Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Random Things Tour - Don't Ask


TITLE: Don't Ask
AUTHOR: Paul Carroll
PUBLISHING DATE: April 28, 2021
PAGES: 336

A DNA ancestry test opens up a Pandora's Box of secrets. 
When Elsa Watson takes a DNA ancestry test out of idle curiosity she little imagines the devastating consequences she is about to unleash. Two families become reluctantly entwined as inconvenient truths and long suppressed memories resurface. 
A #whodunnit with a difference, Don’t Ask visits the glam rock Seventies, Britpop, Operation Yewtree and #metoo within its alternating past and present chapter structure.

MY THOUGHTS: I was initially drawn to this book because of the music aspect and I have to admit, it has me wondering how many children out their were fathered by musicians taking groupies backstage in their heyday.  Seriously, why aren't more crawling out of the woodwork.  That being said, Don't Ask not only looks at the not-so-glamorous look at fame but also focuses on the ugliness of some of those who have became famous.

As an afterthought, Elsa Watson takes a DNA test after receiving a free one at the photography business where she works.  She's not expecting much but soon she's opening a major case of worms.  Add in with two family's struggling with various issues and some very well-written mental health concerns and you have a book which was definitely not the contemporary/mystery read I was expecting.

There was a lot of things I liked about this book.  I really enjoyed getting to know most of the characters and as mentioned, I always enjoy a good music tale.  I really felt for both families caught up in this DNA disaster and as the story evolved, it took a downright depressing turn.  And let me tell you, Carroll knows how to end a book.  I'm still thinking about the ending.

My main complaint with Don't Ask is that for at least the first 100 pages, I was confused.  There are multiple players in the tale and multiple timelines as well and it often took me a page or two into each chapter to figure out who I was reading about now.  

Other than that, Don't Ask is a fairly hard-hitting book and if you enjoy British novels, glam rock and family drama, then this might just be the book for you.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Carroll has been drawn to ink and the written word since launching a rock fanzine in his late teens.  

Born and bred in Leeds, Paul crossed the Pennines in the mid-70s to study English Language and English Literature at the University of Manchester.  

Chasing a job in journalism he stumbled into the world of PR and ten years after starting his career set up his own PR consultancy, Communique PR, in Manchester.

 There he worked on many well-known brands including Boddingtons, Heineken, Thorntons Chocolate, Chicago Town Pizza, Big D peanuts, Co-op Funerals and Manchester Airport. 

These days, Paul concentrates on his writing. 

Paul’s books are full of dark humour and satirical takes.  His writing has been compared to that of Ben Elton, Nick Hornby and Jonathan Coe in tackling serious contemporary issues in a highly engaging and entertaining way.

Don’t Ask (Matador 2021) is Paul Carroll’s fourth novel, following A Matter of Life and Death (Matador, 2012), Written Off (Matador, 2016), and Trouble Brewing (Matador, 2017). 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Retro Horror Vol. 8 - The Buddy Read Version


This time around Stormi already had a book chosen for her pick and as I been meaning to do some King re-reads,  I jumped on it along with her.  However, somehow, I ended up with the extended version and I didn't even KNOW there was an extended version.  What is about King wanting to make long books even longer?  So the outcome of this story brought to light the fact that I am now questioning how much I love King.  I have always said I love older King better, but seriously, I'm rating newer King much higher.  Go figure. So read on for my thoughts on Needful Things and then hop over to Stormi's  at Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My! and check out her thoughts!

TITLE: Needful Things
AUTHOR: Stephen King
PUBLISHER: Gallery Books
PUBLISHING DATE: March 20, 2018 (original book in October 1991)
PAGES: 816
SOURCE: Own library


Master storyteller Stephen King presents the classic #1 New York Times bestseller about a mysterious store than can sell you whatever you desire—but not without exacting a terrible price in return.
The town of Castle Rock, Maine has seen its fair share of oddities over the years, but nothing is as peculiar as the little curio shop that’s just opened for business here. Its mysterious proprietor, Leland Gaunt, seems to have something for everyone out on display at Needful Things…interesting items that run the gamut from worthless to priceless. Nothing has a price tag in this place, but everything is certainly for sale. The heart’s desire for any resident of Castle Rock can easily be found among the curiosities…in exchange for a little money and—at the specific request of Leland Gaunt—a whole lot of menace against their fellow neighbors. Everyone in town seems willing to make a deal at Needful Things, but the devil is in the details. And no one takes heed of the little sign hanging on the wall: Caveat emptor. In other words, let the buyer beware…

 MY THOUGHTS:  I'm just putting it out there up front.  This book is too long.  Now that I have that out of the way.  Leland Gaunt cruises into Castle Rock one day and starts work on opening up a mysterious store.  He sells a hodgepodge of things which individually caters to each person who enters the store.  His prices are always negotiable but he always ends up roping the seller into playing a trick for him.  But are they actually purchasing something or selling their soul?

This book has a HUGE cast of characters and for the most part, I was able to keep them all straight.  I loved some, I hated some and I felt badly for some.  The little kids Gaunt manipulated made my heart break at times and the people who were already "bad" at the core, sometimes I felt like they had what was coming to them.  There was also a dog and parakeet death which I could have lived without.  Kill all the people but leave the pets alone!!!!

While I basically crammed this book into an entire week, by the last 100 pages or so, I could have sworn Gaunt had used his magic and was making the book longer.  I really kept reading because I wanted to know what happened to Alan and Polly and because I refused to let this book beat me.  Twice is enough for me and although I'm sure when I read it in 1991, it became a quick fave, that is not the case today.  I enjoyed seeing some hints at other King plots mentioned but let's be honest, some of the people in Needful Things were just characters from his other books with different names.  Just try to convince me that Ash Merrill is not Trashcan Man from The Stand.  A great character study for any King fan but not one I'll pick up again.  


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Can't Wait Wednesday (317)


Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings to spotlight highly anticipated books.  It is based on the Waiting on Wednesday meme which used to be hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

FROM GOODREADS: In this atmospheric, terrifying novel that draws strongly from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the author of Alice and The Girl in Red works her trademark magic, spinning an engaging and frightening new story from a classic tale.

Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt's grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that's just legend, the village gossips talking.

Twenty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play Sleepy Hollow boys, reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the sinister discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods? 

WHY I CAN'T WAIT:  I've always been a HUGE fan of Sleepy Hollow tales so I can't wait to see Henry's take on this spooky classic.  And how great is that cover???


FROM GOODREADS: The Black Sheep Knitters are on the case when a club member's ex-boyfriend is accused of murder at the Plum Harbor Farmers and Crafts Market in the fourth installment of New York Times bestselling author Anne Canadeo's knitting-themed Black Sheep & Co. Mystery series.

Romantic entanglements and handcrafted murder tie the Black Sheep knitters in knots when the local farmers' market becomes a haven for a killer . . .

Phoebe Myers, Black Sheep Knitting Shop's assistant manager, finally comes out from behind the counter to sell her own creations--Socks by Phoebe--at the Plum Harbor Farmers' and Crafts Market, a lively, colorful venue that draws shoppers from miles around. But her excitement cools when she learns the previous tenant of her booth, farmer Jimmy Hooper, committed suicide. She's barely raised her Grand Opening banner when Hooper's death is upgraded to murder.

Phoebe worries that her stall is jinxed when things go from bad to worse. The last person she wants to see, her ex-boyfriend Harry "The Potter" McSweeney, appears in the stall across the aisle to sell his wares. The Black Sheep advise Phoebe to be strong and resist the handsome artist's spell. But romantic sparks and tempers explode in a very public scene--and a pile of broken pottery. Before Phoebe can get back to business, her stall is trashed, her Facebook page hacked, and another vendor is found dead.

The Black Sheep worry for Phoebe's safety, especially when Harry becomes the prime suspect in both crimes. Phoebe refuses to believe he's a killer and is determined to prove him innocent. Her friends are not convinced, but for Phoebe's sake--and her safety--the Black Sheep puts their wits together to catch the crafty marketplace killer who's hiding in plain sight . . .

WHY CASSIUS CAN'T WAIT:  I don't think Mom has read ANY of this series but I'm featuring this one today strictly because of the cover.  See that look on that brown pup's face?  I look at Apollo that way...DAILY!


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday - The Best Animal Characters!


The top 10 weekly meme used to be hosted by The Broke and the Bookish they  handed over the reins to That Artsy Reader Girl who can be found HERE.  Each week she will focus on lists which cover various topics related to books and reading.

This week I am sharing some of my favorite animal characters.  Look, a topic made just for me!!!!

This book actually has two of my favorite animal characters of all time - S.T. the crow, who is the best foul-mouthed narrator EVER, and Dennis the bloodhound, his best pal.  You can see how much I loved this book HERE!

Another book which has two of my faves - Jake, the blind rescue dog, and Ulysses, the moose.

I ADORED Guffer!

Jack is the PERFECT neighborhood dog.  He belongs to everyone and has a knack for bringing people together. 

Kirby and his attitude should be appreciated by everyone!

You wouldn't know from this cover but this book, and the series in general, has the cutest rescue Pitbull named Piggy.

I can't forget Smooshie!

So what way to end a list - with Pearl the killer pig.  Although I like to consider him merely misunderstood!

So there you have it. I can't wait to see everyone's lists this week!

Saturday, April 24, 2021

What's Happening... (04-24-21)


So once again I'm going to try to make this a regular feature.  I got really bad about updating at the end of 2020.  Hopefully I'll get better at checking in regularly.  As always, I'm linking up with Stacking the Shelves at  Tynga's Reviews and The Sunday Post at The Caffeinated Reviewer

So the job is still going really well and I feel like I'm getting more of a foothold on things.  It's the kind of work though where you're always learning new things so I think it will take me a while to reach a comfort level though.

Cassius and Apollo are doing well.  Cass has a bit of a tummy ache as I type this but I don't think it's anything the Pepto I've given him and a lot of cuddling won't cure.  This week was the anniversary of when we lost Booker T so that's always rough for us.  

Gpa is back in the hospital.  It's kind of a long story but the last time I mentioned him, he was in the hospital after being found barricaded inside his home.  We managed to get him into a nursing home for a short-term stay because he couldn't be home alone and because Stupid Uncle never did all the paperwork he should have done months ago.  Anyway, he was in quarantine for 14 days and I only got to see him once through a window for few minutes.  My Aunt and I managed to figure out they weren't giving him the right meds, despite me telling them they weren't and even driving 75 miles to give them a medical print out.  Stupid Uncle came in Thursday and when I called Friday to arrange a visit for today since he was to be out of quarantine finally, learned he had abnormal blood work and that an x-ray earlier this week indicated they may have been a hip fracture.  He is now in a different hospital and a fracture of his left femur near his hip has been confirmed and he may need surgery.  I don't think he'll survive it so I'm waiting for a call for an update at the hospital (because COVID limits visitors) as I type this.  Poor guy.  That nursing home is going down!

I have been reading quite a bit but somehow I let Stormi convince me to read Needful Things with her for a buddy Retro Horror read this month and it's killing me.  I like it but it's so long and I'm having a hard time concentrating.  I did actually visit a book store last weekend and found this cool Shining bookmark.

And Tor Nightfire was kind enough to send some e-arc invitations my way and I can't express how thrilled I am. I've already read Certain Dark Things but I do see a reread in my near future.  I loved it so much.


So I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend.  I'll close with a picture of our lovely son Booker in his favorite Walking Dead cap.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

TBR and Beyond Tours - Sugar and Spite


TITLE: Sugar and Spite
AUTHOR: Gail D. Villaneuva
PUBLISHER: Scholastic
PUBLISHING DATE: April 20, 2021
PAGES: 208


Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! 
The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina is still learning her grandfather’s arbularyo magic and isn’t supposed to use any on her own, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. There she creates a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion. 
And it works! The love potion conquers Claudine’s hateful nature. In fact, Claudine doesn’t just stop bullying Jolina—now she wants to be Jolina’s BFF, and does everything and anything Jolina asks. 
But magic comes with a cost, and bad intentions beget bad returns. Controlling another person’s ability to love—or hate—will certainly have consequences. The magic demands payment, and it is about to come for Jolina in the form of a terrible storm…
Magic and reality mingle in this brilliant new middle-grade novel about true friendship that asks whether it’s ever okay to take away someone’s free will.

MY THOUGHTS:  This is such an adorable MG novel and I can think of tons of people, both young and old, who might enjoy it.  Jolina and her family moved to help her grandfather following her grandmother's death.  Her father now runs the family restaurant and her mother gets a job in an up-scale ocean front resort.  Jolina spends her time between hanging out with her best canine pal Kidlat, her grandfather and school.  Her grandfather is teaching her arbularyo magic but Jolina can't quite get the hang of it.  When she sneaks and uses it to make the town's bully Claudine like her, will it work out the way she planned or have unintended consequences?

This book was super sweet.  I loved the family relationships, the pets and how important a role they play, and message it sends about friendship, being different, and bullying.  In fact, let me break it down.


1.  Kidlat - he's super adorable and the bond between him and Jolina is priceless.

2.  You'll learn something - I had so much fun learning about Filipino culture from the food, the locale and the healing magic.

3. I ADORED the relationship between Jolina and her grandfather.

4.  It teaches a very important lesson about acceptance and bullying.

5.  It has such a fun and colorful cover!

So there you have it.  I do have to say there is an animal death in this book and you guys know how that effects me.  But other than that, Sugar and Spite is a fantastic read.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer and an entrepreneur. She loves pineapple pizza, seafood, and chocolate, but not in a single dish together (eww). Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and one friendly but lonesome chicken. Her debut novel MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY (Scholastic, 2019) was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, an Amazon Best Book of the Month Editor’s Pick, and a NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. Gail’s next book, SUGAR AND SPITE, will be published by Scholastic in Spring 2021. Learn more at

Sunday, April 18, 2021

It Needed a Bigger Avalanche!


TITLE: The Sanatorium
AUTHOR: Sarah Pearse
PUBLISHER: Pamela Dorman Books
PUBLISHING DATE: February 2, 2021
PAGES: 400 
SOURCE: Library


You won’t want to leave. . . until you can’t. 
Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel. 
An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancĂ©e, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic. 
Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in. . .

MY THOUGHTS: I love a good snowy thriller and when this one threw in the word "Gothic" it made it move that much more quickly on the TBR.  However, I'm sad to say that I've been burned a lot in 2021 by my the promise of isolated, snow-filled murder, mayhem and horror and The Sanatorium is just another book on that list (I'm looking at you Near the Bone and Shiver).

Elin Warner is a detective who has taken some time off after almost being drowned by a serial killer.  This trauma only added to one she experienced as a child, one where her baby brother also drowned.  Now Elin and her boyfriend are traveling to a new hotel in the Alps to meet her older brother and his fiancee and celebrate their upcoming wedding.  However, Elin isn't going to celebrate.  She is going in order to confront her brother and learn what role he actually played in his brother's "accidental" death.  
Soon after their arrival, the fiancee goes missing and Elin is pulled into an investigation she didn't plan on spearheading after an avalanche cuts the staff and guests off from the police as well as a way out.

This book sounded so good and I even heard comparisons to The Shining.  Seriously, did the people that compared it ever READ The Shining?  And even if they just watched the movie, the two STILL have nothing in common.  This book is not a Gothic horror.  It's a thriller at best which is probably doing so well because it just happens to have the Reese Witherspoon sticker on the front.  In fact, I'm actually surprised I got it so easily at the library because when I returned it, there were at least 8 people on the list behind me.  

I easily guessed the murderer and as for the childhood trauma, I saw that explanation coming a mile away as well.  I've said before that even if characters are unlikable, I can still enjoy a book.  But The Sanatorium had the most depressing cast of characters I've ever experienced.  They were all boring and miserable and I wished a bigger avalanche had wiped them all out - about 200 pages in.

I don't know who I would recommend this book to so I'm going to leave it at that.  If you are looking for a snowy thriller, read Shiver instead.  I didn't necessarily like it when I read it but this novel makes it look like a masterpiece.