Staccato Rhythm

15819297We Live In Water: Stories by Jess Walter
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Upon completion of this book of short stories, I feel like I’ve taken multiple personality disorder to a whole new level. First, I panhandled on the street corner watching the BMWs and the Mercedes and the Lincolns drive by; then I slept with a married woman and stole money from my bookie; then I hid in a closet behind my coveralls with the lights off, staking out my kids on my day off from Kaiser Aluminum with a six-pack next to me; next I fished with another man on the lake instead of taking my dialysis treatments; then I decided to stalk my ex-girlfriend, to the point that she went back to her no good ex-boyfriend who had cheated on her with another woman because he was a good listener; then I conned kids into passing out Greenpeace brochures in the middle of a Portland mall; next I was divorced and worried about my son staying with his mother and her druggie boyfriend; then I found myself in the middle of Starbucks-Financial on the verge of the apocalypse witnessing a zombie attack; next I hightailed it to Las Vegas to kill the shithead who turned my sister into a whore; then I had to deal with a senile, racist older woman who liked to use the term nigger like she was at a bridge club meeting and we were back in the stone age; then I picked up trash on the side of the highway with a guy named Ricky who compared futures to black holes; next my mouth watered at the thought of cinnamon rolls and chili and scones and Hot Pockets and pretzels and sandwiches and oat bars and muffins and Sun Chips and pepperoni sticks and I planned to wash it all down with a Dr. Pepper; and last, I sat up in the middle of the night with a flashlight and a shotgun to guard my bike because I’d broken the lock and failed to acquire a new one in a timely fashion.

Instead of having a particular story or two that stood out in this collection, all of the stories in WE LIVE IN WATER: STORIES captured my attention. Each one seemed like the perfect length to tell the tale, the characters coming alive in bursts as short as 2 pages or as long as 24, the staccato rhythm more powerful than machine gun fire, with dark times and dark characters hovering around me like a swarm of bees.

1. “Anything Helps” – If I stood on the street corner long enough, not my usual spot but my second choice, with my hand held out and a pitiful expression painted on my face, I might end up with enough coins and bills in my pocket to buy my son the latest Harry Potter book.

2. “We Live In Water” – If I could just find out what happened to my father and that no good whore who caused him to stray from the chicken coop, when he needed a few bills back in the day and managed to get a little something else on the side, I might set my conscience in the right spot.

3. “Thief” – If I sat in my closet long enough, the air hanging over me like a fog, the clothes shoved against my cheeks, huddled in the back like a squirrel with a mouthful of nuts, the cans of beer getting warm at my side, I might know whether it was little, middle, or the girl who needed a few extra quarters.

4. “Can A Corn” – If I cast my line just right, the air slapping against my face, my friend yapping away at my side, I might actually forget about my fucking dialysis treatments.

5. “Virgo” – If the pissant ex-boyfriend, Mark Aikens, the one who cheated on Tanya because he couldn’t keep it in his pants, ever got wind of my stalker tendencies and my level of intensity, he might renege on the no-contact order and actually move to Mars or Jupiter, and I could get my life back, before I resorted to tweaking horoscopes.

6. “Helpless Little Things” – If I had known I could have Greenpeace and save the whales and keep the scam going until I was a happy man, I might have done a few things differently.

7. “Please” – If I didn’t have an ex-wife who chose loser boyfriends with choppy attitudes and who just happened to be maladjusted members of society, I wouldn’t have had to worry about my son.

8. “Don’t Eat Cat” – If I hadn’t witnessed a zombie attack two years earlier at Starbucks-Financial and been turned down by the government for an operation, I might not have chased after the one that got away.

9. “The New Frontier” – If my best friend Bobby hadn’t chased after his sister Lisa like some half-crazed loon, collecting nudie cards from snappers like they were government handouts, visiting every strip club within a ten-mile radius until “my balls feel like they’re going to explode” and I lose “my sense of chivalry, having a constant erection,” I might have enjoyed myself a bit more in Las Vegas.

10. “The Brakes” – If the old bitty had developed just a bit more sense and my fellow mechanics had seen a bit of integrity instead of dollar signs, I might have been able to shield my son from the ensuing madness.

11. “The Wolf And The Wild” – If I hadn’t been forced to volunteer for sophomores and second-graders with names like Megan and Drew and J’mar and Tania and DeAndre and Macro, I might not have realized the shitty state of our educational system.

12. “Wheelbarrow Kings” – If I hadn’t been forced to wheel a TV that was five feet by five feet by three feet, in a wheelbarrow with a bum wheel with a friend that had arms the size of pool sticks on a muggy day, I might not have scored my latest bump and some Sun Chips.

13. “Statistical Abstract For My Hometown Of Spokane, Washington” – If I had left Spokane, Washington in a timely fashion, like the 2,632 illegal aliens that had been deported, I might not have had my bike stolen twice, been stalked by some crazy-assed man that liked to punch himself for fun and not been surprised by a bad neighborhood every three blocks.

But, then, I might not have discovered and enjoyed this book.

Eccentric Read

8710152Fender Benders by Bill Fitzhugh
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Money turns otherwise rational people into shitheads, and people with more money than sense often turn out to be the biggest shitheads of all. And fame amplifies small idiosyncrasies into major catastrophes, to include drug use, fornication, and anger management issues. These themes run rampant in Bill Fitzhugh’s masterpiece.

Eddie Long, a talented artist looking for his big break, gets it on both ends: Megan Taylor, a newly attached love interest, who is the pitch-perfect gold digger and Big Bill, a record executive with three ex-wives, who’s as unscrupulous as any political fat cat in the DC metropolitan area. Big Bill talks with one hand and shoves every bill he can find down the front of his massive drawers with the other, mostly off of unsuspecting artists too wet-behind-the-ears to notice. And he talks faster than a locomotive without brakes.

As for the best way to describe this book, it’s like Metallica combined with Carrie Underwood and Eminem. For the first part of FENDER BENDERS, I felt like I had wrapped an axle around a tree, but the car was still running, and so I checked my rearview to make sure no one had seen me or the tree, and then I peeled back out onto the highway and kept my eyes on the horizon. Sure, this novel can be discombobulated at times, mostly near the first half of the book, but like my torn up wheels, as long as it helps me reach my final destination, I’m willing to get a bit sidetracked along the way, especially when the payoff makes me glad I took a slight detour. And it all comes together like a 100 piece orchestra reaching the dramatic crescendo.

As for the insights into the music industry, they were refreshing, completely believable (clearly Mr. Fitzhugh has done his homework), and not overdone, at least not any more outlandish than the rest of the novel, which had me in stitches at times. But I ended up getting rather peeved at Nashville, the music industry, and all the ways artists get ripped off in the name of stuffing some fat cat’s bank account. The starving artist never comes out ahead, no sir. Sure, it’s easy to take this novel tongue-in-cheek, but what really caused the air around me to turn hotter than a sauna is that there’s an element of truth, and possibly even more so than just an element, in what this novel brings to light about overzealous pocket stuffing. I mean, when lawyers are showing more morals than record executives clearly there’s a level of corruption proliferating that would make even Enron and WorldCom blush.

If Bill Fitzhugh ever ended up in his own story, he’d be placed in a straightjacket, handcuffed to a bed, and pumped so full of meds, he’d think the world was painted in rainbows with popsicle sticks. So for those of you who like humor, with eccentric characters and eccentric reads being your modus operandi, then you might want to hop in your Mercedes and head on down the highway, where the tea is always sweet, the shrimp are always fried, and your only source of music is country.

Spitting Fire And Spewing Smoke

17928016Songs Of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Worthless, spineless, gutless, emotionless, insignificant, cowardly evil bastards filled this novel to the point that my world overflowed with a god-awful stench that smelled worse than elephant dung and monkey poo and singed every last nose hair. This tale burst forth with enough villains to occupy an entire wing of the county jail and had a few folks that might need to sit in the electric chair. Spitting fire and spewing smoke, I finished SONGS OF WILLOW FROST while cursing social workers with no social skills; a stepfather and father that proves any man filled with semen can knock up a woman, but the term father is earned through hard work and dedication to the cause; an aunt with high and mighty airs that needs a firm dose of reality along with a side helping of a smack down by The Rock; a lily-livered, pussy-footed halfwit who focuses more on tradition and not disappointing his family than following his heart…and fuck me I need a drink. Or better yet just leave the bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold and a wastebasket, and I’ll see you in the morning.

If our country ever becomes overrun by Uncle Leo and Auntie Eng and Colin Kwan and Mrs. Peterson and Charlotte’s pathetic excuse for a father, I’ll defect to Australia and commune with the crocodiles and probably double my happiness quotient. But William Eng and Liu Song carried this tale with pomp and plenty of charm and charisma. These two proved beyond tragic, as the world stomped on each of them time and time again. I constantly found myself asking how much worse could it get, and this question was followed by yet another tragedy. If I could have found a way, I would have asked the bad man to leave. The disasters were so profound I found myself wondering if I might benefit from the addition of prescription medication or electroshock therapy while clenching a piece of rubber between my teeth.

But like William and Liu, I wouldn’t give up, and I wouldn’t give in, and I wouldn’t let the bad man win. Reading this story proved a study in perseverance and courage and profound dedication, because every time the nail dropped my foot exploded in a white light of pain, and I cursed a blue streak loud enough to resurrect a Chinaman from his grave. But what kept me reading as much as the wonderfully drawn characters was the beautiful prose and animated spirit that flowed out of this novel and tickled my senses. Even if I had tried to pull myself away, I wouldn’t have made it far.

Disappointment rained down on me, and the characters, with hail the size of golf balls and clouds as dark as sin. In the end, though, there’s a positive message here: Pure beauty can come from the most horrid experiences. And on that note we shall depart, as I seek out a pumice stone to rub my entire body and cleanse my tainted aura.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

A Gay Day

17138311The Suite Life by Suzanne Corso
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

With this novel, I’m willing to hold my pencil in my right hand and my ballot in my left hand and make a noncommittal commitment and say this was an average read for me. It reminded me of hayrides and meandering joyrides. It provided insights into a world where affection proved at a premium and offered up sexless marriages and ambition and ego that overshadowed all other experiences and problems. It filled me with broken promises and unfulfilled dreams.

Suzanne Corso lets her love of Brooklyn and “The Big Apple” and Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, congestion, population overflows, toll roads and toll bridges and bountiful high rises and dollar bills and cab rides, limos, Mercedes convertibles, and BMWs and stock options and Wall Street and Main Street shine through on the page. What would a novel that includes the NYSE be, though, without acquisitions and mergers and accounting irregularities and power and authority and reckless greed and constant excess and careless abandon and penile injections and horny dogs and $20K a day porn stars. In that regard, THE SUITE LIFE reminded me of Congress and the DC area.

But this novel proved to be a bit more than just A Gay Day. Sure, it had the syrupy air and atmosphere of women’s fiction, but I enjoyed the somewhat loose connection to a Wall Street powerbroker with a private jet and helicopter and his Long Island compound, even if Alec DeMarco did like to shoot himself full of HGH, testosterone, steroids, alternative and natural medicine, designer drugs, and popped the occasional Percocet.

Since I could practically live on food and finance and books and movies, I didn’t mind all the references to stocks and bonds, trading companies, investment firms, and real estate and restaurants and shows, clubs, strippers, hookers, and escort services and porn, pot, and pills. But keep in mind, this book does have the occasional college age floozy and loose women who strive for more.

It proved to be a relatively light read where I could park my brain at the door and forget who I was for a few hours. And that was A-OK by me.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Escape From The Real World

43641Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

With 48,386 reviews, including this one, most of what could have already been said about WATER FOR ELEPHANTS has probably already been said. But that’s not going to stop me from trying, because I have confidence and determination and I often find myself in lineups where I’m the one who appears out of line. And when weirdness and eccentricities are encouraged, it tends to work better than Miracle-Gro and direct sunlight and watering.

Jacob Jankowski proves more than a little odd beneath his shirt collar. He has flashbacks to his circus days where he spent all of his time shoveling shit and smashing watermelons and filing toenails (Rosie’s) and hopping on trains and off trains and carrying knives between his teeth and chasing after married women and chasing after elephants and shoving his hand in a tiger’s cage and waiting for the flag to drop and speaking Polish (most of which I didn’t understand) and training elephants and speaking more Polish. But I could relate rather easily because I spend much of my time staring at white space and filling it with Times New Roman font and pretending that people actually think I’m witty and charming and wonderful when my reviews and novels are placed in avid reader’s hands. Because if Jacob hadn’t skipped out on one life to chase after another and I couldn’t pretend I was someone else for hours at a time, the real world might close in faster than a mushroom cooked in a skillet.

But I wasn’t blissfully ignorant after this tale, though. Finding out many of the antidotes contained in this story were at least partially, or in some cases whole-heartedly, based on actual events with the names changed to protect the guilty proved a rather outstanding addition. Since, on occasion, I do like the prospect of getting smarter, especially when I can have fun while doing it. And this was a rather enjoyable tale with Uncle Al and Rosie and August and Marlena and Kinko and plenty of other secondary characters with full-fledged personalities who proved to be more than just a series of caricatures thrown in for good measure to make the main character look pretty and exciting and interesting.

Set during a rather depressing time in our nation’s history, this story wasn’t the least bit depressing, although men were tossed from the train faster than shot glasses tossed back at a bar by some guy with antelopes for arms. While that might turn folks off, I was rather pleased with the thought of bubble gum and candy corn and candied apples. If I want to feel dejected and disheartened, I can find plenty of reasons to sit in a corner with my head pushing against my ankles, thank you very much. I don’t need it from a vessel that I like to use as an escape hatch from the real world where fairies and wands and cooch tents and sexy sheer night gowns and six-dollar smiles and two-dollar whores can be had whenever the mood strikes.

If I didn’t end with more than a few words on Barbara, though, my world wouldn’t be complete. She commanded center stage at the cooch tent with her foot long breasts and feminine wiles and brown nipples the size of paper plates and painted expressions, as she danced and swung her hips like a supermodel down a runway. Her happy sacks increased in width at the end and her smudged lipstick and smokin’ tobacco and sexy sheer nightgown where I could literally see and hear her bare breasts slapping together. All of which resulted in a totally titillating experience from which I shall never be the same.

As for this novel, it proved to be a rather entertaining escape from reality.

Where Have All The Detectives Gone

Why does chick lit seem to get all of the attention? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of Nora Roberts, Jennifer Weiner, and even Nicholas Sparks capturing the vast majority of the reading public’s as well as the news media’s attention. When I sit down to read a book, I want action scenes and plenty of them. I want a strong male lead that is bound and determined not to take crap from anyone, including the freak with a machete in one hand and an AK-47 in the other. I want explosions, bar fights, gun fights, car chases, and rooftop scuffles. The more the merrier. And I don’t want to get in touch with my feelings, unless I’m being dragged by the collar into the heart of the action, and I come out on the other side with more bruises than I can count on both hands.

So what’s gone wrong? There was a time—and not all that long ago—when Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler ruled the page and gathered a large handful of memorable quotes, as well as a passionate audience that extended around the globe. A time when Ian Fleming was a literary genius, and James Bond developed a massive following that extended beyond the page to the widescreen. You may argue—and you would certainly be correct—that James Bond is still alive and well today, with the great Jeffrey Deaver writing the latest James Bond masterpiece, and Daniel Craig showing his prowess on the big screen. But James Bond has had two periods of dormancy on the big screen, most recently related to the financial struggles of United Artists. While James Bond is still popular, and will continue to remain so, he has lost a bit of his charisma and casual charm.

Embrace Strong Masculine Leads

We shouldn’t shy away from strong, masculine leads; on the contrary, we need to embrace these characters with open arms. Men have discarded reading like a pair of day old socks, with over 80% of readers being female. But all hope is not completely lost. We have what Stephen King has called MANfiction, a genre still alive today. Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and Robert Crais are three MANfiction authors, who are building large followings in their own right. And you have new authors, like yours truly, breaking onto the scene year after year. But we need more. MANfiction is escapist fiction for men the way chick lit is escapist fiction for women. It brings us to the very heart of what manliness is about, and it reminds us that no matter where we live, or what profession we are in, there’s someone out there who can kick some serious butt, and he’s going to use his mouth and his fists to point himself in the right direction. It’s a wakeup call on the essence of manhood, and if you like to read, I can’t think of a better form of entertainment. Men can learn a lot about being men, especially if the good guys normally win. MANfiction transcends the page to the very heart of unadulterated living.

How To Create MANfiction

If you’re a man, and you want to spin such a tale, what do you need to do? In this case, it’s all about the main character, and you want him to be as bold as the next Presidential candidate. His feelings should be shown with a .44 Magnum or brass knuckles. In fiction, leave relationships to women, unless we’re talking about short-lived endeavors. Let’s face it men, they are better at it than we are. We still need to try, because there’s something to be said for effort, but once in a while, it’s nice to focus on what we’re good at, take pride in it, and relish it for all that it’s worth: conflict spoken through a boxing match or a grenade launcher. If you’re writing a romance novel, or paranormal suspense, because it’s popular right now, then you might want to take a step back and reevaluate your situation, along with possibly your manliness. Popularity ebbs and flows like the ocean in the middle of hurricane season. You can’t trust it, and you certainly can’t judge where it will be tomorrow. But you can count on men, massive amounts of them to read MANfiction, as men continue to read men, not because it’s popular, but because it’s ingrained in our core, to the heart of our existence. Even some women enjoy action, strong male leads, and the occasional dip into the MANfiction pool. All you have to do is mention the name Jack Reacher, and you’re liable to get a few rosy cheeks and a few women short of breath.

Leave Feelings Out Of It

So what about your feelings? Talking about feelings isn’t something men normally do, and it’s not something that should be present in MANfiction. Instead of talking with their mouths, men talk with their fists. And it’s the exact same scenario in MANfiction. Delivering quick wit, however, is highly encouraged, and oftentimes necessary to get your point across. But a little bit of dialogue and introspection goes a long way. No need to prolong the inevitable, when the next action sequence is right around the corner, and the man on the other side has barbells for arms and a refrigerator for a chest.

Less is often more, and it’s very much the case with MANfiction. If you can use flowery words, vivid descriptions, and create imagery that will make the clouds part and the seas divide—don’t. It’s a waste of space, a waste of words, and readers are likely to skip over it to the next big fight scene. Of course, you don’t want to completely skip over description—that’s not what I’m advocating for—but you don’t want to bask in all of its glory and have it be the heart of your novel either. When, like description, there are plenty of other novels you can read. If you want a good, old-fashioned, ride-of-your-life, hanging to the cliff by your fingernails sort of ride, then grab your paperback, hardback, Kindle, or Nook, raise it high—like you would your bottle of Bud—and salute MANfiction for all that it was, all that it is, and all that it can be. You’ll be glad you did.

Embracing MANfiction

It doesn’t matter if you’re a reader of MANfiction, a writer who has an idea for the next masculine lead, or someone who has never picked up a hard-boiled tale, it’s time to embrace these novels for the escapist fiction that they are, before chick lit takes over the world. MANfiction provides the yin to chick lit’s yang, and the world needs both to balance out the universe.

Cocksure Attitude

11367726Defending Jacob by William Landay
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I hated Jacob and would have preferred to rub his cocksure attitude into the sand, knock him over the head with a shovel, and then bury him with said object about six feet under. He’s more emotionless void than passionate Picasso, and he feels absolutely no responsibility for his actions. That’s your typical teenager, at least on the latter, but not having a heart is not exactly what I strive toward every day of my life. And yet I ended up completely immersed in legalese and legal suspense.

William Landay has a knack for plotting novels, or at least based on the merits of DEFENDING JACOB. The spoon-fed trial details, the slipping between the present and the past almost effortlessly, the family history that comes out later like a pissed off reptile, and the emotional struggle to hold a family together even as it’s being torn apart all make for one glorious read. And yet he takes nearly 431 pages to answer one basic question: Is Jacob guilty or not? If you peel back all the emotional layers and struggles and doubts and accusations, that’s the bottom line. To put it mildly, he does it really, really well.

Andy Barber doesn’t want to answer this question. He doesn’t want to believe he could have made an error raising his son; instead, he chooses to focus on the goodness and righteousness that he sees every day in Jacob. He’ll do whatever it takes to defend his boy, even if it means lying or circumventing the truth or covering up details along the way. But then I’m the kind of person who thinks celebrities and other public figures should act in a professional, civic manner, and I hold myself to the same standards that I hold others to (often to be disappointed by said individuals somewhere along the way). None of that detracted from my overall reading experience, though. It just gave me a few additional thought molecules.

But I will say I didn’t like the ending. Even though it doesn’t change my rating, I would have been happier had the book ended about 30 pages sooner. Sure, it was an excellent twist, but it’s not one I was particularly happy about.

Snowballed Downhill Faster Than A Model T

17784738The Bones Of Paris by Laurie R. King
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

The reading slump marches onward, as do I. I almost feel like the poster child for one of those anger management classes where we discuss our feelings and the source of our discontent and why we have problems dealing with our emotional issues and why we can’t get along and actually be productive, contributing members to society. I don’t have a valid reason for my current behavior, other than to say I’ve been disappointed and repelled with the current crop of books that has made its way onto my Kindle. Most of it is of my own doing, but I couldn’t say no to free books, and I wanted to broaden my horizons a bit with some different reads. I’d like to apologize in advance as I attempt to control my out-of-synch behavior and reach that happy place—that book loving utopia—that I know is out there waiting for me, but alas, I will not find with THE BONES OF PARIS.

That’s not to say this tale is a bad or horrid or evil or wicked or corrupt read. Oh, no, this novel held promise and writing talent and dangled both in front of me like the proverbial carrot, as my jaws snapped at the proffered present, and I clenched nothing but air between my teeth. I tried and tried and tried again to end up sucked into a world where Paris, France stood tall and proud and larger-than-life with characters who felt realistic and hopeful and truthful, and I ended up flat on my back with my legs sticking straight up in the air in a sort of bike pedaling motion.

Harris Stuyvesant proved to have one-too-may sticks up his bunghole, and try as I might, I couldn’t pull them all out without removing most of his personality in the process. While he was certainly an admirable character, I never felt emotionally connected to him, almost as if he stood at a distance, while I stood at an easel and politely provided a portrait. Nancy Berger and Sarah Grey, however, proved much more to my liking and every bit as entertaining as I had hoped poor Harris would be. The rest of the cast of characters proved both interesting and a bit off-putting in a snooty sort of air that left my feathers more than a bit ruffled.

The main plot proved engaging, but the sidebars and sidetracks and subplots and runaway tractor trailers kept me from ever being fully engaged in this tale. Instead, I stood on the side of the road with my thumb pointed upward, as this tale passed me by without even a second glance in my direction. And for a while the writing was good enough that it didn’t matter, but about a third of the way through I began to have my doubts that only snowballed downhill faster than a Model T.

*BEGIN SPOILER* The climax and resolution left me more than a bit underwhelmed. To have the villain blame the machine for the rather fantastical killing spree seemed just a wee bit much to me. And what kind of a name is Le Comte Dominic de Charmentier? He sounds as pompous as a proud politician, but yet he’s this criminal mastermind that pretty much spouts at the mouth like a fountain telling Bennett Grey the reason for his actions, and then he’s going to off himself with his own gun. It all seemed a bit too Candy Land for me. *END SPOILER*

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

No Plethora Of Adverbs

16130073North Sea Requiem by A.D. Scott
My Rating: 1/5 Stars

“To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” – Mark Twain

With the publication of this review, Simon & Schuster and Atria executives will have bleeding ears and red faces and I’ll be placed in the crosshairs of a hit man named Jeb and I’ll be quietly removed from NetGalley and Amazon will put me in chains and lock me away and I’ll be alienated and isolated to the point that no one will talk to me but my wife and some little dog named Fluffy who will come and visit me when I’m put in an insane asylum and shoved in a straitjacket and thrust paper cups at random intervals filled with blue, white, and yellow pills.

If I could provide a one-sentence summary, it’d be as follows: Aspiring authors should read this novel for what not do as a writer. Forget Fifty Shades, this is your Bible. Study it, learn it, and then don’t ever fucking do it. Okay? Okay.

Here are a few of the highlights/lowlights:
Passive voice? Check.
Exclamation point minefields? Check.
Repeated dialogue? Check.
Circular communication? Check.
Not getting to the point? Check.
Am I making myself clear? No.
Verbose to the point that I wanted to offer up editing services? Check.
Overuse of accent and dialect? Check.
Historical? Yes.
Mystery? Possibly but it was a side car on this happy train.
Plenty of clichés? Check.
Used thought/saw and likeminded words to the point that it pulled me out of the story? Check.
Overuse of telling instead of showing? Check.
Stilted dialogue? Check.
Stilted characters? Check.
Plot twists? Possibly but I missed that particular train.

This novel made me so angry that I thought I had developed a complex. I wanted to tackle Santa Claus, throttle the Easter Bunny, and punch out the tooth fairy. And I had this absolute darkness lingering over me like a rain cloud. On the bright side, I came up with a character that will have a mother lode of shit dumped on his head, as I explore the depths of darkness ordinary individuals can sometimes face. If not for this particular book, this wouldn’t have been possible.

Oh, and Stephen King will be pleased that at least one element of his craft was followed—there wasn’t a plethora of adverbs.

I literally wanted to pound the shit out of NORTH SEA REQUIEM with a hacksaw, hammer, battering ram, and a flack vest. And then pick it back up and do it all over again.

Curtain calls and fancy halls and soccer balls and…you may finish this sentence however you like.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

A Disturbance In The Creative Force

17928002Alex by Pierre Lemaitre
My Rating: 1/5 Stars

If I may be so bold, I’d like to begin at the end and say there’s definitely a “disturbance in the creative force.”—thanks Amanda Or at least that was my first thought after completing this novel.

If I didn’t want to embrace books with a warm hug and proceed to shove them out into the world by talking about them, promoting them, and engaging in lively discussions with informed readers across the space and time continuum for the rest of my life without fail, I could very easily just write ALEX off and move on with my life, rubbing my palms together, and then ducking under an overpass while the train rocks the tracks above my head. But that wouldn’t be okay, and it certainly isn’t a productive use of my time. Maybe I’m half-sensitive, half-crazy, prone to second-guessing, and have enough of an ego that I feel like I need to somehow be a productive member of society and make some sort of contribution before I dissipate off this Earth faster than a fart in the New Mexican wind, so here we are, wonderful reader and I, dancing the tango over yet another book review. Where I hope to impart a few thoughts, informed opinions, and constructive criticisms, and you can pretend that you actually give a flying fart.

Here are a few of the issues:
Constant telling to the point that I wanted to rip my hair out? Check.
Inside Alex’s head way too much, to the point that I could set up camp, read a newspaper, and smoke a cigarette while balancing a tumbler on my left knee? Check.
Shaggy dialogue? Check.
Exclamation point minefields? Check.
Not getting to the point? Check.
Am I making myself clear? No.
Piss-poor similes and metaphors? Check.
Overstated, redundant, bloated prose? Check.
Stilted, stiff, wooden, overformal, mannered, and pretentious dialogue? Check.
Overemphasis on ellipses? Check.
Repetitious to the point that I thought I had developed CRS disease? Check.
Drama and heightened tension sucked out of the prose faster than a Hoover by mediocre writing? Check.
Excessive stammering to the point that I wanted to offer speech lessons? Check.
Mystery? Possibly but it was a side car on this happy train.
A supposed thriller minus most of the thrills? Check.
Plenty of clichés? Check.
Immediate and unexplained epiphanies? Check.
Brings words like pussyfooting to the foray? Check.
Penchant for passive voice? Check.
Almost seemed to switch POV in the middle of a few scenes? Check.
Editing comments that were both annoying and frustrating and over explained the difference between French and English? Check. (This should be fixed upon the official release, otherwise readers are in for a real treat.)

For the first two-thirds or so of this tale, Alex Prevost just might have been my least favorite character of all time. I’m not sure I could have looked at her, or even been in the same room with her, and being in her head for so long proved rather torturous, corrupting me on more than one level. *BEGIN SPOILER* But once I did understand the motivations for her actions, she did grow on me however slightly, even though it was probably a bit too late in the game for me to come full circle in my way of thinking. And the ending itself proved a bit farfetched even for this roller-coaster-induced tale. *END SPOILER*

If I didn’t already have some sort of complex where I tend to question myself, ponder the meaning of life, and seek out both the good in people and books, I might be perfectly fine with writing two one-star reviews in a row. But I can’t help but feel as though I have somehow failed the universe.

Upon finishing ALEX, I don’t really feel anger or frustration or fury or annoyance, I feel a lingering, profound sadness that hangs over me like the sun, a sense of defeat and loss and despair that clings to me like a wet t-shirt, and then I don’t really feel much of anything at all.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.