Monday Mash-Up #033

How ’bout them apples?!

So the early apples are starting to ripen.  My favorite is, and always will be, the Gravenstein apple, a bit tart but very flavorful, and is a great cooking apple.  Why is this my favorite?  There was a Gravenstein tree in my backyard at my childhood home.  I loved this tree, with it’s gnarled, strong branches that I used to climb on a regular basis, and I loved the applesauce and pies my Mom would make.  When we moved, we found a place with different varieties of apple trees, but none were as great as those from my early childhood.

 

 

So between batches of apple butter and applesauce, I managed to finish a few of my current reads.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson — 4 out of 5 stars

This was more of a 3.75 but I’ll round up.  A rather strange sci-fi tale that, while overall I enjoyed it, got bogged down at times with too much info and explanations.  But when the action was going on and the characters weren’t talking as much, it was pretty darn entertaining.

Tales of Jack the Ripper by various authors — 3.5 out of 5 stars

A collection of short stories centering around, you guessed it, Jack the Ripper.  There was a wide variety, from modern day Ripper tales to those trying to imagine who (or what) Jack the Ripper really was.  Like almost all short story anthologies, this one has some great, some good, and some not so great (and a couple that left me scratching my head as they made no sense whatsoever).

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Trembley — 3 out of 5 stars

I had high expectations for this one.  It wasn’t bad, just not what I was expecting.  Kind of a fanfiction nod to The Exorcist, but not really as scary.

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong — 2 out of 5 stars

God, where do I begin on this one?!?!?  The synopsis sounded good (a secret town in the middle of the wilderness where people go to escape whatever they need to escape;  murders start happening in secret town, who is it and why???).  For the first 50 pages or so, I was really liking this.  The main character/narrator Casey seemed like one tough bitch, a little out of control at times but hey, who isn’t?  However, the story went from holding my attention to putting me to sleep pretty quickly.

 

Then there’s the idiotic betrayal, the convoluted solution to the multiple murders,  and the stupid ending.  It took me three days to read the last 80 pages, and that was forcing myself to sit down and read so I could return this to the library.  Everyone seems to like this book, I’m still trying to figure out why.


This is back to school week here for my son, heading into the 10th grade this year!  Good luck kiddo!

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

Monday Mash-Up #031/#032

Summer vacation is starting to wind down, much to the disappointment of my teen son (he’ll be starting school August 27).  It’s been a quiet summer, to say the least.  We are still hoping to make a day trip to the beach this weekend; we had to cancel twice because of rain.

With the cooler temps and rain, I had a lot of reading time on my hands and read an interesting mix over the past two weeks!

 

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones — 5 out of 5 stars!

I really don’t know how to describe this somewhat “quiet” novella.  It’s a combination of Native American mysticism, a bit of horror, some heart-wrenching coming-of-age….and it left me feeling like I had been sucker-punched.  I loved it.  I don’t know if I would recommend this as an introduction to Jones’ works, but if you want to read something totally different then make sure to give this one a shot.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman — 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Wow, that was a trip!  This one really delivered on the creepiness and suspense, I was just a tad disappointed with the last few pages (after being on the edge of my seat for so many pages, I found myself thinking “That’s it?” at the end).  I’ve heard great things about the movie adaptation so I may track that down for some Halloween viewing.

The Dry by Jane Harper — 4 out of 5 stars!

Yet another one to add to my recent Australian favorites!  Murder and secrets in a small, sun-parched Australian town.  Kept a good pace with some interesting characters.  I’m looking forward to reading more of this Aaron Falk series!

The City Where We Once Lived by Eric Barnes — 4 out of 5 stars!

I’ve read my share of dystopian novels,  but this one was probably the most disturbing because it could easily happen tomorrow (and in some cities I’m sure it’s already started).  This isn’t a zombie apocalypse, there is no plague or sudden loss of all computers or machinery.  Instead, it depicts the slow death of an unnamed city and the struggles of those who choose to remain.   While bleak, Barnes does offer glimmers of hope and the inherent goodness in humanity.

Shock Totem #10 — 4 out of 5 stars!

I really hope the founder of this horror anthology-type publication will  decide to continue (apparently this issue is the last one for the time being).  A great selection of horror short stories, a bit of non-fiction, and a couple of author interviews (including Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts).

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney — 3.5 out of 5 stars

I liked it, more than I thought I would.  It was the perfect summer read, some funny moments, a lot of drama.  My biggest issue—not really feeling a lot of anything for most of the characters.  But that is just me, I tend to be overly critical of stories that fall in this genre.

Peony in Love by Lisa See — 3 out of 5 stars

Honestly, I only read this one to satisfy one of my prompts in a summer reading challenge I’m doing (read a book with a plant on the cover).  It wasn’t bad, just not something I would normally read, even with the whole ghost world aspect.  I did like See’s writing style and will probably try another of her books, hopefully one without an overwrought, sickly sweet unrequited love story involved.

Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina —3 out of 5 stars

I came across this one in the new releases section at the library.  It sounded intriguing, dramatic, overall interesting.  Well, not so much.  There were parts that were amazing, followed by mediocre.  I found it somewhat disturbing that the author seemed to glorify the situations (based on true historical events) and create something akin to a Siberian utopia.  This book is also not only about Zuleikha, there are so many other characters that I gave more of a damn about but the reader is given nothing  about them.  Too bad.

From the Midway:  Unfolding Stories of Redemption and Belonging by Leaf Seligman — 3 out of 5 stars

I received this uncorrected proof from Bauhan Publishing and Librarything Early Reviewers giveaways in exchange for an honest review.

It’s hard to review an uncorrected copy, not knowing how much will be corrected at the final printing, but here it goes.

From the Midway is a series of short stories, each focusing on a different character involved with Beasleys’ Traveling Amusements, set during the first half of the 20th century.  We have the usual “oddities” including the bearded lady, the shortest and tallest, Lizard Man, Flipper Boy, as well as stories about  one of the dancing girls and a couple of the workers.

I found some of the stories pretty intriguing and well written.  Some, however, didn’t seem to be complete and were almost like an afterthought or filler in order to plump up the book.

About a third of the way in, I also realized I was reading essentially an adult Sunday School sermon, which may work well for some readers but it was not what I was expecting.

Overall, not bad, I was just expecting more story and less sermon.

*Posted on Librarything 8/15/2019

 


Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #030

You know the end of summer is fast approaching when the schools send out your child’s schedule and supply list.  My son will be going back on August 27, and while that seems like a long time, I know it will fly by.  So many things we still want to do, so little time!!

This past week has been pretty quiet.  We have been enjoying a bounty of lemon cucumbers from the garden, and our blackberries are starting to ripen as well.  I hate the heat but love the produce!  😀

With one exception, this was a great reading week!

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton — 4.5 out of 5 stars!!

I’ve discovered some great Australian authors recently (Richard Anderson, Peggy Frew to name a couple) and now I can add Trent Dalton to my list of authors to watch.  One thing I found out after I read this was a large part of it was based on the author’s childhood (they say truth is stranger than fiction; the novel was strange enough, I would love to read his actual memoir if he ever writes one!).  Part coming of age, part crime/mystery, and overall a great book.

Voices by Arnaldur Indridason — 4 out of 5 stars!

This is the second book I’ve read in the Inspector Erlendur series and I can’t wait to find some more!  This time, Erlendur is investigating the murder of a hotel Santa Claus found in, well, a bit of a compromising position.  There is also a secondary storyline involving the potential abuse of a young boy.  Overall a great series, but can get a bit off-track at times.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara — 4 out of 5 stars!

Be sure to read my full review I posted on August 4th!

The Autumn Balloon by Kenny Porpora — 4 out of 5 stars!

Porpora’s memoir is heartbreaking and powerful in it’s simplicity.  Could almost be a companion piece to Boy Swallows Universe in that both tell about growing up surrounded by extreme dysfunction.

Chicago Noir — 2 out of 5 stars

I think my goodreads comment says it all:

After reading nearly 30 books in the Akashic Noir series, this one was a disappointment. I was expecting more than “Generic town, somewhat noir.” I’m not going to stop reading the series, I’m just glad this wasn’t my introduction to it.

Have a wonderful week, and Happy Reading!

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.

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!