Weekly Mash-Up #161

When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would stick to sharing my love of books and stay away from politics and “hot button” topics.  However, the national events of the past week, culminating with the massacre of nineteen young children in their classroom on May 24, has left me spent, my emotions fluctuating between utter heartbreak for all the families and total rage that these mass shootings have become a norm in our society.

I’m not going to go on a rant as I know my words won’t change anything.  “Thoughts and prayers” are fucking worthless.  But today, I wanted to share some pictures I took at a local Japanese garden May 25 as a tribute to those lost.

A bit of beauty in a fucked-up world.

The Week in Books

The Way of the Rabbit by Mark Hawthorne — 5 out of 5 stars

Check back the weekend of May 27-29 for my full review, both here and at MrPinkInk!

Planting Dandelions by Kyran Pittman — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my May reading selections.   A collection of essays highlighting the various twists and turns of being a parent (and an adult).  Pittman explores many topics, from marriage to children’s parties, to the death of loved ones.  Her writing is easy-going and the topics are, for the most part, relatable.

The Savage Instinct by M.M. DeLuca — 4 out of 5 stars

Set in 1873, this is the story of Clara Blackstone, a young woman who returns home after spending time in a mental institution (her problem?  A breakdown after the stillbirth of her child).  She soon crosses paths with notorious serial killer Mary Ann Cotton (be sure to look up the true story of Cotton, England’s first female serial killer!), leading to a suspenseful build-up and shocking conclusion.  This was a book that took me by surprise, one that I didn’t know if I would enjoy or not and wound up surpassing my expectations.

Wisteria Cottage by Robert M. Coates — 3 out of 5 stars

One of my May reading selections.   Florence and her two adult daughters befriend bookstore clerk Richard Baurie.  He arranges for them to stay at an isolated beachside cottage for the summer…what could possibly go wrong??  There were aspects of this story that I liked, particularly Richard’s unreliable narration and descent into madness.  I can see how this would have easily been a 5-star read when it was originally published in 1943, but reading it in 2022, I found it good but slightly underwhelming.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Hao by Ye Chun — 4 out of 5 stars

An amazing collection of stories from Chinese American author Ye Chun explores the strengths of women in difficult situations, the unbreakable bonds of family, and how words/language can be the bridge needed to survive.  There is a wide span of topics, from immigration to the death of a child.  While the stories are often depressing, there is still an underlying feeling of hope.  Highly recommend.

Stay safe, hug your loved ones, and keep on reading…

Weekly Mash-Up #160

Well, another week of spring rain and cooler than normal weather.  On the bright side, I got to spend more time indoors reading!

The Week in Books

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng — 5 out of 5 stars!

One of my April selections.  Oh my God, this book!  Set in Penang during WWII, it’s the story of Philip Hutton, the son of a British businessman and his late Chinese wife.  Being of mixed heritage has left young Philip feeling like an outsider in his own family.  He befriends an older Japanese diplomat, who becomes Philip’s friend and sensei.  As the war years unfold, loyalties will be tested with both family and friends.  The writing is superb, rich and atmospheric.  I was immediately drawn to the characters and storyline, staying up way too late a few nights because I didn’t want to put it down.  And I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried…twice.  Highly recommend.

The Ghosts of Walter Crockett by W. Edward Crockett — 4 out of 5 stars

Ed Crockett’s father was known as the “biggest drunk in Portland (Maine).”  The father abandoned his wife and children and spent several years living on the city streets while his family struggled to survive.  Crockett’s memoir, detailing his childhood struggles and his journey to adulthood while living in the shadow of being the son of the town drunk, is honest and unflinching, at times heartbreaking, and ultimately a tribute to the power of family love and forgiveness.

The Pain Eater by Kyle Muntz — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Michael and Steven are trying to cope with their father’s death.  Then a creature born from a dead cat enters their lives, a creature that feeds on their deepest pains.  Creepy, gruesome, and haunting were the first three words that popped into my mind when I finished this dark tale.  The blending of emotional pain with the macabre is disturbing and effective.  I’m looking forward to reading more of Muntz’s works in the future.

After You Died by Dea Poirier — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Some mixed feelings on this one.  Set in 1968 at a notorious boys reform school, we meet Asher, a teen found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, a crime he doesn’t remember committing.  While serving his time at the school, he begins to have horrific nightmares and visions, and starts having blackouts, only to wake up and find himself covered in blood.  There’s some good psychological thriller twists with paranormal elements.  My issues were few but I felt they brought down the story for me.  The year 1968 seemed pretty arbitrary to the storyline, as everything, from the character names to the dialogue, seemed more 1998 (there is mention of a brother in Viet Nam, but it’s not relevant to the plot).  My biggest issue is with the ending!!  No spoilers here, but I was under the impression that this was a stand-alone novel so the sudden ending and unanswered questions left me wanting to throw the book across the room.  If this is part of a series, then I would recommend it, but if it is a stand-alone then I would say read it only if you like disappointing endings.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente — 3.5 out of 5 stars

A basic summary of this novella would be The Stepford Wives meets the Book of Genesis from the Old Testament.  It was good, definitely different, with enough creepy elements to keep the story going.  It just felt like something was missing that would have pushed it into “terrific read” territory.

Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay — 2.5 out of 5 stars

Sometimes, the third time is a charm.  Other times, it’s three strikes and you’re out.  Sorry Mr. Tremblay, but Growing Things is the third chance I’ve given your work, and sadly it was a swing and a miss for me.  There were a couple of standouts, but in a collection of nineteen stories I was hoping for more than a couple of crumbs.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #159

A Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all the moms out there who were able to celebrate on Sunday!

Things have been really quiet around here.  It seems that Mother Nature has decided to extend our winter, with steady rain, wind, and some snow and hail mixed in for good measure.  Hey, I love the cold dark days when it’s October and November, but c’mon, its May!  I’m ready for some spring sunshine (and I know my plants are ready as well).

At least being stuck in the house made me buckle down and finally finish a book that I started in 2021…

The Week in Books

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber — 4 out of 5 stars

Whew, after seven months I finally finished this mammoth tale!  Set in the mid-1870’s, we are introduced to Sugar, a well-known prostitute who dreams of a better life; William Rackham, a perfume tycoon who is obsessed with Sugar; Agnes Rackham, William’s long-suffering and mentally unstable wife; Henry Rackham, William’s well-meaning brother; and little Sophie Rackham, William and Agnes’ young daughter who has been kept out of the public spotlight as well as her parents’ affections.  I really liked the story as a whole, and the plot and characters were easy to follow (a plus when I would put the book aside for weeks at a time).  My biggest complaint?  The ending!!  No spoilers here but let me just say, after 835 pages, I wanted something better than that!!

Short and sweet this week.  Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!

May — May Flowers

As the saying goes, last month’s April showers bring in May flowers, so I decided to use that for this month’s reading theme.  Once again, I went completely by book title and pulled these three from my TBR mountain.

Planting Dandelions sounds like an entertaining memoir/essay collection, written by a 40-something woman detailing the everyday life in her chaotic household.  I’ve enjoyed stories like this in the past so I’m looking forward to starting this one.  Wisteria Cottage is from a past NightWorms package and is the creepy tale of a woman and her two daughters who rent a cottage by the sea and find out that the nice young bookstore clerk isn’t who he seems.  Originally published in 1948, I have a feeling this will be a great psychological thriller, perhaps along the lines of Shirley Jackson.  As for Growing Things, I’m hoping that Paul Tremblay’s short stories vibe with me better than his novels I’ve read in the past.  We shall soon find out!

As for my April selections, I finished Flood by Andrew Vachss with a bit of mixed reactions.  It wasn’t my favorite crime thriller I’ve ever read but it was good enough to make me want to read more in the series.

I debated over reading The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng or Master of Rain by Tom Bradby.  I eventually chose Eng’s World War II novel and I am so glad I did!  As of this writing I am about halfway through, and I am truly loving every bit of it.  It’s a story I am savoring, and although I have a feeling my heart is going to get broken by the end, it’s been a story that I have looked forward to reading a bit every day.

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

Stay safe and Happy Reading!