Weekly Mash-Up #91

It’s always fun to get book mail, especially when it’s the latest giveaway win!

One of the latest in my favorite anthology series, the nineteen stories include classic shorts from some well-known names like Elmore Leonard and Edna Buchanan, and some new-to-me authors; I’m looking forward to getting into this one!

The Week in Books

The Pvritan by Birgitte Margen — 4 out of 5 stars!

I stayed up waaaay too late finishing this but I just couldn’t put it down!  A fast-paced thriller where we have Boston homicide detective Marti and her partner, Neil, searching for a serial killer dubbed the wing maker…you may not want to know how that name came about!  It’s creepy, and with plenty of twists and turns to keep you going right up to the very last page.  (A quick note: the v in the title is not a misprint.  It’s based on the spelling used in the Geneva Bible, which is referenced throughout the story)  (13/31)

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This was one of my most highly anticipated reads for 2020 and…well…

Let’s start with the positive.  Moreno-Garcia does a wonderful job of setting the perfect dark goth scene, complete with a  mysterious mansion and perpetual rain and fog.  And the horror twist was soooo not what I was expecting, which made it all the more entertaining!  However, the build-up just wasn’t there for me.  I like a good slow-burn in my stories, but this just burned out before it really got started.  However, I know when I eagerly await a book like I did with this one, I tend to get over-critical so this may just be me.    (14/31)

America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster by Mary Kay McBrayer — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Mary Kay McBrayer reimagines the life of notorious killer Jane Toppan, from her childhood up to her eventual capture and confession.  Note I use the word reimagine.  McBrayer has done a wonderful job with researching the notorious killer, including actual articles from the era and a portion of Jane’s confession, but the majority of the book is what I would call historical fiction based on true crimes.  Overall it’s a good read, but don’t expect to come away with any real  answers as to the “whys.”    (15/31)

Gruesome Missouri: Murder, Madness, and the Macabre in the Show Me State by Nick Vulich — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Nick Vulich takes us back in time and shares some of Missouri’s crime addled past.  These true crimes took place between the mid 1800’s and the early 1900’s, and range from unsolved murders to family feuds that make the Hatfield/McCoy situation look like child’s play.  The writing is straight-forward, pretty much a rehash of old newspaper articles and other documents, but if you’re a true crime buff it’s worth it to check it out.  (16/31)

The Science of Women in Horror: The Special Effects, Stunts, and True Stories Behind Your Favorite Fright Films by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence — 3 out of 5 stars

I really don’t know how they came up with this title as it has nothing to do with a majority of the book!  This is more of a woman’s studies dissertation, with glimpses into women’s rights, pregnancy and motherhood, victimization, etc.  Compared to their earlier work, The Science of Monsters, the writing here comes across as dry, and by the half-way point they were starting to repeat themselves on certain topics.  It wasn’t terrible as it did have some interesting info and points of view, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting.  (17/31)


Have a spooktacular week and Happy Reading!

October—The 31 Books of Halloween Continues!

I thought I’d share a selfie of me and my Halloween TBR pile!!

An update for my personal challenge to read 31 books by Halloween:  as of this writing, October 3, I have finished 15 books, well on my way to hitting my goal.  There’s been quite the variety so far, from haunted houses (The Amityville Horror) to supernatural cults (Devil’s Creek), with some serial killers saving the multiverse and a dark gothic tale with a strange twist thrown in for good measure (Standalone and Mexican Gothic).  And while my reading tastes tend to go towards the macabre this time of year, I do have some lighter fare on hand, including one of my current reads, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis (a YA novel featuring supernatural elements and a creepy circus in the woods).  This morning I read the first chapter of Tea and Croakies by Sam Cheever and I can tell this one is going to be an entertaining ride!

If you’re looking for something different for this spooky season, maybe check out one of these titles that are being featured on some of my Goodreads groups…

Goodreads Group Reads

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

Described as The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, this YA thriller has been on my TBR for a while now.  Have you read it?  Is it as good as it sounds?  Let me know what you think!!

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

If you’ve read the book and seen the movie, feel free to send me your thoughts.  I won’t be reading the book anytime soon (I have a love/hate reading relationship with Hoffman and I just…can’t), but I remember the movie as being pretty good.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr

If you like Victorian-era mysteries/crime thrillers be sure to check this one out.  Fair warning though, it does tend to be more descriptive narration than action.

Inferno by Dante Alighieri

Believe it or not, I actually like this epic poem!  It’s one of those classics that I would encourage you to give it a try.  It’s really more accessible than you may think.


Until next time, Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #90

While it’s still a bit early to do this at my house, I’ve noticed my maple trees are slowly starting to turn colors (sadly more brown than colorful reds or oranges but it’s still early!).  My Halloween decorations are out, my last batch of apple butter has been made, and on my down time I’ve been able to finish some great reads!

The Week in Books

Be sure to watch for my x/31 to keep tabs on my 31 books for Halloween!  I just realized I forgot to do this last week, three of the books fit my spooky criteria so I’m starting at 10 this week.

Rattlesnake Kisses by Robert Ford and John Boden — 5 out of 5 stars!

It’s a story about killer-for-hire, Dallas, and his sidekick, The Kid, a damaged young man with autism.  There’s double-crosses, deadly snakes, loss, and loyalty.  The only thing I can say is my version of high praise:  this story broke me.  Highly recommend.

Love, Zac: Small-Town Football and the Life and Death of an American Boy by Reid Forgrave — 4 out of 5 stars

It was fitting to receive this giveaway win at the beginning of football season.  Zac Easter was a young man who grew up with football being a major influence in his life.  By the age of 24, after playing only through junior and senior high school, he was suffering from severe depression, manic emotional states, substance abuse, and physical pain; he committed suicide to escape.  The main culprit:  CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a deterioration of the brain believed to be caused by multiple concussions, and normally only seen in older NFL players after years of hits to the head.  Forgrave not only gives us Zac’s story through his journal entries and family interviews. but takes a look at the football culture in America.  It’s a sport with a violent history, promoting the attitude of playing through the pain.  But at what cost?  Well researched and highly readable. (Review originally posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads)

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson — 4 out of 5 stars

This was a reread for me.  I first read this classic haunted house story when I was 13 or 14 and I remember it scared the crap out of me!  While age and experience has made me more critical of the writing, and whether the story is fully or partially true (or completely fabricated) is still up for debate, it still makes for a quick, entertaining, creepy Halloween read!  (10/31)

Whispers in the Ear of a Dreaming Ape by Joshua Chaplinsky — 4 out of 5 stars

There are some weird stories in this collection, weird to the point where my notes simply show ???? for two of them!  But there are some real gems as well.  This is for fans of sci-fi with a twist, with spots of horror thrown in for good measure.  Joshua Chaplinsky is definitely on my radar, and I look forward to seeing what other twisted tales this guy can cook up. (11/31)

The Door and Other Uncanny Tales by Dmetri Kakmi — 3 out of 5 stars

There was potential in this collection, as I actually liked most of the stories (4 out of 6, not a bad percentage, but my average rating was 3.25).  Sadly, two missed the mark for me, one of which totally disgusted me, and not for the reasons you may be thinking.  I get the edginess, and I found these stories to be pretty unique, but in the end they just didn’t stand out from other collections I’ve read recently.  (12/31)


I hope this finds you all safe and well!  Until next time, Happy Reading!

Nonfiction — In Extremis

In Extremis: The Life and Death of War Correspondent Marie Colvin  by Lindsey Hilsum

5 out of 5 Stars!

From the Goodreads synopsis:
…Written by fellow foreign correspondent Lindsey Hilsum, this is the story of the most daring war reporter of her age. Drawing on unpublished diaries and notebooks, and interviews with Marie’s friends, family and colleagues, In Extremis is the story of our turbulent age, and the life of a woman who defied convention.

I’ll put this out here now:  I had never heard of Marie Colvin before finding this book at a second-hand store.  Or, maybe more correctly, I had never associated the random stories I vaguely remember from a female reporter in the Middle East in the 1990s and 2000s as being Marie Colvin.  And I truly feel I lost out by not knowing her…Damn.

I’ll also admit that when I saw the author was a friend and fellow correspondent, I resigned myself to  the usual “friend” take on her life: in other words, highly biased and limited to what the author knew on a personal level.  Thankfully, totally  not the case here.  Hilsum uses her intrepid interviewing skills to talk to friends, family, and cohorts of Marie, as well as extensive usage of Colvin’s personal diaries and journals to piece together the complicated life of a very complicated woman.

Marie Colvin gained notoriety by being tenacious, not letting a story go that she felt the public needed to know about.  This would lead her to remote outposts in war-torn countries that most Americans have either not heard about or didn’t care about.  She was considered a “friend” of leaders like Muammar Gaddafi and Yasser Arafat.  She was blunt and succinct in reporting the devastation dealt to the innocent, be it from allies or enemies, in war-torn areas like Sri Lanka, Chechnya, and Syria .  She wanted to report the stories at any cost, to show the real faces suffering in these wars, and with that she succeeded, but at high costs.

Underneath this seemingly tough and world-weary  exterior was a woman plagued by self-doubt, even self-hatred.  We see in her own words through her journals the collapse of her relationships , her obsession with her weight , her denial of alcoholism, even her descent into depression and other issues due to PTSD after the incident that cost her her eye.   We learn of her love for her true friends, her family, and her need for belonging in her loved ones’ worlds she felt that she didn’t really belong in (at times I truly felt the heartbreak).

But we also see Marie’s continuing determination and strength, strength that at times seemed  to come out of nowhere but pushed her to the extremes she followed to her final days.

As I read this, I found myself creating and truly believing in a hero with Marie Colvin, a woman I  had never heard of before.  I admire her strength and resilience, and at the same time I can empathize and understand the constant self-hatred and the battle with  inner demons.  I truly could picture myself doing shots of whisky with Marie in some random dive bar in the middle of nowhere.  I think we would have got along splendidly.

I can’t say much more than this—read this book.  The best biography I’ve read in years.


I hope you all are staying safe and healthy in these trying times.  This year has been stressful for all of us to say the least.  Thankfully I can always find solace in books, be it fiction or non-, and I hope you all are able to do the same.  Take care of yourselves and each other, and as always, Happy Reading!!   Much love to you all!

 

 

 

Weekly Mash-Up #89

Today is the first day of autumn!!  My time of year!!  Thankfully we’ve had some rain and wind the past week so the wildfire smoke I showed earlier is now gone for the most part (however, I still get whiffs of the fire burning about 30 miles from our house).  I’ve been clearing things out so I can haul out my Halloween decor this weekend.  Yeah, a bit earlier than what I usually do, but 2020 has been one long horror movie so I might as well get into the spirit!

With my son doing online schooling for now, I’ve found myself hiding in my library and getting a lot of reading done.  My recent reads…

The Week in Books

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch — 4 out of 5 stars!

One of my sci-fi September picks, I’ve been putting off reading this for some time because I didn’t want to believe the hype and then get disappointed.  Well, let me tell you, the hype is real on this one!  I can’t say too much without giving away spoilers, but I was instantly hooked and wound up spending my Saturday afternoon devouring this book.  If you like mind-trippy thrillers, be sure to check this out!!

The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

I think we’re all familiar with the basic storyline of this classic.  I was torn on rating it though.  I guess I was expecting more, thus the 3.5, but the fact that Wells came up with this stuff in 1898, well, I’ve got to round up to give kudos to that!

Standalone by Paul Michael Anderson — 3/4 out of 5 stars

I don’t know how I wound up reading two books involving multiverses (Dark Matter and this one), I must really be in a sci-fi mood!  I can’t even begin to describe the basic premise of Standalone, other than serial killers from the movies are “real” (?), life depends on them to balance things out, then someone/thing starts killing the serial killers.  Yeah, I never said I read normal fiction!!!  It was bizarrely weird at best, and I’ll admit I was finding it a bit dizzying at times.  The four stars goes to the bonus story, The One Thing I Wished For You.  I truly enjoyed this one, and as a parent I could totally relate to the premise.

Beers and Fears: The Haunted Brewery by various — 3 out of 5 stars

A reporter goes to a reputed haunted brewery that also used to be an insane asylum among other things.  He’s told three different stories (written by three different horror authors) about the history and the ghosts/demons within.  This had a LOT of potential and while there were some great scenes and truly creepy moments, by the end I felt a bit let down and underwhelmed.  However, if nothing else, you should read this for the story set in the 1980’s, Have a Drink on Me by Frank Edler.  The demon’s identity had me laughing my ass off!!

The Sorrows by Jonathan Janz — 3 out of 5 stars

Not my favorite of Janz’s works, but not bad. I believe this was his first or second novel, and it definitely shows compared to his newer stuff.  This is pretty much a pulp horror set-up, with two guys and two gals on an island, staying in a big castle with a dark history.  There’s regular sex, demon sex, the usual mutilations and an ending you can see coming from about page 50.  If you’re a fan of the 70’s/80’s pulp horror genre this might be a good one to check out.


Stay safe, not only against covid but the upcoming flu season as well.  Be kind, and as always, Happy Reading!!

Nightworms September Theme — Fall For Murder

Another month, another great package from Nightworms!

I found it rather strange yet not so strange that Paul Michael Anderson’s Standalone was included in the mix since it totally vibes with my September theme of Sci-Fi and Scary (I just finished it, make sure to look for my thoughts in my next weekly mash-up!).  The novella Shadow Vista was written and independently published for Nightworms, a real exclusive!!     And Mary Kay McBrayer’s debut focuses on the first known female serial killer in the U.S……I’m a serial killer junkie so I can’t wait to read this!!  And I just realized that sounds pretty disturbing but really it’s not!

Once again, Nightworms focuses on the smaller presses and up and coming authors in the horror field.  The goodie bag additions of local businesses like Retreat Drinks and promotions of artists like ‘the ink smithe” (who has been creating the logos and bookmarks) always leaves me waiting with baited breath as to what the next month will bring.

Another great month.  Now, on to Halloween.  Last year the focus was on witches…what will this year bring??!?!

 

Stay safe, be kind, and Happy Reading!!

 

 

 

Weekly Mash-Up #88

So today marked the first full week of online schooling for my son.  It also marked 5 full days of unbreathable air from all of the wildfires in the western U.S. settling in over a vast majority of Washington, Oregon, and California.  Fortunately, I’ve been finding refuge in my favorite comfy chair in my makeshift library…

Which leads me to the question of the week:  where do you like to curl up and read?  Indoors, outdoors, favorite chair, in bed…Let me know!  I am always inspired by your reading havens and I love seeing your library pics!!

And on to the good stuff….

The Week in Books

Make sure to look for x/31 to keep track of my 31 Books for Halloween goal!

In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum — 5 out of 5 stars!

I’m currently writing a full review to share here and with Mr Pink Ink.  Amazing, one of the best biographies I’ve read in a long time.

Kin by Kealan Patrick Burke — 4.5/5 out of 5 stars!

While this has been described as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Deliverance, it is truly much more than that.  It’s a story of not only survival, but PTSD, survivor’s guilt, revenge, and, oddly enough, love (but not in a way you would expect).  KPB is one of my top five fan-grrrl authors and this novel showcases the reasons why I love his writing…I mean, when I found myself feeling empathy towards a sadistic cannibal, well, that should tell you the power Burke has to create such complex characters that make you question your own sanity.  Some reviewers have thought this a slow moving story, but I disagree.  This is a horror story that doesn’t focus only on the gore but on the personal horrors as well.  Highly recommend (but definitely not for the squeamish).  (4/31)

Devil’s Creek by Todd Keisling — 4 out of 5 stars!

There’s something about religious cults that has always intrigued me.  No, not for my personal salvation, but rather from an observer/armchair psychiatrist’s perspective.  Seriously, how do these individuals warp the minds of so many, often with horrific results? A small town is home to a festering evil, led by a man who will stop at nothing to give twisted salvation to his followers.  While this novel goes with the supernatural version, it still highlights the “charisma” of the leader and the sick lengths his followers will go to appease him.  Dark and disturbing, good Halloween reading.

(5/31)

The Science of Monsters: Demystifying Film’s Most Notorious Vampires, Witches, Zombies and More by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Another one I’m currently writing a longer review for here and Mr Pink Ink.  Some ups and downs with this one but fun for the Halloween season.

(6/31)


As always, stay safe, be kind, and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #87

**** Just a Quick Note****  I had this post nearly ready to go earlier this week.  Thanks to a strong windstorm and power outage, followed by an unusual power surge, my main computer’s hard drive went into “imminent failure.”  I depended on that computer for my blog among other things, and thankfully I live with two computer geeks (husband and son) who were able to build a new one for me.  I didn’t want to start from scratch, so I am posting my intended post with some updates. The  pictures that follow were taken on different days, but please keep in mind that where I live at, we are considered “lucky” with the hazardous air conditions.  Seriously 2020, what more can you do to us??!?!  Wait, I probably shouldn’t have asked that…..Anyways, thanks for reading!*****

September 8 is the first day of school in our local district.  Instead of last minute supply shopping and picking out new clothes, we’ve been setting up a study area in our dining room to prepare for online learning.  And I’m totally fine with that.  Knowing that there will more than likely be a huge surge in virus cases, thanks to overcrowding and lack of social distancing this past Labor Day weekend, added to the upcoming flu season, we’re more than happy to stay home and stay safe.

And another good reason to stay home…all the wildfire smoke!

September 7

September 11

Yes, we are safe as of this rewrite on September 11.  Most of this smoke comes from the California and Oregon wildfires, but the local ones are adding to it as well.  Walking out the door to take this pic and feed the cat left me tasting an ashtray for the next hour or so.  This will be our life for the next few days.

The Week in Books

*Be sure to look for “x/31” to keep track of my 31 Books for Halloween challenge!*

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

I had a feeling this was going to be a strange one, and boy was I right!  There were a few moments at the beginning that left me a bit confused, but once I got into the story and understood the “slang,” it was a pretty fast, even fun, read.

The Ordinary Seaman by Francisco Goldman — 3.5 out of 5 stars

Inspired by true events, the story revolves around fifteen men who find themselves prisoners of sorts after being hired to work aboard a dilapidated cargo ship then virtually abandoned by the ship’s owners.  This is a very character-driven story and well-written.  However, the author often lost me in the transitions from present to past (these would happen at strange times in the narrative, sometimes even in the middle of a sentence!).  Overall I liked it, but I was really expecting more.

Murder at the PTA by Lee Hollis — 3 out of 5 stars

Review coming soon.  A cozy mystery that employs one of my least favorite character types: the entitled rich who think they can “slum” it with the low lifes.  Believe me, you can’t.

Kurtain Motel by A.I. Nasser — 3 out of 5 stars

I knew going into this one it was part of a trilogy so I was prepared for the abrupt ending.  And while the premise was good (a run-down motel, guests with dark secrets, angry spirits wanting revenge) there was just something lacking in the delivery.  Part of me wants to read the next installment just to see how things progress, but it won’t be anytime soon.   (1/31)

Short Stories, Novellas, and Anthologies

13 More Turns by Kevin Carr — 4 out of 5 stars!

If you judge a book by its cover like I often do, this collection may make you wonder what the hell you’re in for (a large bald man with a noose around his neck, not exactly a pleasant image).  But these 13 tales surprised me.   A bit of everything, from takes on urban legends to one I simply labeled as “yuck!!” in my notes….and the dark (gallows) humor!!  Well played, Mr. Carr.    (2/31)

Pulp Dummy Dreadful: Tales to Make You Scared and Depressed by James M. Gabagat — 3 out of 5 stars

If I had paid for this, I would have been depressed.  Thankfully kindle freebies  strikes again and I decided to check this one out.  I liked the mysterious, somewhat sinister man with the top hat who appeared in each story, but  I found the stories themselves a bit bland and often predictable.  Not something I would put at the top of my recommendations but I would be willing to check out more of the author’s work.   (3/31)


Stay safe, be kind, and Happy Reading!

The 31 Books of Halloween

I’m sure it will not come as a shock that I was planning a spooky Halloween theme for the month of October.  A couple of years ago in early September, I found several scary titles at my local library, which led to challenging myself to read 31 books by October 31…and I did it!  This year I wanted to attempt this fun read-fest again, and I came into September prepared and ready to go!

Going through  my vast book hoard, I pulled out these titles that have been sitting around for some time…

…as well as these newer titles I’ve been itching to start…

…and let’s not forget the 80+ horror-themed titles waiting for me on my kindle!

My biggest problem is trying to figure out where to start!  There’s haunted houses and motels (even a haunted beer factory!), vampires, zombies, sideshow freaks, psychological terror, and some spook-tacular nonfiction thrown in for good measure.  And don’t worry, I do have some fun, Halloween-themed cozy mysteries to help lighten the mood a bit and provide some comic relief.

While it’s too early to know what my Goodreads groups will choose for October, I do know that my friend’s local book club will be reading The Amityville Horror and I am sooo on top of that!  I pulled out my well-worn copy and will be ready to start my 4th re-read on October 1st!

Will you be reading some frightening fiction in the next month or two?  Let me know!  Be sure to check out my weekly updates or my Goodreads page to follow my progress!

Stay safe, be kind, and Happy Reading!

 

September—Sci Fi and Scary!

New month, new theme, and some classic reading in store for September!

Science fiction has always had a special place in my heart, and for some reason I always want to read more of it this time of year (kind of like always craving an epic fantasy in the middle of winter, or a roast beef/onion sandwich when I find my favorite pumpernickel bread ).  That being said, I’ve had these on my to-read shelf for some time, so no better time than the present to get started on them!

Believe it or not, I’ve never read the H.G. Wells classic, The War of the Worlds.  I’ve also never seen the movie.  I’m going to fix one of those things in the coming days.  As for Philip K. Dick, I’ll admit that I wasn’t totally impressed with the one work I read (The Penultimate Truth), I remember wondering what the big deal was with his works.  However, with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, I have to say I am totally looking forward to reading this one…the basis of Blade Runner??  Yeah, I’m down for that!  I’m going in totally blind to the Brian Aldiss novel, and sometimes (and in this case hopefully) that is a good thing!

And I’m finally taking the plunge to see if Dark Matter lives up to all the hype!  Have you read it?  Do you want to buddy read it?  Let me know!

Goodreads Group Reads

You may be wondering why I added Scary to this month’s theme.  Thanks to some of my Goodreads groups (and a hint to my next blog post regarding the books of Halloween), I will be starting my Halloween reading a month early.  Mexican Gothic has been described as a blend of gothic mystery, fantasy, and horror, with the focus seeming to be more on the fantasy and mystery elements.  If that seems a bit low-key for horror reading, then my fan grrrl fav  Kealan Patrick Burke’s Kin should satisfy a horror lover’s thirst for the macabre.   It’s described as a cross between Deliverance and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, complete with cannibals and a survivor’s thirst for vengeance.  Sounds like something I won’t be reading right before bedtime, lights all the way on for this one!

While I won’t be reading the hit novel, All the Light We Cannot See, I wanted to go ahead and include it here as I was planning on adding it to my November  lineup.  If you’ve read it, let me know what you think!

Stay tuned for my 31 Books of Halloween…I’m going to need your help with that one!!

Stay safe, be kind, and Happy Reading!