2021 started out a bit rocky for the NightWorms gals as one of the featured books was delayed in transit, pushing back the usual first week of the month shipping date to mid-month. But the way I see it, it was great timing. After the ongoing stress of watching the near fall of democracy, I welcomed this latest monthly package with near giddy happiness…and it did not disappoint!
Grindhouse Press was the featured indie press this month, with three very different yet intriguing titles. Merciless sounds like the love child of NaturalBorn Killers and Bonnie and Clyde, with a couple on their honeymoon embarking on a cross-country killing spree. Tim Meyer’s Paradise Club is set at a posh resort, where the guests must learn to kill or be killed. And Horrorama offers three novellas featuring a strange self-storage building; a camping trip that goes awry; and a cult looking for it’s next sacrifice. And along with the signed bookplates and bookmark is another great product from Retreat Drinks, peppermint hot cocoa, perfect for this time of year!
Sadie and Ashley always do a great job, and I am looking forward to another year of awesome books from these hard-working NightWorms gals!
We all love book mail! Believe it or not, I still had some gift money left over from Christmas so these are my belated Christmas gifts to myself that have arrived over the past week…
My friend Michelle recommended the epic fantasy, The Deed of Paksenarrion, as something I must read, and after checking out the synopsis I totally agree! Finding all three books in one was an extra bonus! And as a fan of Louise Erdrich and Jane Harper, these were must-haves as well.
And, of course, there’s these…
I believe I’ve mentioned the Death’s Head Press series of “splatter westerns” they’ve been putting out over the past year, all written by different authors with the awesome cover artwork by Justin T. Coons. I recently read the first in the series, The Magpie Coffin by Wile E. Young, and loved it! However, I’ve been seeing mixed reviews on several others in this series so I decided to opt for the two that called out to me.
And as I was writing this up earlier today, our lovely mail carrier delivered this to my mailbox!!
I am a huge fan of Australian author Alan Baxter, and this collection of five novellas set in a strange small town with even stranger inhabitants called out to me when I first heard about it! Can’t wait to visit The Gulp!
The Week in Books
Sin Child by Angela Howard — 4 out of 5 stars
This is not an easy book to read. Angela Howard was extremely brave to come forward with her story of the systematic abuse and neglect she suffered throughout her childhood and teenage years, not just from sexually abusive stepfathers, but the emotional and physical torments from her own mother and grandparents. I applaud Ms. Howard’s bravery, but from a reader’s standpoint I do wish things had been written a bit more cohesively, and perhaps extra attention given to the chapters highlighting her escapes and successes (unless there is a follow-up book in the works, in which case I understand not focusing on the good just yet). Highly recommend.
Your Turn To Suffer by Tim Waggoner — 4 out of 5 stars
This is my first foray into Tim Waggoner’s mind and let’s just say, it was a trip!! And I liked it!! Lori is targeted by a group calling themselves The Cabal, demanding that she “confess and atone…or suffer.” What follows is a mix of mayhem, violence, and a trip to one of the strangest and creepiest worlds I’ve read about in a while. If you’re a fan of Lovecraft-inspired splatter horror, then this book is for you! Thanks to Flame Tree Press for the early ecopy!
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren — 3 out of 5 stars
I don’t know where to begin with this one. I’ve been wanting to read this classic for some time now, and when I started it back in late September 2020 I was intrigued…for the first 75 pages or so. Then **crickets** for the next 400+ pages, with a renewed surge of interest in the last 100 pages or so. This is not the story I was led to believe it to be. Everyone talks about this prize-winning novel as showcasing the rise and fall of politician Willie Stark, and how Willie Stark should be considered one of the best fictional characters in modern literature. I’m scratching my head on that. The bulk of the story is about Stark’s lackey and the story’s narrator, Jack Burden. Let me put it this way: there is nearly 100 pages devoted to stuff that happened in the mid 1800’s that have nothing to do with Willie Stark, let alone the current timeline narrative; it’s all Jack and his “family.” I was expecting something totally different, and while I appreciate the writing and understand why this won a Pulitzer, I was beyond disappointed that it was nothing like it’s been portrayed to be…of course, that IS how politics work so….hmm…
The highlight of this past week was by far my son’s 17th birthday on Sunday. Our little celebration (just the three of us with a few presents and a lot of chocolate cake) helped remind me that there is still good in the world, and to take time away from the darkness on the daily news to celebrate the things in life that bring us happiness and hope.
The Week In Books
Gone to See the River Man by Kristopher Triana — 4.5 out of 5 stars
Lori is a woman haunted by her past, in love with an imprisoned serial killer, and willing to do anything to win his love. That’s the simple synopsis, but this story is so much more than that. Triana gives us a macabre tale, exposing the depths of human depravity. I’ll admit that even I had to put this aside for a day after reading about Lori’s past. But there was an unmistakable pull to continue, and I found myself reading nonstop to the bitter (yet strangely satisfying?) end. The story is dark and gruesome, the characters unlikeable, but Triana’s writing pulled me in and left me wanting to read more of his work. Definitely not for everyone, but highly recommend.
Buried by C.J. Carmichael — 2.5/3 out of 5 stars
This was one of those books I wish I had read some of the reviews before wasting my time with it. I thought it was a stand-alone mystery, but no, it’s a cliff-hanger, part of a trilogy that I will not be continuing. The initial mystery is good (a best-selling author gets anonymous emails regarding cold case murders of librarians in his home state of Oregon), but the whole schlocky soap opera vibe just didn’t do it for me.
… and yes, this is me getting into my hibernation mode for the next two months or so!
After the holidays are over, the decorations put away, and the house is back to somewhat normal again, I always feel like burrowing between some warm blankets, brewing endless pots of tea, binge-watching favorite shows, and reading some great books. Granted, that pretty much sums up most of last year, minus the warm blankets during the summer!
I’m currently reading some longer books that I felt I needed a little break from (not that I don’t like them, I just have to be in the right mood to read them…we all know that dilemma!). So I decided to read a couple of longer novellas in my collection, one being a 20+1 choice, the other from a new-to-me author who I’ve heard many great things about. Totally different genres, but both are great reads to start out the new year!
The Week In Books
Golden Fortune, Dragon Jade by Alan Baxter — 4 out of 5 stars
This is a total departure from Baxter’s usual horror/sci-fi stories, and I loved it! It incorporates Asian mythology and religion, Australian history, and lots of martial arts fight scenes! It’s a fun, quick read that I recommend for everyone, and I really hope Alan Baxter plans on a follow-up (hint hint!)!!
I’m From Nowhere by Lindsay Lerman — 4 out of 5 stars
So, for the other end of the spectrum! This story centers around Claire, recently widowed and trying to figure out who she is without a husband, child, or job. This sounds pretty straight-forward but it’s not. Lerman examines grief in it’s different forms, with a main character I personally didn’t care for but I couldn’t stop reading about. Check this one out, you might be surprised by the feelings you have after reading it.
I love starting a new series. I love reading fantasy novels in the middle of winter. So what better way to start out the new year than with a new (to me!) fantasy series?!
This has been on my shelf for some time now and I am totally curious to see what everyone has been talking about. I’ve heard enough about it that there probably won’t be many surprises but I still can’t wait to be swept away to a different world.
Goodreads Group Reads
My groups selected a couple of books I highly recommend to start out the year. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini is heart-breaking, at times brutal, yet beautiful as well. A story of family and friendship in war-torn Afghanistan. Personally, this is my favorite of Hosseini’s works. If you’re looking for a big classic to kick-start 2021, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy definitely fits the bill! A word of advice: be sure to find a copy of character names and their titles/nicknames to keep with you when you start this. It seemed like every person went by four or five different names and I found it pretty confusing at first! Plus, we’re not in school anymore, it’s perfectly okay to have a cheat sheet!! 😀
May 2021 bring lots of great reading experiences your way! Stay safe and Happy Reading!
I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions. I usually fall from my diet by week two, exercise equipment collects dust, travel plans don’t go through.
Reading goals, however, never fail! I love challenging myself, whether it’s reading a certain number of books or trying out different genres and authors. I look forward to read-a-thons with my Goodreads groups, and checking out other book blogs and vlogs for inspiration. This year, on top of my personal reading goals, I have some extra challenges I’m signing myself up for. Bookworm Bitches offer a variety of challenges both monthly and quarterly that I usually participate in. This year I’m also taking on their year-long Literary Scavenger Hunt. There are nearly 50 prompts, like books with a specific number of chapters or pages, cover art (or lack thereof), matching my initials or birth year with a book or author…you get the idea. I’m already going through my TBR hoard to start matching books with prompts!
And, of course, I made a to-read list for 2021 from my shelves and boxes of books waiting for me to pick them. It was difficult, to say the least!
I tend to gravitate towards memoirs and biographies, so Born Standing Up and Saving My Assassin were no-brainers. Five Days at Memorial takes a look at the chaos and tragedy at a hard-hit hospital during Hurricane Katrina. Brooklyn Zoo is another memoir, focusing on an infamous psych ward at a Brooklyn institution. As an animal lover, I’ve had When Elephants Weep on my to-read list for over a decade now. I finally have a copy and can’t wait to read it!
Really a little bit of everything here! I had to pick a couple of my favorite authors, Cormac McCarthy and Sherman Alexie. A couple of others have been on my shelf for a while (A Gesture Life, The Doubt Factory). Plus, I have to read The Twelve before I forget what all happened in Cronin’s first book, ThePassage !
I’ve amassed quite a collection of novels and collections on my Kindle over the past year, it almost rivals the number of my unread physical books! I decided to prioritize five of these ebooks, adding them to my 2021 reading list.
Managed Care by Joe Barrett Described as “A laugh-out-loud celebration of bad choices for good causes,” a young man moves into a care facility for the elderly after they refuse to refund his deceased grandfather’s deposit. I see some potential in this one!
Gone to See the River Man by Kristopher Triana A woman’s obsession with a serial killer leads her to unspeakable darkness to prove her loyalty to a madman. Sounds like this is right up my alley!
Golden Fortune, Dragon Jade by Alan Baxter A novella-length adventure fantasy from my favorite Australian author.
The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste I’ve been hearing great things about this novel, probably best described as a mix of gothic and urban fantasy. Girls are withering away, their bodies turning to broken glass and corroded metal. I can’t wait to find out why!!
In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson Another one I’ve been hearing great things about. A literary western with some vampires thrown in the mix. What’s not to love about that??!
Now, you’re probably wondering about the whole Plus One thing. I love long, epic novels, but lately I’ve been finding it difficult to really get into one. I have several sitting on my shelf, so I decided to choose one of the 700+ page novels as a must read for 2020….
This was another difficult choice. I was torn between this, The Priory of theOrange Tree, and 1Q84. In the end, I wound up closing my eyes and picking one, so we’ll see how this goes!
What are your reading goals for 2021? Let me know, I love hearing about what everyone is reading!
Even though this year turned into a giant shitshow for everyone, there were some bright moments, with great books at the top of the list!
Let’s start with my personal challenge/goal, My 20 to Read for 2020. I did manage to get through most of my list. I’m currently reading two of my choices, All the King’s Men and Jim Henson, but I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be finishing them before midnight on the 31st. The only other book I didn’t get to was Charles deLint’s Someplace To Be Flying, and not for lack of enthusiasm. I started it a couple of times but just couldn’t commit myself to reading it; it’s definitely one of those books I have to be in the right mood to get into.
Now for Goodreads. At first I put my reading challenge at 150 books. Then, when I reached that goal by August, I upped the ante to 175. As of this writing, December 30, I have read 209 books for the challenge, with a whopping 52,697 pages! This was also a great year for great reads as I had more 4 and 5 star rated books than years past. I don’t know whether I’m getting pickier with my reading choices in my old age or if I lucked out, but I’m not complaining! I discovered a lot of new and new-to-me authors this year, explored the offerings of several indie presses, and reacquainted myself with some longtime favorites.
So how did I narrow my list down to the top 20? It wasn’t easy! In the end, I went with those stories I still think about, whether I read it 10 months or 10 days ago. Some played with my emotions, others were starts of series I want to continue, still others were just damn entertaining! It’s a mixed bag for sure, but, hey, that’s how I roll!
And so, I present to you, in alphabetical order so I don’t have to pick an absolute favorite, my 20 favorite books from 2020!
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
Only Good Indians, The by Stephen Graham Jones
Pvritan, The by Birgitte Margen
Rattlesnake Kisses by John Boden and Robert Ford
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason
Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, The by Grady Hendrix
Things That Last Forever, The by Peter W.J. Hayes
Until Summer Comes Around by Glenn Rolfe
Walk the Darkness Down by John Boden
Way of Shadows, The by Brent Weeks
Weight of This World, The by David Joy
Bones Are Made to Be Broken by Paul Michael Anderson
Miami Noir: The Classics
Acid For the Children by Flea
Heart and Other Monsters, The by Rose Anderson
In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
How was your reading year? Did you accomplish your reading goals? Find some great titles? Drop me a line, I would love to hear about your favorite reads from the past twelve months!
It goes without saying that I love getting books as gifts. And it’s helpful that my husband never knows what to get me so when I give him a list of titles he just rolls with it!
I’ll have to admit, I was interested in Singing With All My Skin and Bone for the cover alone. But having read the first story in the collection I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy this one! The Faster Redder Road is a collection of early works from one of my faves, Stephen Graham Jones. The other two are titles I’ve seen floating around on Goodreads that piqued my interest.
And then there’s the creature features!
What started out as a joke on Twitter, followed by the wildly successful book, The Roo by Alan Baxter, has continued with more stories about wildlife out of control. Added bonus: all proceeds go to the author’s favorite animal charities!
The Week In Books
The Magpie Coffin by Wile. E. Young — 5 out of 5 stars!
I finally got my hands on The Magpie Coffin, the first in a series of Splatter Westerns put out by Death’s Head Press, and wow!! If it hadn’t been for having to make meals and walking the dog I would have devoured this in one sitting! Salem Covington is a man on a mission: to seek revenge on those who killed his mentor, Comanche shaman Dead Bear. Think of a spaghetti western with a lot more bloodshed and some supernatural elements. Highly recommend!
Baby and Solo by Lisabeth Posthuma — 4 out of 5 stars
Solo is a teenager working at a local video rental store, trying desperately to be normal and hide his past. Baby is his coworker who is trying to deal with her own painful secret. The story follows their growing friendship and their hidden pains. There are a lot of issues and triggers in 400 pages, including homophobia, teen pregnancy, abortion, suicide, and mental illness. And while I thought at times the author was trying to throw too many things into the plot, I still thought it was a well-written, touching coming-of-age story with a nostalgic nod to the 1990’s.
The Silence of the Elves by Meg Muldoon — 4 out of 5 stars
This fun cozy mystery was a perfect pick for Christmas! Misfit elf Holly Hopewell is kicked out of the North Pole by Mrs. Claus and sent to live and work in the small depressing town of Mistletoe. Of course there’s a murder, a loyal sidekick, and a budding romance, but it offers the perfect mix of mystery, humor, and sweetness.
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan — 3.5 out of 5 stars
Wait, how did this chick lit/romance show up on my shelf…and why did I actually read it?!!!?!! And actually wind up kind of liking it??!!??!! As you know, I am not a fan of this genre, but I really needed a break from darkness (both in fiction and in real life) and I will have to admit that once I settled in and started reading, I was totally hooked. But why only 3.5 stars? The predictability makes it a guaranteed 3 star in my world. The extra half star was for Nina’s passion for books. But her naivety quickly became annoying and distracting for me, keeping it under the 4 star mark.
Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies
Snow by Howard Odentz — 4 out of 5 stars
This little kindle freebie short story is kind of cheesy but still a fun read! Teenagers discover a drunk in the woods and steal his bag of goodies. Let’s just say they shouldn’t have done that!
In Tooth and Claw: Tales of Horror and the Supernatural by Dan Soule — 4 out of 5 stars
Another freebie surprise! Eight stories ranging from a witch’s curse to military-trained werewolves. I did think that a couple of the stories felt a bit abrupt, but overall a great variety, one that will have me looking for more of the author’s works in the future.
Well, we’re almost to the end of one of the strangest, stressful, and saddest years I’ve ever known (and I know I’m not alone in thinking this). However, I’m confident that 2021 will bring brighter times for all of us. It may not miraculously happen on January 1st (I wish!!) but hang in there, it will come.
From our house to yours, I want to wish you all the happiest of holidays. I know 2020 has made things different and difficult (to say the least!) but I hope you all can find some peace and joy.
The Week in Books
Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman — 4.5 out of 5 stars!
Rounded up to 5 stars for Goodreads. If you love a good psychological thriller/horror novel based on true events, make sure to mark you calendar for Whisper Down the Lane‘s April 2021 release!! There are two storylines, with 1983 Sean and his narrative (very similar to the real McMartin preschool trials of the time), and 2013’s Richard, an elementary art teacher whose past is coming back to haunt him. I loved the twists and turns in this novel, but perhaps the most haunting aspect was the look into the human psyche, and how easily adults and children can be manipulated into believing what others tell them as “truth.” I can’t wait to read more from this author!
The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore — 4 out of 5 stars
Whenever I need a good laugh, I know I can count on Christopher Moore and his off-kilter sense of humor. The Stupidest Angel did not disappoint! There’s Christmas cheer (or lack thereof), murder, love and/or lust, a well-meaning angel bringing the dead back to life, and those said “back to lifers” concerned about eating brains and going to IKEA…yeah, you get the picture! There are a lot of references to previous Moore works/characters, but I think anyone who wants to read a slightly twisted holiday tale will enjoy this one.
The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Hummingbirds by Jon Dunn — 4 out of 5 stars
Having grown up in Washington state, I grew up with hummingbirds. We always had two full feeders in the spring and summer, and I have to say I pretty much started to take for granted these glimmering jewels of nature. After reading The Glitter in the Green, not anymore! Dunn’s enthusiasm is infectious as he travels from Alaska to the most southern point of South America in search of not only the “common” varieties but the elusive rare species as well. Between the nature commentaries and travelogues, Dunn offers historical notes on hummingbird mythology, early scientific research, and the sad historical facts of humans destroying these birds for, ironically, the sake of beauty. My only major critique: Dunn’s concluding comments felt abrupt and unfinished compared to the rest of the book. Highly recommend for everyone. Thanks to NetGalley, Basic Books, and Jon Dunn for offering an early e-copy for review. Be sure to look for this title in April 2021!!
Be sure to check out my favorite books of 2020 and my reading goals for 2021, coming next week!
Have a safe and peaceful holiday season, and Happy Reading!
A little Christmas cheer arrived earlier this month in my latest NightWorms package!
From the theme name, I had figured December would focus on women writers, but the gals at NW did a great job of keeping the featured titles/authors under wraps, so to speak. Hey, everyone deserves a good Christmas surprise, right?!
And a great surprise it was! I was stoked to find Sara Tantlinger’s Cradleland ofParasites in the mix. I’d become a fan of her poetry after reading The Devil’sDreamland earlier this year, and this creepy, make-your-skin-crawl look at the Black Plague did not disappoint. Not All Monsters is an anthology featuring some familiar names and several new-to-me authors with a central theme of facing the monsters that haunt us. Fairest Flesh is described as part historical fiction, part fairy tale, that focuses on the infamous Lady Bathory, who believed that bathing in the blood of virgins would give her eternal youth. I’m creeped out already!!
And I realize I totally spaced on sharing the November NightWorms theme, Haunted Harvest!
Featured authors Chad Lutzke and John Boden are known for their emotion-based, coming of age horror. Wormwood asks the question To what lengths would you go to make friends? And Jedi Summer With the Magnetic Kid takes us back to the early ’80’s where a boy and his little brother make their way through various scenarios…and meet a few ghosts along the way. I devoured both of these books and give them high recommendations. And the brown sugar vanilla chai tea? Delish!!
Until next time, stay safe, wear your mask, and Happy Reading!