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!

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!

Reading Mash-Up #185

The days are getting longer and warmer, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to sit outside with some fragrant flowers nearby and a tall glass of tea while catching up on some reading.  A great, relaxing way to tune out all the drama in the world…

—What I’ve Been Reading—

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay — 5 out of 5 stars

One of my February TBR selections.  It may have taken me a couple of months to read this, but I savored every moment spent.  An epic historical fantasy, the author uses the 8th century Tang Dynasty as inspiration for a tale of family honor, betrayal, love, and war.  The characters, including the minor ones, were well-crafted, and the descriptive narration made me feel like I was a fly on the wall witnessing the events unfold.  I originally picked this book up at a used book sale based on the cover alone, and now I feel the need to read more of Kay’s works in the immediate future.  Highly recommend.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James — 4 out of 5 stars

Carly’s aunt Viv disappeared while working at the Sun Down Motel in the early 80’s.  Determined to find out what happened, Carly finds herself in the small town of Fell, working the same shift at the motel that her aunt did.  She soon discovers that the motel and the town are hiding some dark secrets.   This has been on my must-read list since it came out in 2020.  While many list this as horror, I would describe it more like a dark mystery with supernatural elements.  The scenes of the haunted motel are well written, with good pacing and a creepy build-up. If you like a good mystery with some ghosts thrown into the mix, be sure to check this one out.

Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouie — 4 out of 5 stars

I’ve mentioned that I’m a huge fan of found-footage horror movies (think Blair Witch Project or Hell House LLC).  I don’t recall reading very many found-footage style books though.  I’d seen some random mentions of Episode Thirteen online, so when I found a copy at my local library I just had to grab it…and I was not disappointed.  Told through a series of journal entries, letters, and video transcription, we follow the members of the Fade to Black ghost hunting team as they enter an abandoned house to find answers to the strange happenings and disappearances that occurred in the early 1970’s.  They wind up discovering much more than they bargained for.  While I thought it was a little slow to start and I really felt little connection to the characters, I did find myself totally engrossed in the story itself, wanting to turn the pages faster to find out what was going to happen next.  And despite it’s length (400+ pages) it’s a relatively quick read.  A great addition to your Halloween reading list.

Fatal Fudge Swirl by Meri Allen — 4 out of 5 stars

The third installment in Allen’s Ice Cream Shop Mysteries, former CIA librarian Riley Rhodes finds herself playing amateur sleuth when a socialite is found dead on the morning of her Halloween-themed wedding, and Riley’s friend Mary Ann becomes the prime suspect.  This cozy mystery hit all the buttons, and had me staying up way too late playing amateur sleuth myself.  I have not read the first two books in the series, but I had no problems immersing myself in the story and quickly learning the characters (added bonus for the cast of characters at the beginning).  Another bonus for it being autumn/Halloween themed, my favorite!  This is one cozy series I will definitely be following in the future.

Behold the Monster by Jillian Lauren — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Serial killer Samuel Little may not be as well known as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer, but his crimes are no less horrific.  Little confessed to murdering over 90 women, and author Jillian Lauren heard the gruesome details in her jailhouse interviews with the murderer.  Along with the events that she recorded and witnessed, Lauren also adds fictionalized accounts from the victims, and this is where I had issues with the book.  I understand why she chose to do this (she explains in her introduction), but it just felt so over-the-top at times, which would have been fine for a fiction book (something she said she originally wanted to write).  As a true crime junkie, I appreciated the nonfiction aspect, I just wish there had been more of that and less fiction.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw — 3 out of 5 stars

I’m not going to lie, I was totally prepared to hate this as much as I hated Khaw’s last novella, Nothing But Blackened Teeth.  So it was a great surprise to find myself actually kind of liking this one.  Granted, I didn’t know what the hell was going on for most of the story (there’s a man-eating mermaid, her plague doctor traveling companion, some weird “cult,” and lots of body horror), and Khaw’s overdone prose alternated between remarkably brilliant to pretentious and annoying.  Overall, though, I found it intriguing enough to finish in one sitting…and I now wonder if I should check out her other titles or just chalk this up as a win and move along.

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

May — May Flowers

Following April Showers last month, of course I had to continue the theme with May Flowers!  My plan was to find a book or two with either a flowery title or cover.  After searching through my massive TBR piles, I was worried I couldn’t find one.  Then some April book mail came to the rescue!

While the cover may look spring-like with the floral images, this is actually a dark tale that starts with the death of a brother and an obsession (perhaps??) of a florist named Maura who “has a penchant for carnivorous plants.”  Yeah, I don’t see anything going wrong here, ha!

Also up for my TBR list…

…this month’s random pick for my little book club my friend and I started.  I actually just finished this one, look for my review in my next reading mash-up.

I wrapped up April by finishing eleven books, including the two I picked for the monthly theme.  Sadly they were both a bit of a disappointment, but I’m shaking that off and on to the next!

What are your reading goals for May?

Stay safe and Happy Reading!




Reading Mash-Up #184

Good grief, where did this month go?  I actually started this a couple of weeks ago!  I guess now is as good a time as any to finally do some catching up!

–What I’ve Been Reading–

The Two-Bear Mambo by Joe Lansdale — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

Lansdales’ Hap and Leonard series is quickly becoming one of my favorite series, and the third installment is probably the best one I’ve read so far.  The unlikely duo head to east Texas to try and track down a woman named Florida, with whom Hap once had a brief affair.  The results are usual H and L chaos, sprinkled with dark humor and side anecdotes that will make you cringe.  Labeled as “country noir,” this series is not a good fit for everyone, and is far from being “politically correct,” but if you are a fan of well-written action stories that venture into the seedier parts of life and are filled with some pretty  memorable characters, be sure to check this series out.  I do recommend starting with the first book, Savage Season, as a way to get to know the characters, but I’ve been reading the series out of order and haven’t had any problems with ongoing character development, timelines, etc.

The Lizard King by Bryan Christy — 4 out of 5 stars

Subtitled “The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smuggler,” this takes a look at the Van Nostrand family, their internationally-known Florida-based business, Strictly Reptiles, and the multi-billion dollar industry of smuggling exotic reptiles and other animals.  Author Bryan Christy did an excellent job of researching and interviewing, and the writing is fast-paced and engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking.  I have always loved reptiles, and this book will now have me doing even more research and asking more questions on any future purchase I may do.  Highly recommend.

The Ruin Season by Kristopher Triana — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my favorite splatterpunk novelists takes a look at the darker side of mental illness.  Jake is nearly forty, divorced, dating a nineteen-year-old drug addict, and still carrying a torch for his ex-wife.  As his mental illness begins to take a deeper hold, Jake finds himself heading down a very dangerous and disturbing road.  There were a few stereotypical elements thrown in that got a bit worn out as the story went on (as someone who has listened to death metal since the late 1980’s/ early 1990’s, I can tell you from first-hand experience that not everyone who listens to it turns to shooting heroin and pulling trains for low-budget porn movies.  Just sayin’.), but overall this was a truly bleak tale with no fairy tale ending…and one I could NOT put down.  Not the usual gore-fest that is Triana’s trademark, but still with enough gruesome and unsettling scenarios for me to issue a “not for everyone” warning.

The Spite House by Johnny Compton — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Eric and his daughters are running from a mysterious past, and eventually wind up as caretakers at a mysterious haunted mansion in the middle of Texas.  The mansion’s owner is looking for answers behind the supposed haunting.  Will Eric and his daughters make it out unscathed?    I really did enjoy this one, especially since I’m a sucker for a good haunted house story.  And I honestly did not see the reveal coming, it genuinely took me by surprise.  My only problem was the pacing and flow (and this is probably a “just me” issue).  I don’t mind stories with multiple points of view, but I just couldn’t get a good momentum going with this narrative as it just felt choppy (?) to me.   That aside, this is good haunted house story to add to your Halloween reading list, and an author I will be following.

Splinters of Silence by Ann J. Loring — 1.5 out of 5 stars

One of my April TBR selections.  What started out as “not bad” quickly derailed and ultimately earned a spot in my top five worst books I’ve ever read.  A shining example of “just because you can self-publish doesn’t mean you should.”  I took one for the team by finishing this one.  You’re welcome.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Austin Noir — 4 out of 5 stars

Another great addition to the Akashic Noir series!  A strong assortment of stories set in and around Austin, Texas, taking the reader on a journey to the darker side of the city.  I was familiar with a couple of the authors and discovered some great new-to-me authors (one of the reasons I enjoy this anthology series so much is reading authors who would normally not be on my radar).  As with all short story collections, I found some stronger than others, but overall I would give a high recommendation.

Suburban Monsters by Christopher Hawkins — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

A creepy collection of stories dealing with dark desires, hidden secrets, and the depths of human depravity.  These tales run the gamut from bullying to body horror, spousal abuse to weird children’s television shows.  There were some tales that appealed to me more than others (as with any collection), but I truly liked the writing style and the variety.  I was unfamiliar with Hawkins work before this and now I can’t wait to read more by him.

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

April — April Showers/Autism Awareness Month

April is here, spring is finally in the air (even though we just got another couple inches of snow last night), and it’s time to pick another monthly reading theme.

This year I’m going with last year’s theme, April Showers, with books that have titles or covers that tie in to the rainy theme.  The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan  is not the same one that was made into a movie (although, strangely enough, both titles were published within a month of each other).  This story is set in Alaska at the end of World War II, and sounds like a good adventure story with perhaps a bit of romance thrown in.  The Master of Rain by Tom Bradby  is a mystery/crime thriller set in 1926 Shanghai, starting out with the murder of a prostitute, then falling down the rabbit hole of rival gangsters and corruption.

April is also Autism Awareness month, so I decided to add Splinters of Silence by Ann J. Loring to the TBR pile.  This is the story of Ghost, a ten-year-old autistic boy who must flee with his young sister after the murder of their mother.  I just started this last night, only about thirty pages in but so far, not bad.

Also up for this month’s reading is Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, the selection for our “unofficial” NightWorms reading group.

My reading goals for March were kept, with eleven books read, including one of my March “Finish the Damn Series” titles (Stephen King’s End of Watch).

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

Until next time, stay safe, and Happy Reading!

Reading Mash-Up #183

Flower Love GIF by Felicitate88

Got a lot of reading time in the past couple of weeks, so let’s get to it…

–What I’ve Been Reading–

Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars

The story of siblings Anh, Minh, and Thanh told through the decades, from their fleeing Vietnam in 1978, to their relocation from a Hong Kong refugee camp to a London resettlement center, and their life journeys to modern day.   This is a beautifully written story, and will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride (Dao’s chapters absolutely broke my heart).  Highly recommend.

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds by Mark Matthews — 4 out of 5 stars

Kori enters an abandoned psychiatric hospital, a place where her father was last seen being treated, hoping to find some clues to his whereabouts.  What she finds instead is unimaginable horror.    It took me a bit to really get into this story, but once I did, I could not put it down.  There’s some weird stuff happening here (as to be expected with any book set in a psychiatric hospital), and overall is a creepy, frightening read.  There were a couple of things that felt “off” to me, but it may just have been my expectations of what I wanted to happen.  A good starting point for those new to Matthews’ work.

End of Watch by Stephen King — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my March TBR selections.  It’s been a few years since I started the Bill Hodges trilogy (Mr. Mercedes), so I was a bit afraid of some disconnect on my part.  But I have to say, I think this installment was the best of the three.  Brady Hartsfield is still as cunning and evil as ever, and Holly’s character has really grown.  I think King has a certain fondness for inserting telekenesis into his storylines, and I am here for it.  This could possibly be read as a stand-alone, but you would be missing out on the character development that has happened from the start.  Gonna miss you Bill Hodges, but thanks for the ride.

American Overdose:  The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts by Chris McGreal — 4 out of 5 stars

This is a stark look at the making of the opioid epidemic that has destroyed the lives of countless Americans over the last two decades.  McGreal exposes the backstory of corporate greed that fueled the over-prescriptions of dangerously addictive opioids (OxyContin, among others) and their targeting of poorer, undereducated communities.  I found this not only informative, but emotional as well.  Well-researched and accessible writing makes this a must-read.

Beasts of 42nd Street by Preston Fassel — 4 out of 5 stars

So just how fucked up is this story?  Where do I even begin.  Fassel’s tale of junkies, snuff films, and revenge set in 1970’s New York City makes Nic Cage’s movie, 8MM, look like an episode of Sesame Street.  It’s brutal, it’s disturbing, it’s graphic.  I could smell the filthy rooms and back alleyways, I could feel the grime that covered every surface.  This book is not for everyone (fair warning:  if you have any triggers, just walk away now, as this pretty much has them all), but if you like to immerse yourself in depressing stories of depravity, then you really need to check this one out.

Tell the Rest by Lucy Jane Bledsoe — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This novel focuses on Delia, a basketball coach forced to return to her small hometown where she will have to confront her past experiences at a Christian conversion camp.  I liked the book overall and felt it did a good job at addressing the traumas that many have endured at these camps and other forced conversion “therapies.”  But while I appreciated Delia’s story, I would have liked to know more of Ernest’s and Cal’s stories as they seemed to be the ones who bore the brunt of the abuses.

Malorie by Josh Malerman — 3.5 out of 5 stars

One of my March TBR selections.  The follow-up to the hit Bird Box takes up a few years after Malorie and her children found shelter at the school for the blind, then takes another ten-year leap, which is where the main focus of the story is based.  This had been one of my highly anticipated reads as I really liked the first book, but this one was a bit of up-and-down for me.  The story felt disjointed at times, like Malerman wasn’t sure which direction to go.  And there was a certain plot point that kept getting thrown around that I was expecting some grand finale only to have a two sentence blase conclusion.  Overall, I am glad I finally read this one, I was just expecting more.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

The Forbidden by Clive Barker — 4 out of 5 stars

This Barker short is technically a reread for me, but I haven’t read it since the early ’90’s so I don’t remember it, let alone remember it for being the inspiration for the horror movie, Candyman.  I’ve been getting back into Barker’s works after twenty-plus years away from them, and while this short isn’t one of my favorites (so far), it does excel at building suspense and the creepiness factor is right up there.  A good place to start if you’re new to Barker’s work.



Stay safe, and Happy Reading!

Reading Mash-Up #182

After teasing us with some beautiful sunshine last week, Mother Nature brought the snow back, reminding us all there is still a few weeks of winter left.  Thankfully I don’t have to travel in it, giving me plenty of time for books and channel surfing…

–What I’ve Been Reading–

Three-Smile Mile by Chad Lutzke — 4 out of 5 stars

The latest Lutzke is in the house!  This new offering goes in a different direction from Lutzke’s usual style.  Described as a “cat-and-mouse crime thriller,” we meet Cake, a line cook at a small diner.  A snap decision has him on the road with an attractive older woman, driving a classic car filled with stolen money.  An angry husband and murderous criminals round out the characters in this fast-paced, dark, bleak story.  I kept getting True Romance vibes while reading this one.  Great way to spend an afternoon.

Full Immersion by Gemma Amor — 4 out of 5 stars

One of my February TBR selections.  Imagine finding your own dead body on a riverbank, then walking through your memories with a familiar stranger.  Is this a sort of purgatory, or something more sinister?  This latest from Amor is a real trip, and had me guessing up to the end.  There is also a heavy theme of post-partum depression, as Amor mentions in her foreward.  I’m not one to need trigger/content warnings, but I have to say, there were a couple of sentences that brought back the emotions I felt when I went through my own struggles with PPD years ago.  A wild ride, highly recommend.

No Gods For Drowning by Hailey Piper — 3 out of 5 stars

One of my February TBR selections.  Set in a sort of alternate reality, this is a tale of old gods who abandoned humankind, leaving them to become prey to ancient monsters of the sea.  Throw in a serial killer, and that pretty much sums it up.  But it’s not as simple as that.  There is A LOT to digest, and so much is just thrown at the reader quickly and early on, that I found myself wondering if I should keep going or not.  I did finish it, and yeah, in the end it was worth it.  The story itself is truly imaginative, I just had issues with the delivery.

Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies

Tales of Sley House 2022 —3.5 out of 5 stars

One of my February TBR selections.   A lot of new-to-me authors and a wide variety of themes, including tales of aliens, golems, ghosts, and more.  As with most anthologies, I found some stories more to my liking than others, but overall a great way to discover new authors.

Festival by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon — 3 out of 5 stars

A music festival that commemorates an ancient Viking massacre, set at the very same spot where the slaughter took place?  Gee, don’t know what could go wrong with that.   This quick read was pretty entertaining, but I just felt like something was missing, either with the characters or the origin story (maybe both?).  While not my favorite from these authors, still a pretty good way to spend a snowy day.

–What I’ve Been Watching–

Nothing beats a good sitcom to brighten up dark, cold days, so over the past couple of weeks I’ve been catching up on season two of Abbott Elementary and Ghosts.  I just love these shows, they’re light fun that always put a smile on my face!

Stay safe, and Happy Reading!