Nonfiction — I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark:  One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

4 out of 5 stars!!

As you may know from some of my other blog posts, I tend to avoid best-selling, over-hyped books (fiction and non-), at least until the ruckus dies down.  So many times I’ve gone into one of these with high expectations, only to be left wondering why???

But with I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, the hype is real.

The title pretty much says it all.  Michelle McNamara was a person obsessed with true crimes, stemming from a childhood incident.  She always wanted to know more, be it the investigation, the suspect profile, the victims……Then she came across these unsolved crimes from the late 1970’s and early ’80’s, originally based around the Sacramento, California area.  An unknown person raped at least 60 women, murdered at least 10 others (most being couples he snuck up on as they slept).  Why weren’t these crimes top priority at the time?  How did this go so long without any leads whatsoever?  Why,  even once the perp was labeled The Original Night Stalker (not to be confused with Richard Ramirez who showed up a few years later) did law enforcement seem to do nothing?  Michelle wanted answers to these and many more questions, and I have to say, she was like a pit bull with teeth sunk in….she would not let go until questions were answered.  In no way was she ever trying to single handedly solve all of these crimes.  She just wanted to know more about the investigations, and ultimately why nothing ever seemed to be done.

This is not your typical true crime writing.  Michelle does more than just state statistics and facts.  She also treats the crimes in a “gentle” way, stating what happened without giving the lurid details and respecting the privacy of the victims and families, something that I totally respect.  And since there were so many unknowns, there is a lot of speculation and arm-chair detective action, but all is noted as such.

It is important to keep in mind that this book was not finished when McNamara passed away suddenly in 2016.  The editors pieced together notes for some passages, used rough drafts for others (all clearly noted).  Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen teamed up to write part three, which was an attempt to wrap up and provide a bit of a conclusion.

I will not give any spoilers in case you didn’t hear about the events that transpired shortly after the publication, and I highly recommend getting the latest updated version so you can find out about it.  It’s interesting and intriguing, to say the least.

If you are a true crime fan, put this book at the top of your list.

Night Worms!! @Night_Worms spoiler pic ahead…..

And the grand opening of my first Night Worms monthly box……….

Oh, wait a sec, I have to make some popcorn, bbs

Just creating some diversions!!

Anyways….

 Ta Da!!!  Love it!  🙂  And seriously, how did you know that Fat Camp was on my to-read wishlist?!?!  Will enjoy this, looking forward to September!

Planning Ahead for Halloween Reading!

It’s never too early to start planning for Halloween!

   

I started going through my book hoard and pulled these out as some of my “want to read” titles for my favorite time of year.  I will also be adding Nos4A2 when it arrives next week, as well as some much-anticipated selections from my new subscription to NightWorms!  Plus who knows what I’ll find at the library!  September and October will be busy reading months indeed!

 

Monday Mash-Up #029

This was one of those weeks that flew by….some short day hikes, library programs, running errands, whew!  I was bad and went to my favorite thrift store to check out their weekly Buy One Get One Free book sale and of course I found some!

With all the activity, I didn’t have much reading time, but I was able to finish a couple:

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker — 4 out of 5 stars!!

I wasn’t sure what to expect but after a bit of a slow start I was hooked!  This gothic horror offers slow-burn suspense and some memorable scary moments.  If you like classic horror like Frankenstein and Dracula, make sure to check this one out!

Facing the Wave:  A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami by Gretel Ehrlich — 3 out of 5 stars

Mixed feelings on this one.  The survivors’ stories were horrific and heart-breaking.  However, the approach to this was not my cup of tea.  The author’s writing style was just too flowery and melodramatic and took away from the true stories she was relating.

———————–

Even though it’s not August yet, I’m starting to put together my Halloween reading wish list, which I usually start tackling in September.  If you have any favorite scary stories, feel free to share!

Short and sweet this week, so until next time, Happy Reading!

The Serenity of a State Park

My son and I went on a mini adventure today, going to a local state park that has some great walking trails and plenty of shade from old growth forest to keep the heat at bay.

We love this place.  It’s always quiet, even in the middle of summer, with plenty of walking trails to keep us busy for a few hours.  Around 620 acres of land that includes the last of the old growth forests to be found in Western Washington.  One of my favorite places, and added bonus of being less than an hour drive from our house.  And I am going to be selfish and not divulge the name of the park (however, if you know me on facebook, you will find out where it’s at).

And on to the next summer adventure…..  🙂

 

 

Monday Mash-Up #027 and #028

Well, I tried for #027 to be on time, but due to server problems and having to switch to another server, then the down time waiting for everything to transfer, well……

here we are for week #028!

After some false starts, I think summer is finally here!  The rain was great for keeping things green but we’re more than ready for some warm weather!!  My lavender, mint, and chamomile plants are going berserk, and I harvested my first lemon cucumbers on Saturday (and from the looks of it I will have a ton of them on my hands in the next week or so).

Perhaps it was a good thing that the server was down, as the books I had finished for #027 were duds, to say the least.  But I bounced back from them this past week with some great books.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey — 5 stars!!

Another one of the classics that I can’t believe I haven’t read before!!  A mix of humor and pathos, I found myself laughing then reaching for the kleenex.  A great story, one I can say is in my top 5 favorite classics.

Hope Farm by Peggy Frew — 4 out of 5 stars!

I finished this late last night, one of the better “coming-of-age while living in a hippie commune with unstable parent(s)” stories I’ve read.  A huge thank you to Scribe Publications for an ARC and introducing me to another great Australian author.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer — 4 out of 5 stars!

This was a pleasant surprise.  I picked this out to fulfill part of a summer reading challenge I’m doing, and really didn’t know what to expect.  A retelling of Cinderella with a sci-fi cyborg twist!  There were a few slow parts and I thought a couple of the characters could have been fleshed out a bit more, but overall pretty darn good.

The Lance and the Shield by Robert M. Utley — 4 out of 5 stars!

I had this on my to-read list for 2019 non-fiction.  A very readable, engaging biography and look at the historical struggles of the Native American.  Full review hopefully for August.

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo — 4 out of 5 stars!!

I love Jo Nesbo, and this 200 page story was a great afternoon read.  This was not part of Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, rather a stand-alone novella about a hitman with a heart of gold.

The Girls by Emma Cline — 3 out of 5 stars

I was expecting more from this one, but overall it wasn’t bad.  Another coming-of-age story (I seem to be reading a lot of these lately!!), weaving a fictionalized version of Charles Manson and his followers with a teen girl’s need for acceptance and belonging.

Will Haunt You by Brian Kirk — 2 out of 5 stars

This started out pretty strong, with the promise of a potentially interesting horror story.  But about half-way through, the gears seemed to change, almost like the author didn’t know what genre he wanted to write.  There’s hints of sci-fi and even religious awakening….in other words, it turned into a hot mess pretty quickly.  Too bad, it had potential.

The Woven Path by Robin James — 2 out of 5 stars

My goodreads review:

This was almost a 1 star for me, but the intriguing start to the story kept it at 2.  I read this to see if my son would like it, and I can honestly say I would NEVER recommend this to anyone’s kid.  I was fine with the dark and sinister world of the museum, I thought that was great!!  But when you had little punk ass kids torturing a dog to near death (and then the death that followed), well, I started hating this book.  I don’t like animal torture in adult horror books, so finding this in a book aimed at “middle grade” readers really upset me…and made me glad I read it before handing if off to my kid!!  But it wasn’t just this.  The story started out strong, kind of like The Librarian meets A Night at the Museum, with a bit more horror thrown in (and I love a good horror story!!!).  But it fell flat pretty quickly.  I really didn’t care about any of the characters and the evil entity was pretty cliche.  Even when I take away the parts I hated, I still found this “meh” at best.

Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye — ?!?!?

I’ve been thinking about this one and really have no idea how to rate it.  It didn’t completely suck but it wasn’t great, better than a 2 but kind of strangely meh for a 3.  It’s twisted and weird, but not in a good way that I would recommend.


This week looks to be pretty busy, with a library program and some planned trips to the beach, as well as  some light hiking.  So I best be off for now, and until next time…..Happy Reading!!

 

Nonfiction — What’s Cookin’ #01

I’ll admit I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump when it comes to nonfiction.  I thought I’d do something a little different this month and turn my focus to food!

cb4

I’ve been collecting cookbooks for years.  Some are ones I reference often and they have the markings and food stains to prove it.  Others I chose for their beauty, admiring the artistry behind the perfect food photos.  I have classics like The Fannie Farmer Cookbook; ethnic and localized selections; and specialized or themed ones like The Mango Cookbook and one devoted entirely to hot chocolate.  For my first in (hopefully) an ongoing seasonal series, I’ve decided to showcase three from my collection that  focus on popular summer fare.

Jack Daniel’s Old Time Barbecue Cookbook by Vince Staten

cb1

Many moons ago, Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey was my go-to beverage of choice, so when I happened across this cookbook I bought it more for the novelty than the recipes.  However, over the years, I have turned to this one more than any other barbecue or southern cookbook I have.  Surprisingly, the focus is not on the main course (although there is a primer of sorts on the various methods of barbecuing); instead, there is a wealth of recipes for side dishes, casseroles, desserts, and delicious sauces and rubs that work great with beef, pork, or chicken.  My favorite sauce that I’ve made quite often over the years is a tangy mix of vinegar, onions, peppers, ketchup, honey, brown sugar and Worcestershire.  There are classics side dishes like coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni and cheese; desserts range from pies to bread pudding.  And of course there is a chapter devoted to cocktails featuring Jack Daniels!

The Tomato Festival Cookbook by Lawrence Davis-Hollander

cb2

There’s something about a freshly picked sun-warmed tomato, thickly sliced and sprinkled with a bit of sea salt that just screams summer.  I found this one at my favorite thrift store and knew I had to add it to my collection.  What I like about it is that it’s more than just recipes.  There are chapters devoted to heirloom varieties and identification as well as how to grow tomatoes.  Each page has little side bars with offerings that range from tomato trivia to regional festivals that celebrate the tomato.  Yes, there are the standard salsa and marinara recipes, but there is a wonderful selection of soups, sides, and mains that will help you use up those extra tomatoes in no time (however, tomato sorbet for dessert will not be on my list to make anytime soon!!  😀  ).

The Berry Bible by Janie Hibler

cb3I’ve always said that if I had to pick three foods to eat for the rest of my life, raspberries would be at the top of the list.  I love berries, from the first strawberries of spring to cranberries in autumn.  This must-have book identifies any berry you can think of (plus those you never knew existed) and offers tips and recipes for all of them.  The bulk of the recipes do tend to lean towards the sweet side, but there are plenty of savory choices as well (Duckling with loganberry-hoisin glaze?  Turkey with blackberry barbecue sauce?  Yes please!!).

—————————————

Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my cookbook collection.  I’m looking forward to sharing more in the months to come!

Monday Mash-Up #026

Fresh off a loooong holiday weekend….and feeling no different than before it began!  😀  Thursday the 4th was our Independence Day, which is also the unofficial start of giant motor homes driven by idiots who have never driven anything bigger than a Prius clogging up the roads for the next two months.

And yes, I’m getting crankier in my old age, ha!!

We stayed at home, far from the crowds, and enjoyed a quiet weekend.  A neighbor set off a few fireworks for the 4th, and we also watched the Seattle fireworks show on tv.  Ah, life in the middle of nowhere!

I’ve read some great books the past couple of weeks, check them out—-

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones — 4 out of 5 stars!

The most unique werewolf story ever!!  Well, at least the most unique one that I’ve ever read!!  I would say this is part coming-of-age and part horror.  I’ll admit it started a bit slow for me, but damn, I didn’t want to put it down!  If you like horror be sure to check this one out.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — 4 out of 5 stars!

I think this should be a must-read for everyone.  While I didn’t think the ending did justice to the rest of the story (a little too convenient and too fairytale happy ending), I found this to be a powerful and compelling read.  Highly recommend.

Sudden Sea by R. A. Scotti — 4 out of 5 stars!

Full review coming soon!

Rust and Stardust by T. Greenwood — 4 out of 5 stars!

We are probably all familiar with Nabokov’s infamous Lolita, but few know about the true kidnapping behind the story.  Greenwood takes the story of Sally Horner, the real kidnapping and rape victim, and creates a novel that not only dramatizes her story but imagines the points of views from family, friends, and neighbors.  Greenwood does treat the rapes and physical abuse with kid gloves, and I think it would have added more bite to the story if she had included a few chapters from criminal Frank LaSalles POV, but overall a really good read.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman — 3 out of 5 stars

I was spoiled by reading Backman’s A Man Called Ove first since it set a high standard that, sadly, his other books just haven’t measured up to in my opinion.  This one had some good, some bad, and a lot of just plain confusing and/or boring (the confusing, boring parts came with the whole fantasy land created by the grandmother.  Yes, I understood it’s significance but after a while it started to grate on my nerves).

My Sister’s Bones by Cathi Hanauer — 2.5 out of 5 stars

This isn’t really a story about anorexia, more a story about a girl going through her teenage years who happens to have a sister with anorexia.  Maybe if I had read this when it came out in 1996 I would have liked it more (this would have been edgy back then).  There were a few bits that stood out but overall I found it to be boring and almost glorifying in it’s approach to anorexia.

Retribution by Richard Anderson — ??? stars???

I’m still deciding on this one, I will be posting a review shortly.  A huge thanks to Scribe Publications for sending me a copy!

_____________

And another week begins!  I know my son and I will be heading to another of the local library’s summer programs, and I have several library books checked out that I have to get a move on!  So until next week, Happy Reading!!

Monday Mash-Up #025 Mid-year Roundup

July already?  The year half over?!

Well, that went by fast!!

This week I decided to do something different and offer a quick mid-year reading update.  At the beginning of 2019, I joined the goodreads yearly challenge and decided to read 150 books this year.  As of yesterday, I had finished 112!!  Hmm, I may need to rethink my goal!

There have been a lot of ups and downs so far, but great books have been in the majority.  Off the top of my head, these are just a few of the ones that really stood out for me:

Scythe and Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman — I am often disappointed by popular bestsellers, those ones that everyone raves on about,  feeling more often than not like Elaine Benes at The English Patient—

But damn, Shusterman delivers with this series!  I haven’t looked forward to the conclusion of a series this much in a very long time!

The Nameless Dark by T.E. Grau — A collection of weird and warped short horror stories.  Definitely up there as my top short story collection of the year.

New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke — The latest in my favorite series featuring Dave Robicheaux.  And you don’t have to read the entire series to enjoy it!

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy — By far one of my favorites this year.  Dark, disturbing, depressing, but also offers glimmers of hope and redemption.

Which leads me to…….

There have been a few authors that have really stood out for me,  leading to some compulsive purchasing and online stalking (well, maybe not the stalking….not yet anyways).  David Joy makes that list, as well as horror authors Chad Lutzke and Keanan Patrick Burke.  And after just finishing Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones, I may be adding his name to the list as well.

I’ve read a few blah and just plain bad books this year as well, but since I plan on avoiding any more of them I’ll wait until my end of year wrap-up to share those “gems.”

I may have given up on my other New Year resolutions, but I will definitely be making my reading goals by the end of the year!

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

Monday Mash-Up #024

Well, the good news is….it’s summer!!

And the bad news…..it’s been rainier and colder than it was a couple of months ago!

But all has not been lost.  My son and I went to a local library program (make sure to check out my blog post, Summer Library Programs), I finally finished watching The Passage (great show!!  I really need to read the trilogy!), and finished up a great selection of books!

 

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles — 4.5 out of 5 stars!

An awesome start to the trilogy!  I will admit the first third seemed pretty slow, but once it got going, I couldn’t put it down.  Even though this is labeled as #4 in the Penn Cage series, you really don’t have to read the earlier books to fully appreciate or enjoy this one.

Dead of Winter by Kealan Patrick Burke — 4 out of 5 stars!

If you’ve ever felt like the Grinch around Christmas, finding the sound of carols beyond annoying or thinking the neighbor’s light display needs to go, you may need to check out Dead of Winter!  This Christmas-themed short story collection is definitely not something that will put you in a festive holiday mood!!  They are dark, edgy, and at times horrific.  If you are a horror fan like me, you need to put this on your holiday to-read list.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros — 4 out of 5 stars!

This isn’t really a novel or novella, more a collection of random thoughts and events happening over a period of years to a young girl (presumably based on the author’s life).  I really liked the voice that came through, and the writing was lyrical at times.  This may not be for everyone, but I recommend giving this little book a shot.

Little Heaven by Nick Cutter — 3 out of 5 stars

Finished this morning, and I’m still debating on how much I really liked it.  There were two distinct parts to the story, one set in the ’60’s and the other in 1980.  I’m okay with that, especially since each part was clearly titled as such, but it just didn’t seem to flow well.  It almost felt like the 1980 chapters were added on to lengthen the story.  Things really didn’t start happening until page 200 or so, then it took off in typical Cutter gore and action.  And believe me, there was plenty of gore!!  But overall, it just didn’t come together like some of Cutter’s other works.

The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry — 2 out of 5 stars

I went into this one expecting another great McMurtry read, akin to Lonesome Dove, or Terms of Endearment.  Instead, I found a mediocre at best narrative that really goes nowhere.  There were a few scenes that rose about the rest, but overall something that I wouldn’t recommend even to McMurtry’s biggest fans.


With the rainy forecast it looks like a potentially good week for finishing up some more great books.  So until next time, Happy Reading!