Weekly Mash-Up #117

After taking a week off for spring break, I’m back, and with some great book mail!

I am so excited to finally get my hands on My Dark Vanessa, a book I’ve been dying to read for over a year now.  On the surface it sounds like a new version of one of my favorite classics, Lolita, but I’m sure there will be much more to it than that.  Six Four is a Japanese mystery/thriller that sounds like a mix of unsolved mystery and police corruption.  I devoured Furiously Happy in one day (see review below), it was the comedic relief I didn’t know I needed.

And, of course, I was able to get some reading done…

The Week in Books

August’s Eyes by Glenn Rolfe — 4 out of 5 stars

Glenn Rolfe is quickly becoming one of my favorite horror authors, and August’s Eyes (to be released in August 2021) shows he just keeps getting better with each book.  There are some truly memorable characters in this novel, and the mix of coming-of-age, mystery/thriller, and supernatural worked well.  There were a couple of things that felt a bit off, but since this was an uncorrected advance copy I will refrain from going into depth in case these are changed in the final copy.  If you’re looking for a truly creepy read with some 90’s nostalgia mixed in (plus lots of spiders!!), be sure to look for this book in mid-August.    Many thanks to Flame Tree Press, Glenn Rolfe, and NetGalley for sending me an ecopy for review.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson — 4 out of 5 stars

Author Jenny Lawson has a slew of things wrong with her, from mental illness to physical ailments, and she knows how to turn these negatives into some truly entertaining anecdotes.  When Lawson is funny, she is hilarious, but be warned:  she seems to have some weird obsession with vagina jokes and references that gets beyond annoying after a bit.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn — 4 out of 5 stars

Yes, it’s true.  It’s taken me ten years to finally get around to reading this giant best-seller.  And I don’t know how I avoided spoilers but I did!  The story of a wife gone missing with the husband as the main suspect…this one had me rapidly turning pages to find out what the hell was going to happen next.  I’m not sure I’m 100% behind the ending, but overall I loved this fast-paced read.  The hype is real!

Midnight at the Dragon Cafe by Judy Fong Bates — 3.5 out of 5 stars

The story of a young Chinese girl who moves to Canada with her family in the 1950’s.  This is a kind of slice-of-life narrative which looks at prejudice and family dramas (and some very unusual family drama at that).  While well-written, I thought it became a bit repetitive, and I really couldn’t get a good “feel” for the narrator.  Still, if you’re looking for a quiet historical drama, I recommend giving this one a shot.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Scanlines by Todd Keisling — 5 out of 5 stars

A huge trigger warning for this novella for graphic suicide scenes.  Similar to the plot behind the movie The Ring, this tale centers on the myth of The Duncan Tape which supposedly shows a fallen congressman committing suicide at a live press conference, and what happens when some unsuspecting teenagers think they’ve stumbled across it.  This one got under my skin more than I thought it would, truly creepy and disturbing.


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

April — Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year where many of us start some spring cleaning around the house.  For me, that has meant doing some decluttering of the kitchen and closets, deep-cleaning the carpets…and trying to organize my massive TBR hoard!

With two book carts, two book cases, and nine boxes filled with unread treasures, it’s often difficult to decide what to read next.  This month, I decided to pick some titles that have been waiting for my attention for 10 years or longer.  Believe me, there are quite a few!  But these two popped out…

Candle in the Wind has been sitting, overlooked, on my shelf since the early 1990’s!  A different take on the Marilyn Monroe legend, this story goes into alt-history territory by asking “What if Marilyn had lived?”  Well, it’s time for me to finally find out!

A friend introduced me to local author Earl Emerson and his fast-paced mysteries in the late 1990’s, and Going Crazy in Public has been begging for my attention for at least 15 years!   In this installment of the Mac Fontana series, Fire Chief Fontana must figure out who is behind a series of arson fires in the sleepy town of Staircase, Washington.  Sounds like a perfect rainy afternoon read!

Goodreads Group Reads

My Goodreads groups have some great titles picked for this month.  Here’s just a sampler…

How convenient that I received The Sanatorium recently!  I’m definitely putting this creepy tale on my April TBR.

Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth has been on my shelf for some time.  I’m not sure I’ll be starting this epic tale anytime in the near future, but I’ve heard great things about it.  If you start it, let me know what you think!

Mr. Mercedes is the first in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy, and takes us into the minds of a psychopath and the man trying to stop him.  I think of this as more thriller than typical King horror and highly recommend it.

Other group titles include On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, a beautiful heart-breaking tale written as a son’s letter to his mother (and one I highly recommend); and The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, a historical fantasy based on events in 19th century China.  This one really intrigues me…I would love to hear your opinions on it!


What do you have on your April TBR?  Feel free to drop me a line, I love to talk books!  Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #116

On March 25, the literary world lost two truly influential and inspirational authors.  Beverly Cleary was one of my go-to authors in my childhood.  Following the adventures of Ramona Quimby and her family and friends were comfort reads for me, ones that I returned to repeatedly.  In my early twenties I discovered the novels of Larry McMurtry and found myself obsessively reading everything of his I could find.  From the epic Lonesome Dove to other  classics like Terms of Endearment and The Last Picture Show, Mr. McMurtry brought his characters to life and created storylines rich in detail and heart.    Thank you Beverly Cleary and Larry McMurtry for sharing these stories with the world.  You will be missed.


Last week I mentioned a readathon I would be participating in.  Well, I did participate, but didn’t come anywhere near my goal!  I’m going to blame the nice weather for only getting 503 pages read (that darn sunshine proved to be too much of a distraction!).  But I was able to finish the following…

The Week in Books

Rusty Puppy by Joe Lansdale — 4 out of 5 stars

The tenth installment of the Hap and Leonard series finds the unlikely duo investigating the beating death of a young black man, which leads them deep into the world of police corruption and cover-ups.  This is only the second in the series I’ve read and I have to say I’m fast becoming a fan!  The stories are fast-paced and action-packed.  And the added bonus?  You don’t necessarily have to read them in order to appreciate the series.  I’m looking forward to following Hap and Leonard’s adventures… and I really hope that little Reba, the “four-hundred-year-old vampire” makes another appearance in future installments!

Red Station by Kenzie Jennings — 4 out of 5 stars

The seventh splatter western put out by Death’s Head Press is the story of four stagecoach passengers who find themselves staying the night at an isolated house in the middle of the prairie, with hosts who are not what they seem.  This is a character-driven, blood-soaked romp that may have you rethinking any future stays at a Bed and Breakfast with an overly friendly host family.

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths — 3 out of 5 stars

Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway uncovers the remains of an alleged child murderer, while Detective Harry Nelson investigates the death of one child and the abductions of two others.  The story itself was good, but really no surprises.  What brought this down for me was the large number of characters and no idea who they were or what their relationship to Ruth was.  This is a series that definitely needs to be read from the beginning in order to understand the complicated relationships between everyone.

The Body Will Follow by Rob Boley — ??? out of 5 stars

Carrie’s body was overtaken by The Wishes, who use her body in a debauchery-filled few weeks.  After The Wishes are exorcised from her body, she teams up with an unlikely partner to try to save others from the same fate.          I’ll start with what I liked:  I loved the ghosts and I wish there had been more interactions with them.  Other than that, I found the storyline a bit underwhelming.  The attempt at humor often fell flat, and after a while the constant barrage of one-liners became annoying and distracting.  The ending felt a bit rushed but I will say it was definitely unique and not something I saw coming.  In a nutshell, I would have preferred more ghosts and less STDs.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Pray: A Horror Novelette by Aiden Merchant — 3 out of 5 stars

A story involving an isolated cabin in the woods and a family of man/monster hybrids terrorizing unsuspecting visitors should have been a slam-dunk little horror read.  This one left me feeling a bit meh.  The author mentions that this was going to be a longer story but he cut it back to the current length.  Too bad, as I think it really needed more info, especially about the monsters, to make it really shine.  However, it’s not a bad little read if you have an hour to kill (no pun intended).


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

March Nonfiction — The Reason I Jump

The Reason I Jump:  The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

By Naoki Higashida; Translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell

4 out of 5 stars

April is just around the corner, which means World Autism Awareness Day (April 2) and National Autism Awareness Month is nearly here.  These are special to me as my 17-year-old son is on the spectrum (Asperger’s).  Over the years, I’ve read anything I could get my hands on, from Temple Grandin’s story to the history of autism, trying to understand my son a bit more, but finding the answers to my questions vague or elusive.

I first heard about The Reason I Jump through a Goodreads group and I was instantly intrigued.   A 13-year-old autistic boy answers questions about his condition, with inquiries covering obsessions, emotions, extreme reactions to certain stimuli, etc.  I know my own frustrations over the years, especially when my son was young and nonverbal, trying to figure out why he would suddenly melt down over a toy being moved or his obsessions and fixations on seemingly random things.  While reading this book, I had several “A ha!” moments when Higashida’s answers would resonate with these past experiences.  While the author does not speak for all people with autism,  he does provide a glimpse into the thought processes and  behaviors often seen in those on the spectrum.

This book is not without controversy.  Many have claimed that this nonverbal young teen could not have written it, that the translators embellished, even fabricated, the entire book to make a sale or to play on readers’ emotions (think A Million Little Pieces).  Do I believe it was embellished?  Yes, especially after reading some of the author’s later works written in his early 20s.  The main translator is a poetry major, and it truly shows in some of the entries, while others are more “practical”  without the flowery embellishments.  But do I believe the translators made up the heart of the answers?  No.  Translating any written article from one language to another is a difficult task as some words and phrases just don’t exist in every language.  And since I now understand my son and his thought process a little bit more than I did when he was younger, I found many of Higashida’s answers to be authentic and heartfelt.

Overall, I think this is a book that should be read by anyone who is trying to understand their loved one’s autism.  While it’s not a definitive “guide” it does provide thoughtful and meaningful insight to a condition that, even today, doctors and scientists cannot begin to fully explain.  Highly recommend.


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

===notes===

Do i think writing was embellished upon in translation   yes esp after reading some of his recent writing

does help understand some things, should not be blanketed for all on spectrum

Weekly Mash-Up #115

I’m a big fan of readathons!  I love setting goals and challenging myself to read more than I usually do.  This past week (3/14 through 3/20) I participated in the  Unexpected Readathon group’s extended readathon, topping out at 1,084 pages and five completed books.   This coming weekend I’ll be joining the 24B4Monday monthly challenge.  I’ve been averaging around 650 pages for this one, but since I have zero plans for the weekend, I think I’m going to try to break the 700 page mark!  I’ll keep you posted!

The Week in Books

Runaway by Peter May — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my March mystery selections that turned out not to be that much of a mystery…but was still a very good read!  While there is a bit of a whodunit at the very beginning and towards the end, the main focus of this novel centers around five friends who leave home and journey to London in the mid-1960’s.  Peter May does a fantastic job of alternating between 1965 and 2015, keeping the storylines moving in both eras.  I did think there were a couple of “whatever” eye-rolling moments, but I wound up enjoying this coming of age tale.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan — 4 out of 5 stars

This is a series I’ve been hearing about for years, and I finally took the plunge and started it, and it was worth it!  One thing I learned is that it truly needs my full attention in order to absorb everything (there were way too many distractions from October through mid-January, I felt like I could only concentrate on a few pages at a time).  But I’m tracking down copies of books two and three, hopefully I’ll be able to start #2 in a few short months!

Brooklyn Zoo: The Education of a Psychotherapist by Darcy Lockman — 2 out of 5 stars

The fact that the author has since earned her doctorate and practices psychotherapy makes me feel sorry for her patients.  Throughout this account of her year as an intern at Kings County Hospital , she comes across as self-absorbed, self-righteous, arrogant (I know, a bit repetitive but that’s how much this author pissed me off!),  and lacking empathy for the patients she deems as “not worth her time” (one in particular was a frumpy woman missing some teeth, yet the author continued to assert that another well-dressed patient had no problems whatsoever because of his grooming and clothes!).  Why two stars?  One for me being able to finish the book without throwing it in the trash, and one star for all the patients she dissed as they all deserved much better that what she delivered.

Novellas, Short Stories and Anthologies

Crossroads by Laurel Hightower — 5 out of 5 stars!

How far would you go to bring back someone you love?   (From the cover of Crossroads)       Wow.  This is one of those stories that throws one gut punch after another, right down to the final scene.  Hightower does a wonderful job of showing the true depths of despair of a grieving mother.  Highly recommend.

Goblin: A Novel in Six Novellas by Josh Malerman — 3.75 out of 5 stars

Rounded up to four stars for Goodreads and NetGalley.     The author of Bird Box and Unbury Carol brings to life a strange small town called Goblin, a place with a dark history and some very unnatural happenings.  I’m a fan of Malerman’s writing, and he does a great job of bringing his characters to life.  I was a bit disappointed with a couple of the endings, but I’m going to chalk that up to my personal tastes rather than the writing.  I was also left wanting more!!  Overall, I recommend taking a trip to Goblin…just watch out for the locals!


Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!

NightWorms March Theme — Kills and Thrills

March not only brings the first day of spring, but also some great titles in the latest NightWorms delivery!

First of all…STEPHEN KING!!!!!   YESSSS!!!  I’ve been reading King’s novels since I was thirteen or so, and I’m always excited to see new releases from The Master.  Later is the story of Jamie, a boy with hidden abilities who is sucked into a murder mystery.  King always does a great job developing his young characters so I’m looking forward to Jamie’s adventures.   I’ve put this on my must-read list for April!

I’m a sucker for a story about haunted buildings.  Old homes, jails, hospitals, asylums, it doesn’t matter to me as long as there’s a tragic or questionable past and a present full of creepy goings-on.  The Sanatorium checks all the boxes with a building being transformed into a hotel, some unsuspecting travelers, and an impending blizzard.  Can’t wait to start this one!

Oh, and did I mention tea?  Caramel Apple tea to be precise?  This rooibos-based tea with real apple bits sounds delish!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #114

This past week brought some much-needed sunshine to my corner of the world, so we decided a day trip to the beach sounded like a great idea…

Even though the winter winds coming in from the Pacific Ocean were cold as hell, it was still a beautiful day to escape from the house and enjoy a walk along the crowd-free beaches.

It was also a good week to start my outdoor spring cleaning: trimming plants, clearing out flower pots, and the like.  After so much down time these past few months, I felt a real sense of accomplishment.  Come on spring, I’m ready for you!

Even with a somewhat busy week, I did find time to enjoy these fantastic reads…

The Week in Books

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica — 5 out of 5 stars!

This book is going to haunt my dreams for a long, long time.  Set in a dystopian future where animal meat is infected with a deadly virus so an alternative “special meat” is produced (I’ll give you one guess as to what that “special meat” is).  Marcos works at one of these slaughterhouses while dealing with the loss of his child and separation from his wife.    This story is brutal, haunting, and strangely thought-provoking.  The subject matter is definitely not for everyone, but I highly recommend checking it out!

Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto — 4 out of 5 stars

This turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  In the aftermath of Yoshie’s father’s death alongside an unknown woman, Yoshie and her mother try to find their way through this new life without him.  While trying to come to terms with his death, they will experience regret, anger, love, and forgiveness.  There were a couple aspects of the story I just didn’t care for, and MC Yoshie seemed a bit stiff at times, but overall a really good read.  I already have more of Yoshimoto’s works on my TBR wish list!

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Chronicling the Days:  Dispatches From a Pandemic edited by Linda M. Morra — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars!

This anthology of essays and poetry is the direct result of the pandemic that changed the world.  In April 2020, the Quebec Writers Federation put a call out to members to share their experiences during lock-down, a sort of “typical day in isolation” piece.  The result is this vast assortment of very personal and very heartfelt pieces that I think everyone can relate to on some level.  Some address their fears and frustrations, others find joy in the simple things around them.    Highly recommend (and to educators out there, I think you should look into adding this book to your curriculum and/or school libraries).


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #113

It’s always a great week when book mail is involved!

I had some credit with Thriftbooks so I thought I’d mix it up with some contemporary fiction and horror.  I’ve started Moshi Moshi for one of my Goodreads groups and I already know I’ll be searching for more of Banana Yoshimoto’s works in the near future!

And even though it’s still officially winter, I’ve been seeing signs of spring popping up!  My daffodils are pushing through the ground and several trees and shrubs are sprouting new greenery.  Even my indoor houseplants are sensing a change in the air and have been going through some growth spurts as well.  Although autumn is my favorite time of year, it’s always invigorating and renewing when spring begins to take shape.

The Week in Books

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida — full review coming at the end of March

The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong — 5 out of 5 stars!

When I get the chills while reading a story, then you know it’s a pretty damn good book!  Yu-jin wakes up to the smell of blood and finding his mother’s murdered corpse, and with no recollection of the past several hours.  So what exactly happened???       This psychological thriller takes you on a slow-burn journey where we find out who the true psychopath is.  I can’t say much more without giving major spoilers but if you’re looking for a creepy, mind-twisting  read then be sure to check this one out.  Highly recommend!

Force of Nature by Jane Harper — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my March Mystery TBR.  Alice goes missing while on a company retreat in the wilderness.  Was it accident, murder, or something else??   I’m quickly becoming a fan of Jane Harper’s multilayered stories, and this one did not disappoint!  The alternate views with each chapter work really well, and will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end.  Although this is the second in the Aaron Falk series, it can be enjoyed as a standalone novel.  Highly recommend!

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Tiny Nightmares edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto — 3 out of 5 stars

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of short stories and novellas, and in the past year I started to check out various types of “flash” fiction (shorts under 1,500 words).  Now, having finished this latest anthology I’ve come to the conclusion that flash fiction just isn’t for me.  There were a handful of standout pieces in this anthology but for the most part, the stories were bland and underdeveloped.  Yes, I know, flash fiction is not supposed to have fleshed-out characters and complicated plots, but at the very least I want some entertainment value!  When my personal notes became a list of 2 stars, “???,” and “wtf!”‘s, I knew my time with flash fiction was over…for now.  All was not lost, though, as I now have my eye on a couple of new-to-me authors who I really want to see more of their work in the future!


Stay safe and until next time, Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-up #112

Another quiet week, and my brain has been scattered the past few days, so I’ll skip right to the books…

The Week in Books

In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson — 4.5 out of 5 stars

Travis Stillwell was a killer before he met the mysterious Rue; she just helped him go in a whole new direction.     Davidson’s take on vampires is one of the best I’ve read in some time.  For such a violent story, the writing is beautiful and sucked me in from the first page.   Highly recommend.

Saving My Assassin by Virginia Prodan — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Virginia Prodan’s memoir chronicles her upbringing in Romania and her career as an attorney defending those being persecuted for their religious beliefs under the reign of Nicolae Ceaucescu.  Her strong Christian faith and beliefs led her through some tough and dangerous situations.  Simply written yet highly compelling.

The Snowman’s Children by Glen Hirshberg — 3 out of 5 stars

What I thought would be a mystery involving a serial killer turned out to be more of a coming of age flashback story with a prank gone wrong…oh, and a serial killer mentioned a few times, almost like an afterthought.  What really disappointed me was the sluggishness of the story.  I did round up to three stars because there were enough good scenes that kept me going, even when I was considering a DNF.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Gulp by Alan Baxter — 4 out of 5 stars

The coastal town of Gulpepper, known to the locals as The Gulp, is home to some very strange characters indeed.  In this collection of five novellas, Alan Baxter introduces us to some of The Gulp’s residents with tales that are creepy, weird, and sometimes darkly humorous.  I’m hoping this is just the beginning of a series as I can tell there are so many more stories waiting in the shadows!

Chopping Spree by Angela Sylvaine — 3 out of 5 stars

Penny works at an ’80’s-inspired shopping mall.  Staying after work with her coworkers, they stumble across a killer running around the building.  Then things get weird.    This was one of those stories that I could envision being made into a movie for the SyFy channel.  It was a fun, quick read, but ultimately I felt there just wasn’t enough build-up to create a really good scare (granted, it’s only 70 pages, but just a few more details would have taken it to another level).  Not too gruesome, I would recommend for casual horror readers.


Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!

March — A Month of Mystery

A new month, a new TBR theme!  It’s mystery  month here at the AllDragonsRead lair and these are some of the titles I’m looking forward to diving into…

I’m very familiar with the works of all three of these authors, so I decided to  put them at the top of my list for the month.  Peter May’s Runaway tells the tale of a man whose history comes back to haunt him.  Force of Nature brings back Federal Agent Aaron Falk investigating the disappearance of a woman on a company retreat.  And what would a month of mystery be without some real-life mysteries?  The late Ann Rule (who I consider the Queen of true crime) looks into the strange death of former Washington State Patrol trooper Ronda Reynolds in one of her last published works, In the Still of the Night.  This one hits very close to home for me, taking place only a short drive from our home in Lewis County, Washington.  After following the case for years in the local paper, I’m extremely curious to read Rule’s take.

On top of all the great mysteries I have on my TBR shelves, my Goodreads groups have some stellar March choices as well.

Goodreads Group Reads

I will definitely be reading Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica and checking out the group discussions.  This dystopian novel has been at the top of my must-read list for waaay too long!

Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto sounded so intriguing (described as a “coming of age ghost story”) I ordered a copy and now I’m keeping my fingers crossed it arrives in time for me to join in with the group chat later this month.

And fitting perfectly with my theme:  The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman offers a whodunit with four 80 year olds leading the search for a killer on the loose.  Sounds like great fun!


What will you be reading for March?  Drop me a line, I always love hearing about what everyone is reading!

Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!