Wednesday, January 31, 2018

REVIEW: Stillhouse Lake

Stillhouse Lake
Author: Rachel Caine

Gina Royal is a Kansas housewife. She has two kids and a happy life with her husband Melvin. One evening a drunk driver hits their house with his vehicle. That accident tears Gina's life apart because the police discover something horrific in Melvin's workshop.....the workshop he padlocks shut, the workshop where he disappears to work on his projects, the workshop where he kills people. Melvin is a serial killer. Flash forward a few years. Gina is now Gwen Proctor, living on the run from internet crazies who think she helped her husband. Even being acquitted following a trial won't convince some sickos that she didn't have anything to do with her husband's murdering all those women. She and her two kids stay alert, ready to run and disappear again when threatened. Gwen has purchased a house on a lake.....they finally feel a little bit of security and happiness. Then everything goes wrong......again.

This is such a suspenseful and exciting story! Well-written and action packed, it kept my attention from beginning to end. There is a second book in this series, Killman Creek, and a 3rd book, Wolfhunter River, that will be published in 2018. I am definitely going to read more of this series!

I love the cover art for this series. It really sets that creepy feeling even before I start reading!

Rachel Caine is the penname for Roxanne Longstreet Conrad. She is the author of several series including the Morganville Vampires and Weather Warden.. I'm definitely reading more of her work -- this book was excellent!! I'm not really into vampire stories, but I might make an exception this time.

REVIEW: Curses, Boiled Again!

Curses, Boiled Again!
Author:

Allie Larkin is a ballet dancer, but she has broken her ankle. While she heals, she travels home to help her Aunt Gully in Mystic Bay, CT -- a quaint, seaside New England town. Aunt Gully has just opened The Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack and she's competing in the annual Memorial Day Lobster Roll competition. As a newcomer to the Mystic Bay culinary scene, Aunt Gully being invited to participate in the competition is a big deal, and Allie is happy to help her. Strange things have been happening lately. Her aunt has been receiving threatening letters from a strange group, the Lobster Liberation Group. The notes, stuffed under the door of her lobster shack, state that if she doesn't close shop there will be dire consequences. Aunt Gilly shrugs off the warning, laughing about Lobster Libbers. Allie can't shake off her worry though. The letters have her extremely concerned. When four judges at the lobster roll contest are poisoned, Allie realizes that she was right to worry. One dead judge, three sick ones, Lobster Libbers, vandalism, threats and murder......where is it going to stop??

I really enjoyed this book! The story is full of light humor, quirky characters and fun....plus a bit of murder and mayhem as well. I had a terrible cold while I was reading this, and the humor made me feel better as I sat wrapped in a blanket, a space heater blowing on me, drinking hot tea and feeling very sorry for myself. It's hard to feel sorry for oneself while reading about the antics of Aunt Gully, the free spirit, who talks and sings to lobsters before she boils them. Not to mention Allie, the injured ballerina and her snarky, slightly uppity, sister Lorel. (Don't call her Lorelai....she hates that.)

I needed a pick-me-up....and this book was just the ticket for me! The cover art, as with most cozies, is fabulous!

The one thing that surprised me just a bit is the fact that Allie really never said anything about her ballet career....that she missed it, wanted to go back to it, her fans, etc......   But.....that would have muddied up the plot a bit if she had been whining about her ankle the whole time. Just felt that was one spot that was a bit lacking in her character development. A bit more about her past would have been interesting. I was perfectly content with finding out who poisoned the lobster roll judges.

When I finished this book I really wanted to take a trip up to Baltimore and have lobster and crab cakes at the Inner Harbor. Not really the same as a Mystic Bay-like place.....but awesome sea food! Not to mention a huge bookstore and a Hard Rock Cafe right there. Poe museum, aquarium and science center right there too. And the seafood has to be mentioned twice. :) Who's with me???!!!! Let's go! :) Mystic Harbor reminded me a bit of Nag's Head here in NC.....laid back beach town with lots of tourists and characters, snooty people in yachts and just a lovely place to be. :) That's as close to a New England town I can get to within driving distance of western NC.

My book reviews do tend to wool gather and digress into all sorts of subjects don't they! But.....it does mean that this book made me laugh and made me think of places I have been and equate to the location in the story. That's a success I think!!! :)

A great start to a new cozy series. I can't wait to find out what happens next!

Curses, Boiled Again! is the first book in the new Lobster Shack Mystery series. A second book, Against the Claw, will be out in July 2018.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from St Martin's Press via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

REVIEW: The Snow Child

The Snow Child
Author: Eowyn Ivey

In 1920, Jack and Mabel move to Alaska to get away from their old lives and the pain of losing a child at birth. But homesteading in Alaska proves to be back-breaking work and a hard life. Mabel feels alone, isolated and empty. And Jack feels used up and like a failure because the farm just isn't making enough money. Then one year, the first snow of the cold season is magical.....they laugh like old times, have a snow ball fight and build a snowman. A snowgirl actually....decorated with Mabel's mittens and a scarf. The next morning Jack finds the snowman crumpled to the ground and sees a strange, blond child running through the trees at the edge of the woods. The girl is usually accompanied by a red fox and calls herself Faina. Meeting and loving Faina will change all of their lives.

This is a wonderful re-telling of a Russian fairy tale. Life in the wilderness is harsh and unforgiving, yet beautiful. There is joy and sorrow in this story.....very much like real life. It was wonderful watching Jack and Mabel's lives transform and grow stronger as they learned how to live in Alaska. Mabel works with her hands in the fields and learns so much about her husband and how he feels after a day's hard work, the stress he faces and the joy. Jack comes to better appreciate and understand his wife. And Faina fills a hole in their life that has been painful for both of them for years. But she is a free spirit,and nobody can contain her.

Beautiful bittersweet story! The Snow Child was Eowyn Ivey's first book. I definitely want to read more of her writing!

REVIEW: The Sign of the Beast

The Sign of the Beast
Author: Joyce Carol Oates

Howard is 12 years old. He's a stocky, large boy and in that clumsy stage just as puberty hits. He's nervous around girls and easily embarrassed. This gets even worse when Mrs. S____ takes over teaching Sunday school at his church.  She says his name strangely, says the birthmark on his cheek is the mark of the beast, teases him, touches him.....  She makes him nervous and strangely excited at the same time. She wont stop.....seeming to revel in his embarrassment. But then he starts to follow her, turning the tables. What will Mrs. S_______ think when she notices Howard is always lurking about everywhere she goes? But did things really happen the way Howard remembers?

This story was incredibly disturbing. As the mother of two sons, I have a hard time reading about abuse of boys by authority figures. Teachers, especially ones who teach at a church, should be above reproach. But Mrs. S_____ is disgusting. She sneakily gets inappropriate with an innocent young boy, and doesn't realize there will be consequences for her actions at some point. Joyce Carol Oates builds the creepy, sinister atmosphere quickly in this chilling little tale.....and never quite gives the entire answer at the end. Did he? Or didn't he? Did she? Someone did ...... did she deserve it? Did the punishment fit the crime? Hmmmm....... this is the sort of story that I finish and then wonder a couple days about before coming to a decision about what exactly I just read, what it meant and how I feel about it. Right now, as the mother of a 13 year old, I want to jump into the story and throttle Mrs. S____ myself (maybe I did.....maybe that's the answer!)  Or maybe I want to jump in there and give Howard some help......get him some therapy, yell at his mother, yell at Mrs. S______  .....  I'm not sure. I do know the story definitely pushed my Mom-buttons. But then again......did things really happen the way Howard remembers? Am I sure? No.....I can't be sure. So creepy!!

This story was released in 2017, but Joyce Carol Oates has a cnew ollection of suspense tales, Night Gaunts, coming out in 2018. Although this story made me uncomfortable, I'd like to read her new book when it comes out. The writing was superb.....and the story is supposed to make readers uncomfortable.

REVIEW: Into the Black Nowhere

Into the Black Nowhere
Author: Meg Gardiner

Women are disappearing in Gideon County, Texas. All five of them abducted late at night on Saturdays over the past six months.  FBI Special Agent Caitlin Hendrix works in the Behavioral Analysis Unit. When the BAU is put on the case, Hendrix travels to Solace, TX with two other special agents to investigate the abductions. They might be able to find the last victim alive if they move fast. Hendrix is new to the unit, still in training to hone her profiling skills. She still bears the scars from the case that gained her a job at the BAU -- a serial killer known as The Prophet. An unknown killer is still at large from that case. Hendrix keeps a composite sketch of the suspect above her desk to remind herself that he's still out there. But for now, this case in Texas is more important.

I'm not going to say more about the plot. No spoilers from me!

nto the black nowhere is the second book in the Unsub series. I loved the first book in this series! Unsub was supremely suspenseful, dark and just awesome! This follow-up book is just as good, or even better. I spent yet another late night reading because I had to finish the story. Great characters. Awesome suspense. Royally horrific bad-guys. I don't often give 5 star reviews.....but this book earned full stars. I am most definitely going to be reading more of this series! And.....CBS has purchased the rights to turn it into a television series. I have mixed emotions about this....   On the one hand....YAY! The characters and storylines are awesome and I'd love to watch it on televisions!  But on the other hand.....the characters and storylines are awesome....and I'd hate television to screw that up.  I don't want another Temperance Brennan/Bones thing going on.  Now TV fans will stop me there and say "Hey, the Bones series ran for 12 seasons!''  Yeah, it did.....but the characters and situations bore little resemblance to what Kathy Reichs wrote in her books. They shared a name and an occupation (sort of), but nothing else. Temperance Brennan in the books is a more complex and interesting character than the Sheldon Cooper-like character from the show. And the plots from the books are much better, more realistic. The argument might also be made that Meg Gardiner will be a producer for the show......well, Kathy Reichs was listed as a producer for Bones as well. Sigh. Let's see some grit and some good scripts, CBS! Be true to the books -- they are amazing!

I can't wait for the next book in this series!

Monday, January 29, 2018

REVIEW: Dead Air (Doctor Who)

Dead Air (Doctor Who)
Author: James Goss

The Tenth Doctor travels back in time to 1966 in pursuit of an alien weapon called The Hush. The weapon is drawn to sound. The Hush kills, and also cancels all sound...creating areas of absolute silence. He traces the Hush to a pirate radio station, Radio Bravo, broadcasting from a boat. The Doctor and the people running the station (Layla, Tom and Jasper) are all trapped on the boat with the weapon.Years later, in a wreck at the bottom of the sea, a recording of the Doctor's experiences on the boat is found. Unfortinately, they restore the recording and listen to it.

This Doctor Who audiobook is entertaining and exciting! Filled with sound effects and distorted audio to enhance the plot, the story moves along quickly, with suspense. David Tennant is narrating, and does a superb job! I have hearing loss, but was able to perfectly hear and understand him easily, even with all the extra distortions added as part of the story. This is a shorter story than most of them....at just shy of 1 hr 15 minutes, but a lot is packed into that hour+. The moments when the characters are unsure if they are speaking to another human or The Hush were all quite creepy. This is definitely another great audiobook presented by BBC Audio.

I'm definitely listening to more in this series. So far, each one has been just outstanding!

REVIEW: Return to Labyrinth Vol 3

Return to Labyrinth Vol 3
Author: Jake T. Forbes
Illustrations: Chris Lie

In the early 2000's, Tokyo Pop published a 4-part Return to Labyrinth manga series. I love the 1986 movie, so I was so happy when someone gave me the first 3 volumes in the series several years ago. The only downside was that I didn't have the final volume. Turns out the last book in this series is a bit hard to find, and often ridiculously expensive. This year I have challenged myself to read more books that I want to read, nostalgia reads that I enjoyed in the past and more books from my own bookshelves. As I looked over my bookshelves, I saw this unfinished series on my keeper shelf. It was time to acquire a copy of the missing 4th book so I could finally discover the ending to this revisit to The Labyrinth. I have ordered a copy of the 4th volume of this series. In preparation for its arrival, I'm re-reading the first 3 volumes. I have my fingers crossed that the final book arrives in readable condition!

This series is American style manga, rather than the Japanese style that reads from right to left. I'm ok with that. It's based on an American movie, and mixes typical manga style art characters with more muppet-style characters from the movie. I like the storyline as well. Toby (the baby from the original movie) has returned to the Labyrinth. Goblin King Jareth has named him his heir and promptly disappears. Strange things are discovered about a girl, Moppet, who lives in the Goblin City, revealing Jareth has told some whopping lies. He has also entered into an agreement with Queen Mizumi. If he doesn't fulfill his part of the bargain within 13 years, the kingdom belongs to the queen. There is only a week left.....and Jareth still hasn't' succeeded. Although the exact nature of his agreement isn't revealed, he does travel to see Sarah, who has no memory of him. It turns out that Sarah and Moppets fates are intertwined and Toby will face a hard decision to save one or the other. Volume 3 reveals secrets about the queen's daughters. Toby is betrayed and Sarah is about to walk into Jareth's trap.

Volume 3 is a great build-up to the final book in this series! I've had these books on my shelf for four years now, never knowing the ending! I had a great time re-reading these books. I am a huge fan of Labyrinth (really, anything Jim Henson ever created) and have a spot on my keeper shelf for these books and the more romantic duology written by S. Jae Jones.

The cover art for Volume 3 is again by Kouyu Shurei and features Queen Mizumi's two daughters, Drumlin and Moulin.

I can't wait for Volume 4 to arrive!! I am SO ready to find out how this story concludes!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

REVIEW: Return to Labyrinth Vol 2

Return to Labyrinth Vol 2
Author: Jake T. Forbes
Illustrator: Chris Lie

Return to Labyrinth is a 4-part American style manga series from Tokyo Pop. Several years ago I was given the first 3 books in the series, but never had the final book. As part of a personal goal this year to read more books that I really want to read and from my own shelves, I have ordered a copy of the 4th book. I will finally get to read the end of this revisit to Labyrinth! Well, that's assuming my order ships and I receive the book. (lol) With a sense of optimism, I have begun reading the first three volumes in the series again. I want to be ready to tear right into the package and start reading when book 4 arrives!

This series is set more than 10 years after the movie. Toby is a teenager and has been lured into the labyrinth by Jareth, The Goblin King. Jareth announces his intention to make Toby his heir. There is an evil queen and several other baddies who are not in favor of this choice. Soon after announcing his heir, Jereth disappears, leaving Toby as the new king. In flashbacks, it is discovered that Jareth entered into a wager with Queen Mizumi. He has 13 years to fulfill his part of the bet, or his kingdom and everything in it reverts to the control of the queen. There's only a week left...and Jereth is missing. Will he complete his task in time, or lose everything? And what will happen to Toby who now finds himself the new Goblin King? Volume 2 reveals the bet, Toby's decision to learn to be Goblin King, and a strange revelation about Moppet, a servant of the Mayor of Goblin City.

I like this series. The artwork is a wonderful mix of familiar characters from the movie and manga style artwork. The cover art, by Kouyu Shurei, is awesome! The storyline is interesting and adds in some new characters like Moppet, Mizumi and her daughters Drumlin and Moulin, and Skub. I'm glad that I will finally be able to read how the story ends, once I have book 4!










Saturday, January 27, 2018

REVIEW: Return to Labyrinth Vol 1

Return to Labyrinth Vol 1
Author: Jake T. Forbes
Illustrator: Chris Lie

I have been a fan of the movie Labyrinth since it came out in 1986. Return to Labyrinth is a 4-part manga series from Tokyo Pop that continues the story. A couple years ago I was given the first 3 books in the series. Unfortunately, the person who gave me the books didn't have the final book. Because I made it a personal challenge in 2018 to read more books I want to read and more off my own shelves, I went online tonight and found a copy of Volume 4 for a good price. I am finally going to finish reading this series! While I'm waiting for Volume 4 to arrive in the mail, I am going to re-read the first 3 volumes. 

I am by no means an expert on manga. So I will leave the in-depth style and artwork critiques to others. I'm just going to concentrate on my own personal thoughts about this series. 

Return to Labyrinth is American style manga, reading left to right. I really prefer the Japanese style...there's just something about reading from right to left that sets the genre apart and makes it different and more fun to read. But, that does not mean that I didn't enjoy this series. I'm always up for a revisit to Labyrinth!

This series takes place more than 10 years after the movie. Toby is a troubled teenager. Unknown to Toby, the goblin king has meddled in the teen's life for years, causing him to be a bit of an outcast with his peers. Toby is lured into the Labyrinth by Jareth, who wants the boy to be his heir. A mysterious queen and the Mayor of Goblin City want to steal the throne from the goblin king, so they try to prevent Toby from finding Jereth in the Labyrinth. 

Toby meets up with some characters from the original movie like Ludo and Sir Didymus, but there are also new characters like Moppet, Skub and Queen Mizumi. 

As a fan of the movie, I'm really enjoying reading this manga series again. I can't wait to get the last book and finally discover how it ends! 

On to Volume 2! :) 



Friday, January 26, 2018

REVIEW: The River Between Us

The River Between Us
Author: Richard Peck

The year is 1861. Tilly Pruitt lives in Illinois with her brother Noah, her sister Cass and their mother. With their father gone, they are struggling to make ends meet. Then a stranger from New Orleans steps off a steamboat headed to St Louis. Delphine and her companion Calinda are like nothing the small town of Grand Tower has ever seen. They cannot continue their journey to St. Louis, so Mrs. Pruitt takes them in as paying boarders. Rumors begin to fly around town immediately. Residents wonder if the darker woman, Calinda, is a slave, or if the two women are spies for the south. And why is the Pruitt family harboring southerners? Little do they all know the deep effect they will all have on each others lives and futures.

This story is told as a flashback, as Tilly's grandchildren come for a visit in 1916. The children learn the story of their dad's family, and a family secret or two.

This is just a lovely story. It has such vibrant descriptions and memorable characters. I just happened to find this book at the local thriftshop and picked it up. I'm glad I did. It was a very enjoyable read.

Richard Peck has written many books for children, including A Year Down Yonder, which won the Newberry Medal in 2001. This is the first book I've read by him. I plan to read more! Wonderful story!

REVIEW: A Book of Ghosts and Goblins

A Book of Ghosts & Goblins
Author: Ruth Manning-Sanders

A Book of Ghosts & Goblins is a wonderful collection of tales about all sorts of creatures and spooks, both good and evil. The 21 stories are reminiscent of fairy tales, most having a moral lesson (be kind, help others, don't judge by appearances, etc).

I loved this collection of stories. Some are scary, some funny and others are just weird. All of them were enjoyable! I liked the fact that the stories weren't just all about ghosts, but added in goblins and other supernatural creatures.

This book is middle grade appropriate, but also enjoyable for adults. The stories are spooky and strange, but not too scary for kids (yet not so benign that adults won't enjoy them). The tales are all well-written and each averages about 5-6 pages. Illustrations are by Robin Jacques (an amazing UK artist who illustrated more than 100 children's books in his career). The artwork is amazing and so creative! The pictures really add depth to the stories. :) The front cover art is just wonderful!

Ruth Manning-Sanders wrote several collections of fairy tales, all illustrated by Robin Jacques. Topics range from Giants and Dwarfs to Mermaids and Dragons! I loved this collection of stories. I definitely want to read more of her books! Magical stories!


Thursday, January 25, 2018

REVIEW: The Hostess with the Ghostess

The Hostess With the Ghostess
Author: E.J. Copperman

I just love this funny, paranormal cozy mystery series! In this latest book, Alison Kerby is finally getting some peace following the disappearance of her resident spirit, Paul Harrison. But just as she thinks she has the guesthouse to herself sans spirit, Paul's brother Richard shows up searching for his brother. The only problem is that Richard has been murdered....he's dead. He wants his brother's help to solve not only his murder, but also the case he was working on when he was killed. Alison starts looking for Paul...and also checking into the case that got Richard killed. If she's not careful, she might be the next one to die!

This series mixes humor with mystery in such a great way! There are very few books that can make me laugh out loud, but this series always manages to do it. Always a delightful read! This one moved along at a nice pace, smoothly blending humor and mystery. Alison should have known she would never have a life without a ghost hanging about!

The cover art is great, as usual!

I have enjoyed each book in this series and look forward to the next one!

**I read an advanced readers copy of this book from Crooked Lane Via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


REVIEW: Death Below Stairs

Death Below Stairs
Author: Jennifer Ashley

I really miss Downton Abbey. So when I saw the description of this book, I jumped right on it! I loved all the descriptions of the workings of Lord Rankin's household....the meals, the running of a large house, the different servants and the family members,  and all the Victorian trappings. Add a murder mystery and treason to the mix, and it's a very suspenseful and fun romp.

The basics: Kat Holloway is hired as a cook in Lord Rankin's household. Things seem a bit strange, but she's so happy to have the position that she doesn't care. When her assistant is found murdered in the pantry, it's time to do some investigation and find out who killed the Irish kitchen maid. She gets help from a friend, Daniel McAdams -- who is much more than he appears to be.

I was a bit astounded that a cook in such a large house would have the time to run around investigating as much as Kat did.....but I'm happy to suspend reality for such a fun mystery!

I love the cover art for this book!

This is an awesome start to a new series! A second book, Scandal Above the Stairs, is coming out in June. I will definitely be reading more!

*I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own**

REVIEW: Scary Stories to Drive You Batty

Scary Stories to Drive You Batty
Author: Devra Newberger Speregen

I've been on a bit of a kid's horror kick lately. Nothing like a good ghost story or weird, creepy tale to make winter seem a little less blah.

Scary Stories to Drive You Batty is a  middle grade book featuring three creepy stories for kids. The tales are short and age appropriate.

The Mystery of Joe Duffy - A dead baseball player haunts a diamond at the baseball camp. It will be a summer Stephanie and Jordan never forget!

The Mummy - Richard and Jordan like to play mean pranks on their little sister. When they discover a mummy in the attic, the joke is on them!

Truth or Scare -  The new kid in the neighborhood shows up to help initiate members into the Oak Street kids club. His game -- Truth or Scare -- is definitely frightening!

The tales are spooky and cute. All content is age appropriate. The front cover art is awesome! You can't go batty without some bats to keep you company!. Each story is about 14 pages long, perfect length even for reluctant or slower readers. I could definitely see using these stories as a lead-in to a creative writing assignment. Have the kids read the stories to themselves or out loud to each other.....then they write their own scary story!

Devra Newberger Speregen is the author of more than 100 books for kids and adults.




Wednesday, January 24, 2018

REVIEW: Superweird: Strange But True Stories You Won't Believe

Superweird: Strange But True Stories You Won't Believe
Author: Andrea Urton

I think it's in human nature to be drawn to stories of the unusual, seemingly supernatural, or strange coincidences. Those little things that make you wonder if there might be just a little, little bit of strange magic in the world that pops out now and again just to keep us all on our toes. Superweird gathers just a few of those tales from history and relates them in a fun way for kids (and adults, too!). Some stories are 2-3 pages long, others are in footnotes in the margins. Illustrations by Will Suckow add a little extra zing to the stories.

This book was fun to read. Some of the tales I had read about before (like all the coincidences between the assassination of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy), but others were completely new to me. The tales come from all around the world, from modern times or back in history. The book is middle grade friendly. Some of the stories are a bit spooky, but none are inappropriate or too scary for kids. The book is well-written and would be interesting to adults as well. I know I really enjoyed it! I've been on a spooky ghost story kick for the last couple of weeks, and this was a perfect, quick read!

The cover is a total hoot! The book is also well organized and easy to read.

Andrea Urton wrote a couple more books about strange events and also quite a few about Origami (paper folding). I'm definitely going to find copies of her other books on weird things. Superweird was a super-fun read! I'm a sucker for collections of strange stories! :)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

B.C. is Alive and Well

B.C. is Alive and Well
Author: Johnny Hart

I like to read cartoon collections as sort of a "palate cleanser'' between novels. A little something to lighten the mood or make an abrupt genre change seem a bit less severe to my brain. :) This year I have made a goal to read more books off my own shelves or to revisit favorite nostalgia reads (books I read years ago and enjoyed). Keeping that goal in mind, I jumped back in time to the prehistoric era for my palate cleansing. The B.C. cartoons by Johnny Hart always made me smile when I was a teenager (and another of his cartoons Wizard of Id was also a favorite). I wanted to see if I still found the cartoons funny now that I'm a bit (ha! a lot, actually) older. And the answer is YES! :) The topics that Hart pokes fun at in B.C. are still quite relevant -- relationships, society, feminism, therapy, politics, business, love, greed, the environment...... Basic human foibles and situations are timeless, and so are these cartoons.

B.C. features six cavemen, two cavewomen and an assortment of animals discovering the world around them, forming society, inventing necessities and, of course, forming the first neuroses. One caveman writes poetry and is afraid of water. Another likes to observe fish by sticking his head in the river. Then there's an inventor, the group therapist, the average guy...and of course the gang's sarcastic jerk. :) One cavewoman is young and sexy, and the other is older and....larger. Add in ants with marital problems, a suicidal aardvark, a turtle with his bird BFF, and a large dinosaur, and you get a wide range of humor.

B.C. first appeared in the late 1950s and was syndicated in many newspapers up until Hart's death in 2007. Hart also created the popular Wizard of Id cartoons.

I'm seriously enjoying re-reading these cartoons. I will definitely be re-reading Wizard of Id as well. Hart's humor is still relevant even all these decades later. Love it!

Gronk!!


Monday, January 22, 2018

REVIEW: Even More Short and Shivery

Even More Short & Shivery
Author: Robert D. San Souci

I get asked often why I read books and stories that are technically children's literature. Why not? Some of the best classic books were written for kids: Heidi, Little Women, etc. My favorite kids books are often collections of horror, folklore and ghost stories. No spurting blood, cursing or naked people -- just fun, spooky tales. In my opinion, reading is a wonderful hobby....and personalized to each person. Read what you enjoy....and make no apologies for it. I love to read kids books!

There are several Short & Shivery collections of scary tales for kids. The stories are all middle grade appropriate. Each story is spooky...but not TOO scary. Kids will be happy....and Moms will be happy. No 2 a.m. visits from little ones saying "Mom, I'm scared. Can I sleep with you?'' The stories are entertaining, not nightmare inducing.

I decided to re-read these nifty little story collections while snowed in at home this week. The south shuts down when it snows. Nothing to do out there but shiver in the cold.....and southerners can't drive safely in snow. Best for me to stay home with hot tea and good books. I can shiver peacefully at home with creepy tales of vampires, demons, vengeful dead pirates and all things that go bump in the night!

Even More Short & Shivery gathers 30 creepy tales from around the world. I enjoyed them all! I highly recommend any of the books in the Short & Shivery series. They are all great!! And at just over 160 pages, this book is a quick read for adults and a manageable easy read for middle grade kids.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

REVIEW: More Night Frights

More Night Frights
Author: J. B. Stamper

Snow is steadily building up outside as I write this review. Since we couldn't go anywhere today (the South shuts down when it snows), I was in the mood to read. Snow days always remind me of my kids. I still have one at home...but I tend to fondly remember the days when all my kids were still in school. One is in Japan with the Navy and the other is in Missouri (Army). For some reason, I got to thinking about those Scholastic book order forms that used to come home with them (my youngest still brought them home about 3 times a year up until he started middle school this year) periodically. In elementary school in the 90s and early 2000s, my oldest son was heavily into Goosebumps and kiddo horror stories. For whatever reason today, in honor of all the snow days spent making him cocoa while he read about haunted amusement parks, ghosts at school, and other kiddo frights, I decided to find some cheesy Scholastic horror to read. I'm glad I did -- it made for some fun reading!

I remember my son having this book (and the original Night Frights). The stories are short. The horror isn't too gruesome. It's definitely middle grade friendly, but still creepy. Several of the stories are based on folklore and urban legend. A bit cheesy, but fun to read. The stories are well-written and between 5 and 8 pages long each. Perfect snow day reading! I still miss my son wayyyy off in Japan on the other side of the world.....but I felt closer to him today as I sipped cocoa and read a Scholastic book. I have several more lined up to read tomorrow. :) My middle schooler has a snow day again.....so I will have some time to read a couple more kids books. Sometimes I'm just in the mood for nostalgia reads or children's stories. Why not? :) I had a great time remembering when my adult kids were still little....and enjoyed some fun stories! It really did make my afternoon brighter, even though the tales are dark and spooky!

More Night Frights includes 13 stories (of course). All of them are short, and the print is large and easy to read. For kids who like a bit of Things-That-Go-Bump-In-The-Night and parents who prefer those bumps to be a bit benign, this will keep everyone happy. Bit of scary....but not too scary. None of them will cause "Mom, I'm scared. Can I sleep with you?'' incidents. For me, it was nice to revisit memories, and this was a perfect quick read for a day when we are all stuck indoors.

Let it snow! I have more books to read! :)


Saturday, January 20, 2018

REVIEW: The Twelve Fingered Boy

The Twelve Fingered Boy
Author: John Hornor Jacobs

Life changes drastically for Shreve when he meets Jack. Well, life started changing when Shreve landed in juvenile detention. But, he feels life in a cell is better than living with his drunk, neglectful mother. One day he's making money selling candy to the other inmates....and the next he's got a new, and very strange, cellmate. Jack not only has 12 fingers .... six on each hand....but he has strange superpowers that seem to manifest themselves when he is angered or threatened. Unfortunately there are some dangerous people who know about Jack and what he can do....and soon the boys will find themselves on the run. But it seems that escaping will be difficult if not impossible, as those chasing after them have powers too.

This is such an action-filled, fun read! I do admit that when I first started reading it, I almost put the book down. I didn't want to read a book about kids who are incarcerated....too difficult for a Mom to read about neglected kids who end up in prison. But the story soon morphed into something entirely different. Then I couldn't put the book down!

I love the strong friendship that grows between Shreve and Jack. And I completely detest the "bad guys'' in this story -- but, I'm supposed to. It's classic good vs evil...with supernatural elements thrown in for good measure.

The Twelve-Fingered Boy is the first book in the Incarcerado Trilogy. I'm definitely going to read the other two books. I have to find out what happens next! :)

John Hornor Jacobs is also the author of The Incorruptibles Trilogy.

Friday, January 19, 2018

REVIEW: THe Glittering Storm (Sarah Jane Adventures)

The Glittering Storm (Sarah Jane Adventures)
Author: Stephen Cole

I have been a Doctor Who fan for a very long time. Way before the new television series. I grew up on the Doctors & companions who are now lumped together as Classic Who. My favorite? Easy answer -- Tom Baker. Doctor #4. And his stalwart companion, Sarah Jane. In fact, when the 4th Doctor regenerated, I was so angry that I stopped watching the show unless it was reruns of Tom Baker episodes. This wasn't too difficult, because back in the late 70s/early 80s the only stations showing Doctor Who were PBS affiliates. The one I had access to played a few episodes of the 3rd Doctor (portrayed brilliantly by Jon Pertwee), all of Tom Baker up to his regeneration, and a few episodes of the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison. Boo! Hiss!  Just kidding.....don't want Peter Davison fans hunting me with clubs and torches. lol. I have since come around to loving all the doctors.....I just liked MY Doctor and the regneration was too much for a tweenie nerd girl to take.) The PBS station only played a couple Peter Davison episodes....then started back at Jon Pertwee again. I never saw anything by the earliest Doctors, or those after Davison until I was an adult.

The Fourth Doctor had other companions that joined him as well, but Sarah Jane, along with the ever faithful robot dog K-9, was my favorite. Spunky, brave and cute, she made the episodes fun to watch.

Zoom forward a couple decades and I absolutely LOVED it when they brought Sarah Jane onto the new Doctor Who, and when she had her own series for a short while. I had no idea at the time that Sarah Jane Adventures stopped abruptly because actress Elisabeth Sladen was ill. I was so happy to see Sarah, K-9, and Mr Smith the Super Computer! The show was fun to watch! I was very sad when Elisabeth Sladen passed away, but they have kept her beloved character going with many books and audiobooks!

With snow falling outside today (pretty much shutting down the southern town where I live), I loaded up a Sarah Jane audiobook and disappeared into the lovely world of Doctor Who. Well, the lovely world of Sarah Jane, rather.  Sarah Jane Adventures is about Sarah's life after the Doctor is gone. She has K-9, an adopted alien son, Mr. Smith, and lots of friends to help her out. She's still on a quest to protect Earth from menacing aliens -- and manages to find trouble quite often!

In The Glittering Storm, westend London housewives and grandmothers are stealing jewelry and gold. They seemingly have no idea what they have done. Sarah Jane catches an older woman in her house at night, rifling through her jewelry looking for the precious metal. Turns out, all the thieves can be traced to the Auriga Clinic, a medical facility that treats muscle and joint pain using gold and titanium injections. When Sarah's teenage friend, Maria, starts to exhibit the same behaviors as the older women, Sarah knows she has to get to the bottom of what's going on!

This was such a fun, interesting audiobook to listen to! Elisabeth Sladen narrates. It was so nice to hear her voice again. Technically, these books are for the middle grade and young adult crowd....but I don't care! I like them, too! It's a great mix of the old Classic Who and modern Who, too (doesn't that sound like a Dr. Seuss sentence? ha!)! The story is perfect length to listen to on a short car trip or while waiting for an appointment. I was doing housework....Sarah Jane kept me company as I cleaned my kitchen and dining room. :) Lots of action and Doctor Who-ish shenanigans going on! Definitely worth listening to!

I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for more Sarah Jane Adventures books and audiobooks!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

REVIEW: 100 Cupboards

100 Cupboards
Author: N.D. Wilson

After his parents disappear, 12-year old Henry York is sent to live with an aunt and uncle he hasn't seen since he was 4. He doesn't wish his parents any harm....but he doesn't really want them to come back either. They are....odd. Henry has learned over the years that his upbringing has been strange and markedly different from other kids around him. He's learned to roll with it and through observation has found ways to fit in and make friends. But just as he arrives and starts to settle in at his relatives' house, he finds more strangeness.  First there is the door to his grandfather's room. It's been locked up tight ever since he died two years before. And nothing seems to be able to open the door. Then there are the cupboards. Not the normal, sitting out in the open type cupboards. These have been plastered over in the attic where Henry sleeps. One night, he wakes up with plaster dust all over his bed....the cupboards are no longer covered. And Henry's life will never be the same.

One word sums up this delightful middle grade story:  Magical. Just like the wardrobe in Narnia, the cupboards have the poiwer to connect to other worlds. Henry and his cousin Henrietta work together to discover the secrets behind their grandfather's door, and what lies beyond the cupboard doors. Just a lovely story! 100 Cupboards is the first book in a trilogy. Great introduction to a series! I can't wait to read the other books!

I listened to the audiobook version of 100 Cupboards. Narrated by Russell Horton, the audiobook is just under 6.5 hours long. Horton reads at a nice, even pace and has a clear understandable voice. I have hearing loss, but was able to clearly hear and understand him.

N.D. Wilson is the author of several other middle grade books including the Ashtown Burials series. 100 cupboards is the first book I read by Wilson. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series, and reading more of his other books!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

REVIEW: Hey! B.C.

Hey! B.C.
Author: Johnny Hart

B.C., Peter, Thor, Wiley, Carp and Curls -- My favorite cavemen! Plus the cavewomen, Fat Broad and Cute Chick! Johnny Hart's prehistoric B.C. cartoon characters have been entertaining readers since 1958. I first came across the cartoons as a teenager in the 80s. This year I want to focus on reading what I enjoy, so I thought it would be a great time to re-read some of Hart's cartoon collections. The topics are still so relevant today....and I'm having a great time revisiting the prehistoric but oh so modern antics of his characters!

The B.C. cartoons poke fun at everyday life in general -- relationships, sex, politicians, sports, transportation, work, hobbies, religion, business.....nothing is sacred. In between his jabs at human foibles, Hart sprinkles in dictionary jokes, ants with marital problems, a philosophical turtle and his bird pal, anteaters on the hunt, and snakes trying to steer clear of cavewomen with clubs.

In Hey! B.C. the cavemen discover the wheel, fire.....and women. They also invent baseball and football. :) Another fun nostalgia read!

Johnny Hart also created the Wizard of Id cartoons (I loved those too!) He created the B.C. characters in the late 1950s. Wizard of Id came along in the 60s. Both cartoons ran in syndication in newspapers and were collected in multiple books until Hart's death in 2007.




REVIEW: B.C. Strikes Back

B.C. Strikes Back\
Author: Johnny Hart

Cartoonist Johnny Hart created his loveable cavemen characters in the 1950s. Over the next few decades his group of dysfunctional prehistoric humans invented the wheel, started the battle of the sexes, attended the first therapy sessions, and created team sports. :) The six cavemen and two cavewomen poke fun at everything from love and feminism to politics and society. Side characters range from ants pursued by hungry anteaters, a turtle and his bird BFF, and cute dinosaurs.

I loved these cartoons when I was in middle and high school. Hart poked fun at just about every part of life and society. In 2018, I am revisiting books and series that I have on my own shelves, or books I remember enjoying in the past. I decided it was time to re-read B.C. and another Hart creation, Wizard of Id. These cartoons are still amazingly relevant. I suppose the basic ponderings and challenges of humanity really don't change all that much. Some of the jokes or interactions between the male and female characters could be seen as a bit sexist....BUT.....it is never disrespectful, just truthful. The cute, sexy cavewoman is treated differently than the overweight, unattractive cavewoman --- but isn't that the way things really are? Might as well poke fun at it! :) Today it might be non-PC to crack jokes at uncomfortable truths....but that doesn't lessen the truth, just hides it. Most of Hart's jokes about the sexes point out the strengths of the women in a humorous way. An example.....while the cavemen are celebrating their invention of the wheel and trying to decide what they might be able to do with it, the cavewomen have already invented the bicycle.

B.C. Strikes back features an introduction by Rod Serling. It's a great collection of Hart's wit and humor. I enjoyed re-reaading this book, I still find the cartoons as funny as I did years ago, although some of the jokes have a bit different meaning for me now.

B.C. ran as a syndicated cartoon in many newspapers from the 1950s up until Hart's death in 2007.



Sunday, January 14, 2018

REVIEW: B.C. A Clam For Your Thoughts

B.C. : A Clam for Your Thoughts
Author: Johnny Hart

In 2018, I am making a dedicated effort to enjoy reading backlist books from my own shelves and to re-visit some favorite nostalgia reads. The B.C. cartoon books by Johnny Hart always made me laugh as a teenager back in the 80s. I decided it would be fun to revisit Hart's hilarious Caveman (and Cavewoman) antics to see what the adult me thinks of the humor. I'm so glad I did.....I had such a good time re-reading this book after so many years! :) Put a big smile on my face.

Johnny Hart's B.C. cartoons feature several cavemen and cavewomen. The two cavewomen are feminists...or at least try to be. One is rather plump and the other is blonde and gorgeous. The six assorted cavemen range from inept idiots to greedy businessmen. There are also snarky ants and a few snakes that get mercilessly bashed by the overweight older cavewoman who is afraid of them. The topics are still very relevant today -- feminism, environmental concerns, insecurity, therapy, and basic human emotions/actions....love, anger, greed, jealousy. I guess the point is that human nature and life has been pretty much the same since the start....so why not poke fun at it? :)

In this particular book, the cartoons range in topic from feminism and relationships to the awkwardness of therapy sessions and strange advice from a greedy palm reader with some snake bashing and sarcastic ants sprinkled in for good measure.

A fun read! I look forward to enjoying more of Hart's artwork and social commentary this year as I re-visit some old favorites!

Johnny Hart also created the Wizard of Id cartoons (I loved those too!). He created the B.C. characters in the late 1950's. Wizard of Id came along in the 60s. Both cartoons ran in syndication in newspapers and were collected in multiple books until Hart's death in 2007.




Thursday, January 11, 2018

REVIEW: The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man
Author: C.J. Tudor


Eddie and his friends -- Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Nicky and Hoppo -- do everything together. Summer break in 1986 is filled with bike rides, innocent mischief, and playing. All the things 12 year olds enjoy. They even draw secret code messages in chalk to each other. But then the chalk drawings turn much darker.....someone leaves a message that leads to a dead body in the woods. Flash forward to 2016....much has happened in their lives. Then Eddie, now a teacher, receives a letter in the mail. The only thing on the paper is one figure drawn in chalk. Turns out, they all received the same letter.  Eddie starts dredging up old memories and investigating to see if he can finally uncover exactly what happened that summer 30 years before. The summer of The Chalk Man.

A great suspense story has moments that totally catch a reader by surprise. For me, this book had several of those surprising moments. I really wasn't expecting this story to be this good. I am always wary of books that have a lot of hype.....I get all excited, looking forward to really being wowed....only to usually feel disappointed when the story doesn't' match the hype. This time, I am glad to report that the book totally lives up to the hype and great reviews. I was totally taken in by this story from the beginning....and it had shocks in store for me clear up to the very last page. Normally I don't like novels that jump around in time. It just becomes too confusing. This book manages to leap back and forth from 1986 to 2016 with ease. It never became confusing, but added to the suspense of the story. The writing and the story are just top notch! The Chalk Man is an awesomely chilling and creepy story! Great debut  novel! I can't wait to read more by this author!

To learn more about the author, check out her facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/CJTudorOfficial/?ref=br_rs

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Crown Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Dead Wake The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Dead Wake
The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Author: Erik Larson

The RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915 just off the coast of Ireland. The ship sank in less than 20 minutes, killing nearly 1,200 people. Many decried the attack on a passenger ship. But German military leaders said the attack was justified because the ship was carrying munitions for use by the British military. It would be decades before it was proven that Germany was correct....the passenger ship was indeed carrying munitions for use in World War I.

Dead Wake not only tells the story of the sinking and great loss of life, but also about the politics, military decisions and mistakes that led to the ship sailing without escort in a war zone. It also talks about the Lusitania, its history, crew and passengers, and facts about the German Navy, U-Boats and early submarine warfare. Because it opened responding ships up to attack by U-boat, orders had gone out that no vessel was to approach and render aid to any ship that had been damaged by a torpedo. Warnings about imminent submarine attacks against all vessels in the war zone had been issued by Germany prior to the attack. Why then did so many passengers, including many children, board the ship, sailing directly into danger? And why were munitions loaded onto a passenger liner, putting thousands of people at risk? This book gives so many interesting facts about the world situation at the time, shipping and war zone issues and the actual event. Erik Larson presents the whole story in an interesting and informative way. This is non-fiction and not a narrative account, but it kept my attention the entire time. Very interesting and well written!!

I think so many people were willing to board the ship, despite repeated warnings from Germany, because it was assumed a passenger vessel would not be targeted. And, it's also human nature to believe that disasters are things that happen to other people. Until the sinking of the Lusitania, the dangers of the war zone were almost a joke with passengers laughing about the possibility and buying life jackets in New York department stores before setting sail. The fact that the shipping line was willing to carry munitions on a passenger vessel further shows that the danger wasn't being taken seriously. With U-Boats actively attacking merchant ships and military vessels with success, it is astounding to me that the Lusitania was allowed to sail that course into the war zone with no escort, no orders to divert to a safer route or to sail in a zig zag pattern. The whole conglomeration of decisions made by passengers, crew, the shipping line and military brought about this disaster. Germany came right out and said WE ARE GOING TO SINK THIS SHIP...DONT GET ON IT -- and thousands still bought tickets and sailed from New York. Foolish. But even more foolish is the fact that it sailed with munitions in the hold without any escort to protect it. Bad, bad, bad decisions!

The sinking of the Lusitania and the deaths of 128 Americans who were on board did not bring the United States into the war immediately. The US didn't join in the World War until 1916. But, the cry of "Remember the Lusitania'' was used as war propaganda and a rallying cry for US troops. I wonder how it might have changed things if the public had known that the hold of the ship contained war munitions that a neutral passenger vessel was not allowed to carry during wartime? The munitions aboard the ship made it a valid target for U-Boats. Larson offers some insight into why this was done, and some pretty nefarious reasons why the ship was not supplied with a military escort or ordered to sail in a zig zag pattern to help it evade an attack. It could be that the 1,200 people that drowned in the sea that day were collateral damage and a part of a hidden agenda to pull the United States into the conflict in Europe.

I listened to the audiobook version of the book (Penguin Random House Audio Publishing). The audiobook runs just over 13 hours and is narrated by Scott Brick. He reads at a nice even pace and is easily understandable. I have hearing loss but had no problem hearing and understanding him.

I learned a lot of interesting facts that were new to me, such as the fact that Captain Von Trapp (of Sound of Music fame) had been a U-boat captain in WWI. At one point, he ordered the torpedoing of a vessel, causing the deaths of more than 600 people. That incident is the reason why he chose to escape rather than be called up to serve again in WWII.

Great book! Anyone interested in maritime or WWI era history will definitely enjoy this book!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

REVIEW: Dark Scream Volume 9

Dark Screams Volume 9
Author: various

I love these collections of creepy, demented stories. Each volume seems to improve on the last. Volume 9 features six horror stories:

Invitation to the party - Kelly Armstrong. Vivienne comes home from work one day and finds an invitation waiting for her. Not just any invite.... The Invitation. An announcement from her employer that she is being promoted to an executive job. But first, she will have to play The Game. This story puts a new spin on the horrors of the corporate world. Great story!

Summer of '07 - Stewart Nan. A Bundy-like predator has fun at the beach. He won't hurt you. Really. A short, but very creepy tale.

The Dead Years - Taylor Grant. Emma Grace has been dead for 15 years. Until her former boyfriend meets her at an art auction. Could it be Emma? Or just her face? Chilling story of the horrors of finding a long lost love.

The Blackout - Jonathan Moore. The police are called to the hospital morgue. A body is missing, but evidence at the scene seems all wrong. Great story! My favorite in this collection!

Variations on a theme from Seinfeld - Peter Straub. Clyde knows when his reflection gets lost that all he needs to do is go through the mirror and fetch it. Sometimes finding his way back is a bit difficult. A bit trope-y, but a good story.

Torn - Lee Thomas. 11-year old Maggie Mayflower leaves her house to go to the park with a friend. She never comes home. Turns out, the person who kidnapped her really is a monster. Great scary story. A bit long....but so enjoyable that I didn't mind the length.

All in all, a varied, creepy and enjoyable horror collection. I can't wait til the next volume comes out! I'm never disappointed.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Random House - Hydra via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

REVIEW: The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us
Author: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

The blurb for this book says it all:   Assume nothing.

Don't assume this is a book about a woman half-crazed at the failure of her marriage. It's also not about The Other Woman marrying her ex-husband. And it's also not about a husband tiring of his crazy wife and finding a new lover. It's all of those things....and none of them....all at the same time.

This suspenseful story about the disintegration of a woman's marriage had more twists and turns than a soap opera. Just when I thought I knew what was going on suddenly the story would zing me with an unexpected revelation. Skillfully written and masterfully crafted!

I literally could not put this book down. The only word that came to mind as I closed the book is.....WOW. I tried to explain the plot to my husband, and finally stopped trying, telling him that he would just have to read the book. The story is too twisted and complex to pare it down to a quick synopsis.

I am not giving any spoilers about the book here. It's best for readers to come into the story with only basic information. A marriage ended. A new one is about to begin. Then things happen....    Make no assumptions. Just lose yourself in the story and enjoy. :)

This book really made me think about the secrets we all keep, and the assumptions that are so easily made about others. How well do we really know those closest to us? And how much do we just assume we know? If there are two sides to every situation....which side is more truthful? Or could both sides be a lie?

I think what made me enjoy this story so much is I kept thinking "This could happen''.....and that just made the entire thing so much more chilling. I look forward to more from these two authors -- this first collaboration is top notch! 

The Wife Between us will be published by St Martin's Press on January 9th, 2018.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from St Martin's Press. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

To find out more about the authors check out their websites: http://greerhendricks.com/ and http://www.sarahpekkanen.com/ 


Sunday, January 7, 2018

REVIEW: Life Among the Savages

Life Among the Savages
Author: Shirley Jackson

I was reading The Haunting of Hill House when I discovered that Author Shirley Jackson also wrote humorous short stories about her life in Vermont raising four children in the 40's and 50's. The stories were originally printed in popular magazines and collected in two books, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons.

I am amazed that an author I love for her incredi-creepy, low key horror stories could also write such funny commentary on being a parent. From her son's daily stories about a naughty kid named Charles at school to her daughter's imaginings of being the second Mrs. Ellenroy who has 7 step-daughters all named Martha, the tales are cute and very entertaining. They are definitely tales from a different era, with Jackson talking about smoking a cigarette while in labor with one of her babies, lamenting her bad luck when hiring household help, and the necessity of purchasing demitasse cups to be a proper host. Her stories of the gigantic old house they rented in Vermont, conversations over bridge with friends, the antics of her children, and her failings as a housekeeper are light and funny. It was a perfect Sunday read for me. I smiled at her tales of household chaos while doing laundry, housework and getting ready for the new week in my own crazy house. :)

Jackson's sense of humor in this book reminds me of Erma Bombeck. She pokes fun at her family because sometimes laughter is needed to maintain sanity. One of my favorite parts of this book is when Jackson's husband is sitting on the sofa alone reading The Wizard of Oz to one of his daughter's imaginary friends, while his daughter is up in her room. Jackson asks her daughter why she isn't downstairs listening to the story. The little girl replies that she got bored so she left...but her friend stayed to listen. Too cute!

Even though they were written decades ago, I think most moms would identify with these stories. I certainly did!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

REVIEW: Star Trek: The Motion Picture - A Novel

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - A Novel
Author: Alan Dean Foster

I remember going to see this movie when it first came out in 1979. My mom was a huge Star Trek fan, and she was so excited that there was a movie after years of watching re-runs of the television show. I liked the show too....but I wasn't sure what to expect from a movie version. I remember being impressed with the special effects. Not quite as flashy as Star Wars.....but really good. And it was nice to see all the familiar cast members again. Especially McCoy...he was always my favorite, probably because he was a bit snarky and not "a damned miracle worker.''

Yeah, yeah, yeah....I know this isn't a movie review.....but a book review. I will get to it! Honest!

My husband is a gamer nerd. And after 15 years of marriage, my nerdiness has increased exponentially under his tutelage. I love to read, and I enjoy Star Trek. As a surprise, he bought me 40 used Star Trek paperbacks at a gaming convention. He was away for the weekend and missed me, so he brought he home books. It was a perfect gift for a bibliophile such as myself. Sadly, though I love books, I have lots of adulting to do, so I have way more books than time to read them. I hadn't' really thought about my large collection of Star Trek books until I discovered several more at a local thriftshop this week for 25 cents each. I stood in front of the shelves checking to see which ones I already had (thanks to my taking the time to list all of my books on Goodreads) and filling my cart with more nerdery. As I added books to my cart, I realized that the Star Trek series would be a great start to my quest to pare down my TBR in 2018! I decided to jump right into book #1.....the novelization of the first Star Trek movie....Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

I always thought the name of the movie was a bit silly. But I guess they wanted to make it obvious that the former television series was moving to the big screen. But stating the obvious as a movie title is a bit lackluster. They could have called it Star Trek: Return to the Enterprise. Almost anything but just The Motion Picture. Bleck.

The basics: James T. Kirk returns to captain the Enterprise because a massive energy cloud is heading straight for Earth. It has destroyed several Klingon ships and a Space Station with an energy weapon of some unknown type. The Enterprise has had an 18-month long refit,and is totally updated, but her repairs aren't all completed. Because it is the only Starfleet ship within interception distance of the strange cloud bearing down on Earth, the crew has to take the ship out anyway. The ship intercepts the cloud and encounters an alien presence, Veger. When the truth about the origins and purpose of Veger are revealed, the crew will be challenged as never before to save themselves, and Earth.

The novelization is exactly what you would think --- a novelization of the movie script. I actually watched the movie as I read the book (realizing that the version I was watching (On Demand from television) had been clipped here and there for time. They removed scenes with dialogue rather than taking out some of the longer special effects scenes of the interior of the cloud, the Enterprise, etc.....what's up with that?? Why not remove scenes that are just eye candy (outdated eye candy too) and leave the dialogue between characters?) I enjoyed reading the extra description about the emotions of the characters, their inner thoughts and extra information on things going on around them. It is a good novelization, but I did notice one thing that was a bit weird. Gene Roddenberry's
 introduction to the book, and in several places in the story, they refer to "new humans.''  This confused me a bit....something about "new humans" being more adaptable to space travel and other differences with non-improved humans. This must have been some early plot point that got dropped from Roddenberry's vision at some point....I don't recall this concept coming up in any other incarnation of the series. There are also a few cringe worthy comments about Kirk's sexuality and relationships in the book as well, especially a footnote about how his friendship with Spock was misunderstood by some as a homosexual relationship. My husband said it was a comment about some early fan fiction that depicted the two men as homosexual lovers. Ummm.....LOL. I very much doubt the horny Captain Kirk who loved women (even green alien ones) would choose his emotionless, overly logical half vulcan science officer to get intimate with. And it would only have been once every 7 years anyway.....as Spock isn't interested except when in Pon Farr. Fan fiction must have been gruesome even back in the 1970s. OK.....back on subject now! I got pulled out of the story several times by weird commentary added to the novelization that seemed out of place, or just bizarre. Why was it necessary to speculate on whether Kirk and Spock ever had sex with each other even if there was fan fiction? And just all the unnecessary footnotes in general. Were those written by Alan Dean Foster, or were those things added by Roddenberry? I found the footnotes to be a distraction, rather than interesting asides.

A lot of  Star Trek fans today agree that the first movie was not very good. At the time, the special effects were amazing, the refit of Enterprise was sweet, and the return of the familiar crew was exciting. But re-watching it today, the story line is pretty ridiculous and the special effects dated. It just plods along.....there are long sequences where very little happens. For me, the novelization is pretty much the same......lackluster plot with some strange commentary added. But, it's still worth a read....and it starts the series of books. I had fun reading the book and watching the film at the same time, while trying not to chuckle at the idea of Kirk and Spock having secret rendezvous in the briefing room. :)

Enjoyable start to my goal of reading books off my own shelf! One Star Trek book down......only hundreds to go. ha ha 

Friday, January 5, 2018

REVIEW: The Girl Who Came Home

The Girl Who Came Home
Author: Hazel Gaynor

The Girl Who Came Home is loosely based on the story of the Addergoole 14.....14 poor Irish from a single village in County Mayo who boarded the Titanic in 1912 to head to a new life in America. They were filled with dreams, hopes and expectations. Sadly, only 3 would survive the sinking of the gigantic ship in the cold, dark Atlantic Ocean.  The names of the 14 passengers, their life stories, the name of the  Irish village and some other facts are changed in the Girl Who Came Home...but the story is obviously built on the true tale of 14 immigrants whose dreams were cut short by an iceberg.

The story jumps back and forth in time from 1912 to 1982. In 1912, Maggie Murphy is 17 years old. Her mother has just died, and her aunt Kathleen travels from America to bring young Maggie home with her. She doesn't want to leave her love, Seamus, but she is drawn to the promise of a life in America and feels a duty to obey her aunt. She hopes Seamus will travel to America later to be with her. She misses him terribly while on board Titanic. The ship is massive and filled with more luxuries than the 14 hopeful Irish villagers have seen in their lives. They laugh, dance and joke about all the rich food...happy and delighted. Then late one night there is a slight bump and the engines go still. The night of horror has begun. In 1982, an 87-year old Maggie tells the story of that night to her great-granddaughter Grace. Grace needs to write a feature story for a Chicago newspaper and her great-grandmother decides it's time to tell someone her story. She has refused to talk about Titanic for decades, still feeling guilt that she survived and so many others died. In the attic there is a small suitcase that she carried with her the night of the sinking. She shares its contents with Grace, and the story about her memories of her life in Ireland, the voyage on Titanic and the aftermath of the sinking.

The Girl Who Came Home is a lovely and sad story. It's well-written and emotional. I listened to the audiobook version....and I think hearing it read in a lovely Irish accent added more depth to the story for me. The audiobook is narrated by Connor Kelly-Eiding and Alana Kerr. They both read at a nice, even pace and are easily understandable. I have hearing loss, but was easily able to enjoy this audiobook with no problems. I normally don't like books that jump back and forth in time as it gets tedious and often confused, but Gaynor pulls it off. I enjoyed this book from start to finish. Beautiful, haunting and just lovely -- a great book! I will definitely be reading more by this author.

I can't truly imagine what it must have been like for those on board the Titanic. For those in the lifeboats, hearing more than 1000 people screaming and dying in the cold water must have been heartbreaking. And for those in the water, it must have been horrific. Hazel Gaynor does a great job of depicting the joys of the lavish ship, the differences between steerage and the first class accomodations, the huge range of passengers aboard, the absolute horror of the sinking, and the depths of despair and loss felt afterwards. I think the most memorable part for me is towards the end....hundreds of family members waiting at the dock in New York in the pouring rain for hours. The Carpathia was due to dock, and it was carrying survivors.Some are happily reunited and others learn the final sad truth about the death of their loved ones. Very emotional scene.

Gaynor is the author of several books including The Cottingley Secret and The Girl from the Savoy.



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

REVIEW: The LIfe We Bury

The Life We Bury
Author: Allen Eskens

College Student Joe Talbert visits a nursing home to interview a senior citizen for a writing assignment. He's supposed to write a short biography on someone. A nurse at the facility says that most of their patients have dementia or other problems that would make them difficult to interview. One, however, is dying from cancer. His memory is fully intact. The nurse says that he might not be suitable.....the patient is a convicted child murderer, having raped and killed a 14-year old girl years before. Talbert decides that Carl Iverson is as good a subject as any for his class assignment. Iverson agrees to be interviewed. Little does Joe know that this meeting will change his life, leading him into danger to prove Iverson's innocence.

This story caught me by surprise. The book started off predictably......student meets killer, killer talks to student, student checks out killer's crime and is disgusted, killer opens up about his life and student asks questions about the murder.....the usual plot.  But this story didn't stick to the usual. This story veered off the trope path pretty quickly and morphed into something much more complex.....much more interesting. Every time I thought I knew where the plot was going, it veered off in another direction. Great suspense! Loved it!

I listened to the audiobook version of this story. The unabridged audio version (Tantor Media) is narrated by Zach Villa. He reads at a nice, even pace and he is easy to understand. I have partial hearing loss, but was able to easily hear and understand his reading. The audiobook is just shy of 8 1/2 hours long. I listened to it on New Year's Day while packing up Christmas decorations and cleaning the house after a busy holiday season.

For more information on this author and his books, check out his website: http://www.alleneskens.com/


REVIEW: Trixie Belden and the Marshland Mystery

Trixie Belden and the Marshland Mystery
Author: Kathryn Kenny

I have been happily re-reading the Trixie Belden series over the past few weeks. When I was in middle school in the 80's, this was my favorite book series. I received new books for nearly every holiday, and babysat my ill-behaved nephew to earn money to buy more of the books. Those trips to Walden Books at the mall to get another Trixie book are what started my love of bookshops! I had the entire series, and I remember being so excited when two new books came out in the late 80s. Then the series came to an end.....and I went off to college. I sold my full set of books to a middle school aged girl at a garage sale for 25 cents apiece. I hope she got as much enjoyment from them as I did!

I didn't think about Trixie Belden for years and years. Then, I found a couple old Nancy Drew books at a local thriftshop. That got me to thinking about books I enjoyed as a kid.....and the first one that popped into my head was Trixie! I decided I needed to re-visit my old pals from Sleepyside, NY. I still enjoy this series, even though I look at things with an adult mindset now and notice things I didin't see when I was a young girl reading them for the first time.

Trixie Belden and the Marshland Mystery is the 10th book in the series. Trixie and her bestie, Honey Wheeler, venture out to a nearby swamp to gather plants. They are going to give them to a teacher, Miss Bennett, whose book of pressed herbs was damaged by a careless student. The plants will allow her to restore her book. Little do they realize they are going to uncover a mystery of sorts in the swamp as well!  Soon their club, The Bob-Whites of the Glen, are hunting for a missing child, looking for lost pirate treasure, and helping an elderly woman.

I'm not sure this story was really a mystery....more of an adventure for the teens and gathering clues to find out what exactly happened to a little girl while she was missing. Trixie learned a few lessons about jealousy, jumping to conclusions and forgiveness. All in all, despite there not really being any "mystery'', this was a fun, relaxing read and a great visit to Sleepyside!

And poor Dan Marsdon appears to have disappeared out of the books entirely. He was introduced as a new Bob-Whites member a couple books back. Then in the book after that he was mentioned only twice. And in this book.....no Dan at all. I guess Dan is a bit like Richie Cunningham's older brother on Happy Days....there one day, went upstairs.....never seen again. He never even got his picture added to the cute illustration of all the Bob-Whites on the pastedown pages at the front of the book. I wonder if he will be back? I have a theory for what happened to Dan.....     The first six books of the Trixie Belden series were written by Julie Campbell. The rest of the series was written by various authors all using the pen-name Kathryn Kenny. So perhaps one author added the Dan character, but the next book was written by someone else....and they didn't like the character? Or the books were written concurrently, and the two mentions of Dan added to the story at the beginning and end of the book were added for continuity. Then...next book, no Dan at all, with no explanation. Poor, unloved Dan. :)

There are 39 books in the Trixie Belden series, written from 1948-1986. The stories, although a bit dated, are fun, quick reads.

On to book #11! Maybe Dan will be back! ha ha :)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

REVIEW: Snow Lane

Snow Lane
Author: Josephine Angelini

Antoinette Elizabeth Bianchi is the youngest of 9 children.  8 girls and 1 boy live in the house on Snow Lane. Their father works several jobs, and also works on the family farm. The kids help out, too. It takes a lot of work to keep a family of 11 going. Antoinette (called Annie) has multiple health problems. She is dyslexic, and prone to fits of vomiting and fatigue.

Slowly as Annie tells the story of her family, the truth comes out. The older children are forced to act as parents to the younger kids. There is never enough money for clothing, food and basic necessities. The children often feel sick or faint because there isn't enough food to eat. Annie can't invite friends over because she is embarrassed about their house and family life.....and other things that they never discuss. Scary things. Through it all Annie remains cheerful, although she always wonders why she is so slow compared to everyone else. Why her thoughts race at strange things. Why she counts and manipulates numbers in her head to calm herself down. Why is she so different?

I grew up Catholic, so I found it cute that every time Annie said crap or some other "bad'' word she listed the number of Hail Marys she would have to say as penance. :) I also sympathized with her for being the youngest in a large Catholic family. I was the youngest of 5, with the others many years older than me. It was awful. I was never physically abused....but there was mental abuse. This story was a bit hard for me to read because I sympathized with the main character so much. I dealt with similar problems at home and at school. I was never physically beaten, but I had a close friend at school who was. Her mother was very involved in the church, but regularly beat her daughter and locked her in a closet for minor infrractions. Finally my friend got pregnant and married in high school just to get away from her parents. Sad....but true. And in the 80's -- the same time period as this story. I don't know what happened to my friend....I lost contact with her during my college years and have never been able to find her again. I hope she is happy wherever she is. Those similarities in my background really pulled me into this story. I was a bit disappointed with the abrupt ending....the story just stops with nothing fully resolved. But...realistically...a family issue like that wouldn't be insta-fixed. The abrupt ending with things up in the air is the proper ending for this story. Disappointing, but more true than a fairy tale fix. This story is well-written. I normally don't like stream of consciousness type stories....but the author did a fantastic job with this one. I do have to admit that I found it extremely depressing though. Maybe because I identified with the main character so much.

Snow Lane is a hard hitting, masterfully written tale about a family....a family in trouble. But even in the darkness, there are bright spots. Annie is definitely a bright spot. She chooses to find the good in all things.....and that attitude and the promise of the life ahead of her is what leaves hope at the end of this tale.

I think I will try one more time to find my friend from school. This book really has me thinking about her. Maybe this time I will get lucky and one of my old classmates might know where she is. I can only try.....

To learn more about this author and her other books, check out her website: http://www.josephineangelini.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan) via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**