Weekly Mash-Up #172

First, this year brought me a six-month-long reading slump.  Now that seems to be in the past, but a writing slump has now taken hold.  I’ve sat down to write this blog at least ten times in the past week and have drawn complete blanks every time. Sigh.

On the plus side, my favorite time of year is here!  And with that comes some great reads!

The Week in Books

The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars

(H  8/31)  Mario takes a job as a hit man in order to pay the medical bills for his young daughter.  When tragedy tears his family apart, he finds himself on a journey into the violent world of drug cartels, helping an associate hijack a cash shipment in exchange for a cut and hope for a fresh start in life.  But will Mario wind up losing his soul?  I would describe this as barrio noir meets the supernatural.  It’s dark, bleak, and disturbing, and the supernatural elements made my skin crawl.  I read one of the the author’s earlier works, Coyote Songs, a while back and knew this was an author to watch.  The Devil Takes You Home may be a brutal read, but it’s one that I highly recommend.

Anybody Home? by Michael Seidlinger — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

(H  9/31)  This is one creepy-ass story that will have you double-checking your locked doors on a regular basis.  The premise: our unnamed narrator is walking you through the planning and execution (no pun intended) of a home invasion and the bloody aftermath.  The kicker is this is all being filmed (presumably for some twisted televised series).  The thought of someone breaking into my home is bad enough, and this takes that fear to a whole new level.  Highly recommend, but fair warning:  not a great selection for bedtime reading!

Dead Leaves by Andrew David Barker — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H  10/31)  This “love letter to the horror genre” takes place in October 1983, when British parliament was vilifying horror movies, and three teen friends were hell-bent on getting an elusive copy of the movie, The Evil Dead.   A very nostalgic look at the ’80’s and the growing pains of facing adulthood.

The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson — 3 out of 5 stars

(H  11/31) One of my September selections.  Strange things start happening in a small town, directly linked to a large biotech company.  A small group of teens fight for survival in this violent new reality.  This was one that I thought I would enjoy a lot more than I did.  Characters, pacing, and storyline were okay, but I felt there should have been a bit more explanation for the mysterious company and these experiments.  I also wasn’t sure if this was meant to be marketed as a YA or adult novel (the set-up felt like a YA novel but the violence was definitely for more “mature” horror readers).

Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight by Riku Onda — ??? out of 5 stars

Set during the course of one night, Aki and Hiro spend their last evening together in their shared apartment, wondering what the other did during an earlier ill-fated mountain trek.  Is one of them a murderer?   Okay, this hooked me from the beginning as I love a good psychological thriller and unreliable characters.  It was great until…it wasn’t??  There came a point that I seriously thought some pages went missing or that I totally overlooked something from an earlier chapter.  The ending left me feeling both unsatisfied and confused.  Overall not bad, just not the thriller I was expecting.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Unquiet Spirits:  Essays by Asian Women in Horror — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H  12/31)  Twenty-one essays blending themes of family, loss, and identity with spirits/ghosts of Asian folklore.  While this wasn’t what I was expecting, I did enjoy these very personal writings, as well as the backstories of the Asian spirits  and their roles in various cultures.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #171

Autumn is almost here!

After another loooonnng summer of hot weather and forest fires, it’s nice to feel that change in the air and to see the leaves starting to change colors.  I’ve started to decorate my house with autumnal colors…and a few spooky things have found their way out of storage already!

And my reading has taken a bit of an uptick with my 31 Books of Halloween.  I still feel like I’m on the edge of another reading slump, but hopefully I can keep it at bay with some great Halloween-inspired reads.

The Week in Books

The Forest by Lisa Quigley — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H 3/31)  The community of Edgewood holds an annual fall festival, giving offerings to the surrounding forest for continued safety.  As Faye and her husband are about to take over as the town stewards, Faye discovers the forest really needs a more sinister sacrifice.    I really enjoyed this one from the start, as it really brings the tension and surrounds you with the creepy atmosphere.  I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending, which leaves this in limbo at 3.5/4.  Part of me felt it was rushed, part of me felt it was too…convenient?  No matter my opinion on the ending, this is one I would definitely recommend adding to your Halloween reading list.

Killer Pizza:  The Slice by Greg Taylor — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H 4/31)  This middle grade/YA tale is about three teens who work at a local pizza place called Killer Pizza, which just happens to be a front for a company that hunts down monsters.  This fast paced story is the second in the series, but can easily be read as a stand-alone (however, I think if I had read the first one I may have had more interest in the main characters).  Something about this story reminded me of the Scooby Doo shows, only with more cartoonish  gross moments.  A good starting point for budding young horror enthusiasts.

Pearl by Josh Malerman — 3 out of 5 stars

(H 5/31)  What better way to start out the Halloween reading season than with a creature feature novel featuring a sinister telepathic pig?!?  If you have fond memories of the beloved Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, well, these pigs will certainly become your nightmare fuel.  It’s not my favorite of Malerman’s works, but this fast-paced tale offers all the horror that a good creature feature should have.

The Doctor’s Demons by Maria Abrams — 3 out of 5 stars

(H 6/31)  Hannah Cohen is a child psychologist who discovers a knack for dealing with possessed children.  Then a new challenge comes her way…   I am a big fan of possession/exorcism horror and I was really looking forward to this one.  Sadly, it just fell flat in a big way for me.  There was great potential with this storyline, and there were some memorable moments, but I just couldn’t muster up any give a shit for the main character.  And don’t get me started on all of the editing mistakes!  Using the wrong names, misspellings, grammar errors, it just became annoying after a bit (please note I did not deduct any stars for the mistakes, otherwise this would have been a 1.5/2 star rating).

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

No Good Deed by Angela Slatter — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H 7/31)  Angela Slatter has created a fantastical world known as Sourdough, and this chap-book was not only a great introduction for me to this series but also to Slatter’s beautiful writing.  This story is deeply rooted in fantasy but with creepy twists like vengeful ghosts and animated skeletons.  I’d been curious about the Sourdough series, and after this quick read I am now looking forward to reading more tales of fantasy and horror.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #170

Don’t forget to look for my Halloween reading countdown in the coming weeks, marked with Hx/31!

The Week in Books

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good — 3 out of 5 stars

The story of five Indigenous children taken from their families and sent to a  church-run residential school, and their lives afterwards dealing with the demons brought on by the horrific abuse by those in charge of the school.  Sadly, this sort of thing happened way too often to Native children in both the U.S. and Canada, and today the number of children who never made it out of the schools are just beginning to surface.  I feel that this is an important book to read.  My three star rating is based solely on my personal dislikes for some of the stereotypical actions and characters (almost like there was a checklist to make sure certain things were present).  This is a difficult book to read at times due to the abuse and neglect (among other things) but one I would recommend.

Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich — 3 out of 5 stars

One of my August TBR selections.  The eleventh installment in the long-running series featuring goofy bounty hunter Stephanie Plum offers up the same ol’ stuff as the previous ten books…and I think I’m starting to get a little bored with it.  We have the same ol’ love triangle, the same ol’ car bombings, same ol’ bail jumpers who try to outsmart everyone, you get the picture (of course, the comedic relief of sidekicks Lula and Grandma Mazur are always welcome).  When I first started the series, I loved the quirkiness.  Now, it just seems like cut and paste comedy.  I have a few more of the series in my tbr pile, I’m not sure at this point if or when I will ever get to them as I feel they will probably continue to be the same scenarios, just a different day in the burg.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Hatred by C.A. Gleason — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

(H1/31)  A musician looking to make a few bucks finds an ad in the paper for a housesitter.  After being accepted for the job, he arrives, expecting to make an easy $5000.  What he doesn’t know is the owner has other plans…   A fast read that was the perfect kickoff for my Halloween reading marathon.  There was good buildup and lots of creepiness.  I would have liked to know a bit more about Abby, I think that would have added another layer of horror.

Claire’s Apocalypse by K.T. Rose — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(H2/31)  Claire is the lead scientist behind a top secret government experiment, nine years in the making.  After the program is cut, she decides to quit…and take this deadly secret with her, to sell to the highest bidder.  What hell will be unleashed if put in the wrong hands?  Another solid short story that involves a heavy buildup to the final few terrifying paragraphs.  If you’re familiar with any story or movie that involves government experiments you’ll probably guess early on what’s coming.  Still, a great read to add to your Halloween short story list.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

September — Sci fi and Scary/The 31 Books of Halloween Begins!

Yay, it’s September, and you know what that means…my third annual 31 Books of Halloween personal reading challenge has commenced!  The most difficult part is where to start?!?!

There’s this cart brimming with tempting titles…

…and this assortment of classic and modern terror…

…and I can’t forget about these from two masters of horror…

Plus there is my theme for September, Sci Fi and Scary!  So, after much consideration and some help from my son, I picked these three to start out the month.

Dead Space sounds like a perfect sci fi and scary selection.  Hester is forced to take a dead-end job in security for a large company in the asteroid belt.  A friend from her past is murdered at an asteroid mine, and she sets out to uncover the truth.  Of course, that may not be in her best interests.

The Loop is described as Stranger Things meets World War Z, and I am here for it!  A small tourist town (in my little corner of the world, no less) is also home to a biotech firm.  A strange outbreak starts to infect everyone, and a group of local misfits struggle to survive while exposing the dangerous company.

The Forest sounds like true small town terror.  The citizens of Edgewood believe their autumnal tithes keep the darkness from the nearby forest at bay.  But Faye finds out about the real offering the sinister forest craves…

Never fear, my reading list is not all dark and creepy.  I also have some Halloween/autumn themed cozies and a couple of YA titles that look entertaining.  Be sure to track my progress in my weekly updates (look for x/31).

What will you be reading this month?  Drop me a line and let’s talk books!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!