Stay chill, it's only a silly book review.
I received a copy of this audiobook from Tantor Media. Thanks Tantor!
I’ll be real here. I requested this audiobook because of the cover. I had a vague idea that this was a book of dog stories and had seen the title around for years (yikes, I just realized this is likely because the hardcover is sitting in my tbr pile!) but I had to have it because that cover called out to me.
Come on now, don’t tell me you aren’t tempted by that lovely cover because I won’t believe you.
Dog trainer and author Suzanne Cloutier loves animals.
“To travel in the company of animals is to walk with angels.”
If you feel the same, you’ll benefit in some way from reading this book.
So what’s it about? Well, the author is an experienced dog trainer and here she shares stories and lessons that she has learned over the years while working with dogs. This isn’t a book about how to train your dog to sit or heel or down-stay. This is a book on how best to deepen your relationship with your dog and how to learn to look at life through their eyes. I found that advice and those vignettes the most important take-away from this book. It’s easy to get stressed and irritated when your dog misbehaves and ignores your commands/demands/frantic pleas but taking a moment to calm yourself and see things from their perspective (and the author shows several examples which were so incredibly helpful) may help improve both their behavior and yours. I am totally guilty of being impatient and anxious and giving my poor dogs mixed signals and then I’m left wondering why they’re not doing what I think they should be doing. It also made me more aware of being present, instead of being all up in my own head (hey, I’m a Pisces) and then wondering why my dog has nearly taken my fingers off to get to the chicken in my hand. This book opened me up to my behavior and has made me stop and pause on several occasions.
The author comes across as human, sprinkling in some humor and admits to some of the terrible mistakes she’s made. She owns them and she’s learned from them and she is not perfect. She goes into in-depth discussions about aggression and the mislabeling of aggression that often results in tragedy and how to read warning signs before things escalate. I learned more about aggression and reading signals from this book than I did from any of the training manuals I’ve read in the past.
It’s not a read in one sitting kind of book, unless you’re really into this kind of thing, because some of this information needs to be digested and given a little time to sink in. At least that was the case with me. The ending made me weepy, as she recalls some of the stories of illness and death which is inevitable when you love any living creature but it’s not of the dragged out “Marley & Me” variety. There are beautiful insights about animal and human behavior inside the pages and it basically comes to down to treating those you love with kindness, empathy and sharing all of your love in order to strengthen your relationship. That’s advice the world needs to hear. This book will be a yearly reread for me, for sure.
The version I read was narrated by Pam Ward who has a strong, clear, accessible voice that fills with emotion when the words call for it. If you dig audio, Buddy, Bailey and I highly recommend reading this version.
Audiobook Challenge: Book #7
HA Mount TBR Challenge: Book #11
HA Pages Read Challenge
2017 Horror Reading Challenge Book #8 Not a horror novel
Hap and Leonard (and their two accomplices) return for another zany caper. Forever short on funds, the two agree to another weird job. The deceased body of a beloved wiener dog has gone missing from the cemetery and the dognapper wants cash or else . . . Hap and Leonard step in to make the exchange.
Sure sounds easy enough to me. All they need to do is hand over the cash, grab the dead dog and collect their pay day. Nothing is ever that easy with these two. Unable to leave well enough alone, they discover things they shouldn't know and find themselves wrapped up in a little mystery that they can’t let alone.
I’ve missed a few Hap and Leonard books somewhere along the way and now they are apparently running a PI service with Hap’s girlfriend and his grown daughter Chase (where’d she come from?!). This was a little disconcerting but it’s my fault for reading the series out of order, as I do. The characters are smart-asses as always but they didn’t seem to have that dark sarcastic edge to their insults that used to make me laugh, almost out loud. This installment was also pretty tame when it came to the violence and I never felt as if any of our leads were in grave peril.
It was entertaining but a little too tame for my expectations.
Swapship Troopers is a story filled with lots of giant bug killing and lots of sexy times. What more could you want?
I read one too many short story horror collections last month and was feeling the need to stop reading, maybe forever, and pick myself up a new hobby but instead I decided to give this one a shot (I did commit to review it, after all) and it knocked me right out of my mini-slump. Now, I’m no fan of action or military maneuvers so there’s no need to be put off by the Starship Troopers resemblance if you aren’t either. I haven’t read Starship Troopers which, from what I’ve heard, may likely bore me to death but I did see the movie. I loved the movie. It was gory fun. This book is gory fun too and it’s not at all boring.
It’s about giant ant-like alien monsters who occupy planets and murder everything in their path and the Marines who risk their lives to keep civilians safe. All that alien murderation makes a man weary and eager to burn off some steam but the trouble is they are often deployed to planets where the only companionship they have are each other. In order to keep morale up, the military creates something called “Pink Vector” which is an injectable that turns men into women. There’s also a “Blue Vector” serum to turn them back once the fun is over.
Half of the men are injected and suddenly grow womanly parts. They’re all good humored and open minded and go along with this kooky plan. Much fun is had. Then they are turned back into men and are eager to get back to work.
Now don’t you go thinking too hard about the implications about any of this. This is a book that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously and I loved that. Some of the men aren’t the comeliest of women but everyone just goes with the flow and has a good, kinky time. Yeah, what goes on is a little nutzo but I mean that as a compliment. It’s beautifully nutzo and even a little romantic when one paired up couple begin to have feelings other than the sexy kind for each other.
The blend of sexy times vs. action is well balanced. There is a lot of action but it never bored me which is kind of shocking actually. I thought it was hilarious to watch a tough Marine turn into a woman and then have to deal with pervy civilians as they treated him as if he were braindead and a toy for them to paw and insult.
I enjoyed this book so much. Yeah, so, it perhaps wasn’t the most believable of romances starting out but considering the circumstances, the author did a decent job of turning pure sexual attraction into something more in the end. It also never got angsty or dreary and was just what I needed after my series of dark and dreadful reads the month previous. It was totally enjoyable and that’s all that counts to me.
Audiobook Challenge: Book #6 Not an audio
HA Mount TBR Challenge: Book #9 Not a tbr
2017 Horror Reading Challenge Book #7
Once again I am disappointed due to my own stupidity. For some reason (not reading the blurb, perhaps?), I assumed that this novel was set in the same world as The Girl with All the Gifts. It was not. There is no zombie plague here, if that’s what you were hoping for. But I'm probably the only dummy who didn't read the blurb.
Jess is a heroin addict who is sent to Fellside Prison after an unfortunate event ends with a child’s death. Jess has no recollection of his death but is filled with remorse and guilt. Alex was her friend, her only friend, and she felt protective of him. Now she doesn’t seem to care what happens to her and has given up on living. As she nears death from a self-imposed hunger strike, she sees Alex in ghostly form and realizes there is quite possibly a lot more to the story of his death than she was led to believe.
What follows is a story that I wouldn’t consider horror at all. It’s more a story of prison corruption, evil doers and innocents caught up in a big old mess. Jess struggles to discover the truth about Alex’s death while she also has figure out how to survive prison life. Jess is a great flawed character and the plot, for the most part, was gripping and grueling but I wasn’t really in the mood for this type of story when I picked it up and found myself a bit bored here and there.
The good? Flinty Williams narrates the audio and you can’t go wrong with that accent.
The bad? It’s a little slow and unless you’re into reading about prison politics you may find yourself a little bored too. There are a lot of characters and many are called by their first names and their last names by other characters. I had a hard time keeping them all straight and, in the end, I am not sure I did.
I’m giving it a three because it didn’t grab me but I didn’t despise it either.
2017 Horror Reading Challenge Book #6
4 1/2 Stars
David has an ominous feeling that his twin brother Colin is in serious danger so he leaves the US and heads off to England to see what’s what. He discovers terrible things have indeed occurred. As he attempts to figure out exactly what has happened, he finds himself residing temporarily in Colin’s gorgeous cabin and meeting some interesting characters along the way who clue him in on Colin, Colin’s wife and the home’s ominous past. He is left to ferret out the rest of the secrets on his own. He is tenacious. I would've been scurrying back home after a few events but that's just me.
This book was a beautiful example of the atmospheric, slow burn ghost story. Why it isn’t better known is beyond me. It was leagues better than most of the recent novels I’ve read. It actually gave me the creeps a time or two and that almost never happens.
It is a product of its time though (the 70’s). David is one of those stubborn guys who keeps everything to himself (oooh, how that makes me crazy!) and tells the love of his life next to nothing. I’d strangle a guy like that in real life or at the very least drive him crazy with my questions but here it works well enough. I suppose if he shared everything things would’ve ended very differently and I thought the ending was dark perfection.
The characters are engaging and some of the dialogue between David and his love just hit me in all the right ways.
"You could bring me a good book.
Right, I'll bring you a good book. Your usual taste and nothing to get you too excited. Just sex, lust, rape, mayhem . . .
And murder” she finished for me."
I listened to this book as an unabridged audio and you will feel that ominous feeling of dread that accompanies David wherever he goes as soon as the narrator begins to speak. His voice seems made for this kind of story.
I can’t tell you any more without spoiling everything for you. I hate when that happens so I am stopping here. Just know that the buildup is slow and worth the wait. You are left, just as David is, to attempt to make sense of the strange goings-on occurring at the beautiful cabin. I didn’t figure it out before the reveal but I’m not very good at these things. If you like an old-fashioned, get under your skin ghost story listen to the audio or read the book. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.
2017 Horror Reading Challenge Book #5
Hellraiser was our first date movie. It was his fault. He let me pick the movie. . .
How sweet was that? I'm still not cooking 2 hour meals though!
I hope to read it and love it rather than skim it and DNF it but either way I'll be so, so glad to have removed one book from my most ancient of TBR piles! Thanks everyone for taking the time to vote.
Here's what I'm doing & when I'm doing it:
♥ Saturday Feb 3: I post my picks, you lovely people vote
♥ Saturday Feb 10: I post the winning book & get to reading because I am a slowpoke!
♥ Saturday Feb 18: When everyone else doing this starts reading.
♥ Saturday Feb 24: Post my review (OMG, the deadline looms so close!) & host a little US giveaway for Snow by Ronald Malfi
To join in the fun next month visit Because Reading the first Saturday of March. All of the rules are here.
Not everyone can take on the things that go bump in the night.
Not everyone tries.
But Jill Kismet is not just anyone.
She's a Hunter, trained by the best - and in over her head.
Welcome to the night shift...
*Been in the tbr for a few weeks.
The Lady's Tutor by Robin Schone
3.92 Rating @ Goodreads
Married young to a man hand-picked by her father, Elizabeth Petre is an ideal Victorian lady. She has borne two sons and endured sixteen years of selfless duty in a passionless marriage. Craving a man's loving touch yet loyal to her wedding vows, Elizabeth is determined to seduce her coldly indifferent husband. She knows of only one man who can teach her the erotic secrets of love.
The bastard son of an English countess and an Arab sheik, Ramiel Devington was reared to embrace both Western culture and Eastern pleasure. Scorned by society and challenged by prim Elizabeth's request, he undertakes her instruction in the art of sensual delight. But when the lessons become a temptation neither can resist, Elizabeth is forced to choose between obligation and a bold, forbidden passion.
*Been in the tbr pile for over a decade.
Snow by Ronald Malfi
3.69 Rating @ Goodreads
Todd Curry wants nothing more than to spend Christmas with his son. But when a brutal snowstorm cancels his flight from Chicago to Des Moines, Todd and a few other stranded passengers decide to rent a Jeep and make the trip on their own.
During the drive, they pick up a man wandering through the snow, who claims to be searching for his lost daughter. He is disoriented and his story seems peculiar. Strangest of all are the mysterious slashes cut into the back of the man’s coat, straight down to the flesh…
When they arrive at the nearest town, it appears deserted. Windows dark, car abandoned, fired burning unattended. But Todd and the rest of the travelers soon learn the town is far from deserted, and that they are being watched…
*Been in the tbr pile for about 3 months.
Voting Closes Friday, February 10, 2017 and I'll announce the winner soon after. Thanks for helping me out, everyone!
Ugh, sorry the survey won't work on Booklikes and I'm too inept to figure out the coding.
You can vote on blog page: HERE Sorry about that. It's a jump-link so you won't be logged out of BL.
I received this ARC from Netgalley. Thanks, Netgalley!
One house, five hauntings, five chilling stories.
Oh the Blurbs. Why do they lie? I promised myself this would be the year of the DNF and I am failing quite spectacularly at that promise. The problem is story collections. I may never read another one again. Story collections are the bane of my reading life this month. I can’t DNF them because I fear that if I do so, I’ll miss out something mind-blowing. This one has two good stories that are chilling and set in a haunted house. The other three? I haven’t a clue how they found their way into this collection.
Maggots by Nina Allan Maggots started out interesting enough but it soon went off the rails for me. A young college student suspects something is off with his beloved aunt after she goes missing for a brief moment while on vacation. He begins to obsess over thoughts that her body has been inhabited by another. . . Sounds good right? And it was at first but then it got terribly dull. It devolved into his search for the truth. That search leads him to Irongrove Lodge, which isn't haunted in the typical way, ugh, and then he discovers some cosmic weirdness. This kind of story just wasn’t what I was expecting from the blurbage. I didn’t find it chilling or haunting. 3 Stars
Priest’s Hole by K.J. Parker After my disappointment with story #1, I will admit to skimming Priest’s Hole almost immediately once I realized it too was not about a haunted house but about a shape-shifter instead. If I wanted to read the daily goings-on and meanderings of a day in the life of a shape-shifter I would’ve picked up another book. A sexier book, if truth be told. What on earth is going on here?! I cannot rate this one because I only read enough of it to realize it wasn’t the story I was looking for and I moved on to the next. DNF It was here that I nearly DNF’d the entire book but figured I’d give it one more shot and I’m glad I did. Yep, that was not a typo. I’m glad I did!
Gnaw by Tade Thompson The perfect little family moves into Irongrove Lodge and the husband begins to renovate. Uh oh! You know that is never a good idea! His wife has reservations about the whole thing but the husband does what he wants. This story is a slow, slow burn but boy does it ever start to pay off in the final act. The son starts acting strangely and then the wife starts seeing extremely unsettling visions. I absolutely adored this story. The atmosphere, the creeping dread, the horrific images it has burned into my brain? It’s all awesome and it is the reason I am so glad I did not DNF this book! This was the kind of story I was hoping for when I requested this ARC from Netgalley. It’s a shame they weren’t all written in this vein. 4.5 Stars
The Best Story I can Manage Under the Circumstances Robert Shearman This is story would fit right in if this were a bizarro collection but this was not marketed as a bizarro collection. So, what we have here is a baby born with only a head. It has no legs, no arms, no torso, no nothing besides the head but it’s alive. Alright. But don’t you worry, soon after another baby is born with just a torso and a little peepee and the two baby parts find each other, hook up and match perfectly. Now what are the odds? Then things switch over to a boy and a strange little door that appears only on his birthday. Was it the same baby boy now fully whole? Don’t ask me because I was skimming at this point. I honestly couldn’t comprehend what was going on here and found it all just a strange jumble of words. Eventually I threw in the towel and DNF’d it. This was not at all what I wanted when I picked up this book.
Skin Deep Sarah Lotz The collection ends on a good note, at least. Skin Deep is about an older woman who purchases Irongrove Lodge for her boy toy. It's clear a terrible thing happened when the story begins and it is slowly revealed how she earned the nickname “The Butcher”. This was told from many POV’s which kept things lively and kept me guessing. It was dark with slowly creeping dread and as a bonus I got to watch a slow descent into madness. Great stuff and another 4.5 star story that’s worth a read.
It’s a shame 3 out of these 5 stories felt like they belonged in another collection.
Audiobook Challenge: Book #4 Not an audio
Horror Reading Challenge Book #4
I received the ARC from Netgalley. Thanks, Netgalley!
I guess this averages out to 3.5? I'm too tired to do the math so a 3 it is.
Holy crap this book took half my life to read. It says it was only 432 pages long but I Do NOT Believe It. There are sooo many stories. Too many stories. No one needs to read this many stories about nightmarish scenarios all in a row. I’ve always felt these Datlow collections were overstuffed and steered clear of them for years but this one got me with its tantalizing cover. The next time I shelve one of these tomes someone please knock some sense into me and point me to this review.
I was going to review each story in exquisite detail and even took notes but there’s no need to take up half of your life with all of that and besides my fingers would likely fall off and I kind of need them. I’ll just stick to better describing the loves and the hates and throw a few words at the meh in the middle.
Ok, here we go.
Shallaballah by Mark Samuels, 1.5 Stars: Why the editor decided to start this collection off with what I consider one of the worst stories in the collection is beyond me. Perhaps it’s just me and my atrocious taste but if I had my way this story wouldn’t be here. Guess that’s why I’m not an editor.
An asshole actor destroys his face in a car accident, shady Doctor steps in to repair the damage at a super creepy clinic and bad things happen.I didn't care about any of it because the MC was a dick. It was also vague and confusing near the end and I was left screaming, “Why and WTF did I just read?” Clearly you can skip this one if you want to or read it and tell me what a dummy I am.
Sob In the Silence by Gene Wolfe, 3 Stars: A dastardly man gets what’s coming to him. Brief but disturbing.
Our Turn Too Will One Day Come by Brian Hodge, 3.5 Stars: I love me some dark family secrets and this has a grisly one. Word of advice. When someone calls you at 2am and tells you to bring the shovel, hang up and go back to sleep.
Dead Sea fruit by Kaaron Warren, 4 Stars: A story about a dentist, anorexia and a creepy ass monster called The Ashmouth Man. One smootch from him and you will never want to eat again. Who wouldn’t want a kiss from that?! Just kidding. I enjoyed this. It was strange and unique and the ending was quite perfect.
Closet Dreams by Lisa Tuttle, 5 Stars: Well, this was disturbing and I am not easily disturbed. It bothered me after I finished it. It’s scary, nightmarish, heartbreaking and it’ll haunt you.
Spectral Evidence by Gemma Files, DNF: I just could not go on with this one because of the format and all of the footnotes. I felt like I was reading for a school assignment and would be tested. I wanted nightmares not brain hurt when I picked up this collection.
Hushabye by Simon Bestwick, 3 Stars: This wasn’t what I’d consider horror and it leaves you hanging in the wind at the end. I hate when that happens.
Very Low-Flying Aircraft by Nicholas Royle, 2 Stars: The foreshadowing here was about as gentle as a baseball bat to the skull. It’s a story about a cocky dumbass of a pilot who puts his loins ahead of human life. Meh.
The Goosle by Margo Lanagan, 5 Stars: This is one of my favorites. It’s a fairy tale retelling that balances sarcastic humor with painfully dark undertones.
The Clay Party by Steve Duffy, 4.5 Stars: This is a gripping tale about a group of misguided settlers attempting to take a short cut instead of sticking to the trail. Nothing good comes of it, as you can imagine. This is another that ends perfectly.
Strappado by Laird Barron, 4.5 Stars: Two party-goers are invited to a super secretive art show and very bad things happen. This story was weird and twisty and will possibly give you nightmares.
Lonegan’s Luck by Stephen Graham Jones, 3 Stars: Back in the Wild West a super sleazy snake oil salesmen sets out to do what he does but things go awry. As I read through my notes I have no recollection of the story so 3 stars it is.
Mr. Pigsny by Reggie Oliver, 4 Stars: This story about death, art and a weird little man was creepy as hell.
At Night, When the Demons Come by Ray Cluley, 4.5 Stars: An apocalypse has happened and now demons hunt the remaining humans but it’s the women who have the most to fear. This was most definitely nightmare inducing and one of the better tales in the collection.
Was She Wicked? Was She Good? By Mary Rickert, 4 Stars: What's a parent to do when they discover their little cherub has a cruel streak and enjoys harming small creatures? This is the dilemma posed to the couple in this chilling story. The author paints some terrible images and even though I don’t think I entirely followed all of it, I did enjoy it. It needed to be longer, if you ask me.
The Shallows by John Langan, 2 Stars: I honestly don’t know WTF this one was all about. It was the sad story of a dying woman, a dying world and a lonely dog and a man recounting three different stories. My mind, oh how it hurts. There were whispers of cosmic things but that wasn’t enough to save this for me.
Little Pig by Anna Taborska, 4.5 Stars: Holy dogs and demon cats, was this one ever disturbing. Imagine you’re a woman, all alone with a small son and an infant to worry after and you are on the run. Now imagine there are starving wolves nipping at your heels. Now imagine the worst. This is one I won’t ever forget.
Omphalos by Livia Llewellyn, 1 Star:I despised this story about a family trip to hell. I don’t despise much, my tolerance for the awful is pretty damn high, but this one? This one was HORRIBLE with fifty exclamation marks. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was fine. I’m not talking about the writing. I’m talking about the content. Descriptive incest between a daddy and his daughter happens and I do not care if that is a spoiler. The people need to know. It was over the top and should’ve come with some kind of flashing trigger alert warning. But not only that (as if that wasn’t bad enough) it ended in one of those weirdly confusing, vague ways that left me squinting my eyes and wishing I hadn’t read it at all.
I don't know about you but I need a break right now.
Ahhh, that's better.
How We Escaped Our Certain Fate by Dan Chaon, 3 Stars: This is zombie tale that features a world where zombies are more of a pest than a threat. It’s laden with loss but aren't they all? There wasn’t much of anything new here but it was decently told.
That Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love Robert Shearman, 3 Stars: A messed up story of skewed childhoods, weirdly twisted love and strange customs that include sacrificing dolls. Love requires sacrifice, after all . . .
Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) by Caitlín R. Kiernan, 4 Stars: We meet two serial killing twins, who just so happen to also be lovers (twin-cest!) just as their road trip of death and destruction comes to a bloody end. I have to admit their romance was a little sexy but they were grown-ups so don’t be judging me.
Shay Corsham Worsted, 3.5 Stars: This was a weird one about a deadly lizard man masquerading as an old man. It left me with a crapload of questions but I kind of liked it.
The Atlas of Hell Nathan Ballingrud, 4 Stars: This was an interesting story about a rare book seller, a mob man and their journey to find The Atlas of Hell! The Atlas of Hell will lead you to objects brought back from Hell itsownself, objects fools are willing to pay big money to own. Who wouldn’t want to own that?!
Ambitious Boys Like You by Richard Kadrey, 4.5 Stars: Two thieves hit up the wrong house. Instead of a weak old man, they find dolls and booby traps and a whole lot of pain. This story was inventive, dark and creepy as hell and a great way to finally end this collection.
Hopefully I got them all but I can’t guarantee it and I am all typed out so this is all there is. There are some nightmarish stories here mixed in with a bunch of meh and I would recommend it with the caveat that you should not attempt to read it straight through. Read something else in-between these stories, split it up, you’ll thank me later. There is too much darkness to be taken in alone here and you may lose your will to read and to keep your eyes open.
Audiobook Challenge: Book #4 (not an audio)