Hugs And Kisses And Machine Guns

5819399Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

While it did take me one month to finish this book, I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy it. Yes, I just executed a double negative (the double dribble of the writing world) for those of you who only approve of appropriate grammatical choices. But I wanted to prove and emphasize a point. And my point is that I really did enjoy BAD THINGS HAPPEN. I was appropriately amused and entertained, as I filled my life with hugs and kisses and machine guns.

David Loogan can juggle more than just oranges, and he has more than a few tales from a previous life. Some of which we learn, and some of which Harry Dolan probably holds back. Because why should you give up all the goods on the first date, or in this case a debut novel. You may flash your six pack at the woman across the bar, or maybe it’s just a smile and wink, but you don’t know how many other fellas she’s been with. And frankly you don’t need that kind of trouble with a crazy ex-boyfriend who pounds pills like he pounds heads.

With temptations around every corner, it’s better to start running now. Sure, the blonde looks like a winner, but she might also whack you in the head with a shovel while you sleep. Or the detective may show you a nice pair of handcuffs, but you have more than a few reservations about being held against your will.

The dialogue proved both realistic and entertaining; the story (once I really got into it) clicked along faster than a cowboy with an itchy trigger finger; the women and men had as much potential as they had flaws; and David Loogan, along with Elizabeth Waishkey, proved interesting enough that I hope they both stick around for a while. Oh, and the writing and editing tidbits weren’t lost on me. I sucked those up faster than honey from a spoon. Otherwise, it was just another story (shrugs), but a really good and entertaining one.

GPS In Your Hip Pocket

19015309 My Heart Is An Idiot: Essays by Davy Rothbart
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If you want a handful of life lessons (sixteen in fact) on how to fuck up more than a few relationships with a road map and GPS satellite in your hip pocket to comfort you on your dark days, then MY HEART IS AN IDIOT could provide you better comfort than a blanket, a glass of warm milk, and your favorite movie on the tube. Whether you’re a cynic by nature or even if you’re holding out for the storybook fairytale or maybe a hero that goes by another name, you could find yourself mixing equal parts amusement and sadness and then flipping the switch to high. What comes out on the other side could leave you more than a little horrified, like the latest train wreck plastered across the news, but you can also comfort yourself in knowing that you weren’t on this particular train when it exited the station.

“Bigger and Deafer” – When it comes to making fun of people with disabilities, the appropriate response is no. Always no. But then I like to think I have more than two cents to rub together.

“Human Snowball” – If you want to read about a bus ride and a botched encounter with Lauren Hill (not the Lauryn Hill), then you’ll probably want to give this story a go. On a side note, Vernon adds a bit of comedic relief.

“What Are You Wearing?” – If you want a checklist in how not to conduct phone sex, and when to probably pass on picking up the motel phone, you’ll find your answers here. If you’re still confused when you reach the end, you might want to start from the beginning all over again.

“The 8th of November” – How Jim Thompson, arguably the best Ford mechanic in the Beltway, developed a friendship with the author with the idiot heart.

“Ninety-Nine Bottles of Pee on the Wall” – Meeting an author can be a pleasurable experience (most of the time) unless you’re Davy Rothbart and you carry around a few bottles of pee in your backpack. Which leads to a whole new set of problems and more than a few therapy sessions.

“How I Got These Boots” – A pair of boots, the Grand Canyon, and more than a few memories. What more could you ask for?

“Shade” – Sometimes you need to do a bit of searching to find a shady spot in New Mexico, and the author certainly had more than a bit of trouble with this as well. If it wasn’t for bad luck, a missed opportunity with Maggie, and a fruitless search for the mysterious Shade—the person, not the spot allotted tree cover—this one might have had a positive outcome. Sadly, though, he’s striking out more often than a power hitter with a swing flaw.

“Nibble, Lick, Suck, and Feast” – If you want to discover a bit of hilarity on an author tour, this story’s for you. If not, then we’ll move right along.

“Canada or Bust” – Missy, another female name that begins with M, and thus we have yet another missed opportunity in the love quest. If you need to improve the dating pool, there’s always San Francisco.

“Naked in New York” – How does one end up naked on a park bench? Apparently it’s not all that hard to do, and certainly not in “The Big Apple.” Read this tale for a few pointers.

“Tarantula” – Don’t have sex anywhere near a tarantula. Even if it’s in a glass cage and it’s far away from the bed. I don’t care how good she looks (the woman, not the tarantula), or whether or not she kidnaps you and tosses you in the back of the trunk, and promises to rock your world for the next sixteen days. Just…don’t. You’ll thank me later.

“Southwest” – Davy Rothbart may be blessed when it comes to sitting next to beautiful women on airplanes, but he probably needs a bit of help with his delivery and follow through. But that seems to repeat a bit too regularly over the course of these essays.

“New York, New York” – Maggie Smith knows how to strike a pose; the Twin Towers ended up in a pile of rubble; a few interviews got off to a glitch filled start; the bus ride proved longer than planned; and never say no to a woman named Laquisha.

“Tessa” – Drexel University and beer pong sound reasonably appealing, until Tessa proves a little free with her favors with another man, and you’re left shedding a few tears in your beer. There’s no crying in baseball, but I guess there is in beer pong.

“The Strongest Man in the World” – Peter, Byron, Evelyn, and Davy sitting in a tree, recounting a few stories, or maybe it’s three. Tell a few tales, but don’t pass the buck. If you’re not too careful, you might be out of luck.

“Ain’t That America?” – The moral of this story: You can strike out in love on more than one continent. Just keep that in mind the next time you’re moaning and groaning in your cup of tea.

So, in summary, there’s much to enjoy here. If you’re the kind of Joe who likes to watch a train derailment or two, or you’re one of those rubberneckers on the interstate trying to see the extent of the damage, you’ve just discovered your new source of enjoyment for the day. Just be thankful it’s not your life, and hope to hell you have a bit more luck in the relationship arena, otherwise you might want a Prozac or a Xanax.

One Fine Piece Of Detective Fiction

9547677A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Hi, my name is Robert Downs, and I’m a member of Lawrence Block Anonymous (LBA for short). I can see why he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1994. He has the damaged, hard-boiled detective figured out as well as anyone else I’ve ever read, and his prose flows better than eggnog at Christmastime. And it’s easy to keep on guzzling the way his famous PI Matthew Scudder used to swig the hard stuff. A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF indeed. Well, more than, but it’s easy to get carried away when it’s just so darn good.

If it wasn’t for Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deals, I might have waited a bit longer before I delved into Matthew Scudder’s universe, and that would have been a serious travesty, especially considering my love of hard-boiled novels knows no bounds. I’d travel just about anywhere with a hard-boiled gumshoe at my side.

I’d have to agree with the critics that this is one fine piece of detective fiction, even though it would have been easy for Mr. Block to let his guard down and go for the low blow. Matthew Scudder felt as real to me as if he was standing right beside me, telling me his story over a cup of joe with a determined look and a never-back-down attitude.

The ending could have been a bit better, but it worked out just fine for the story, and it wasn’t out of character for Mr. Scudder. And this proves to be a bit of a minor detail in an otherwise gut wrenching story written with near pitch perfect lyrical prose.

I must say this is one fine hard-boiled read, and if you’re into the hard stuff, it’s certainly worthy of a bit more attention.

Shotgun Weddings

18522265Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Secrets in small towns spread like tumbleweed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That is to say a secret lasts about as long as a change in wind direction, or a flying ball sailing across a major highway in the middle of rush hour traffic. SHOTGUN LOVESONGS brings up many of the negative points about small town life, and therefore it won’t be at the top of my Christmas list anytime this century. The third person multiple perspective nature of this tale peppered with the occasional flashback left me with a head scratch or two for my trouble, but I was in charge of my fate as I continued onward. Perseverance pushed me toward the finish line, not the writing or the story itself. Each perspective proved mostly unique, but I did feel as though it was all a bit convoluted.

Lee and Kip and Chloe represented a trio of selfish bastards and bastardettes. With more than a secret or two between them, I wanted to offer up a tongue lashing, but it might have fallen on a group more focused on a Droid phone clutched between delicate fingers, or lost in a previous reverie. With my thoughts scattered and my hopes shattered, I had really hoped a few more lives might turn out better, instead of shotgun weddings and battered relationships and subsequent divorces.

The story sounded better in the synopsis, or maybe I had higher hopes, or the bleakness of the tale shattered my optimistic dreams. Whatever the reason, I found myself more put off than satisfied, and that included the mostly unrealistic ending. If this story was supposed to represent life, it wasn’t a life I was particularly interested in living.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Old High School Locker

22367943We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

You might find this story exhilarating and entertaining, like an old friend whispering over your right shoulder, or then again you might not. You might find it moving and breathtaking, and it might caress you like the wind whispering against your face. You might remember the combination to your old high school locker and attempt to visit it in a moment of nostalgia, before the local authorities come to arrest you, and take you up to the big house on the hill—the one overlooking the water through a set of bars that will keep you contained for the next twenty-four hours. Or then again, you might remain unmoved and curse the heavens at this story of sisters who were seventeen months apart. The closeness these sisters shared, and the bond that held them together might as well have been superglue, even if it ended up a bit chipped around the edges.

I’d say it’s nearly impossible not to feel some sort of emotion upon the completion of WE ARE THE GOLDENS, but that would be mere conjecture and projection, and I want you to live your own life. Make your own mistakes, and dream the impossible dream…even if it blows up in your face faster than an M-80 and leaves you scarred from the nose down. For these chances and mistakes lead to opportunities and promises and hopes that might fill your body to its breaking point with desire and adrenaline, or then again, maybe you’d prefer to remain anonymous and stand behind the curtain, and let someone else make all the mistakes.

What I can tell you, though, is this tale moved me. I was inserted and transported to the heart of this story, and I found the little voice whispering behind my right ear and talking to me like an old friend who had just plopped down beside me on the sofa. And as I hugged my Kindle against my chest and read page after page, I couldn’t stop the movement as it rumbled through my body and poured out of my pores, and astonished me at its sheer bravado when all I had asked was to be entertained for a few short hours of my life.

Second tense never sounded so intense and mature, even if Nell was only fifteen years old. And her sister Layla with her golden locks and skimpy frocks made all the heads of the high school boys turn. Her fair share of golden hair made me smile with pleasure and glee, and at seventeen years she was the perfect one, or so it would initially seem. But this tale has more depth and despair than its adolescence would lead you to believe.

But you’ll have to find out yourself if this is a story you want to read, because all I can say is that it moved yesterday and made me particularly happy to have discovered it. With a gleam in my eye, and my eyes pointed to the sky, I reached the end of this piece. But the ending of this youthful lass, as it came to pass, left me with more questions than answers. So it can be said with the slightest hint of dread that I would have liked a slightly more definitive conclusion than the slightly open-ended one I was offered, even as I know when I have met life’s strife I often have more questions than answers.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Boy Howdy

20333955Any Other Name: A Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I had decided to linger awhile before I opened up my world to this particular read, but then I reevaluated my original decision and decided a few more of you need to get on the Craig Johnson bandwagon before we run your ass over. Whether I decide to drive this truck, or sleep in the passenger seat, this is one ride filled with beautiful prose and strings of curse words (courtesy of Victoria Moretti), a rather large Indian, and more than a little folklore and Wyoming history weaved through its elegant pages. And that doesn’t even include the man himself. Longmire, or so the TV series goes, but most of you probably know him as Walt. He may have his way with the ladies, and he hates to run for more than a mile or two, but he can drink a longneck better than any redneck, and he has friends who can commune with the spirits, so yeah, he’s got that going for him. He’s also a bit stubborn, and he has this habit of actually finishing his cases, and not leaving a single man…or woman behind.

To top it all off, he’s on the verge of his first grandchild, and he’s been left to the Wyoming elements more than once in his life, but that just means he’s gotten good at dealing with the cold and the snow and even a few coldhearted souls who show their fangs at the first available opportunity. With a lingering sensation at the back of my neck and hairs standing at attention saluting the sky, I charged through this read with my elbows out and my game face on, and I plunged into a universe filled with more than just dead bodies.

Victoria “Vic” Moretti might just be one of my favorite fictional characters of the female persuasion. She’s got a mouth on her that could get you arrested in Colombia, and she has more curves than the letter S, and she nips earlobes and other available body parts at will. Boy howdy. That’s all I have to say about that. Now that I have picked my jaw up with the back of my right hand, we’ll move on.

Dickzilla. Not to be confused with Bridezilla can be one evil bastard. He’s not known for intelligence, or even a slight amount of competence, but he’ll lead the charge and stomp you into the nearest cow patty. But once you hose yourself off, you’ll soon realize it’s nothing personal.

ANY OTHER NAME certainly made me loud and proud and more than a little glad I had the opportunity to do so before the masses. I was entertained for the better part of this tale with my six-shooter on my right hip, and my wink ready to go, along with my cowboy boots and sweet lass on my right arm. But if you really want to see Craig Johnson exhibit his true talents, you may want to start a bit earlier in this series. If you’re a longtime fan, or even if you’ve fired off a round or two with the man himself, you may find yourself happy you hopped along for the ride.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.