Monday Mash-Up #037 Happy Autumn!!

Today is officially the first day of autumn, my favorite time of year!  And yes, this pretty much sums up how I was as a kid raking the leaves…..

It’s the time of year for hot cider, pumpkin patches…. and going through my Halloween to read list.  With the exception of one nonfiction (and another one I’m currently reading), I am now in full-on scary story mode.  Let’s bring it on!!

The Week in Books—

The Toll by Cherie Priest — 4 out of 5 stars

This was one of those “fun” horror stories that  I couldn’t put down, and I probably shouldn’t have liked as much as I did.  Granted, I highly doubt the author intentionally wrote this like a made for TV movie that we’ve all seen on the SyFy channel, and I don’t think I was supposed to giggle at certain scenes, but I couldn’t help it.  For the love of God, I want to see the visual of the final “battle” scene, complete with crappy special effects! 😀   I started this book by taking it seriously, which by page 60 or so started pissing me off.  When I started reading this as a fun weird horror, that’s when I started to enjoy it.  My apologies to the author if it was meant to be some heavy serious novel, but I found it more fun than frightening.

A Little Sorrowed Talk by Brian Keene — 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5

This short story collection was one of those collections that when it was good, it was very, very good, and when it wasn’t it was meh.  A very eclectic collection, ranging from light horror to “weird fantasy” (the author’s words, not mine, but very true!).  This was my introduction to Keene’s work, and while I liked it I would not recommend it for a first-time read.

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay — 3.5 out of 5 stars

I don’t want to say this but I may have to give up on reading Tremblay’s stuff, or at least the books I’ve heard too much about.  I have heard nothing but praise for his works but I was disappointed by my last read, A Head Full of Ghosts, and while this one was a bit better, it still didn’t measure up to my preconceived notions of this author’s work.   I will say it was an interesting take on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but there were just too many times I found myself counting the pages until the next chapter break so I could put it down.

Contamination Book 1:  The Onset by T. W. Piperbrook — 3 out of 5 stars

This novella is the first in a 6 part series about a zombie apocalypse.  Not a lot of new material, you have your outbreak situation and the typical cast of survivor characters.  But one thing I liked about this intro to the series is that it’s fast-paced and does add a bit of a different twist to the zombie genre.  I am interested in reading more but I’m not going to go out of my way at this time to track down the next volumes (maybe for next year).

Dark World by Zak Bagans — 3 out of 5 stars

If you’ve watched the show Ghost Adventures then you are familiar with Zak Bagans.  I don’t know why I picked this one up at the library as Bagans tends to annoy me on his show, and he wound up annoying me in this book.  But, there are some interesting moments and observations.  Don’t expect any of his personal stories, at least not in depth.  He talks about some of his experiences but he offers no new details from what was aired on his show.  Not bad if you want to get in the Halloween spirit, but not something I would recommend going out of your way to read.

Remarkable Reads by J. Peder Zane — 3 out of 5 stars

A mixed bag of essays from a wide variety of authors, each picking a book that somehow changed or affected them.  The best essays detailed the reading experience and the connection to the author’s life.  Sadly, many were just chapters out of the author’s biography with a brief nod to some book they just happened to read at the time.

Until next time, Happy Reading!!!

Monday Mash-Up #036

The Week in General —

Autumn is definitely in the air now.  The mornings are a bit chillier, the days shorter.  But with autumn comes my favorite month of October and Halloween!!  I’ve already started putting things away to make room for my decorating binge at the end of the month….it’s never too early!  😀  Another bonus with the shorter, cooler days is that I don’t feel guilty curling up with a good book…….but I should vacuum sometime soon, haha!

The Week in Books —

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill — 5 out of 5 stars!

By far the best Hill novel to date, at least of the ones I’ve read.  I could see glimmers of Hill’s dad, Stephen King, coming through.  Whether this was intentional or some subliminal Oedipal complex thing coming out, it worked and worked really well.  And I will never think of Christmas the same way again!

We Live Inside Your Eyes by Keanan Patrick Burke — 5 out of 5 stars!!

Very rarely do I give a full five stars to a short story collection, but Burke’s twisted tales are well deserving.  Burke knows how to write horrific fiction by tapping into the everyday stuff and making it horrific.  There was also a fantasy horror story that worked really well, a bit of a surprise in the middle of the chaos.  If you haven’t read any of Burke’s works, I would recommend starting with this one as it shows his range and is just damn good.

Bumps in the Road:  A Horror Anthology by various authors — 4 out of 5 stars

I enjoy reading short story collections because I often discover authors whose voices I wouldn’t normally find on my own.  This anthology, edited by one of my new favorites Chad Lutzke,  is a collection of authors I haven’t had the chance to read before and for the most part I was left truly impressed.  There were a couple that just didn’t work for me though, nothing personal to those authors, it’s not you, it’s me.  Overall, I would recommend this, especially for some quick Halloween reading.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong — 4 out of 5 stars

Wow, what a beautifully written book!!  I devoured this in an afternoon, and I can’t wait to read more from this author.  This is a letter to the narrator’s mother, something she will never read but needs to be said.  It reaches back to the Vietnam War, exposing the ghosts that still haunt the survivors, up through the narrator’s teen and young adult years and his struggles not only with his haunted mother and grandmother but his own life questions of his sexuality and place in the world.  Not a full five stars due to some passages that just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story, but overall one I would highly recommend.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton — 4 out of 5 stars

This was more of a 3 to 3.5 for most of the book, but the ending twist was not something I saw coming so I rounded up.  While the storyline is definitely unique, kind of like Clue meets Groundhog Day, I found myself getting pretty bored about half-way through.  Maybe if it had been shaved down by 50 or 100 pages I would have it enjoyed it more.

A Massacre in Mexico:  The True Story Behind the Missing Forty-Three Students by Anabel Hernandez — 3 out of 5 stars

An interesting story that deserves to be told, but I was overwhelmed with the data-overload.  At times, it read almost like a checklist of names, times, and evidence (was is necessary to tell me about every single bullet shell?), pretty much a dossier of the events rather than a narrative.  It did get better but only when the author was recounting the survivors’ statements.  Not something I would recommend for a casual reader.

The Valley by Steve Hawke — 3 out of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book more, but there were a few irritating things that brought it down.  First was the time changes.  I’m fine with stories going back and forth in time to tell the back stories, but when I’m reading about Two Bob cooking stew in the today and in the same paragraph we are suddenly taken back 50 years, it just annoys the hell out of me and leaves me a bit disoriented.  The other big problem—every character had three different names.  Yes, you read that right.  One chapter I’m reading about Two Bob and his twin brother Bob, next time they are referred to by their native names, then their father refers to them as Othello and Hamlet.  And that’s just two of the many characters!!  There was never any real reason why everyone had to change names so many times, which led to a lot of frustration on my part.  However, Hawke’s writing is beautiful and his descriptions of the various Australian locales kept me going.  Quick note:  about 2/3 through the book, the story gets much easier to follow and the ending was quite good.  Just wish the rest wasn’t so headache-inducing.


Next week will be the official start of my full-on Halloween mode… you have a favorite scary story for this time of year?  Feel free to comment, and until next time, Happy Reading!

Nonfiction–What’s Cookin’ #02 — The ABC’s of Fun Family Cooking

September heralds a lot of firsts, including the first day of autumn and the first day of school.  Since back-to-school is a big theme for this month, I decided to pick some of my cookbooks that represent the ABC’s of September:  A for the autumn apples coming into season (and don’t forget an apple for the teacher!), B and C for the kids starting school as well as for the kid in all of us.


Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier

Who doesn’t love a fresh crisp apple?  A steaming mug of spiced apple cider on a chilly autumn day? I grew up with Gravenstein apple trees in the backyard, and to this day I will drive miles out of my way to get a box or two of this heirloom variety that has always been my favorite for sauces and pies.   Woodier touches on some of the heirloom varieties as well as new hybrids, and offers great advice on choosing the right apple for any recipe (there’s even a handy chart at the back of the book to make it even easier).  The recipes offer traditional items like crisps, pies, and sauces, as well as canning and preserving instructions.  But the recipes that go beyond the basics are the ones that intrigue me the most.  Sausage and apple omelettes, apple eggnog, even two recipes for meatloaf that incorporates apples!  This collection of sweet and savory dishes is a must-have for any apple enthusiast.


B is for Baking and C is for Cooking by Susan McQuillan

I grew up on Sesame Street, as did my son, so when I found these I knew I had to add them to my collection.  Quillan offers a wide variety of tasty treats while also focusing on healthy eating options, aimed at kids but great for adults as well.  Every recipe is written simply, with a list of equipment needed and tips from different Sesame Street characters.  The baking book not only offers some great dessert and bread recipes (I’ve made the strawberry muffins on many occasions), but also some main dish ideas like Cookie Monster’s Veggie Turnovers (Yes!!  Cookie Monster does eat veggies!!  😀  ) and Elmo’s Chicken Pot Pie.  The cooking volume covers a little bit of everything:  drinks, sides, dinners, soups.  One of the main reasons I love these books, other than the variety of quick and delicious recipes, is that the author, a nutritionist, incorporates healthy foods in a way that even picky kids (and adults) will enjoy.  If you have kids, or are just a kid at heart, I highly recommend these fun-to-use cookbooks.


The holidays are fast approaching and I look forward to sharing more of my favorite cookbooks with you!  Until next time, Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #035

The Week in General:

Be sure to check out my post about my latest Night Worms package!  As a lifelong horror fan, I have quickly fallen in love with this monthly subscription package and already I can’t wait for next month!

The Week in Books:

Nima by Adam Popescu — 3 out of 5 stars

The idea of the story drew me in:  a young girl wishes to escape her abusive home life and become a Sherpa on Mount Everest.  While the story moved along quickly and there were some interesting notes regarding the culture of Nepal (these being the only reasons it gets three stars from me), it sorely lacked any sort of emotional or character development.  Seriously, I’ve felt more emotions killing a fly than reading this book.  The author is a famed journalist and I do respect and admire that, I’ve just found that more often than not a journalistic career does not always translate well into a fiction writing career.  Just saying.

Red Dust:  A Path Through China — 2 out of 5 stars

I love a good travelogue.  I don’t care where in the world it takes me, I love reading about local culture, the author’s thoughts, struggles, and joys……

This book, well, did not make me happy, intrigued, or even mildly interested.

It’s never a good sign when it takes me over two months to read a 300 page book, especially in a genre that I enjoy.  While Red Dust offered some glimpses into early to mid 1980’s Chinese culture and turmoil, that was all they were, mere glimpses.  Instead, I learned way too much about the author not being able to keep his dick in his pants, how he has little respect for hard working people in the middle of nowhere….basically, the author comes across as an arrogant ass who traveled around for three years and didn’t really give a shit about any of it.  Yes, three years of travelling around China and we get a self-absorbed narrative that doesn’t really focus on anything.  The writing was at best disjointed and random.  I won’t even blame translation issues on this, it was just poorly written and not meant to be the so-called travelogue it claims to be.   Too bad, there was some potential with the idea but very poorly executed.

It’s getting closer to my favorite time of year!!  Do you have a favorite horror story or movie??  Let me know!!

And until next time, Happy Reading!!


Night Worms #02 A Storm is Coming!!

I received my latest monthly package of horror from Night Worms on Friday…..and boy was the theme appropriate for that day!  We were having some thunderstorms moving through our area for much of the morning, a perfect way to herald this month’s arrival!  Check out all the great stuff………

And the best thing about this month’s books:  they are signed, limited editions printed exclusively for Night Worms!


And I love this awesome scarecrow print by Shelby W Robertson!!

My only complaint:  my son commandeered the Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa mix, I’m going to have to bribe him to get it back!!  😀

Monday Mash-Up #034

It never fails….I go to the library to pick up one hold and wind up with an armful!

Today is the end of a long holiday weekend (Hope everyone celebrating Labor Day had a great weekend!) and is in a way the unofficial end of summer….however looking at the local weather forecast, summer is still here with a vengeance!

I participated in a couple of read-a-thons over the past 5 days.  I got off to a slow start but wound up finishing a few!

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid — 5 out of 5 stars!!

I patiently waited five months for my library hold to finally come in, and it was well worth the wait!  I love the movie Almost Famous, and this story of an up-and-coming rock band in the 1970’s had a similar vibe (there was a bit of A Star is Born feel as well).  The characters were flawed and at times difficult to like, but I think that’s what made them perfect.  Some readers haven’t cared for the interview format, but after a couple of pages I really didn’t notice it, plus it was a great way to see the different perspectives from everyone.  I highly recommend this one.  As a side note, many readers have found the audio version easier to follow than reading the interviews.  I don’t usually do audio but I may have to check it out, it may add a whole new layer to the story!

Fat Camp by James Sabata — 4 out of 5 stars!

Horror with heart, and not the physical human heart (well, maybe one or two).  Kids and counselors at a “Fit Camp” face a serial killer… it’s like the kids from Stand By Me meet Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th series.   Lots of blood and guts are spilled and the characters die in the correct order (if you watch slasher films you know what I mean!!  🙂  ).   It’s not all gore, though.  There is the underlying coming-of-age theme where the (surviving!) kids learn they are stronger than they think.  A great nod to the classic slasher films of the 1980’s.

July, July by Tim O’Brien — 3.5 out of 5 stars

I am a fan of O’Brien’s works and was looking forward to this one.  It’s pretty much a version of The Big Sleep, only the characters are older.  Unrequited love, love gone wrong, second chance at love… get the idea.  It was well written but it just didn’t grab me like In the Lake of the Woods or The Things They Carried (that one still haunts me).

The Mammoth Book of Nightmare Stories by various authors — 3.5 out of 5 stars

The subtitle to this claims Twisted Tales Not to Be Read at Night!!!  Well, I wouldn’t go that far.  There was a good variety from famed authors like Brian Lumley, Tanith Lee, and Neil Gaiman,  but nothing that I would consider really scary or nightmarish (Joe Lansdale’s vision of nuclear devastation and man-eating roses–yep, you read that correctly!–was probably my favorite).  Overall not a bad collection, and a great way to start getting into Halloween reading mode!

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons — 3 out of 5 stars

For some reason, the word frivolous was the first word that came to mind as I finished this book.  This little classic tells the story of a rather spoiled Flora Poste going to live with distant relatives, the Starkadders, at their family farm.  The usual rag-tag cast of characters, the usual misunderstandings and the usual meddling on behalf of Flora (as well as hooves and legs falling off of cows which I’m still trying to figure out what that meant!).  Overall pretty entertaining.

And away we go into the month of September!  Once I’ve tackled a few of my library books, I will dive into my stack of Halloween reads, starting with Nos4A2, The Toll, and We Live Inside Your Eyes.  

Until next time, Happy Reading!!