Tuesday, January 31, 2017

That's a Wrap | January in Review

My year started out like a body snatcher movie. I look the same. I sound the same. My reading and blogging, however, have not been the same. This may be my best reading month ever.

I think my Goodreads challenge is safe this year.

Books Read in January 2017

Reviews Posted in January 2017

The Fireman by Joe Hill

Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

Siren Sisters by Dana Langer

Frostblood by Elly Blake

The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum, Lucky McKee

The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Combined reviews for:
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper
  • Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley
Rosemary's Baby Ira Levin

2017 Goals Update

Goodreads Challenge - I'm at 12/50 (24%) done with my challenge. Woohoo! Count: 12/50

Horror - My goal is to read 4 horror books a month (or roughly 48 horror books this year). I managed to read 6 this month. Count: 6/48

Nonfiction - I really suck at this. I shouldn't have let this one slide. February is women in horror month so it's going to be tough to get on track with this one. I'm on the waitlist for a few at the library. Maybe one will kick start me in the right direction. Count: 0

Pre-2017 TBR - Rosemary's Baby was from my (non-review-copy) TBR. I tried some other books before landing on Rosemary's Baby. They didn't grab me. Count: 1

Review Catchup - The Fireman, The Secret Life of Souls, and Gertie's Leap to Greatness were all catch up reviews. Count: 3

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | January 29

I had another great reading week despite being swamped around the clock. I know some of you guys are also watching Australian Open tennis. We've been watching the 2:00am matches, and I'm tired! It was an amazing tournament, though. I have no regrets!

Posted Last Week

Last week I posted the following reviews:

Books Read Last Week

Loch Ness Revenge by Hunter Shea The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen

Loch Ness Revenge by Hunter Shea

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen

Review Copies

The Turn by Kim Harrison The Cutaway by Christina Kovac

The Turn by Kim Harrison - The Turn showed up in my mailbox last week. It's the prequel to Kim Harrison's Hollows series. I've heard really great things about that series. I haven't read it, but since this is a prequel it should be OK? I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether I can read this one before the rest of the series.

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac - The Cutaway is supposed to be "perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn". We shall see!

Every Dead Thing (Charlie Parker #1) by John Connolly - I've been wanting to start the Charlie Parker series for a long time. I actually started reading this over the weekend. It's brutal so far.

What about you? What are you reading this week? Be sure to let me know in the comments or leave me a link!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Tynga's Reviews' Stacking the Shelves, and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review | Rosemary's Baby Ira Levin

Rosemary's Baby is a horror novel from Ira Levin.

Rosemary's Baby Ira Levin

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, an ordinary young couple, settle into a New York City apartment, unaware that the elderly neighbors and their bizarre group of friends have taken a disturbing interest in them. But by the time Rosemary discovers the horrifying truth, it may be far too late!
I grew up with a mom who loves horror. When she first found out how much I love horror movies, she went a little overboard and we binge watched horror movies for weeks on end. I remember her excitement so clearly. "We have to watch The Shining! And Rosemary's Baby! And The Bad Seed! And! And!" Rosemary's Baby was at the top of her list. I went on to read King's The Shining many times, but Rosemary's Baby was a bit lost on me at that age. I recently found myself picking book after book off of my shelf, however, and nothing held my interest until I started reading Rosemary's Baby.

The first thing I noticed was how distinct the character's voices were. I fell in love with the characters immediately. I felt thankful for having seen the movie so I could prepare myself for what was to come!

I loved the foreshadowing, and I loved that Rosemary was surrounded by friends saying "something's not right here". She wasn't isolated into stupidity. It was easy to place myself in the role of Rosemary using logic and reason and trust, and it was terrifying. To make matters worse, SPOILER ALERT << Rosemary figures out exactly what is happening. She does what no girl in a horror story does - especially not back then - and she says fuck all y'all. She takes matters into her own hands, gets her own doctor, and she still gets handed right back to her husband. >> END SPOILER.

The movie leaves more to the imagination than the book does. I love how the book ends. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? It's a mom ending, and I love it hard core.

10/10: Awesome Read

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Reviews | Homegoing, Lowriders in Space, Gertie's Leap to Greatness

These three books are all outside of my usual genres/reviewing norm so I decided to showcase them together in one post.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

I took a leap out of my comfort zone reading Homegoing.

Homegoing is Yaa Gyasi's debut novel. It follows the lineage of two sisters from Ghana. Homegoing is basically a book of short stories with each story focusing on a different family member. The timeline of the book spans hundreds of years, but there is a familial thread connecting all of the stories.

Homegoing has received tremendous praise and has been nominated for several book awards. As for my personal taste, I can liken reading Homegoing to watching most Academy Award winning films - I can see what all of the fuss is about, but it's not really my thing.

6/10: Good Read

Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper

Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper

Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love working with cars. You name it, they can fix it. But the team's favorite cars of all are lowriders—cars that hip and hop, dip and drop, go low and slow, bajito y suavecito. The stars align when a contest for the best car around offers a prize of a trunkful of cash—just what the team needs to open their own shop! ¡Ay chihuahua! What will it take to transform a junker into the best car in the universe? Striking, unparalleled art from debut illustrator Raul the Third recalls ballpoint-pen-and-Sharpie desk-drawn doodles, while the story is sketched with Spanish, inked with science facts, and colored with true friendship. With a glossary at the back to provide definitions for Spanish and science terms, this delightful book will educate and entertain in equal measure.

I found Lowriders in Space in the Texas Bluebonnet Award section of my library. I recognized it from other awards lists and knew I had to scoop it up. This was such a fun graphic novel. The first thing that struck me about Lowriders in Space was the colors used in the graphics. I didn't realize until reading the artist's note at the end that the drawings were all done with red, black, and blue ball point pens. I'm going to have a hard time in the office tomorrow not spending time creating Raul the Third style doodles.

My 10 year old thought Lowriders in Space was weird and confusing. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed the humor and the creative depiction of the lowriding culture. I look forward to seeing what they do in the next installment.

7/10: Recommended Read

Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

Gertie Reece Foy is 100% Not-From-Concentrate awesome. She has a daddy who works on an oil rig, a great-aunt who always finds the lowest prices at the Piggly Wiggly, and two loyal best friends. So when her absent mother decides to move away from their small town, Gertie sets out on her greatest mission yet: becoming the best fifth grader in the universe to show her mother exactly what she'll be leaving behind. There's just one problem: Seat-stealing new girl Mary Sue Spivey wants to be the best fifth grader, too. And there is simply not enough room at the top for the two of them.
Oh, Gertie. This book broke my heart into a million wee pieces. It's really a wonderful book, though.

Gertie wants to be the best fifth grader that ever lived. We begin the book with Gertie creating her "what I did on my summer vacation" story. By her fifth grade year she was well aware that these stories were a competition, and Gertie needed to be the best! Gertie didn't count on there being a new girl in class this year - a new girl from California who knows movie stars.

Gertie's Leap to Greatness follows Gertie's fifth grade year and her struggle to be the best.

This book is adorable and horrible all at the same time. Kids can be so cruel to one another, and growing up is such a struggle. By the time I learned why Gertie needed to be so great, I was just a mess of broken pieces.

This is the type of children's literature that stands the test of time. I saw elements of my own childhood in the pages. I saw some of the struggles my own children are going through in school with their teachers and their peers. If you are looking for an excellent book for your kids or you happen to be like me and you've never outgrown reading kid lit, there's a lot to experience in this one little book.

7/10: Recommended Read

Review copy of Gertie's Leap to Greatness provided by publisher

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | January 21

Last week was a great reading (and blogging) week. I hope my groove lasts. I'm trying to roll with it! Australian Open Tennis started this week so my weekend will probably be filled with lots of tennis matches and binge watching Longmire on Netflix.

The Mystery Writers of America announced the Nominees for the 2017 Edgar Awards and the Horror Writers Association announced the Preliminary Ballots for the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards so be sure to check those out!

Posted Last Week

Last week I posted the following reviews:

Books Read Last Week

The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett Low Riders in Space by Cathy Camper

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Low Riders in Space by Cathy Camper

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

Review Copies

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn Aletheia by J.S. Breukelaar The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn - The Devil Crept In showed up in my mailbox this week. (Major happy dance! (salute)) I love Ania Ahlborn. I can't wait to see what she does with this one.

Aletheia by J.S. Breukelaar - The description of Aletheia has me super curious. I'm expecting some unreliable characters in this ghost story set on a lake.

The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling - Heavy metal horror? Yes, please. The Final Reconciliation is inspired by The King in Yellow mythos. I feel like a horrible horror reader because I have never read The King in Yellow. I will see if I can remedy that! This is also supposed to be "reminiscent of cosmic horror by H. P. Lovecraft, Laird Barron, and John Langan". Sounds good to me!

What about you? What are you reading this week? Be sure to let me know in the comments or leave me a link!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Tynga's Reviews' Stacking the Shelves, and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Review | The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

The Last Harvest is a YA horror novel from Kim Liggett.

“I plead the blood.”

Those were the last words seventeen-year-old golden boy quarterback Clay Tate heard rattling from his dad's throat when he discovered him dying on the barn floor of the Neely Cattle Ranch, clutching a crucifix to his chest.

Now, on the first anniversary of the Midland, Oklahoma slaughter, the whole town's looking at Clay like he might be next to go over the edge. Clay wants to forget the past, but the sons and daughters of the Preservation Society—a group of prominent farmers his dad accused of devil worship—won't leave him alone. Including Ali, his longtime crush, who suddenly wants to reignite their romance after a year of silence, and hated rival Tyler Neely, who’s behaving like they’re old friends.

Even as Clay tries to reassure himself, creepy glances turn to sinister stares and strange coincidences build to gruesome rituals—but when he can never prove that any of it happened, Clay worries he might be following his dad down the path to insanity...or that something far more terrifying lies in wait around the corner.

Holy crap, this is YA?

The Last Harvest could have passed for an adult horror novel if it weren't for the sterotypical spin the bottle, 7 minutes in heaven, and high school football games. I probably would have recommended this to fans of Ania Ahlborn if the maturity level pendulum hadn't swung quite so far.

First and foremost I enjoyed the horror aspects of The Last Harvest. It was gory and it was unsettling. There was a dream sequence element to it all which usually doesn't work for me, but Kim Liggett managed to successfully make me wonder what was real and what wasn't.

The only thing I didn't enjoy was the repetitive plot. Even when new things were happening, the structure of the story and the sequence of the action was very "lather, rinse, repeat". By 60% I was really wanting the story to wrap up.

Despite my frustration with the structure, the entire book lead up to a very satisfying conclusion. Kim Liggett is an author I will be reading again. If you are a fan of YA horror, I would definitely check out The Last Harvest. It's not like any other YA horror I have read.

7/10: Recommended Read

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Book Review | The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum, Lucky McKee

The Secret Life Souls is a thriller from Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee.

At the heart of this psychological suspense novel is the haunting depiction of a family’s fall and the extraordinary gifted dog, Caity, who knows the truth. As the drama unfolds Caity evolves from protector to savior, from scapegoat to prop, and eventually, from avenger to survivor. She is an unselfish soul in a selfish world—and she is written with depth and grace by authors Ketchum and Mckee, who display a profound understanding of a dog’s complex emotions. With her telling instincts and her capacity for joy and transformative love, Caity joins the pantheon of great dogs in contemporary literature.

Eleven year old actress Delia Cross is beautiful, talented, charismatic. A true a star in the making. Her days are a blur of hard work on ­set, auditions and tutors. Her family—driven, pill­-popping stage mother Pat, wastrel dad Bart, and introverted twin brother Robbie—depends on her for their upscale lifestyle. Delia in turn depends on Caity, her beloved ginger Queensland Heeler—and loyal friend—for the calming private space they share. Delia is on the verge of a professional break through. But just as the contracts are about to be signed, there is a freak accident that puts Delia in the danger zone with only Caity to protect her.

The Secret Life of Souls is one of the books I've been wanting to go back and give a proper review. It was released during my complete internet hiatus (November was an ugly month), but I've also had a hard time writing a review for it. It's a pretty short book, and all the things I love about it are tied to events in the story that I don't want to give away. I will just have to gush about it on the whole.

First of all, this is obviously a dog book. When I heard Jack Ketchum wrote a book about a gifted dog, well, it's harder to want a book more than I wanted The Secret Life of Souls. There are not enough genre dogs in my life.

Even with my expectations set so high, I loved The Secret Life of Souls.

As an adult, I avoid a lot of dog books. You won't catch me going near books like Marley and Me or The Art of Racing in the Rain. My chest hurts just thinking about what may be inside of those pages. After being a die hard Dean Koontz fan, though, I long for dogs like The Secret Life of Souls' Caity. I knew I would be in great hands with Jack Ketchum. He did write Red after all - an entire book avenging the death of a dog.

I'm not trying to lull you into a false sense of security. The Secret Life of Souls is a gut wrenching read. It's a psychological thriller, and it will certainly make you uneasy, but it's a great book. And a great dog. Have I mentioned how much I love Caity?

I posted The Secret Life of Souls as one of my favorite books of 2016, but it may very well be my favorite book of last year.

8/10: Great Read

Review copy provided by publisher

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Book Review | Frostblood by Elly Blake

Frostblood is a young adult fantasy from Elly Blake. It's the first book in the Frostblood Saga series.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby's powers are unpredictable, and she's not sure she's willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon.

All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king's tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Fast-paced and compelling, Frostblood is the first in a page-turning new young adult three-book series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies—but together create a power that could change everything.

There are two things I noticed right away while reading Frostblood. One, it jumped straight into the action and two, the story was very typical for a YA fantasy. This was both good and bad throughout Frostblood.

On the plus side, I never lost interest in what I was reading. I enjoyed the writing, and I liked the characters. (Ruby's love interest was probably the only thing I found unique to Frostblood.) I loved that we were given a full story within Frostblood. I was so petrified by the end that I was approaching a cliffhanger, but all was well with the ending!

On the down side, there wasn't much there in terms of plot that I hadn't already read and experienced in other books. It was certainly well crafted and I enjoyed it, but I felt like I had already been there before.

I'm curious why it's firebloods and frostbloods. It couldn't have been firebloods and icebloods? (Too obvious?) Or frostbloods and emberbloods? I'd be pissed if I was a frostblood. This is ICE, bitches.

At the end of the day, I wasn't quite the target audience for Frostblood. I expected more fantasy and less romance which was entirely my fault. I enjoyed it, but I think readers interested in YA romance will probably enjoy it much more than I did. Even though part of me feels like this wasn't a good fit for me, the other part of me feels pretty sure I'll read book two.

6/10: Good Read

Review copy provided by publisher

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | January 14

Out of the blue my mom has decided to read all of the Harry Potter books. I'm super excited. I called her last night and asked her how she is pronouncing Hermione. It was hilarious. She's competitive so she wanted to keep trying to guess. (She's been saying "Hermy-on". I'm pretty sure when I first read them I was saying "Hermy-own".)

Posted Last Week

Last week I posted the following reviews:

I also posted my horror spotlight of all of the January 2017 New Horror Releases.

Books Read Last Week

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1) by Elly Blake

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

In The Dark and The Deep by Steve Vernon

Review Copies

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward - Sing, Unburied, Sing is on my list of books I most want to read this year. When I saw it pop up on Edelweiss, I had to grab it.

The Horror on the Links: The Complete Tales of Jules De Grandin, Volume One by Seabury Quinn - Jules De Grandin is a supernatural detective created by Seabury Quinn. Seabury Quinn's stories were popular in Weird Tales magazine alongside H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. He wrote 93 stories featuring Jules De Grandin, and they are being collected together across five volumes in chronological order. This is volume one!

What about you? What are you reading this week? Be sure to let me know in the comments or leave me a link!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Tynga's Reviews' Stacking the Shelves, and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

January 2017 New Horror Releases | Horror Spotlight

Welcome to the first horror spotlight post of 2017. These are the horror novels I was able to find that are releasing in January 2017. The book cover image will take to the appropriate page on Goodreads.  If you know of any that I didn't include, let me know so I can add them to the list!

Are any of these books on your TBR pile? I've already tackled Little Heaven, but I'm hoping to read The Dead Seekers, The Last Harvest, and Fever Dream before the month is out.

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