Book Review: Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead is a historical fiction of hustling in the late 50’s early 60’s Harlem, New York. The scenery and atmosphere of the times feels so genuine and accurate. The novel is broken down into 3 interconnected novellas that are years apart, the stories keep the same characters and we see those characters change and evolve over time. Even though Harlem Shuffle takes place 70 years ago there are stark similarities to present day, protest over police / race relations, riots, and corruption of politicians. The language feels authentic and real, and was one of the best parts, I was bummed there weren’t more scenes of it. This is my first Colson Whitehead novel, the Underground Railroad and Nickel Boys have been on my radar and TBR for quite sometime. I have been told that Harlem Shuffle is not his best. I had a love hate with this novel, I loved the scenery, the way landscape was described, I loved the dialogue, how easily it flowed, but I did not care enough about these characters, I felt a lot of the conflict was resolved to easy and not very smart. I liked the first story the best and did not know that the novel was broken up by novellas, I felt there was more to the first story. I wanted more from this novel. Harlem Shuffle was published on 9 – 14 – 21.

Plot Summary: Ray Carney is a legitimate business man in Harlem in the late 1950’s. He learn’s fast and hard lesson’s from the streets. His Father was a tough no nonsense hustler that Ray has tried to distance and remove from his life. But being a business man in Harlem means you have to get your hands dirty, robbing, pay offs to cops and criminals, getting rid of bodies, and murder. He will use the skills that he never wanted to live in success.

What I Liked: I liked that Ray lives in the grey area but always thought he was good, but now his circumstances change and he realizes I’m not so good, but this is now just part of business. I liked how we get backgrounds to almost all characters no matter how small, at first this was a little overwhelming, because I’m not used to it, then I saw what Whitehead was doing, connecting all these characters some from circumstance, others had family connections, and some where connected to the birth of Harlem. I really liked the first story, and wished it continued.

What I Disliked: I felt like the conflict was over to fast, characters were still talking and then someone shoots them before we get any explanation, there was no ratcheting of tension. I t made me not care about the character because I felt no real danger for him, and what is frustrating is there was so much potential for the character and the stories. I liked one of the novellas way more than the other 2. The last one had potential when it was getting interesting it was over quick.

Recommendations: I really wanted to like this book but we just didn’t gel. There’s was really great dialogue but too few of it. I have heard great things about both The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys which I plan to read eventually, but this book I can not recommend, and would try one of those instead. I rated Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Star Wars: The High Republic, Vol. 2: The Heart of Drengir by Cavan Scott

Star Wars: The High Republic, Vol. 2: The Heart of Drengir by Cavan Scott is an action packed adventure that is brutal at times with really great imagery. This volume has 2 main storylines the war with the Drengir race and going undercover to stop the Nihil’s next attack. I was really pleased with how the Drengir storyline ended, and how it could effect the Star Wars Universe. The Undercover to join the Nihil will take the reader into the next volume, it ends in a cliffhanger. We get introduced to a new Jedi Orla Jareni who is a Wayseeker who follows her own path and not just the one the Jedi Temple says she can. I liked the character but I wanted more since they don’t stay long, but believe the character could do more in the Star Wars Universe. Since Cavan Scott wrote the novel The Rising Storm we have the big event in that book set up as a catalyst for events in this book. The ending of the Drengir saga was exciting in a very Jedi way. The Nihil story line has a good twist. The heart of these issues is still the padawan and master relationship between Keeve and Sskeer. Star Wars: The High Republic, Vol. 2: The Heart of Drengir collects issue 5 -10 of Star Wars: The High Republic by Disney and Marvel Comics. Star Wars: The High Republic, Vol. 2: The Heart of Drengir by Cavan Scott was published on December 7th 2021

The Plot Summary: Keeve tries to separate The Drengir who has taken over her master Sskeer. After days of fighting with it the only solution she can come up with is let it infect her so she can talk to him with the force. Te Hive mind of Drengir does not like this and tries to take Keeve out. Meanwhile Aver Kriss and the most unlikeliest ally the Hut syndicate goes planet to planet in the outer rim trying to drive the Drengir away. Keeve and one of the force twins go undercover to join the Nihil, which is smart because the other force twin can feel every action with the force, until he’s cut off, with a device we know the Nihil developed.

What I Liked: the epicness of The Drengir taking over a Rancor and making it theirs to use against the bad guys. This book as some great art panel that I really enjoyed, for my WordPress review will try to find and awesome one with Avar Kriss losing to the Drengir in a dream. I still really like the Keeve and Sskeer master and padawan relationship, it is still the best part of the book by far. The cliffhanger of them finding out why Sskeer is losing the force. I like the Hutt and Jedi relationship and how tense it becomes at times.

What I Disliked: The Way new Jedi Orla Jareni who is a Wayseeker was used, she has such a cool look and one or two moves but doesn’t add a lot to the story. I liked what I got of the character and wanted a lot more. (Orla Jareni is the Jedi in white on the cover). I wanted more of force twin who are barely in these issues, for a second I was like did they die since they were not in this book until the end.

Recommendation: This graphic novel series still has the most so far in the High Republic series, and it is good action with consequences and meaning. I rated Star Wars: The High Republic, Vol. 2: The Heart of Drengir by Cavan Scott 4 out of 5. I did enjoy the first volume a little bit more but felt the standard and action were kept up. I liked the Art in Volume 2 better.

Book Review: Misery by Stephen King

Misery by Stephen King is King at his best. Misery is a deeply psychological horror that you can not put down. White knuckle thrill ride is not a term I use often, but the finale is so tense, that could not help being delighted and terrified of what was on the next page. Misery is a character but also cleverly the tone of this book and what Annie puts Paul through. I have seen the movie Misery, where the excellent Kathy Bates won her Oscar, and thought I knew the story, where some things were similar and right from the page, others were not which made it still terrifying, and had no idea what would happen next. The book is way more brutal and gorier than the movie for one thing. The weakest thing is the story within a story about Misery that the author is forced to write, I needed more about her character and the messy love triangle, that made me very confused, thankfully that is about a 5 percent of the novel and the other 95 percent is amazing. I have just read On Writing by Stephen King, which was a big reason I wanted to read this novel, King goes over his original ending which was pretty amazing, but he let the characters guide him to the ending in the book which I also loved. I believe this is King’s most personal novel and shows his relationship with some of his fans which probably scare the crap out of him, and dealt with his drug abuse at the time. King is notorious for not having the best endings in his stories, but I felt this one was one of his best I still think The Long Walk is my favorite but this is a close second.

The Plot Summary: Paul Sheldon has just finished his latest novel in a Colorado hotel called Fast Cars, this is a vastly different novel from his last and most famous romance novels the Misery Chastain series. He had recently closed the series by killing off his main character. Paul is so excited about this book he doesn’t make any copies and decided to drive back to his home, on the way a snow storm over takes him and he gets in a wreck breaking his two legs, Annie who lives in a the small town and claims she’s his number one fan rescues him and sets him up in her second bedroom. What looks like a good intention turns into a nightmare after Annie reads Misery’s latest novel newly released and the character is killed, she burns his new novel and makes him write Misery’s Return. Paul is at Annie’s mercy and makes his life a misery.

What I Liked: The amazing writing talent of King to make a scene practically in one room with only two characters so compelling. The flashbacks really work especially the caged African bird, which he can easily identify with. The background on Annie and her string of killing. The intensity of the scenes and the horror of the situations. I do like since this Story takes place in Colorado that, there is a link to The Shining, by one of Annie’s other victims that photographed the remains of the Overlook Hotel. I liked the little gems about writing. It is a small book by Stephen King standards and very focused through out.

What I Disliked: I would have liked to take away and understood more of the Misery story that is in the book, the longest passage makes the most sense about her resurrection, but every other piece of writing I was confused by. I also could have gotten what Annie actually loved so much about Misery, maybe she just liked her and there was no explaining of it.

Recommendation: Misery is fantastic and such great psychological horror. A lot of time when I have watched and loved the movie, I think why am I going to read a story I already know. Misery and The Shining have both surprised me in what was added and what was let out from the movie. This is truly on of Stephen Kings best. I think I have read a little over 30 and this is in my top ten maybe top 5. I rated Misery by Stephen King 5 out of 5 stars. 

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 11 by Stan Lee

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 11 by Stan Lee is the book that introduces Morbius the Living Vampire the antihero that will get it’s own movie in the Spiderverse soon and will be played by Oscar winner Jared Leto and cameo Michael Keaton as the Vulture. This book bring back Allister Smythe and a new version of the Spider Slayer. This book feature the first time that Stan Lee did not write all the issues of The Amazing Spider-Man as he went to write a screenplay, he was still the story editor, but not the sole writer. The change was not glaring until he came back, I love his little quips in the editorial. The villains in these issues are Morbius, Kraven the Hunter, The Lizard, And Allister Smythe. This volume does have a couple of guest stars namely Kazar and Dr. Strange. Volume 11 brings The Amazing Spiderman past issues 100. which is crazy to think since I’m reading in order that I have read over 100 issues of Spiderman. This issue contain 4 stories that are either 2 to 3 issue arcs, I liked two stories a lot, the other stories one was okay and one was pretty horrible. One of the stories featured Flash Thompson as a soldier returning from Vietnamwhich was interesting for it’s time stamp and showed a little PTSD, also commenting on the complexity of war and misunderstanding. I had a love hate relationship with the art, Gil Kane draws a great Spiderman but a horrible Peter Parker, he’s not good with people but adds such intricate details to landscape in panels. I prefer Romita who is more balanced in all things. The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 11 collects issues 100-109.

The Plot Summaries:Peter Parker ready for a normal life concocts a formula to reverse his spider powers only it has the opposite effect and makes him more spider like and grows extra limbs. Perker wants to run from the world and can with Dr. Kurt Connors help and his summer home by the beach, but little does Spiderman know another creature is trying to hide from the world named Morbius the Living Vampire. The Daily Bugle is in trouble and Jonah Jamison thinks a picture of a rare monster form the Savage Land will do it, and he knows just the photographer. Jamison is humiliated by Spiderman and wants revenge in walks Allister Smythe and his newest Spider Slayer, but Jamison keeps loosing control of the robot is it him or is it Smythe who is in control, either are not good for Spiderman. Flash Thompson Returns from the jungles of Vietnam much more serious. He is getting followed for what some believe are war crimes, Spiderman saves him and believes his innocence, but a there is a bigger force that Spiderman can’t protect him, enter Dr. Strange.

What I Liked: The Spider Slayer storyline was great and a welcomed return for Stan Lee back in the helm. The Spiderman quips were great and so were the editorial ones. I liked the Morbius backstory and how the Lizard got involved in the story and how he changed. I liked Gwen and Spiderman’s relationship the best, Gwen has a moment where she snaps at Aunt May for babying him and it was great. I liked that they discussed soldiers returning from Vietnam and dipped into the Civil Rights protest again as well. I thought more could be done with the 6 armed Spiderman but it was still pretty fun having him get used to them.

What I Disliked: The Savage Land storyline was a horrible remake of King Kong when he was on Skull Island an excuse to draw Gwen Stacy in a bikini. Te only bright spot was Kraven the Hunter. I laughed in the backstory for Morbius he changes from man to Vampire due to a rare blood disease that he tries to cure when he turns to vampire it changed his regular clothes to a costume.

Recommendation: I liked more than half of the stories, this book had good insight in to social issues at the time. I thought some of the storytelling could have been stronger but it was still interesting and worth your time. I rated Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 11 by Stan Lee 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Maid by Nita Prose

The Maid by Nita Prose is a warm hearted mystery that is all about character in a really strong debut novel. What makes this novel so unique is that you have a main character that can not read emotion. We see everything through that person’s eyes so a conversation can feel innocent but can be sinister, some things will be instant red flags, but most will have you guessing the intent of the character. The mystery is good and filled with lots of layers, that kept my interest. Molly the maid has so much charm that so just can’t help but root for against all the odds she’s up against. The Maid reminded me a lot of The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime by Mark Haddon which is good company. The beginning took a little while to get going, I thought the chapter lengths at the beginning were too long. The final twist takes a little too long after the main stories conclusion, it was a good twist not for the narrative but for the character of Molly. People have described this as a cozy mystery, which I think fits there is a murder but not a violent one, Molly is a very likable character full of empathy. This book is getting a lot of buzz lately, the author was interviewed on Good Morning America, and GMA book club selection for January, Florence Pugh (Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Little Women) is producing and starring in the movie adaptation, which I can’t wait to see because the book is so character driven, there’s a lot for a good actress to play with. I got to review this book thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books I feel thankful to get since I requested it so late. The Maid was published just days ago on January 4th 2022.

The Plot Summary: Molly, 25, is a maid at the Grand Regency Hotel she is on the spectrum as light autistic where she can not read facial queues or intent. Molly loves being a maid, it is her whole life, she loves to clean even after she is off she has a rigorous list of cleaning for her own apartment. Molly was taught her routine and how to clean from her Gran, who passed away 9 months ago, but her words of wisdom and cheery attitude have stuck in Molly. Molly has just discovered her first body of Mr. Black a powerful, rude, business man who frequently stay at the hotel with his second wife. Mrs. Black has befriended Molly but is she taking advantage. The police can’t tell if Molly is playing the innocent act or she is genuine, because she is the main suspect.

What I Liked: The character of Molly is a stand out, a really sweet character but with some secrets. The humor in this book is great, the staff call Molly a Roomba. Because she can’t read facial queues she makes inappropriate jokes because she literally can not read the room. There’s a scene when she’s getting interrogated and makes a joke, that is so funny given the context. Molly and the relationship with her Gran is really special and will pull at the heart strings. There’s a lot a moments where you the reader know someone’s intention and have to go with Molly into the darkness that doesn’t recognize the danger. The twist at the end was good and fit the character of Molly. This is one of my first feel good mysteries and I was pretty smitten with it.

What I Disliked: There’s a lot of cliched saying by Molly that are a little bit annoying until we get the context which is 30 pages in and is basically an embodiment of her Gran, and is almost a 70 year-old trapped in a 25 year-old’s body. This adds to the beginning being a little slow. There’s also a lot of repetition but it is only at the beginning which contributes it to being slow. I liked the twist but it didn’t need to come 30 pages after the conclusion, the reader knows there’s a piece missing and Prose takes her time delivering the information.

Recommendation: I think this is a great debut novel, it has one glaring new novel trope which is repeating its self but since Nita Prose is a book editor, it is smaller than most. If you are open to read a good heart warming mystery filled with charm and not too much conflict then this is the book for you. Like I said this is my first cozy mystery and I was smitten. The character of Molly is a standout, and even if there was not a mystery I would have had fun and laughed at those inappropriate moments. I rated The Maid by Nita Prose 4 out of 5 stars. I look forward to what Prose will come up with next.

Book Review: All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman is a Young Adult Fantasy with magical elements and death. This is book one in the All of Us Villains Series. The story is The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter’s Triwizard Tournament. A player must kill everyone else to win, and all the players are teenager of magicians famlies, the playing field is full of enchanted items and enchanted locations. What makes this novel is the four angsty teenagers who deal with society, death, media, and hormones. Their are seven champions but only four are followed, I almost feel like we could have followed all but that makes some characters wild cards. The relationships are strong, when alliance’s are broken you know the reason why, even if you’re a little sad it did not work out. I enjoyed the pace of the novel even though it takes a really long time for the champions to start doing what they were put into the tournament to do, which is try to kill each other. As much as I did like this book I was disappointed with the ending, because this story did not have any real ending it just stops with you the reader knowing there’s another book. There were a couple of twist towards the end but no closure in the story or characters. I think there is enough to hang out with the villains again, but that ending was a big step in a great book.

The Plot Summary: Every 20 years 7 reigning families of magicians have a tournament to the death to decide who holds the horde of the most powerful magic. But this tournament is different one of the lowest families has written an anonymous book all about the tournament that has drawn media attention, which has complicated things for the small village. Every winner has committed suicide one to two years after the tournament not being able to live with what they did while competing. We follow Allister who’s family has won for the last 100 years, has all the pressure to be as vicious as everyone expects him to be. Isobel The first champion announced and receives the most of the media attention. Briony former best friend to Isobel has been training her whole life to be champion. Gavin the poorest and lowliest champion, will give anything to win even his life, his family is suspected of writing the anonymous book, telling all the families secret to give his family some kind of advantage. All champions could be villains, but it is there choice. Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for teens. All of Us Villains was published on Nov. 21 2021

What I Liked: the character’s are all really great, I loved when they were being wicked, and loved them even more when they resisted. The moral dilemma of having someone you are crushing on, or is you former best friend that you then have to kill is pretty brutal, to paraphrase A Streetcar Named Desire, It’s tearing them apart. I think it took the Hunger Games/Battle Royale formula and made it more intimate, with having all the families know each other and having the low number of 7. Each attempted death feels personal, and we feel each time it happens or is attempted. A really good start had me intrigued early.

What I Disliked: Saw the major twist at the end coming a mile away, it can kind of change the tournament but only one person knows before it ends. The ending killed a lot of momentum there was only the smallest bit of any closure for one out of the 4 characters. I took a little too long for the first death attempt.

Recommendation: This book is good and worth your time I wish the ending landed, but I did read the advanced reader’s copy so maybe it got fixed. There is still a lot of potential in this series and these amazing characters. I will recommend you read this devilishly fun YA novel. I rated All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman 4 out of 5 stars.

TBR: January 2022

January 2022 TBR list: last month was almost successful I read all 5 and a half of the 6 books. I’m going to stick with 6 because I feel it works best for me. I hit my reading goal for the year of 80 books by reading 83.   I’m trying to catch up on a couple of the ARC’s that I missed.

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman is a book I’m half way through it is the Hunger Games meets the Harry Potter Triwizard Tournament in  this is a bloody Science Fiction/ Young Adult novel that is getting a lot of buzz and sounds devilishly good.  The plot is a fight to the death for 7 families to control high magick. This book review is thanks to Netgalley and Macmillion-Forge.Tor Teen I twas published on November 9 2021

The Maid by Nina Prose sounds like a fun who done it, that is getting a lot of buzz right now.  This novel has Florence Pugh from Little Woman and Black Widow attached to star in the movie.  I don’t want to know too much on plot but it sounds great.  Thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books it is published on January 4 2022.

Misery by Stephen King this is a book that has been on my TBR for some time I always want to read more King. I have seen the movie and Kathy Bates incredible Oscar performance as Annie Wilkes.  But having just read On Writing by Stephen King and analyzing how he crafted the ending, I really want to read it.

Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce is the sequel to the lovely Dear Mrs. Bird that charmed me so much, just 2 years ago.  Following the events of Dear Mrs. Bird where Emmeline had been giving advice to the rejected letters sent to Dear Mrs. Bird column in 1941 wartime England.  She takes on new challages heading up her own wartime column. This book is thanks to Netgalley and Scribner it was published on August 10 2021.

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-man Volume 11 by Stan Lee is one of the last volumes that Stan Lee wrote on.  This volume introduces the anti hero Morbius the Living Vampire which is soon to be played by Jared Leto this winter.  This book also features The Amazing Spider-Man issue 100 where Spiderman grows extra arms.

Goosebumps: Phantom of the Auditorium by R.L. Stine is Goosebumps book 24 in the original book order, this continues my quest to read all the Goosebumps books then give to my eager nephews.  This story is a modern day retelling of the Phantom of the Opera with a Goosebumps twist.

Best Books of 2021

Best Books of 2021: I read 83 books this year with 33 of the books being published this year. I will post my top ten books published this year and my top 5 of books that were not published this year.

Top Ten of Books Published in 2021:

1: The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah is a special book and my front runner from the day that I read it.  No book made me more emotional. This book made me think of how I would of handled living in the time of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.  This historical novel uses real events and puts its character’s through tragedy and triumph. This novel can easily get compared to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, but tweaks it giving it a new perspective, what if Tom Joad was a single mother with two kids; this fresh perspective changes everything. You will want to thank your mother after for all that she has sacrificed for her children’s happiness after reading. This book will make you teary eyed as you go on a journey looking for a living wage. The story based on true events will make you mad at how our fellow men and women were treated and some still treated this badly. The Four Winds drew me in right at the building as I connected with young naïve Elsa and her fairy tale visions of love.

2: Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica had me at the uniqueness of it’s story telling.  It hooks you so deep in the beginning and doesn’t let up until you the reader know everything. Local Woman Missing is a uniquely told mystery because it is told in reverse, but you still don’t know all the facts making it very compelling. There are some big twist that will make you change your whole theory of what is going on. The writing was good with just enough description to let you visualize what is going on. The narrative is told at three different times by four different people in the story, at first this is a little dizzying, but then starts to fit in to place. The way the story is told makes it brilliant, if it was told the normal way it would still be good but they way it is told makes you question and doubt everything.

3: The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig  This book is both entertaining and super scary, itis a refreshingly original horror novel that mixes genres with a lot of gore. Chuck Wendig wrote my favorite novels of 2019 with The Wanders which again was totally original horror that mixes genres, so I was very excited when netgalley picked me to receive an advanced readers copy. The Book of Accidents is original but there are two books that I will use to compare to put you in the ballpark Blake Crouch’s Recursion meets Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. If those books had a baby you would have The Book of Accidents. The Plot is crazy the best thing is to not know too much going in.

4: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker was a book not even on my radar but a lot of my friends and people I follow had it as their best mystery in the Goodreads Choice Awards, so I had to check it out and so glad that I did.  We Begin at the End is a slow burn mystery that looks at how one mistake can define a future of hurt. This mystery balances  being heart breaking, yet so so full of a beating heart that drives the narrative. You feel every death and every reveal will change your perception. This is a mystery that is character driven, I feel like if there was no mystery I still would have been interested in the characters. The characters and circumstances will give you chills and it gave me an ugly happy cry. There’s a lot of Darkness in this story but a light at the end of the tunnel that burns bright with hope.

Concrete Rose Angie Thomas

5: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas is a prequel that feels like a sequel. It is a story that is so good, even if it was not connected to The Hate U Give this story would still be 5 stars.  Concrete Rose is a prequel to The Hate U Give. This story follows a lot of storylines that were backstory in The Hate U Give and the Carter family, like how Star got her middle name, and the tricky parenting of Seven. I feel you did not have to read The Hate U Give to enjoy this but you will enjoy The Hate U Give even more. Where The Hate U Give was more about race relations and the Black Lives Movement, this novel is more about responsibility and self ownership. I think this is an important story about teen pregnancy, stepping up and being a man, the gang culture, and LGBTQ acceptance. This book is at times corny, hard hitting, raw, and emotional, it will leave you with hope an moral story for working hard does pay off. 

6: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward, A great horror/mystery that is insanely good. The book has a twist that will change you world and open yourself to a new way of thinking. This is one of the best well rounded stories that I have read in some time, everything fits and it does not feel forced. The big twist is explained and all the loose ends are tied up so well. What is cool about the big twist is if you pay attention and open your mind you can figure it out, I was back and forth on what was coming guessing some parts but not all.

7: The Apocalypse Seven by Gene Doucette is my favorite Science Fiction of the year hands down, I was not expecting to like this books so much but was pleasantly surprised.  The Apocalypse Seven is a fantastic science fiction thriller with a clever ending you will not see coming. This book is The Wanders by Chuck Wendig meets Contact by Carl Sagan. A really good mix of the apocalypse meets alien involvement. The characters are unique only a couple are annoying, by most in a quirky sort of way. The plot moves pretty fast and the more you find out is pretty interesting, every chapter digs more into the mystery. The finale is was really clever in what it means, I was kind of disappointed in the direction it was going but the book has a twist that totally redeems its self.

8: Later by Stephen King is a really fun ghost story, about a boy who can see ghosts and talk to them is it a gift or a curse. I would say it is the Sixth Sense meets combined with a short story he wrote in if it bleeds Mr. Harrigan’s phone, this story went in another direction and it was good. Later was part of the Hard Case Crime series, that not really a series but more of a style of books. This is my fourth so far and favorite. Later is a good fun ride that gets exciting and a little gruesome.

9: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix is a slasher mystery, that uses a mash up up all our favorite final girls from the movies. It was fun to find out the girls origins and from what movie franchise they were from. The movie slashers depicted in this book are Halloween, Friday The 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Scream, and the outlier is Silent Night, Deadly Night. I like what was done with each character, and how these events were eventually made in to Slashers themselves. The dialogue is really fresh and flows so well. There’s a good deal of humor that lands for the most part. The mystery is good I don’t know if everything lined up, but it was fun.

10: Star Wars: The High Republic, Vol. 1: There Is No Fear by Cavan Scott is a lot of fun and high stakes adventure. This graphic novel makes up for one of my complaints in most books in the High Republic little to no action. This book is filled with action and light saber duels. This graphic novel is a page turner and over way too fast. One of my favorite characters from Light of the Jedi, Avar Kriss, who has been in the background of all the other books, finally gets back into action in this book and it was great. The heart of this book is Keeve and Sskeer and their padawan / master relationship is explored.

Top Five Books that Were Not Published this Year:

1: The Thief of Always by Clive Barker became one of my instant favorites books it is a wonderful modern day fable, yet the writing feels timeless. This story has so much heart, you can’t help but feel for the characters. The writing is really good very poetic, one of the best first lines to a story in a long time. When I read that first line, I knew this was going to be a special story and I was not wrong. This story is very fast paced I read it in two days but could easily finished it in one sitting. The illustrations for this book are pretty perfect, they compliment with the descriptions perfectly, it made me think of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and illustrations done by Shel Silverstien

2: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune is wonderful, I only wish I had read this book sooner.  If Four Winds was my most emotional then this book was a close second. The House of the Cruelan Sea is a heartwarming Young Adult novel about intolerance in magical creatures the world misunderstands. This story is the themes of intolerance in the X-men comics by Stan Lee and Chris Claremont meets the odd yet lovable characters from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Rasom Riggs. This book is mainly Young Adult, but it brought up some adult themes that were refreshing, body image, LGTBQ issues, and Christianity. the LGBTQ characters are handled with care and love like I haven’t seen before, being gay is not a huge revelation and the book gets that gay people are actually all shapes and sizes.

3: Network Effect by Martha Wells a hilarious science fiction that delivers in action and comedy. Network Effect is Murderbot Diaries number five. This is the only full novel in the series with the rest being novellas. I have read and loved the character of Murderbot for 4 previous novels. The series has had highs and lows, I felt the formula was getting a little predictable, then Network Effect came out and changed the narrative making this book my favorite in the series so far. It took the best parts, intense action, witty dialogue, human interaction, and character growth, and expand them. The pace of this book is pretty fast it slows down a little in the middle but after intense scene after intense scene I welcomed the slow down.

4: The One by John Marrs is great science fiction, where a scientist has found a gene that links you to one over person on the planet that you’re supposed to be with, your one and only love. That scientist of course cashed in and makes it a website that you send your DNA to get the results. This premise gets black mirrored showing the horrors and doubt that can arise with this technology. It gets you the reader to wish this technology exist then shows the horrors that go with it. We follow five people that use the website, some with reluctance, some eager, and some with trepidation. What I enjoyed is that the stories all have twist some come right at the beginning, some in the middle and some at the end. So as one story will slow down another will have a huge twist and totally change it.

5: Basketful of Heads by Joe Hill is a great person at the wrong place and wrong time revenge thriller, with an added supernatural element. This graphic novel is bloody, gory, funny, and thrilling. The mystery of why the victims are chose is captivating, as our hero finds out every one who is involved in this murder plot of is it all about the money heist. The element that makes it interesting is the murder weapon, an axe, holds a power that no matter what is severed the person can live and speak, there’s a lot of decapitations where people keep talking at first it is horrific, but then it turns humorous.

Book Review: Goosebumps – Return of the Mummy by R. L. Stine

Return of the Mummy by R.L. Stine is Goosebumps book 23 in the original order. This book is a direct sequel to The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb. It has three of the same character’s returning Gabe, Sari, And Uncle Ben. There’s a couple scary moments, getting lost in a dark cave with no light, falling in a pit of spiders, and and a mummy coming to life. This novel is more about the character’s than the scares. I liked Gabe the first and so far only non white lead character in Goosebumps, but I found Sari still so annoying. Uncle Ben is more caring and pulls a pretty good prank scare off. The ending was good but not great. There is a pretty good twist ending, that will surprise most readers. I liked The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb more but this is a pretty good sequel, reading The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb is not necessary, but it will enhance your experience, since you will know what the mummy’s paw can do. This story was made into a Goosebumps tv episode called The Return of the Mummy. Go to the bottom of this review to see where I rank Return of the Mummy against the 22 other goosebumps books.

Plot Summary: Gabe is back for another Egyptian adventure in the ancient pyramids with his cousin Sari and his Uncle Ben. This time Ben is to open the tomb of Khor-Ru, who was King Tut’s cousin. Gabe still has the Summoner from the last adventure, which is a petrified mummy’s hand, that can bring back the dead, with words spoken from the last adventure. But this story it goes missing which means trouble.

What I Liked: The scene where Gabe falls into the pit of spiders was scary and well written. I liked the twist, and thought it was clever. I thought Uncle Ben’s prank was good and funny. I liked that Sari had some human moments instead of just being annoying and challenging. I like Uncle Ben’s little flirts with Nila. I liked the setting and getting to know Gabe more and his background.

What I Disliked: The story takes a while to get going and have any scares. Where the first story had lot’s of mummy’s this story has one that is really brief.

Recommendation: This story was good but not great, it had a low scare rating. The scare that it did have where great but it didn’t have that many. The thing that I felt it did well was expand on the character from the first story The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb. I will barely recommend you checking it out. I rated Return of the Mummy by R. L. Stine 3 out of 5 stars. Here’s my full ranking of the 23 Goosebumps books that I have read in order to my favorite to least favorite: 1) Stay Out of the Basement, 2) Ghost Beach, 3) Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, 4) The Haunted Mask, 5) One Day At Horrorland, 6) Night of the Living Dummy, 7) Welcome to Camp Nightmare, 8) The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, 9) Say Cheese and Die, 10) Let’s Get Invisible, 11) The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, 12) Welcome to Dead House, 13) Monster Blood II, 14) The Girl who Cried Monster, 15)Deep Trouble, 16) The Ghost Next Door, 17) Be Careful What You Wish For… , 18) Return of the Mummy, 19) Why I’m Afraid of Bees, 20) Go Eat Worms!, 21) The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, 22) Monster Blood, And 23) You Can’t Scare Me!

Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is an apocalyptic tale that focus on the small things like loss and connection instead of bigger thing like how did this happen and how are we going to go back to society we once had. This novel is is masterfully connected through small gestures of flawed characters, theres connections started before the pandemic, durning the pandemic, a year or two after and 15 years after(which is the novel’s present day). The novel jumps around a lot which is sure to frustrate some, but I found the story was still easy to follow. The characters are interesting, you fell like you know them, but they are all still filled with secrets. The story theme is about finding yourself and being honest what you want out of life. I found the writing really similar to The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier which deal with an apocalyptic plague and the connections in purgatory. This book is perfect for a book club or a college discussion, there’s lots of themes and narratives to explore. This book has been on my Radar and my TBR for quite sometime, I wanted to read this because I saw a trailer for an HBOMAX limited series based on this book. Just watching the trailer they changed one scene which was for the better, So I plan to watch it soon as a reward for reading the book.

The Plot Summary: Arthur Leander a famous actor has died on stage playing King Lear, his death is memorable for his celebrity status, also the night of his death is the start of a plague that knocks out 90% of humanity. Kristen in present day 15 years after the plague is in a traveling symphony that performs Shakespeare and music to keep the arts going. Kristen was in Arthur Leander’s last performance of King lear and their connection as small as it was will effect this new society. A graphic novel that’s origins are attached to Arthur tell of a society that has struggles and will go into isolation influences society in a mysterious way. The man that preformed CPR on Arthur as he died has been shaped my this moment and connections. Authur’s ex-wives and son are also a great influence on this new world. It’s a pretty interesting read how these small interactions and exchanges can influence and change society.

What I Liked: The story of how the society of people lived at the Airport those 15 years, I found these chapters the most compelling. I like the prophet but wanted to know more about him the hints weren’t enough, I did like the reveal on who he was and his connection to the Arthur and the the others. I like the connections and the questions it asked the reader about the current society and how the connections changed it. I liked Miranda and Jeevan character’s the best, and the way that they are connected. I liked the really small bits of action, that were fast but tense. I do like the connotations between Shakespeare’s time dealing with the plague and the why are the player doing Shakespeare.

What I Disliked: I did not care for Arthur Leander, I get his character was supposed to be a bit detached to society, but his backstory cold have been a lot richer. I did not like that we never got to know Miranda’s fate since she was left overseas. I wanted Jeevan to meet Kristen this is one thing the series looks to have fixed.

Recommendation: Station Eleven is a good work of modern fiction. I would recommend this as a book club or group read because there is a lot to discuss. Some people have put this book in the science fiction category, which I feel doesn’t reflect it well enough, it’s a book you can get people skeptical of the Science Fiction genre to dip their feet into, but the only science fiction trope are the decay of society both socially and psychically. I rated Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 4 out of 5 stars.