These Toxic Things by #RachelHowzellHall

It took me a little while to actually decide to read These Toxic Things for a few reasons. To be brutally honest, I haven’t read very many books written by Black authors. When I do, I end up loving them but I’m always a bit hesitant writing reviews for fear of being nonauthentic or coming across as artificial. At my age sometimes we’re still learning, you know? It’s sad that we have to learn at all but we are. With that said, I absolutely loved These Toxic Things!

Mickie is a young Black woman who creates Memory banks, holographic scrapbooks, for people. Do these even exist and if they do, I want one!! I created digital scrapbooks professionally for years for people and this is would be like the Tesla of the scrapbooking world. Anyway, she is hired to create a Memory Bank for an elderly woman who has Alzheimer’s. The woman is truly looking forward to telling her story to Mickie, they meet once and then the woman commits suicide. Mickie, however, is not convinced that it IS suicide and as she continues to work on the woman’s memories she finds that the memories are pointing her toward a very horrifying conclusion. In addition, there are things in Mickie’s personal life that are not as they seem which are becoming interwoven with her job on the Memory Bank and soon it all comes crashing down. Who survives? Who doesn’t?

Wow – there is so much going on in the book but there a few things that should be addressed. First, I seriously don’t give two shits whether Mickie, at age 24, is a millennial a Gen Zer, a Boomer or whatever other word our idiotic society has come up with to divide this society. She’s a character in a book. Get over it already. Second, Black is used with a capital “B” because that is how the publishing industry has set its standard from the Associated Press to Reuters to every worth publishing house in the US. If you don’t like, if you feel you need to give a book a one star rating based on this, then perhaps you should get help for your very overt racism. Third, there is CURSING in the fucking book. Yep, there is. That’s what grown ass adults do in the real world. If you are not adult enough to read a book with FUCK in it then might I suggest the Christian book section for you or Clifford the Big Red Dog!!!

There! I loved the book. The writing is authentic. The characters are REAL!!! The story is not predictable but you might figure out “whodunnit.” Who cares!? Go get your junior detective badge and pin it on. GREAT BOOK!!!!!!!! I’m off to read more of her books right now. I hope she curses in those as well!

Three For Thursday: I Will Make You Pay, On Cold Ground and Tell No Lies

There was a time during 2020, when I simply had to step away from crime fiction and thrillers. Perhaps it was the reality of death everywhere or maybe I had hit a tipping point of reading too many but I switched gears into other genres. I’ve gone back to some types of crime fiction as you can tell from my posts, but thrillers and suspense still leave me dry. The three books that I am featuring today were some I set aside and came back to and, for the most part, I’m glad that I did.

I WILL MAKE YOU PAY by Teresa Driscoll

Driscoll is one of my favorite go-to authors for creepy, timely crime fiction. She nearly always hits on a subject that we’re already feeling a bit uncomfortable with such as social media. I Will Make You Pay is another in that same vein. Alice is a journalist who begins receiving strange phone calls every Wednesday like clock work. At first she brushes it off as a crank call but when gifts begin arriving as well, she realizes she has a stalker. Uhm, yes Alice, you do. It took her a bit too long to come to this realization I think.

Alice’s boss wants her to take some time away from work and her husband hires a private detective but he discovers more secrets about Alice than he does about the person stalking her. So many secrets, lies and miscues and so much stupidity from Alice made this book hard for me to stomach. Of all of Driscoll’s books, this is my least favorite just because I cared so little for Alice. I won’t give up on Driscoll but I cannot recommend this book either.


On Cold Ground is the fifth book in the Karen Hart series and I think it is the best thus far. I got sidetracked with other British police procedurals and then realized that I completely missed this one. Good thing I discovered my error because On Cold Ground is terrific!

Karen Hart is out enjoying the holiday festivities when she hears a scream from the nearby cathedral. Although it is her night off, one of few, she runs toward the scream and discovers a dead male with a cross carved into his forehead. Unknown to Karen, she has been followed for the past few hours by a person known as “the sparrow” and as the case gets more involved and twisted, there is a hint of police corruption involving a car accident. SO much to keep up with and yet it all ties together and is brilliantly done so with Butler’s deft writing skills. If you like British suspense then I highly recommend On Cold Ground which can be read as a stand alone, however, I encourage you to enjoy the entire series.

TELL NO LIES by Allison Brennan

I absolutely loved (!) The Third to Die which is the first in this series by Allison Brennan and I was really looking forward to reading the second! On top of that, the book’s subject matter was totally in my wheelhouse – environmental disasters and industry pollution killing wildlife and our national parks. Sadly, I couldn’t even finish the book. 😦 To be very honest, I have no idea why. I love the characters. I do. But the writing for this book was so utterly different from the first that I have difficulty believing that it was written by Allison Brennan. I am going upstream against all those who loved the book and I know that but this is one that I cannot recommend and Iwill be very leery about reading the next in the series.

Please share your thoughts with me. Have your read these books or others in the series? What did you think about them?

Please Share this FBI poster

Please share these photos far and wide and if you, or anyone you know, has information about these traitors, insurrectionists, then please alert the FBI. The US is only as strong as the laws by which we abide, as strong as the civility that we strive to create, as strong as the Constitution that we pledge to uphold.

WTF America!?

Since when has it been acceptable for FASCISTS to attempt to overthrow our democracy and since WHEN do reasonable, intelligent Americans sit idly by while this is happening in our country!? As for me, my family and my blog – we will not stand for FASCISM of any type and if you support the anarchists, including Trump and sons, then please remove yourself from my readership and my world. YOU are not acceptable! Ever!

A California Christmas by Brenda Novak

A California Christmas is the 7th book in the Silver Springs series by Brenda Novak. I’ve really enjoyed reading many of Novak’s hoiday tales in the past but A California Christmas fell flate for me. Generally, when a holiday tale comes along in the series the author gives you enough back story about others surrounding the main characters, or even the main characters themselves. I found myself getting annoyed because the author assumed I knew things that I did not SO, with that said, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you’ve read the others in the series. That said, and this is such a personal quirk, I cannot read and engage with any character named “Dallas.” Seriously, that’s a great name for a city and it’s a great porn name but it is not a great name for a character who doesn’t work for the Chippendales. This one was not for me.

Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison

If I could write a book, this is the one I would write!


Deadly Waters is an anthem to the “Me Too” movement. It is for all of the women who have ever had to clean themselves up in a bathroom, dried their tears with their friends in a stall, been told they should not have been somewhere, should have worn something different, looked different, just been pleased someone noticed them. This is for women who have been groped in the workplace, who were threatened with lesser grades if they didn’t comply with professors, who batted eyelashes at their bosses to keep their jobs. This is for those who testified against Supreme Court nominees only to see that POS sitting on the highest court of the land. It is for women every where, even those too brainwashed by a male dominated culture to know it is for them.

Eight college women living in a suite at a Florida university know about all of these things. They go to bars where they are touched, groped, have to walk in pairs, watch their drinks so they don’t get tanked and still end up attacked in the parking lot. It is about someone’s revenge against the worst of the aggressors – because this world knows you cannot deal with them all – by feeding them to the alligators who are in the swamps near the campus.  The author grapples with the emotions that all of the women are going through – shock, joy, relief, horror, more joy, the “what-ifs” and we, as a reader, take that journey with them.

Admittedly, even as devout feminist, my first reaction was “why do these girls keep going to these bars!?”  Wait, back that up. WHY don’t these men stop harassing women at bars, drugging their drinks!? You see, I’m originally from the south and I know a thing or two about southern universities and specifically I know about Florida and Arizona universities because they are diving schools. They are the worst. The things written in this book are accurate. It IS this bad. I’m not at all appalled that a woman began doing something about it herself because we have all sat by over the past decade and seen what is done to the men who are accused – NOTHING. EVER. And yet, other readers and reviewers have the audacity to say that the book is about hate? You bet it is! I am enraged at what our society has become. That readers can review books about male serial killers until the cows come home and love them but because this one is about a female, about women who actually are happy that men finally have to meet justice for the horrors that they perpetrate on women,  then female reviewers have their delicate sensibilities in an uproar. Shame on you! How many of us have been in the same situation? How man of us – even on places like Facebook and Goodreads – have to block the trollers who will not leave us alone just because we have tits!? And you think this book is about hate!? No – the world men have created is about hate and it is called misogyny!

I loved the book. I think it should required reading for women just so their minds are opened because, apparently, far too many have been brainwashed by society for far too long. I also love the fact that, because I did not receive this book from a publisher I am able to write an honest review my true opinions and not some watered down version of what I really think. It’s refreshing to be able to do that for a change.


Devolution – Max Brooks

On April 1, 1969 the Board of Commissioners of Skamania County, Washington State, adopted an ordinance for the protection of sasquatch/bigfoot creatures (Ordinance No.69-01)


No, don’t walk away because you think you know what this book is about. You don’t. I read it in all of my smugness, assuming it was going to be silly. After all – Big Foot. How seriously can you take a book about Big Foot!? Very. That’s how much! Because, Devolution really is about so much more than the creature you see skulking around in the movies and in strange commercials. It’s about American society and our fascination with technology, nature and introspection. It’s about ourselves.

Greenloop is meant to be a new urban model society. Set in the mountains of Washington, in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, it is a utopian society for a very select group of people who can contribute to the communal “green” society. The community is wholly self sustaining except for their One-Touch food delivery system brought to them by drones.  Their energy is solar and and waste-based. They have everything they need. They are “green” to gills and relish their very pro-nature, pro-animal, environmental lifestyle. Until Mt. Rainier decides to re-establish itself as the volcano that it is, cutting them off from the grid and from the rest of civilization. It also has cut off the rest of the animal kingdom from civilization. What happens from there is a tale that only Max Brooks could conceive.

The story is told from multiple perspectives – a journal kept by one of the residents, interviews with her brother who is searching for her, a companion guide to Sasquatch, and interviews with a park ranger who has been searching for survivors after the volcano. This method, its interlocking uses of back and forth data, make the story far more realistic than it otherwise might have been. There were times I found myself trying to verify sources before I had to remind myself that there was no eruption on Mt. Rainier. It really is written that realistically.

What further sets this book apart from other “monster horrors” is the character development. We are able to watch as characters are introduced, morph into leaders, fall apart under pressure, die, survive or not. This is the real backbone of Devolution. I would read it over and over again just to catch the nuances of these changes once more. They are brilliantly written. That isn’t to say that the book is without flaws because they are there. There were moments in the chapter segues that I thought Brooks was preaching and doing so about topics that were unrelated to the topics within the book. Hannah’s memoirs from the IDF were completely unnecessary. Others, however, were spot on so I tend to overlook the minor flaws in order to enjoy the greater perks of the book.

Do I believe in Big Foot after reading Devolution? Naaaahhh, wellll, not really. But I certainly won’t be found camping in Washington State anytime in this lifetime.

NOTE: I read this book during COVID and found such striking similarities between the Greenloop residents and those here in the US. Panic set in early regarding the lack of  food that would last more than a few days, undomesticated animals took over areas rather quickly from bears to wild cats to coyotes and foxes. Our technology and supply chains showed their weaknesses within one week. It was so apparent that “city dwellers” are ill equipped to survive any type of crisis which made Devolution all the more believable.