My Never Ending List

I am an outside person who loves to read and cook.  I have been broadening my taste in books as I venture into most genres.  As a substitute teacher, I read a lot of YA novels so I can be a book pusher and talk books with the students.   

The Cabin

The Cabin - Natasha Preston
There was plenty of times in this novel that I wanted to slap Mackenzie, it was her reluctant searching for clues with nothing panning out. Over and over, she was grasping at straws only to watch the straws fall by the wayside. I was getting tired of Mackenzie. Mackenzie, the girl who expected honesty but fell short herself in this trait. Mackenzie, the girl who fought for everyone, for everyone was innocent yet the clues told otherwise. Mackenzie, the girl who felt as if she was the only individual focused on finding the killer. I was on Mackenzie overload. I enjoyed the beginning of the novel as Mackenzie and handful of individuals gathered at a cabin to have one of their last get-togethers before they headed off to college. Loaded with booze, drugs and personal effects, the group was looking forward to a great weekend. Although Mackenzie couldn’t stand one of the boys that made up this group, his attendance was critical as he was dating one of Mackenzie’s best friends. A older sibling joins in at the last minute and it wasn’t long before Mackenzie and Blake were hitting it off. Two dead bodies lay in the kitchen floor when the group arises the next morning, who killed them and why? Locked doors and windows narrowed the suspects down, the drama was starting to build as the group comes to grips over the death of their two friends. I think the novel started to slide backwards as the intensity and excitement of what was occurring started to slowly decline. There were moments in the novel where I felt the author wanted to grab my attention but there just wasn’t the build-up those moments needed, to affect me. I was disappointed in this novel as I was exciting more intense action.

I am using this novel for Halloween Bingo, the Country House Mystery square.


The Bitter Side of Sweet

The Bitter Side of Sweet - Tara  Sullivan
Amadou and Seydou are cutting the pods from the cacao trees, for this has been their job for more than two years. They must make their quote for the day or endure their punishment for failing. Amadou takes care of his eight-year-old brother Seydou, the responsibility sometimes overwhelming for the fifteen-year-old. They’re just waiting for the day that their debt is paid off, for Amadou feels that, when that day arrives they will be allowed to return home to their parents. Day in and day out, the boys in this camp collect the pods that will later be sold. Their bosses getting paid for the work that these young children have accomplished. The boys get an interesting addition to their group when Khadija is brought into the camp. A girl, and a wild one at that! Khadija puts up an amazing fight as she doesn’t want to work at this camp and she longs to be free. I enjoyed her determination and spirit. While others watched, she was able to stay strong and fight for what she wanted. While most of the boys in the camp see Khadija as a female, Amadou and Seydou start to see her as something else.
I enjoyed the hostility between Amadou and Khadija as they began to interact with each other and then watched, as their relationship turns into something greater. As the drama begins to intensify, the novel moves along quickly. I enjoyed this novel until the very end. To think that young child must work in these conditions daily upset me, for them to dream of their freedom when in reality their work will never be done.



Severed - Scott Snyder, Scott Tuft, Attila Futaki
This novel travels back in time to when Grandpa Jack was twelve years old, some forty years ago, after his grandson hands him a note that he had received from a stranger. This note reminds grandpa of a dark secret that he has been hiding, a secret no one is aware of. It is now, that grandpa slowly begins to reveal what transpired when he was a teen.
Jack is hopping aboard a freight train with his sights set on meeting his father. Jack has had a wonderful childhood but Jack has just realized that he is adopted. Finding an old picture of his biological parents, Jack feels betrayed by his adopted family and wants to see where his roots began. Jack is elated that his father is the famous Brakeman, as Jack now knows where he obtained his musical talent. I was questioning the timeline of this event as I wondered how long Jack knew he was adopted. Did Jack just find this out about the adoption and decided to run off and locate his father? Had Jack made any plans for this trip? Did Jack expect his biological father to welcome him with open arms or did Jack have plans if things didn’t work out between him and his father? It just seemed like a big trip for a young boy to take without any planning.
Jack gets an advance course in reality when he runs into some other domineering individuals on the train, to them they see someone they can take advantage of. Jack meets up with an individual named Sam. Jack takes to Sam, for she seems to knows this new world that Jack has stepped into. When an older man introduces himself to this duo, I see where this novel is headed. They find comfort in the wisdom and resources of the older man but what the teens don’t realize is that this man is a not actually who he says he is. This man preys on little children, for they provide a tasty meal for him and Jack is next on his plate.
I didn’t think this novel was at all chilling, until the very end. The ending provided some excellent illustrations and was where the excitement intensified. I was disappointment as I was hoping for some suspense and intense action to be taking place throughout the novel. I did enjoy the illustrations as they were very detailed and I loved the intensity of a few of them. I was glad that I had picked up this deluxe version with all seven issues in it, as I don’t think I would had continued reading this series if I had to read them one at a time.

I am going to use this novel as my American Horror Story in Halloween Bingo as this novel begins in Jamestown, NY in 1916. Â Jack is trying to make it to Chicago, IL to locate his father but along the way, he visits other U.S. cities. 








The Cure for Dreaming

The Cure for Dreaming - Cat Winters
I really enjoyed this novel. I wasn’t sure if this novel was for me but after the reading the first couple chapters, I was drawn in by Olivia. Olivia had a voice and she used it to express herself. She wanted change, she didn’t want what the world expected of her, Olivia wanted more. Her father tried to silence her, to make her one of the many women who followed the plan, set by history. He was determined to make Olivia an example of what women should become yet Olivia already had her mind set on what she wanted in her future.
I loved the execution of this novel, how a hypnotist could change the course of so many lives. It was brilliant! Set out to be entertainment value, the hypnotist’s talent soon became much more than fun and laughs, it became a commodity, one that could be exploited. There had to be a balance and I read to find this middle ground. A place where everyone’s needs could be reached. I cringed when Olivia and Henry started to get intimate, I didn’t want this and the book didn’t need it either. A romantic relationship didn’t need to be tangled up with what was transpiring within the pages of this book. I thought this novel was captivating, driven and executed in an excellent fashion. I highly recommend it.


Gwendy's Button Box

Gwendy's Button Box - Stephen King, Richard Chizmar
He had been watching her yet, all she was concerned about was whether she made it to the top of Castle View. She needed to lose some weight, she was not starting middle school with the name Goodyear, the blimp could have its name back. When Richard approached Gwendy, she hesitated. Holding a box in his hand, Richard was sure what he was about to give her, would change her life. As Gwendy listens to Richard explain the box’s magic, I could feel the excitement and uncertainty that Gwendy was feeling, it all seemed too easy and worrisome.
The box worked it magic for Gwendy, a few times she was frightened by how powerful this box actually was. Her best friend becomes a shadow as Gwendy accepts her new power and runs with it. She is everything she wanted to be and more, but was this what she really wanted?
I thought this was a fantastic, short novel and I liked the pace, the storyline and the characters. It was the anticipation of Gwendy’s future with the box that kept me transfixed to this novel. Her curiosity, her future and her situation was centered around the box, the box that could change her, if she wanted.


War Brothers: The Graphic Novel - Sharon E. McKay, Daniel LaFrance
I picked this graphic novel up from a library’s display as I loved the cover and the title. I didn’t know until I got home what the novel was about and after I read the synopsis, I realized that I had picked up a gem. I loved everything about this novel.
The story is about the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) which is ran by Kony, a man who stops at nothing. Reading these words, I had to laugh as I just finished reading Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton and here I was reading about the same Army two weeks later, only now I was reading a graphic novel. Both novels were based on actual events. Even though both of their accounts were similar in what had transpired, each story was unique and it was fantastic reading another novel based on what is happening in Uganda. Just as I had imagined from reading Soldier Boy, this novel’s illustrations reaffirmed my notion of what these children went through after being captured.
In this novel, the boys were taken from their school, a place they thought was safe, and now the boys are part of the war. It is either kill the enemy and be given food to eat and survive or to refuse to fight and have to scrounge for your own food and hope you will survive. Don’t get hurt or you will be left behind to die, this regiment had a mission and they were not slowing down. Fighting the government’s army or overtaking villages, the LRA did it to please God, for those are the words of Kony. I had to shake my head as I read about their commitment to God. It was amazing how their twisted minds worked, believing that God choose them to fight for him, to kill innocent individuals and to torment others. They were violent and brutal in their ways to get what they needed, to do God’s will and to get their abductees to break down and fight with them.
I loved the illustrations in this novel. The colorful, bright artwork tells the whole picture. It pulls you in and my emotions harden as I read. To walk day-in and day-out in the bush, keeping your head up while your spirit was diminishing. I liked how the illustrator used a white border around the text boxes when life was safe for the boys and then changed to a black border when the boys were under the LRA rule. It really was a powerful message. Looking at the side of this novel, I saw white, black and then white again, there was hope for what had transpired. I can’t say enough about how powerful and effective this novel is, in portraying this event that is still occurring in Uganda.


Delicate Monsters

Delicate Monsters - Stephanie Kuehn
When I finished reading this novel, I had to ask myself, what did I just read? I guess I was lost with where the novel was going. I found myself caught up in the drama of Sadie, Emerson and Miles but what exactly the whole novel was about, it had lost me.
I knew that two of the main characters were not your typical teenager. Sadie is evil and she enjoys messing with people. The more corrupt a deed is, the more inclined Sadie will perform it. Miles has a unique gift. Miles gets visions, dark visions which typically transpire. His recent vision includes himself and this scares him. Emerson just wants his last year in high school to be normal. Having a brother who is far from normal and Sadie back in town, Emerson is beginning to see that this school year is not going in his direction. These three young adults have a past and there is a dark spot that lies within it. May is a girl who Emerson likes but I kept thinking as they meet up, is this really a relationship or just sex? I really didn’t care what happened to any of the characters, it seems that they went into each other’s life but the drama was nothing that I could hold onto. They were characters in a book, characters who could have been part of an interesting story but I just did not get it.


Off Season

Off Season - Jack Ketchum
They were fierce, brutal and relentless. They were human but they acted like monsters, not stopping for anything once they got started. It was the flesh of the dead that gave them their power but they needed victims, a steady supply of them, to keep their group thriving.
Oh, I enjoyed this one. It reminded me of the late-night horror movies I used to watch growing up. There were those tense moments where I knew something bad was about to happen and a few moments where I chuckled to myself, the scene playing out seemed just too bizarre to believe. They attacked their victims, surrounding them and sinking their teeth into their flesh, holding onto them with vigor and strength. Their victims were innocent individuals who were at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Carla didn’t know what awaited her when she rented the cabin by the sea. She was looking for a quiet, relaxing retreat where she could concentrate on her work. After playing host to a group of her friends, Carla would get to work but for now, Carla needed to get the cabin ready for her friend’s arrival. Outside, the group saw movement in the cabin and that was all it took. They knew immediately what they needed to do and I was anxious to see who would survive in the end.


I am using this novel for Halloween Bingo 2017 for my In The Dark, Dark Woods space.  There is nothing like a cabin in the woods with a group of crazy individuals running lose that doesn't get me excited.  

Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone - Daniel Woodrell
I felt sorry for Ree throughout this whole novel. The responsibilities and her mannerisms reminded me a thirty-year old woman and here she was just sixteen. She was forced to be the head-of-the-household as the adults in her life have checked out. Her mother is sick and has been for quite some time, she can hardly make it out of bed each day. Her father has decided that his drugs become first, the consuming and the manufacturing of them, that he just does his own thing. Ree, she manages the household and keeps her younger brothers in line because there is no one else to take over. They live in the hills and as I read, I could picture the isolation where their house was located and the stress that Ree carried with her. Ree’s best friend lives close but they each have responsibilities that doesn’t allow them to be the children that they are. Gail, her best friend, got pregnant and married the father of her child. He’s not the best husband to have but the responsibilities that fall on his shoulders are minimum, for his parents take care of his family. The more I read about this community, I could see how tight they are, they knew what was happening around them and I saw how their last names and their ancestry carry a lot of weight.
Ree’s father has taken off again, his whereabouts are unknown but Ree has some notions on where he might be. Normally this doesn’t concern her much as he usually arrives home sometime, this disappearing act has become a habit with him. When a Deputy arrives, and inquiries about her father, what he tells Ree changes everything. Ree desperately needs to find her father. If she is unsuccessful, they could lose their home and Ree doesn’t need any more stress in her life. This search becomes more difficult than Ree had imaged but I pulled for her as she was one hard and determined individual, who I believed wouldn’t stop until she had an answer.
I liked this novel for its portrayal of individuals. I also enjoyed reading about their community, a community that seemed odd at times to me but this was their home and I liked the quest that Ree set out to solve. I feel that the author did a fantastic job creating this experience for me. Based on the cover, I see that there is a movie created from this novel, now this is something I’m going to have to get my hands on and watch.


The Trick: a Novel

The Trick: a Novel - Jonathan Davis, Emanuel Bergmann
This was an amazing story of the journey of Moshe who later became known as the Great Zabbatini. Moshe’s great tale began even before he was born when his parents, a rabbi and a young woman, tried to conceive a child. I laughed at this portion of the novel, so creative and bizarre but this chapter just becomes another interesting fact about the Great Zabbatini. There are twists in his life as he grows up, poor Moshe had lived quite a life before he joins up with the circus. After linking up with the circus, Moshe tries to fit in and make a life for himself but it must be something in his blood, as his life is far from quiet and settled. He studies under the eyes of Half Moon Man, learning the trade of magic. It seems like a competition really, between these two, Moshe must try to be original in his new trade and what he does after hours he tries to hide from his boss. He becomes Zabbatini and he ventures off the road, leaving this circus behind him. He’s not alone and it is now that he begins to make his name in the world. He hides that he is Jew, the war is underway and he is worried about his life. Zabbatini is good, whether he is great and can survive this time period is another story. This time in his life was a wonderful story that added to the enjoyment of this novel. Zabbatini, the magician with quite a story and just the person that Max needs.
Max is eleven and his parents are getting divorced. Max doesn’t want his family to fall apart yet he doesn’t know what he can do. While his father boxes up his things at the house, Max comes across an album of The Great Zabbatini. The album catches Max’s attention, Zabbatini’s Greatest Tricks is sprayed across the front. Flipping the album over, Max sees hope, there listed among the tricks on the album is a Love Spell. The hope that will keep his family together, is found. It has been seventy years since Zabbatini made a name of himself, Max needs to now locate this famous magician and see if he can still perform his magic.
I enjoyed these two stories, the way they were told simultaneously throughout the novel. I wished that each section of their story would have been longer before it switched over to the other individual’s story as I felt there was a lot of switching and sometimes the storyline was just getting started when the story would change. I thought the two stories were terrific and as they merged upon one another, it was hard to put the novel down. I highly recommend this novel, I really enjoyed the story of Moshe and adding in Max’s tale, created enticing drama and excitement.
Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster, Inc. for providing to me, a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.



Joyland - Stephen King
I don’t know what I loved more, the story or that Michael Kelly was reading this novel to me. Listening to this novel on CD, I was taken back by how much I enjoyed his narration. Michael was perfect for this novel, for his tone was calm and collective. As he read, it was his mannerism and his voice that turned Michael into Devin Jones. I felt the emotions and I could visualize each of the individual’s that made up this part of his life. I didn’t want this novel to end and to have Devin Jones walk out of my life.
Devin was explaining the time in his life when he worked at Joyland, a smaller amusement park. Devin took the position hoping to keep his mind off his recent breakup but her name and the situations surrounding her, were playing across his mind. Devin takes this job seriously and others see that. He made friends easily and Joyland becomes his home. The story of the haunting in Joyland has intrigued Devin and he wants to see for himself how real this situation really is. As Devin starts to investigate this mystery, he begins to unravel secrets that were meant to stay buried. Words spoken to him from one of the carnival workers cast another mysterious element to this novel. The novel is not all mysterious as Devin meets a young boy and the two of them become quite close. A disease has left the boy struggling, struggling to be the person he wants to be. I enjoyed their relationship as it felt real and natural, it felt like it was part of the overall plan in Devin’s life.
I didn’t think this novel was creepy or scary, it was more mysterious. The funny thing is, I was expecting a disturbing novel from Stephen King and I didn’t get one. I was looking forward to a frightening tale but what I got was more, I got the story of Joyland and the story of Devin. A fantastic novel, one that I would recommend that you listen to.  
I am using this novel for Halloween Bingo.  Many individuals claim this novel is horror and Goodreads labels it as such.  I could use it for many of my bingo squares but I am using it for my Genre: Horror square.

Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel - Rachel Khong
This novel was not what I expected. I was expecting a light read but this novel lead me down some roads I wasn’t expecting. The novel centers around Ruth who has returned home and then decides to stay just one year to help take care of her father. She stresses many times in the novel, the length of her stay, her reasons seem to vary. Her father is a college professor who started to experience memory loss and Alzheimer’s lies in his future. Her mother gave up cooking as she believed the metal from the pots were causing her husband’s illness and now she is on a vitamin and shake kick. Her father lost his job because of his illness and this affects him greatly. During the day while her mother works, Ruth cares for her father who locks himself away in his office. His students and his teaching assistant come up with a plan to help the professor, inventing a college course, that is not on the curriculum, that he will teach. This class must be kept confidential as the college is unaware of this development. I really enjoyed these sections of the novel: his lectures, his attitude, the commitment of his students and aide and the fun and unique venues the class was held in. It warmed my heart that they cared so much about him.
Ruth discovers some truths about her parents while she is living with them, truths that open her eyes to the adults who are her parents. These were great reflections as Ruth unravels them. Her father begins sharing a journal with her, a journal he made while she was growing up. I liked the way these entries were shared and the effect that they had on Ruth. The more Ruth is at home, the more she begins to reflect on her own life and its direction. Perhaps this visit helped Ruth more than it helped her father.  I'm on the fence between a 3 and 4 star read. 


Soldier Boy

Soldier Boy - Keely Hutton
This novel was fantastic! There are two stories running simultaneously with one story being the true story of Ricky Anywar, who in 1989 at the age of 14, was abducted from his home and thrown into the rebel army of Kony in the Ugandan Civil War. His story is heroic, frightening, and fascinating. The other narrative begins with Samuel who is recovering from war wounds and will soon be returning home but is dealing with the horrors of war. His story is sad yet true. The ending of this novel is beautiful!
Patrick and his brother Ricky live in a small village with their parents. Patrick, being the older brother is concerned about the ongoing war, which is close to their village, but his brother Ricky is more concerned with playing with his friends. The war is closer than they realize when one day, the rebels walk up their road and cause havoc on their village. They gather 5 boys, including Patrick and Ricky, tie them together and march them out. These boys will be marching for days without much food or drink. They learn that they are now part of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) and the only way out is death. This group believes that their top commanders words are words from the Holy Spirit and no one can question what he says. Later, when I get to meet this leader Kony, his words sound like a preacher. He calls upon the Lord and tells his troops that if they should perish it is because they did not believe in him (Kony). For Kony will protect them and only nonbelievers will be killed. These rebels were salvages and their tactics were extensive as they march their abductees day-in and day-out, looting villages and adding youngsters to their group. The conditions and situations these two brothers face and their love for one another made this a wonderful story. They are eventually separated from one another but that does not stop them from their commitment, their commitment to return home.
Samuel needs to remember his past, to come to grips with what has happen so he can heal and move forward but Samuel can’t see this. Samuel sees corruption, lies and evil in front of him and it will take time, patience and love for him to realize that he is not alone and that he is safe now.
What a great novel. I couldn’t stop reading this once I started. It was horrendous the situation that Ricky was in but I believe it was his outlook on life that helped him get through it. I loved his relationship with his brother and his relationship with his charges. He made the best of the situation. Ricky was smart, quick and a person who took charge. Samuel’s story was sad as we see the effects of war on an individual. Samuel is overcome with his past. As the novel began to close, I loved all the twists the author put in this novel. I began to experience different emotions for Ricky, things were changing for him and I began to wonder how things would be like for him. I was on the fence with Samuel and now I knew which way he was going to fall. I loved how the author brought everything together. I highly recommend this novel.


Naomi's Room

Naomi's Room - Jonathan Aycliffe
“Where the darkness hides a living nightmare”
They had hopes and dreams but they quickly vanished. As they were finally settling into their own home in London, the family began to hear noises from upstairs. Four-year-old Naomi tells her father that while she is sleeping at night, there are eyes that are watching her. A few days later, Naomi reveals that there are two friends that are living at the house with her, Victoria and Caroline. Are these imaginative friends or something else? Naomi doesn’t expand on this conversation with her father and neither does he ask further questions, it just becomes a fact.
This novel is told through the eyes of the father and I was getting bored with his narration and the flow of this novel. He spoke matter-of-factly and I couldn’t feel any emotion from his writing nor was I getting emotional from reading it. I wanted to know when the “living nightmare” would begin as I was ready to find something else to read. As Naomi and her father shop at a local toy store, Naomi vanishes. Panicked, her father searches and later, the store helps in on the search but they can’t locate Naomi. The police are called in and then, they find Naomi’s damaged body outside the store. Grieving, the parents return home but they are not alone. They hear crying and strange things begin to occur at the home. “The dead don’t rest unless the living rests” and Naomi’s parents are not resting with their daughter dead. As they get outside help, the novel picks up speed and it finally gets interesting. It was creepy, weird and unexpected in the end which saved this novel.
The reviews are high for this novel which surprised me and many were commenting that they didn't like the ending.  It's funny how we all have different tastes.  
Using this for my Halloween Bingo - there were lots of ghostly themes in this short novel.  


The Border

The Border - Steve Schafer
If only Pato would have said something about the mystery car that was parked outside on the street, perhaps things might have been different. But Pato dismissed the car once he was inside the party, overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of relatives and family, the birthday party was just beginning. As the boys smoked their cigarettes back behind the house, the real excitement was occurring at the party, excitement that will have lasting effects. It was the gunfire that brought the boys running in, the bodies lying in groups and individually, the room was hopeless. There was a confrontation, one gunman is shot and one is furious to see his brother lying dead. Thus, begins the fight between these groups of individuals.
The boys and one sister are now on the run but where can they find shelter in a corrupt Mexican world? What gang would do this to their families and why? Quick thinking, leads them to an individual who loves his liquor but also carries strong feelings towards the world he lives in. With their photographs being plastered everywhere, these four young individuals must decide what to do with their lives. Mexico seems to be, no longer an option, they must cross the border yet people are looking for them and the gang will not let them survive. It’s a race against time, against criminals and individuals who want to turn them in and it’s a race against the elements.
From the beginning pages, this novel took off. As they made their journey, I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat worried with anxiety and anticipation. What awaited them as they made their way and would they all actually survive, were my main concerns. I enjoyed the confrontations and the struggles that the group experienced. Try to image what it would be like crossing an unknown territory while being under the scrutiny of others, would you be able to handle it?
I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Lighter Than My Shadow

Lighter Than My Shadow - Katie Green
With over 500 pages, this graphic novel packs a powerful punch. This memoir begins as Katie is a small child and she begins to have negative feelings about food. These feelings are just the beginning as Katie begins to experience some OCD behaviors that will carry over into her adult life.
While her peers were anxious to grow up, Katie didn’t want to. She wasn’t interested in fashion and boys; Katie’s main concern was to be the perfect student. I loved that she tried to get advice from her parents as she matured when she approached them to talk to them about her concerns. What upset me sometimes was the response her parents would give her, they seemed too extreme, either too carefree or too strict in their attitude towards her issues. Times change and it was now in Katie’s life that she began to consume large amounts of food and her views started to change. She started to be concerned about her body image and she became curious about boys, but she felt herself unworthy of their attention. As the bullying continues, Katie begins to use food as her coping mechanism. Her self-esteem suffers and her thoughts scared me. Just when I think that Katie is going to find healing, the novel takes off and Katie is out of control. She becomes a victim of sexual abuse which just adds more fire to the issues Katie is trying to control. Food becomes a bigger issue and I loved the illustrations that portrayed this portion of her life. I appreciated Katie’s honesty in this novel as I could feel the emotions she was experiencing in the writing and in the illustrations. I really enjoyed this graphic novel although the subject matter was a difficult one.
I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Professional ReaderReviews Published80%2015 Challenge Participant2016 NetGalley Challenge