Reading Mash-Up #186 and #187

Well, I could have sworn my RMU 186 was published nearly a couple of weeks ago.  Today when I went to check something I realized it hadn’t gone through…not sure if it was a glitch with the site or with my brain, but I decided to do a bit of cut and paste and combine it with my new one.  I mean, I wouldn’t want anyone to get too used to me posting two RMU’s so close together, haha!

And since it’s Just Because June, be sure to look for titles I’ve added JB to, I’m keeping track of how many I get to this month.

–What I’ve Been Reading–

Whalefall by Daniel Krauss — 5 out of 5 stars

This is the ultimate story of survival, not just physical survival, but mental and emotional as well.  It’s difficult to give a brief synopsis of this one as there are many layers to it, from the physical struggle of surviving being swallowed by a giant sperm whale, to the father/son dynamics that haunt our main character.  What I can say with certainty is that I absolutely loved this story.  I’m still thinking about it nearly a month after finishing it.  This is one of my top five reads for this year, and one that I highly recommend.

The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale — 5 out of 5 stars

I’ve been working my way through Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series and have been putting aside his other works.  Time for me to unfuck that.  The Bottoms is considered Lansdale’s masterpiece, and I wholeheartedly agree.  This coming of age tale set in the 1930’s introduces us to young Harry Collins, his family, and the small East Texas community where he lives (and I can’t forget about Harry’s faithful dog Toby!).  After Harry and his sister discover the body of a black woman in a nearby river, the wheels are set in motion to find out who is behind a string of deadly attacks, including the death of a white woman that leads to terrible and heartbreaking consequences.  I loved the writing, and the characters were well fleshed-out.  Highly recommend.

Bad People by Craig Wallwork — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

The first title in Wallwork’s Tom Nolan trilogy.  This taut thriller involves missing children, a dangerous cult whose specialty is death, a cop-turned-author looking for inspiration, and our protagonist detective Tom Nolan, whose dedication to finding the missing kids will lead him to a literal hell on earth.  I became a fan of Wallwork after reading his collection, Human Tenderloin, and I must say that I have never enjoyed reading stories that give me nightmares more than these.  Bad People is not for the squeamish, but if you’re a fan of horrific fast-paced thrillers, then I highly recommend this one.

Labyrinth of the Dolls by Craig Wallwork — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

(JB1)   The second installment in the Tom Nolan trilogy.  Wallwork doubles down in this one, bringing another depraved villain on board, along with a deeper mystery for Nolan to solve before it’s too late.  I can’t get enough of this series!

Such Pretty Flowers by K. L. Cerra — 4 out of 5 stars

Holly receives a strange message from her brother shortly before his violent death.  Following the funeral, Holly finds herself drawn to her brother’s girlfriend, Maura.  Soon, Holly is trapped in Maura’s tangled web…will it prove fatal for Holly as well?  I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this one as much as I did.  While there were a couple of things that bugged me (personal peeves that I won’t bother going in to), I found myself totally sucked into the story, finishing it in a couple of afternoons.  This is one of those “I don’t know who would like this, but if you’re looking for something different then give it a try” kind of recommendations.

Funeral Songs for Dying Girls by Cherie Dimaline — 3/3.5 out of 5 stars

YA coming of age with some ghosts added to the mix, this is the story of Winifred, who lives with her father in an apartment in the local cemetery (he runs the crematorium).  Packed into 270 pages, we have a ghost girl named Phil, unrequited love, teen angst, family dysfunction, cemetery ghost tours…you get the picture.  I liked the story overall, but it got to a point where I felt like there were too many subplots/themes being explored and no real resolutions.  I did enjoy the author’s writing style, and I am looking forward to checking out more of her work in the future.

Triangle by Hisaki Matsuura — 3/3.5 out of 5 stars

I’ve been on a streak lately of picking up some truly strange books, and this is the latest.  This is another one that is really hard to describe, with a mix of unlikable characters, weird pornographic movies, and “dream” sequences that had me questioning my own mental soundness.  When I have to keep backtracking because I’m asking myself “What the hell is going on?”, then I know I’ve reached peak surreal fever dream experience.

—Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

How the Skin Sheds by Chad Lutzke — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

(JB2)    The latest offering in the Splatter Western series put out by Death’s Head Press.  Garrett finds his sister brutally murdered and his niece alive but emotionally scarred.  With the help of an unlikely friend, Garrett sets out to find his sister’s killer.  Chad Lutzke has a wonderful skill of being able to bring humanity to the horrific.  The story is brutal, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with the characters.  And dammit, Chad, you made this bitter old bitch shed some tears near the end (again!).

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

June — Just Because…

With the month of June upon us, it’s that time when I take a look at my reading goals and see if I need to alter anything.  As usual, it seems like the first five months were filled with books “needing” my attention, being either review copies or titles from my 2023 reading goal.  So, for this month’s theme, I’m going in without any set reading list.  While I do have a couple of ARCs I need to finish, I want to devote most of my June reading time to random titles from my ever-growing TBR piles.  Maybe I’ll start that Kristin Hannah book I’ve been wanting to get to, or maybe I’ll dive into a good mystery series.  Everything is on the table this month, so be sure to check my reading wrap-ups to see which direction I go!

What are your reading goals for June?  Drop me a line and let’s talk books!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!