The Last Laugh by Mindy McGinnis

5 stars YA Suspense

It went off the rails pretty quickly!  I suggest that you read the first book in this series before you tackle this book, as you’ll want to enjoy this ride to the fullest effect.  There was quite a bit of drama amongst the characters even before this book began.  As things started to heat up, I had a hard time putting this book down.  Taking off right where the previous book left off, Mindy’s not just wrapping things up inside this book, Mindy begins by stoking up the fire.  Into this dark storyline, I met some fantastic characters that I didn’t trust but they fit perfectly inside this story.  Thanks, Mindy, for that fantastic ending.  

The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

5 stars Fiction Fantasy

I was totally sucked into this short book as a fifteen-year-old girl and her brother, Michael dealt with their mother and The Crane.  I thought at first that The Crane was a metaphor for something else; perhaps a tall person, or someone who tried to take over (casted shadows over them) but when I started reading about wings and feathers and how this bird “nipped the well behind her collarbone, making a bright spot of blood,” I was startled! Their mom was in love with a bird!  How can someone, a human, actually have a relationship with a crane?  Was she seriously going to continue with this relationship?

The crane wore a hat, shoes, spectacles and he was holding his broken arm which had been tended to by their mother, when she introduced him to her children. Their mother was an artist, so usual behaviors around the house are not that uncommon but this Crane was pushing the limit.  The Crane made himself right at home, at their house.  Their mother seemed so calm about this new arrangement, yet the children were far from recognizing that this new male in the home, would now be their new father.  The children didn’t want another father and they definitely didn’t want the Crane to fill that position.  The Crane and mother were inseparable and the feathers were flying, literally.  Mother tries to cover up her bruises and deep cuts, but they’re seen.  She calls them paper cuts when her daughter draws attention to them and tries to dodge the conversation.  Mother has her blinders on but her children see everything that’s happening.  As the daughter tells me stories of their families past, I see mother’s relationship with her husband when he was still alive and what their family was like.

As an artist, mother’s studio was out in the barn.  Like now, there were days that mother would vanish inside the barn all day.  As a weaver, mother’s work was considered magical as she created pictures and stories at her loom where she worked weaving a variety of items into her prints.  It’s a good thing that the siblings have a strong, supportive relationship with one another because when their mother would get wrapped up inside her work, everything else seizes to exist around her.  Like before, mother is spending most of her time out in her studio.  Mother’s obsession is twofold: her work and The Crane.  As mother and the Crane disappear into the studio, the children must tend to themselves. 

Imagine what it would be like to have a crane come into your home.  His body size, his appetite, and his behavior are just a few of the things that you’d have to consider.  The Crane brought with him some brand new issues and considerations that would otherwise seem strange and unnecessary to their home which the children noticed.  The children wanted him gone but their determined mother said he was staying.  How would this book play out?  I had to know why?  Why him? Why a Crane?  Why was she working so secretly in her studio?  Why would she do this to her children?  A great book that fascinated me and kept me captivated until I closed the last page.  5 stars.      

Old Country by Matt Query

5 stars Mystery

This was crazy good!  What an interesting concept of a story.  I could feel the adrenaline and fervor in the characters and I loved how the tension built.  You just never know where life will lead you but you should try to do some research before packing your bags. 

Harry was an Afghanistan marine who received an early discharge.  Back on American soil, he continues to fight his own battles.  Harry enrolls in college and he meets his future wife, Sasha.  Finding a secluded piece of land, the couple decides that this will be their new start in life.   Sasha stands beside her husband as he deals with the effects of the war as the couple tries to get used to their new surroundings, isolated from most everyone.   

Where I live, we have four seasons so when their neighbor Dan explains to them about the change of seasons in the countryside, I was prepared.  What I wasn’t prepared for, was when Dan talked about the spirit that lived in the valley with them.  Was he serious?   The more Dan talked about this spirit, the more I knew either he was either trying to scare the couple or Dan was totally serious about what was happening in their valley.  According to Dan, each season, the spirit would take on a different form and there were specific rules that needed to be followed, to get rid of it.  Dan had even written these directions down!   Like me, Harry and Sasha pondered if Dan and his wife were people they could actually trust. 

The couple start to enjoy their new private, isolated life together – learning to rely on each other (with having only one close neighbor), as they fall into a routine.  As the seasons begin to change, what Dan and his wife warned the couple about, suddenly becomes a reality.  The spirit makes his appearance, leaving Harry and Sasha wondering, “did we really just see that?”   This is just the beginning.  Hold on people as this book is just getting started!

I couldn’t stop thinking about this story after I put it down.  As the seasons changed, the anticipation as what awaited this couple kept my heart pumping.  Harry and his wife were just looking for some quiet time together.   The Afghanistan War had already left its mark on Harry and now another battle is beginning, only this time Harry has his wife beside him.  

This is one terrific book that will have you staying up late until you turn the final page!   5 stars  

Dangerous Dolls of Delaware #12 (American Chillers) by Johnathan Rand

5 stars Children’s Chapter

I bought a few of these American Chiller books when I saw a display of them a couple years ago and I’m finally reading one of them.  The cover of the books is what drew me in and I liked that the titles had different states in the U.S.A. in them.  I have a thing for creepy dolls so naturally I started with this book. On a sidenote, I bought a handful of creepy dolls once at an estate sale and I bought them home.  I was real excited about my purchase, thinking I’d stage them around the house or outside and post pictures of them on social media, well…….that plan didn’t work.  My husband saw them and he told me to get them out of the house.  I didn’t think he was serious at first but he was – absolutely, dead serious!  Dang!  I found some people who loved creepy dolls and handed them off and now, I know my husband can’t handle creepy dolls.

What a great read!  I have to say that for a children’s book, it really was a terrific read.  I found that it was a fast-paced book with a handful of characters and a solid story.  I liked that most of the chapters ended in a cliffhanger so that it pushed me to read the next chapter and it was hard to put the book down and do something else.  Each chapter was only about 2 to 5 pages in length so I could commit to a short reading time slot, if I had to but with this story, I wanted to continue.  The book wasn’t gory or difficult-to-read with complicated words or scenes that I had to configure inside my head.  This book had an entertaining storyline that felt realistic and I could see myself in the shoes of one of the main characters, if I was only younger.  Depending on the reader and their maturity level, I think a third grader could handle reading this book.

Spencer (11) and his sister Serena (12), were out digging for fishing worms for Spencer. Digging deeper, Serena’s shovel made a dull thud.  Whatever was down there, it had been down there a long time.  Hoisting the box out, they pried the lid off, and the siblings discover two ordinary-looking dolls.  What a disappointment! This was no buried treasure but perhaps they might be able to sell the old dolls and make some money.  That was the logic they used to take those old dolls home and this was their first big mistake. 

You can imagine where this story is going as the siblings take the dolls home.  Soon, the siblings begin to feel that the dolls are taking on a life of their own. They’re no longer the ordinary plain dolls that they pulled out of the muddy hole.  No, these dolls are something else.  Needing to get some information on these dolls, they locate a woman who knows a great deal about dolls including the two dolls that they should have left in the box, buried down in the dirt.

As this lady tells the story of the two dolls that the siblings have in their possession, I’m planning my own course of action as I felt the kids were too. Putting this plan into play became more difficult than anticipated though and the story becomes more exciting as the pages flew by.  These were only dolls, right?  Two dolls and two siblings, they should be able to get this under control quite quickly, right?  The answer would be yes, if the dolls were just plain ordinary dolls but they’re not.  They’ll need a calm day of fishing if they can ever get rid of these dolls. 5 stars  

Malice House by Megan Shepherd

5 stars Thriller

Never saw that one coming!  I was expecting some exciting chapters in this book but dang, I actually had to pause a few times so I could enjoy the little twists that were provided.  It’d been two years since Haven had visited Malice House and she thought, she knew what she was walking into.  Her father’s dementia explained the demon that was living within the walls of the house.  Being a famous writer, a member of the local Ink Drinkers, the monster’s detailed description was fitting but what Haven didn’t know, was that her father’s illness didn’t explain what was actually going on inside Malice House.

Haven’s inheritance had dwindled down to Malice House by the time of her father’s death and now, standing outside the mansion, she surveyed her surroundings.  Discovering one of her father’s manuscripts hidden inside the house, Haven sees the opportunity to make some cash yet she feels she might be missing something, if she doesn’t add a piece of herself to the manuscript.  This sounds like a great plan but as the story progressed, I began to think that perhaps Haven should have just hammered a For Sale sign in the front lawn, packed up a U-Haul and walked away.

“Oh, my!”  “No, it can’t be!!”  “What is she doing?!?!”  “a Monster” “collars, dog tags and a fire pit – and she’s combing through it – work faster!!”  “Is this a curse”

These are just a few of the notes I made as I read.  You can tell it was pretty intense at times and of course, I couldn’t stop reading until I got my questions, answered.  There were too many thoughts running through my head, too many directions this story could have gone.  Haven wanted to sell her father’s manuscript, for she needed the money but as an illustrator, she wanted to add her own personal touch to her father’s stories.  This could be a great father-daughter duo until she saw their reaction.  She took their response hard and her reaction was dramatic and emotional.  Unfortunately, Haven had set the wheels in motion and there was no going back now.  Tick, tick, tick ……time is moving fast and Haven needed to put all the pieces of this puzzle together.  What a fun, engaging story.  5 stars

The Sleepover by Michael Regina

4.5 Stars Middle School Graphic Novel

This graphic novel was quite the surprise.  With a great mix of characters and a storyline that lead me down different roads, this middle school graphic novel is great for those who enjoy a chilling read.  This story had its share of emotions as the characters become involved in their own mystery. 

When the family of three returned home from vacation, they realized their beloved Nanny Ruby, would not be returning which broke their hearts.  Mom needed to return to work so she starts looking for another nanny for her children.  Matt has taken the news of Ruby’s death the hardest and his friends have arrived to have a sleepover with him.  Armed with food and scary movies, the boys have made plans to make this a fun night for Matt. I really enjoyed this mixed bunch of boys which made up Matt’s friends.  Forced to return to work, Mom hires Miss Swan as their nanny, to watch Matt and his sister Judy.  Miss Swan’s first night will be the night of the sleepover.

Judy is such a great character to have in this book, as she’s the youngest of the bunch which could mean that she’s immature but it could mean that she’s fearless, especially around all these boys.  When I read that the new nanny was “Miss Swan”, I immediately thought The Black Lagoon books, as I thought something creepy was bound to happen surrounding her. It’s funny how a name can trigger an image and get your head going.  Miss Swan surpassed what I had thought or what I could have even imaged.  Mother had to get back to work or lose her job and Miss Swan was her only option, what an option!

This book was a great adventure and I liked the wide variety of characters.  The graphics in the book were easy to follow although at times, I had to look back at the previous textboxes to help me distinguish between the different characters. I thought that by looking at just their faces in some of the textboxes, I couldn’t tell them apart.  I can see individuals who like their middle school books a little on the spooky side loving this book.  4.5 stars

Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar

4 stars Mystery

Written like true crime but truly fiction, I fell for this book quite a few times while I was reading it and I could’ve sworn that what I was reading had actually occurred.  With the addition of the photographs, it was hard not to lean towards true crime as the authorities tried to find their serial killer and the body count kept creeping up.

I enjoyed the concept behind how the author put the book together.  I liked how the author put the book together so it read like a true crime novel. I know that I checked the genre on this book at least a couple times just like I checked Daisy Jones and the Six when I read that book.  These stories play tricks with us, they want us to believe them but then, where is the memory of such events in our heads?

I was looking forward to some impressive reading when I picked up this book after looking at the title and the synopsis, as it sounded scary and intense. After reading this book though, I felt disappointed.  I enjoyed the book but I guess with all the glowing reviews, the title and the synopsis, I was expecting something grander.  I guess I was expecting it to be a I-can’t-stop-thinking-about-this-book, with me sitting on the edge-of-my-seat and the words just flying across the page.  There were also moments where I felt the author gave me information just to give me information, where I grew bored.   I wanted to be scared and I wanted to devour this book. There were moments of mystery, intense and bizarre activity but nothing that frightened or alarmed me.

I wanted to know who was killing these young girls.  I needed to know what sick individual would then, take the time to pose their victim’s mutilated dead bodies for others to find.  Why? What was the purpose? With a fantastic cover and a unique style of writing, this book is by an author who has some amazing talent.  4 stars

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

4.5 stars YA

I try to go into my books blind, that added mystery as to lies before me, intrigues me.  This book however, it bit me! I woke up early today as I had about thirty pages left and I had to know how it ended so. Well, this is book number one! What?!? I’m left hanging for a few months as the second book isn’t due out until then.  Mindy left some important questions unanswered.  She definitely had me in her grips, clearing some of my uncertainty as she connected each character to the story.  I didn’t know what the final outcome would be, but I wasn’t thinking, it was going to be reading a second book.    

In the town of Amontillado, time carries more weight than gold.  It doesn’t matter how well-off your family is or what type of car you drive, what matters is how long you’ve been a resident of this small community.  A stone pillar, engraved with Amontillado’s founding fathers has been placed in the center of town, so they will never be forgotten.  You too will not forget some of Amontillado’s residents.   

Seven years ago, both Felicity Turnado and Tress Montor had it all.  Family, friends, money, and each other.  Now, they’re both trying to discover what remains. Tress is currently living with Grandpa Cecil who runs an area animal attraction.  My heart immediately broke as I read about her, as she can’t quite recall what happened that turned her world 180 degrees and no one will fill in the blanks for her.  Her parents are gone but where exactly, did they go? Tress knows that there were four of them together that night and now, just the two of them remain.  Yet, Felicity won’t say a thing and Tress doesn’t realize what that night also did to her.

Tress will try to make Felicity talk; she has her ways.  As the perfect opportunity arises, Tress has Felicity right where she wants her. I felt that Tress wanted answers yet she also wanted revenge, she wanted Felicity to feel the pain that she has felt since that night. Felicity is at Tress’ mercy, the night in question begins the conversation but it doesn’t stop there.  I too, wanted answers, I wanted them quickly, what happened that was so disturbing and caused so much denial? Just tell Tress what happened to her parents.  What did Tress’ parents have to do with the girls not being friends anymore?

The emotions and energy that poured out of this book was intense.  Told in a dual timeline, I thought these flashbacks helped build-up the story. In the current time period, Tress and Felicity were interacting under a stressful situation.  As they brought up their past, we were whisked back in time to when these events actually took place.  I wanted the best for them, but there were times that I really felt my sinister laugh coming through for the characters didn’t act like they deserved it.  I can’t wait to finish this one, I need to know how this one ends………I mean really ends.  4.5 stars

Harrow County, Vol. 1: Countless Haints by Cullen Bunn

4 stars Graphic Novel

If you’re looking for an interesting, eerie story, I might have found the right one for you.  I picked up this graphic novel based on the illustrations, which as a horror fan, I thought they were fabulous.  I can see how some readers though, might find some of them disturbing.  When you’re discussing ghosts, torturing a witch, a skinned boy, and a corpse, there’s bound to be some interesting illustrations.  I felt that the storyline jumped a round a bit but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this story. 

They didn’t just hang Hester in the tree, but they beat, shot, and stabbed the witch before finally setting her body on fire, to make sure that she would finally leave this world once and for all.  As Hester’s body scorched the tree from which she hung, she told those in attendance that she would return and they should be ready, a vow that would hang over them.  

Emmy lives with her Pa and in a few days, she’ll be turning 18.  Is it a coincidence that Emmy has dreams of a tree and she sometimes feels that there’s something beside her?  There’s something special about Emmy, she has a gift and I wasn’t quite sure what this was until I read further but I knew that she was using it for good.   Emmy begins to wonder if she should find herself a man, now that she’s turning 18, which makes sense. Her Pa knew something and was suggesting that she stay with him on the farm as he needed help.   Wait, wait, wait……what the heck is Emmy doing now?  This is some twisted stuff and why is that all happening.

Sweet Emmy was such a nice person and now all this!?!  Leaving me with a cliffhanger was not good either.  I absolutely loved the illustrations in this graphic novel and then, just when I finally got the storyline all in sync, I now, have to find the second volume in this series.  4 stars

No Exit by Taylor Adams

5 stars Thriller

I’ve read this book almost 2 books ago and I still can’t get this book out of my head.  The ending of the book had more twists than a rollercoaster and boy, do I love rollercoasters.  Once the adrenaline rush came, it came crashing down on me again and again, as Darby struggled to outwit her opponents in a war where she mentally or physically she could not rest. 

I don’t like snow or driving in snow yet where I live the possibility of snow is about 40% to 50% of my entire year.  It’s the unpredictability of snow and how other individuals behave in the snow, that makes me not like to drive in it.  Sitting behind the wheel with Darby, the snow creating a lacey veil for the struggling car to stay onto the assigned path, I’m finding myself, holding my breath.  Darby was stressed before hitting the road and now, the weather just adds to her frustration.  Since receiving the news, Darby just wanted to see her mother but now, just finding somewhere to park her car for a bit, would be a great relief.  When the windshield wiper flew off her car, I knew she was in trouble and as she limped into the rest area parking lot, I thought if she could at least stay in her vehicle, she would be fine.  But, had she pack her car for winter driving? I had a feeling that she didn’t. 

Oh Darby!  Making her way into the rest area, Darby takes in her surroundings.  The individuals hanging around inside and the location of different parts of this rest area.  When she hears that they’ve closed some of the roads due to the blizzard, she immediately began assessing the situation.  I wish she would’ve been this detailed before hitting the road, for I think it might have helped her considerably.  Darby is now stuck at a rest area with some total strangers, with no cell service and with a phone that’s almost dead. They won’t be coming to clear the roads for quite some time and when Darby goes back outside, she notices someone caged in a van.  Yes, I said caged and this someone is a small girl. 

Who is this girl?  Which one of the individuals inside the rest area owns the van?  Oh, the questions just start coming as nothing about what has just transpired is good.  Darby can’t keep still as she needs to do something to correct the situation but where does she begin? 

Thank goodness that Darby has an almost dead cell phone and no, my friends she hadn’t packed her car for winter driving nor had she prepared herself for any type of an emergency before she left.  She’s surrounded by a blizzard, alone, confronted with a nightmare which she has to put an end to tonight. 

This was a fantastic, high-energy book. It definitely got my adrenaline going and it still gets me pumped up when I think about it.  I would recommend it but with a warning, you might not get any sleep once you start it.