Pretentious Dialogue

17571276 by
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.

Montani Semper Liberi

17925597 by
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Whenever I hear about a novel set in West Virginia by a West Virginia author, my muse does the happy dance, and I want to party like it’s 1863 (for the uninitiated that would be the year of West, by God, Virginia’s statehood) where our slogan is Montani Semper Liberi (Mountaineers are always free). Even as I reminisced in Fairmont and Clarksburg, with Hagerstown and Uniontown not to be excluded and thoughts of toboggans (the hats, not the sleds) and thuses (instead of pep rallies) danced through my dreams, I found myself staring at a cage filled with dead canaries and staring at a lethal dose of carbon monoxide.

Despite QUIET DELL being set in 1931 and my tumultuous affair with historical fiction and my only connection to this particular time period being that my grand pappy approximated the size of a lightning bug, I set out to love, admire, and cherish this tale, only to slip on a patch of ice and crack my head open wider than a canyon. So what happened? The dialogue approached a haphazard nature, with a peppering of exclamation points and stilted turns of phrase, excess language banging off the page, and diatribes seeping through the exposed pores; the sexual encounters approximated an asexual nature, with additional encounters hinted at but not fully explored (probably the safer bet but somehow still managed to feel a tad awkward, like kissing cousins); the story proved both ambitious and a bit convoluted, with a hazy fog slapped across my eyes, and falling short of its promised destination.

While the writing did show hints of promise, I found myself executing a mad rush to the end, somehow convinced that I had been conned all along, and that I will wake up in Chicago in an apartment with all the lights turned on.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

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.