when the lights went out, not having to worry about draining the batteries on my headlamp!!

 The Week in Books

The Roo by Alan Baxter — 5 out of 5 stars!!

My  Goodreads review—  I am a huge fan of creature feature horror stories, so when I first saw the glimmer of this tale on twitter, I knew I had to follow and read. I was not disappointed!! What started out as a real news story about a rather assertive kangaroo harassing a small Australian town quickly turned into the call for a horror story, and Alan Baxter stepped up. This is the epitome of fun horror—I laughed, I was grossed out, I cheered on the “good guys,” and I wished the wrath of The Roo on others. Read this now and have fun!

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward — 5 out of 5 stars!!

Part memoir, part memorial.  This book hooked me into Jesmyn Ward’s world immediately.  I could feel her pain, her hatred, and her love.  It’s an uncomfortable read at worst, a powerful tribute to her brother and the other men in her life at its best.  I highly recommend this one.

August by Callan Wink — 4 out of 5 stars!

I will be posting a full review closer to the publication date of March 31, 2020.  I do want to thank Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley for sending me an ecopy for review.

Miscreations:   Gods, Monstrosities, and Other Horrors edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey — 4 out of 5 stars!

What exactly are monsters?  There is the Frankenstein monster, there are the monsters living under our beds, there are those we create in our minds just to get through the day.  This short story collection offers a bit of everything, from modern takes of old-school monsters to things I could never have imagined.  There’s some great talent here, including Josh Malerman, Victor LaValle, Bracken MacLeod, Stephanie Wytovich…….the list goes on and on.  It ranges from the absurd to the creepy, I recommend giving it a shot.

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks — 4 out of 5 stars!

I don’t know why it took me so long to read this, but once I was able to sit down and get into the story, I couldn’t put it down.  My biggest complaint:  the sheer number of characters that go by more than one name (and I’m not talking about a gradual thing, I’m talking about in the same paragraph a character will be called two different names)!!!   I hate that!!!  Pick a name and stick to it, especially in the same fucking paragraph!!  Otherwise, I thought it was a pretty solid start for a fantasy trilogy and left me wanting to know more about pretty much everyone!

Spicy Constellations and Other Recipes by Chad Lutzke — 4 out of 5 stars!

I am a huge fangirl of Lutzke’s, and I have to say, this short story collection took me off-guard!!  These stories show a very different side, including some dark humor and paranormal stuff that I haven’t seen in his writing before.  If you haven’t read anything by Chad Lutzke, you might want to check this anthology out first as I think it will give you a good idea of his style, be it dark humor or subtle horror.

Inheritance:  A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro — 3 out of 5 stars

2.5 stars    I don’t know how I would react if I found out my parent wasn’t biologically my parent.  I get that the author, raised as an Orthodox Jew and finding out that half of her DNA was comprised of blonde Protestants, went into a stage of shock.  But what I didn’t like about this book (that could easily be a stepping stone for others going through similar situations) was the sense of a pouting, petulant child stomping feet and screaming for no reason until finally mollified by a piece of candy.  At one point, I was going to just give this one star and move on, especially knowing that the author was beyond lucky to have found out the information she sought within a few days (compared to years, if ever, for most mortals).  But I became more interested in the others who aided and put up with her martyrdom, so that raised the rating.

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I hope you are all well, and I will be back soon, weather permitting!!

Until then, Happy Reading!!!

 

 

February—True Romance

I’ll be the first one to tell you I am not a fan of romantic fiction.  The wide-eyed, dewy skinned maidens, the loyal male friend always cast aside for the strong, handsome alpha male, blah blah blah…….I just can’t get into them.  However…..

I love a real love story.  You know the ones…..those elderly couples who have been together for 75 years, then pass away within hours of each other.  The celebrity couples who defy Hollywood norms and live happily together for decades (virtually unheard of in Tinseltown).  The prince who gives up the crown to marry the divorced commoner.  Yep, I’m a sucker for those stories, that’s why I decided to go through my shelves and pick out some real life romance for Valentine’s Day.

Elegy for Iris is John Bayley’s tribute to his long-time love, author Iris Murdoch.  Patrick Swayze and wife Lisa Niemi share their love story in The Time of My Life.   Both look at love’s ups and downs, and deal with the heartbreaks of terminal illnesses.  I’m going to have the kleenex ready when I read these.

 

Goodreads Group Reads

For the short month of February, the Reading List Completists chose four short classics:  Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and Animal Farm by George Orwell.  At this time, I plan on doing a reread of the Orwell classic; I’m still not sure on the others.  The Nonfiction Nerds group currently seems to be in limbo after the departure of the moderator, but there had been plans to read Inheritance:  A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro.  Since I already have my library copy I’ll be forging ahead with this one as well.


Do you have a favorite real life love story?  What will you be reading in February?  Until next time, Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #055 Book Mail!

Book mail is always a welcome treat at this house!

First, I would like to thank Carl Alves for contacting me and sending along a copy of his book, The Invocation.   I can’t wait to dive into this one!  Nairobi Noir is my recent win from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Giveaway; I’m a huge fan of the Akashic Noir series and looking forward to this one as well.  And to top everything off,  my kindle pre-order of Alan Baxter’s The Roo popped up today!  I’m actually thankful the weather forecast calls for rain through the coming week, I won’t feel guilty curling up on the couch and enjoying some good reads!

The Week in Books

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai — 4.5 out of 5 stars!!

Check out my review I posted January 25th!

We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This one was a serious mind-bender, and I’m still undecided on the final rating.   We all have inner monsters, as well as exterior monsters, that shape our souls.   Brian Kirk takes that to another level in his debut novel that is being rereleased  by Flame Tree Press.  A psychiatrist uses an experimental drug on a criminally insane patient at his asylum, which releases the inner demons into the real world (or is it the real world?!?!?).

Brian Kirk’s character building in the first half is great, which helps tremendously in the second half when all hell breaks loose.  I’ll admit I got a bit of reading whiplash at one point, which made me stumble.   Once I recovered, though, I couldn’t put the book down.

There were a few scenes that just didn’t work for me (for the sake of a no spoiler review I will refrain from pointing them out), and I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending.  But overall, a good read and something I would recommend to readers who like their psychological horror stories laced with a bit of PCP.

Thanks to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for sending me an ecopy for review.

Thylacine Dreams by Jonathan Maas — 3 out of 5 stars

I’ll admit, the only reason I read this story collection was because of the cover pic.  And because of that cover pic, I was expecting a whole helluva lot more that what  I got.  This collection wasn’t bad, but rather mind-numbing after a point (and I’m speaking mostly of the final story, -100  ).  If you like an eclectic story selection of quantum physics sci-fi mixed with aging vampires then you will probably like this more than I did.

Soon the Light Will Be Perfect by Dave Patterson — 3 out of 5 stars

A coming of age novel that felt like every episode of Afterschool Special crammed into 245 pages.  The writing was good, the story predictable, overall not a bad way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon.


And so another week.  Be sure to check out my February goals on 2/1!!

Happy Reading!!

Nonfiction–I Am Malala

How have I not read this sooner?!?!?

I Am Malala:  The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, with Christina Lamb

Synopsis from Goodreads:  
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I first heard of Malala when I watched her interview on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart around 2013.  I’m the first to admit that, at that time, I was vaguely aware of the conflicts in the Pakistani area of Swat, but only knew what was shown on our national news (and sadly not much other than that.  I’d much rather watch back to back rerun episodes of Seinfeld  than try to fathom international news at the time ).  I believe every story has two sides, and reading Malala’s accounts of the Taliban takeover of her beloved homeland truly hurt my soul.  Forget the politics and focus on the humans who live day to day in these ever-changing, dangerous conditions.   Then narrow it down even more and read the day to day synopsis from a young teen girl living in a world that was once familiar, then turned upside down almost overnight.    This is Malala’s story.

I’m not writing this as a political statement.  I want to share this as a statement for humanity in general.  Malala’s story could happen anywhere, and at any time.  My ability to read her story is taken for granted, but what would happen if literacy was once again given only to the elite?  Or worse yet, taken away altogether?

A very solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.  Read this book.  Learn from it.  Fight for education rights for everyone.

Monday Mash-Up #054 Let’s Talk About Reading Slumps

We’ve all been through it.  Those feelings of wanting to read something, anything, yet everything just, well, sucks.  That was my week; I hit the reading slump hard.

It took me off-guard.  This past week offered snow storms, power outages, and freezing temperatures, a combo that practically screams for me to curl up on the couch with a giant pot of tea and some good reading.  But every time I picked up a book or my kindle, I read about 10 pages and just couldn’t go on.  Sunday, the tide seemed to turn.  I flew through the one book I managed to finish this week, and made some progress on a nonfiction.  Which leads me to my one review for the week……

The Yard by Alex Grecian — 3.5 out of 5 stars

One of my choices for my January “New Year, New Series” theme.  And I can honestly say the lower rating is definitely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”  While the last 200 pages grabbed my attention and I couldn’t read them fast enough, the first 200 left me feeling confused and irritated.  There are a lot of characters that are introduced at a pretty quick pace, as well as several changes in the point of view.  I just couldn’t connect with the main characters until later on, but see my note above.  I already have book two, The Black Country, so I guess when I read that one I’ll know for sure if it was really the slump talking or if this series is only just “not bad.”


Here’s to getting over our reading slumps!  Have a great week, and Happy Reading!!

January @Night_Worms — “Miscreations”

I know, I’m a bit late in posting this…..

But just because I was unable to post earlier does not diminish my excitement over this month’s delivery from NightWorms!   😀

Three books arrived this month, with the main feature being an early release  exclusively for NightWorms— Miscreations:  Gods, Monstrosities, and Other Horrors, edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey.  This collection features stories from a large group of talented authors, including several new-to-me authors like Linda D. Addison, Kristi DeMeester, Lisa Morton…….I already see my want-to-read list expanding at an alarming rate with these discoveries!!  Also included were two other collections:   Adam’s Ladder:  An Anthology of Dark Science Fiction by more various, talented authors (with even more new-to-me to add to my reading list!!), and Oversight by Michael Bailey (which I read a few days ago;  three strange, somewhat unsettling stories, and I found myself not able to put it down until the end!).

And of course, the extra swag is always great!  There’s the Frankenstein keychain from SkullandHawk.com that my son instantly laid claim to, bookmarks, artwork, and my favorite, Milk Chocolate Mint hot cocoa from Moonstruck Chocolate Company.

Thank you to NightWorms for another great month, and as always I’m counting down the days until the next!

 

Monday Mash-Up #053

Winter is here……..

We got our first real snowfall last night, and it looks like tonight will bring a bunch more.  It’s always beautiful for the first hour or so (longer if I don’t have to drive anywhere!).  I’m guessing my son will get a snow day from school tomorrow;  if so, we’re planning on drinking lots of hot cocoa, watching movies, and curling up with a good book of course!

I had a mixed bag of books I finished this past week, which seems to be the norm for me.  Hey, variety is the spice of life, correct?!?!?!   😀

The Week in Books

In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland — 5 out of 5 stars!

My Goodreads review:

I know I cannot adequately review this story, so I will say this:
While reading this 97 page novella, I was overcome with feelings of anger, sadness, compassion, shock, surprise, and horror. As I finished the last couple of pages, I had goosebumps. When two authors can write a seamless story and invoke these emotions in such a short space, I say “Thank You” and “Go Read This Book Now”

Oversight by Michael Bailey — 4 out of 5 stars!

These three short stories are definitely strange.  The main theme is how we use our sight (or lack thereof), whether it’s our physical sight or our inner one.  A bit odd but highly readable; great for a quick afternoon read.

The Spirit of the Dragon by William Andrews — 3 out of 5 stars

My Goodreads review:

It looks like I’m in the minority with this one, but that’s okay, I have no problem with being honest in my reviews, good, bad, or indifferent.
The Spirit of the Dragon fell under the indifferent category for me. I really wanted to enjoy it more than I did. The synopsis made this sound like some gut-wrenching tale of love and survival, with a potential murder mystery thrown in early on. The majority of the book is narrated by Suk-bo, an elderly Korean woman who survived World War II and the Korean War. She is telling an international rights lawyer named Anna her life story while sitting in a police interrogation room after she is found next to a dead man. Sounds pretty good to me. But after a while, Suk-bo’s narration just came across as emotionally flat. When I should have been caring for the protagonist, crying with her, cheering her on, I felt like the simplistic narrative itself: I will turn the page. I will read some more. I will hope things get better. I will be disappointed at the end.
I do give major props to William Andrews for his research and recreating the historical areas and events. I just didn’t care for the almost drone-like narration from the main character that I should have been cheering for.
Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for sending me this kindle copy for review.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James — ???

This classic has some good, creepy moments and some long-winded passages that seem to go nowhere.  I’m going to reread this one before giving it a star review (it’s not a good idea to read it when extremely tired!).

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A bit short and sweet this week.  I better get outside and shovel some snow!  Until next time, Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #052

I hope 2020 has been good to everyone so far!  While this past week has been mainly a mix of cleaning up and putting away all of the holiday decor, this coming week brings yet another milestone to our household:  my son’s 16th birthday on January 10!  I never thought I’d be one of those parents who constantly says “Where did the time go?” but it really doesn’t feel like 16 years have gone by.  And while we are still facing challenges with his Asperger’s, he has definitely overcome others thanks to the help and attention of his teachers (you all rock!!).

The year has also started out on a very positive note with the books I recently finished, check these out——

The Week in Books

In the Kingdom of Ice:  The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides — 5 out of 5 stars!

Arctic explorations in the 1800’s?  Sign me up for the adventure!  I don’t know why these stories intrigue me as much as they do, and I am putting this story up at the top of the list of the ones I’ve read.  Sides does a wonderful job of telling the story of the boat and her crew, and the subsequent disaster and battle for survival.  I’ll admit it seemed a little muddled for the first couple of chapters, mainly due to all of the people being introduced,  but I still highly recommend this amazing tale of exploration and man’s struggles against one of the harshest environments on earth.

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars!

This was a solid 4 star read for most of the book, but I have to say that the final showdown (so to speak) actually gave me goosebumps so I upped it to 5 stars for Goodreads.  The story of a rock band who sold their souls, Hendrix offers his (un)usual blend of “real” life meets monsters, with a bit of humor thrown into the mix.

Doll Crimes by Karen Runge — 5 out of 5 stars!

Horror doesn’t always mean werewolves and zombies.  Some of the scariest horror involves the depravity of the human race.  This is the story of a girl and her mother, traveling through the fringes of society.  The subject matter is tough and not for everyone.  But Runge creates world-weary characters and a world of desperation with very little graphic descriptions (which, in my opinion, makes it even more haunting).  And while the ending was unexpected, sadly it didn’t really surprise me.  I highly recommend, but with some caution.

Roads to Quoz:  An American Mosey by William Least-Heat Moon — 2 out of 5 stars

I have never been so glad to finish a book in my life….and that’s saying a lot, especially after reading Atlas Shrugged and James Joyce’s Ulysses.  It took me nearly seven months to slog through this.  Why? you may ask.  Because I remember enjoying Least-Heat Moon’s earlier work, Blue Highways, and I’m also a stubborn reader, determined to stick it out to the bitter end.  There were a few hidden gems hidden in the detritus, but by and far this was the author’s ode to the thesaurus, creating 600 pages of nearly unreadable text that made me want to reread Joyce’s Ulysses because even at it’s worst, it made more sense than these moseys through America.


After starting out the year with such great books gives me hope this year will be the first without a 1 star review!!  Fingers crossed!!

Until next time, Happy Reading!