The Movie Was Better

18628363The Shining by Stephen King
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

The movie was better. A small part of me wanted to just drop the mike and walk away. But I like to expound upon my perceptions, even if I’m doing it for my own pleasure and edification. First, I’d like to thank Trudi (aka The Busty Book Bimbo) for throwing down the gauntlet and calling yours truly to the red carpet. Yes, she may have called me out a while ago, but I’m from West Virginia, and we tend to talk and move a little slow. And, yeah, I had the movie version in the back of my mind with Jack Nicholson at his finest level of insanity. Rather than break the spell, I wanted to hold onto my crazy ways.

THE SHINING was a slow bleed for me. Sure, it was freaky and crazy and had a certain level of insanity and madness, but it’d take me about three days to bleed out. The movie version, however, bled me out in less than twenty minutes. That shit was crazy. And grotesque. And strange. And weird. And the way Jack Nicholson pounded away at the keys…well, that reminded me of the great man himself slaving over his typewriter in the 1970s with a gleam in his eye and a razorblade in his hip pocket.

But Stephen King never quite captures that level of horror for me, where I’m sleeping with my Honey Boo Boo nightlight and sucking my thumb for a week at a time. He freaks me out a little, like an itch I can’t quite scratch, and I may look over my shoulder once or twice, before I move on with my life. And, sure, I get the feeling that he might be a little bit nuts, because genius and hovering outside the norm walk hand-in-hand across I-95. But that’s where I meet the brick wall going at 70 mph in the slow lane.

The story dragged along a bit longer than necessary. Sure, the man can spin a yarn better than Calvin Klein, but a little brevity never hurt anybody, and unfortunately, you won’t find it here. That being said, though, I’m glad I was taken to task for my novel skipping ways, and I shall make a more valiant attempt in the future at staying on top of things. When I do, I shall most definitely alert the proper authorities.

Oh, and I may never stay in a hotel in rural Colorado. But I’ll kindly thank Stanley Kubrick for that one.

A Texting Fiend

23013977Vanilla by Megan Hart
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Elise kind of rocked my world. She’s damaged and half-crazy and filled with domination tendencies and a texting fiend who doesn’t let a single message go unanswered (the callback can occasionally be an issue for some) and sexy and an outfit whore and there’s probably just a bit more that I’m missing. But she’s good at falling for the wrong men. Which begs the question: Why settle for a bastard? Tis one of life’s great mysteries. Curiosity has gotten the better of me before, and it probably will again sometime soon. Questions tend to lead to more questions, and before I know it, it’s completely out of control.

Niall wasn’t one of my favorite characters. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Maybe it’s because I became protective of Elise, and her domineering antics. Were I to have her all to myself, though, I’d probably be in over my head in less than ten seconds. But good plans fail and even great ones don’t always succeed.

VANILLA proved a little formulaic, but I was willing to forgive it this shortcoming, because yes, I was rather invested with Elise. Probably too much in this particular instance, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Isn’t that why we read erotica? At least that’s the case with me anyway. I want to see the panties drop and the breasts bounce and the shower scene and the ladies scream and debonair with more than a hint of flair and slightly contrived plots that sometimes coat check my imagination and the occasional ménage a trois. And all I can say is I’m a man with an active imagination. And I don’t give a shit if it’s supposedly just for chicks.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Pre-Mature Evacuation

17796163Wicked Beat by Olivia Cunning
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If you want to learn how to deal with important concepts like pre-mature evacuation and how to lure the best hottie when you’re buried behind a drum set and the fourth famous member of a band, then WICKED BEAT is for you. The cover alone knocked me on my ass and had me conjuring up images of black panties and blow jobs in the back of cabs, and I might have even passed out once or twice on my living room sofa. But it’s all part of an Olivia Cunning experience where the sexual acrobatics practically levitate off the printed page, and I found myself being transported to the next room to listen in on the dirty deed.

The whispers came in a heavy, breathy voice, and the pages were filled with enough sexual exploits to keep a married couple occupied for nearly half a year. The book porn industry is alive and well, my friend, and totally thriving at the truly capable hands of Ms. Cunning. She must read the Kama Sutra for “research purposes,” and if I could write a sex scene the way she could, that might be how I’d spend my downtime as well.

Eric Sticks reminded me of your average man in the biggest rock band, and his goofy personality and relatableness added another dimension to this sexually deviant tale, and Rebekah Blake was a blonde so hot she needed to be 50 feet away from flammable objects. So, yes, y’all this ended up being a rather nice fantasy for your average male of average intelligence who may not have started out as a Casanova in the bedroom, but was willing to take direction from a pink-pantied temptress who was stacked with a rather nice rack and adventurous to boot.

While it would be easy to make the argument this was a teenage fantasy written by a more than capable author, it ended up being more than that. But I need to space out my Olivia Cunning reads to ensure proper and even blood flow.

You Might Be A Redneck

19288050Joe by Larry Brown
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

You might be a redneck if you read this novel, and you feel as though you’ve met a few of your kin. You might be a redneck if you read between these pages, and you feel like you’re coming home. You might be a redneck if words like y’all and fixin’ to flow freely from your lips. You might be a redneck if JOE makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You might be a redneck if you’re building relations with your second cousin on your mama’s side. You might be a redneck if you whistle between the gaps of your missing teeth. You might be a redneck if soda pop is your favorite breakfast beverage.

This novel helped me get reacquainted with my southern side, where the tea is always sweet, the hollers are narrow enough that you pinch your gut around the turns, the neighbors greet one another in the morning, where the gathering spots are the local Wal-Mart and Burger King and, where the widest road is a four-lane highway. Where an entire town gets all up in your business and “Country Roads” is your state’s unofficial song. Yes, I’m talking about West By God Virginia, which ain’t all that different from the heartland of Mississippi. At least according to the latest poll where we’re ranked as the two most obese states.

So, yes, one could make the argument that I already had a predisposition to like this novel, and I’d agree with you. But Larry Brown knows how to spin a tale on the back roads, conjuring up dirt and dust, and a voice that sang me to sleep in a country twang where the syllables were extended on account of them being important words, and y’all don’t want to miss ’em the first go round.

If you missed this book the first go round, as I’m willing to bet a few of ya might’a done, you’d better find that horse and saddle up and don’t forget your spurs, in case this particular colt decides to shove you off.

Second Tier

20980959Blue Labyrinth (Pendergast, #14) by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If you want to read a high octane novel, and discover where the bodies are buried, and the long dead secrets on a familial history with more quirks and twists and turns than your typical thriller, then BLUE LABYRINTH is for you. If you want an agent that’s at the top of his game, and you want a cast of secondary characters that will stretch the limits of your imagination, then this novel is for you. But if you want to read a great Pendergast novel, where the dialogue flows crisp and clean and this is your first turn on the merry-go-round with Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, I would start at an earlier point in the series.

This dynamic co-author duo didn’t phone it in from afar, but it didn’t feel like they brought their A game. Sure, their B+ game is better than many an up and coming and already established author, but I’ve seen the top of the mountain, and I’m not settling for a spot on the second tier.

The secrets and history were great, and I did feel as though I was in the middle of a maze, and I had no idea what sort of friend or foe would end up in my path next. But I didn’t feel the mad rush to the finish line that I like to experience with a typical Preston & Child novel. Maybe it was because I was in a dark place when I attempted to read this particular tale, and the harsh reality experienced between these pages only added to my melancholy state, but I’d still like to believe that a great novel can take me anywhere. With this tale, I didn’t get that.

The plot moved as quickly as a 1 ½ mile race, but the dialogue felt static and forced at times, and I began to wonder if I had been left on the wrong dock in the wrong town staring up at a boat pointed in the opposite direction. With that being said, you could do a whole lot worse than BLUE LABYRINTH, but I feel like you could do better as well.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Make Fun Of Yourself

18115294This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If you were ever a dweeb, a nerd, a geek, an outcast, or a teacher’s pet, and you struck out swinging in the popularity contest, then THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is for you. I never struck out swinging, because I wasn’t even invited to the baseball diamond, and I probably wasn’t even in the same zip code. I didn’t raise my hand, or climb the social ladder, or attempt to end my life, but I do know rather well what it feels like to hover outside the norm. Hell, I’ve taken up residence in that state and built a house on a cement foundation, to the point that I need fictional authenticity and an optimism filled IV just to make it through reality. Luckily, I have a treasure trove filled with books and music and movies and pixie dust to fill my world from one moment to the next.

Elise Dembowski might have discovered music at the same time she discovered pessimism, but I don’t think it’s fair to judge her as a teenager filled with negativity. Frankly, being a teenager sucks. Being filled with hormones and testosterone and awkwardness and secret codes and tile-filled hallways and compact classrooms and having doubts about the rest of your life is not exactly a world where the pixie dust flows freely. And when you struggle to fit in, because you don’t know the secret handshake, or you’re ahead of your time, or you have a knack for saying and doing the wrong thing, life sucks just a little bit more. The cool kids ensure you know just where you stand, and most of the time it’s with your head hung low and hovering over the rim of a toilet bowl.

It’s a good thing Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet until I had come along in years, and Facebook and social networking weren’t around when it all went down on the playground. I’d like to think I could have handled the cyberbullying and negativity and trolls and gnomes in my younger years, but the truth is I don’t know if I was as strong then as I am now. Inner strength and thick skin aren’t gifts; they’re earned through hard work and maturity and offering up the second cheek when the first one just won’t do.

When you can make fun of yourself, it’s hard for anyone else to rattle your chain, and when you smile and whistle and wink and just walk on by…well, that’s the greatest revenge of all. That, my friends, is both long-lasting and gratifying.

If you want to read a much more articulate and fulfilling review, you should check out what Emily May has to offer the world. I hope her story moves you as much as it did me. As for me, I’ll put my iTunes on repeat and see what pops up next.

Accentuate The Positive

20640318The Girl In 6E by Alessandra Torre
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

This little bastard is the reason I cannot definitively say MONDAY’S LIE is the best book I’ve read this year. However, I am fairly confident that I have discovered the top two books I will read in 2015…with approximately 10.5 months of the year left. Then again, my crystal ball has failed me before, so you never know.

But I will power through my early year euphoria, and discover the world of mediocrity. Okay, okay, it probably won’t be that bad. But I have trouble with the concept of lightning striking me three times, mainly because I don’t want to end up on the operating table with a pile of drool beside me during my darkest days.

Rather than focus on the negative, let’s accentuate the positive. Deanna Madden is a badass. Sure, she may decorate her spare bedroom in pink, set up multiple webcams, craft her hair in pigtails, and work her clit for all she’s worth with horny men typing heavily on the other end, but this girl has style, when she decides to put on the occasional pair of clothes. She has a certain self-awareness that I found attractive and intriguing. She didn’t pull any punches when it came to her descriptions of the webcam world, and frankly, I found it all a bit fascinating. But I like to learn, and I had my eyes opened wide.

It ain’t exactly erotica, though. In some ways novel classification can be a disservice, when we’re talking genre-bending reads, and THE GIRL IN 6E certainly fits the bill. If you’re looking for erotica, or in this case erotic suspense, and you have domination on the brain, or romance, or happy endings (and yes the double entendre was on purpose for the love of popsicle sticks), then you’ll probably be disappointed at what this little gem has to offer the world.

If that’s the case, though, then you’re missing out on one hell of a pleasure cruise. I plan to start mine with Sex on the Beach (double entendre) and a trip to Iceland where I can cool off.

A Slight Infatuation

22609607Monday’s Lie by Jamie Mason
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I’m developing a slight infatuation for a woman named Jamie Mason. And, no, you can’t have her, I saw her first. This might be the best novel I’ve read this year, and every last one of you bastards should go out and read it for yourselves. Why? You might ask. Well, if you’re not just going to take me at my word and stop at third, then let’s delve a little deeper, shall we. Each word felt as though it was handcrafted and mulled over for hours. If that’s the case, then I’m probably going to cry a little, because that means I’m going to have to wait ten years until her next masterpiece, and in the meantime the market is going to be flooded with plenty of crap, unless she started her novel writing days at puberty, and in that case, I may only have to wait a couple more years while she gives her next work a bit more polish and shine and then ceremoniously flings it upon the world with much pomp and circumstance and even a few trumpets and trombones. And if that’s indeed the case, I shall cry a little less.

That’s not enough, you say. You’re all a bunch of heathens. Okay, there’s more. She totally reinvented herself from her debut novel to this one. It’s an entirely different tale filled with entirely different characters in an entirely different setting, and it ratcheted up the suspense with such subtlety and ease that I’d need a Venn diagram to plot it all out, and frankly, I just don’t have the time for plot charts and graphs. But if that’s your thing, then have at it, sister, I won’t stop you.

There is no sophomoric slump. No second novel blues. Instead, she’s painted a world filled with orange and red. MONDAY’S LIE is better than her first by a country mile, and with THREE GRAVES FULL, she really showcased her writing chops, and offered up plenty of talent. But this time she took it to a whole nother level. She proved she’s a novel slinging badass in her DKNY jeans. Ms. Mason, you have fair warning that I am now going to stalk your pretty ass. Not the kind that leads to being led away in handcuffs, but the kind that turns me into a lifelong, loyal reader, or as Stephen King says, “Constant reader.” Where I shall pronounce from the mountaintop at all who I deem worthy to go out and procure a small piece of Jamie Mason for themselves at your nearest bookstore or online establishment. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

I received this ARC for free at Bouchercon.