Monday Mash-Up #006

Ah, winter.  Mother Nature’s gift that keeps on giving, whether we like it or not!  And this was pretty much how I was feeling last Tuesday and Wednesday…..

While in hibernation mode this past week, I found myself catching up on some television shows.  Anyone else watching I Am the Night?  Great series.  My guilty pleasure has been The Masked Singer……I even had a couple of correct guesses!

I’ve been a bit restless with my reading, finding it difficult to focus on any of the ones I’ve started.  I did finish up a few:

San Diego Noir — 3 out of 5 stars.   Another title in the Akashic Noir series, one of my favorite series going.  This one started out strong, but about halfway through I found the stories becoming a bit lackluster.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe — 3 out of 5 stars.  A classic that I had on my 2019 to-read list.  Overall, yeah, it was good and I understand why this is on many reading lists.  It just didn’t grab me like I thought it would.  I do think I should reread it when I’m more focused, as I may not have given it the chance it deserves.

Stalking the Dragon by Mike Resnick — 4 out of 5 stars!  This was a fun romp through an alternate Manhattan, complete with a miniature dragon named Fluffy, a living wax museum, zombie bodyguards, and a sassy cell phone (yes, you read that correctly).  Added bonus:  it takes place on Valentine’s Day, perfect reading for the 14th!

Have a great week, and, as always, Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Review– Among the Lost

4 out of 5 stars

There are times when I finish a book and wonder what the hell I just read—was it truly brilliant or merely crap adorned with random acts of brilliancy?

In the case of Among the Lost by Emiliano Monge, I can honestly say I’m not sure, but I liked it.

The stark narrative involves human trafficking and illegal immigration, a hot-button issue nowadays.  Among the Lost does not go into the politics, rather it goes to the underbelly, the reality that mainstream media usually doesn’t acknowledge.  There are those wishing for a better life and willing to pay, only to find out their life is payment.  There are the traffickers and their “employees” and a sadistic priest as well.  Strangely enough, there is also a love story between two of those who “survived” and now find themselves wanting the same freedom that those they kidnap and trade wanted as well.

Surreal, disturbing, and dark.     And I totally recommend.

Thank you to librarything Early Reviewers giveaways and Scribe Publications for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

 

Monday Mash-Up #005

Almost didn’t get this posted today due to this:

   

Nearly two feet of snow in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest!  It had the internet satellite covered and I really didn’t want to climb up on the roof to clear it out!

My outdoor cat, Mister Sissy, always seems to enjoy the snow, more than my dogs do!

 

I also think Mister Sissy had more fun in the snow today than I did reading a few of my book choices this past week!

What I finished this past week:

In the Mouth of the Dragon by Myriam Millan— 2 out of 5 stars.  This sounded promising and started out pretty good, but by page 150 I was beginning to get bored, by page 250 I was getting annoyed, and by page 350 I was wondering how the hell this could go on for yet another 100+ pages!  Not recommended.

Bitter Bronx by Jerome Charyn—  2 out of 5 stars.  A collection of short stories based in the Bronx, New York City.  The last couple of stories were pretty good but the rest just didn’t work for me (lack of substance being the main reason).

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas—  3 out of 5 stars.  I went into this one thinking is was about Japanese internment camps during WWII, but this is more about the various characters in a small town that just happens to have one of these camps.  Not bad but pretty slow going.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller—  3 1/2 out of 5 stars.  I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would, even needed a tissue or two towards the end.  Miller has a gift for prose but at times it just seemed overdone, leading to me putting it aside for a day or two.

Among the Lost by Emiliano Monge—   4 out of 5 stars!  A full review is coming soon for my latest giveaway win.

And since the snow is starting up again, I will say goodbye for now before the internet goes out.  Have a great week and Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #004

Well, it took awhile, but we finally got our first snow here in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest.  And what better way to spend a snowy afternoon than curled up with a mug of tea and a great book!

This past week’s reading was a bit of a mixed bag:

The Battlemage by Taran Matharu— 4 out of 5 stars.  A great finish to a great trilogy!

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin— 4 out of 5 stars.  The author’s own autism gives her a unique perspective on how animals perceive things.

Buddha Baby by Kim Wing Keltner—  2 out of 5 stars.  There are reasons why I don’t read a lot of “chick lit” and this book reminded me of all of them.  It wasn’t completely terrible, just not my thing.

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach—  2 out of 5 stars.  This had the potential to be a good story, but the non-stop bantering about peeing, vomiting, and the narrator’s twice-daily masturbation habit quickly turned annoying as hell.  I just about quit reading when Ivan was more upset about not feeling like masturbating than he was about his “girlfriend’s” terminal illness.  There were enough good moments to keep this from being a 1 star read but not enough for me to recommend it to anyone.

A Stark and Wormy Knight by Tad Williams—  3 out of 5 stars.  A mixed bag of short stories with some falling flat and some worthwhile reads.  I think Williams is much better with full-length novels and I’ll stick to those in the future.

In Search of Hope by Mariane Pearl—  5 out of 5 stars!!!  Mariane Pearl’s husband, journalist Daniel Pearl, was brutally murdered by Islamic extremists in 2002.  Instead of retreating from the world, she set out to find hope in some of the most tragic and hostile conditions.  This is a beautiful book with pictures from her travels around the globe, meeting with seemingly ordinary women who have found the strength and courage to fight against impossible odds.  Highly recommend!!

 

The snow is still falling and the wind is picking up; time for me to brew that tea and decide what world I want to escape to.

Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #003

I can’t believe January is almost over!  While most of my New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned (as usual!!) at least I’ve been keeping up with my reading!

I was able to finish up a few books this past week:

Valiant— 4 out of 5 stars.  I was pleasantly surprised by this YA fantasy, will definitely be checking out more of Holly Black’s work!

On the other hand…..

The Dinosaur Lords— 2 1/2 stars out of 5.  Very disappointing.  The battle scenes were well-written but the rest was slow-moving and booooring!  I’ve been told the rest of the trilogy gets better but I’m not going to waste my time.  On the plus side, the artwork by Richard Anderson is fantastic!

Naked–4 out of 5 stars.  A great combination of humor and pathos.

The Orphan’s Tale—  4 out of 5 stars.  Beautifully written.  There were a few times the melodrama went a bit overboard but overall a great read.

Food and the City–3 1/2 stars out of 5.  I wrote a full review of this one on January 26, make sure to check it out!

 

Once again I have several books going at one time, I just couldn’t get settled into any particular one.

Animals in Translation—  An interesting look at animal behavior as seen through the eyes of an autistic woman.

Buddha Baby—  I don’t read a lot of “chick lit” but I thought this one sounded funny.

Among the Lost—  My latest giveaway win arrived a few days ago and I couldn’t wait to start it!

The Battlemage—  Book three in the YA fantasy series.  More demons, yay!!

A Stark and Wormy Knight—  A collection of short fantasy stories.

 

Have a fantastic week, and Happy Reading!

Review–Food and the City by Ina Yalof

3 1/2 stars out of 5

 

When it comes to food culture, I would like to think I know my way around.  I worked in the restaurant industry for nearly 20 years, from fine dining to busy coffee shops.  Most of that time was spent as a server but I also did my share of mixing cocktails, bussing tables, washing dishes, prepping food, and (on a few occasions I would like to forget) cooking breakfast and lunch.

The late Anthony Bourdain is still my hero.  The Food Network Channel is my go-to television choice.  And I love reading about the hard living behind the scenes, of the struggles a chef had before becoming a chef.

I think that’s what missing from Food in the City…..the darker realities behind the successes.  All of the stories show that the adage “work hard and you will succeed” is true, and that is fine and dandy, but I wanted more.   Since it was New York City, I guess I was expecting a grittier take on the restaurant business.  Most of the stories seemed to center around 5 star restaurants or caterers who work for the rich and famous.  What about that Mom and Pop diner with the best meatloaf or the hot dog vendor who’s held down the same corner spot for 20 years?  I am always impressed by those who can land an executive chef job at a young age but what about the deli workers and diner servers who have worked hard at the same hole-in-the-wall for years?  Those were the stories I was looking for and, sadly, did not find very many in this collection.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading these quick 3-6 page stories from some of the top in the New York City food scene.  But after awhile it started to seem like the same story, just a different name and restaurant attached.  A person could easily pick 15 or so at random and have the full effect of the book.

Overall, Food and the City wasn’t bad and I would say give it a try.  For me, it just didn’t deliver the figurative punch I was expecting from a food expose.

Giveaway Win!

Thank you to librarything’s Early Reviewers giveaways and Scribe Publications for sending me a copy of Among the Lost by Emiliano Monge!

From Scribe Publications media release:

In the desolate wastelands between the sierra and the jungle, under an all-seeing, unforgiving sun, a single day unfolds as relentlessly as those that have gone before.  People are trafficked and brutalized, illegal migrants are cheated of their money, their dreams, their very names even as countless others scrabble to cross the border, trying to reach a land they call Paraiso.

In this grim inferno, a fierce love blossomed–one that was born in pain and cruelty, and one that will live or die on this day……”

I’ve already read the first two chapters and I am completely mesmerized!  Review coming soon!

Monday Mash-Up #002

Happy Monday everyone!

I am still working on my formatting and styles for my future posts, as well as searching through WordPress for Dummies for technical help and hints.  If you see something you like or have a suggestion for me feel free to leave a comment!

Here is my book pile I am currently working through:

While making progress on Food and the City and The Dinosaur Lords, I also recently started these other titles:

The Orphan’s Tale–I picked this up last night and didn’t want to put it down!  Great storytelling so far, I have a feeling I may need a kleenex or two before the end.

Naked–A collection from one of my favorites, David Sedaris.

Valiant–YA fantasy set in New York, dark and fast-paced.

 

Last week, the rain and cold returned to my little corner of the Pacific Northwest, giving me plenty of opportunities to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book.  Here are the titles I finished this past week:

The Ritual— 4 1/2 stars out of 5!!!  I loved this book!  The build-up in the first half was fantastic!  There were a few slow and awkward moments that slowed down the momentum, otherwise a great addition to the horror genre!  Highly recommend.

The Sound and the Fury— 3 1/2 stars out of 5.  I reread Faulkner’s classic for a Goodreads group monthly selection.  I do have a better appreciation for it now than when I first read it in high school.  Would I recommend it?  Maybe, depending on your level of patience and need for a good challenge.

Everything I Never Told You— 4 out of 5 stars.  Definitely one of the more depressing books I’ve read in awhile, but one I couldn’t put down.

Wild East— 3 out of 5 stars.  A bit of a disappointment.  The historical aspects were interesting, as were the current political and socioeconomic commentaries.  However, the author’s personal experiences were boring and came across as whiny.  She seemed to complain about everything, be it food, weather, or local sporting events.  The only time she seemed happy was when she was hanging out at bars with other expats.  The factual writing saved this from being a two star read.

Sunset City— 2 out of 5 stars.  Another disappointment.  I thought this would be more of a mystery/thriller.  Instead you have a main character who drinks too much, snorts too much coke, then sleeps with everyone she meets (oh yeah, she’s upset about her best friend’s murder, almost forgot about that).  You could probably head straight to the last 20 pages and have a better reading experience than slogging through the entire mess.

The Big Sleep (not pictured)— 5 out of 5 stars!  The classic by Raymond Chandler introduces us to hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe and I think is a must-read for any mystery or noir fiction fan.

Have a great week, and as always, Happy Reading!

 

 

Monday Mash-Up #001

The holidays are over, the decorations put away.  Now it’s time to settle in and catch up with everything book-related!

I’m introducing Monday Mash-Up, a weekly post to share what I’m currently reading and what I’ve finished over the past week.  And so, to start off 2019, here is my current reading pile:

(And yes, that is a beautiful sunshine reflection here in normally rainy and grey western Washington state!)

The Sound and the Fury–I am rereading for a Goodreads group.  I first read it in high school many years ago and didn’t care for it then.  Sadly, I’m still not a fan, but thanks to modern google searches I can at least understand it more than I did in the ’80’s!

The Dinosaur Lords–Dinosaurs and humans living alongside each other.  Humans struggling for domination of the kingdom.  Great fantasy premise but a bit slow-going.

The Ritual–I couldn’t wait for Halloween to read this one!  Great build-up!

Wild East–Just started last night, so far it’s been a bit of travelogue mixed with history lesson.

Food and the City–Another one I just started.  A series of interviews with various New Yorkers involve in some way with the food industry.

I will start adding completed titles next week.

Have a great week, and Happy Reading!

 

Review—Sydney Noir

4 stars out of 5

Another great addition to the Akashic Noir series, and thank you for the copy in exchange for an honest review!

Whenever I read a short story collection, I expect a few to be underwhelming. This was not the case with Sydney Noir. There was a wide variety of themes, ranging from apparent daddy issues (“Birthday Present” by Mandy Sayer) to prison justice (“In Court of the Lion King” by Mark Dapin). And after reading “The Razor” by Robert Drewe I can honestly say that my husband and I are thankful we aren’t that close to our family members!

If you haven’t picked up one of these books, Sydney Noir is a great place to start.

I received this book from librarything’s early reviewer giveaway.