Sexism Baby

18917353Cop Town: A Novel by Karin Slaughter
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sexism baby. It’s pretty-freakin’-ridiculous. But if you can’t move past it, or you’re going to start swearing from the mountaintop, you better just slide right on by, because you will not enjoy this novel. Let that sink in for a moment before we move on. And if you’re going to bitch and moan about it, keep in mind Karin Slaughter wrote a realistic historical novel. She did not set out to write a politically correct novel. And for cripes sakes, this is fiction people.

Atlanta is a wonderful southern city. There’s The Varsity and the College Football Hall of Fame and The World of Coke and Centennial Olympic Park and Stone Mountain Park. Yes, three out of the five attractions I’ve mentioned weren’t open in 1974, and yes, I am still going to mention them anyway, because all five are just plain cool. But if you want to ratchet up your confusion, try driving in downtown Atlanta. There are 71 streets with Peachtree in their name. Fuck me. That’s just crazy. Some city planner really wanted to fuck with tourists. Yeah, and I thought Boston was bad.

I did like COP TOWN. Actually, I really liked it. So why did it take me so long to finish? You might ask. My answer is simple: That first 15 percent or so nearly killed me. But once the train got rolling, it moved faster than a hamster on a wheel, and I was left clinging to the side for dear life. Had I stopped sooner, I would have missed out on one hell of a read. Was it the best novel I’ve read this year? No. Would I read it again? Probably not. But the atmosphere nearly caused me to inhale a carton of cigarettes, a bottle of Jack, and way too much hairspray.

I wanted to wave a red flag and a hand-painted sign for women’s rights, and yes, I really wanted to see what Kate Murphy had going on underneath her uniform. That woman could break a man in two, or serve up a heart attack to a twenty-five year old. Sure, her tits may have been mentioned more than once or twice, but if she’s got a pair that could make Susan Sarandon jealous, I want to hear about it. Yes, she was a blonde, and yes, that endeared her to me a little bit more, but again, I can’t stop that train because it’s already left the station.

This novel was locked and loaded better than a Glock 17. My only wish: there were a few more bullets in the chamber.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Sons Of Anarchy

18769649Ice Shear by M.P. Cooley
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Now that I have made my break from Bismarck, ND, I can once again write reviews of my own volition. It’s much easier to let the creative juices flow when you are no longer chained to a radiator. Anyway…M.P. Cooley knows her small towns and she knows her cops, but pages and plots filled with motorcycles and biker gangs turned me off a tad. Needless to say, my redneck status has been revoked by the great state of Mississippi.

But the picture she did in fact paint of Small Town USA made me wish I had enjoyed it more than I did. But I cannot stop the demented demon, as he often has a mind of his own. And maybe I might have enjoyed the meth lab a tad, if I didn’t have such a clear image of Breaking Bad in my rearview mirror. Or maybe I should be shunned by the great state of New York, have toothpicks jammed in my eyes, shoved in front of a television, and have Sons of Anarchy reruns shoved down my gullet.

The pages did not move at a breakneck speed, and I did not experience even the slightest hint of a wow factor. But that could just be me. I can never really tell these days, and once the nightmares cease (No, not the knife!), I may be able to offer a more coherent interpretation.

I received this book for free at Left Coast Crime.

Tough Bananas And Crackers

18090121Under A Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

So I have to tell a personal story, and if you don’t like it, that’s just tough bananas and crackers. Sometimes it pays to wander around aimlessly in the middle of a mystery conference. You never know what wonderful solutions you might stumble upon. In this particular instance, I happened upon Elizabeth Haynes, and her newest novel UNDER A SILENT MOON. Of course, I had to bypass a slightly impaired individual first, who when I asked her, “What’s everybody in line for?” She promptly and without the slightest hint of a smirk or a smile responded, “A book signing.” Thank you, Captain Obvious. Here would have been the perfect opportunity to offer up any number of wisecracks, all of which slipped right on by me in my semi-agitated state.

But I walked around, burned off a bit of steam, and discovered a treasure trove when I made it all the way to the front of the line. I received one signed ARC courtesy of Elizabeth Haynes and one signed hardcover courtesy of Alafair Burke, so yeah, I’d say it was worth the trouble. I also conveyed to Ms. Haynes how much I enjoyed INTO THE DARKEST CORNER, and I didn’t even need to fib. That alone probably could have put Albany on the map for me, but there are other stories to tell. None of which have anything remotely to do with this novel, so I’ll save them for another round on the merry-go-round.

Unfortunately, though, my complete intoxication made her newest novel just an okay read for me. Sure, it was a police procedural; sure, Louisa Smith (or Lou for short) has a soft voice, a sweet body, and a good head above her breastbone; sure, there was more than one body deader than a skunk on the side of the road; sure, the pace moved along in a rather efficient manner once I dipped a bit more than my toes in the water; sure, there was more than one bout of suffocation sexcapades that really set my imagination afire; and sure, the women and men were all equal parts intriguing and mind-boggling. And there might have even been a free love department marathon, not that yours truly was complaining.

But this novel didn’t make my toes curl, the way her debut novel did. I mean that was some serious shit, and this was merely minor shit. And I know I shouldn’t compare the two novels, and I know Ms. Haynes can write circles around plenty of writers and still have a few more spins left in the tank, and I know I probably would have enjoyed this novel had I not read her debut novel, but I can’t erase the image of that particular masterpiece from the equation, since it touched me on some deeper level, and nearly caused me to forget who I was for about six hours. While this tale just was strictly a wee bit of entertainment.

Oh, and I’d be a bit remiss, if I didn’t mention the situation near the end of this story, so cover your eyes and ears, if you’d prefer not to see how your eggs are cooked. *BEGIN SPOILER* Suzanne Martin was a perfectly excellent villain, and might have been a bit too smart for her own good. But, seriously, you’re going to spout off the entire story of how you killed Polly Leuchars to Andrew Hamilton. I don’t care if he’s a fuckwit of an investigator, and you’re going to turn around and drug his ass later, and even if he was a rather entertaining shag for a few hours. *END SPOILER*

Otherwise, I’d say we’re doing just fine here. Just not fine enough for my heightened expectations.

I received this ARC for free at Bouchercon.

A Case Colder Than The Canadian Border

11078086 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I admit I like free shit. I also admit I’m not entirely rational in my thought process. For example, I happily hand over my Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime Conference fees and feel like I’ve won the lottery when I receive a bag filled with books. Seriously, this ends up being one of the major highlights of these conferences. So in my continued pursuit of this high, minus the conference fees, I have decided to scour Amazon for the best free short stories and books available. With that being said, let’s get to the review.

The Arizona sun never felt hotter. Blazing, beating, reverberating off my skin, blistering my face, and stripping layers off my forehead. I peeled my cheek from the scorching asphalt, the sweltering concrete bouncing off my feet. The metropolitan monstrosity otherwise known as Phoenix bounding up around me, the sounds of traffic bouncing around me. Adobe and enchiladas surrounded me, and I packed my boxes with a hardened heart.

Atmosphere popped out at me, pounding away at my chest, and it was hard not to be intrigued by a city I had never ventured to. David Mapstone may have reached the front of the unemployment line with his history degree hanging at his side, and a sea filled with regret hanging around his neck, and a case colder than the Canadian border bounding from the confines of his mind.

The cast of characters might have lacked a few mental faculties, and there was so much blow I thought it might snow in the Phoenix sun. There’s a more than good chance I might get shot in a mall, or at the side of the road, and the bad guys might wield flak vests and submachine guns like popcorn and Junior Mints, and the plot might move a bit slowly at times while speeding nearly out-of-control at others. But that’s just a part of the experience in CONCRETE DESERT. It’ll shave more than a few years off your life, and it’ll have you staring up at a starry sky while your eyes roll back in your head from the concussion you just suffered.

A Firm Salute

13718967 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Few things bring me greater pleasure than stumbling across free books. One might even say I have a sickness or disease for which there is no cure in this life or the next. But I’ve learned to live with my disease and so has my wife. So when I happened upon THE DROP on the other side of the TSA line as it sat on a metal table and as I picked through my luggage before I headed toward the pearly gate and a destination that was not New Mexico, one might say I was giddy. I took a quick look around and then stuffed this gem of a novel in my backpack before I received a TSA pre-approved pat down and body cavity search.

Did it turn out to be a great novel? Not exactly. Would I have done it again if I could go back in time? Absolutely. Do I like TSA? We have a love-hate relationship, although recent traveling events have leaned me a little more in the love direction.

Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch has had a long and distinguished career within the confines of the LAPD, and I’ve entered the confines of his world from time to time to say hello and offer up a firm salute. Michael Connelly knows his crime fiction, and he knows how to offer up more than a few thrills for even the hard-to-thrill individuals. The cast of characters spans an entire precinct, and the two crimes placed firmly on Harry’s lap span decades forcing him in the middle of a political and criminal quagmire where the scales start to pile up against our aging hero.

The story holds firm even if it feels a bit forced at times, and it’s nice to visit in on an old friend, even if the surroundings feel just a bit too easy and familiar. There’s retribution and hate and animosity and enough of a story to keep the kiddos entertained, but I would have preferred a better meshing of the two crimes and more hard-hitting elements contained within this gritty tale.

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.

A Disturbance In The Creative Force

17928002Alex by Pierre Lemaitre
My Rating: 1/5 Stars

If I may be so bold, I’d like to begin at the end and say there’s definitely a “disturbance in the creative force.”—thanks Amanda Or at least that was my first thought after completing this novel.

If I didn’t want to embrace books with a warm hug and proceed to shove them out into the world by talking about them, promoting them, and engaging in lively discussions with informed readers across the space and time continuum for the rest of my life without fail, I could very easily just write ALEX off and move on with my life, rubbing my palms together, and then ducking under an overpass while the train rocks the tracks above my head. But that wouldn’t be okay, and it certainly isn’t a productive use of my time. Maybe I’m half-sensitive, half-crazy, prone to second-guessing, and have enough of an ego that I feel like I need to somehow be a productive member of society and make some sort of contribution before I dissipate off this Earth faster than a fart in the New Mexican wind, so here we are, wonderful reader and I, dancing the tango over yet another book review. Where I hope to impart a few thoughts, informed opinions, and constructive criticisms, and you can pretend that you actually give a flying fart.

Here are a few of the issues:
Constant telling to the point that I wanted to rip my hair out? Check.
Inside Alex’s head way too much, to the point that I could set up camp, read a newspaper, and smoke a cigarette while balancing a tumbler on my left knee? Check.
Shaggy dialogue? Check.
Exclamation point minefields? Check.
Not getting to the point? Check.
Am I making myself clear? No.
Piss-poor similes and metaphors? Check.
Overstated, redundant, bloated prose? Check.
Stilted, stiff, wooden, overformal, mannered, and pretentious dialogue? Check.
Overemphasis on ellipses? Check.
Repetitious to the point that I thought I had developed CRS disease? Check.
Drama and heightened tension sucked out of the prose faster than a Hoover by mediocre writing? Check.
Excessive stammering to the point that I wanted to offer speech lessons? Check.
Mystery? Possibly but it was a side car on this happy train.
A supposed thriller minus most of the thrills? Check.
Plenty of clichés? Check.
Immediate and unexplained epiphanies? Check.
Brings words like pussyfooting to the foray? Check.
Penchant for passive voice? Check.
Almost seemed to switch POV in the middle of a few scenes? Check.
Editing comments that were both annoying and frustrating and over explained the difference between French and English? Check. (This should be fixed upon the official release, otherwise readers are in for a real treat.)

For the first two-thirds or so of this tale, Alex Prevost just might have been my least favorite character of all time. I’m not sure I could have looked at her, or even been in the same room with her, and being in her head for so long proved rather torturous, corrupting me on more than one level. *BEGIN SPOILER* But once I did understand the motivations for her actions, she did grow on me however slightly, even though it was probably a bit too late in the game for me to come full circle in my way of thinking. And the ending itself proved a bit farfetched even for this roller-coaster-induced tale. *END SPOILER*

If I didn’t already have some sort of complex where I tend to question myself, ponder the meaning of life, and seek out both the good in people and books, I might be perfectly fine with writing two one-star reviews in a row. But I can’t help but feel as though I have somehow failed the universe.

Upon finishing ALEX, I don’t really feel anger or frustration or fury or annoyance, I feel a lingering, profound sadness that hangs over me like the sun, a sense of defeat and loss and despair that clings to me like a wet t-shirt, and then I don’t really feel much of anything at all.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.