Nonfiction — End of the Road

End of the Road by Brian Keene

5 out of 5 Stars!

From the Goodreads synopsis

…(A) memoir, travelogue, and post-Danse Macabre examination of modern horror fiction, the people who write it, and the world they live—and die—in. Exhilarating, emotional, heartfelt, and at times hilarious, End of the Road is a must-read for fans of the horror genre. Introduction by Gabino Iglesias.

Brian Keene is the award-winning author of several novels, short stories, and comic books, with the main emphasis on horror (he has also written mysteries and science fiction as well).  While I am only familiar with a few of his horror short stories that I recently read in his collection, A Little Sorrowed Talk, when I came across his promotion of this title on Twitter, I just knew I had to read it.

In 2016, Keene went on a nine-month book signing tour to promote two of his latest titles.  He joined up with the website, Cemetery Dance, to provide weekly blog posts to chronicle his journey.  End of the Road is this journey.

We travel with Keene to various stops across the United States, meeting indie bookstore owners and his fans, some who traveled for hours to meet their favorite author and offer a gift of bourbon (I believe at one point he had received 92 bottles!).  He meets up with old friends, remembering drunken hijinks from the past while embarking on new ones (hey, gotta do something with those 92 bottles).

But this is much more than a simple travelogue.  Keene explores the fall of the horror genre and mainstream book stores.  He grows introspective while processing the loss of his good friends and fellow authors. He worries about being away from his young son for such an extended period.  Oh, and he plans out a bit of grave-robbing as well (no, I won’t give any spoilers on that!).

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  There were some laugh-out-loud moments, as well as a few that left me a bit teary-eyed.  And thanks to Keene’s enthusiasm, I now have a list of books and indie bookstores that I will be looking for online in the months to come.  You don’t have to have read any of Keene’s works to fully appreciate this highly entertaining, highly personal journey.     Recommended for everyone.


I hope this finds you all safe and well.

I have several nonfiction titles lined up for 2021 that I can’t wait to share with you in the coming months!  Until next time, take care of yourselves and, as always, Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #107

Wow, this week got away from me!  Perhaps it’s due to being able to relax a bit and actually get some reading done!  So this week, let’s go straight to the books…

The Week in Books

End of the Road by Brian Keene — 5 out of 5 stars!

Be sure to check out my full review coming this weekend both here and over at Mr Pink Ink!

Fairest Flesh by K.P. Kulski — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars

While the synopsis makes this story sound like a fictional take on the infamous Lady Bathory and her murderous crime spree in the late 1500’s, it’s really more of a dark retelling of Snow White.  Not that that’s a bad thing!  Kulski’s writing style is very rich and poetic, but the story itself just didn’t grab me like I thought it would.  Still, I would recommend this to those who like dark fairy tales, you know, those ones without the happily ever after.

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones — 3 out of 5 stars

I’m a huge fan of SGJ, but this earlier work just didn’t hit the mark for me.  The premise is good:  a sort of tongue-in-cheek tribute to the slasher films of the ’80’s and early ’90’s.  But the delivery?  Meh.  Written with a combination of film directions and regular dialogue, I found myself confused more than once and having to backtrack to figure out what I missed (not something I like to do when trying to enjoy a novel!).  And why the hell were these modern characters (2013 I believe) acting and talking like it was the 1980’s??  I’ll just say, this story was different and leave it at that.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare — 3 out of 5 stars

My choice for my January theme.  Since I’ve been hearing about this book and series for some time now, there weren’t many surprises for me.  I liked the storyline and a couple of the characters well enough, but it just didn’t wow me like some other YA fantasy series I’ve read.  Sure, at some point I’ll pick up a couple  more of the series to see where it goes, but right now it’s not at the top of my must read list.

Novellas, Short Stories, Anthologies

Starving Ghosts in Every Thread by Eric LaRocca — 4 out of 5 stars

Wow!  This was weird as hell…and I liked it!  A girl’s internalized feelings of guilt and depression manifest themselves as strange mutations on her body which in turn feed on the emotions of others.  Yeah, I told you it was weird!  There’s also a neurotic mother, eccentric neighbor, and mysterious new friend.  Oh, and scorpions!  LaRocca really packs a punch in this novella, and I look forward to reading more from him!  Highly recommend, but not for the squeamish.

Salix Marsh by Scott Donnelly — 2.5 out of 5 stars

A sasquatch-like being is spotted in Salix Marsh…is it responsible for the shenanigans going on around town?  A pretty basic storyline, simply written, and not a lot of build-up.  Too bad, as there was some potential with the plot but a failure with the delivery.


This weekend I’ll be participating in a monthly read-a-thon hosted by 24B4Monday.  The goal is to read for 24 hours in a three day period.  I know I won’t come close to that (I usually average about 11 hours) but it’s always fun trying!

Short and sweet this week!  Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!

NightWorms January Theme — Cabin Fever!

New year, new NightWorms goodies!

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 Natural Born 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!

Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!!

Weekly Mash-Up #106 Book Mail!

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…


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #105

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.


Stay safe and Happy Reading!

Weekly Mash-Up #104

What a quiet beginning to the new year…

… 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.


Until next time, Happy Reading!

January — A Fresh Start

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!!   😀

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May 2021 bring lots of great reading experiences your way!  Stay safe and Happy Reading!

My 20 Plus 1 for 2021!

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!

Nonfiction

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!

Fiction

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, The Passage !

Kindle

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….

Plus One

This was another difficult choice.  I was torn between this, The Priory of the Orange 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!

Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!!

WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!