Friday, November 15, 2019

Mini Book Reviews: Dracula, Dead Voices...


Published: May 26th, 1897 by Archibald Constable and Company
Audio edition: February 2nd, 2012 by Audible Studios
Genre: Horror, Classic
Format: Audiobook, 15 hours, 28 minutes, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Followers of the popular vampire literary and film interpretations of recent years might be blasé about another performance of the exquisitely written novel that started it all. But listening to this full-cast performance turns out to be remarkably suspenseful and chilling. The superlative cast lends this powerful production the diversity that is required by the structure of the novel, which includes journal entries and letters. Each actor employs various accents, infusing into the characters vibrant emphasis, urgency, and dread. The famed vampire Count Dracula leaves a swath of exsanguinated bodies in his wake as he attempts to relocate from Transylvania to England in 1897, stalked by the brave Van Helsing.

My Thoughts:

This is a re-read for me. And I listened to it for the first time from Audible. It was fun to experience it that way. Everyone did a fantastic job in their roles. But hearing it out loud made me a bit squeamish. The views the women and the men take on gender roles, and what's proper for females, and who makes a great woman were eye-rolling. But I take it in stride with when it was written. It's still a creepy tale and good conquers all in the end! Fantastic read for the Halloween season.


Published: August 27th, 2019 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Horror, Juvenile fiction
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie's watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in the series. G and I both loved the first book and this was a great followup. The characters stick it out at a snowed-in ski lodge in the mountains. There were vibes of "The Shining" here too. Great atmosphere and a fun ending made it a great Halloween read with my G.

Published: June 2nd, 2015 by William Morrow
Genre: Horror
Format: Hardcover, 286 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars
Publisher's Summary:

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents' despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie's descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts' plight. With John, Marjorie's father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie's younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long-ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface--and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

My Thoughts:

This was a lot better than I was expecting. The meta-horror was a nice surprise and I enjoyed the possession stereotype critique. Having read Shirley Jackson's "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," I was able to figure out the main plot by the middle of the story. But I didn't quite know where he was going to take the mental illness angle and his take on reality TV and its cultural impact was also an interesting point. Spooky with something to say. I really enjoyed it!


Published: 1984 by Scholastic, Inc.
Genre: Horror, Short stories, Juvenile fiction
Format: Paperback, 112 pages, Own 
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

All those who enjoyed shuddering their way through Alvin Schwartz's first volume of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark will find a satisfyingly spooky sequel in this new collection of the macabre, the funny, and the fantastic. Is it possible to die -- and not know it? What if a person is buried too soon? What happens to a thief foolish enough to rob a corpse, or to a murderer whose victim returns from the grave? Read about these terrifying predicaments as well as what happens when practical jokes produce gruesome consequences and initiations go awry. Stephen Gammell's splendidly creepy drawings perfectly capture the mood of more than two dozen scary stories -- and even a scary song -- all just right for reading alone or for telling aloud in the dark. If You Dare!

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in the series. G loved them! He wanted a few stories every night till we were done. And this version has the original illustrations by Stephen Gammell which are the scariest drawings ever. Creepy. The new Scholastic versions are silly. Like somehow kids can't take the creepy drawings anymore? What? So stick with the original!

Published: October 1st, 2019 by SourceBooks Explore
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, History, Juvenile, Graphic Novel
Format: Paperback, 96 pages, Own 
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Between 1933 and 1945, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party were responsible for the persecution of millions of Jews across Europe.

This extraordinary graphic novel tells the true stories of six Jewish children and young people who survived the Holocaust. From suffering the horrors of Auschwitz, to hiding from Nazi soldiers in war-torn Paris, to sheltering from the Blitz in England, each true story is a powerful testament to the survivors' courage. These remarkable testimonials serve as a reminder never to allow such a tragedy to happen again.

My Thoughts:

G had a sick day last week and I had bought this knowing we'd read it soon together but I decided this was as good a day as any to dive into these harrowing stories. I bawled through most of them and G and I had good discussions about the Holocaust and World War II and totalitarianism, etc. It's one of the reasons I will continue to read to G until he says stop or moves out of the house. They are great ways to begin discussions and ask questions.

Published: October 1st, 2008 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children, Poetry, Philosophy
Format: Hardcover, 40 pages, Library
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Wabi Sabi, a little cat in Kyoto, Japan, had never thought much about her name until friends visiting from another land asked her owner what it meant.

At last, the master
Says, "That's hard to explain." And
That is all she says.

This unsatisfying answer sets Wabi Sabi on a journey to uncover the meaning of her name, and on the way discovers what wabi sabi is: a Japanese philosophy of seeing beauty in simplicity, the ordinary, and the imperfect.

Using spare text and haiku, Mark Reibstein weaves an extraordinary story about finding real beauty in unexpected places. Caldecott Medal-winning artist Ed Young complements the lyrical text with breathtaking collages. Together, they illustrate the unique world view that is wabi sabi.

New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book for 2008!

My Thoughts:

I also read this one to G while he was sick. The illustrations were fantastic and it was a great intro into the philosophy of wabi sabi. Taking the broken things and mending them into something fantastic and beautiful.

Published: January 1st, 1999 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Historical Fiction, Juvenile
Format: Paperback, 243 pages, Own 
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

It's 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud's got a few things going for him:

He has his own suitcase full of special things.

He's the author of Bud Caldwell's Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.

His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!

Bud's got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road and find this mystery man, nothing can stop him--not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.

My Thoughts:

I read this one for G's school. I volunteered to read some of the Battle of the Books books and write up questions for each one I read. This is the first I have finished. It's a really lovely story. Curtis takes some tough topics like class, racism, and the Depression and puts it all into an endearing story about a boy who wants to find a family to love. I enjoyed his spunky journey.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Cat Thursday

Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! 

I haven't posted in a while about my cats, so this week you get some Shadow love:

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Nonfiction November: Week 3-- Be/Ask/Become the Expert

(Nov. 11 to 15) – Katie at Doing Dewey is joining us again with – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert). 

Onto week three! I'm so behind. I notice that my nonfiction reading throughout the year is pretty much all over the map. I figured I would look back and see what books I have focused on over a longer period of time. I am drawn to books about grief and death, whether that's a memoir or a true-crime, I've thrown it all into the same category on my Goodreads list. Anything that helps me face down the inevitable with aplomb and humor and insight is a must for me.

So here are a few I've read over the years and ones that are on my list. And I'd love any suggestions you have that I can add to my ever-growing list!

I Am the Expert:

  • All that Remains: A Life in Death by Sue Black-- I loved her candid nature about her work as a forensic anthropologist. Her compassion and empathy was exhilarating.
  • The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich-- This was a tough and brutal read that left so many feels. I still think about it.
  • Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd-Perry-- I loved this haunting piece about Japan and culturally how they handled this horrible tragedy. Beautiful.
  • From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty-- She's a mortician who wants us all to talk about death and have a good one! So she travels around to let us see how other people can and do talk about death!
  • Fun Home: A FamilyTragicomic by Alison Bechdel-- I can't say enough about how moving this graphic novel is of Bechdel's grief and acceptance is.


Become the Expert:

  • The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch
  • The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains by Thomas Lacqueur
  • Half a Life: A Memoir by Darin Strauss
Ask the Expert:

Any books about grief and death you recommend that really moved you or made you see death a little differently?

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Cat Thursday-- Adventure Cats!

Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! 

CBC put out an article on Bodhi, the adventure cat! Michelle Gagnon, Bodhi's owner says: ..."cats are the perfect companion hiking, camping and other fresh-air adventures." She says Bodhi joins her while she's biking and paddle-boarding too. And if it's something super extreme, you can let the cats sleep all day.

Check out the article for more info on her Facebook page about how to train your own adventure cat. They also share other photos of adventure cats! I don't know if I have the patience to leash-train my cat but it would be a lot of fun to at least go on walks with my kitties.

*image sourced from linked article at CBC.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Nonfiction November: Week 1 Intro Post

I missed last week! Boo. But here it is a week late.

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?  Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?  What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?  What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Favorite nonfiction read of the year? Hands down it is Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe. A fascinating and disturbing look at humanity in general and the Troubles specifically.

My nonfiction reading has been all over the map this year. I've hit a lot of celebrity memoirs. I'm always interested in history and I had to read more about Chernobyl after I watched the HBO series. And science-based books also showed up.

Say Nothing and Chase Darkness with Me by Billy Jensen (this was an interesting followup to Michelle McNamara's book) have been on my list of recommendations this year.

I have not read enough history and feminism. I have a bunch of TBR books on U.S. history, world history, and feminism or books written by feminists, etc that I've been meaning to get to for a very long time. Also philosophy, specifically books about philosophers that kind of sum up their ideas and why they're useful.

I love Nonfiction November because I get a chance to reflect on my nonfiction reading so far this year. I get to interact with other nonfiction readers. And I get a ton of new recommendations to add to my ever-growing list!

Here's my list of nonfiction ranked from favorite on down since last Nonfiction November:

The Conquest of Happiness was definitely my least favorite nonfiction book this last year but the last few are mixed in with the juvenile nonfiction I read with my son as well and they were all pretty good. So the first few were some of my favorites and Russell's book was my least favorite.

Thanks to all who are hosting and participating! Yay!

Nonfiction November

Yay! It's back but I'm very much behind. But here's the schedule and the posts so I know have a link to them for future reference. I am definitely participating!

Hosted by Doing Dewey, Julz Reads, What's Nonfiction, Sarah's Book Shelves, and Shelf Aware.

Week 1: (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1) –  Yours truly will be hosting the kickoff – Your Year in Nonfiction : Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
Week 2: (Nov. 4 to 8) –  Sarah’s Bookshelves is back to host – Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. SARAH
Week 3: (Nov. 11 to 15) – Katie at Doing Dewey is joining us again with – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert). 
Week 4: (Nov. 18 to 22) – Leann from Shelf Aware is hosting for the first time – Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorite.
Week 5: (Nov. 25 to 29) – Rennie from What’s Nonfiction is here for a second year – New to My TBR : It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!
This year we’ll also be bringing back an Instagram photo challenge for Nonfiction November, co-hosted by Julie(@JulzReads) and Leann (@Shelf_Aware_).   If you’re interested in participating in Nonfiction November but don’t have a blog, feel free to join us on Instagram and Litsy using the hashtag #NonficNov.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

October-in-Review and November Goals

I can't believe October is done! What? Seriously this last year has truly flown by. DH and G headed out on a camping trip with DH's brothers and their sons along the Oregon coast. They all had a blast and left me alone for a week. I got a beautiful fall hike in, extra work done, and oh a pesky sinus infection that has only started to clear up this last week...

Halloween was fantastic! G and I dressed up as Shaggy and Velma. DH even helped me dye my skirt and sweater the proper colors. It was a lot of fun this year. I made some fantastic chili and cider too. The weather was colder than it has been the last few years but I enjoyed it because it made the cider and chili even yummier.

I saw some families gathered outside their houses with a fire pit and drinks and candy and the candy bowl to give out to the kiddos. That is exactly how I want to spend my Halloween nights one day when G is off doing his own thing on Halloween. Spend a couple hours outside with a fire and a good beer and friends while handing out candy and scaring the children...sounds perfect!

My reading and watching went well this month too. 14 books! Granted, some of them were started before October began but...I'm still counting them! So there.

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Last Month I...


14 books: 
  • Scariest Stories You Ever Heard by Mark Mills 
  • The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell
  • Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood by Marjorie Liu 
  • The Forgotten Girl by India Brown Hill (Highly recommend this one) 
  • Chase the Darkness with Me: How One True-crime Reporter Started Solving Crimes by Billy Jensen 
  • The Agony House by Cherie Priest
  • The Ruins by Scott B. Smith
  • City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
  • Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu
  • Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
  • The Whisper Man by Alex North
  • A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
  • Dead Voices by Katherine Arden (read with G)
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (Audible listen)

Listened to:

Audible version of Dracula by Bram Stoker. It's a good one with a full-length cast!



  • Endeavor on PBS. 60s British mystery in Oxford. What's not to love? 
  • Great British Baking Show. Always a good baking time! I always want to bake after watching this! Ha ha!
  • American Horror Story. I'm loving the summer camp theme this season.
  • Stumptown. Based in Portland, Oregon, my old stomping ground. Yay! Also it's a good one!



Haunt (2019)-- Pretty fun house of horrors. Enjoyed the twist.


In the Tall Grass (2019) on Netflix-- The story was a bit disjointed but still an interesting watch.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)-- I hadn't seen this one in years like since I was a teen. Showed it to my G for the first time and we had a good time. Such a magical show. One of Burton's best.


Uncanny Annie (2019) on Hulu-- My only complaint was Annie wasn't scary enough. She was silly and that took a bit of the punch out of the horror.

Fractured (2019) on Netflix-- An interesting watch but not great. The script was terrible.


Hustlers (2019)-- I went into this not knowing much about it. I was pleasantly surprised. It had some heart and it was funny! I loved it.

Eli (2019) on Netflix-- I loved the premise. Definitely, some creepy moments and the ending was really fun. Overall, a nice Netflix surprise.

Little Monsters (2019) on Hulu-- Lupita Nyong'o is always amazing so see it for her! It has some heart and Josh Gad is a ham.

Wake Wood (2009) on Amazon-- This one was recommended to me as another example of some folk horror. I didn't quite get the ending but everything else was fantastic in this little Irish horror.

Wounds (2019) on Hulu-- This was super weird but I really enjoyed it. The ending was like WHAT? but it had some great gruesome moments and some great scares. Not to mention the psychological breakdown Armie Hammer is fantastic to watch. And bugs. Yikes. All over.


Addams Family (1991)-- We watched this one as a family Halloween night and it was a lot of fun. It has been a long time since I've seen this one. Anjelica Huston was fantastic. Christina Ricci, fantastic. And it made me miss Raul Julia.


I made a lot of fun stuff in October. My mom's chili. Skillet cornbread, honey butter. Cider and lots of cookies. Oh and pumpkin pancakes. I've made a lot of things with pumpkin and I will probably continue to make a lot of things with pumpkin this month as well! Tis the season!

Reading Goals:

Fall, for me, is the time (well, after Halloween) to read some memoirs and some books about death and dying. It's a time to reflect on the cycle of life and dig into those stories and ideas about the inevitable. I even leave room for those movies I know will make me bawl my eyes out... "The Descendents," "My Life."

I have a few books I have to read with G for school but without further adieu, I hope to dive into most of these this month:

  • Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty
  • Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • The Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
  • The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains by Thomas W. Laqueur
  • The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams
  • The Undertaking: Life Studies from a Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch
  • Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich
  • The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esme Weijun Wang
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gotlieb
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Currently listening to:

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin and I hope to start My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante soon!

Looking forward to:

Thanksgiving weekend, of course! I'm also looking forward to making all the pumpkin things and drinks and reading under my kotatsu table. Here's to a great November!