Weekly Mash-Up #75 Rain, Rain, Go Away

The calendar says it’s almost summer…..it certainly doesn’t seem like it around here!!

This pretty much sums up the past few weeks!  On the plus side, with all the rain I don’t feel guilty about sitting on my butt and catching up on some of my TV shows, namely Killing Eve, What We Do in the Shadows, and Schitt’s Creek.  My gardening plans may have been put on hold, my yard may be starting to look like a jungle, but as long as I have some good movies and TV shows, some mindless housework to pass the time, and plenty of popcorn in the cupboard, I can patiently wait for the sun to make it’s summertime appearance.

And there’s always the books!

The Week In Books

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward — 5 out of 5 stars!

The fictional story of a family in the days before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina.  Ward writes with such raw honesty, mixing life’s brutal realities with love and heartbreak.  I highly recommend this one.

Fish Out of Agua by Michele Carlo — 3 out of 5 stars

Carlo shares her story of growing up with feelings of not belonging, both within her tight-knit Puerto Rican family and in life in general.  Some of the stories were funny, some highlighted the family angst, but after a while it started to get a bit repetitive.

Villains By Necessity by Eve Forward — 2.5 out of 5 stars

I’m always up for a good epic fantasy but….I don’t know if this was a situation of wrong book, wrong time or if the story really was as sub-par as I thought.  It started out pretty good, but by the middle I had to force myself to pick it up, then force myself to actually open the book and read!  While some of the characters were intriguing, even fun, I thought there were too many holes in the plot and scene jumping to allow for the story to progress smoothly.

—————————————————————-

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #73 and #74

Hello again!  I’m hoping this finds you all safe and well.

With all the crises going on right now, not only nationally but world-wide, I thought we could all use a bit of kitten zen…….

Last week, I really felt like I couldn’t write anything, let alone read.  I still feel like I’m at a loss for words for pretty much anything, positive or negative, but at least my reading concentration came back, and at full force.  Here’s what I managed to finish since the last update……

The Week in Books

What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan — 4 out of 5 stars!

I’ll admit, I was surprised with how much I liked this book.  I’ve read several “child goes missing, parent is blamed” stories over the past few years with mixed results, but this one just felt different from the beginning.  I think it helped that this is the first in a series featuring Detective Jim Clemo, giving it more the air of a mystery rather than a melodrama gone awry.  A good, solid story that kept me guessing until the end, and I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series.

The Crooked Heart of Mercy by Billie Livingston — 4 out of 5 stars!

If you’re looking for an uplifting, happy, fun read… this isn’t it.  This is a tale of loss, grief, family dysfunction, heartbreak, and the power of love.  A thoroughly depressing story but still one that I would recommend.

The Midwives by Duncan Ralston — 4 out of 5 stars!

Much different from Ralston’s Ghostland which I recently read, in that this focuses more on the story-telling over the gore.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still some vivid scenes, but fewer and far between.  It’s almost folkloric in a way, with an ancient evil and some pretty creepy old ladies reigning over a small East Coast island.  I thought it was a little slow at times, but that could also be due to the mindset I was in and the lack of concentration I had at times over the past couple of weeks.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng — 3 out of 5 stars

I try to avoid over-hyped bestsellers for as long as possible.  But I had enjoyed Ng’s Everything I Never Told You so I went against my own counsel and, well…….at least it didn’t suck.  There were enough good moments to keep this floating at 3 stars, but I hated most of the characters and I grew tired of the overdone melodrama pretty quickly.

Novellas, Anthologies, and Short Stories

The Pale White by Chad Lutzke — 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Three girls held captive and used as sex slaves plan their escape.  In less than 100 pages, Lutzke takes you into their world and makes you care about these girls.  His ability to develop these complex characters in such a short amount of space always impresses me, this story is no exception.  I will agree with a fellow reviewer that I wasn’t too fond of the ending, but it still works.

Shallow Waters Vol. 1:  A Flash Fiction Anthology by Crystal Lake Publishing — 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Every month, Crystal Lake Publishing hosts a contest for authors to create some flash fiction (1,000 words or less) using a particular theme or prompt.  This is by far one of the better anthologies I’ve read and features some horror greats like John Boden, Chad Lutzke, Robert Ford, Armand Rosamilia, Mercedes Yardley, and many more.  I can’t wait to read the rest of this awesome series!

The Edge of Life by Joe Hart — 4 out of 5 stars!

Only 23 pages but a lot of story!  What would you do, to what lengths would you go, to bring your family back and keep them safe?  The premise is simple and straight-forward, and will chill you to the bone.

99 Stories of Blood on the Wall:  A Collection of 99-Word Horror Stories by Kevin Cathy — 3 out of 5 stars

I give the author props for coming up with 99 stories, all with only 99 words.  There were some very good ones, even a few darkly funny ones, but by a certain point they all seemed to become the same story, just different order of words.


I always welcome comments and reading suggestions, feel free to drop me a line!  Be sure to take care of yourself, and be kind to others.  Until next time, Happy Reading!

Black Lives Matter!

June — Just Because

When I was coming up with ideas for monthly themes, the month of June stumped me.  Should I go with a tribute to fathers for Father’s Day?  Maybe a nod to the beginning of summer?  A particular genre, setting or?????

Finally, about a week ago, I had my idea:  ask my son (who happens to have Asperger’s) to pick three books for me.  While I’m sure he was a bit overwhelmed by the vast amount of boxes and shelves to sort through, he took on the challenge enthusiastically and I present to you his top 3 picks for me to read for the month of June:

My son’s thought processes are a bit different than most people’s, so I was curious to his reasoning behind the choices.  For North Country:  “It sounds like a good outdoor adventure.”  The cover of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill captured his attention, mainly due to our own backyard birdwatching.  And as for The Green Kangaroos?  Well, that was a simple decision:  “I like the title!”

He also had a separate pile, the “runner-ups,” with more surprises:

I give him kudos for the attention he gave to my nonfiction boxes, and of course the cover of See What I Have Done features a bird so that was a given.   Thank you kiddo, and I will do my best to read as many of these runner-ups after I finish the first three!

Goodreads Group Reads

With all of the chaos lately, I haven’t paid as much attention to my Goodreads groups like I normally do.  I did go through today to see the June selections, and these three stood out….

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong—I read this a few months ago and  I highly recommend it.

The Silent Patient By Alex Michaelides—This has been on my radar for some time, but I’m a bit leery of popular thrillers after reading some crappy ones that were touted as the best ever.  If you’ve read this one recently, let me know your thoughts!

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster—I have a love/hate relationship with Forster’s works so I’m not sure if I’m going to pull out my copy, but you never know.


I hope these titles give you some reading inspiration.  What will you be reading this month?  Feel free to drop me a line to let me know!

Please stay safe and healthy, and until next time…….

 

Let Me Take A Moment……..

On Saturday, I tuned into my local news channel to find out more about the severe thunderstorms we were experiencing.  Instead, I found myself watching the minute by minute destruction of downtown Seattle.  I spent the next several hours watching with a mix of horror, anger, sadness, and shock, not only at the devastation locally but nationwide.

I’m not an extremist.  I’m not vocal with my views.  But what happened to George Floyd a week ago in Minneapolis was sickening and beyond comprehension and I truly hope justice is served.   I understand the anger, the rage, the sense of helplessness and I will say this now that I stand with the PEACEFUL protesters, those who are truly wanting to make changes. But the sheer numbers of those taking advantage of the situation to further their extreme agendas, as well as those just wanting to take advantage of the situation as an excuse to plunder and pillage, make me sick and do nothing to start any sort of unifying or healing. It also doesn’t help that we are a nation without a leader, at least not one with the guts to come out from behind his twitter feed to try to make positive changes….that would upset his agenda of hatred and disunity. But I digress…….
I thank you for reading this.
Stay safe, and until next time……
<3 <3

Weekly Mash-Up #72 Memorial Day

The Week in General

First of all, I just want to say Happy Memorial Day and thank you…….

Once again, I hope this finds you all safe and well.  While things are slowly getting back to some semblance of normalcy around here, this household is still taking all precautions and avoiding the newly opened businesses until the novelty of reopening goes down a bit.  My husband is high-risk, with both asthma and heart issues, so the last thing we want to do is let down our guard….he even ordered a cool face mask that looks like a dog’s face, much better than my little homemade ones (and one he is more likely to want to wear!).

The weather has not been cooperating this past week, bringing a seemingly endless amount of rain.  But I will not complain as this will keep our fire danger down for a bit longer (and that’s the last thing we want to deal with this summer).

And then there’s the books!  What we’re all here for!   🙂   I’m going to tell you in advance, I blame my recent insomnia for any snarky reviews that may or may not follow.  That being said, (cracking knuckles)  here we go…….

The Week in Books

The Raven by Jonathan Janz — 3.75/4 out of 5 stars

I have a review I’ll be posting closer to the publication date in September 2020 but I’ll say this much:  this has a different vibe from Janz’s other works as it’s more of an action-adventure with some supernatural elements rather than straight horror…and that’s all I’m sayin’.   😉

Those Who Go Forth Into the Empty Place of Gods by Curtis Lawson and Doug Rinaldi — 3 out of 5 stars

This novella was, well, different!  Kind of a melting pot of sci-fi, horror, ancient religions, supernatural, and dysfunctional family dynamics….all in 93 pages!  The overall story was good and I’d say worth reading, my biggest problem was the Main Character, I just couldn’t root for this guy as much as I wanted to, which brought the rating down.

Eleven Miles of Night by Edward Trimnell — 3 out of 5 stars

And a very low 3 at that.  A college student agrees to walk a lonely stretch of highway that is reputed to be haunted by everything from witches to hellhounds.  I was expecting more creepiness, instead I got a character study of people I wound up not giving a rat’s ass about.  The scary scenes were few and far between, and the author really needs to work on his apparent love for over-explaining every…damn…thing.  Hmm, the more I write, the more I’m rethinking those 3 stars…..

These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

If I’d known this was a Sunday sermon using Dante’s Inferno as an excuse to venture into the depths of a quasi-hell in order to show the route to redemption/heaven….. well, needless to say I wouldn’t have requested it since that’s not something I read on a regular basis. I will give Shawn Smucker props for his writing as he does have a way with words, and I really didn’t hate it. But it was slow going and a tad too preachy for my tastes.

Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers — 2 out of 5 stars

I haven’t wanted to punch a character as much as I did with Josie!  And this wasn’t a case of “I love to hate her,” this was a full-blown attack of “I hate this woman so much I want to punch her in the throat.”  A woman “flees” to Alaska with her two young children, rents an ancient RV, and drives aimlessly around the state.  This had potential, and Eggers has a way with words (the only reason this didn’t get tossed into my one-star shitpile), but when a book grates on my nerves as much as this one did I find it difficult to find any redeeming qualities.  And if someone can tell me what “ice-priest eyes” means, I’d appreciate it, the author loved this phrase!


So, while this wasn’t the best reading week, I am looking forward to my upcoming books, including the thriller I’m currently reading.  And don’t forget, a new theme will be announced June 1, where I enlist the help of a special guest to help me choose my June reads!

Until next time, stay safe and healthy, and as always, Happy Reading!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Mash-Up #71

From My Corner of the World

Even though we’re half-way through spring, it sure hasn’t felt that way of late.  A lot of rain and spring storms over the past week has kept us out of our yard, but the potential re-opening of some local businesses over the next week or so has buoyed our spirits a bit.  While there will be the new normal standards in place, it will be nice to be able to leave the house for something other than necessities (oh, how much I want to wander around my favorite used book store right now!!).

Even with this latest bout with cabin fever, I’ve still been able to make a dent in my to-read horde….

The Week In Books

Ghostland by Duncan Ralston — 4 out of 5 stars!

Wow!  What a ride!  What could be more fun than a theme park centered around haunted buildings and objects?  One that also features the actual spirits attached to them, of course!  And when a computer glitch allows the evil, revenge-seeking spirits to wander freely throughout the park to wreck havoc and reenact their own brutal demises on unsuspecting tourists, well, that’s when all hell breaks loose.  Fair warning:  this is not for the squeamish.  I’ve read my share of splatterpunk and gore and even I was feeling a bit of ewwwww with a few scenes.    There were a couple of times I thought the story slowed down a bit, but overall this was a great introduction (for me) to Ralston’s work……..and after reading his end notes, could a sequel be in the future??  Thanks to NetGalley for sending me an ecopy for review.

Rainwater by Sandra Brown — 4 out of 5 stars!

This one surprised me.  I’ve avoided Sandra Brown’s works in the past, assuming they were more romantic fluff than actual story.  And while this one does have a very predictable romance thrown in, the story of Ella and her autistic son hooked me from the beginning.  The story moved along well, but at times it seemed like Brown was trying too hard to include every little historical event that happened during the time period.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I would recommend this Sandra Brown book.

Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search by Martin Sixsmith — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars

What a disappointment on many levels.  First, the title and the blurb on the back (“The heartbreaking true story of an Irishwoman and the secret she kept for fifty years…”) led me to believe this was Philomena’s story; yeah, totally not the case.  About 15% of the book looks at Philomena’s plight, the other 85% tells the story of her son, Anthony Lee, later rechristened Michael Hess by his adoptive American parents.  I also had a problem with the obvious liberties the author took with recreating conversations, as well as describing thoughts and feelings of people long deceased.  The author’s apparent obsession with Michael Hess’ sexuality was another sour point, and no grieving mother should have to read about these possibly fabricated exploits.  Perhaps if this had been marketed as a “dramatization of actual events” I would not have been as let down as I was.

Berkeley Noir edited by Jerry Thompson and Owen Hill — ???

I’m still on the fence over a final rating for this one.  The stories that were good were great (I especially enjoyed Eat Your Pheasant, Drink Your Wine by Shanthi Sekaran, a tale from a rat’s point of view!), but several fell flat or just didn’t seem like they fit with the noir theme.  Probably a 3.5 if I have to give it a number.


And I read some great novellas over the weekend as well……

Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke — 5 out of 5 stars!

Mix equal parts creepy little kid with evil entities sporting deer skull heads, have Kealan Patrick Burke stir it together with his hypnotizing prose and you get this chilling little novella.  If you haven’t read anything by KPB you don’t know what you’re missing!  Make sure to give this one a shot!

Dear Laura by Gemma Amor — 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Some great psychological horror here.  Laura watched her friend get into a van, never to be seen again.  For the next several years she receives anonymous letters from a person claiming to know where her friend is and will give her information…but for a price.  Great pacing, you won’t want to put this down.

Husk by Rachel Autumn Deering — 4 out of 5 stars!

Another one I would place under psychological horror as the main character suffers from severe PTSD after a tour in Afghanistan.  While his scenes are compelling, the introduction of the Jennings family made the story seem disjointed, almost like someone else wrote those parts.  But I still give this a high recommendation.

Mango Cake and Murder by Christy Murphy — 3 out of 5 stars

A fun little cozy mystery, featuring a mother/daughter duo who start a catering business and meddle in crime scenes on the side.  Predictable but still a nice way to kill a couple of hours.


Hoping you all are still doing well in these unprecedented times.  I’ve been working on some ideas for future posts so be sure to stay tuned!  Stay safe, and Happy Reading!!

NightWorms May Theme — Classic Horror in Collaboration with Paul Tremblay

Another month and another great bookmail delivery from NightWorms!

The May package offers a salute to classic horror,  but perhaps not the kind you would expect!  The NightWorms gals teamed up with Valancourt Books to bring back some classic ’70’s pulp horror, thanks in part to Valancourt reissuing several such titles from the ’70’s and early ’80’s (for which you will have to thank Grady Hendrix and his awesome ode to classic pulp horror, Paperbacks From Hell.  Oh, and Grady offers a new intro for one of the books, added bonus!).   I’m the first to admit I am not familiar with Steve Rasnic Tem’s work, but the guy published 400+ short stories plus other longer tales  so I’m curious to see what twisted mind is at work here!  The Auctioneer from 1976 sounds strangely familiar to me (did I read it or was it turned into some sort of low-grade horror movie I watched in the ’80’s?) and I’m looking forward to this one as well.

A bittersweet note comes with the copy of Graveyard Slaughter’s Video Hell comic.  One of the co-creators, Kevin Watkins, passed away suddenly in April.  After seeing his work here and reading the tributes on social media I am saddened that I will not get a chance to read more of his creations.  Peace to you and your family Mr. Watkins.

—————————————————–

Stay tuned for the June package, with the theme being “Boys of Summer” and Poltergeist Press involved!  Until next time, as always, Happy Reading!

 

 

Monday Mash-Up #70 Mother’s Day

First of all, a belated Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!  And I know we’ve all felt like this at some point!!    😀

I’ve mentioned before that all the days have been melding together these past couple of months, with my only excitement being my forays to the grocery store every two weeks.  But to not realize it was Mother’s Day until the last minute really made me realize how much advertising and commercialism plays a part in our everyday lives.  There weren’t the ads for the best brunch in town, commercials showcasing the best perfumes or flower arrangements that moms can’t live without…….and you know what?  It didn’t bother me one bit.  It was a quiet day here, I made waffles topped with some blackberries I had defrosted, and I got to read, mostly uninterrupted.  Not much more I could ask for.

I have several books going right now, but I was able to finish these three……

The Week in Books

Tales of Dark Melancholy: A Collection of Short Stories by Paulo da Silva — 4 out of 5 stars!

Wow, just wow.  I found this title on Amazon while scrolling through the free kindle titles, and with the help of some adult beverages I decided “what the hell, it’s free,” and clicked buy.  And I’m glad I did.  This collection by a new-to-me author is well-written and sucked me in on the first page.  Yes, they are dark and some are disturbing, and I’m already trolling the internet for more titles from Mr. da Silva.  Highly recommend.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix — 4 out of 5 stars!

I was so excited when I learned this would be in my April delivery from NightWorms…..and it did not disappoint!  I’ve been a fan of Grady Hendrix since I read Horrorstor back in 2014; he has a knack for mixing humor with the macabre.  I will admit this one had some slow parts, but when the shit hits the fan, it hits hard (I’m still cringing over the whole scene with the rats!).  In  a nutshell, picture genteel southern housewives who create an “unofficial” book club to discuss books about true crime and fictional horror while a vampire roams their neighborhood.  Make sure to check this one out.

Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis — 4 out of 5 stars!!

This started out so disjointed and random that I figured it would be a DNF.  I’m glad I powered through, because once this mystery/thriller got going I couldn’t put it down!  A professor’s family is brutally murdered, the professor disappears….did he do it?  There were some twists I didn’t see coming, and once the writing evened out I thought it was fast-paced, engrossing, and, well, just damn good.


What are you reading, watching, or doing during these isolating times?  Have you started a new hobby?  Catching up on your TBR pile?  Feel free to drop me a line, and as always, Happy Reading!!

Monday Mash-Up #69

The winners of the Pulitzer Prize were announced, and once again I am left wondering how these choices are made.  So in a fit of boredom, I decided to do some research to see if I could find some sort of magic formula in the judges’ decision making.  However, I wound up doing something much more entertaining:  spending a couple of hours scrolling through the past winners of not only the Pulitzer, but the Nobel literature prize, PEN/Faulkner, Booker, Newbery, and Bram Stoker awards.  Yeah, I’m a nerd like that.  I have to say, it was enlightening and enjoyable.  And while I will always question some of the choices made (Rabbit at Rest over The Things They Carried?  The Overstory beating out There, There ?  And too many others to mention here), I came away from that 2 hour session with a list of 75+ more titles to add to my want-to-read list….and a case of eye strain.  *sigh*

Meanwhile, back in my little dragon den, I was able to finish a few more from my hoard over the past week…….

The Week in Books

When the Shit Hits the Van (The Neon Owl #1) by Chad Lutzke — 4 out of 5 stars!

This was a pleasant surprise and nice change from Lutzke’s darker, more horror-driven works.  There’s a definite old-school noir feel mixed with heavy doses of humor.  Lutzke always does a great job with his character building, and Jinx and Roddy are no exceptions.  I’m looking forward to more in this series!

Attack of the 50 Foot Indian by Stephen Graham Jones — 4 out of 5 stars!

A satirical look at stereotypes, politics, and science.  It’s amazing how much impact a little 30 page short story can have, I’m still thinking about this one several days after finishing.

I Want You to Know We’re Still Here by Esther Safran Foer — 3.5 out of 5 stars

I’ll be writing a full review for NetGalley soon.

Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow — 3 out of 5 stars

This has been sitting on my shelf for well over 20 years (yes, you read that right!), so what better time to dive into a classic of sorts than during a pandemic isolation?!  I remember buying this because I enjoyed Doctorow’s Ragtime,  but I’m beginning to question my memory.  The overall story is pretty good (a young teen works for a known mobster, pretty typical 1930’s-era gangster fare), but when the narrative started to lapse into the dreaded stream of consciousness style, I very nearly tossed it out (my hatred of SOC writing is that strong).  But I took a deep breath, put on my big girl panties, and plowed through.  If you’re a fan of Doctorow and early gangster fiction and don’t mind SOC writing, then I’d say give it a try.  The story is there, I just hated part of the delivery.


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

May — A Mother’s Love

May 10 is Mother’s Day, so in honor of all the great moms out there, I chose these four books that showcase the lengths a mom will go for her children.

Dave Eggers introduces us to Josie, who flees with her kids to the wilds of Alaska; What She Knew involves a missing child and a mother accused; a single mother raises her child in the Dust Bowl era of rural Texas in Rainwater; and finally the true story of Philomena whose child was sold by the nuns she had sought to help her, and her life-long search to find him.

Goodreads Group Reads

There are two stand-out choices for the month of May, and while I have already read both I would highly recommend them if you haven’t already had the chance.  One is J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic, The Hobbit, which I first read in 5th grade and several times since (and I’m thinking I may have to revisit this month!).  The other is Delia Owens’ novel, Where the Crawdads Sing.  I read this about a year ago and fell in love with it, it actually broke my cynical heart.


And what will you be reading this month?  Feel free to drop me a line anytime!

Take care, stay safe and healthy, and Happy Reading!