Weekly Mash-Up #151

This past week I took part in a readathon put on by Destiny and the Unexpected Readathon Time group on Goodreads.  The past few readathons I’ve participated in have not been very productive on my end, as I’ve been in a downward spiral of falling short on my page and TBR goals.  This time, I made zero plans, no TBR list, no page total or time goals.  And it worked!  It felt good to make a dent in my unread piles and, with the exception of one novella, truly enjoy everything I read!  My seven-day totals came out to 1,219 pages read, finishing two novels, three novellas, and one short story collection.  I’m already looking forward to the next one!

The Week in Books

Upgrade by Blake Crouch — 4.5 out of 5 stars

If you’re a fan of Blake Crouch and fast-paced sci-fi thrillers, be sure to  mark your calendar for Upgrade‘s release on July 12, 2022!  In the near future, Logan accompanies a SWAT raid, only to become infected with a strange virus.  Instead of extreme illness, the virus rebuilds his DNA, making Logan stronger, smarter, a more super-human version of himself.  Who created this virus and for what purpose?  What will Logan have to give up to learn the truth?  I was quickly pulled into the story, and I loved the fast pace and the mind-blowing twists.  I can’t wait to get a physical copy to add to my library (and to read again!).  Highly recommend.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my most anticipated reads and it did not disappoint!  Some may say this is just a modern-day version of Lolita, and in part it is.  But it’s also much more.  This story comes from the victim’s point of view and examines the complex emotions brought on by years of abuse.  I wish Vanessa would have developed more self-awareness than she did, but overall a haunting piece of fiction.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Beneath a Pale Sky by Philip Fracassi — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars

One of my February selections.  Fracassi’s collection offers some fresh takes on old-school horror.  There’s a classic story of a meteor falling to earth with a buggy twist; a man looking back at his childhood and growing up with his best friend, who just happens to be Death; a creepy small town and its mysterious lake.  Fracassi’s writing is amazing, and even the couple of stories that I marked as “weird/???’ in my notes blew me away with the writing.  The closest to a 5 star collection I’ve read in a looooong time!  Highly recommend.

Waif by Samantha Kolesnik — 4 out of 5 stars

This arrived on Wednesday in my latest NightWorms package and I immediately dropped what I was doing and started reading!  Best described as body horror, it’s the story of Angela and her obsession with a stranger, which later leads to a series of truly fucked-up plastic surgeries and a journey into the dark world of “specialty” porn.  It’s a crazy ride and definitely not for everyone.

Every Time We Meet at the Dairy Queen, Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes by Carlton Mellick III — 4 out of 5 stars

I wanted to call this bizarro novella an anti-Valentines story, but there really is a love story here, so I’ll just call it the most fucked up love story you’ll ever read.  What’s more endearing than a tale of young love, about an awkward boy who falls for a cute, yet very weird, girl?  By the way, when the girl gets excited, her face explodes.  Yes, you read that right.  I thought this quirky, disgusting, and downright bizarre little tale was hilarious and entertaining.  Not for everyone, but worth a try if you’re looking for a different kind of love story.

See You When the World Ends by Simon Paul Wilson — 4 out of 5 stars

Tim and Naomi are great friends who are slowly realizing they may be in love with each other.  While Naomi is away for a family wedding, Tim begins to have strange nightmares about her.  Upon Naomi’s return, things take a strange turn to the supernatural.  The build-up was great, and the horror aspect was creepy as hell.  A great choice if you prefer scary over gory in your horror reading.

Burning Bridges Along the Susquehanna by Paul Nelson — 2 out of 5 stars

This short tale (the first in a series) starts out okay, with siblings traveling back in time to escape some bad stuff in their current lives, but I soon found myself trying not to roll my eyes (and not succeeding very well).  Aimed at YA but the writing is very middle grade and the plot holes are enormous.  I won’t be traveling any further with this series.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #150

Sometimes, some things really are better late than never…

This amaryllis bulb, which was supposed to bloom around the holidays, decided to take it’s sweet time and bloom instead in time for Valentine’s Day.  I have to say, it’s a nice surprise…and the colors are very fitting!

And speaking of better late than never, I feel like I’ve finally put my reading slump behind me.  Of course, it probably helped that I finally finished a book I’ve been slogging through for over four months.  It really did feel like a weight had been lifted once I reached the end of that one!

The Week in Books

Hot and Sour Suspects by Vivien Chien — 4 out of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I’ve visited Lana Lee and her crew at the Ho-Lee Noodle House, and I may have missed a couple of books along the way, but I was immediately swept back into everyone’s chaotic lives and friendships in this eighth installment of the Noodle Shop Mystery cozy series.  Lana hosts a speed-dating event at the restaurant; her friend winds up making a connection with a very eligible bachelor…then he winds up dead.  Will Lana be able to prove her friend’s innocence?  Yes, the whole cozy mystery formula is at play here, but  Ms. Chien has brought a fresh, fun look to the genre, and I wish her a strong recovery in her current battle with cancer.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky — 3 out of 5 stars

After hearing about this book for ages, I finally had the chance to read it…and, well, it just didn’t live up to the hype.  Maybe I was expecting too much, or something different, but this just fell flat.  At times it felt like one of those Afterschool Specials by trying too hard to bring every aspect of teen angst to light then slapping a band-aid on it and calling it good.  I can see why so many love it, but it just wasn’t for me.

The King of Nightmare by A. Rogers — 3 out of 5 stars

I can honestly say I cannot begin to describe this reading experience, but I can say that I want to try whatever drugs the author was on while writing this weird “horror” novel. I don’t care about the length of a story if it keeps me entertained and involved, but if it takes me 3+ months to get to the 50% mark ? In a genre that I love?? Not a good sign. The last 20% of the book kept this from being a 2 star rating.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Growing Dark by Kristopher Triana — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my picks for February.  If you’re interested in trying Triana’s work but not sure you’re ready for the full-on splatterpunk horror experience, this collection is a great place to start.  There are still plenty of scary images, from the part-time zombies in Eaters to the dark souls of murdered babies seeking revenge in The Bone Orchard.  One of my favorites, Before the Boogeymen Come, is a great mix of humor and horror with some of childhood’s most famous nighttime monsters (you know the ones, under the bed, in the closet, and the corner shadow creepers) do their best to keep their place in a kid’s imagination as well as his room.  Great variety, great collection.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #149

What a great start to the day to find a pre-approval for the new Blake Crouch novel waiting for me in my inbox!

Sorry, current reads, I may be putting you all aside for a couple of days…

Other than that, things have been pretty quiet in my corner of the world.  All the more time to get some decent reading hours in…

The Week in Books

The Doomsday Mother by John Glatt — 4 out of 5 stars

The disappearances of Tylee Ryan and her brother J.J. Vallow, and later the discovery of their bodies, made national headlines in late 2019 and in 2020.  What made these tragic deaths even more disturbing were the actions (or rather lack thereof) of their mother, Lori Vallow.  After suddenly moving (some say fleeing) to Hawaii after the disappearances, Vallow’s refusal to cooperate with investigators began to raise suspicions.  In 2021, she and her new husband, Chad Daybell, were charged with the murders of the two children and one other person.      What would lead a mother down this road?  Author  John Glatt has done some extensive research and gives us Lori’s backstory, from her childhood to her obsession with Chad Daybell and his books predicting the coming apocalypse.  This is a disturbing, at times even eerie, look at religious cults, mental illness, and mysterious deaths.  For true crimes fans like myself, this is a must-read.

The Flamer by Ben Rogers — 4 out of 5 stars

A coming-of-age story that checks all the boxes:  first kiss, budding sexuality, fitting in…and with a few explosions thrown in for good measure.  Young Oby is a boy whose obsession with anything combustible will lead him down the path to adulthood, while meeting some interesting characters along the way.  Entertaining and compulsively readable, I highly recommend this one.

Growing Up Dead in Texas by Stephen Graham Jones — 3.5 out of 5 stars

As you know, I’m a big fan of SGJ and I’ve loved everything I’ve read by him…sadly, until now.  I can’t really tell you what the book was about, it was a mix of mysterious fires, family dynamics and deeply hidden secrets, deaths, and people getting the crap beat out of them (granted, they usually deserved it).  What brought this down for me were the dizzying time jumps at every turn and in nearly every paragraph.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the story, and once I got the hang of the writing style I began to enjoy it, but I just couldn’t really get past clipped thoughts and scattered storyline.


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

February — Short Stories for a Short Month

There’s an art to writing a good short story.  To be able to tell a full tale, with developed characters and plot without the feeling of being rushed or unfinished, is something that I think all authors have dabbled in, with varying degrees of success.  For the short month of February, I wanted to check out some collections of shorts by authors whose longer works I’ve read and enjoyed…

Growing Dark by Kristopher Triana  offers 10 of his earlier works.  Knowing how twisted his novels can be, I can’t wait to see what’s in store with these terrifying tales.

Beneath a Pale Sky by Philip Fracassi has eight stories described as a mix of supernatural strangeness and old-school horror.  That sounds right up my alley!

Goodreads Group Reads

Looking for more reading ideas?  Here are some titles from my Goodreads groups that I highly recommend…

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

This was one of my five-star nonfiction reads of 2021.  Machado’s memoir tells of her abusive same-sex relationship and it’s aftermath.  Stylistic prose makes each chapter it’s own story.

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

This book solidified Cosby’s place as one of my top personal “auto-buy/clear all other books and read this first” author.

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

It’s been a few years since I read this classic, but I still remember the vivid imagery of the African settings.  When I get the chance, I would definitely like to revisit this story.

What’s on your reading list for February?  Drop me a line and let’s talk books!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!