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I DID it, dear reader! I reached my Goodreads goal of 50 books for the year when I finished reading Harvest Home. I am ecstatic! This is the first time I have ever reached my reading goal before 31 December. In addition, I was able to complete five books and three short stories in the month of September.

Nonfiction Selection

My nonfiction read for September was by Mel Robbins called The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage. The 5 second rule is a simple strategy that yields huge results. Robbins uses her own personal stories and testimonials through emails and social media posts she received from people from all walks of life to demonstate the effectiveness of this strategy. Personally, I am reaping the benefits from using the strategy in my everyday life, especially with taking risks in improv and stopping my EGO from managing me. Additionally, it has motivated me to exercise, to step out my comfort zone, and to complete tasks that have lingered a bit too long on my to-do list.

Basically, you count backwards from 5 and take action. According to Robbins, “When you start to count 5-4-3-2-1, it is the beginning of a chain reaction that not only awakens the prefrontal cortex, but also gets you ready to make that physical “initial huge push” that’s required to change” (106). This was an enjoyable 4-star read for me.

#Read21in21 Challenge

I read three middle-grade books in September. Ghost Beach was actually on my August TBR, but I ran out of time, so I carried it over. Juniper Berry has been on my bookcase for quite sometime and has autumn vibes, so I thought September was a marvelous month to finally read it. Since I am participating this fall in the #moremontgomerychallenge, I chose Anne of Avonlea for the “read an Anne book” spot on the bingo card. I had bought it right after reading Anne of Green Gables, so it worked out wonderfully to read it in September for the start of this challenge.

Ghost Beach by R.L. Stine is creepy, and I must admit, the scariest of the Goosebumps books I have read to date. Siblings, Jerry and Terri, are visiting a distant cousin and his wife in New England for the last month of the summer. The children’s excitement is short-lived when they discover a cave by the beach is haunted by a ghost. It is suspenseful with a twist I did not see coming. A haunting 4 stars for this spooky selection!

Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky is a terrific middle-grade tale of terror and temptation. Despite living in a beautiful mansion with her famous parents and her trusty sidekick Kitty, Juniper Berry is lonely as heck. She misses the life she once had with her parents, who were loving, kind, and always there for her. Now, they are miserable in spite of their fame and fortune and act as if Juniper does not exist. One stormy night, Juniper follows them into the woods and discovers the cause of their unhappy transformation. 4 stars for this entertaining and suspenseful story.

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery is the next charming chapter in Anne Shirley’s life. Anne postpones attending Redmond College, so she can remain with Marilla on the farm and help her raise orphaned twins. Anne also takes a teaching position at the local school. We are introduced to new and interesting characters in the Avonlea community and amused by more of Anne’s adventures. This second installment was a delightful read and worthy of all 5 stars.

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club

Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon is the perfect autumn read. It has all the fall feels with full fields of corn and festive autumn traditions set in a quaint New England town that harbors a sinister secret.

This beautifully written psychological horror novel takes its sweet time telling the story of Ned Constantine and his family’s move to the village of Cornwall Coombe. On the surface, the small farming town seem idyllic with its simple lifestyle, friendly faces, and a matriarch that welcomes the family wholeheartedly.

Once the family gets settled, Ned stumbles upon a mystery that had been buried, and no one in the town seems too interested in talking to him about it. Unfortunately, Ned’s curiousity is persistent, and he continues digging up the past. Unsettling moments are sprinkled throughout this slow burn, building up to an off-putting conclusion that has stuck with me since I completed it. I gave this horror gem 5 stars.

Year of King

Kelsi and I switched gears for this month and read three short stories from Stephen King’s Night Shift collection. All three stories have something to do with manual labor which was perfect for September with the celebration of Labor Day.

“Graveyard Shift” takes place at a textile factory in the small town of Gate Falls, Maine. John Hall, an aloof drifter, works the graveyard shift at the mill, running the picker machine. Warwick, his cruel foreman, decides that after 12 years, the rat-infested basement needs to be cleaned out.

So, he recruits a few of his workers, including John Hall, to complete the terrible task that leads to a disturbing discovery. This horror story was a 3-star read for me. Even though I enjoyed the creepy atmosphere, the rapacious rodents, and the men’s scary situation, I wanted more.

“The Mangler” takes place at an industrial laundry in a small American town. John Hunton, a local police officer, receives the call to investigate a gruesome accident involving a Hadley-Watson Model-6 Speed Ironer and Folder, also known as the mangler, at the Blue Ribbon Laundry. Unfortunately for Hunton and the employees of the laundry, more grisly deaths unfold surrounding the menacing machine. I gave this horror story 4 stars for being chilling, suspenseful, and macabre.

“The Lawnmower Man” takes place at the home of Harold Parkette. Harold takes pride in his manicured lawn until an unfortunate accident occurs while his neighbor’s son is cutting it. After almost a year of not cutting his grass, receiving lame lawn jokes from his neighbor, and spotting a woodchuck sitting happily in his backyard, he finally decides to hire someone to take care of his overgrown yard. That someone is the unusual lawnmower man from Pastoral Greenery and Outdoor Services. This horror story has mythological elements, humor, gore, and a bizarre twist which I loved, so I gave it 4 stars.

I wish I could tell you, dear reader, that the screen adaptations were as good as the short stories. I knew at some point our luck would run out because not all of Stephen King’s work translates well on the big screen. Although, Kelsi’s opinion of the films differs greatly from mine. She and I had a lively conversation about all three stories on September 25th, discussing the stories and their film adaptations. Dear reader, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

It’s October, which happens to be my favorite month of the year. I have chosen some spine-tingling selections to read in celebration of this spooky month. I am currently reading The Witches by Roald Dahl for #Read21in21. My book club selection for October is Kill Creek by Scott Thomas. Kelsi and I will be reading Needful Things for our Year of King project. We will have a live discussion about the novel and movie on Sunday, 06 November at 2:00 PM CT. Last but not least, my nonfiction selection this month is Fear Itself: The Early Works of Stephen King edited by Tim Underwood & Chuck Miller. 

My sister Rachel and I are still buddy reading A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. This Wednesday evening we will be discussing Chapter 7, “Finding Who You Truly Are.” What an important and impactful chapter!

As usual, I am looking forward to everything I have planned to read in October. To see my current book reviews or books I have read in the past, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

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That’s a wrap, August! I was able to complete six books in the month of August. As of today, I am 13 books ahead of schedule. I will definitely reach my Goodreads goal of 50 books by the end of September because I am only FOUR books away from reaching it. Thrilling!

Nonfiction Selection

My August nonfiction selection was Clean & Lean: 30 Days, 30 Foods, a New You! by Ian K. Smith, M.D. This is the fourth book I have read by Smith. It takes The Clean 20 nutritional and fitness plan to the next level by incorporating intermittent fasting and 10 additional clean foods to the menu. Since June, I have been working on my health and fitness goals, so I reread The Clean 20 and reintroduced myself to clean eating. Reading Clean & Lean and implementing the guidelines was the next step. It is a simple plan that anyone at any level in their health and wellness journey can follow, and it includes daily menus, inspiration, nutritional facts, and workout plans. I love the format of the book and the simplicity of the program. I am happy with my results, and may consider completing another month of Clean & Lean before the end of this year. I am giving the book and myself 5 stars!

#Read21in21 Challenge

I read three terrific children’s books this month, one classic and two that are considered horror/mystery. I have a soft spot for haunted houses, animals, and gnomes. All three stories touched my soft spot and were enjoyable to read. I recommend them all to middle schoolers and fans of middle-grade fiction.

The Haunting of the Old Yellow House on Millard Road by D.A.L. is a short, supernatural mystery tale about a 12-year-old boy named James, who wants to spend the night inside an old house that is supposedly haunted. He barely convinces his friend, his cousin, and his two siblings to join him on his adventure which also includes retrieving an artifact as proof of their overnight stay. It is a satisfying read for middle schoolers with charming characters, humor, and spooky moments. The author kindly sent me a complimentary copy of this book which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I look forward to reading more of his stories in the future. It was a 4-star read for me.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is a classic fantasy novel with captivating characters who have the most amusing adventures in the English countryside. The story centers around four main congenial critters, Mr. Badger, Mole, Rat, and Mr. Toad. These four friends enjoy life and each other’s company until the debonair Mr. Toad discovers motor cars. His outrageous obsession with them lands him in a puddle of trouble, and only his faithful friends can save him and set him on the right path. This beautifuly written tale focuses on friendship, adventure, and the importance of home. This 5-star adventure has become one of my favorite classics.

The Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes by R.L. Stine is an entertaining anecdote that involves tacky lawn ornaments, prize-winning vegetables, and midnight mischief. Joe Burton is looking forward to the lazy days of summer until his father adds two hideous garden gnomes to the lawn collection. Let’s just say, once they arrive on the Burton lawn, Joe’s life gets weird and a bit messy. I give my gnomies 4 stars.

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher is an atmospheric gothic horror novel with supernatural vibes. It is an imaginative retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher” which I recommend reading before diving into Kingfisher’s beautifully written tale. I must admit I was drawn to this book because of its hauntingly beautiful cover.

Madeline Usher summons her childhood friend, Alex Easton, to her family home in the countryside of Ruritania where she lives with her twin brother Roderick.

In her letter to Alex, she tells him that she is dying. He immediately leaves his home in Gallacia with his horse Hob. He is stunned upon arrival at the Usher estate where he finds Madeline and her brother are both visibly unwell and their home has fallen into a miserable state of disrepair. What has befallen the Usher siblings, and is Alex too late to save them? This 4-star read is creepy and delightfully off-putting.

Year of King

Kelsi and I decided on Cujo for August. We found ourselves in the fictional, small town of Castle Rock, Maine. I dreaded reading this novel simply because I had seen the movie back in the 80s, and all I could recall was a rabid St. Bernard terrorizing Dee Wallace’s character. I have dogs, and I could not imagine reading an entire book about someone’s beloved dog getting rabies and transforming into a murderous monster. While the director, Lewis Teague directed a terrific film adaptation of Cujo, it does not compare to the amazing novel written by Stephen King.

Kelsi was also not looking forward to reading Cujo for her own reasons. However, we were both blown away by it. This story is so much more than a rabid dog. It is about fear, loss, and the power of love. Stephen King wrecked me with Cujo, especially the second to last paragraph of the book. This novel will stick with me for quite awhile and earned all 5 gut-wrenching stars.

After reading the novel, I watched the movie in a totally different way. I now had backstory, and my feelings towards Cujo the dog was totally different. I had compassion for the gentle giant, especially since as the reader, I got glimpses from his point of view. Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro acted phenomenally in their roles as mother and son (Donna and Tad Trenton). I highly recommend reading Cujo before watching the movie.

Kesli and I had an engrossing conversation about Cujo on August 28th, discussing the novel and the film adaptation. Dear reader, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

September! Hard to believe the 9th month of the year is already underway. I have chosen some exciting selections to read during this month. I am currently reading Ghost Beach by R.L. Stine for #Read21in21. My book club selection for September is Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon. Kelsi and I will be reading three short stories (“Lawnmower Man”, “The Mangler”, and “Graveyard Shift”) for our Year of King project. We will have a live discussion about the short stories and their movies on Sunday, 25 September at 2:00 PM CT. Last but not least, my nonfiction selection this month is The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins. 

My sister Rachel and I are buddy reading A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. In August, we decided to read a chapter a week for 10 weeks and meet every Wednesday on ZOOM for 10 weeks to discuss it. Our first discussion took place on the evening of 17 August. The experience has been both enlightening and enjoyable. We should complete the book and weekly discussions sometime in October.

Of course, I am looking forward to everything I have planned to read in September. To see my current book reviews or books I have read in the past, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

“To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” ~ Edmund Burke

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July has come and gone while my reading life continues to thrive month after month. I was able to complete six books in the month of July which is AMAZING, considering one of them is a behemoth. IT by Stephen King is 1,138 pages long! Rereading it after so many years has been nostalgic and super satisfying. As of today, I am ten books ahead of schedule. At the rate I am going, I will reach my Goodreads goal of 50 books by the end of September. Awesomesauce!

Nonfiction Selection

My July nonfiction selection was The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life with One Simple Habit by Mel Robbins. I had been wanting to read a book by Mel Robbins for ages, so when the opportunity to read The High 5 Habit presented itself with my friend Kathryn and the members of her Live Healthy Team, I took it. Anyone struggling with self (self-worth, self-doubt, self-esteem, etc.) can benefit from reading this book. Giving a high 5 to someone else is easy, but when it comes time to high 5 ourselves, it becomes much harder. Why?

We deserve to encourage ourselves just as easily as we encourage others.Through personal stories, science-based research, and examples of real-life results, Robbins shows readers how to incorporate this simple but effective tool in their everyday lives. This book will definitely be a resource I will refer back to again and again. I high 5 this book with 5 stars.

#Read21in21 Challenge

I went a different route this month and read an entire middle school series about the Gaither Sisters written by Rita Williams-Garcia. Marvelous series! All three historical fiction books are narrated by the spirited 11-year-old Delphine Gaither and are incredibly refreshing. I truly hope Rita Williams-Garcia will write more adventures about this delightful trio in the future.

One Crazy Summer is the first book in the Gaither Sisters series. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern live in Brooklyn with their father and grandmother. Pa decides it is finally time for his daughters to spend a month during the summer in Oakland, California with their estranged mother Cecile, who abandoned them shortly after Fern was born. Set in the middle of the Black Panther Movement in 1968, the girls learn a thing or two about their mother, the Black Panther Movement, and themselves. This well-written middle school historical novel is heartfelt, honest, humorous, and so deserving of being a Newbery Honor Book. I fell in love with the characters, especially the sisters and their mother. It was easily a 5-star read for me.

P.S. Be Eleven is the second book in the Gaither Sisters series, and it did not disappoint. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are back in Brooklyn after spending an eventful month during the summer with their mother Cecile. This novel follows the girls through their school year, Pa’s girlfriend news, the unexpected return of their Uncle Darnell from the Vietnam War, and the Jackson 5. Delphine, now in 6th grade, deals with fitting in, friendship turmoil, and her feelings about Ellis Carter. I continue to enjoy reading about Delphine and her experiences during this pivotal time in history. Another 5-star read!

Gone Crazy in Alabama is the third and final book in the Gaither Sisters series. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are sent to Alabama to visit Big Ma, their great grandmother, and Uncle Darnell for the summer. The girls quickly learn that the ways of the south are much different from their home back in Brooklyn or where their mother Cecile lives in Oakland. The girls discover a family feud, learn more about their family and cultural history, experience the power of forgiveness, and embrace the importance of family. 5 stars, ya’ll!

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club

The atmospheric Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand is a wonderfully written novella with gothic horror vibes. The tale of the missing lead singer of Windhollow Faire, the summer he and his fellow band mates lived at Wylding Hall, is told in an interview style format with multiple viewpoints. The question on everyone’s mind is, what happened to shy, handsome Julian Blake? English folklore, musical elements, unreliable narrators, and the setting of an ancient country home and its mysterious surroundings create a delicious amalgamation of subtle horror. A bewitching 5-star read for me!

Year of King

For July, Kelsi and I tackled our most ambitious Stephen King selection to date. IT is one of my favorite King novels. It embodies horror elements that will frighten any reader because we are all afraid of something. Derry, Maine is the setting of this chilling tale about an evil entity that awakens every 27 years to wreak havoc on the residents of this small New England town. Seven children, who are viewed as losers among their peers, are drawn together and form an impenetrable bond which fuels their quest to seek out the murderous Pennywise and destroy it once and for all.

It should not come as a surprise that I gave this beautifully written coming-of-age story 5 stars. Well-developed characters, a terrifying clown, and a battle between good and evil make this a must-read for any Stephen King fan.

Additionally, IT translated remarkably well for both television and the big screen which is not always the case with King’s stories. Watching the screen adaptations of IT was a huge undertaking for Kelsi and me. We watched the 1990 television miniseries, the 2017 film, and the 2019 film. That calculates to roughly 500 minutes of screen time which I personally think was time well-spent. I thoroughly enjoyed all three adaptations.

Kesli and I had a stirring conversation about IT on August 7th, discussing the novel and all three movie adaptations. Dear reader, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

August is already in full swing, and I have some terrific selections picked out to read throughout this month. I am currently reading The Haunting of the Old Yellow House on Millard Road by D.A.L. for #Read21in21. My book club selection for August is What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher. Cujo is the novel Kelsi and I will be reading for Year of King. I think it is going to be a tough read because of content. We will have a live discussion about the novel and movie on Sunday, 28 August at 2:00 PM CT. I have chosen two nonfiction selections this month, Clean & Lean by Ian K. Smith, M.D. and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. My sister Rachel and I are both planning to read it which makes it our first buddy read together. It should be a fun experience, and I am looking forward to discussing it with her. Of course, I am looking forward to everything I have planned to read in August. To see my current book reviews or books I have read in the past, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.” ~ Paul Sweeney

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We are at the halfway mark in the year, and I am on fire with my reading goals. Despite having a great deal of activity in my life last month, I was able to complete five books in the month of June as well as a short story from the Everything’s Eventual collection by Stephen King. As of today, I am ten books ahead of schedule. Amazing!

Nonfiction Selection

I chose The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There by Jenna Fischer & Angela Kinsey for my June nonfiction selection. I was super excited about this book ever since the Office Ladies announced they were writing it. I am a fan of both The Office and the Office Ladies podcast. Thanks to Simon, mon frere, for gifting me this beautiful book with lots of fun facts, personal photos, and special stories from Jenna and Angela’s time on The Office. These two ladies became best friends as a result of working on that television show, and their friendship is still going strong today. This is a delightful read and deserves all 5 stars.

#Read21in21 Challenge

I only read two middle school books in the month of June, but I enjoyed both of them immensely. One book was actually a reread and the other was recommended by the booktuber Mitzi of Mitzi Reads and Writes. Mitzi is participating in an #annealong with some other booktubers, and they are reading the entire series of books about Anne Shirley of Green Gables.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery took me by surprise. It is considered a classic historical fiction novel. I absolutely fell in love with this story, and I simply adore the main character, Anne Shirley. So much so, that I have already ordered the second book in the series. Basically, Anne Shirley is an orphan who is mistakenly sent to live with unmarried siblings, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, on their farm called Green Gables located in Avonlea. Anne is a spirited young lady, who has a wild imagination and a compassionate heart. This charming coming-of-age story follows Anne as she navigates life in her new home while capturing the hearts of all who cross paths with her, including readers of this timeless classic. This is stellar story worthy of 5 stars.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg is a realistic fiction book filled with adventure and a mystery. I chose to reread it on a whim for June because Andrew and I visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in June, and that is where this marvelous novel takes place. Two children, Claudia and Jamie, run away to New York City and take up residence in The Met. While enjoying their newfound freedom, they stumble upon a mystery surrounding a sculpture that has ties to a famous artist. After reading it, I decided to have my own adventure in the museum. This Newbery Medal book is another 5-star read and remains one of my favorite middle school books.

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is a magnificent mystery novel that kept me guessing literally to the very end. Ten unsuspecting strangers from all walks of life have been invited by an unknown wealthy millionare to spend the weekend at his newly purchased home situated on the isolated Soldier Island. Shortly after arriving, the guests discover that they have one thing in common…murder. Then, one of the ten dies suddenly, and the remaining nine soon realize a murderer is among them, waiting to pick each one of them off one by one. Ooooh, so good and a brilliant 5 stars!

Year of King

For June, Kelsi and I chose a novella from Skeleton Crew and a short story from Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales to read for our Year of King project.

The Mist is a psychological horror novella with science fiction undertones and Lovecraftian vibes. The small town of Bridgton gets swept up in a thick fog following a violent thunderstorm. While David Drayton and the rest of the townspeople are trying to regroup and recover from storm damage, loss of electricity, and lack of communication, they soon discover the thunderstorm brought along more than just the fog. It was an entertaining 4-star read for me.

“1408” is a supernatural horror short story that takes place in a New York City hotel. The skeptical and bestselling author of haunted places, Mike Enslin, gets more than he bargains for when he attempts to spend the night inside the haunted room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel. The moment I read about the crooked door of 1408 is the moment I would have returned the room key to the front desk. Haunted places and objects give me the willies, and this short story is no exception. It earned 5 stars for sheer creepiness.

As Kelsi and I do with all the stories we read by Stephen King, we watched the screen adaptations for both The Mist and “1408.” The Mist followed the novella pretty closely but with a much bleaker ending. I thought the director, Frank Darabont, did a fine job bringing the story visually to life. “1408” was fleshed out a bit more in its film adaptation, effectively using the short story as the foundation for the film. I loved how the evil hotel room comes to life with a personality all of its own. Both films were decent adaptations, enjoyable to watch, and earned 4-star ratings from me. Kesli and I had an interesting conversation about The Mist and “1408” on June 26th, discussing both stories and their movie adaptations. Dear reader, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

July has already started which means another month with an awesome list of books to read. I am currently reading One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia for #Read21in21. My book club selection for July is Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand. It is the novel Kelsi and I will be reading for Year of King. It is a chunker! We will be chatting live about the novel and the two movies on Sunday, 07 August at 2:00 PM CT. Finally, for my nonfiction choice, I will be reading The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life with One Simple Habit by Mel Robbins. I will be reading this book along with members of my friend Kathryn’s Facebook group Kat’s Live Healthy Team. I am looking forward to everything I have planned to read in July. To see my current book reviews or books I have read in the past, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” ~ Roald Dahl

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As I predicted, May was a zomberific reading month for me! Since May is Zombie Awareness Month, every book I chose to read this month included zombies or the resurrected dead. I completed four books in the month of May, and as of today, I am nine books ahead of schedule. Wowzer!

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club

Our book club selection for May also counts as my nonfiction read for the month. The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis is about real zombis (Haitian French spelling), not the ones you might expect to see on an episode of The Walking Dead. Wade Davis, a Harvard scientist, traveled to Haiti for the purposes of medical science, investigating a powerful drug that had the capability of turning people into zombis. Through his investigation of the poisons and the zombification of Clairvius Narcisse, he discovered the secret societies of Haitian voodoo and their cultural beliefs.

While I think Davis’s anthropological experience in Haiti is fascinating, I feel there were a few parts of the book that dragged on a bit too long. I enjoyed learning about the secret societies of Haiti, their role in zombification, the case studies of people turned into zombis, as well as Zora Neale Hurston’s adventurous fieldwork in Haiti. Hurston was an American author, anthropologist, and a filmmaker. She is the author of one of my favorite books, Their Eyes Were Watching God. I knew she was an anthropologist; however, I had never read anything about her in that role. What a pleasant surprise! I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads, but it feels more like 3.5 stars overall.

#Read21in21 Challenge

I read only two zombie books for this challenge. I started the month reading a middle grade book and ended it with a young adult one.

Dead City by James Ponti is the first book in the middle-grade Dead City trilogy. Ponti has created a fresh perspective of the zombie genre. It is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure about a middle-schooler named Molly, who is selected to join an elite group after extensive training to help protect the city from the undead. I enjoyed the characters (especially Molly), the story, and the different zombies. I will definitely read the other two books in the trilogy. I give it 5 stars.

The Enemy by Charlie Higson is the first book in the post-apocalyptic young adult series, The Enemy. Like Dead City, it is fast-paced and action-packed but definitely way more brutal and geared toward an older group of readers. The story takes place in London where adults have been infected with a virus that turns them into cannibalistic zombies. The children, who are left to fend for themselves, must learn how to rely on each other in order to survive against the grownups. There is a substantial assortment of interesting and dynamic characters as well as dark and heartfelt scenes meshed well within a gritty storyline. This book is another 5-star read. I am invested in the characters which makes me want to read the rest of the series.

Year of King

May’s selection was Pet Sematary. The story is about the Creed family, who leave the hustle and bustle of Chicago behind for a simpler life in the sleepy town of Ludlow, Maine. Louis, a doctor, takes a position as director of health services at the University of Maine where he feels sure the demands will be less stressful.

His wife Rachel looks after their new home and two small children, Ellie and Gage. They soon make friends with their elderly neighbors, Jud and Norma Crandall. Jud warns them about the busy highway that runs past their house and is used regularly by speeding trucks. Within a few weeks of getting settled, the family learns about the Pet Sematary behind their home and its significance to the locals in the small town. Soon, tragedy touches the lives of the Creed family, and they are propelled into a nightmare of inexplicable horror.

Pet Sematary is one of my absolute favorite novels by Stephen King. I was thrilled Kelsi wanted to read it for our Year of King project, so I could revisit it for the third time. It is a 5-star read, hands down. The novel is not only dark, atmospheric, creepy, and beautifully written, but also provides a heart-wrenching peek into the effects of grief, guilt, and despair.

There are two movie adaptations of Pet Sematary. Kelsi and I watched both films. Stephen King wrote the screenplay for the 1989 film, so it follows the novel pretty closely. The 2019 film is a different story. I did not care for it for a variety of reasons, especially its ending. Kelsi and I had a terrific conversation about Pet Sematary on May 29th, discussing both the book and the movies. In fact, we had a passionate, but friendly disagreement about the 2019 film. Dear reader, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

I have a couple of recommendations for fans of Pet Sematary. The first is Stephen King: Pet Sematary Complete Series BBC Radio drama on YouTube. This radio dramatization was recommended to us by Arlene, one of Kelsi’s Slime and Slashers subscribers. Because of time constraints, I have only listened to about 30 minutes of it but have plans to listen to the rest of it by the end of this month. It is so well-done and worth the listen. In addition, there is an excellent documentary, Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary, about the making of Pet Sematary (1989) that Kelsi discovered which can now be streamed free on Tubi. Having worked in television production and as a background actor in both film and television, I appreciated learning about the details in the making of Pet Sematary.

June is already underway, dear reader, and I have a stack of great books and two short stories to read this month. I am currently reading Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery for #Read21in21. My book club selection for June is And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. My nonfiction choice for this month is The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey. Kelsi and I will be reading two short stories, “The Mist” and “1408,” for Year of King. We will be chatting live about the novel and both movies on Sunday, 26 June at 2:00 PM CT. June should be another awesome reading month for me. To see my current book reviews or books I have read in the past, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

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What a gratifying reading month April was for me! I continue to choose stellar stories, making my bookish adventure this year all the more joyful. I completed eight books in the month of April, and as of today, I am eight books ahead of schedule. Woot-Woot!

Nonfiction Selection

I chose The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp (with Mark Reiter) for my April nonfiction selection. I had been wanting to read this book ever since Gretchen Rubin recommended it. At the library book sale, I attended with Michelle back in March, I snagged a copy for two bucks. Twyla Tharp is a dancer and one of the greatest choreographers in America who has created a plethora of dances since her career began in 1965. She has also received many awards and recognition for her contribution to the world of ballet. While many of her ideas about developing a creative habit stem from her experience as a dancer and choreographer, she has written this book for anyone who is pursuing a creative life as well as anyone who chooses a more traditional career path. Each chapter focuses on lessons Tharp has learned over her thirty-five-year career, along with 32 useful exercises, to help readers make creativity a part of their lives through developing a creative habit. This book was an enjoyable read. It is a terrific resource with plenty of exercises to help readers tap into their creativity. I gave it 4 stars!

#Read21in21 Challenge

I started April off reading a young adult short story horror collection, followed by four middle grade books. I read another Gordon Korman novel (no surprise), a mystery, and two selections in the horror category.

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys compiled by April Genevieve Tucholke contains 14 short stories that are all inspired by novels, short stories, songs, television series, or movies, but each one has its own unique twist. Some of the stories are creepy while others are more psychologically thrilling. My top five favorites are “Fat Girl with a Knife,” “M,” “A Girl Who Dreamed of Snow,” “Stitches,” and “In the Forest Dark and Deep.” I gave it 4 stars.

Unplugged by Gordon Korman was a terrific middle-grade read. Personally, I do not think anyone can go wrong reading Kormon’s books. Many of them are hilarious with heart at the core. And, Unplugged is no exception. Jett Baranov is a spoiled, rich kid who ends up at the Oasis in the middle of the Arkansas wilderness for the summer after pulling one too many pranks. His goal is to get thrown out; however, he quickly gets immersed in a mystery, develops unlikely friendships, and learns not everything is a joking matter. This is another 5-star read by Gordon Korman.

The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson was a marvelous middle-school mystery. Abbey Force and Bee Force (no relation) become fast friends when Bee’s father buys Abbey’s plantation home near Felony Bay. Abbey is forced to live with her mean-spirited Uncle Charlie and his unsympathetic wife after her father falls into a coma, following an accident, and can no longer care for her. Abbey and Bee stumble upon a mystery at Felony Bay, involving Uncle Charlie and some other shady locals, and the girls work together to solve it. I enjoyed this debut novel and gave it 5 stars.

While Night of the Living Dummy by R.L. Stine is not my favorite book in the Goosebumps franchise, it was still entertaining and a good introduction to Slappy the dummy. Twin sisters, who love to compete with one another, soon find out their dummies have a sinister side. I am not a huge fan of dolls, dummies, mimes, or clowns because they are CREEPY, especially when they are possessed.  This was a 3-star read for me.

The Girl in the Headlights by Lindsey Duga is a ghost story with the right amount of creepiness for young readers. Briana Jensen moves in temporarily with her grouchy Uncle Shane on Shadowborn Road while her mother attends a training program. Shortly after arriving, Brianna encounters a ghostly young girl, who went missing on her way home from the town’s fall festival many years ago and uncovers the circumstances surrounding her murder. This middle-grade ghost story held my interest and earned 4 stars.

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill is a ghostly gothic horror novella that I absolutely adored from start to finish. Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer, narrates the story of the harrowing ordeal he experiences while staying at Eel Marsh House in the small town of Crythin Gifford. I found this atmospheric story riveting and spine-tingling. Hands down, it is a 5-star read for me, and I look forward to reading more of Hill’s ghost stories.

Year of King

April’s selection was The Dark Half. The story is about Thad Beaumont, a writer, who after struggling to achieve success under his own name, decides to write novels under the pen name, George Stark. While these novels are commercially successful, they are dark, violent, and bring out unsavory qualities in Thad. An unexpected turn of events prompts Thad to retire his pseudonym, causing dire circumstances to befall anyone connected to Thad and his decision to bury his dark half.

I had seen the movie back in the 90s, but I had never read the book. Boy, am I glad Kelsi and I chose this underrated gem to read for our Year of King. I thought it was gripping, chilling, and disturbing. It earned a 5-star rating from me. There were so many terrific scenes throughout the novel. The surgery scene is one of my favorites. While researching and taking notes on The Dark Half for my chat with Kelsi, I discovered a bunch of fun facts about psychopomps, where King got the idea for this story, and how King came up with the name Stark for his villain. We had an congenial conversation about The Dark Half on May 1st, discussing both the book and the movie. Dear reader, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

I would be remiss not to mention my failed attempt at participating in Kelsi’s April Readathon/Watchathon. I just could not fit another book into my already packed schedule. I really thought spring break would help, but I just had too many other activities and scheduled reading that I can only count three reads for the Readathon (Night of the Living Dummy, The Dark Half, and The Woman in Black) and three watches for the Watchathon (an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants and Goosebumps – “The Haunted Mask” as well as The Dark Half movie). Oh well, there is always next year.

May has officially begun, and it is Zombie Awareness Month! Therefore, I will be reading books all month that are related to zombies. I am currently reading Dead City by James Ponti for #Read21in21. My book club selection for May is The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis. It will also count as my nonfiction choice for the month. Pet Sematary is the novel Kelsi and I will be reading for Year of King. We will be chatting live about the novel and the two movies on Sunday, 29 May at 2:00 PM CT. May is going to be a zomberific reading month for me. To see my current book reviews or books I have read in the past, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ~ Charles W. Eliot

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Happy Zombie Awareness Month, dear reader! I am ready for some zombie fun which will last ALL month long. ZOMBIES are my jam! I have created another Zombie Fun List just for this year. It will include anything related to zombies, such as movies, television shows, books, short stories, articles, cocktails, and clothing. Kelsi will also be joining me for a zomberific good time, and when it is all said and done, we plan to chat about our rotting good time with reanimated corpses.

Zombie Fun List

Movies

Television Shows

  • The Walking Dead
  • Fear the Walking Dead
  • TWD: World Beyond
  • All of Us Are Dead
  • Kingdom

Books, Short Stories, and Articles

For more information about zombies, check out the Zombie Research Society. They have awesome articles about the living dead, including a recent article called “Digesting the Living: Zombie Stomach Acid” which was posted on 09 April 2022 by Luke W. Boyd. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Additionally, for all you readers who are on the fence about zombies, check out Kelsi’s latest video, 10 Zombie Movie Recommendations for People Who Don’t Like Zombies! on YouTube. Kelsi loves horror, but zombies are not her favorite horror genre. However, she does admit that she has found some undead gems since celebrating Zombie Awareness Month with me.

I am thrilled to be celebrating zombies throughout the month of May. If time permits, I will sprinkle additional zombie posts throughout the month. Of course, dear reader, if you feel the compulsion to join us, we would love to know what activities you will be engaging in during the month. What does it take to become a zombie? Deadication. Happiness!

“You can’t negotiate with a zombie. They have only one impulse – that’s to eat us or our brains.” ~ Stephen Graham Jones

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March brought Daylight Saving Time, spring, and a rewarding reading month for me. I completed six books in the month of March, and as of today, I am seven books ahead of schedule. Go, me!

Nonfiction Selection

Life is Messy by Matthew Kelly was my March nonfiction selection. I received this book as a Christmas gift from the administration of my school. Last year, I finally got around to reading a couple of Matthew Kelly’s books, which I had received as gifts from my church parish over the years, and I really enjoyed them. The messages in his books are comforting and inspirational, instead of being preachy, and Life is Messy is no exception. Kelly’s inspiration for this book stems from three years of intense struggles in his own life that he documented in his personal journals. Kelly explains, “It’s what we do with the mess that determines everything.” Life can be messy; however, it can also be filled with joy if one seeks to fill one’s life with goodness. This was an enjoyable 4-star read.

#Read21in21 Challenge

I kicked off the month of March reading a middle grade horror book (or so I thought) and then switched to middle grade realistic fiction for the remainder of the month. I read another Gordon Korman novel because I love his writing, and I was not at all disappointed with my choice. Korman is fast becoming one of my favorite middle grade authors.

The first book was Creep by Eireann Corrigan. I expected a horror novel, but I ended up reading a mystery/thriller novel with a splash of drama. So, needless to say, I was a little disappointed. A new family moves into a house that was vacated by the previous family under unusual circumstances. The family discovers someone is watching them when they receive ominous notes shortly after moving into their new home. A few of the storylines running through the book could have been eliminated, so other storylines could be fleshed out a bit more. Overall, it was a decent read. I gave it 3 stars.

The second book was Ungifted by Gordon Korman. What a funny and heart-warming story! The characters are endearing. I love how the chapters are written in alternating perspectives of the characters. Basically, the main character, Donovan Curtis, accidentally destroys school property at his middle school, setting off a chain of events that lands him at another school for gifted students. Hilarity ensues along with touching moments and a clear message of acceptance at the core of the novel. I had no trouble giving this literary treasure 5 stars.

The third and final book was Rules by Cynthia Lord. Rules was another enjoyable read; however, it has a more serious vibe to it than Ungifted. The main character Catherine is trying to lead a normal life even though she considers her family circumstances not so normal. Her brother has autism, and her parents lean on Catherine a great deal to help with her brother when they work, or she has a social event. Two new people enter her life, and her world becomes complicated. Soon, she learns the pitfalls of not being honest, the true meaning of friendship, and the importance of acceptance. This tender-hearted story easily earned 5 stars from me.

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club

March’s selection for my book club was the The Troop by Nick Cutter. Oh, my! This book was horrifying, disturbing, and at times, heart-wrenching. Five teenage scouts and their scoutmaster head to Falstaff Island to spend the weekend camping in the wilderness. Shortly after arriving on the island, an emaciated man with a rapacious appetite wanders into their camp, exposing the troop to an unseen threat that soon turns their enjoyable camping trip into a nightmare and a desperate fight for survival. The Troop is one of the best horror novels I have read in quite a while. It is definitely a must-read for horror fans. However, be warned that body horror runs rampant throughout the novel, and children behave brutally towards humans and animals. It is a 5-star read, hands down!

Year of King

March’s selection was The Langoliers. It is one of the four novellas originally published in King’s Four Past Midnight collection. Even though I watched the made-for-tv mini-series back in the 90s, I had never read the novella. Basically, ten passengers and a black-bearded man on Flight 29 from Los Angeles to Boston travel through a time-rip to the past where they encounter the langoliers. They must race against time to survive the menacing timekeepers.

I really enjoyed The Langoliers. It earned a 4-star rating from me. I love a novel with a plethora of characters who have interesting backstories. Stephen King does a fine job with character development. The mini-series sticks pretty close to the novella. There is dialogue in the movie lifted straight off the page. Kelsi and I had a terrific time chatting about The Langoliers and laughed quite a bit. If you were unable to watch us live on 27 March, dear reader, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

That’s all she wrote for March, dear reader. It was another productive and fun month of reading. I recommend all of the books I read in March, especially my 5-star reads.

April starts tomorrow, and I am currently reading Slasher Girls & Monster Boys compiled by April Genevieve Tucholke for #Read21in21. My book club selection for April is The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. The Dark Half is the novel Kelsi and I will be reading for Year of King. We will be chatting live about the novel and the movie on Sunday, 01 May at 2:00 PM. Finally, for my nonfiction choice, I will be reading The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp (with Mark Reiter).

Last but certainly not least, I am also attempting to participate in Kelsi’s Old School April Readathon & Watchathon. I presently do not have a TBR list for the readathon; however, I know I will be reading Night of the Living Dead by R.L. Stine. It will be my Goosebumps book. April is going to be a busy but exciting reading month for me. To see my current book reviews or books I have read in the past, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

“Reading brings us unknown friends” ~ Honoré de Balzac

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February may have been a short month, but it was a productive reading month for me. I completed seven books in the month of February, and as of today, I am four books ahead of schedule. Woot-Woot!

Nonfiction Selection

Even though I absolutely adore reading horror and thrillers (my favorite genre), I also enjoy reading realistic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, nonfiction, and a good mystery. The only genre I am not a huge fan of is romance. Therefore, each month, I plan to read at least one nonfiction book in addition to everything else I have slated for the month. Back in January, my book club chose a nonfiction book, so I did not choose a separate title in that category like I did for February.

Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore by Patric Richardson and written with Karin B. Miller was my February nonfiction selection. I received this book as a gift from mon frere Simon. I never in a million years thought I would read, much less enjoy, a book about laundry. It is a delightful read about how to properly take care of laundering any textiles that you own. Richardson gives you lists of necessary supplies for washing clothes as well as for removing stains. There is a section devoted to types of stains and how to treat them. Another section lists various textiles and how to clean them. In addition, he claims a dry cleaner is no longer necessary, even if the tag on the article of clothing states “dry clean only.” While Laundry Love is technically a resource guide on how to properly take care of laundry, it is written with humor and more like a story than a reference book. An appendix with recipes from the women influencers from his Appalachian upbringing is included in the back of the book. This was a pleasurable 5-star read for me.

#Read21in21 Challenge

As I mentioned last month, this daily reading challenge is devoted to children’s literature which I adore just as much as horror and thrillers. Last month, I did focus on middle grade horror selections. However, for February, most of my selections were middle grade realistic fiction with the exception of my first read being middle grade horror. I fell in love with every one of the main characters in the books I read this month, especially Ollie in Small Spaces and Hope in Hope: Project Middle School.

The first book was Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. It is a terrifically well-written middle grade ghost story that takes place on a farm with a creepy past, a deadly secret, and the Smiling Man. Ollie and her two classmates work together to save themselves and the rest of their class in this spine-tingling adventure. It is the first book in the Small Spaces series. I gave it 5 spooktacular stars.

The second book was The Unteachables by Gordon Korman. This tender-hearted story is about redemption and not giving up. It has well-written, likable characters and lots of humor. Each chapter is designated to a character in the book giving his or her viewpoint. It was an entertaining 5-star read for me.

The third book was Firegirl by Tony Abbott. I have been wanting to read this short book for quite some time. It is a moving story about accepting others, the power of friendship, and having the courage to get to know someone who looks differently than you. This is a wonderful coming of age story that is worthy of receiving 5 stars.

The fourth book was Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech. Another heartwarming story about a young boy named Louie who decides to nurse a sick donkey despite his unfortunate attempts at helping critters in the past. This story shares a beautiful message of empathy, compassion, and the meaning of love with its readers. I also gave this literary gem 5 stars.

The fifth and final book was Hope: Project Middle School by Alyssa Milano and written with Debbie Rigaud. It is not surprising that this was another fantastic 5-star read for me. I absolutely adore the main character Hope and her story about navigating through her first year of middle school. Hope is smart, friendly, confident, loves animals, and wants to save the world. It is the first book in the Hope series.

I look forward to reading more great stories from these authors and continuing the series featuring Ollie and Hope. Reading middle grade books brings me lots of JOY.

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club/Year of King

February’s selection for both my book club and Year of King was Gerald’s Game by Stephen King. This was a reread for me; however, it had been so long since I read it that I could only remember that Jessie and her husband Gerald go away to their lake house for a little hanky-panky. Soon after they arrive, Jessie is handcuffed to the bed, and Gerald suffers a heart attack and dies. Therefore, I felt like I was reading Gerald’s Game for the first time. Basically, Jessie is left all alone to face the demons of her past and her present fears that threaten her future. Personally, this was a hard book to read because of content. King tackles sexual abuse, abused women, as well as female inequality in Gerald’s Game and does it in a respectful way. Like Misery, there is no supernatural element, but there are human monsters, and sometimes they are scarier than the boogyman. I gave Gerald’s Game 4 stars, not because it was poorly written, but more or less, I think it could have been condensed in parts, especially those pertaining to the sexual abuse and the length of time it took Jessie to take some action in saving her own life. I was also a little disappointed with the mysterious presence in the bedroom and would have liked that element to have played out differently.

As for the movie adaptation of Gerald’s Game, well…it was okay. I rated it 3 stars. I think I would have rated it higher if I had not read the book. After watching the movie, it made me appreciate the novel more, and it also made me realize the slow pacing of the novel may have been mirroring how Jessie was feeling during her horrific ordeal, exhausted. I found it exhausting to read at times. Mike Flanagan did a fine job directing this film, considering I never imagined it could be done since so much of the story takes place in Jessie’s mind. There are significant differences between the book and movie. While the cast was chosen well overall, their portrayal of the characters was unlike the book. Gerald is attractive and more understanding in the movie than in the novel, suggesting a different perspective of what really happened between the Burlingame couple at the lake house. Kelsi and I had an interesting chat about Gerald’s Game and discussed it more in depth along with tidbits surrounding both the novel and the movie. If you were unable to watch our live chat on Sunday, 27 February, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

That’s my reading round up for February, dear reader. I am super proud of the amount of reading I did throughout the month. I recommend all of the books I read in February, including Gerald’s Game. However, if you have never read a Stephen King novel, I do not suggest starting with Gerald’s Game. Misery would be a better first read in my opinion.

March has officially started, and I am currently reading Creep by Eireann Corrigan for #Read21in21. My book club selection for March is The Troop by Nick Cutter. The Langoliers is the novella Kelsi and I will be reading for Year of King. It is part of my Four Past Midnight collection. We will be chatting live about the novella and the mini series on Sunday, 27 March at 2:00 PM. Finally, for my nonfiction choice, I will be reading Life is Messy by Matthew Kelly. To see my current book reviews or books I have read in the past, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

“There are many little ways to enlarge your world.  Love of books is the best of all.” ~ Jacqueline Kennedy

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We are in the middle of the winter season, and I am counting down the days until spring. As you know, dear reader, I have to work hard to fight off the winter doldrums. This winter season seems particularly harder than past seasons with continuing to deal with COVID conditions and the aftermath of Ida on top of a holiday season that flew by so quickly my face feels chapped from the wind burn. I know, a bit melodramatic. However, the festive season came and went with a flurry of activity, followed by more flurries of activity, leaving Kelsi and I no time to really stop to catch our breath. Hence, why my Christmas Fun List wrap up post is late. I almost decided to scrap it; however, my bestie Shelly encouraged me to write it because, after all, someone might want to read it. Without further ado, this is how I spent my Christmas season.

MOVIES: Classic Christmas

In the month of December, I watch 24 Christmas related films, 12 are Christmas Horror and 12 are what I consider Classic Christmas. Kelsi and I already wrapped our Christmas Horror movies topped nicely with a bow. You can check out my blog post and YouTube chat with Kelsi if you are interested in the horror films we watched earlier in the Christmas season.

I had a terrific time watching the movies on my Classic Christmas list. My top three films were all movies I have seen several times but really, really love. To be fair, I generally watch Love Actually and Elf every Christmas, so I probably should not even include them on my annual fun list. The Holiday is a delightful romantic comedy and was fun to revisit this year, especially because of the dreamy Jude Law. Surprisingly, this year was the first time watching It’s a Wonderful Life. This FABULOUS movie is about being grateful for your blessings, not taking your life for granted, and getting second chances.

All four movies are 5 stars in my book. I could watch them over and over, and it would never get dull. Pottersville: A Magical Life rounded out my Top 5 films with 4 stars. It was my first watch and definitely a good time. The main character Maynard gets mistaken for Bigfoot after he is caught wallowing in moonshine and cavorting around town in the middle of the night. The Holiday Calendar (another Hallmark-esque romantic comedy), right on the heels of Pottersville, is about a magical Advent calendar that shows the main character Abby that dreams can come true in unexpected ways. The Night Before (adult humor), The Christmas Chronicles (kids catching Santa off guard), and Rise of the Guardians (holiday representatives come together to solve a problem) all received 4 stars as well for pure enjoyment. Rise of the Guardians was another rewatch and every bit enjoyable as the first time I watched it with Andrew in the theater many moons ago. My 3-star movies included Holidate (more adult humor mixed with a Hallmark vibe), Surviving Christmas with the Relatives (British comedy), and Unaccompanied Minors (kids catching airport officials off guard). Unaccompanied Minors replaced Almost Christmas since I could not get the DVD in time from Netflix. All of the Classic Christmas movies on my list this year were enjoyable, and I would recommend all twelve of them.

Books/Short Stories

I read my first Fear Street book, Silent Night, by R.L. Stine. Kelsi gifted me a copy for Christmas. I loved the thematic setting at Christmastime blended with a mystery, murder, and mayhem. The other books that I read this season were Robot Santa (sequel to Santa’s Twin) by Dean Koontz, Wraith (prequel to NOS4A2) by Joe Hill, and He Sees You When He’s Creepin’: Tales of Krampus (collection of 12 short stories) edited by Kate Wolford. All of my books received 5 stars

because they are all awesome, in my opinion. What a great reading season! Kelsi and I talk more in depth about our books and movies in our wrap up chat which you can watch at your leisure. I have included our video below for your viewing pleasure.

Thematic Potpourri

In addition to amazing books and several terrific movies, I wore Christmas socks and pins. I added gnome socks and a Grinch t-shirt to my Christmas clothing collection. On the subject of gnomes, I bought a few to add to my Christmas decor. I am officially obsessed with GNOMES. My affinity for these small mythical creatures happened quite by accident when I found a couple of them at Hobby Lobby to add to my autumn decor.

I am also collecting little birds that reflect the season. You will notice them popping up here and there in my pictures. I received one a few Christmases ago, and since this last fall (again shopping for autumn decor), I am noticing them for other holiday seasons. In addition to buying Christmas decor, I bought Christmas cards to send out to my family and friends. I love sending cards to my favorite people for Christmas and for other special occasions. Funny enough, I picked out my cards way before I knew I was joyspotting in 2022.

No fun list is complete without thematic adult beverages and food. Unfortunately, I did not do any baking this year for Christmas. However, I enjoyed two new cocktails. The first concoction was a Mistletoe Margarita that I made for our family get-together on my husband’s side.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Silver Tequila
  • 1/2 cup Triple Sec
  • 1 1/2 cups Cranberry Juice
  • 1/2 cup Lime Juice
  • 1/2 cup Simple Syrup

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to large pitcher.
  • Stir well.
  • Pour into individual glasses over ice.

That is sugar on the rim of the glass.

The second concoction was a Cherry Ripe Martini that Kerry, Shelly’s husband, made for my hubby and me on Christmas evening, one of our favorite drink nights to spend with awesome friends. This year, my two boys came over and hung out with all of us.

Ingredients

  • 30 ml White Creme De Cacoa
  • 30 ml Cherry Liquor
  • 20 ml Vodka
  • 100 ml Coconut Milk

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to large pitcher.
  • Stir well.
  • Pour into individual martini glass over drizzled Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

I also bought a “happy” for myself. OwlCrate, a YA book subscription box I have purchased in the past, offered a 12 Days of OwlMas box for the holiday season, and I ordered one. Starting on Monday, 13 December, I opened one gift each day for twelve days leading up to Christmas Day. I recorded my unboxing each day through pictures on my Instagram account (katherineloyacano). It inspired me to make a 12 Days of Christmas “happy” for Kelsi with all kinds of little gifts related to pop culture that she loves. I had a blast gathering the gifts, wrapping them, and writing out the clues on each tag. I love this project so much that I want to do it again next year and plan to expand it. Plus, I have all year to gather the little gifts instead of just a couple of weeks.

December was a fun-filled month that made my life merry and bright. I spent time with amazing people, participated in awesome activities, and received some great gifts. As I mentioned before, dear reader, creating a fun list for a holiday, a month, or even a season adds a happiness boost to your life. It can be as simple or as extravagant as you want it to be, but the goal is to add a little extra fun to your existing plans. Stay warm, dear reader. Happiness!

“Christmas,” says Santa,” is about living your life with love and a spirit of giving, friendship, compassion, peace, and bright hope.” ~ Dean Koontz, Robot Santa: The Further Adventures of Santa’s Twin

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