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!

Summer Library Programs!!

I love our local library.  The Timberland Regional Library System covers three counties in southwest Washington state, offering services and programs not only to the larger cities but to smaller, rural areas as well.  Each summer, the libraries host a variety of activities for young and old alike.  My son and I have enjoyed many of these free programs, from the storytimes and scavenger hunts when he was younger, to the yearly visit from The Reptile Man and his various snakes, lizards, and tarantulas.

Today was the newest addition to the summer programs:  a local owl sanctuary called For Heaven’s Sake brought some of their rescued owls to the Salkum, WA library and gave a wonderful presentation!

I have always loved owls.  From Owl in the Winnie the Pooh stories to the ones that used to hang out in our barn, I have a great fondness for these beautiful birds and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them up close.

    

All of the owls were found injured in the wild and brought to the sanctuary for care.  They do their best to heal and rehabilitate each one so they may be returned to the wild, but these six were severely injured so they will be living out their years under the loving care of the For Heaven’s Sake owners and volunteers.

And this is just the beginning of the summer programs my son and I are looking forward to!!

Does your local library offer fun programs that you enjoy?  Feel free to leave a comment and let me know!

Monday Mash-Up #023

First, I want to give a huge shout-out to all the great Dads out there—Happy belated Father’s Day!!

Second, I’m just wondering where the heck Monday went?!  Now that my son is out of school for the summer, the days seem to melt together, making it easy for me to lose track of what day it is.  Shake it off, Glenda!  😀

While this past week was pretty quiet around here, it did provide some extra reading time for me.  And boy, did I find some winners this week!  On Saturday, I received my order of three novellas by Chad Lutzke, who I will admit I am now obsessed with.  No, I’m not turning into the narrator of You, but I am wondering where this author has been all my life (or at least the past few years since he started writing)!  I give a full five stars to the following novellas, all of which I read Saturday afternoon:

Stirring the Sheets

Of Foster Homes and Flies

Wallflower

Lutzke’s stories are listed as horror, but these three I would lean more towards very dark fiction.  And they are addictive!!  His writing style is straight-forward but emotionally powerful and pulls the reader in from the beginning.  I am hooked!!!  If you like your stories on the darker side, be sure to check this author out!!

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy — 5 out of 5 stars!!

Another new-to-me author who I am now obsessed with reading more of his stuff (I already have two more of his books on hold at the library).  This one tells the story of Jacob, an 18-ish year old with a drug dealing daddy and a crack whore mom, living in small town North Carolina.  The story is dark and brutal, but with glimmers of light and hope that made me love the characters and story even more.  Highly recommend!!

Our Story Begins by Tobias Wolff — 4 out of 5 stars!

Wolff is probably best known for his memoir, This Boy’s Life, but this collection of short stories shows his range and writing skills.  These are definitely not feel good stories, but still worth checking out.

Strange Weather by Joe Hill — 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Hill’s collection of four novellas is, well, different.  I was expecting horror and instead got sci-fi and a statement piece on gun control.  They were good, just not what I was looking for.

Killing Eve:  No Tomorrow — 3 out of 5 stars

Why do I keep reading this series when I clearly love the television show more?  *sigh*  I went into this one with lower expectations, and I don’t know if that made the difference but I did find this installment a bit better than the first book.  And, of course, it ends on a major cliffhanger which will have me reading the third book when it comes out in 2020 and lamenting the fact that it is still not as good as the tv show.


The official first day of summer is this Friday!  While we have no major vacation plans, we will be enjoying local day trips, outdoor living, and family programs at the library.

And, of course, a good book or two!!

Until next time, Happy Reading!!

 

 

Monday Mash-Up #022 Summer’s Around the Corner!

This past week has kept me busy, mainly with gardening duties.  I’ve been helping out at a local nursery, potting plants for summer growing season.  Our crew this year kicked ass (great job Karen and Heather!!) and we wrapped up almost everything today, just some odds and ends to finish.

I’ve also been bringing home more plants for my porch and yard:  several heather and lupine starts, scented iris, aronia berry plants, even a small papaya tree start for the house!

This week will also mark the last day of school for my son.  Time for me to start thinking of some good outdoor activities for us to do!

Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of reading done.  I finished one book, Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard, which was a disappointing 2 stars.  It was one of those books that started out not bad, quickly became boring, then ended with a lot of eye rolling and urges to throw it against the wall (since it was a library book I refrained from the throwing, though).

Tomorrow is supposed to be quite warm, I plan on sitting outside, in the shade of our big maple tree, with a large glass of iced tea and a good book.

What will you be reading this week?

Until next time, Happy Reading!!

Monday Mash-Up #021

You know it’s June when the local strawberries start hitting the market!  I was very happy when my husband brought home these delicious beauties.  Our friend, Pedro, started his berry farm a few years ago and we always look forward to getting our supply from him!  Tonight we had some over ice cream; tomorrow I will be making some freezer jam for the winter.

Yum!!

This past week has been a bit busier than usual.  I’ve been helping out at the local fruit tree nursery up the road, mostly with potting plants.  When I get home, I’ve been pretty wiped out and haven’t had the energy at times to do much reading.  I was able to finish these three:

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner — 4 out of 5 stars!

I just finished this about an hour ago and it is still sitting heavily with me.  Depressing and haunting are the two words that keep popping into my head, especially the last few paragraphs.  The flow of the story is a bit disjointed and there were side stories that just didn’t seem to fit in or go anywhere, but I could not put this one down.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan — 3 out of 5 stars

Dynasty meets Mean Girls, with a bit of Kardashian-esque family dynamics—that pretty much sums up this one!  It was a fun, mindless read, but a bit long-winded at times (I think if all of the details about jewelry and designer clothing were omitted, the book would be about 200 pages shorter).  I will probably read the other two  books in the series because I do want to know if Astrid gets a backbone, Eddie gets his ass kicked for being a jerk, and if Nick keeps his inheritance, just not anytime soon.

My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron — 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

The first few chapters sucked me in, then, well, blah.  The middle was repetitive, boring, and just didn’t go anywhere or move the story along.  The last few pages woke me back up, but overall this book just didn’t do anything for me.


Well, I better sign off so I can get some sleep for potting plants and jam making tomorrow!  Until next week, Happy Reading!!

 

 

 

Gotta Love the Thrift Store!!

I’ve been trying to be good!  Really!  But I’m a sucker for my favorite thrift store’s weekly “Buy One, Get One Free” book sale.  I hadn’t really checked them out for a couple of months; after the big haul back in March and the library book sale this month, well, let’s just say my to-read hoard is ridiculous!  But I had recently boxed up several books for donation so I thought I could at least look around…..maybe get a couple…….

Yeah, right.  *sigh*

For fiction, I found the following:

There was a great selection of newer titles, like the Paula Hawkins and Lisa Jewell.  I’ve also been stocking up on Ken Follett, his giant tomes make for good reading during the dark, cold days of winter.

And for nonfiction:

I love cookbooks so I always see if anything looks good.  The James Beard pasta cookbook was a great discovery!  I also have a fascination with Asian temples and monasteries so I couldn’t pass up on Shwedagon.  Not pictured is one I found for my son, a companion guide to one of his video games.  See, not all for me!!  😀

Not bad for under $10!!

I’ve told myself I cannot buy any more until I’ve read at least 25 of my unread books.  We’ll see how long that takes, haha!!

Monday Mash-Up #019 and #020

I started my #19 mash-up last week, then realized I was completely unprepared to write anything, I hadn’t even finished any good books!  My first case of writer’s block, if you will.  So I decided to combine the two for this week.

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend here in the States.  Many are out and about, taking mini vacations and having barbecues (it’s been raining in my neck of the woods, though.  Not very pleasant for outdoor activities).  But for me, growing up, Memorial Day meant cutting some of the flowers from my mom’s garden, usually a combination of iris, lilacs, and the fluffy white blooms of the snowball bush, and leaving pots full of fragrant blooms at the graves of our relatives, several of whom were military veterans.  It’s important to remember the reason for the holiday, so please remember to take a few minutes out of your busy, fun-filled weekend to remember those whose sacrifice gave you this holiday.


Now, for the books!  Definitely some goods ones these past two weeks!

American Predator by Maureen Callahan — 4 1/2 stars!

A full review coming soon.  Many thanks to Viking Press for selecting me to receive an ARC!

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman — 4 stars!

Book 2 in Shusterman’s Arc of the Scythe trilogy.  I can honestly say I liked this one more than the first!  The plot keeps moving along, and my love and hatred of the different characters has grown as well.  Can’t wait for book 3 this fall!!

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu — 4 stars!

A quiet, unassuming narrative about an Ethiopian refugee living in Washington DC.  I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed reading it until I reached the final page and wanted more.

Havana Noir — 4 stars!

Another collection from my favorite series put out by Akashic Books.

Perfume:  The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind — 4 stars!

I honestly didn’t know how to rate this one.  Probably the most original idea I’ve read in some time, but at times a bit boring and repetitive.  For the story itself I lean towards a solid three stars, but I upped it for the sheer originality (plus the totally bizarre ending!).

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx — 3 1/2 stars

Another quiet novel, one that I’m a bit on the fence about.  Proulx does have a writing gift, but I just couldn’t get a feel for many of the characters.  Not terrible by any means, just not what I was expecting.

Spirit by Graham Masterton — 2 stars

This was probably the most boring ghost story I have ever read.  A real disappointment after having read some of Masterton’s earlier works and enjoying those.  There were enough scary scenes to keep this from being a one star read but not enough for me to ever recommend it.


And so we start another week!  Until next time, Happy Reading!

Nonfiction—Adventures in Travel

Here in the States, Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching, giving us a glimpse into the upcoming summer season.  Barbecue grills come out, campers are cleaned and restocked,  and everyone in general begins to plan summer adventures, big and small.

One of my favorite things about summertime is traveling.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a day trip to the beach, a hike in the woods, wandering around the zoo, or a weeklong trek through as many random towns, state parks, and/or states as possible.  There’s just something about summer that makes me want to explore places outside of my normal routine.

Sadly, I can’t always partake in yearly adventurous exploring.  Real life is often a bitch and for me, when I can’t escape from the daily routine and everyone else seems to be body surfing in Hawaii or mountain climbing in Tibet, I turn to books.  Of course!!  🙂

The following, in no particular order, are some of my favorite nonfiction books of adventurous travel (all get a 4 or 5 star rating from me).  Yes, there seems to be a theme of single person traveling long distances, but isn’t that what a true adventure is?

Wild by Cheryl Strayed 

After her mother’s death and a failed marriage, Cheryl Strayed made a life-changing decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a rugged 1,000+ mile trail that stretches from California’s Mojave Desert to the border of Washington state and British Columbia, Canada.  She had little experience or training, an over-packed backpack, and hopes of learning more about herself and some of her questionable life decisions.  We follow not only her physical journey but her emotional one as well.

Tracks by Robyn Davidson

Robyn Davidson makes her journey across the Australian Outback with four camels and a dog for company.   While not as introspective as other solo journeys, it is still entertaining and inspiring.  Quick side note:  if anyone has seen the movie, let me know if it’s any good.  🙂

The Places In Between by Rory Stewart

I read this one several years ago and I still place it at the top of my favorite nonfiction.  Stewart walked across Afghanistan, no easy feat for anyone, foreigner or not.  There is something about his story-telling abilities that had me hooked, and I found myself emotionally involved in his journey.

 

Getting Stoned With Savages by J. Maarten Troost

I’ve read all of Troost’s books about his time living on remote islands in the middle of the Pacific, and this one is my favorite.  Personally, I think the man is a bit of a masochist for continuing to return to the “same squalor/different island”, but it does make for some entertaining reading.

Giant Steps by Karl Bushby

Bushby, a former British paratrooper, sets a goal to basically walk around the world:  36,000 miles over the Americas, Asia, and back to his home in England.  This book chronicles the first leg of his journey from Punta Arenas, Chile to the westernmost tip of Alaska ( a stone’s throw from Russia).  He does focus more on the first part of the journey, once he hits the United States and Canada things seem to get glossed over (maybe things just weren’t as exciting in this neck of the woods!  🙂  ).  I’m kind of bummed that nothing new has been added to his twitter account since 2018, I hope he’s still following his dreams and goals.

 

Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron

This one mixes a lot of historical info with modern day imagery.  Thubron didn’t mess with walking the entire Silk Road, he took advantage of all modern transportation that was available (and I don’t blame him!!).  This book shows an interesting juxtaposition of distant history and modern tech living side by side.

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And a quick note about this month’s All Dragons Read dragon:  he has definitely done his own traveling, from a small shop in the Bahamas, to my friend’s house in Tennessee, then across the States to my living room in Washington state.  More traveling than I’ve done in the past couple of years, haha!

Feel free to share your favorite adventure books!  And as always, Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Monday Mash-Up #018 Mother’s Day!

A Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!  Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

I finished up some great books this past week—

The Revenant by Michael Punke — 4 out of 5 stars!

The wild west of the 1800’s, the need for revenge, action, adventure, this one has it all!  And after reading it, I don’t think I want to ruin it by watching the movie, especially since I’ve heard more negative than positive reviews.  There were a few overdone descriptions, and the ending did surprise me.  If you like old school adventure stories and are not too squeamish, be sure to check this one out!!

To the End of Hell by Denise Affonco — 4 out of 5 stars!

Denise tells her story of surviving Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge in the mid 1970’s.  The writing is very simple but powerful (it is revealed near the end that this is basically a rewrite of her multi-page witness statement for the trial of Pol Pot).

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason — 4 out of 5 stars!

If you’re a fan of “Nordic Noir” (Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo and the like) then definitely check out this Icelandic author!  Violent murder, dark family secrets, great plot twists, all the good stuff.  I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo — 4 out of 5 stars!

A true classic.  I was inspired to reread this after seeing the destructive fire at the famed cathedral last month.  I’ll admit I wasn’t a huge fan of the book when I first read it as a teenager.  But with age comes wisdom and patience, which probably helped me enjoy the story more this time around.


Short and sweet this week.  I’m working on some new ideas for weekly/monthly posts.  We’ll see how far I get with them!  🙂  Until next time, Happy Reading!!

Monday Mash-Up #017 Library Book and Plant Sale!

This past week was pretty quiet around here.  However, Saturday was the annual used book and plant sale at the Salkum library….which I just had to attend!!  My son and I arrived late morning and found that most of the plants had already sold.  I did get some veggie starts though.  Lemon cucumbers and butternut squash, yum!  I also picked up a German chamomile plant and some lupine (not pictured).

I picked up these chenille plant starts as well, I love these!

And, of course, found some books!

    

I’m pretty proud of myself for keeping my book buying in check!  😀

My reading started out pretty slow, but I was able to finish up a few over the weekend:

Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts — 4 out of 5 stars

My goodreads review:  I can honestly say I know nothing about graphic novels. I couldn’t tell you if this had amazing artwork or if it was subpar, if the writing was amazing or if it sucked. But I will say this:
I was entertained, and I could see Anthony Bourdain’s love of Japanese storytelling coming through with each chapter.

Rosemary:  The Hidden Kennedy Daughter — 3 /12 to 4 stars out of 5

I went into this one thinking it would shed more light on Rosemary’s life.  Rather, it looks at the Kennedy family as a whole and how they were involved in her life, and how ultimately she shaped their lives as well.  The writing was a bit clunky at times, and certain factoids (Joe Kennedy’s political aspirations for example) would be better suited for another biography, but overall an interesting and somewhat sad read.

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert — 3 stars out of 5

My goodreads review:   Overall, not bad. This is your typical historical drama where the main character encounters every true historic event that happened in their lifetime (and if they didn’t personally go through it then some family member or friend did), loses nearly every person they love, yet finds some sort of redemption and/or peace and a happy ending.
I actually like this kind of story. Really, I do. But this one just didn’t do it for me.
This was one of those books where I felt like I had read 100+ pages and in reality had only read 20 or so. Very slow going for the first half. I did appreciate the research behind the story, but I felt the character development was pretty cliche.
And the snippets with the long-lost daughter Ruth (which I’m guessing was a set-up for the second book) did nothing for me. I’m not a cold-hearted bitch, but it was way too convenient. Or maybe at this point I just didn’t give a crap anymore.
Three stars for the historical references, which I truly liked. Beyond that, meh.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett — 3 out of 5 stars

I’ve wanted to read this one for some time.   After recently reading Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, I found myself comparing the two as I read.  Needless to say, Chandler won out.  The story just didn’t hold my interest like I thought it would.

Servants of the Storm by Delilah Dawson — 3 out of 5 stars

A YA horror/thriller that had so much potential but wound up fizzling out before the halfway mark.


And so we start another week.  Have a great one and, as always, Happy Reading!