Review — August by Callan Wink

This is the story of a boy named August, mainly his life from around age 12 to around age 20.  This boy named August has a pretty nondescript life:  he lives on a farm with his parents (who live in separate residences on the property), he kills wild cats to gain the affections of his father while trying to catch the attention of his distant mother; he is part of a nasty, unreported crime; he moves to another state and lives a somewhat obscure and uneventful life, relishing in the simplicity of nature and living in anonymity.

So why the four stars??

The writing, pure and simple.  This is the first story I’ve read from Callan Wink, and it will not be the last.  His storytelling reminds me of Jim Harrison, one of my favorite authors.  I will admit there were several times I questioned why Wink was going a certain direction, why the mundane was highlighted.  But at the end of the novel, I understood the method behind the madness and I fell in love with a young man named August and his honest and heartfelt story.

Review — Nonfiction — The Time of My Life

Synopsis from Goodreads—

In a career spanning more than thirty years, Patrick Swayze has made a name for himself on the stage, the screen, and television. Known for his versatility, passion and fearlessness, he’s become one of our most beloved actors.

But in February 2008, Patrick announced he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Always a fighter, he refused to let the disease bring him to his knees, and his bravery has inspired both his legion of fans and cancer patients everywhere. Yet this memoir, written with wisdom and heart, recounts much more than his bout with cancer. In vivid detail, Patrick describes his Texas upbringing, his personal struggles, his rise to fame with North and South, his commercial breakthroughs in Dirty Dancing and Ghost, and the soul mate who’s stood by his side through it all: his wife, writer and director Lisa Niemi.

A behind-the-scenes look at a Hollywood life and a remarkable love, this memoir is both entertainment and inspiration. Patrick and Lisa’s marriage is a journey of two lives intertwined and lived as one–throughout their years in Hollywood and at home on their working ranch outside Los Angeles, and culminating in the hope and wisdom they’ve imparted to all who know them. This book will open the door for families, individuals, and husbands and wives to grow, bond and discover entirely new levels of love and sharing, proving that life shouldn’t be lived as a series of endings, but rather as the beginning of greater strength and love.


For the month of February, I wanted to read something that reflected true love, and in a somewhat round-about way, The Time of My Life delivered.

Now, I’ve always been a fan of Patrick Swayze, dating back to the first time I saw him in a little movie called The Outsiders when I was a teen.  I loved watching him in the wide array of roles he played over the years.  But one thing that always intrigued me was his low-key, longtime marriage to Lisa Niemi.

The two met at Swayze’s mother’s dance studio when they were teens, and while I won’t say it was love at first sight, there was obviously something there that kept these two in contact with each other, eventually moving to New York together to pursue their dancing ambitions.  Swayze recounts their struggles, both professionally and personal, and it’s obvious with every passage he writes about her how much he truly loved and admired Lisa.

A couple of things though.  The cover may fool you into thinking this was written by both Patrick and Lisa.  It is not.  Lisa does contribute a two or three page introduction, but this book is all Patrick (even to the point where I could hear his slight southern drawl narrating in my head as I read).  This is not only their story; the bulk focuses on Patrick’s story, some of the bad but mostly the good.  I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes peeks he offered from some of his works, including Red Dawn and North and South.  

And while I knew going into this that he wasn’t going to divulge a bunch of gossipy or bad stuff (it was written during the last year of his cancer battle), I was kind of hoping that at some point he would own up to some of his mistakes, including his problems with alcohol.  Certain things were mentioned, but almost as an afterthought, and he seemed to be a bit dismissive a couple of times as to the effects of his actions on his marriage and how much they really hurt Lisa.

But overall, I enjoyed this book.  And I highly recommend watching the television special, I Am Patrick Swayze, as a companion piece to the book.  The show aired August of 2019 on Paramount network and I’m sure it’s somewhere in the internet universe.  The raw emotions from not only Lisa but close friends and family, even 10 years after his death, will show how special this down-to-earth, ambitious, and loving man was.

 

Monday Mash-Up #059

Tell me I’m behind the times (something I already know), and tell me I’m not tech savvy (another thing I will readily admit to)……..but did you know there is over 400 pages of free kindle books on a certain website that we all know and use on a regular basis?!?!?!?!?

And yes, I tapped into that!  Let’s just say, I was having a bad day, and this was the best alternative to actual retail therapy…plus finding The Monster Of Selkirk #1–The Duality of Nature by C. E. Clayton for free made the headache I got from scrolling all worthwhile!

The Week in Books

The Weight of This World by David Joy — 5 out of 5 stars!!!

Just in case you missed my earlier posts, I am a HUGE fan of David Joy’s “Appalachian Noir” stories.  These books are gritty, dark, depressing, yet addictive in their own way (much like my other favorite crime noir author, James Lee Burke).  Do yourself a favor and pick one of his books, any one, and it will change how you think of noir fiction and crime fiction in general.

Animal Farm by George Orwell — 5 out of 5 stars!

It was the second time around reading this classic, and I definitely found it more entertaining as an adult than I did as a teen having to read it for English class.  I do find it sad that the story can still be equated to modern-day issues, too bad we haven’t learned our lessons yet!!!

The Time of My Life by Patrick Swayze — 4 out of 5 stars!

Writing up a review for here and for Mr PinkInk, so stay tuned!

The Invocation by Carl Alves — 4 out of 5 stars!

Review coming soon!  And a huge thank you to the author for sending me a copy for review!

Nairobi Noir edited by Peter Kimani —  3.75, rounding up.
My review from LibraryThing:   Another great showing from my favorite series. There were many strong descriptions that transported me to Nairobi; I could almost smell the dirty streets and hear the city noises. And as with all anthologies, some stories resonated with me more than others (A Song From a Forgotten Place by Troy Onyango is still haunting my thoughts). Overall, a truly eclectic collection from a talented group of authors.

Horrors Next Door:  Short Scary Stories to Play With Your Mind by Tom Coleman — 3 out of 5 stars

I found this 3 story collection for free so I thought I’d try it out.  The stories consisted of aliens abducting humans for procreation; a blatant take on Firestarter;  and part one of a series involving an old man with a horrific basement and a lot of missing girls.  These weren’t terrible, but they were pretty saccharine as far as horror goes, and totally predictable.  If you’re looking to kill 30 minutes or so, not a totally bad choice but don’t expect a lot of “mind play.”

Kellie’s Diary #1 by Thomas Jenner and Angelina Perkins — 2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars

I initially gave this 3 stars on Goodreads, but the more I think about it, the more I’m not feeling this warrants even a 2 star review.  I give props to the author for showing the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse through the eyes of a 9 year old, but for the love of God at least make the MC sound like her age and not a toddler learning how to speak!!!  This is the first in a 6 part series, so if I happen to come across #2 and I’m feeling like punishing myself, I may read more.  Don’t stay tuned for updates on this one.


But do stay tuned for my selections for March!!!!  Happy Reading!!!

Monday Mash-Up #058

The mid-winter blahs have arrived in full force this week!  It’s also that time of year when I start to get antsy, wanting to get out in the yard or take a nice long walk (without an umbrella!!).  So I’ve started my yearly ritual of thumbing through gardening catalogs and making wishlists of the plants and produce I would love to grow.  Now, whether I actually get any of them is another story, but it does help me escape the winter doldrums for a bit!

The Week in Books

All Smoke Rises by Mark Matthews — 4 out of 5 stars!

I’ve read my share of truly fucked-up shit, but this probably ranks up there in the top five.  It’s disturbing, haunting, and will strip you of your innocence.  Yeah, once you find out what “milk blood” is, and the fact that it’s a real thing,  you will never go back to the person you were before finding out.  My only complaint is that I didn’t know about the first book, aptly titled Milk Blood,  as I think this would have helped me understand a bit more about what the hell was going on.  It’s still a good stand-alone read though, but may trigger a lot of things you didn’t think would trigger…don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Unwinding of the Miracle:  A Memoir of LIfe, Death, and Everything That Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams — 4 out of 5 stars!

Julie Yip-Williams documented her battle with colon cancer on her blog, which was compiled into this heart-breaking, powerful memoir after her death.  What I appreciated most was her honest admissions of fear, her battles with depression, her day-to-day struggles just learning to cope with the knowledge of dying.  The only thing I found a bit overdone and off-putting was her constant reference to being able to afford the treatments, that “money wasn’t a problem” (even to the point of paying $7,000 a month for experimental drugs!!).  There are many people, myself included, who can’t afford to get sick so this started to grate on my nerves a bit.  Otherwise, I highly recommend this one.

Finger of an Angel by Panayotis Cacoyannis — 3 out of 5 stars.

I almost went with 2.5 stars but there was some great imagery so I rounded up.  This is a series of flashbacks and hallucinations that overcome a woman while she is driving home after having sex in the woods with a total stranger (who she now thinks is the love of her life).  It’s really weird and at times confusing, but it killed a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon.

Elegy For Iris by John Bayley — 3 out of 5 stars

Another one I almost went 2.5, I  must be in a generous mood this month!!  I was expecting a bit more from this little memoir/”tribute,” but it just didn’t deliver.  John Bayley, while claiming Iris Murdoch was the love of his life, showed little, if any, emotions in the writing (except for when he expressed his anger and frustrations over Iris’ declining health, seeming to aim it more at Iris than the disease).  Pretty much, the only things I learned about Iris was her ambivalence towards sex (even though it was well known she carried on multiple affairs with men and women throughout their marriage) and she was a total slob, bordering on hoarder.  Oh, and they went on walks, liked to swim, and rode bikes.  That about sums it up.


Back to my hibernation routine, but only for a few more short weeks!  Until next week, Happy Reading!

February Night Worms — Horror Addiction

It’s that time again!!!

Yes, time to reveal the latest Night Worms package!  This month’s theme centers around the horrors of addiction.  I knew Lullabies for Suffering was going to be included (one that I have been looking forward to for months!!), and I was stoked to also receive the following:

The Green Kangaroos by Jessica McHugh is described on the cover by Shock Totem as “The bastard love-baby of William Burroughs and The Matrix.  Its needle-sickness-meets-dopesick Blade Runner world is horrifying.”  My inner twisted soul can’t wait to start this one!  I just finished Mark Matthew’s All Smoke Rises, and I can honestly say I will never be able to mentally unsee some of the stuff in this one.

And to top off another great package, there is the new Night Worms logo magnet, signed bookplate, artwork sticker, and a coffee blend especially for Valentine’s Day:  Red Velvet ground coffee from Bones Coffee, described as roasted Arabica beans with hints of chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting.  I’m not a big coffee person but I may have to try this one out!!!

A huge shout-out to Ashley and Sadie, the awesome women behind Night Worms.  You rock, and I can’t wait to see what goodies you have in store for us in the coming months!!!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

 

Monday Mash-Up #056 and #057 I’m Officially Tired of Winter!

I’m posting this a bit early from the scheduled 2/10, but I don’t know how my internet and power will be then so I’m sharing now while I can.   🙂

It’s been a year since my last rant about winter sucking, and while this year we avoided record snowfalls and sleet storms knocking out power for days, instead we’ve had this….anywhere from 5 to 15 inches of rain in a 48 hour period, on top of the earlier snow and the minor flooding from last week; landslides, flooding, even more torrential rains…..  *sigh*

This is a typical shot of what’s been going on pretty much throughout western Washington state……

And this pic hit a little closer to home, outside of Mt. Rainier National Park.  And don’t let the pic fool you!  That muck is anywhere from 3 to 6 feet deep, covering a large amount of the local highway (and only one of several major landslides closing roads throughout the state).

We’ve been lucky at my house, only dealing with power and internet outages, as well as some damage to our driveway.  Oh, and a mini moat that popped up behind our house but is thankfully draining down the hill and not under our foundation.

Yep, I’m ready for spring.  The only bad thing is spring is usually the flood season around here.  More heavy *sigh*.

However, when I wasn’t worrying about the hill behind us coming down or trying to navigate the flooded roads, I read.  And I read a lot.  Added bonus was having my Kindle this year, I could read all I wanted when the lights went out, not having to worry about draining the batteries on my headlamp!!

 The Week in Books

The Roo by Alan Baxter — 5 out of 5 stars!!

My  Goodreads review—  I am a huge fan of creature feature horror stories, so when I first saw the glimmer of this tale on twitter, I knew I had to follow and read. I was not disappointed!! What started out as a real news story about a rather assertive kangaroo harassing a small Australian town quickly turned into the call for a horror story, and Alan Baxter stepped up. This is the epitome of fun horror—I laughed, I was grossed out, I cheered on the “good guys,” and I wished the wrath of The Roo on others. Read this now and have fun!

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward — 5 out of 5 stars!!

Part memoir, part memorial.  This book hooked me into Jesmyn Ward’s world immediately.  I could feel her pain, her hatred, and her love.  It’s an uncomfortable read at worst, a powerful tribute to her brother and the other men in her life at its best.  I highly recommend this one.

August by Callan Wink — 4 out of 5 stars!

I will be posting a full review closer to the publication date of March 31, 2020.  I do want to thank Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley for sending me an ecopy for review.

Miscreations:   Gods, Monstrosities, and Other Horrors edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey — 4 out of 5 stars!

What exactly are monsters?  There is the Frankenstein monster, there are the monsters living under our beds, there are those we create in our minds just to get through the day.  This short story collection offers a bit of everything, from modern takes of old-school monsters to things I could never have imagined.  There’s some great talent here, including Josh Malerman, Victor LaValle, Bracken MacLeod, Stephanie Wytovich…….the list goes on and on.  It ranges from the absurd to the creepy, I recommend giving it a shot.

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks — 4 out of 5 stars!

I don’t know why it took me so long to read this, but once I was able to sit down and get into the story, I couldn’t put it down.  My biggest complaint:  the sheer number of characters that go by more than one name (and I’m not talking about a gradual thing, I’m talking about in the same paragraph a character will be called two different names)!!!   I hate that!!!  Pick a name and stick to it, especially in the same fucking paragraph!!  Otherwise, I thought it was a pretty solid start for a fantasy trilogy and left me wanting to know more about pretty much everyone!

Spicy Constellations and Other Recipes by Chad Lutzke — 4 out of 5 stars!

I am a huge fangirl of Lutzke’s, and I have to say, this short story collection took me off-guard!!  These stories show a very different side, including some dark humor and paranormal stuff that I haven’t seen in his writing before.  If you haven’t read anything by Chad Lutzke, you might want to check this anthology out first as I think it will give you a good idea of his style, be it dark humor or subtle horror.

Inheritance:  A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro — 3 out of 5 stars

2.5 stars    I don’t know how I would react if I found out my parent wasn’t biologically my parent.  I get that the author, raised as an Orthodox Jew and finding out that half of her DNA was comprised of blonde Protestants, went into a stage of shock.  But what I didn’t like about this book (that could easily be a stepping stone for others going through similar situations) was the sense of a pouting, petulant child stomping feet and screaming for no reason until finally mollified by a piece of candy.  At one point, I was going to just give this one star and move on, especially knowing that the author was beyond lucky to have found out the information she sought within a few days (compared to years, if ever, for most mortals).  But I became more interested in the others who aided and put up with her martyrdom, so that raised the rating.

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I hope you are all well, and I will be back soon, weather permitting!!

Until then, Happy Reading!!!

 

 

February—True Romance

I’ll be the first one to tell you I am not a fan of romantic fiction.  The wide-eyed, dewy skinned maidens, the loyal male friend always cast aside for the strong, handsome alpha male, blah blah blah…….I just can’t get into them.  However…..

I love a real love story.  You know the ones…..those elderly couples who have been together for 75 years, then pass away within hours of each other.  The celebrity couples who defy Hollywood norms and live happily together for decades (virtually unheard of in Tinseltown).  The prince who gives up the crown to marry the divorced commoner.  Yep, I’m a sucker for those stories, that’s why I decided to go through my shelves and pick out some real life romance for Valentine’s Day.

Elegy for Iris is John Bayley’s tribute to his long-time love, author Iris Murdoch.  Patrick Swayze and wife Lisa Niemi share their love story in The Time of My Life.   Both look at love’s ups and downs, and deal with the heartbreaks of terminal illnesses.  I’m going to have the kleenex ready when I read these.

 

Goodreads Group Reads

For the short month of February, the Reading List Completists chose four short classics:  Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and Animal Farm by George Orwell.  At this time, I plan on doing a reread of the Orwell classic; I’m still not sure on the others.  The Nonfiction Nerds group currently seems to be in limbo after the departure of the moderator, but there had been plans to read Inheritance:  A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro.  Since I already have my library copy I’ll be forging ahead with this one as well.


Do you have a favorite real life love story?  What will you be reading in February?  Until next time, Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #055 Book Mail!

Book mail is always a welcome treat at this house!

First, I would like to thank Carl Alves for contacting me and sending along a copy of his book, The Invocation.   I can’t wait to dive into this one!  Nairobi Noir is my recent win from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Giveaway; I’m a huge fan of the Akashic Noir series and looking forward to this one as well.  And to top everything off,  my kindle pre-order of Alan Baxter’s The Roo popped up today!  I’m actually thankful the weather forecast calls for rain through the coming week, I won’t feel guilty curling up on the couch and enjoying some good reads!

The Week in Books

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai — 4.5 out of 5 stars!!

Check out my review I posted January 25th!

We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This one was a serious mind-bender, and I’m still undecided on the final rating.   We all have inner monsters, as well as exterior monsters, that shape our souls.   Brian Kirk takes that to another level in his debut novel that is being rereleased  by Flame Tree Press.  A psychiatrist uses an experimental drug on a criminally insane patient at his asylum, which releases the inner demons into the real world (or is it the real world?!?!?).

Brian Kirk’s character building in the first half is great, which helps tremendously in the second half when all hell breaks loose.  I’ll admit I got a bit of reading whiplash at one point, which made me stumble.   Once I recovered, though, I couldn’t put the book down.

There were a few scenes that just didn’t work for me (for the sake of a no spoiler review I will refrain from pointing them out), and I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending.  But overall, a good read and something I would recommend to readers who like their psychological horror stories laced with a bit of PCP.

Thanks to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for sending me an ecopy for review.

Thylacine Dreams by Jonathan Maas — 3 out of 5 stars

I’ll admit, the only reason I read this story collection was because of the cover pic.  And because of that cover pic, I was expecting a whole helluva lot more that what  I got.  This collection wasn’t bad, but rather mind-numbing after a point (and I’m speaking mostly of the final story, -100  ).  If you like an eclectic story selection of quantum physics sci-fi mixed with aging vampires then you will probably like this more than I did.

Soon the Light Will Be Perfect by Dave Patterson — 3 out of 5 stars

A coming of age novel that felt like every episode of Afterschool Special crammed into 245 pages.  The writing was good, the story predictable, overall not a bad way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon.


And so another week.  Be sure to check out my February goals on 2/1!!

Happy Reading!!

Nonfiction–I Am Malala

How have I not read this sooner?!?!?

I Am Malala:  The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, with Christina Lamb

Synopsis from Goodreads:  
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I first heard of Malala when I watched her interview on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart around 2013.  I’m the first to admit that, at that time, I was vaguely aware of the conflicts in the Pakistani area of Swat, but only knew what was shown on our national news (and sadly not much other than that.  I’d much rather watch back to back rerun episodes of Seinfeld  than try to fathom international news at the time ).  I believe every story has two sides, and reading Malala’s accounts of the Taliban takeover of her beloved homeland truly hurt my soul.  Forget the politics and focus on the humans who live day to day in these ever-changing, dangerous conditions.   Then narrow it down even more and read the day to day synopsis from a young teen girl living in a world that was once familiar, then turned upside down almost overnight.    This is Malala’s story.

I’m not writing this as a political statement.  I want to share this as a statement for humanity in general.  Malala’s story could happen anywhere, and at any time.  My ability to read her story is taken for granted, but what would happen if literacy was once again given only to the elite?  Or worse yet, taken away altogether?

A very solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.  Read this book.  Learn from it.  Fight for education rights for everyone.

Monday Mash-Up #054 Let’s Talk About Reading Slumps

We’ve all been through it.  Those feelings of wanting to read something, anything, yet everything just, well, sucks.  That was my week; I hit the reading slump hard.

It took me off-guard.  This past week offered snow storms, power outages, and freezing temperatures, a combo that practically screams for me to curl up on the couch with a giant pot of tea and some good reading.  But every time I picked up a book or my kindle, I read about 10 pages and just couldn’t go on.  Sunday, the tide seemed to turn.  I flew through the one book I managed to finish this week, and made some progress on a nonfiction.  Which leads me to my one review for the week……

The Yard by Alex Grecian — 3.5 out of 5 stars

One of my choices for my January “New Year, New Series” theme.  And I can honestly say the lower rating is definitely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”  While the last 200 pages grabbed my attention and I couldn’t read them fast enough, the first 200 left me feeling confused and irritated.  There are a lot of characters that are introduced at a pretty quick pace, as well as several changes in the point of view.  I just couldn’t connect with the main characters until later on, but see my note above.  I already have book two, The Black Country, so I guess when I read that one I’ll know for sure if it was really the slump talking or if this series is only just “not bad.”


Here’s to getting over our reading slumps!  Have a great week, and Happy Reading!!