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review 2018-11-26 17:32
Stories Revolving Around Christmas Don't Always Lead to Happy Endings
This Year It Will Be Different, and other stories - Maeve Binchy

Going to have this count towards Melbourne Cup Day! Some of the stories take place in Australia! Lucky me! I will make sure that I identify them below. 

 

You all know that I love Maeve Binchy. She wrote some fantastic short story collections that I always recommend to people. I hit a nasty reading slump and started reading some of her collections/books that I have been meaning to get around to some day. 

 

The First Step of Christmas (5 stars)-revolves around a stepmother who is trying to deal with throwing her and her husband's annual Christmas party. We find out that Jenny (the stepmother) has not been able to get through to her husband's daughter (Alison). The story sets it up as if Alison has been a pain throughout her courtship and marriage. I honestly just felt badly for her especially when you find out that her mother died. I did like how this story ends though with Binchy showing that Alison is a lonely girl who misses her mother. 

 

The Ten Snaps of Christmas (5 stars)-Yikes. This one made me think of The Family Stone movie. Pretty much everyone is awful and you want it to be over. The mother (Maura) in this one pushes for her daughter (Orla) to get a voucher for clothes. The dad ix-nays that whole thing and they buy her a Polaroid camera. Why you would by a teen this is beyond me. Eventually Orla takes 10 pictures that shows what her family is really like when not pretending to be perfect for the holidays. 

 

Miss Martin's Wish (5 stars)-This one takes place mainly in New York though the story begins with Miss Martin as a teacher in Ireland. We eventually find out that she has left practically at the altar and the plan was for her and her ex-fiancee to go to New York together on their honeymoon. She eventually travels there and meets someone (not in a romantic sense!) and I liked how this story ended.  

 

The Hard Core (4 stars)-This one takes place in Melbourne, Australia. The main part of this story is that the owner of an old age home (Kate) is taken away during the holidays after her mother suffers an accident. The Hard Core refers to a group of elderly residents who cause no end of suffering by the staff cause they are pretty much jerks. Kate has to ask a staff member about staying behind to watch The Hard Core. I don't know if I found this one very realistic, but I still enjoyed it all the same. 

 

Christmas Timing (5 stars)-I maybe laughed through this whole story. We have two people, Chris and Noel (guess which is the woman and which is the man) who are engaging in an affair. They think that the other one is the love of their lives, but Noel is not ready to leave his wife and children, because the children are too small. Sure Jan. These two fools love to take magazine quizzes that affirm their love for each other. This Christmas is different though when they both take a quiz that forces you to fill out answers. I maybe laughed hysterically about what the answers revealed. 

 

The Civilized Christmas (3 stars)-I really didn't like this one. The stepmother in this one (Jen) is just a martyr through and through and I got tired of it. She has a stepson (Stevie) who she is constantly taking back and forth to her husband's first wife's home. Jen is jealous of Tina and thinks that Martin and Stevie are comparing their lives at the home they share with Tina. I mostly felt pity for Stevie cause I can see in future stories Jen being angry if Martin shows more affection and love for Stevie than for her. 

 

Pulling Together (5 stars)-It doesn't take place in Australia, but the main character Penny writes a weekly air mail to her friend Maggie in Australia. Kangaroos are mentioned. This is another short story about adultery though. Penny never goes away to see her family or friends since she wants to be on "call" in case her married lover can come and see her. When she pushes back about being there for the holidays he makes her feel guilty about leaving him to his family. Yeah. He sounds like a jerk. Penny eventually ends up finding out surprising things about a student of her's (called Lassie) and a fellow teacher (Ms. Hall). I liked how the three of them end up needing each other for the holidays. 


A Hundred Milligrams (5 stars)-This short story shows the aftermath of an affair on a couple and the woman's mother. Having this mess go on during the holidays makes me yearn to hide from people. 

 

The Christmas Baramundi (4 stars)- This one takes place in Pyremont, New South Wales, Australia. Apparently this has a fish market that sets the stage for another tale of adultery around the Christmas season. I felt pity for the main character in this one (Janet). She seems to have a lot of dreams left unfilled and decides to rest them all on a dude she meets (Liam) when they were both trying to buy a baramundi. I would be off fish for life.  

 

This Year it Will be Different (5 stars)-A mother finally gets fed up for doing everything around the holidays for her lazy husband and two sons and daughter. She doesn't get the exact result she wanted, but you are left with the ending of how she plans on changing things in the future. 

 

Season of Fuss (5 stars)- About the Doyle family and them getting their mother who loves to fuss to settle in and enjoy Christmas. I did love that Binchy shows that once the mother is left with nothing to do, how her personality changes and starts to dwell on her dead husband. 

 

A Typical Irish Christmas (5 stars)-  This one takes place in the New York, but eventually moves to Ireland. A man (Ben) who wants to be left to his own devices for the holiday after the death of his wife. Ben decides to go to Ireland to leave behind all of the well being people who want him to come to their homes instead. 

 

Traveling Hopefully (5 stars)- Meg is traveling to Australia for the holidays to meet her son and his new wife. She is apprehensive since she feels like she doesn't know her son much these days. She ends up striking up a friendship with Tom who is also traveling to Australia to meet up with his daughter. I thought this one was so cute and I liked the ending. 

 

What is Happiness? (3 stars)-Another aftermath of an affair with the other woman hell-bent on wrecking her ex-lover's life. Told from the POV of the young son. 

The Best Inn in Town (5 stars)-This was a good way to end the book. Avril and Noel both have mothers who are bossy and nasty towards the other. For some reason both grandmothers come to them during Christmas which causes no end of making sure that nothing is done to upset them. They eventually get fed up with it and hard shrug about making Christmas preparations for them. I loved how the kids were portrayed in this one. I also laughed at the reference to The Empire Strikes Back. 

 

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review 2018-10-30 19:11
Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Vol 1
Year's Best Hardcore Horror Volume 1 - Randy Chandler,Cheryl Mullenax


I listened to the audio of this book and thought that Joe Hempel was a fantastic narrator. I did find a few editing mistakes and not all the stories were for me, for that I knocked off half a star. On the whole this was a very good collection.

The stories in order were:

"Worth the having" by Michael Paul Gonzalez - A somewhat stomach churning look at what happens when you get everything you wish for and the price you have to pay. This one had me cringing at the details in some parts, a great start to the collection.
"Awakening" by Jeff Strand - Hilarious story where a psychopath realises he's a serial killer. I love strand's style and this one didn't disappoint.
"Readings off the charts" by Adam Cesare - Paranormal investigators rope in an unsuspecting amateur as they try and collect data. This was a bit predictable and I realised what the ending would be about half way through. This didn't spoil my enjoyment of it.
"Reborn" by The Behrg - A story of why churches no longer take in abandoned babies. This one was pretty brutal and had the added bonus of making you question the narrator.
"What's worst" by David James Keaton - Jason sees a dead baby on the road and decides to take it for a drive in his car. Very trippy read that has you seriously questioning the moral compass of the narrator. It didn't do much for me except make me angry. This story will seriously test some readers boundaries.
"Dead end" by Kristopher Triana - A serial killer notes something very familiar with the hitchhiker he picks up. A nice twist in the end with this story.
"What you wish for" by Lillith Morgan - Two people live out their fantasies, consequence free. Only one of them hasn't bargained on being attracted to a fledgling killer. Some romance and sex mixed in with the gore for this story, I enjoyed the writing but thought it could have been edited better to condense the story a bit more.
"King Shits" by Charles Austin Muir - A trucker dishes out brutal justice to bullies. Very violent and highly enjoyable.
"Cleanup On Aisle 3" by Adam Howe - What should have been a quick robbery turns into a cat and mouse game as the storekeeper turns the tables. Great story with a satisfying ending, it was also a lot more emotional than I was expecting.
"Bath Salt Fetus" by George Palacious - Maria is pregnant and wants to get rid of her baby, to do this she tries a new drug which has interesting side effects. Wrong, just very, very wrong.
"Bored With Brutality" by MP Johnson - Rocker GG Allen decides to live a normal life. This was one of the weaker stories for me and didn't really hold my interest.
"Exposed" by Monica J. O'Rourke - A mother is desperate to find her child and decides to take the law into her own hands. How far will she go to find out the truth. Some eye watering detail in this story which ends with a great twist.
"Eleanor" by Jason Parent - Father Stuart takes in disfigured baby Eleanor after she is abandoned on the steps of the church. As she becomes a teenager their relationship becomes more intense and confusing to them both. A slow burn story with a heartbreaking ending.
"The Scavengers" by Tony Knighton - Brutal story of 2 ivory poachers who will do anything to get a bigger share of the deal. Things do not go to plan. Great story, I love karma.
"The Most Important Miracle" by Scott Emerson - All hail the God of Breakfast. A diner cook turns psychotic and decides to cook a breakfast to remember. Short and not at all sweet but very enjoyable.
"Hungry For Control" by Clare de Lune - A woman who was in a mutually abusive relationship before the zombie plague, sees a chance to get some revenge. I really enjoyed the story even though I thought the MC wasn't very likeable and was just as sexually abusive as her ex.
"Clarissa" by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry - Pregnant Clarissa plots to escape the basement where she's been kept for years under the guard of her rapist. All is not as it seems as her chance arrives. Depressing and disturbing especially when you think of some of the real life equivalents.
"Where The Sun Don't Shine" by Pete Kahle - Gordy wakes up after being on a trip for 4 days but can't remember anything about the trip and is exhibiting strange behaviour. This starts of with Gordy waking up covered in blood, mud and vomit and then alternates between the actual trip and the continuing aftermath. Creature feature that was great fun to read.
"Blackbird Lullaby" by George Cotronis - Romance blossoms in a support group for people whose demons are literally killing them. A nice end to the collection although perhaps a little too short to get much out of it.

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review 2018-09-08 03:47
This School Year will be THE BEST!
This School Year Will Be the BEST! - Kay Winters,Renee Andriani

On the first day of school, new students are asked to tell what they want to happen during this school year! Some answers are reasonable, while others are crazy! Kindergarten-2nd grade would enjoy reading this book during the first few days of school. As a teacher, it is a good idea to ask the students to set goals for the year, so this would be a great way to introduce goal setting.

 

Lexile Level: 440L

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review 2018-09-01 21:47
Year One by Nora Roberts - My Thoughts
Year One - Nora Roberts

I absolutely loved it!  I'd been dying to read it and was thrilled when it finally went on sale last week - for a day.  I cannot justify $15.99 for a book.  Not really.  So I waited. 

This book had everything I love about post-apocalyptic type stories.  It had characters that make you want to root for them because while they're good, they're also flawed in some way.  There's magical stuff - fairies and elves and magiks returning to this world.  The main characters are of assorted ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, (Nora still needs to work on her sexualities though).  There's evil that really gives you a chill.  There are friendships, there is some romance, but this is a book about The Doom and what immediately follows.  How life goes on even in the harshest and scariest of times.  And there are dogs.  Damn, I love Nora's dogs.  :)

It was a quick read for me.  I kept picking it up whenever I had a few spare minutes, anxious to see what was going on with my peeps.  And it would make a terrific TV series, I think.  A cross between Colony and The Walking Dead and Into the Badlands. 

So, while there is a satisfying ending to this book, it's not the end of the story by a long shot and you expect that.  This is a series of I don't know how many books - Nora's usual trilogy?  I don't know.  I just know I'm anxious to read the next one and if we don't revisit some of what have become my favourite characters, I'm gonna be pissed!  *LOL* 

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review 2018-07-27 17:07
Complex and Captivating
My Year of Rest and Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh

There are those who think a catnap in the afternoon is an extravagant indulgence, and then there is Otessa Moshfegh’s narrator in her newest novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation.  In this book, the first-person account is voiced by an unnamed woman who decides that she will spend a whole year sleeping as much as possible.  Young, orphaned, wealthy and spoiled, she states that her plan to hibernate is meant to “drown out any thoughts and judgements, since the constant barrage makes it hard not to hate everyone and everything.” Mosfegh’s character believes that her endeavor will result in a metamorphosis, an epiphany that will ultimately illuminate her higher purpose. She enlists the help of a psychiatrist (whose medical ethics are on the far side of malpractice) to prescribe her as many medications as possible to induce a state of nearly constant unconsciousness.  As she experiments with an implausible quantity of drugs, she often wakes to discover that she has spent the time wandering in a fugue state. Her bouts of sleep are only interrupted by her trips for food, prescription refills, looping VCR tapes and unwelcome intrusions by her only friend, Reva.  Reva is a friend from her college days-insecure, but loyal and loving-and therefore pitiful and worthy of the narrator’s disdain.  The book focuses more on character development and themes of millennial ennui, entitlement and mindless consumerism than on driving action.  Moshfegh has proven again that she is a remarkable writer with a talent for delicately portraying characters with few redeemable qualities.  As the novel progresses, however, the reader might find compassion for this damaged woman despite her self-centeredness and arrogance.  Truly unique and finely crafted, My Year of Rest and Relaxation is as difficult to categorize as it is to put down.

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