Weekly Mash-Up #163

While the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 24th has left me feeling numb, I will continue to lose myself in my reading, as it truly helps me find balance and restore my mental health.  That’s one thing they can’t take away from me.

The Week in Books

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel — 5 out of 5 stars

I had heard this novel was a heartbreaking and beautiful piece of work, so I went in with some high expectations…and wow, did it deliver!  Loosely based on the author’s grandmother’s childhood, we see life through Betty’s eyes growing up the child of a Cherokee father and white mother.  Fair warning, there is a lot of trauma in these 460+ pages, but there is also a lot of love and hope.  I really can’t recommend this book enough.

Code Talker by Chester Nez — 5 out of 5 stars

The outcome of WWII may have been vastly different if not for the secret code created by Navajo Marine recruits utilizing their native language.  Only a handful of people outside of the codetalkers knew of this, and it wasn’t until records were declassified decades later that Americans (and the world) found out about this secret, unbreakable code that was pivotal in the victories in the South Pacific.  Chester Nez was one of the original twenty-nine young men who created the code, and this is his story.  Mr. Nez tells not only of his Marine service, but also of his childhood and his life after the war.  While reading this, I really felt like Mr. Nez was sitting next to me telling his story.  Highly recommend.

The Devil in the Red Dirt by Michael P. Smith — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars

Set in 1960’s Australia, this is a multi-layered crime novel filled with unspeakable violence and truly flawed, unlikeable (yet unforgettable) characters.  While the dark underbelly of humanity is exposed, there are also strong loyalties and glimmers of hope and redemption.  I’ll admit it took me a bit to really get into the story, but once there, I couldn’t stop reading.  One of my top five favorites of the year, highly recommend.

All These Subtle Deceits by C.S. Humble — 4 out of 5 stars

The first in a series featuring the strange town of Black Wells, Colorado.  After Lauren is attacked by supernatural forces in a nightclub bathroom, she seeks help from a local exorcist who just happens to be excommunicated from the church.  What follows mixes dark humor with horror, and adds a twist to the standard “possession” trope.  Very entertaining, I can’t wait to read the next Black Wells installment.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

This Census-Taker by China Mieville — 3 out of 5 stars

I’ve been a fan of Mieville’s weird fantasy fiction for some time, so when I came across this novella at the library I just had to read it.  I honestly don’t know what to say about it other than its stranger than hell, even by Mieville standards.  Not something I could really recommend except for die-hard Mieville fans.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #162 I’m Back!

It seems like forever since I last sat at my keyboard, attempting to write anything, least of all a book review.  But thankfully things have somewhat settled down around my household (not so much in the country or world, but I know I have no control over others and it’s best for my mental well-being and blood pressure to avoid news channels and certain social media for now).  And with the persistent spring rains and cooler weather that just won’t change over to summerlike temps I’ve had a lot of reading time on my hands!

The Week in Books

Kind Nepenthe by Matthew Brockmeyer — 4.5 out of 5 stars

In literature, nepenthe is used to describe a drug or drink that brings forgetfulness or “chases away sorrow.”  Very fitting title for this outstanding novel set in modern Northern California.  Deep in the forested mountains is another world, one of outlaws and drugs, not a place for the faint of heart.  A few of the characters include a young mother trying to create a better life for her child, an ex-con trying to change his ways, and his son who is hell-bent on revenge.  Oh, and there’s ghosts, too!  I would describe this as noir meets the paranormal…and it’s a very good mix.

Penance by Kanae Minato — 4.5 out of 5 stars

Five young girls encounter a stranger at a local park.  One of the girls never makes it home.  Fifteen years later, the now-grown young women tell their stories of what happened that day, and how their own guilt and other feelings, coupled with the curse put upon them by their friend’s grieving mother, has affected their lives (with some surprising outcomes).  Wow, this book!  I went into it totally blind, based on a recommendation from a goodreads friend, and devoured it in two short sittings.  The various POV narratives work well here, as there is not a constant jumping around.  Each characters voice is distinct, and the writing (and translation) is spot-on.  Powerful story, highly recommend.

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes — 4 out of 5 stars

A repair crew in outer space stumble upon a missing luxury spaceliner that had been missing for twenty years.  After deciding to claim the ship as salvage, they board the vessel, only to discover the horrors within.  The story gives off total Alien vibes, but (spoiler alert) there are no exploding alien pods or creatures breaking their way out of human torsos.  It’s fast-paced and addictive reading, and the jump scares were great (hey, if I can feel a jump scare when reading, you know it’s pretty darn good).  Perfect for sci-fi and horror fans.

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Maeve and her cousin Andrea were raised in a cult known as Mother Collective.  After an escape/rescue, Maeve found a home with a new family and lost contact with Andrea until many years later.  Will reconnecting with her cousin be a good thing for Maeve or will her past come back to haunt her?  I’d label this more as a psychological thriller with hints of horror (because the thought of a room full of creepy dolls is definitely horrific).  I enjoyed the story well enough, but Maeve was just too wishy-washy for me.  I don’t mind unlikeable, unreliable MC’s, but I just couldn’t muster up enough “give a crap” to care about her and her outcome.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Beautiful Atrocities by Ross Jeffery — 5 out of 5 stars

I don’t think I’ve ever given the full five stars to a collection/anthology before, but this one totally deserves every star!  Ross Jeffery’s writing is loaded with mood and each disturbing tale draws you in and doesn’t let go, even after the last sentence.  I still can’t stop thinking about a few of these dark stories.  Highly recommend.

Stargazers by LP Hernandez — 4 out of 5 stars

Something strange is happening.  People are drawn out of their houses late at night to gaze up at the stars.  Then these people, the Stargazers, start walking…but where are they going?  What is happening??  Focusing on a war vet named Henry and his wife and child, LP Hernandez weaves a tale of societal breakdown as the Stargazers follow some unnamed force.  Fast-paced and absorbing read, I really enjoyed this one…but I was left wanting more!  I could totally see this being the first in a duology of sorts (hint, hint!).  Great afternoon read, especially for fans of apocalyptic horror.

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

June — Just Because…

I can’t believe we’re at June already, nearly halfway through 2022!  When I was trying to think of a theme for this month, I started reviewing the titles I’ve read so far this year.  Of the 65 titles I’ve finished so far, many of them were “planned” reads of some sort, either NetGalley requests or books I’d picked for my monthly and yearly personal challenges.  So for June, I decided to throw away any planned reading lists and just pick up whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.

But where to begin?  I have a ton of unread books, and who knows how many titles stored on my Kindle, so how do I even narrow down my selections?  Should I go with some indie-published horror that I ordered last month…

…or perhaps one of these titles I recently picked up at a used book store…

…and let’s not forget these recent buys from Thriftbooks!

As of this writing, June 3, I’ve already finished Kind Nepenthe (look for my review in the upcoming Weekly Mash-Up) and I just started Penance , which I will probably finish up this evening, it’s that good!

What will you be reading this month?  Be sure to drop me a line and let’s talk books!

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!