Monday Mash-Up #063 Staying Home

Well, today our state governor made an official “stay at home” proclamation for Washington state.  I’ve been staying at home already, not so much out of fear but because I tend to be a homebody anyways.  Here are just a few things that have been keeping my mind occupied for the past week or so…..

My yarn stash is about as large as my unread book hoard so I’ve been knitting cotton washcloths and working on my winter hat I started a few months ago (maybe I’ll actually finish it before next winter!!).  These are all things I’ve always enjoyed doing, and I find them essential to help escape reality for a bit.  And no, that’s not a vodka tonic in the center……or is it??!??   😉

And is anyone else having problems with being able to focus on reading?  I know I am.  But after a few days of “media distancing,” I found I was able to start focusing again, and managed to finish a few books.

The Week in Books

Skullface Boy by Chad Lutzke — 4.5 out of 5 stars!

As you may already know, I love me some Lutzke, and this novella did not disappoint.   It’s the story of a boy born with a skull for a face, who travels to California to look for the man who may be his father; along the way he meets a variety of characters and finds himself in some interesting situations.  It’s essentially a dark coming of age tale, and anyone who has ever been singled out because of their differences will understand and root for Levi.

The Dawn of the Living-Impaired and Other Messed Up Zombie Stories by Christine Morgan — 4 out of 5 stars!

If you are under the impression that all zombie stories are the same, you should check out this collection from Christine Morgan.  There’s humor, lots of horror, stories set in the past and the future, really a mixed bag and something for (nearly) everyone.  Fair warning, it’s not for the squeamish, but still a damn entertaining way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Dead in the Water by Stuart Woods — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is one of those fast-paced mysteries featuring the studly main character, the wily seductress, and a variety of good and bad guys to round out the story….and I liked it!!  I see more of this series on my to-read list in the future!


Be healthy, stay safe, and as always, Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #062

This has probably been the most surreal week I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure thousands of others will agree.  But I couldn’t forget to send out St. Patrick’s Day wishes!

Even though everything has been cancelled and closed down, I still hope you can find some Irish cheer at home.  I made some shamrock-shaped sugar cookies, that’s about the extent of our celebrations in this household!

While many are practicing “social distancing” I will be doing some media distancing over the next few days.  The overwhelming amount of news coverage on the internet and television has been exhausting, and I have found myself stressing out and focusing way too much on the what ifs.  Don’t worry, I’ll be keeping up to date on Goodreads and here, maybe check in on Instagram, but that’s about it for a least a few days.  I know from past experiences that brief vacations from the internet can be truly relaxing, giving my mind time to detox from all of the negativity floating around out there.

And it should give me more time to attack my book hoard!!

The Week In Books

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones — 4.5 out of 5 stars!!

A huge thanks to NetGalley for sending me an e-copy for review.  Watch for my review closer to the release date in May 2020.  *Update* review was posted here on March 13!

Snow by Ronald Malfi — 4 out of 5 stars!

If you love the first snowfall of the year, maybe standing in the swirling flakes and admiring the beauty of nature, this book may make you rethink that.  A fast-paced horror tale that I can totally see being made into a movie for the SyFy channel.  Be sure to check this out, especially if you’re a fan of strange creatures trying to take over the human race.

The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This was a good, solid mystery with plenty of twists and a large list of suspects.   My biggest problem was not being able to connect with the main character/narrator, Detective Gemma Woodstock.  I just didn’t like her.  Even by the end when things changed a bit, it just didn’t do enough to change my opinion of her.

The Names of Our Tears by P. L. Gaus — 2.5 out of 5 stars

A bit of a spoiler—there is no resolution in this one, which is frustrating to say the least.  But that wasn’t the only problem for me (even though it’s the biggest one).  There is just an overwhelming amount of uninteresting, flat characters, many of whom have similar names to confuse the issue (This is one of my pet peeves.  There are thousands of names out there, why use Emma and Emily, or Tim and Tom?  You’re the author, get creative!!).  And when I’m counting down the remaining pages by the end of the second chapter, well, never a good sign.


I hope you all stay safe and healthy in the coming weeks.  Try to lose yourself in a good book, it’s always a great way to escape the real world for a bit!  Until next time, Happy Reading!

Review — The Only Good Indians

I usually have a lot to say about a book, good or bad.  I also usually know where to start a review.  I want to say so much about The Only Good Indians, yet I feel that anything I try to say will be insufficient.  But here it goes…..

I went into this one pretty blind on the storyline, and I’m glad I did.  This is one of those books that you can’t really describe without giving away major plot points, something I try not to do in my reviews.  But to sum this up as best as my limited vocabulary can, it’s a story that is realistic yet surreal; there are modern graphic horror bits and Native American mythological  stories interwoven into one.  It truly is a story of revenge and redemption, and maybe not in the ways you may think.

I loved this story.  This is one to be savored and appreciated, and one I think you won’t be able to put down.  This is also one that will haunt my dreams for some time to come…. my less than 5 stars is only due to my lack of knowledge when it comes to basketball which pulled the story down a bit for me.

A huge thank you to NetGalley for sending me an advanced e-copy for review.

And another huge thanks to Stephen Graham Jones for writing this!!

Monday Mash-Up #060 and #061

Things have been pretty quiet in my little corner of the world.  But signs of spring are beginning to pop up and the sun is showing its face a little bit more, making me feel a bit like this:

The past week was a great week for book mail.  Not only did my signed copy of The Roo arrive, direct from Australia, but…….

It’s time for another Night Worms delivery!

This month’s theme is “The Thunderstorm Returns,” featuring limited signed editions of Snow and How We Broke from Thunderstorm books.  Also included:  a signed copy of Those Who Go Forth Into the Empty Place of Gods from Wyrd Horror; a signed music cd from author Ronald Malfi’s band, Veer; and various artistic swag.  Another great month!

My reading has even been pretty slow these past couple of weeks, but I did finish a few great ones (and a couple of okay ones).

The Week in Books

Walk the Darkness Down by John Boden — 5 out of 5 stars!!

My review from Goodreads:

When a book best described as weird western horror makes me cry one chapter then has me uttering “What the holy f**k” the next (and has my husband question my sanity and reading choices while witnessing these two things), then gives me the added bonus of nightmares involving the most spine-chilling scarecrow and, well, just the character of Levi in general…. it deserves a huge 5 stars. This book did me in, and I loved every minute of it. Thank you John Boden, I can’t wait to read more from you!

The Bedford Boys:  One American Town’s Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice by Alex Kershaw — 4 out of 5 stars!

The true stories of the 22 young men from a small Virginia town who lost their lives in World War II, 19 of whom died in the first few minutes of battle on D-Day.  The stories are tragic, but there are also the stories of friendship and heroics.  A must-read for history enthusiasts.

Columbus Noir edited by Andrew Welsh-Huggins — 4 out of 5 stars!

One half of Akashic’s latest collection was fantastic, everything I want and expect from their noir series.  The other half was a mixed bag of okay and pretty darn good.  My personal ratings for each story averaged out to a 3.8 though, so I’m rounding up (as well as recommending for some good short stories).

The Secret Rooms:  A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Family Duchess, and a Family Secret by Catherine Bailey — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This one was good but a bit misleading.  While doing research for another project, the author came across some interesting information and discrepancies in the family history of the 9th Duke of Rutland, who died in a small room of the family castle in 1940.  The author set out to find the whys of the family mysteries, using the enormous cache of diaries and correspondence kept in the family archives.  The first half moved along smoothly, but the second half started out on tangents that seemed to be more confusing than clarifying.  If you like World War I history and reading about the lifestyles of the rich and entitled, give this one a shot.  Oh, and a BTW, the idea that the family castle was actually haunted was mentioned once, so don’t expect a bunch of eerie sightings or disembodied voices.

Wilder Girls by Rory Powers — 3 out of 5 stars

This one intrigued me with the different take on an apocalyptic-style viral infection (quick note—no zombies here!!).  It kept me interested, had me caring for some of the characters, had me thinking a solid 4 star rating…..then I read the ending.  I did not like it and felt it was somewhat of a cop-out blah conclusion after such an engaging beginning.


The sun is out so I’m going to get outside and enjoy it for a bit.  Behave yourselves, and until next time, Happy Reading!

March — A Month of Mysteries!!

I’ve always loved a good mystery story.  My first forays into the genre included childhood favorites like Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys.  Then I discovered Agatha Christie and I was truly hooked.  Over the years, I’ve found numerous authors who I will go out of my way to read everything they write.  There are also the new voices who write such gripping tales that I can’t wait for their next book.

The other day, as I was sorting through my giant to-read hoard, I realized that a large percentage of my books would fall into the mystery category…….and that’s a freaking lot!!!  So how do I narrow down a top twenty, let alone a top ten or five, to read for March???  (And I won’t even get into the multitudes I have waiting for me on my Kindle!!).  It was difficult, and I’ll admit a couple were picked by blindly pointing to a pile, but these are the ones I’ve decided to put on my must read list for March.

From favorite authors to new voices, I thought this was a good representation of my collection.  Now the question remains:  will I be able to finish them all this month?  Stay tuned!

Goodreads Group Reads

A very eclectic selection from three of my Goodreads groups:  The Reading List Completists (Dracula), Bookworm Bitches (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark), and Horror Aficionados (The Roo)….

I read all of these just recently so I’ll be passing on rereading them so soon, but I wanted to share them to perhaps provide some reading inspiration….plus I highly recommend all three!!

February Check List

For such a short month, I was able to finish 18  books, including my two selections for the month (Elegy for Iris and The Time of My Life) and two group selections (Animal Farm and Inheritance). Not a bad month; now on to the next!

Happy Reading!

 

Review — August by Callan Wink

This is the story of a boy named August, mainly his life from around age 12 to around age 20.  This boy named August has a pretty nondescript life:  he lives on a farm with his parents (who live in separate residences on the property), he kills wild cats to gain the affections of his father while trying to catch the attention of his distant mother; he is part of a nasty, unreported crime; he moves to another state and lives a somewhat obscure and uneventful life, relishing in the simplicity of nature and living in anonymity.

So why the four stars??

The writing, pure and simple.  This is the first story I’ve read from Callan Wink, and it will not be the last.  His storytelling reminds me of Jim Harrison, one of my favorite authors.  I will admit there were several times I questioned why Wink was going a certain direction, why the mundane was highlighted.  But at the end of the novel, I understood the method behind the madness and I fell in love with a young man named August and his honest and heartfelt story.

Review — Nonfiction — The Time of My Life

Synopsis from Goodreads—

In a career spanning more than thirty years, Patrick Swayze has made a name for himself on the stage, the screen, and television. Known for his versatility, passion and fearlessness, he’s become one of our most beloved actors.

But in February 2008, Patrick announced he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Always a fighter, he refused to let the disease bring him to his knees, and his bravery has inspired both his legion of fans and cancer patients everywhere. Yet this memoir, written with wisdom and heart, recounts much more than his bout with cancer. In vivid detail, Patrick describes his Texas upbringing, his personal struggles, his rise to fame with North and South, his commercial breakthroughs in Dirty Dancing and Ghost, and the soul mate who’s stood by his side through it all: his wife, writer and director Lisa Niemi.

A behind-the-scenes look at a Hollywood life and a remarkable love, this memoir is both entertainment and inspiration. Patrick and Lisa’s marriage is a journey of two lives intertwined and lived as one–throughout their years in Hollywood and at home on their working ranch outside Los Angeles, and culminating in the hope and wisdom they’ve imparted to all who know them. This book will open the door for families, individuals, and husbands and wives to grow, bond and discover entirely new levels of love and sharing, proving that life shouldn’t be lived as a series of endings, but rather as the beginning of greater strength and love.


For the month of February, I wanted to read something that reflected true love, and in a somewhat round-about way, The Time of My Life delivered.

Now, I’ve always been a fan of Patrick Swayze, dating back to the first time I saw him in a little movie called The Outsiders when I was a teen.  I loved watching him in the wide array of roles he played over the years.  But one thing that always intrigued me was his low-key, longtime marriage to Lisa Niemi.

The two met at Swayze’s mother’s dance studio when they were teens, and while I won’t say it was love at first sight, there was obviously something there that kept these two in contact with each other, eventually moving to New York together to pursue their dancing ambitions.  Swayze recounts their struggles, both professionally and personal, and it’s obvious with every passage he writes about her how much he truly loved and admired Lisa.

A couple of things though.  The cover may fool you into thinking this was written by both Patrick and Lisa.  It is not.  Lisa does contribute a two or three page introduction, but this book is all Patrick (even to the point where I could hear his slight southern drawl narrating in my head as I read).  This is not only their story; the bulk focuses on Patrick’s story, some of the bad but mostly the good.  I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes peeks he offered from some of his works, including Red Dawn and North and South.  

And while I knew going into this that he wasn’t going to divulge a bunch of gossipy or bad stuff (it was written during the last year of his cancer battle), I was kind of hoping that at some point he would own up to some of his mistakes, including his problems with alcohol.  Certain things were mentioned, but almost as an afterthought, and he seemed to be a bit dismissive a couple of times as to the effects of his actions on his marriage and how much they really hurt Lisa.

But overall, I enjoyed this book.  And I highly recommend watching the television special, I Am Patrick Swayze, as a companion piece to the book.  The show aired August of 2019 on Paramount network and I’m sure it’s somewhere in the internet universe.  The raw emotions from not only Lisa but close friends and family, even 10 years after his death, will show how special this down-to-earth, ambitious, and loving man was.

 

Monday Mash-Up #059

Tell me I’m behind the times (something I already know), and tell me I’m not tech savvy (another thing I will readily admit to)……..but did you know there is over 400 pages of free kindle books on a certain website that we all know and use on a regular basis?!?!?!?!?

And yes, I tapped into that!  Let’s just say, I was having a bad day, and this was the best alternative to actual retail therapy…plus finding The Monster Of Selkirk #1–The Duality of Nature by C. E. Clayton for free made the headache I got from scrolling all worthwhile!

The Week in Books

The Weight of This World by David Joy — 5 out of 5 stars!!!

Just in case you missed my earlier posts, I am a HUGE fan of David Joy’s “Appalachian Noir” stories.  These books are gritty, dark, depressing, yet addictive in their own way (much like my other favorite crime noir author, James Lee Burke).  Do yourself a favor and pick one of his books, any one, and it will change how you think of noir fiction and crime fiction in general.

Animal Farm by George Orwell — 5 out of 5 stars!

It was the second time around reading this classic, and I definitely found it more entertaining as an adult than I did as a teen having to read it for English class.  I do find it sad that the story can still be equated to modern-day issues, too bad we haven’t learned our lessons yet!!!

The Time of My Life by Patrick Swayze — 4 out of 5 stars!

Writing up a review for here and for Mr PinkInk, so stay tuned!

The Invocation by Carl Alves — 4 out of 5 stars!

Review coming soon!  And a huge thank you to the author for sending me a copy for review!

Nairobi Noir edited by Peter Kimani —  3.75, rounding up.
My review from LibraryThing:   Another great showing from my favorite series. There were many strong descriptions that transported me to Nairobi; I could almost smell the dirty streets and hear the city noises. And as with all anthologies, some stories resonated with me more than others (A Song From a Forgotten Place by Troy Onyango is still haunting my thoughts). Overall, a truly eclectic collection from a talented group of authors.

Horrors Next Door:  Short Scary Stories to Play With Your Mind by Tom Coleman — 3 out of 5 stars

I found this 3 story collection for free so I thought I’d try it out.  The stories consisted of aliens abducting humans for procreation; a blatant take on Firestarter;  and part one of a series involving an old man with a horrific basement and a lot of missing girls.  These weren’t terrible, but they were pretty saccharine as far as horror goes, and totally predictable.  If you’re looking to kill 30 minutes or so, not a totally bad choice but don’t expect a lot of “mind play.”

Kellie’s Diary #1 by Thomas Jenner and Angelina Perkins — 2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars

I initially gave this 3 stars on Goodreads, but the more I think about it, the more I’m not feeling this warrants even a 2 star review.  I give props to the author for showing the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse through the eyes of a 9 year old, but for the love of God at least make the MC sound like her age and not a toddler learning how to speak!!!  This is the first in a 6 part series, so if I happen to come across #2 and I’m feeling like punishing myself, I may read more.  Don’t stay tuned for updates on this one.


But do stay tuned for my selections for March!!!!  Happy Reading!!!

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!