Sexism Baby

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

Sexism baby. Itís pretty-freakiní-ridiculous. But if you canít move past it, or youíre 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 youíre 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. Thereís 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 Iíve mentioned werenít 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. Thatís 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 Iíve 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 womenís 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 sheís 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 canít stop that train because itís 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.

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 thatís 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 didnít phone it in from afar, but it didnít feel like they brought their A game. Sure, their B+ game is better than many an up and coming and already established author, but Iíve seen the top of the mountain, and Iím 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 didnít 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 Iíd still like to believe that a great novel can take me anywhere. With this tale, I didnít get that.

The plot moved as quickly as a 1 Ĺ 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.

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 MONDAYíS LIE is the best book Iíve read this year. However, I am fairly confident that I have discovered the top two books I will read in 2015Öwith 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 wonít be that bad. But I have trouble with the concept of lightning striking me three times, mainly because I donít 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, letís 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 sheís 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 didnít 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 ainít exactly erotica, though. In some ways novel classification can be a disservice, when weíre talking genre-bending reads, and THE GIRL IN 6E certainly fits the bill. If youíre 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 youíll probably be disappointed at what this little gem has to offer the world.

If thatís the case, though, then youíre 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

Iím developing a slight infatuation for a woman named Jamie Mason. And, no, you canít have her, I saw her first. This might be the best novel Iíve read this year, and every last one of you bastards should go out and read it for yourselves. Why? You might ask. Well, if youíre not just going to take me at my word and stop at third, then letís delve a little deeper, shall we. Each word felt as though it was handcrafted and mulled over for hours. If thatís the case, then Iím probably going to cry a little, because that means Iím 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 thatís indeed the case, I shall cry a little less.

Thatís not enough, you say. Youíre all a bunch of heathens. Okay, thereís more. She totally reinvented herself from her debut novel to this one. Itís 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 Iíd need a Venn diagram to plot it all out, and frankly, I just donít have the time for plot charts and graphs. But if thatís your thing, then have at it, sister, I wonít stop you.

There is no sophomoric slump. No second novel blues. Instead, sheís painted a world filled with orange and red. MONDAYíS 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 sheís 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, ďConstant reader.Ē 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, youíll thank me later.

I received this ARC for free at Bouchercon.

A Bigger Bone

21457477Paw and Order†by Spencer Quinn
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Chet may be one brilliant bastard (for a dog), but I read this during my darker days where the nights were long and the radiator was cold, and itís hard to read (or sleep) when you have a flashlight shined in your eyes every half-hour. Sure, the cabin was fun for the first day or so, and I even pretended to like it, but not sleeping gets old really fast.

And so does Chet. Something was amiss, and I donít think it was the lack of bacon bits. Sure, Suzie Sanchez makes an appearance, and where would Chet be without Bernie by his side, but I just wanted a bigger bone, and more fresh water in my bowl (and not the kind you get out of the toilet either as thatís saved for special occasions).

But even though I missed the smell of bacon and water and more than a few scratches on my belly, I still enjoyed frolicking around inside Chetís head. The air was crisp and plenty (since it was blowing in my face), and I leaned my head out the window and squirrel and then he was running and I was running and my teeth were smacking and his lips were jabbering and I found myself being yelled at for no apparent reason. And thatís sort of what PAW AND ORDER felt like. It started out as great fun, but I ended up getting scolded in the end.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Suck Your Soul Out Of Your Body

20078609One of Us†by Tawni O’Dell
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If you look up the term cold-hearted bitch in the dictionary, youíre liable to find a picture of Scarlet Dawes. She has evil figured out so well she could suck your soul out of your body from three feet away. And then sheíd kick your decaying corpse with her stiletto heel while carrying her Gucci purse. Sheís so evil that her mom resorted to the gin and tonic years ago (heavy on the gin light on the tonic), and her dad was born without a soul, and thereís an empty void where his heart should be. I bet their Christmas cards are wonderful.

Dr. Sheridan Doyle knows how to fill out a pair of high end jeans and Cole Haan loafers and finish up the ensemble with a tailored coat. But he also still hasnít completely outgrown his awkward phase now thatís he back home, and dealing with more than a few of his own demons. Heís a strong, confident man who still has a little boy lingering underneath his covers.

By dividing the book in sections and including multiple perspectives, I really started to feel like one of the family, even if the clan was a bit demented, and would probably eat my heart and liver with a spoon. The pace was more of a slow, heated burn, like sitting out in the Pennsylvania sun for two hours too long in the middle of August. And my West Virginia roots appreciated the mining subplot and small town background. ONE OF US offered up plenty of enjoyment, even if it managed to produce a few nightmares in the process. So grab your sleeping pills and sunscreen because itís liable to be a bumpy ride.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Separation Of Church And State

18586573The Butcher†by Jennifer Hillier
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

On the one hand, I could give this book a scathing review, clap my hands together and walk away; on the other, I could do a bit more analysis, delve a bit deeper than its rusty surface, and throw in a few psychobabble terms for my handful of diligent readers out there. Letís see, I think weíll go with Option B, Alex, and letís make it for $600, just to make things interesting. AndÖhereÖweÖgo.

More than a few reviewers have been less than generous, and if I could offer up a deduction, Iíd say it stems from the following sentence: ďA thriller with taut, fast-paced suspense, and twists around every corner, The Butcher will keep you guessing until the bitter, bloody end.Ē This, unfortunately, does not do Jennifer Hillier any favors, as THE BUTCHER is not that type of novel. To be perfectly blunt about it, another publisher has fucked an author in the ass. If I were king for a day, Iíd probably fire more than one marketing department, and send them back to school for their MBAs. Because we certainly didnít learn that shit in any marketing class I ever took. But in my experience, most publishers are experts in publishing, not marketing, and yes there is separation of church and state, at least in this case. Sorry, the chopper interrupted my train of thought. Letís move on, shall we?

Instead of taking a cleaver to this tale, I actually was rather happy to bump and bounce along through the streets of Seattle with Pike Place firmly etched in my rearview. Sure, the characters might have been a bit one-dimensionalóMatt and Edward were certainly no exceptionóbut that was all part of the experience. Sam, on the other hand, proved a tad more interesting, at least in my estimation. Even though the killer is revealed in the first 30 pages, the real fun is in seeing how it all goes down on the playground, and what will await us at the end of our journey.

With a clipped pace and bodies stacking up to the left and right, I found myself rushing forward with both hands in front of my face to swat away errant limbs and branches. And, yes, you have to be of a particular persuasion to enjoy this tale, since it covers sunny topics like rape and incest and murder.

So, yes, we can castrate the author or the novel for what it isnít based on the last paragraph in the description, or you can expunge that last sentence from your brain (as I did) and focus on what this particular novel is. If you can reach a separation of church and state, then you may have found yourself a winner.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

New York City Morgue

22411Invisible Prey†by John Sandford
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I love ďThat Fuckiní Flowers.Ē He may not be the main show or even a Romeo, but heís one hilarious bastard. He may need to spend a bit more time at the range, and thereís the distinct possibility heís more interested in writing and fly fishing than he is detective work, but that just makes him memorable and interesting.

The usual suspects populate INVISIBLE PREY, so if youíre familiar with Lucas Davenport and Weather and Kidd, youíll feel right at home. But if this is your first rodeo, then I should probably ask you ďWhere the hell have you been for the past 25 years?Ē By my calculations there are 24 Davenport novels and 8 Flowers novels, plus you have the Kidd novels, and yeah, Iím probably missing a few along with some screws.

The pace jerked me more than a socket wrench; the bodies stacked up faster than a New York City morgue; there were antiques and robberies and a few dichotomies; and smack dab in the middle stood Lucas Davenport in all of his infinite glory. Was it the best Prey novel Iíve ever read? Itís really hard to say, because Iíve read them in spurts and squirts, but itís a damn good read if youíre into that sort of thing.

Pure Conjecture

6569735Dark Places†by Gillian Flynn
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Gillian Flynn scares the shit out of me. Whilst this is nothing more than pure conjecture, it wouldnít surprise me to learn she was a serial killer in a former life, or that she stabs bunnies and kittens and hamsters and toy poodles during her spare time (for research purposes). Sure, she has her shit together, but she has an interesting way of sprinkling her love for Kansas across 368 ink-splattered pages. It begs the question: What would she do with a state like California and in a city like LA? The LA tourism board probably has had many a sleepless night just mulling over what this superbly talented author could do. Future headline in the Los Angeles Times: Tourism down 31% in three weeks. And if I were Kemper, Iíd search for land elsewhere. I hear Antarctica isnít bad this time of year. If you need a recommendation, Iíll put you in touch with Kate Upton.

Seriously, though, DARK PLACES dropped me in a dank forest in the middle of the night, shaved my head, punched me in the gut, stabbed me in the throat, and then kicked me in the crotch, all within the first 250 pages or so. If you want to learn about manís inhumanity to man, I canít think of many authors that do it better. But if you donít want to be sucking applesauce through a straw, hooked up to a catheter, and have a nurse that resembles the Joker wield a scalpel near your jugular, you might want to point yourself in the direction of the latest Disney movie (probably not Maleficent) and get yourself a handful of gummy bears.

Libby and Ben Day had more than a few things to say, and quite possibly needed an intervention. While I probably would have enjoyed this more if I had even one character I could root for (even the mother made me shudder and cringe), that wouldnít be realistic in this particular world. Maybe I had to enter the right frame of mind to meander my way from beginning to end, but once I found purchase on this particular surface, I rushed toward the conclusion without any particular illusions. And then discovered I needed a shower and shave and a nightlight to help me make it until it dawn.

Points For Style

19547767The City: A Novel†by Dean Koontz
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

If points were awarded for style and having his way with the English language, then Dean Koontz deserves a solid 8.5 for THE CITY, where the prose sings soprano, and hits all of the high notes. But if you want to award an author for his plot and filling a novel with substance, instead of flowery language comprised of mums and daffodils and rhododendrons and roses, then he gets -7 in this arena, and that may even be a tad generous. I mean, this is the same man who takes the mundane and turns it into one machete-wielding bastard. Forget Freddy and Jason, and all the other hacks, this man takes a father figure, stuffs him full of crazy, and sets him loose on society. If that shit doesnít freak you out, then youíre probably not thinking hard enough.

If names were any indication of a personís destiny, then itís no surprise that Jonah Ellington Basie Hines Eldridge Wilson Hampton Armstrong Kirk is a musical prodigy and can recreate a song after listening to it. Sure, heís one brilliant son of a gun, and this novel shows plenty of brilliance, but it gets caught up in the mundane. And I found myself asking the question about when the train might pull up to the station and take me away from this universe with verse left to spare on some unsuspecting neíer-do-well.

Thereís a cutting fiend who takes up residence on the sixth floor, just above our nine year-old hero in Apartment 5-C who wields a knife at his throat, and leaves a few trinkets behind for the residents to remember her by. But it seemed like more of an artificial way to ratchet up suspense, instead of grounded in a more concrete foundation. Where this story really failed, though, is it never went anywhere. Similar to a hitchhiker who gallivants across the country, stopping in Nashville and Columbus and Chicago and Denver and Albuquerque and LA and then Las Vegas before finally settling in Lincoln, it just seemed all over the place.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.