Reading Mash-Up #189

Summer may not be my favorite season (the heat and the constant fear of local forest fires takes a toll pretty quickly), but I do love the delicious produce that ripens this time of year, as well as enjoying my flowers.  These lilies are in full bloom right now, and they smell heavenly!

What I’ve Been Reading

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my July selections.  I don’t think I’ve read a book in this series that I didn’t like, and this one is no exception.  Two seemingly unrelated deaths takes Kinsey Millhone down a rabbit hole that involves medical research and family secrets.  These nearly 500 pages flew by, and even though it’s been a while since I read the last installment, I quickly fell back into Kinsey’s world.  This can easily be read as a standalone, and a great recommendation for any mystery fan.

Final Girls by Riley Sager — 4 out of 5 stars

I don’t know how I managed to avoid all the spoilers for this wildly popular thriller, but I did and it was worth it.  The plot is probably well known by now so I won’t try to summarize it.  But I will say this–I was hooked from the beginning, and every time I thought I knew where things were going some new curveball would get thrown in.  I am usually pretty hesitant to read popular bestsellers as I go in with high expectations and oftentimes wind up being disappointed.  This one did not disappoint.  A good choice for fans of psychological thrillers.

Daughter of Song by Doug Hood — 4 out of 5 stars

In 2007, seventeen-year-old Panna Krom was found guilty of murder after hiding her pregnancy and the newborn was later found dead.  Several years later, while volunteering for a prison writing group, author Doug Hood met Panna, and, after hearing her story, launched his own personal investigation into the “crime” itself and the inequalities of the judicial system.  This is not entirely about Panna and the legal system.  Hood also interviews Panna’s family, refugees from Cambodia, and takes a look at the generational trauma that Panna grew up with that ultimately lead to the choices she made.  This is a somewhat difficult read due to the subject matter, and truly heartbreaking at times, but it’s one that is thought-provoking and will certainly raise questions about the “fairness” of our legal system.

North County Paranormal Unit by Amanda McCormack — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

The first in a series of novellas that I think has the potential to be a fun addition to my Halloween reading list.  In this installment, we meet the people who make up the North County Paranormal Unit (think Ghost Hunters or the Ghost Adventures team).  There are a few paranormal encounters but the bulk of this story focuses on the character development.  I would label this as “horror lite,” and even with the couple of darker scenes I thought it was more amusing than scary.  Thanks to kindle freebies, I have the rest of the series ready to go and I am looking forward to following their adventures.

Inside the Wolf by Amy Rowland — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Rachel returns to her family’s North Carolina farm, where memories of a childhood friend’s death continues to haunt her.  When another child dies in a similar way, Rachel decides to confront her past and try to make changes to stop similar tragedies in the future.         First I want to say this was beautifully written and the characters, for the most part, were well developed.   While the many issues that were presented were definitely timely and thought-provoking, I felt that some things felt forced, as though they were last minute additions.  There was a lot to unpack in this story, and overall I would recommend it, but with caution.


Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

July — In Memoriam

On June 13, the literary world lost another great with the passing of Cormac McCarthy.  I’ve only read about half of his work, but every single one of those stories have stuck with me.

We’ve lost a few great authors in recent years, so this month I decided to pay tribute to some of my favorites who have passed.

I went through my Anne Rice phase in the 90’s, as did many others after the release of Interview with the Vampire.  As we entered the new millennium, I found my reading tastes changing and I slowly stopped reading her works.  I did not, however, stop collecting the books!  I have seven or eight on my TBR shelves, so it was a difficult decision as to where to restart the journey.  Merrick kept calling out to me, so  I figured a tale that sounds like it combines the worlds of the vampires and the Mayfair Witches would be a good starting point.

Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series featuring one of my favorite characters, Kinsey Millhone, and has been a staple in my mystery reading for years.  Sadly, with Grafton’s passing in 2017, the series was left unfinished.  I’ve been reluctant to read the last three books as I really don’t want the series to end, but part of me also knows that there is no better tribute to a favorite author than reading the stories she shared with the world.

After I pulled Cormac McCarthy’s title from my shelf, I realized it was the third book in his Border Trilogy.  While I’ve read the first book (All the Pretty Horses), I have not read the second one, The Crossing.  I usually don’t mind reading certain series out of order, but knowing McCarthy’s style I have a feeling I better track down the second book before diving into Cities of the Plain.

I know that realistically I will only be able to finish two of these this month, but all three will be read by the end of the year.

As for June…

I was able to finish seven books for my personal “Just Because” goal.  I was hoping for five and aiming for ten so I’m happy with falling in the middle.  I’m still behind on my Goodreads goal, but hoping to catch up and get ahead in my upcoming 31 Books of Halloween.

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

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Reading Mash-Up #188

Wow, halfway through the year!  I did a quick review of the 2023 reading goals I set for myself.  I am a bit behind on my Goodreads challenge (eight books!  Normally I would be ahead of the game by now).  Even though I’m behind, I’ve noticed my selections, on average, have been rated higher than the past few years.  I must be getting pickier in my “old” age.

June 30 not only marked the year’s half-way mark, but was also “Stuff Your Kindle” day on Amazon, and I made sure to take full advantage of all the freebies that were offered.  Thank goodness I had cleared up some storage not too long ago as I picked up over twenty new titles, mainly mysteries, horror, and a couple of cozies.  Now to find the time for them all!

—What I’ve Been Reading—

The Ghost of Stormer Hill by Craig Wallwork — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars

(JB 3)  The amazing finale to the Tom Nolan trilogy.  Detective Nolan has gone through a lot of shit to get to this point, and things aren’t about to get any easier.  This series has kept me on the edge of my seat, and while the ending wasn’t what I hoped for, I can’t think of a more appropriate finale.  If you’re a fan of fast-paced thrillers (fair warning: a lot of violence and triggers!), be sure to check this trilogy out.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(JB4)    Alternating between past and present, we learn the story of Lane and her truly messed-up family.  This is basically a watered-down version of a VC Andrews novel, complete with the whole incest/inbreeding,  “innocence lost” plot line.  The mystery behind the disappearance of Lane’s cousin is pretty good and kept me guessing up to the end.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(JB 5)  Sometimes I do take a break from all the dark and gloomy stuff I tend to read, and this has been sitting on my TBR shelf for some time, calling my name.  I wasn’t very familiar with the story, just a bit from snippets I’ve seen from the movie, so I didn’t know what to expect.  I don’t know if reading a story about a guy who doesn’t seem to want to grow up and who can’t get over certain relationships was really the distraction I was looking for, but it was entertaining and not a bad way to spend a couple of lazy afternoons.

The Boatman’s Daughter by Andy Davidson — 3.5 out of 5 stars

(JB 6)  I had a hard time deciding how to rate this one.  It’s the story of Miranda, a young woman caught up in the local crime ring, a bayou witch, a strange little boy Miranda rescued many years earlier, and a sinister preacher.  The writing is lush (yes, I’m actually using that word, it’s truly appropriate here) and the overall storyline is quite good.  Surprisingly, where I had a problem, was when the mystery/thriller elements collided with the supernatural.  Events would be unfolding and tensions running high when suddenly some otherworldly creature or happening would pop up.  It just felt a bit off for me.  Of course, this could have been my reading mood just not being at the right place for this particular story.  Even though it was a bit off for me, I would still give this a solid recommendation.

Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

Only took me 8++ months to slog through this one!!  I never thought I would rate a Stephen King novel so low, but here we are.  I’m used to the verbose writing styles of both authors, but…good lord!  I will say the last hundred pages were (somewhat) worth the wait and I found myself flying through them.

—Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Shooting Star by Joe Lansdale — 3 out of 5 stars

(JB 7)   Joe Lansdale has made his literary mark with the Hap and Leonard series as well as his highly acclaimed titles like The Bottoms, The Thicket, and Edge of Dark Water.  I don’t think this title will make the list of being one of his best, but it was a fun little novella, reminding me of a cheesy 1950’s sci fi movie mixed with some classic Twilight Zone.  Not a high recommendation, but a quick little read if you need an alien invasion story fix.

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!