Weekly Mash-Up #177

Happy Thanksgiving!  This year has certainly been up and down for me, but even when the downs left me feeling trapped and alone, I tried to remind myself of the good things.  I’ll admit it was very difficult a lot of the time, but taking regular breaks from social media and refocusing my attention has done wonders.

So as we start the holiday season, I just wanted to say thank you.  I’m truly looking forward to continuing to share my love of books with you!  I’ve even been toying with some new ideas, so stay tuned!

The Week in Books

Gothic by Philip Fracassi — 4 out of 5 stars

In this creepy novel, horror author Tyson Parks receives an antique desk for his birthday. Little does he know the evil behind this seemingly innocent gift, and the lengths one person will go to reclaim it.  There was a lot I liked about this story, from the pacing and characters, to The Shining vibes.  The one thing that threw it off a bit for me was the backstory.  I thought it felt out of place and didn’t have the same “feel” as the rest.  Overall, highly recommend.

Children of Sugarcane by Joanne Joseph — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Historical fiction set in the late 1800’s, this is the story of Shanti, who leaves her family home in India to avoid an arranged marriage and, thinking that she has found a new beginning, instead becomes an indentured laborer at a South African sugar plantation.  I appreciate the research the author did to recreate these places and events.  I liked the overall story, but at times the dialogue felt stilted, and certain plot points felt watered down.  While these certain technical aspects were not to my personal liking, I would recommend this novel.

A Stain on the Silence by Andrew Taylor — 3 out of 5 stars

James finds out he has a daughter from an affair he had twenty-five years earlier.  Not only does he have this new-found daughter, but she’s pregnant and on the run for murder…     There was a lot to unpack with this mystery/thriller.  From the backstory of the affair, to the backstory within the backstory of a tragedy kept secret for years, to the present day “whodunit” involving half-siblings and a missing man, it just got to the point of absurdity.  Still, a pretty quick read, and even with all of the strange twists a pretty decent mystery.

The Complete Book of Ghosts by Paul Roland — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

To say this book was a disappointment would be an understatement.  I was excited to read this collection of true ghostly encounters and haunted places, especially for Halloween, but I thought the writing was dry and uninspired, and many of the “true” tales were just rehashed urban legends.  There were a few interesting bits, but I found myself so bored with the writing that I wound up skimming through the last 200 or so pages.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Human Tenderloin by Craig Wallwork — 4 out of 5 stars

These short stories offer a wide range for horror fans, from bleak to disturbing, to darkly humorous.  As with all collections, some stories resonated with me more than others, but all were solid and well crafted.  I honestly don’t know how I’ve only just found out about Craig Wallwork (I just read my first intro to his work, Heart of Glass, a couple of weeks ago). After finishing this short story collection I can honestly say I am a fan and can’t wait to dig into more of his works in the near future!



Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #176

I’m writing this on the eve of general elections here in the states, and trying not to be too morbid, but knowing that the fate of our democracy is at stake (not rhetorically but realistically) has had me on edge for a while now.  Books have been my escape my entire life, but the past few days even more so as I try to distance myself from toxic doomscrolling and focus on what’s important.  Our national Thanksgiving holiday just a couple weeks away, and that has also helped me remember what is important in life.  No matter what happens in the next few days/weeks, please remember that I write and offer this blog as a safe space for everyone.  Feel free to share book recs and have  conversations with me…unless you are a neo-nazi facist-loving maga supporter, in which case…get the fuck off my page.

The Week in Books

Heart of Glass by Craig Wallwork — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

I can’t remember how I stumbled across this title (perhaps a promo of sorts on the bird app), but I am so glad I did.  My introduction to Wallwork’s writing was a great blend of dark and twisted, with a side of severe family dysfunction and unexpected twists.  If you like twisted love stories (I kept thinking of Natural Born Killers, even though this would have been the kindergarten version of that movie), then be sure to check this one out.  I will definitely be looking for more of Wallwork’s stories in the future.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

They Were Here Before Us by Eric LaRocca — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars

Any author who can craft stories that horrify me on one page then brings tears to my eyes on the next deserves all the stars.  This “novella in pieces” combines brutality and beauty, showing the pain we are willing to endure for love, no matter the form.  Fair warning:  these stories are not for everyone.  If after reading the “Word of Warning” at the beginning of the book you are still willing to turn the page, prepare yourself for a reading experience that will haunt you for some time to come.   A truly unique piece of work from a truly gifted author.  Highly recommend.

An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell — 3 out of 5 stars

The final story of the Kurt Wallander series, originally written to be given away at a local event, and the final writing before Henning Mankell’s death in 2015.  While not my favorite in the series, there is something a bit heartbreaking when you know you’re reading the good byes of both character and author.  The mystery itself is pretty straight-forward, it just felt almost forced at times and like something was missing (and after reading the afterward from the author, I understand why).  Overall decent mystery, I think meant for superfans of the series.

Man Made Monsters by Andrea Rogers — 3 out of 5 stars

A collection of short stories that connects a family from the 1800’s into the not-so-distant future (however, I have to admit, I would never had seen the connection if it hadn’t been pointed out to me).  As with most collections, some tales were stronger than others.  Overall, I would recommend, but for me it just wasn’t what I expected after reading the blurb.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!