Monthly roundup – June 2022

So. I love books and I love reading them. I post these collages every month knowing I’m probably the only one who cares about what I’m reading and whether I enjoyed them or not. Maybe someone will see something new and interesting to them and ask questions. Maybe someone will see a favorite and want to talk about it. Maybe I’ll scare off a distant relative. My taste in entertainment is eclectic at best, worrying at worst. I’m sure some of the stuff I read has some folks wondering what is going on in my head, and that amuses me.

As usual, the month went by and I felt like I didn’t get much reading done. Then I started compiling the collage, and…15 books. And most were so good!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color, by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez
Dark Fire, by Ruby Dixon
Sworn to the Shadow God, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry for Your…Brains, by Ryan Mecum
Daisy’s Decision, by Ruby Dixon
POLYEMBOLOKOILAMANIA: An Extreme Horror, by Matt Shaw
The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum
Bound to the Battle God, by Ruby Dixon
Wed to the Wild God, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The rest.

That’s a lot of three star reads, but three stars is not a bad rating in my book. That just means I liked them but I’m not still thinking about them.

On the agenda for July are two giant tomes, Swan Song and The Dragon Reborn (Wheel of Time #3), the latest addition to Ruby Dixon’s Corsair Brothers series, and maybe some of the Star Trek novels I’ve been collecting. A handful of the kindle editions go on sale every month and my collection has grown quite a bit.

Have you read and loved any of these books? Hated? Leave a comment!

Monthly roundup – May 2022

No real stinkers this month. Once again I didn’t get through the third Wheel of Time book, but I made a decent dent in it. The big standout this month was The Keeper of Happy Endings, which surprised me because historical fiction isn’t my genre of choice. It was really good. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting a little sappy in my old age. Probably the same reason I liked The Space Between Us so much.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Space Between Us: Poetry and Prose, by Courtney Peppernell and Zack Grey
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
The Keeper of Happy Endings, by Barbara Davis
Choice, by Jodi Picoult
Fire in Her Dreams, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Stolen Tongues, by Felix Blackwell
Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory, by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Fire in His Chaos, by Ruby Dixon
Fire in Her Eyes, by Ruby Dixon
The Slob, by Aron Beauregard
Goldenrod: Poems, by Maggie Smith
I Live You, Call Me Back: Poems, by Sabrina Benaim
Fire in His Veins, by Ruby Dixon
Yard Work, by David Koepp

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Winterset Hollow, by Jonathan Edward Durham
When She’s Lonely, by Ruby Dixon
The Fifth Survivor: Bacon Nightmares, by Angel Ramon
Anonymous, by Uzodinma Iweala
Ungirls, by Lauren Beukes
The Night Shift, by Alex Finlay

Winterset Hollow is pretty popular in the horror group on Facebook, so popular that there have been several posts by people with fresh tattoos if the rabbit on the cover. I wanted to love it. I usually love the books that are popular there. This one didn’t quite hit the spot for me. I know they can’t all be great, but I guess I had higher expectations for a tattoo worthy book. That said, I did like it.

On the agenda for June is that same Wheel of Time book, the last of Ruby Dixon’s dragon books, and a couple of book club selections. I may even catch up on my ARCs and finish up some drafts.

I read a book: The Keeper of Happy Endings, by Barbara Davis

I took a slightly different approach to choosing which books to add to the May book club selection poll. Usually I pick a bunch of books that I’ve accumulated through Amazon’s First Reads. I figured it’s a safe bet because lots of people have Amazon Prime, therefore have access to these books. And if they don’t have them, the kindle versions are always sold for $5 or less. Plus, libraries are a thing. Granted these books are not widely purchased by libraries, but I happen to know from my 20+ years of library work experience that libraries do take patron requests and if they aren’t in a position to purchase, they will try to find it via interlibrary loan. This month someone commented that she is unable to join book club because it isn’t available on Nook and I just shook my head. Come on. I’m doing my best to pick things that anyone can access. Fucking Nook…I bought one when they first came out, hated it, and returned it.

Anyway. This time I looked at bestseller lists and went as far as to make sure they were available at multiple libraries. Turns out that the one I added to my poll was also an Amazon First Reads from a while back. It isn’t one I own, but it is available on KU.

I’m rambling.

The book I chose was The Keeper of Happy Endings, by Barbara Davis. It is a cross between historical fiction and chick lit, two genres that are generally not my jam. A glance at my previous reviews or my Goodreads profile makes that pretty clear. But the book club loves this stuff, so here we are. I checked it out on KU and downloaded the Audible companion because when I’m reading genres that don’t usually keep my attention, I like to listen and follow along in the book. Keeps me focused. And boy did this one need the help in the beginning. Slow start. But when it picked up, it was so engaging that I didn’t want to put it down.

At first I didn’t care for the narration. This story is told from two different POVs, a young woman in the 1980s and an older French woman recollecting her work with the resistance and her lost love. The narrator for the latter chose to take on an accent and two different pitches to signify young Soline and current Soline. The accent was grating. The high pitched “youthful” voice was irritating. But the story was wonderful, so I sped up the audio to match my visual reading speed and plowed forward. I became so absorbed in the story that the things that bothered me about the narration no longer did.

I want to say that I figured out the twist fairy early on. The clues were there and I put it together as the story progressed. But it wasn’t so obvious that it ruined the journey. I went into this expecting happy endings and got them. Everything wrapped up in a neat little package, which usually annoys me, but in this case…I’m not mad. I loved it.

Maybe historical fiction/chick lit is my jam after all.

You can find The Keeper of Happy Endings on Amazon in print, ebook, and audio, all major retailers, or at one of many libraries in the country.

Monthly roundup – April 2022

Another month, another collage. Lots of great poetry, horror, and bizarro. Didn’t expect to love the dragons as much as I did, but here I am starting the sixth book. I don’t know what it is about Ruby Dixon, but her books make me feel good. Even the ones about the end of humanity as we know it. Skipped over Wheel of Time again. Maybe May is the month for volume 3.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Fire in His Spirit, by Ruby Dixon
Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough, by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre
Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament, by S. G. Browne
The Tower, by William Pauley III
There Are Trans People Here, by H. Melt
On My Way to Liberation, by H. Melt
Talia, by Daniel J. Volpe
White Fuzz, by William Pauley III

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Plenitude, by Daniel Sarah Karasik
Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allan Poe
Fire in His Kiss, by Ruby Dixon
Fire in His Embrace, by Ruby Dixon
Fire in His Fury, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Wives, by Tarryn Fisher
Pest, by Matt Shaw

⭐️⭐️:
Mixed Feelings, by Abraham Rodriguez
Run Rose Run, by Dolly Parton and James Patterson

On the agenda for May is the third Wheel of Time book (once again), more dragons, more horror. My TBR is overflowing and grows larger with every book deal newsletter that graces my inbox. I have a couple of book club reads and a handful of NetGalley ARCs to get to this month. Maybe I’ll even get to those library books that I keep extending.

I read a book: Bloodletting, by J. R. Curtis

I received an Audible code for a review copy of J. R. Curtis’s book Bloodletting from the author last week. He offered review codes in one of my favorite book groups on Facebook and I happily requested one. I looked up the kindle version, as I like to read along with audiobooks, and found that I already owned it. Good sign! I found the premise of this book interesting enough to have acquired it twice! And so I read my first western themed horror novel.

The story begins with the description of a handcart company starting their journey and getting caught in a blizzard. Winter is harsh, and the group is in desperate need of food and supplies. Three men take on the task of traveling ahead to an old army fort to find help. The journey is long and difficult, and they find themselves overcoming the obstacles of weather and hostiles to get to their destination. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I was on the edge of my seat as one thing after another attacked them. Poor Caleb…that kid just couldn’t get a break! The three travelers make it to their destination, only to find the fort completely empty. This is where the story goes from survival story to an otherworldly tale of horror. As the title implies, it is graphic and bloody.

Come to think of it, none of them can seem to catch a break. We learn all about each of their tragic backgrounds as they try to survive in the abandoned fort.

There is a lot I loved about this book. The whole concept of western horror scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. The writing is descriptive in a way that makes the reader really feel the cold, isolation, terror, and despair. There is nowhere for our travelers to run, and that feeling is conveyed effectively. The audiobook narration was really good. Slow enough that even though I increased the playback speed quite a bit, it didn’t sound like chipmunks. And the narrator had just the right voice for this type of story. It had that same atmospheric feel that I got from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

That said, I feel like this book could have benefited from a little more time in editing. It gets repetitive at times. The dialog feels unnatural. But overall, it’s a good book.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, 3.5 rounded up for star rating. I’ll definitely be reading more of Curtis’s work.

You can find Curtis’s books available on Amazon, Kindle Unlimited, and Audible. Borrow Bloodletting on KU or just buy it like I did!

I read a book: White Fuzz, by William Pauley III

It started with a friend request on Goodreads. I don’t accept every author friend request. I look at their profiles, I google them, I read their websites and their book reviews. According to his bio, William Pauley III writes sci-fi/horror/bizarre fiction and that was enough for me to accept the friend request and add a couple books to my TBR. Doom fiction? Count me in.

I’ve watched his name come up on my Goodreads feed for about a month now. William Pauley III is now friends with Hugh Mann. William Pauley III likes Hugh Mann’s status. William Pauley III wants to read Another Weird Book. This is not criticism of how active he is on Goodreads. It is merely an description of how that portrait of a shaggy haired man with his head tilted upward, pouty lips, eyes closed, one side of his face dripping with blood got into my head and led me back to his website. There I found Audible codes and YouTube links, making my decision of where to start easier.

Because I’m on a novella kick and because I’m a sucker for good cover art, I chose White Fuzz. It’s the story of a man who gets a text from a stranger, goes to her home, and proceeds to have the weirdest night of his life. My gears were turning early in the story, as I had just read Pest, by Matt Shaw and the premise of a guy meeting a strange woman in her home after one text interaction was feeling a bit familiar. That’s where the similarities between the two stories ends though. Pauley’s story starts out almost a cute rom-com with our two main characters teasing each other on the phone before Franklin decides, against his better judgement, to pay this mystery woman a visit. While things seem to be going well, Franklin notices a lot of strange things about the apartment and about his new lady friend. The apartment is filthy, permeated with the smell of mold, death, and cat. Lynda’s mood changes from flirty and a little awkward to a range of anger and sadness at the drop of a hat. Franklin’s shifting in emotional state is similar, but internal. Franklin didn’t know what he was getting himself into and neither did I. As I’ve come to expect from the genre, White Fuzz leaves you with that wtf did I just read feeling. The story is well written and the audiobook is actually really good. Perfectly cast narrator.

Relatable

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. William Pauley III is on my radar now.

You can read White Fuzz as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription. Or just buy the book. The eBook is only a couple bucks and the print version would look great on your shelf.

Five Years

Yeah, it’s over now
But I can breathe somehow

I spent my morning listening to The Girl on the Train on audiobook. I had to take a break because a passage brought up memories and I just need to get them out.

Eight years ago, I met a guy in a game. We bonded over shared interests. Horror movies. Metal. A dark sense of humor. He liked to talk and I liked to listen. Our friendship grew into something more, and five years ago I met him in person. Five years ago, I ended it.

I wish I could say it ended over something simple but ultimately harmless, like maybe he’d misrepresented himself. Truth is, he was exactly what he said he was except that everything he’d said was presented as humor. He was intense and volatile. Things that seemed like temper tantrums from a distance seemed dangerous in person. He frightened me. He was only in town for two days and I’d only spent a few hours with him, but it was enough. 11 out of 15 warning signs. I did some things I didn’t want to do, and then I made sure he got to the airport and back home before breaking up with him.

He wanted to maintain a friendship when it was over. I did not, but I also didn’t want to give him a reason to find a way to hurt me. He’d spent much of our relationship talking shit about his crazy exes. I remember when he was feeling particularly paranoid, he would threaten one woman via text and blame her for making him that way. So I agreed, and we’d spend evenings talking on Skype. He’d tell me about the prostitute he fucked when he got home. He’d tell me about the haggard old slut who flirted with him (she was his age and seemed like a lovely person). He blamed one woman for his jealousy issues. He blamed his mother for his existence. He blamed me for his erectile dysfunction during his visit. Conversation would inevitably devolve into me listening to him cry and asking me why women keep fucking him over.

He actually believed he was good to me.

I wrote a short note about the breakup on my old blog after I’d ended the attempt at friendship. An Alice in Chains song, a few lyrics, and a declaration that it was over and I was okay somehow. No details. He left a nasty accusatory comment and blew up my phone with texts and phone calls, just as he’d done when I left his hotel the first day and when he got home and when I broke up with him. The difference was that I was no longer responding. I was done.

I did learn from this experience. It is possible to feel trapped by someone you’ve never even touched. It is possible for someone who lives across the country to completely isolate you from friends and family. I wasn’t a bad person. I didn’t lead him on. His malfunction is not my fault.

Most importantly, it is possible to heal and get on with life. I think I’ll continue my book now.

I read a book: The Book Thief, by Mark Zusak

Before I get into my thoughts on The Book Thief, let me share a bit about my reading habits. I have several books going at any given time. It’s not uncommon for me to come back to a book three or four times before I finally get into it. It’s also not uncommon for me to decide that it’s just not the right time for me to read a certain book and move it to my “stalled” list.

Sometimes a story never really clicks and I just give up on it. I used to hate giving up on books, but the older I get the more I refuse to give my time to things that aren’t adding value to my life. My TBR pile is huge. Ain’t nobody got time for bad entertainment.

I did not finish The Book Thief.

I know, I know. Everyone loves The Book Thief. So how did it end up on my DNF list?

This review by Goodreads user Sophia. sums it up pretty well. Death narrates the story and insists on calling the main character The Book Thief despite the fact that she really only stole a few books. And he can’t just tell the story, he has to tell you what’s going to happen before it happens. He spoils everything. Normally I don’t care about spoilers. I’ve been known to google the end of an episode of a show while I’m watching it. But I don’t need the narrator to do that for me. Aside from that, none of the characters seemed particularly dynamic. It’s a holocaust book and I didn’t feel anything. I got through about 60% of the audiobook and felt like nothing happened. I kept waiting for the story to start and finally decided I was ready for it to end.

I read a book: Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

It took me a few tries to get into this book, not because it was bad (it wasn’t), but because that just seems to be a pattern with Gillian Flynn’s work for me. The first Flynn novel I read was Gone Girl, a bestseller that was made into a movie starring Ben Affleck (and Ben Affleck’s penis) shortly after it was published. I gave Gone Girl an unfair two star rating on Goodreads because I hated nearly every character and felt like no one got what they deserved at the end. Two stars because I was angry.

But isn’t that the point? Good stories, good writing makes the reader feel things. Four star feelings. I’ll never reread Gone Girl and I’ll probably never watch the movie, but it left me wanting more of Flynn. I searched the McAllen Public Library‘s audiobook collection and found Sharp Objects.

sharp2

Sharp Objects is the story of reporter Camille Preaker, a young woman with a troubled past who goes back to her hometown to write about the murders of a couple of kids. As the title and the razor blade on the cover suggest, Camille is a cutter who has spent some time in a psych hospital. Flynn goes into great detail describing the words carved into Camille’s skin and the thoughts running through her mind as they are triggered by events. If you’ve ever struggled with depression and self-harm, you might want to pass on this one. If you find imagery of preteens engaging in adult behavior disturbing, you probably won’t enjoy this book. If you need a happy ending, move along. I’m convinced Gillian Flynn doesn’t do happy endings, and that’s fine by me. But if you like descriptive writing that conjures up disturbing imagery, you’re in for a treat.