Monday Mash-Up #003

I can’t believe January is almost over!  While most of my New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned (as usual!!) at least I’ve been keeping up with my reading!

I was able to finish up a few books this past week:

Valiant— 4 out of 5 stars.  I was pleasantly surprised by this YA fantasy, will definitely be checking out more of Holly Black’s work!

On the other hand…..

The Dinosaur Lords— 2 1/2 stars out of 5.  Very disappointing.  The battle scenes were well-written but the rest was slow-moving and booooring!  I’ve been told the rest of the trilogy gets better but I’m not going to waste my time.  On the plus side, the artwork by Richard Anderson is fantastic!

Naked–4 out of 5 stars.  A great combination of humor and pathos.

The Orphan’s Tale—  4 out of 5 stars.  Beautifully written.  There were a few times the melodrama went a bit overboard but overall a great read.

Food and the City–3 1/2 stars out of 5.  I wrote a full review of this one on January 26, make sure to check it out!

 

Once again I have several books going at one time, I just couldn’t get settled into any particular one.

Animals in Translation—  An interesting look at animal behavior as seen through the eyes of an autistic woman.

Buddha Baby—  I don’t read a lot of “chick lit” but I thought this one sounded funny.

Among the Lost—  My latest giveaway win arrived a few days ago and I couldn’t wait to start it!

The Battlemage—  Book three in the YA fantasy series.  More demons, yay!!

A Stark and Wormy Knight—  A collection of short fantasy stories.

 

Have a fantastic week, and Happy Reading!

Review–Food and the City by Ina Yalof

3 1/2 stars out of 5

 

When it comes to food culture, I would like to think I know my way around.  I worked in the restaurant industry for nearly 20 years, from fine dining to busy coffee shops.  Most of that time was spent as a server but I also did my share of mixing cocktails, bussing tables, washing dishes, prepping food, and (on a few occasions I would like to forget) cooking breakfast and lunch.

The late Anthony Bourdain is still my hero.  The Food Network Channel is my go-to television choice.  And I love reading about the hard living behind the scenes, of the struggles a chef had before becoming a chef.

I think that’s what missing from Food in the City…..the darker realities behind the successes.  All of the stories show that the adage “work hard and you will succeed” is true, and that is fine and dandy, but I wanted more.   Since it was New York City, I guess I was expecting a grittier take on the restaurant business.  Most of the stories seemed to center around 5 star restaurants or caterers who work for the rich and famous.  What about that Mom and Pop diner with the best meatloaf or the hot dog vendor who’s held down the same corner spot for 20 years?  I am always impressed by those who can land an executive chef job at a young age but what about the deli workers and diner servers who have worked hard at the same hole-in-the-wall for years?  Those were the stories I was looking for and, sadly, did not find very many in this collection.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading these quick 3-6 page stories from some of the top in the New York City food scene.  But after awhile it started to seem like the same story, just a different name and restaurant attached.  A person could easily pick 15 or so at random and have the full effect of the book.

Overall, Food and the City wasn’t bad and I would say give it a try.  For me, it just didn’t deliver the figurative punch I was expecting from a food expose.

Giveaway Win!

Thank you to librarything’s Early Reviewers giveaways and Scribe Publications for sending me a copy of Among the Lost by Emiliano Monge!

From Scribe Publications media release:

In the desolate wastelands between the sierra and the jungle, under an all-seeing, unforgiving sun, a single day unfolds as relentlessly as those that have gone before.  People are trafficked and brutalized, illegal migrants are cheated of their money, their dreams, their very names even as countless others scrabble to cross the border, trying to reach a land they call Paraiso.

In this grim inferno, a fierce love blossomed–one that was born in pain and cruelty, and one that will live or die on this day……”

I’ve already read the first two chapters and I am completely mesmerized!  Review coming soon!

Monday Mash-Up #002

Happy Monday everyone!

I am still working on my formatting and styles for my future posts, as well as searching through WordPress for Dummies for technical help and hints.  If you see something you like or have a suggestion for me feel free to leave a comment!

Here is my book pile I am currently working through:

While making progress on Food and the City and The Dinosaur Lords, I also recently started these other titles:

The Orphan’s Tale–I picked this up last night and didn’t want to put it down!  Great storytelling so far, I have a feeling I may need a kleenex or two before the end.

Naked–A collection from one of my favorites, David Sedaris.

Valiant–YA fantasy set in New York, dark and fast-paced.

 

Last week, the rain and cold returned to my little corner of the Pacific Northwest, giving me plenty of opportunities to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book.  Here are the titles I finished this past week:

The Ritual— 4 1/2 stars out of 5!!!  I loved this book!  The build-up in the first half was fantastic!  There were a few slow and awkward moments that slowed down the momentum, otherwise a great addition to the horror genre!  Highly recommend.

The Sound and the Fury— 3 1/2 stars out of 5.  I reread Faulkner’s classic for a Goodreads group monthly selection.  I do have a better appreciation for it now than when I first read it in high school.  Would I recommend it?  Maybe, depending on your level of patience and need for a good challenge.

Everything I Never Told You— 4 out of 5 stars.  Definitely one of the more depressing books I’ve read in awhile, but one I couldn’t put down.

Wild East— 3 out of 5 stars.  A bit of a disappointment.  The historical aspects were interesting, as were the current political and socioeconomic commentaries.  However, the author’s personal experiences were boring and came across as whiny.  She seemed to complain about everything, be it food, weather, or local sporting events.  The only time she seemed happy was when she was hanging out at bars with other expats.  The factual writing saved this from being a two star read.

Sunset City— 2 out of 5 stars.  Another disappointment.  I thought this would be more of a mystery/thriller.  Instead you have a main character who drinks too much, snorts too much coke, then sleeps with everyone she meets (oh yeah, she’s upset about her best friend’s murder, almost forgot about that).  You could probably head straight to the last 20 pages and have a better reading experience than slogging through the entire mess.

The Big Sleep (not pictured)— 5 out of 5 stars!  The classic by Raymond Chandler introduces us to hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe and I think is a must-read for any mystery or noir fiction fan.

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

 

 

Monday Mash-Up #001

The holidays are over, the decorations put away.  Now it’s time to settle in and catch up with everything book-related!

I’m introducing Monday Mash-Up, a weekly post to share what I’m currently reading and what I’ve finished over the past week.  And so, to start off 2019, here is my current reading pile:

(And yes, that is a beautiful sunshine reflection here in normally rainy and grey western Washington state!)

The Sound and the Fury–I am rereading for a Goodreads group.  I first read it in high school many years ago and didn’t care for it then.  Sadly, I’m still not a fan, but thanks to modern google searches I can at least understand it more than I did in the ’80’s!

The Dinosaur Lords–Dinosaurs and humans living alongside each other.  Humans struggling for domination of the kingdom.  Great fantasy premise but a bit slow-going.

The Ritual–I couldn’t wait for Halloween to read this one!  Great build-up!

Wild East–Just started last night, so far it’s been a bit of travelogue mixed with history lesson.

Food and the City–Another one I just started.  A series of interviews with various New Yorkers involve in some way with the food industry.

I will start adding completed titles next week.

Have a great week, and Happy Reading!

 

Review—Sydney Noir

4 stars out of 5

Another great addition to the Akashic Noir series, and thank you for the copy in exchange for an honest review!

Whenever I read a short story collection, I expect a few to be underwhelming. This was not the case with Sydney Noir. There was a wide variety of themes, ranging from apparent daddy issues (“Birthday Present” by Mandy Sayer) to prison justice (“In Court of the Lion King” by Mark Dapin). And after reading “The Razor” by Robert Drewe I can honestly say that my husband and I are thankful we aren’t that close to our family members!

If you haven’t picked up one of these books, Sydney Noir is a great place to start.

I received this book from librarything’s early reviewer giveaway.

My Reading List for 2019

A new year is almost here; time to think of some reading goals for 2019!

I decided to look through my unread book piles (I am a bit of a book hoarder, I believe I currently own 549 unread books, give or take 20 or so!!) and pick twelve fiction and twelve non-fiction.  Some of these have been on my to-read shelves for years, others are classics I’ve wanted to tackle but just never put them at the front of the line.  So after much consideration, these are my 2019 to-read choices.

 

FICTION

I think The Shelters of Stone has been on my shelf for 18 years.  Time for me to find out what Ayla and Jondalar are up to now!!

 

NON-FICTION

  

History, memoirs, travelogues……a little bit of everything!

Now the difficult decision of where to start?!?!

WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

 

Merry Christmas!!

Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Not my son nor my spouse.

The stockings were hung, 
The tree was well-lit.
Now it's time to relax
And read for a bit.

So many choices,
What should I pick?
The birth of a babe,
Or Jolly Saint Nick?

Perhaps something different
Like a nice cozy thriller,
A memoir, some poems,
Or a spine-tingling chiller.

Maybe some stories
From Arabian Nights?
Annie Proulx or Sue Grafton?
Stephen King for some frights?

No matter the choice, 
There's one wish indeed---
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL
AND TO ALL A GREAT READ!!

The Good, The Bad, and the Bizarre: My Picks From 2018

This year marked one of my more successful reading years ever.  I can honestly say I read a bit of everything:  from Ayn Rand to Colm Toibin, Ruth Rendell to Ruth Ware……well, you get the idea.  The following titles are my personal picks from the 170+ books I read this year.  I hope it inspires you to try a new genre or author in 2019!

Favorite Fiction

I read a lot of great books this year, but these five have stayed with me long after finishing them.  In no particular order:

  1. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood — The subject matter is pretty tough to read, but I could not put this book down.
  2. Swan Song by Robert McCammon — This one gets a lot of comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand but it definitely stands out on it’s own.  A true classic in the post-apocalyptic fiction genre.
  3. Summit by Harry Farthing — The past and the present meet near the summit of Mount Everest.  Incredible adventure story.
  4. You by Caroline Kepnes — I felt like some perverted peeping tom while reading this…and I loved it!  Does that make me a bad person?!?
  5. There There by Tommy Orange — Incredible debut novel by an author I will be following in the future.
Favorite non-fiction/memoir
  1. Tracks by Robyn Davidson — Davidson travels across the Australian desert with just a few ornery camels for company.  I’m a big fan of solo excursions across great distances and this one is now up there among my favorites.
  2. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie — Alexie explores his childhood through poetry and a stream of consciousness style of writing.  If you have not read any of Alexie’s works, I do recommend checking out some of his short stories or poetry before reading this very personal memoir to get a better feel for his style.
  3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot — Science meets ethics and puts a real face on one of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine.  However, it will make you wonder what exactly you are signing away the next time you have to fill out a hospital consent form.
  4. No Better Friend by Robert Weintraub — A WWII survival story of man and man’s best friend.  Very inspirational.
  5. Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham — I knew a bit about this notorious murder from the movie Heavenly Creatures.  Graham offers more details on the trial, the mental health of the girls, and the aftermath.
favorite classics

There’s a first time for everything, and I’ve been working on reading classics that I’ve missed out on over the years.  My favorites this year:

  1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front  by Erich Maria Remarque
  3. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Favorite ya

I’ve been reading more YA recently.  These were some that really stood above the rest.

  1. The Novice (Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu — A great start to a new-to-me trilogy.  Demons, magic, action and adventure…..what more could you ask for?
  2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline — Destined to become a YA classic.
  3. The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas — An unexpected surprise, and a great addition to the YA fantasy genre.
favorite new authors

Keep an eye on these authors, I predict more great books from them in the future!

  1. Tommy Orange  — Author of There There
  2. Tomi Adeyemi — Author of Children of Blood and Bone
most disappointing
  1. Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero — As a Scooby Doo fan, I thought the storyline sounded fun.  Who could say no to a grown-up version of the classic cartoon?  Well, I should have.  While there were a few good moments, a lot of it felt forced and rambling.
  2. Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings — I watched the series earlier this year and was excited to find out it was based on a book (since the book is always better than the show, right?).  Sadly, I thought the book was rather boring and I can honestly say if I had read it first I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the show.
just plain bad

I was taught if I couldn’t say anything nice to just not say anything.  So I will simply share these titles and acknowledge all three as entering my Top 20 All-Time Worst Books Read

  1. The Beach by Alex Garland
  2. The Breakdown by B. A. Paris
  3. The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
and the bizarre…..but in a good way!

Some stories just break all the rules.  For me, these three stood out for their sheer originality.

  1. Hug Chickenpenny:  The Panegyric of an Anomalus Child by S. Craig Zahler — This story was small yet powerful, just like Hug.  This one combined the fantastical with the heartwarming with amazing results.
  2. The Edge of the Known Bus Line by James R. Gapinski — Nothing like getting on the wrong bus and winding up in some alternate version of today, and not in a good way!
  3. The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott — Psychotic clowns are just a part of the bizarre circus that exists next to our own reality.  Weird, wicked, and wonderful!

Happy Reading!