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review 2017-05-11 22:35
Born to Run written and narrated by Bruce Springsteen
Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

This is the best damn autobiography I've ever read or listened to, and I'm not even a Springsteen fan.

 

I am now, but not because of his music; it's because of his writing- his honesty, his humor, and his work ethic. His battles with depression and mental illness in his family must have been painful for him to admit, but it all rang true to me.

 

Don't get me wrong-I did have a few issues with him-most especially his reputation as a working man, or a rock and roller that represents the working man-and his not having worked a real job, (other than cutting lawns and carrying groceries to make the money for his second guitar), a day in his life! I guess I feel like he made up for that by doggedly pursuing his dreams and desires.

 

If you like Bruce Springsteen, or even if you don't, I highly recommend you read this book.

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review 2017-05-09 04:33
Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas

I've been fortunate that the last several books that I've read in a stretch this year have been among my all-time favorites, and Angie Thomas's "The Hate U Give" is no exception to that. Any review that I write really won't convey the depth of how much I loved and appreciated this book, but nonetheless I'm going to do my best to try and hope that it inspires others to read this undeniably necessary and engrossing book.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement alongside actual events that have occurred in the past several years, "The Hate U Give" is the story of Star, a young woman who witnesses her friend Kahlil being shot by a police officer after they are pulled over one night. What transpires after that is a realistic portrait of racial tensions and family struggles that Star finds herself within front and center. I thought the characters and voices conveyed in this book were so honest, real, and dimensional that I couldn't put the book down - I was very invested in her overarching story. Whether it was talking about the differences between her home and school life, her family history, her grief over seeing two people she knew and loved dearly killed at gunpoint, Star's narration held my attention from beginning to end. (It certainly helped that Bhani Turpin provided a great narration to the audiobook.)

This is a book with many different layers to pull from. Usually I say the best stories that stick in my mind are those that are multidimensional in not only the showcasing of the events, but also provide dimensional portraits of the characters within. From the beginning of this book, Star's strong voice and personality lept off the page for me. I liked her interactions with her friends, her honesty, confidence and even pieces of her vulnerability and doubt as events transpire through the story. Watching what happened to her and Kahlil broke my heart (especially knowing so many real life stories that mirror Kahlil's). Her grief comes in waves through the narrative as she struggles to come to terms with it alongside her family as well as her community. I honestly thought it was refreshing to see a YA story that also focused so strongly on Star's interactions with her family and friends. There are moments that are tense given the events, insecurities, and flaws each of the members of Star's family (Star included) have, but there are also refreshing moments of humor and grounding that I really appreciated. The romance is very well done for the bit showcase it has in the story.

Ultimately, Star plays an important part of the narrative as she struggles to seek justice for Khalil against the people and perceptions that skew the person she knew him to be. She doesn't find the strength to speak up right away, especially with so many different events and setbacks that make her fearful and angry. The narrative takes an honest look at racial prejudices and injustices from a multitude of angles, some overt and others more subtle. It gave an honest look at Star's reactions and rationales to a number of things she endures and witnesses through the narrative, and I think that's something many people will get out of this narrative long after the final page is turned. She doesn't back down from trying to do the right thing and have people understand her, and even when realizing the reality of situations that go horribly awry, she ultimately learns when to stand up and speak and when to let go (even if it means letting go of relationships she once had).

I definitely appreciated the whole of "The Hate U Give" and indubitably consider it one of my favorite reads of 2017.

Overall score: 5/5 stars.

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review 2017-05-09 04:24
Review: Shadowshaper (Shadowshaper #1) by Daniel Jose Older
Shadowshaper - Daniel José Older

Initial reaction: One of my favorite reads this year so far. I loved this book so much. The MC had a strong voice and the overarching storyline was imaginative and exciting. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.

Full review:

I'll admit I saw this book on the shelf at my library and was completely taken by cover lust. If you also want a different experience than reading the physical book, the audio version is wonderfully read by Anika Noni Rose (I ended up purchasing this from Audible because I loved the book so much.)

I think one of the things that I can say off the bat about this book's collective experience was that it was so much fun to read and very imaginative. I haven't read any of Daniel Jose Older's work before this point, but my experience with "Shadowshaper" makes me want to read more. The story revolves around a young woman named Sierra who descends from a long line of "Shadowshapers": those who can magically manipulate the art they create. Sierra's ill grandfather suddenly snaps out of his near comatose state, begging Siera to finish a mural that she notices has come to life and is quickly fading away. She doesn't understand what it means at first, but a rich history and harrowing adventure unfolds as Sierra discovers not only her hidden abilities but a rich and dynamic family history that was kept hidden from her because of the rising conflicts between members of her family. I really enjoyed Sierra's strongly asserted voice and the dynamic characters that I came to know in this book. Even the romantic angles of the story were well-developed and in a dynamic I was rooting for throughout the story. It's the kind of tale that I wish more YA novels had the depth and development to tell. Plus, the multicultural cast, lore and history really sets this book apart from many of its peers.

I'm definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

Overall score: 4.5/5 stars.

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review 2017-04-20 18:35
Nightmares and Geezenstacks by Fredric Brown, narrated by Matt Godfrey
Nightmares and Geezenstacks - Matt Godfrey,Valancourt Books,Fredric Brown

This was a thoroughly enjoyable collection of short stories, superbly narrated by Matt Godfrey. I can see now why Stephen King gave Fredric Brown and specifically this collection a special mention in his non fiction book about influential horror written during the 1950's through the 1970's: Danse Macabre.

 

Within this volume, there are nearly 50 stories, most of them very short. There were some sci-fi tales mixed in, but most of these were horror. For whatever reason, these tiny gems brought me back to the stories I read when I first got into horror. I would say the period after Poe, but before King. I did a lot of short story reading back then; I used them as a way to find new authors, and then longer works written by them. Somehow, I never discovered Mr. Brown back then, but I'm so glad that I've discovered him now.

 

There are too many tales to get into here, but a few of the standouts to me were:

 

The Geezenstacks This was Just. Plain. Fun! How can you go wrong with a horror story about dolls?!

 

Cat Burglar That ending cracked me the hell up!

 

There were several stories that began with "Nightmare in..." and I pretty much loved all of those.

 

Matt Godfrey does a tremendous job narrating these stories. I've listened to a few of his audios now, and he's quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators. Will Patton had better watch out!

 

This collection really stands above most others of its kind, not only from that time period, (the 60's), but this time period as well. That's not to say that some of these stories don't feel dated, because some do, but I don't feel as if that affected their impact. Also, Nightmares and Geezenstacks will not work for everyone, especially those who love their tales to be extra bloody or leaning towards bizarro. Horror was tamer in the 60's, and these stories are a product of their time.

 

That being said, I loved this collection. It had short stories that were actually short, it had a great deal of variety, most tales packed a real punch and the narration was wonderful. I give this my highest recommendation!

 

*I received this audio free from the narrator, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2017-03-06 15:36
The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett
The Secret of Ventriloquism - Jon Padgett

 

The genre of fiction that I identify as weird tales has always appealed to me, though it's hard to describe. There are also...flavors of weird tales, they're not always the same, even though they may belong to the same genre. For instance, Thomas Ligotti may be described as an author of weird fiction. While I love his style, I often find his work too nihilistic for me. Laird Barron could be described as an author of weird fiction as well, though his style generally leans toward cosmic horror. Lastly, Robert Aickman is admired as an author of weird fiction, but I often find his stories to be rather...unsatisfying. Jon Padgett, however, satisfied ALL of my wants and needs as a reader of dark and weird fiction. These stories have a clear beginning and end, (though some continue on, in other stories), and are as utterly satisfying as short fiction can be. In fact, I'd call them brilliant. That's right. BRILLIANT!

 

Starting with the appealing cover, (what horror fan could resist it?), and ending with Little Evie singing, in the story "Escape to the Mountain," (which makes me shudder just thinking about it.) These amazing stories are beyond impressive, each and every one of them.

 

After "Origami Dreams" I will never look at folded paper in the same way again. I will never see the word "appendage" again and not think of Solomon Kroth and his endless research in the University Library. I will not pass the abandoned paper mills in nearby towns without thinking of those ugly "paper mill days" and the filth they spewed upon the town of Dunnstown. I will never again pass a swamp without thinking of the room in "Indoor Swamp":

 

"Perhaps there is a room that contains a worn vintage tea party set with frilly dressed dolls, but one of those doll's heads gradually rotates completely around, going from an expression of knowing, smiling perversion to an open-mouthed, silent O of horror and back again."

 

I cannot possibly give this book a higher recommendation. As you read it, you may feel dizzy at times, or maybe even a little sick.

 

"You may begin to imagine you hear something that sounds like static or even the roar of an airliner. you may feel lightheaded like you are going to pass out. Ignore these feelings. They are normal."

 

They are a trifle. YOU are a trifle.

 

If you want to fully understand the meanings of these things, you MUST read this book. For me it started with the cover. It was the cover that made me BUY this book, rather than accept the free copy submitted for review to Horror After Dark. That's right, I bought it. You should too. Seriously. Right. Now.

 

Go here: The Secret of Ventriloquism

(You can add the audio for only $1.99 more!)

 

Usually this is where I say I was provided a free copy in exchange for honest feedback. However, (see above), I bought this book, and this is my honest opinion.

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