Funny All Of The Time

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My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I can state rather emphatically that this book does not suck elephant balls. In fact, you may have to hold your tallywhacker in place as you bend over at the waist from laughing so hard. Edward, my man, you are more than just pretty funny sometimes. I’d say you’re funny all of the time, even when you’re not trying to be.

I’d even go so far to say that I have what might be construed as a bromance with Edward Stanton. I don’t know if I’d call him my hero, but he’s a damn fine character, and this is one damn fine story. His preference for facts, dry sense of humor, cursing like he jammed his toe against the sofa and then smashed his head on a wooden table, repetition of choice words and phrases, photographic memory, extensive vocabulary, and his unique love for words make this son of a politician an absolute joy to behold. So much so that I just had to finish EDWARD ADRIFT in less than twenty-four hours.

Edward has some rather righteous curse words. Here are a few of my favorites: shitburger, whipdick, shitballs, chicken’s asshole, sort out the shithouse, and assweeds. I’d have to say it was fun to be fucking loaded and take a trip through Idaho and Wyoming and singing along to my bitchin’ iPhone playing R.E.M. songs on shuffle.

I really can’t decide whether 600 Hours Of Edward or EDWARD ADRIFT is better. It’s easy to make an argument for either one, and if you start spouting off to the wrong hothead, you may end up in fisticuffs. So choose your argument wisely and be ready to back it up with empirical data, not conjecture.

I won’t give away the ending, since I know you’ll want to read this literary masterpiece for yourself, but I will say it was the perfect ending to a perfect story. Had it ended any differently, Edward and I might not be on speaking terms right now.

I’d like to say you’re a cocksucking assweed if you don’t buy, beg, borrow, or berate your local library into carrying this novel, but I won’t. You may, however, have to hang your head in shame if you don’t hop in your Cadillac and traverse to your local bookstore to pick up your copy.

25 Days Of Enjoyment

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My Rating: 5/5 Stars

For the first time in my life, I actually felt like a hypochondriac. And for a day I thought I had Asperger’s syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, my every movement tracked and accounted for, as my social skills dropped off a precipitous edge, only to return to normal the next day.

Edward Stanton rocked 600 HOURS OF EDWARD like Mick Jagger in his prime. His head (and mine) filled with numbers, as we tracked weather patterns, wrote letters of discontent, and consumed spaghetti and Diet Dr. Pepper with reckless abandon. And like Joe Friday all we’re after are the facts.

The voice jolted through my brain like I was driving down the interstate at 70 MPH with the windows down and R.E.M. blaring through the speakers. Possibly even “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” turned up to maximum volume as we cross the border. It was a beautiful feeling, and I’m sorry to say it ended way too soon.

But it was Edward’s relationship with his father that stood at the center of this novel, defining both he and his dad with every letter and lawyer intervention. Without it, this story would have been a shell of the novel it could have been, even if the words for both Edward and his father didn’t always come out right, or took on new meaning in the course of one social evening.

Since online dating has become the next big thing, there’re even a few amusing bits about what can go right (and then horribly wrong) in the course of one evening. Edward has his timetable that he follows to the letter, and now I have mine: to purchase Edward Adrift when it becomes available on my Kindle on April 9.

Took My Breath Away

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My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I went Back To The Future in this gem of a novel. Although it saddens me to think in fifty years teenagers probably won’t get many of the pop culture references, I’ve decided to live in the moment, or the recent past, as this novel clearly does. With The Simpsons, American Idol, Letterman, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” Rolling Stone, Christina Aguilera, The Fugitive, “The Way You Look Tonight,” Today, Animal House, Spin Doctors, Blues Brothers, Monty Python, Good Morning Vietnam, Mannequin, and The Exorcist, they somehow all managed to “Take My Breath Away.” But this novel has more staying power than Cool Ranch Doritos, Wonder Bread topped with butter and cinnamon sugar, and gonorrhea.

Kate and Vi Shramm both have extrasensory perceptions (ESP), along with being identical twin sisters, although each chooses a much different path. While Vi chooses to embrace her powers and attack the spotlight like she wants to ensure she receives every minute of her fifteen minutes of fame, Kate shies away from her powers like she might have caught an STD from some overzealous frat boy. Both seem sexually experienced in my limited knowledge of the world, but for entirely different reasons. Vi uses her assets, in this case ample breasts, as a weapon to manipulate unsuspecting male suitors, and in some cases, just for the hell of it, tossing around hand jobs and sexual favors like ice cream cones to six year-olds, while Kate takes a more reserved approach to sex, except when gentleness, kindness, or bouts of uncontrollable passion cause her to expose her naughty bits.

Kate was the more likeable character, except I did have a few moments of displeasure with her over the course of the novel. Vi, however, was self-absorbed, hypocritical, irrational, contradictory, only acted in her own best interests, constantly passed judgment, and sometimes experienced what might be considered sociopathic tendencies. So I didn’t mind poking around in Kate’s head for some 400 odd pages or so. Had Vi been the real star of the show, though, I might have had an entirely different opinion of SISTERLAND.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

A Dude With Breasts

9732753First Grave On The Right by Darynda Jones
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Charlotte “Charley” Jean Davidson reminded me of a dude with breasts, a Meatloaf if you will, but with a rockin’ bod. Sorry Meatloaf. She has more attitude than a trust fund baby tooling around Albuquerque in a Lamborghini, stolen police siren, and Jimmy Choos. She even manages to name her womanly parts, and as far as I know, most women don’t bother. When you’re a guy, though, you can just name your penis Spike and be done with it. But coming up with four names certainly proves more of a challenge. If you’re curious, her breasts are Danger and Will Robinson, and her ovaries are Beam Me Up and Scotty. And if you don’t find that funny, or even slightly amusing, you probably won’t enjoy this novel.

Her voice sucked me in faster than you can say hoo-hah, as I rumbled along for one epic ride. I love great beginnings, and this novel certainly meets the criteria. FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT opens with these two lines: “I’d been having the same dream for the past month—the one where a dark stranger materialized out of smoke and shadows to play doctor with me. I was starting to wonder if repetitive exposure to nightly hallucinations resulting in earth-shattering climaxes could have any long-term side effects.”

Maybe being pulled out of a dream like the one above helps explain why she doesn’t like mornings, and I couldn’t do a better job of describing her complete and utter dislike of daybreak than Charley: “While I normally weighed around 125…ish, for some unexplainable reason, between the hours of partially awake and fully awake, I weighed a solid 470.”

Other than the voice, though, this novel managed to keep me entertained with antidotes accompanying the beginning of each chapter grabbing my attention. Whether a personal quote, bumper sticker, or t-shirt, with references to the dead and ADD and bright, shiny objects, it certainly added a little extra to the amusing tone confined within the constraints of this novel. Oh, and I can’t forget about the names and character nicknames that pop up over the course of this comical tale there’s Strawberry Shortcake and Bobby Socks and Patty Cakes Strip Clubs and Cookie Kowalski and Ubie and a car named Misery.

The mystery may not have overwhelmed me with its complexity, but with Charley by my side, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. While I had never contemplated having sex with a spirit before, were such a thing possible, I might have to reevaluate my Fantasy Sex Wish List. All in all, though, this particular concept sounds more intriguing to me than getting it on with vampires or werewolves.

Charley’s voice carried me above the usual fray and made my mystery/fantasy jaunt worth the journey.

Screwed Up Universe

16130228Light Of The World by James Lee Burke
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. As far as I know, no one does this better than James Lee Burke. The good guys are bad, and the bad guys are really bad. It’s like reading about pure unadulterated evil crafted around poetic prose, and it’s pretty wonderful, even if he does create one fucked up universe.

LIGHT OF THE WORLD feels like it’s covered in pure darkness. It’s filled with sexual assault and rape and Russian roulette and dead bodies and exploding planes and serial killers resurrected from the dead and a rodeo cowboy with a dark, checkered past. It felt as gruesome as any Stephen King novel, only my first thought was this could really happen, and then my second thought was I don’t ever want to go to Montana. In fact, maybe we should remove the state from future maps of the US. And as far as actual vacations go, I wouldn’t wish this vacation on my worst enemy.

And you want to hear something even more screwed up than all of that? This novel was therapeutic, almost cathartic even, and it was exactly the right story for me to read at this particular juncture, after coming off an unhealthy stream of mediocre affairs. I had my love of reading jarred back into me like a masked man with a blackjack, brass knuckles, nunchaku, and a nine millimeter strapped to his waist. And I surrendered with a smile on my face.

Gretchen Horowitz sounds like the ideal male fantasy, all chestnut hair and tits and legs, until it was revealed that she could pull the ass out of a rhinoceros and she’d killed men without blinking an eyelash. Taking two in the face and one in the jugular while I slept suddenly sounded a whole lot less appealing.

Dave Robicheaux, though, makes these stories sing baritone from the first row of the choir. He has as many demons as he has friends, but that makes him all the more appealing. As for Clete Purcel, he likes to drink and he likes his women and he has no problem mixing the two, and married women aren’t any less appealing than the ones that aren’t. But that doesn’t make him a bad man, just a highly tormented one, in a novel chock full of demented individuals, many of which, sheriffs and detectives included, ought to be locked in the slammer with the guard swallowing the key like he was a street performer in the middle of Las Vegas.

The plot proved more challenging than a Montana mountain range. With twists and turns and double backs and winding roads and steep cliffs with jagged edges and serpentine monsters waiting at the top of the next pass. In other words, it was a beautiful, complicated monstrosity filled with piss and spit and spite and it roared with its jaws open wide and it slashed its claws six inches in front of my face.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Losing An Editor

As you can probably imagine, the entire publishing process was a series of firsts for me: tossing all the candy bars and my manuscript aside and believing Casey probably never would find a home, before finding a potential diamond in the massive sifting process otherwise known as querying; having a professional believe in my work almost as much as I do; conducting that first phone conversation which I still remember pieces of, even though it was over four years ago; collaborating on the editing, marketing, cover design, and layout, before the box arrived with my first stack of bright red paperbacks just in time for my first Left Coast Crime Conference; and ultimately having a published novel. Not my greatest and best work, mind you, but I’ve always been a sponge and believed in the art of continuous improvement.

But losing an editor, and in many ways a friend, the one who believed in me and my work when no one else did, the one who decided to take a chance on me when no one else would, and who helped me reinvent myself for my second novel, with additional advice and support and back-and-forth editing sessions…well, that red pill is a bit harder to swallow. Betty Wright and Rainbow Books Inc. had been going strong for 34 years long, until she passed away recently, with plenty of non-fiction books and the occasional cozy mystery.

But you don’t write cozy mysteries, Downs. Exactly. And now I can never ask Ms. Wright why she decided to take a chance on me. But from what I remember about our first phone conversation, she fell in love with my protagonist, telling me I had more talent than Mickey Spillane (the jury’s still out on that one) and saw some spark in my writing amidst the sea of manuscripts that happened to come across her desk. If that were the end of the story, it might make for an amusing antidote. But this is a publishing house run by women, and I have (if you take a gander at my reviews) a rather unlikeable male protagonist with plenty of ego and chauvinism to boot. And my manuscript didn’t just go through Ms. Wright, it went through her daughter, and possibly two others at the publishing house (I was never clear on the exact figure) before it reached her desk. Six months after I sent Rainbow Books Inc. my full manuscript—I still remember thinking that they couldn’t even be bothered to use my own SASE for my rejection letter—I received the envelope, with a one-page letter tucked inside, that every writer hopes against hope to receive, the letter that says you are worthy and good and we want to publish your shit.

How do you like them odds? Yeah, you might just have an easier time winning the lottery.

Betty, you will be missed, my friend.

Six-Pack Abs

17616105Surrender Your Love by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

After the cover of SURRENDER YOUR LOVE flowed through my feed a few times…well, let’s just say I was pleasantly intrigued with more than a hint of enticement. The dark cover and toned legs paired with the thigh high red leather boots more than held my attention. Those boots popped out of my screen like daisies in the snow, and I was left sticking my tongue out as I tried to catch the snowflakes. And I have once again been sidetracked by an erotica novel.

I have every intention of tearing through the mystery and thriller and literary universe only to veer off to the side of the road and stare up at the sky when one of these beauties comes along. That’s probably the best way to describe erotica: A pleasant distraction from the more serious, deeper reads that cover my Kindle and bookshelves. And for you frequent readers, you’re already well aware that I’ve been a bit more distracted as of late. But I can’t seem to help myself. Every time I meander my way back out, I’m shoved back in…and we’re off.

The dialogue proved more than a bit cheesy to me, especially when compared to other erotica novels. It wasn’t porn quality dialogue, but it served to pull me out of the story at times more than it managed to enhance character and character development. I even managed to chuckle inwardly a couple times, and not in a good way. But frankly I’m more interested in the characters, relationship development, and of course, the sex.

Part of my fascination stems from the fact that I couldn’t write a realistic sex scene to save my life. Women, who are much better at sex than men will ever be, write some mojo-inducing scenes that could make a stripper blush. And this novel certainly had a few, with once again, the male anatomy never looking so good. It’s probably safe to say at this point that erotica novels like to round up when it comes to the size of the male member.

Brooke Stewart proved interesting and intriguing, and it was hard not to appreciate her luscious curves. She’s more tormented than Jett Mayfield, and we actually learn the reasons for her anguished nature, albeit down the road a piece. I won’t spoil it for you, dear reader, but suffice it to say, it was a nice twist. Sure, she might be a little fucked in the head, but I actually cared about her. She was a character I could get behind, as I try not to grab her behind.

Jett, on the other hand, was the more committed of the two right from the get go, which was a nice twist. But then he managed to have the usual problems that trouble all men: six-pack abs, toned muscles, and several million dollars stuffed in a safe in Switzerland. And I lost a bit of interest at the size of his growing member.

We also have the tried and true and possibly overused relationship formula for many an erotica novel that began with Fifty Shades and continues to this day. I realize it’s easier to go with the conventional than chart new territory in this playground, but just once I’d like to see someone break the mold. I’d like to see a couple captured by some axe-wielding maniac, locked in a basement, and they have to fuck their way to freedom. Or maybe the friend, in this case it’s Sylvie, who as per the usual course has looser morals than our main protagonist, could have feelings for Mr. Six-Pack, sleep with him, and then our main couple has to work through that particular bucket of firecracker wielding monkeys. Let’s spice it up a bit, or in the case of the latter, flame it up a bit.

Aside from the sense of déjà vu and practically predicting the ending, I’d have to say it was an otherwise enjoyable read if erotica is your thing.

Needed An Adrenaline Injection

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My Rating: 4/5 Stars

While this novel was good—some may even call it great—I couldn’t help but feel like this was a repeat performance of Still Missing. Had I not just read Ms. Stevens’s debut novel a couple months prior, I might have developed an entirely different opinion on the matter. The first time out the unique structure captured my attention and had me flipping pages faster than a sugar addict working his way through a dozen doughnuts, but this time the polish had worn off, and while I still devoured NEVER KNOWING, I flipped the pages with less enthusiasm.

The first half of the story, while certainly good, needed an adrenaline injection. Sure, the character and story development proved entertaining, but this is supposed to be a thriller. And when it comes to page-turners, I want to dangle on the edge of a cliff by my fingernails while a dog is nipping at the tips and a psycho serial killer points a revolver at my shaking corpse. The suspense and adrenaline came, but by then I had already pondered the existence of the universe more than once.

Sara Gallagher, though, proved to be an intriguing character, and one I understood a bit too well. Taking the world’s problems on her shoulders, she blames herself for anything remiss, prefers knowledge to a lack of awareness, and shoulders more problems than are hers to bear. Yeah, she may swallow the occasional white pill, but she has migraines, sister, along with a wedding to plan and a somewhat absentee fiancé who likes to play in the woods.

Even her relationships reminded me of my own. She had her first love Derek where she was head over heels and enamored and lost herself and ended up in what was ultimately an unhealthy relationship before she found Evan, her true love. This scenario resembled a bit too uncannily what I had faced before. At the time I had no real comparison for relationships and love and clinging to someone so tightly and losing myself so completely that I almost became two different people: one when I was with her and one when I wasn’t. Once I was in, though, I ended up so far inside the threshold there was no easy way to get out, without one of us clinging to that cliff, so I did what made sense at the time: I expunged myself from the situation.

Not being able to fix that relationship or somehow make it work, despite analyzing it from every angle, bothered me a whole hell of a lot more than what my ex thought of me. In fact, I still feel like I failed the universe somehow. But I’ve come to terms with my problems without the aid of prescription medication just as I’ve come to terms with my misgivings of this novel.

Football Punting Bride

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My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I never considered a professional dishwasher as a viable career option. Although for a brief period of time in my misguided youth, I did practice the art of a sanitation worker, aka garbage man, even going so far as to toss random cans and paper boxes into my mom’s shopping cart when her back was turned at the grocery store. But now I may have to rethink my present career path and the financial stability of my family by turning in my shirt and tie for a white smock and a pair of rubber gloves. In order to complete the picture, though, I will need to become mentally unstable, although given the instability of artists this shouldn’t be particularly difficult. And I will need to relocate my wife to Wyoming, but I’m sure with the right amount of persuasion—and the fact that it’s only a few states away—this shouldn’t be a difficult task to accomplish either. I mean, let’s face it, there are worse places to live, like Mississippi or Montana. And I may need to seek out the affections of rowdy rodeo girls and prescription popping blondes, but again, that could easily be explained away as well.

Kelly Palamino is my new literary hero, even if he’s mentally unstable, hears voices in water, including streams and toilets and showers, and visits a psychiatrist once a week, because he shot tequila directly into his veins and nearly caused his own cardiac arrest. He may be more than half-crazy, but he’s just so damn loveable. His voice nearly caused me to laughably combust on multiple occasions. He falls in love with a football punting bride, and focuses his varied talents on the singular act of winning her over, taking male focus and drive to a whole new level.

Colette Hart may be nearly as crazy as he is, but that just makes him love her all the more. She’s eccentric and beautiful and just so gosh darn wonderful that I rooted for Kelly every step of the way, even when he had more than a few setbacks and nearly exceeded his expiration date. While he might have had more than a bit of trouble with love in the past, he certainly doesn’t have any trouble with devotion. And he has no trouble categorizing his women: Platonics and Romantic Interests.

Every red-blooded male needs a thrill-seeking best friend like Cora Ann. She’s young and vibrant and perky, and has her own hang-glider. What more could a man ask for?

Even the structure of SEX AND SUNSETS appealed to me, delving into the past and present with nearly equal abandon, and tapping into the tangential thoughts of our expert narrator. I don’t know if I’d give it a ten, but it certainly comes pretty darn close.

Get Yourself A Good Editor

If you think you can do all the editing yourself, you’re probably mistaken. Sure, it seems like an easy cost to skip over on your way to the pearly gates filled with riches and strippers and all-night parties. While you probably are your own worst enemy when it comes to your writing, you may not necessarily be your editor’s best friend. When you get too close to your work, you see the forest, instead of the trees, and all of your little darlings and witticisms become your new compadres. But if you love your writing, you’re not nearly as removed from it as you need to be to edit it. So you need to toss it in a drawer for a couple of months, and then yank it out by the shirttails and take a chainsaw and chisel to the carcass. Although this may sound easy, it isn’t.

And once you’ve done all you can do, you need to pass it off to someone else—preferably a professional—to catch all the mistakes you missed. And believe me, there will be mistakes and miswording and wrong tenses and dangling modifiers and misplaced prepositions. You and your editor will go over your work multiple times before it goes to press, and even then, you’ll probably have missed a mistake or two, at which point said error will have to be corrected with the next printing. Then, you’ll look at your writing years later, and you’ll say, “Well, I could have made that sentence better or improved that paragraph or made a change or tweak there.”

If you’re a perfectionist, you have to somehow accept that your writing will never be perfect, and neither will your editor, but you have to make the relationship work for both of you. As for your writing, you have to make it the best it can possibly be at a particular moment in time, and at some point, you have to give it up for adoption. Either the world will love it, or hate it, embrace it, or shrug its wide shoulders. When that happens, it’s no longer in your control. And letting go can be the hardest thing to do.