Weekly Mash-Up #135

Is everyone ready for the spooky season that’s just around the corner?

Wake Up Morning GIF by What We Do in the Shadows

I know I am!  The leaves are turning colors, the weather is rainy and cool, and I have my stockpile of favorite horror movies and books ready to go!  Added bonus:  with the arrival of our new internet satellite last week, I’m finally able to check out all these streaming channels I’ve been hearing about, especially the ones featuring the scary and the paranormal.  Time to pop some popcorn and settle in!

The Week in Books

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Lydia has a good life in Acapulco, until a local cartel guns down her family, forcing her and her young son to flee for their lives.  Their goal:  to reach the US/Mexico border and start a new life in the United States.  The author tells a heartbreaking, thought-provoking story that attempts to shed light on the current plight of immigrants fleeing to the border in search of a better, safer life.  While well-written, at times I did feel like I was reading the script for a Lifetime or Hallmark movie.   Recommend, especially as a stepping stone for learning more about the current immigration crisis.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Festering Ones by S. H. Cooper — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 10/31)  As a child, Faith watched her father get dragged underground by strange spider-legged women.  As an adult, she sets out to find answers and revenge against these strange creatures.    A truly creepy, fast-paced read that delivers quite a punch in only 130 pages.  And while not a cliffhanger, there is a set-up for another installment…looking forward to that!

Of Witches… by Steve Stred — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H 11/31)  Another Steve Stred you may ask?  Yeah, I had forgotten how many freebies I picked up last year when he was doing a weekend kindle giveaway, ha!  These six short stories feature witches (of course!) and lean heavily on family themes.  There’s the water witch who returns for her son; the grandmother who reaches beyond the grave to teach her selfish grandson a lesson; three sisters accused by a local village of witchcraft; and others along these lines.  Overall, a solid collection that offers a good variety.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #134

Happy First Day of Autumn!

Fall Season Cartoon Sticker by Peanuts

Happy White Girl GIF by Trey Kennedy

Yes, my favorite time of year is here!  Time to make some spiced cider, pull out the fuzzy socks and cozy sweaters, and take time to curl up with a good book!

The Week in Books

The Cipher by Kathe Koja — 3 out of 5 stars 

(H 7/31)  One of my September TBR selections.   Part-time lovers and full-time nonbelievers in personal hygiene Nicholas and Nakota find a strange hole in the supply room of their apartment building.  This mysterious otherworldly black hole eventually leads them down a road of obsession and violence.        First off, this is written in stream of consciousness style, one that I personally am not a big fan of.  There were some good parts, but mainly I found this just, well, boring.  Maybe if I had read it when it first came out in 1991 it would have wowed me, or maybe if I had dropped some acid while reading it I would have been blown away, but this one just didn’t stand out for me.

Under the Table by Vern Smith — 3 out of 5 stars

Touted as a “snappy heist novel,” this nostalgia-filled story left me with mixed feelings.  I enjoyed the ’80’s references, and a couple of the characters were a hoot, but the overall story just felt muddled and incomplete.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Scratches by Joshua Marsella — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 8/31)  Conner and his mother Janet move back to Janet’s childhood home, a place of real life nightmares for her.  Then Conner starts to see a dark figure in the basement…what evil still lurks in there?     A blend of the real horrors of childhood trauma and the Vietnam War  mixed with the supernatural,  Scratches delivers a fast-paced, chilling story that will make you think twice about those strange noises you may hear at night.

Wagon Buddy by Steve Stred — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 9/31)  What could be more benign than a child’s imaginary friend?  How about one that actually takes care of the bullies and bad people in the child’s life, then follows him into adulthood to help out as well!  That’s the premise of Wagon Buddy, a novella I would term as “horror lite.”  I can totally see this being made into a movie for the scy fy channel.  This is only the second story by Stred that I’ve read, and I have to say I am quickly becoming addicted to his work!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #133

Only six days until autumn begins!  With a big storm heading our way in the next 48 hours or so, I’ve been harvesting the last of my tomatoes, green beans, and summer squash from my little garden (planning on making a tasty veggie side dish with them this weekend).  I’m a person who thrives on cooler, wetter weather, so I’m looking forward to pulling out my cozy sweaters, making batches of hot apple cider and mugs of hot cocoa…and curling up with a good book (of course!).

The Week in Books

Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 3/31)  Written like a true crime story, this novel has young Richard Chizmar returning to his hometown after college graduation to find the citizens fearing for their safety after a string of murders.  Who is this killer, nicknamed The Boogeyman, and will he ever be caught?   As a fan of true crime narratives, I really enjoyed Chizmar’s take.  His descriptions of his small town were on point, and made me feel like I was back there with him.  Make sure to read the Author’s Note at the end regarding the photographs!  Highly recommend.

The Origins of Iris by Beth Lewis — 4 out of 5 stars

Iris has run away from her abusive marriage to her wife, Claude, and escapes to a remote mountain cabin.  While there, she confronts the demons of her past and tries to figure out who she really is.  I can’t really say much more without revealing major plot points but I will say this:  Beth Lewis has crafted a beautifully written story that sheds light on the overlooked reality of spousal abuse in same-sex marriages.  Chapters alternate between Iris’ past and the present, and has one of the most unique self-discovery storylines that I’ve read in some time.  Highly recommend.

Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H 4/31)  The residents of Walden, Virginia wake up one morning to darkness enveloping their town.  They will soon find out about the evil lurking within.    This story reminded me of tales like Under the Dome and The Fog.  I agree with a fellow reviewer who labeled it “breezy horror,” as it’s a quick read with enough gory and scary moments to satisfy horror fans.  If you’re looking for some “lighter” horror, this is a great place to start.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Girl Who Hid in the Trees by Steve Stred — 4 out of 5 stars

(H 5/31)  A truly creepy short story involving an ancient curse, a scary forest, and an urban legend that just may be true (and leave it to a group of kids to try to debunk it…that will end well, won’t it?!).  Perfect Halloween reading!

C.V. Hunt’s Horrorama — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 6/31)  Three novelettes with varying degrees of success.  Stor-All Self-Storage was by far my favorite, with MC Richard finding out the hard way what really goes on after dark in the storage units.  The Vessel wasn’t bad, but I really didn’t like the ending.  And as for Primitive…this one annoyed me on so many levels that I think I would wind up writing an entire essay so I’ll just say it wasn’t my favorite and leave it at that.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #132

It’s Back to School time in my corner of the world and the past few days have been spent setting up the study area for my son and his first couple of days of 12th grade!  Thankfully his small school district is still offering online learning in the wake of the explosion of new Covid cases.  He really enjoyed the online learning last year so he’s looking forward to his classes this year.  Added bonus:  we should have better internet by the end of the month, which will cut down on the frustrations and headaches our current internet has been causing.

Returning to a more scheduled day has definitely helped me catch up on some reading!  I’m still a bit behind on my NetGalley titles, but I have started on my 31 Books of Halloween (look for the  H x/31 under the titles to keep track of my progress!).

The Week in Books

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

One of my September TBR selections.   In a not-so distant future, the human race is extinct and robots rule the world.  Brittle wanders the wastelands called the Sea of Rust as a scavenger trying to survive.    I honestly could not put this book down!  Cargill does an excellent job creating mechanical characters that I couldn’t help but love (or hate!).  From the bleak landscape to the fast-paced action sequences, the storytelling is descriptive and well-written.  I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending, but this is one that I highly recommend!

Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge — 4 out of 5 stars

Andrew was raised by his grandmother until the age of four, when his long-lost mother, plagued by mental illness and substance abuse issues, returned to reclaim him.  Over the next two years, they live in poverty and uncertainty, until Andrew is taken into foster care after his mother’s public breakdown.  The bulk of this memoir is about Andrew’s experiences living with the Leonards, a foster family who weren’t exactly the Brady Bunch.  As an adult, he went on to study law and later became an advocate for foster children.  His story is a mix of heartbreak and triumph, and should serve as a wake-up call to the horrors and injustices in the foster care system.  Highly recommend.

Five Tales of Horror and Suspense by C. D. Wilsher — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 1/31)  There are no surprises with these five shorts.  I swear I’ve read several  variations of each one in other anthologies over the years.  However, Wilsher’s writing does draw you in and the stories are fast-paced.  I just wish there were a few more twists and surprises.  Not a bad choice for a quick afternoon read.

Alfie and the Dead Girls by Jamie Stewart — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

(H 2/31)  This is one of those short stories that would have been much better fleshed out as a novella.  The horror of adults preying on children on the internet is truly nightmarish for all parents, but this story just didn’t quite build up that sense of fear that it should have.  And don’t get me started on the unsatisfying ending!  Not badly written, just could have used a bit more to create a scarier atmosphere.

The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

It’s always a bummer when I read a dud from a favorite auto-buy author.  I’ve loved Bacigalupi’s dystopian fantasy novels, but this YA techno-thriller/social commentary was a huge disappointment.  By the mid-point I was really wishing the focus would turn from the self-absorbed and incredibly bland MC Alix to any of the side characters (Tank and Kook especially).  While the message the novel tries to deliver may be warranted, it came off as preachy and the story lacked any real emotion or urgency.  The ending was good though, bumping this up to three stars.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

September — Sci Fi and Scary/The 31 Books of Halloween

Yes folks, it’s that time of year again!  Two of my favorite genres, science fiction and horror, will be the featured themes for not one, but two months!

I’m starting out September with Sea of Rust, the story of a dystopian future where humans have been exterminated by robots, and now the robots are at war with each other.  I started reading this morning and I am hooked!

Two novels offer a perfect blend of sci fi and scary.  In Dead Space, Hester is a low-level security guard working for a company in the asteroid belt.  When she hears of a friend’s murder at an asteroid mine, she begins the search for answers and discovers some powerful secrets.  A strange dark hole appears in a closet in The Cipher, and our two protagonists decide it would be a great idea to enter and explore.  Yeah, I’m sure that will end well!

And as for The 31 Books of Halloween?  I have quite a variety of short stories, novellas, and novels to choose from, ranging from creature features to splatterpunk, psychological horror to vampire lit…and yes, I do have some Halloween-themed cozy mysteries lined up as well.  Watch for my countdown in my weekly updates!

Looking for more reading suggestions?  Check out these

Goodreads Group Reads

Two of my groups are going for an emotional punch this month.  Laurel Hightower’s novella, Crossroads, asks the question “How far would you go to see a deceased loved one again?”  It’s as heart-wrenching as it is horrific and I highly recommend it.  I haven’t read Betty yet but I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews (with the warning of making sure you have plenty of tissues on hand).   I consider The Remains of the Day to be a quiet, contemplative classic, perfect for a rainy evening by the fire with a pot of tea nearby.

Since I finished only one book this past week, I will be postponing the next Weekly Mash-Up until September 8.

Until next time,  stay safe and Happy Reading!