Weekly Mash-Up #94

It’s almost here, the most haunting day of the year!

And I’m not talking about the presidential election!!

Our plans may be minimal (carving pumpkins, watching scary movies, eating candy and making caramel popcorn), but they will keep us entertained.  Added bonus is turning the clocks back one hour to standard time–an extra hour of sleep!!

The Week in Books

Finders Keepers by Stephen King — 4 out of 5 stars!

It wouldn’t be the Halloween season without a Stephen King novel thrown in the mix.  It’s been a while since I read Mr. Mercedes, the first in this trilogy, so I was worried I may have forgotten some key elements.  But not to fear, this is it’s own story, just with some of the main, unforgettable characters from the first book.  Fast paced, with the lurking evil and fiendish twists that makes King the master of the genre.  (28/31)

The Malan Witch by Catherine Cavendish — 3.5 out of 5 stars

This witchy novella started out great.  Cavendish does a wonderful job of bringing to life the isolated location (you can almost smell the salt water and feel the wind).   But, as things moved along and strange occurrences started popping up, it felt like it was written by a different person.  The conversations were abrupt and at times felt a bit off, and the little details that sucked me into the story at the beginning pretty  much disappeared.  In short, everything started to feel rushed and unfinished, and at the end I was left scratching my head over a few things (especially the disappearance of a certain character.  Why not more behind that?).  My copy was labeled as 2nd revision so I don’t know if any more was changed or if this was the final copy.  I do recommend giving this a try, though, especially if you’re looking for a dark tale for Halloween but without the blood and gore of other horror stories.  (29/31)

When the Lights Go Out – Ink Slinger’s Halloween Anthology — 3 out of 5 stars

One thing I love about anthologies is the diversity of authors and writing styles that are showcased in one book.  I was a bit confused with this one though.  Some of the stories were written like they were aimed at Middle Grade or YA readers, then suddenly there’s a story featuring weird beastiality or extreme violence.  Overall, of the 25 stories, I found only a couple to be in the 4-star range, most were 3, with several 2’s mixed in.  Not terrible, but not something I would recommend.  (30/31)


Ooooh, do you see that?  Only one more book to meet my goal of 31 books for Halloween!!  Hmmm, will Jonathan Janz’s The Dark Game be the one?  Or will Brian Keene’s The Ghoul come from behind?  Or will I go a totally different direction?????  Stay tuned…….Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #93

A quiet week around here, nothing out of the ordinary….

The Week in Books

The Frighteners:  A Journey Through Our Cultural Fascination With the Macabre by Reverend Peter Laws — 5 out of 5 stars!

Check out my full review posted October 17! (25/31)

Hunted Past Reason by Richard Matheson — 2 out of 5 stars

I’ve really enjoyed my Matheson reading experiences in the past (I Am Legend, Duel, Hell House, etc.), but I just couldn’t find any enjoyment with Hunted Past Reason.  The premise: two men go backpacking, one an alpha male wilderness survival fanatic, the other an out-of -shape author with zero backpacking experience…I’m sure you can see where this is heading.  We go from boring as hell to a conversation about religious philosophy, to a Deliverance-style rape scene, then a run through the wilderness (and let’s not forget about the whole ability to talk a rattlesnake, a mountain lion, and a black bear out of eating you, yeah, that’s realistic).  The idea was there, the potential was there, sadly the delivery wasn’t.  (26/31)

Scary Stories Collection: 5 Short Horror Stories by Stories From the Attic — 1 out of 5 stars

First of all, when there is no real author name, run far, far away!  These shorts were in desperate need of editing…actually, a couple of them should have just been scrapped altogether.  On the plus side, it was a kindle freebie!  That’s about the only good thing I can say.  (27/31)


I’m getting closer to my goal of 31 Halloweenish books by October 31st!  Fingers crossed my current reads are better than these last two!!

Stay safe and sane, and Happy Reading!

 

Night Worms October Theme — Creep It Real!

Every month is Halloween with Night Worms, and the October package brought two great-sounding books…

Kathe Koja’s The Cipher is horror with a sci-fi twist: when a dark hole appears in a storage closet, Nicholas and Nakota apparently decide it’s a good idea to jump into the blackness to investigate.  You know nothing good can come of that!  The Loop sounds like it also has a bit of a sci-fi element, with a biotech firm and a strange outbreak in the local area.  Both Jeremy Robert Johnson and Kathe Koja are new-to-me authors and I’m looking forward to diving into these books!

I’m always excited and looking forward to the next installment, but I know that November will bring a new book by one of my fan-grrrl favorite authors, Chad Lutzke!!  Counting down the days for that one!!

Until next time, stay safe and sane, and Happy Reading!

Nonfiction — The Frighteners

The Frighteners:  A Journey Through Our Cultural Fascination With the Macabre by Reverend Peter Laws

5 out of 5 stars!!

(**A quick note:  there are three or four editions, each with a different subtitle.  I am using the one from my kindle edition**)

From the Goodreads Synopsis

“… In accessible and light-hearted prose, Peter Laws takes us from the dark corners of his mind to the underbelly of various macabre cultures to illuminate society’s preoccupation with death and horror. The Frighteners combines psychology, religious theory, and personal memoir to create a dynamic and fascinating read that is informative and entertaining.”

So, an ordained minister takes a vacation to an ancient castle in Transylvania, looking for vampires…

Sounds like a weird joke, but it’s not!  From the beginning of this book, I was hooked, not only by Peter Laws’ sense of humor, but his ability to take us on a weird yet informative journey to some of the strangest and darkest aspects of humanity, while also giving the reader some reality checks on common horror tropes through actual scientific and psychological research.

Each chapter starts with Laws’ own experiences.  A much-anticipated “vacation” to Transylvania; wandering around back roads searching for the “werewolf of Hull;” exploring the cavernous basement of a supposed haunted hotel.  Laws introduces us to people who actually believe they are vampires, as well as those who have experienced other bizarre occurrences in the paranormal realm.

Perhaps the most disturbing chapter, not only for me but also the author, involved real life horror in the form of serial killers and those who collect “murder memorabilia.”  Laws visited a shop that not only specializes in the macabre, but their best-selling items are related to serial killers (locks of hair from Charles Manson?  Artwork by Richard Ramirez?  Aileen Wournos’s last TV Guide from her cell on Death Row?  If they don’t have it, there are plenty of places out there that do!).  It’s true, the truth really is stranger, and scarier, than fiction.

One of my favorite chapters involved children and horror.  Why are young kids drawn to the scary?  I know from my childhood, the first movie to totally scare the crap out of me was Child of Glass, shown on The Wonderful World of Disney no less!  Even though this show scared me every time I saw it (from age 5 to around age 10), I always looked forward to seeing it show up around Halloween.  Why?  After reading this chapter, maybe I’m not so weird after all!

Laws’ personal experiences, his humor and inquisitiveness,  mixed with historical references and scientific theories makes for an engaging book.  If you’re looking for a Halloween read that’s not only a bit creepy but also fun and fascinating, be sure to give this book a try!

Until next time, stay safe, stay sane, and Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Weekly Mash-Up #92

Being hit with wind and rain storms this past week has really brought out my hibernation tendencies.  This was how I felt over the weekend in the midst of a very long power outage….

Yep, curled up in a cozy blanket, munching on chips, and thinking this is going to be a very loooooonnnnng winter!    😀

On the plus side, I’ve had plenty of time to finish up some books, really a little bit of everything!

The Week in Books

Make sure to look for the x/31 to track my progress on my 31 Books of Halloween!

Tea and Croakies by Sam Cheever — 4 out of 5 stars

This was a fun cozy read, and one I really needed to lighten my mood a bit!  This is kind of like a mellow version of Midnight, Texas, with our MC Naida being a “magical artifact wrangler,” with a friend/co-worker who happens to be a Fairy Princess…and let’s not forget the intuitive grey kitten named Mr. Wicked, a frog who seems a bit put out, and a coven of witches who live up the street.  Great fun and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series!  (18/31)

The October Boys by Adam Millard — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

This was one of those mixed feelings kind of book.  For the most part, it was a solid 4 stars, with very heavy vibes of Stephen King’s IT.  I liked the build-up, and the characters were fleshed out pretty well.  But what brought this down for me was the ending.  I won’t say much other than I still don’t know how I feel about it, it was fine but I guess I was expecting something else.  Still, I recommend checking this out.  (19/31)

Shadow Vista by Charles Colyott and Mark Steensland — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

Written and published exclusively for NightWorms, this is a tale made for a bad movie adaptation….and really, that’s a good thing!!  We have a serial killer who is using an abandoned housing development as their burial grounds, with  clueless security guards and a random homeless guy stumbling upon the carnage.  Yeah, it’s a bit predictable, there’s a lot of bloodshed, but it’s like watching a horror movie on the SyFy channel…you wind up being entertained more than being scared.  Recommend.  (20/31)

Evangeline by KC Franks — 3.5 out of 5 stars

So, I don’t know how to describe this without giving away the entire premise of the story, so I’ll just say this:  Evangeline like a tamer version of I Spit on Your Grave, but with a big twist.  There are a ton of triggers and I would only recommend this to die-hard dark horror fans.  (21/31)

Vampire Mountain (Cirque Du Freak #4)  by Darren Shan — 3 out of 5 stars

I found a few of these YA books at a used book sale a while back and thought I’d see if they would be something my son would like.  This is the first in the series I’ve read, and there are some definite pros and cons.  Pros:  I could easily slip into the story as there was enough backstory provided to keep me from being totally disoriented.  Cons:  it was basically a 190 page introduction to book 5.  There’s enough though that has me intrigued and I am now looking for the earlier books so I can catch up!  (22/31)

Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis — 2 out of 5 stars

The blurb sounded so promising!  An unusual town, a girl that comes back from the dead (or did she?), a creepy circus in the woods…Sadly, it was a hit and a miss for me.  I can’t even tell you the difference between the characters, nor do I care to.  I would put this book down for a couple of hours, and when I picked it up again I couldn’t remember what I had just read.  There were a few good (memorable) passages that kept it out of the 1 star shit pile, but overall a big not recommend (unless you need a sleeping aid, this will help!).  (23/31)

Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin — 1 out of 5 stars

Yes, the sequel to the famous Rosemary’s Baby is really that bad.  I took one for the team so you don’t have to subject yourself to this total shitshow.  You’re welcome. (24/31)


I hope you are staying safe, sane and healthy!  Happy Reading!!

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!!