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My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I’d like to thank my friend Delee for throwing down the gauntlet and shoving me with both hands toward the finish line. I couldn’t help but accept her challenge, and now I’d like to offer up one to you, my friends. If you haven’t read her reviews, you need to do so right now. I’ll wait twiddles thumbs and taps footand we’re back.

If that wasn’t enough history on this novel, I have a bit more for you. I met the lovely Jamie Mason at Bouchercon where we briefly discussed Goodreads—and no I didn’t mention that I was a card-carrying member—although I suppose I could have, and then puffed out my chest accordingly, only to be smacked from behind by the next guy in line. While her smiling personality didn’t persuade me in any way with this review, it’s one of those nice-to-know pieces of information that I like to keep in my hip pocket for emergency purposes.

I don’t really know what to think of THREE GRAVES FULL. Smarter people than me have rated it four stars, but since I’m not that smart I’m going to rate it at three, and end up in the same boat as Switzerland and Canada headed toward the Arctic Circle.

On the one hand, the writing popped higher than a jack-in-the-box, and I was left wishing God had actually granted me a few more IQ points, so that my prose might be wonderful and lyrical and fantastical. And I could form more than a coherent thought or two before—squirrel—the next distraction. There was plenty to distract my mind, and more than one storyline to keep things extra interesting, but then again, that might have been why I ended up seeing a scurry of squirrels around nearly every bend, and instead of taking me a few days (like Delee), this novel took me a few months, and I even added an additional one on for good measure.

On the other hand, I would have preferred a bit more action with my lyrical prose, and a stronger spine on Jason Getty, instead of one that bent rather abruptly at the slightest provocation. It really felt as though this novel tried to do a bit too much amidst its 320 pages—a darkly humorous literary novel with a clever twist and a tense pace. But I’m also fairly certain this is one of those it’s not you, it’s me instances.

Straddles The Line

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My Rating: 2/5 Stars

This novel tries to straddle the line between literary and commercial fiction. What the publishing gods have deemed upmarket fiction. Unfortunately for THE GRAVITY OF BIRDS, it probably tries a little too hard, and therefore doesn’t do either as effectively as if it just picked one and flew above the treetops. Instead, it crash landed into a cactus, and I was left picking needles out of my butt.

The structure proved a little confusing, with the movement between time periods, and I was prone to forget who I was, or where I was for brief periods of time (sometimes a wee bit longer). This was certainly a literary element, as I end up more confused and discombobulated when I read “more serious” works than when I read the high-octane commercial fiction. What can I say? My brain likes to be entertained, and I feed it generous helpings of the good stuff.

Not that this novel lacked an entertainment factor. It just might not have been what Tracy Guzeman intended, as I wanted to throttle Thomas Bayber within an inch of his life for being a self-indulgent ass. Note to readers who are not artists, we are not all like this. Some of us (surprise surprise) actually have a soul. The other source of entertainment was a “Who’s on First?” sketch between Finch and Jameson that made me want to slap my head and then get on a plane in the middle of a blizzard.

As for the other characters, I was less than impressed, except for a cameo appearance near the end of the novel. The cameo setting—New Mexico land of the sand and vast openness—proved a rather beautiful side trip during which I could have indulged myself further, had I just been given the opportunity to do so.

While some might call this a mystery, or hear it marketed as such, and then proceed to be disappointed when it’s not, I’d say this is more of a coming of age or contemporary fiction tale that had more of a literary spin than it knew what to do with. In other words, this book had an identity crisis, and I’m not sure I can really help this novel solve its problems. But someone smarter than me can probably make a better effort at identifying its feathers.

Stone Cold Sober

16130549Doctor Sleep by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I’d like to thank Kemper and Will and Dan and Delee and Trudi for pretty much doing my job for me and writing such excellent reviews that I don’t even have to offer up one of my own. Ha, you crazy bastards, who would I be if I let you off that easily?

King might just be one crazy son of a bitch for calling this a sequel to THE SHINING (I should probably add here that I have never read said novel) when it’s about as much of a sequel as the James Bond films are to one another (especially the Pierce Brosnan versus Daniel Craig versions). But I love him anyway, even if I didn’t exactly love this novel. Sure, this is vintage King where the man breathes and breathes across pages and pages of exposition and dialogue and prose and where the number of characters could fill a village and where the man knows evil so well he can pull it out of a hat as easily as a rabbit, a frog, or a Siamese cat.

Even though I was stone cold sober when I started DOCTOR SLEEP, I felt as though I had imbibed a few by the end of the story, passed out, and was revived with steam as a one-toothed raven-haired beauty breathed into my mouth. Had the steam not done the trick, I might have passed out all over again. Dan Torrance swaggered and swayed his way through this novel (at least he made an effort to change), so I must say he wasn’t exactly my favorite character. Abra, on the other hand, proved every bit as precocious as her fourteen years allowed, and I rooted for her every step of the way.

The length proved a bit daunting at times as words upon words piled up, and there were so many characters that it was sometimes hard to keep track. It meandered and bobbed and weaved and bounced along more than a few backcountry roads. We switched time zones, and we nearly switched coasts, and I found myself staring at a plaque from the Overlook Hotel. For a brief moment, I felt as though my entire universe had been stripped away right in front of me.

Stephen King has no equal…in punctuation. He punctuates and paragraph breaks like no other writer I’ve seen before, and he does it with such dexterity and effortless ease. He must have taken a punctuation class that no other writer in the entire universe was privy to. In the end, that’s okay (not that he needs my approval), and I applaud him on his uniqueness. It’s probably safe to say that I could decipher a Stephen King novel based on punctuation and paragraph breaks alone.

Even if the master may have backed off a step or two on his game, he’s still well ahead of the rest of us mere mortals. It’s certainly not a bad read, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t say it’s one of his best efforts either.

Your Nora Ephron Self

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My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If I were a woman, I could have quite a bit of fun reading chick lit and women’s fiction and romance and erotica and then passing along (hopefully) entertaining reviews to the reading public at large just for the hell of it. Oh wait, I guess I already do that anyway. So…moving right along, I must say WHAT NORA KNEW offered up quite a bit of entertainment with very little substance. You know, like trying to eat bubbles that a six-year-old has just blown in your direction after her kite took a nosedive in a public park and turned into a mangled mess on the grass. Rather than preside over the funeral (since your eulogy skills probably need a bit of work), you decided to entertain your mouth in another manner.

This novel reminded me of that, except without the death part. Since deaths aren’t funny. Unless you’re the kind of gal who laughs at a funeral—thank you Barenaked Ladies. Yeah, as long as you’re not that person, then we’re good to go, and you can proceed on with this review. If you are, my apologies, but you’ll probably want to remove your black pencil skirt and gray blouse from the scene in a most expeditious manner.

Whenever I read a novel, and I can’t seem to get the voice out of my head, I know we’re off to a good start. If I then proceed to stop at various points along the way, often rather frequently at the beginning, to jot down words and phrases or character names, then I’ve probably met my match. That is a good day indeed, because the book matchmakers have smiled upon me, which, in turn, means I end up smiling quite a bit myself. This proved to be such a book.

Molly Hallberg decided four generations of the upholstery business was enough for her, and rather than plant her acorn at the bottom of the family tree, she has decided to pave her own way, preferably through EyeSpy and Hipp magazine, and preferably with her own column that includes a header and byline. She may know everything about lying her way through an interview, but that doesn’t mean she’s actually qualified to do the job. And posing nude two years in a row at a SoHo art studio to supplement her meager Starbucks barista income doesn’t mean she’s actually qualified to do anything, other than prove to the masses that she can take her clothes off in public and hold one position for over an hour at a time.

Her boss Deirdre Dolson may dress like she’s eighteen, even if she’s forty-eight, but that’s just because she wants to keep up a youthful appearance. And her boyfriend (Molly’s not Deirdre’s) may have a Words With Friends addiction, along with being a professional rubber, but that’s just because he’s good with his hands…and words.

Even the names were rather inventive, along with being rather amusing. There’s Veeva Penney and Pamela Bendinger and Swifty Lazar and Darrin Aschbacher and Hunkster 500 (Match.com profile) and Thatcher Kamin and Keith Kretchmer. There’s also Angela Leffel who may, or may not, have a massive Twinkie addiction that she’s not willing to share on her blog.

So if you’re in the mood for an entertaining read, minus the thought-provoking part, you could do a lot worse than getting in touch with your Nora Ephron self. I know I’m rather glad I did.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Shot In The Foot

5376551A Fistful Of Charms by
My Rating: 1/5 Stars

The charm was lost on me. Maybe I need to remove the stake from the nape of my neck, devour a clove of garlic in less than 12 seconds, follow it up with some red Kool-Aid, douse myself in holy water, and then shoot a silver bullet up my bum. Or maybe I should tell all the werewolves, witches, pixies, and vampires to suck it, and that I’ll handle the trials and tribulations of dangling from a rope myself. Instead of plunging a few of my fantasies into ecstasy, I was left with a look of horror on my face, and a belief that I somehow showed up to the wrong party on the wrong day and with the wrong date. I’d equate it to watching a chicken with boxing gloves beat the crap out of a coyote.

The Hollows kept me firmly in the shadows. Flipping the pages was like dragging my knuckles through glass and battery acid, reading the dialogue caused multiple convulsions, and listening to Ivy whine in time would have instigated trips to multiple psychiatric specialists and probably more than one straightjacket stint. At the Turn I wanted to burn a stake through my heart, roughly somewhere in the middle of Inderland where black spells and hexes and disguise charms and demon curses forced me to question the limits of my own sanity. To use an expression presented in A FISTFUL OF CHARMS: shit on crap.

I suppose vampires might inhabit Cincinnati, but I can think of plenty of other places I’d rather reside were I to wake up one morning and enter the land of the undead. Even within Ohio, I’d rank other major C cities Cleveland and Columbus higher up the residential map. But, hey, that’s just me.

Sure, there was a plot, but I have no idea what the hell happened. If I were to get shot in the foot, whacked over the head (and knocked unconscious), strapped to the front of a wooden roller coaster at Cedar Point, and then shoved against a brick wall at over ninety miles an hour, I’d probably have an easier time describing what happened to the authorities (assuming I miraculously survived).

Walking Spanish

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My Rating: 4/5 Stars

First person plural isn’t a voice I often see in fiction, even though I did happen to read two of these books rather close together. Both had omniscient voices taking a look at multiple characters (the former was a family and this one was an office). Both were humorous, and both strung zany along with a dog leash and shock collar, zapping my mind at the most inopportune of times, and jolting my reality with more than just innuendo. But that’s where the similarities end, and I must say I couldn’t be more pleased with the resulting differential equation.

If you’ve ever considered your coworkers weird, and believed wholeheartedly that you were the normal individual in this corporately bureaucratic world, this book is for you. If you’ve ever walked down the hallway and had to physically restrain yourself from throttling a coworker about the neck, this book is for you. If you’ve ever wondered why management couldn’t get their shit together, and instead started firing people left and right without any rhyme or reason, and you found yourself sucking your thumb on the unemployment line, this book is for you. If you’ve ever wanted to walk out of a corporate meeting, because the idiot behind the podium has diarrhea of the mouth, and can’t seem to close his mouth for more than two seconds to answer a flippin’ question, even as you’ve waved your hand in the air for the past five minutes, this book is for you. If you’ve ever wanted to strip to your underwear and run through the halls screaming that the entire office staff, including administrative assistants and accountants, are all a bunch of morons, and that you’re done with this place, this book is for you.

So, yeah, at this point we’ve probably pretty much included everybody. And that’s okay, because as the economy pretty much shoves its thumb up its own butthole, you’re going to need a good laugh as you’re walking Spanish (shitcanned) and polishing the turd. THEN WE CAME TO THE END delivers laughter and chuckles amidst the corporate machine otherwise known as greed, and I couldn’t help but get caught up in the debauchery.

One Hot Mess

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My Rating: 4/5 Stars

One hot mess. That’s the first thought that comes to mind. The story was told out of sequence; the characters proved unlikeable and sometimes odious; the entire family managed to engage in conversations without ever really talking about anything meaningful; relationships died faster than a daisy in the middle of a blizzard; the voice was quirky, at times eccentric, and it filled me up with about as much hope as a five car pile-up. But I enjoyed the hell out of it anyway. I can’t adequately explain it, but it spoke to me like a ghost with two heads, or a blue lizard with his mouth open and eyes wide, telling me meaningful and profound thoughts with a slight upturn of his head.

I went into WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH without any predispositions or inclinations, and I was glad I had my eyes open wide, and just went along for the ride. Because this story took me to some dark places, down some lonely roads, and I didn’t particularly like myself at all parts of this journey, but it was an exploratory endeavor that was as discombobulated and confusing and complicated as life itself. Had I not been a bit eccentric, I might have been less than thrilled with this ride, but I often look at myself (and I say this with complete sincerity) as one hot mess. So I connected with the material on a deep, meaningful level, even though it took me a while to reach the level of full emersion.

This novel breaks the major rule of writing: Show, don’t tell. Told from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, it single-handedly proves that with good writing there are no rules. Because I loved the fact that the narrator talks directly to the audience with a bit of dialogue, exposition, and backstory thrown in to move the story along. Even when it moves a bit tangentially (again, I’m often prone to making random connections in the universe), I was giddy with Elizabeth Crane’s storytelling ability. It was like snuggling up in a warm blanket, even if that blanket may turn around and occasionally bite you on the ass.

Debilitating Disease

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My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I’d have to say I wasn’t a big fan of cancer before I started this novel (I lost my grandfather to pancreatic cancer), and I’m even less of a fan of this debilitating disease after finishing this depressing read. But I have to give John Green his due. He could have taken the concept for THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and spun it in an entirely different direction, leaving me in a constant state of despair and depression and during which time I would have needed to be slightly medicated in order to push through the pain. Instead, though, there’s a lingering sense of sadness, but it’s coupled with a sense of hope and a slightly eccentric voice that at times might sound like it has been recycled through a respirator.

Hazel Grace Lancaster was fun and exciting and more than a bit eccentric and even now, it’s hard not to picture her wheeling around an oxygen tank. But she doesn’t want your sympathy. Instead, the tank manages to put another quirk in her step and offer up a bit of wind drag. Her idiosyncratic voice and her rather humorous take on a dire situation had me cheering for her every step of the way.

Even her best friends Augustus and Isaac offered up flashlights in the impending darkness. Despite life dealing all three of them a bum hand, and then piling on the cockroaches inside the mayonnaise sandwiches, the three handed their time-stamped lives with a wisdom and strength well beyond their years.

Relationships ended and others began, as the wheels of time continued to spin; books needed to be read and video games attracted attention; new classes were discovered; and families coped with the impending loss that might hover around the next corner, or then again, it might not. And I couldn’t help my sense of enjoyment, even as I knew it might come with an expiration date.

Pretentious Dialogue

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My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I’d have to say it’s rather difficult to describe my emotional state after finishing BELLMAN & BLACK: A GHOST STORY. On the one hand, this was a well-written, slowly developing story that caused me to contemplate the consequences of all my actions, not just the major, life changing experiences; on the other, it did have ghostly elements, but when I picture a ghost story, this isn’t exactly what I have in mind. It’s more of a literary ghost story where you realize the ghosts are there, but they hover above the playing field and never really step out onto the grass. It also develops this phrase in narrative form: Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. Which proves an interesting expression to ponder for a novel, but I never felt like I was fully invested in this tale.

The dialogue proved a bit pretentious for me with many characters never really becoming enamored with contractions. While William Bellman was certainly an interesting and intriguing character, he never grabbed my attention the way I hoped he would. He was stiff and aloof and more than a tad bit prickly, rigid, and distant. And the pace often proved a bit too leisurely for my tastes. It was more of a meandering jaunt in a field of lilies than a race in an open field. But the writing often sung a soprano solo in the middle of December, I just found myself only half-listening.

In the end, I wanted to enjoy this story, and even though I tried a bit too hard at times to do so, ultimately I just wasn’t the right audience. Since I received THE THIRTEENTH TALE in my Bouchercon book bag, I’ll take it for a spin on the merry-go-round, but I’ll do so with a bit more careful consideration.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

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.