Turbocharged Harley

22233311Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

When you slack off for a few days and seek praise in your own writing, bad things tend to happen. With me, my memory went to shit on a stick. So (like Will Ferrell in Old School during the great debate) let me regurgitate DEAR DAUGHTER in a stream of consciousness before I’m even more fucked than I already am.

Janie Jenkins decided to take everything she had discovered over the course of her life—before she ended up in the pokey—and leave it on the side of the road. Her clothes, hair, name, and confidence…broken like a baseball bat. Her ability to mess around until the sun goes down with a semi-famous rock star. Gone. She may have been tabloid fodder with her feet firmly planted in an alternate reality, even as her mom tried to pull the minivan out of the driveway. But she had more than enough intelligence to jam a crucifix in that plan, and stay in the course in that multi-horse town.

With her eyes downcast, and nothing to go on but a place and a date, she seeks justice for a crime she didn’t commit, even if she can’t get those ten years of her life back. But she’s bound and determined to even the score. Her character reminded me of a stray cat that had been kicked a little too much, and missed more meals than she received. Her mom couldn’t have offered a better plug for contraceptives, although she didn’t end up being a total loss.

All the small town and South Dakota atmosphere needed was a six shooter, black hat, cloud of dust, and some western theme music. Yeah, the town nearly became a character in the story, and I reminisced about my brief stint in Rapid City, where the land was flat and the trees were sparse.

The plot nudged along, until Elizabeth Little revved the engine and it took off near the end like a turbocharged Harley, and I nearly fell off and struck the pavement. Other than whiplash and a near brush with asphalt, I managed to keep my butt in my seat. I didn’t even need to dust myself off.

With that being said, I didn’t like the end. It felt like I put my head through a glass door. Otherwise, though, I was good to go. If I pick up another Elizabeth Little novel, I’ll just make sure I walk with my hand in front of my face.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

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.

On The Back Of A Pickup Truck

18143775Above by Isla Morley
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I think it’s safe to say at this point in my life I was not the intended audience for this book. I wanted to show up for the party, and I had every intention of dancing with a pretty lass until the world ended, and I met my maker on the back of a pickup truck. But, alas, it twas not to be. The door was slammed in my face, and I was unable to march through the threshold. Or maybe I was at the bottom of a pit while the laughing hyena on top smiled and grinned at me.

Blythe Hallowell didn’t really work for me as a character, and as the leader of this charade, I felt more than a little cheated and dismayed. Sure, she’s lived a sheltered life, kept against her will, and has a son named Adam who is her pride and joy. But she seemed to travel back in time in both spirit and vocabulary, instead of dealing with the present apocalypse at hand. The plot seemed more than a little out of place within the ABOVE pages, and my mind raced a little too hard to fill in a few of the story gaps. Or maybe that was just my memory lapse.

Dobbs didn’t really have a decent bone in his body, and I like to see a bit more from my villains. He was more one-dimensional enemy than a man who got lost somewhere within the confines of this life or the next. And he had plenty of time to build up a little rapport with the heroine of this tale, but he failed on multiple levels.

The big escape left me grasping for more, even if my wishes were going to remain unfulfilled. And a life such as this could have used a little more bliss, even if the world was ready to end. And the big reveal at the end of this tale left me shaking my head, as I turned in for bed. I slipped away hoping to come back again someday, only to have my world filled with a shimmering array of darkness.

Maybe, though, I just need to blame myself for not getting it and call it a day, because while I like to think I have a grand master plan if the world were to come to an end tomorrow. I don’t. I’d probably just pack up my ship and sail out to sea and hope that a monster with a few extra tentacles somehow doesn’t find me.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Boy Howdy

20333955Any Other Name: A Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I had decided to linger awhile before I opened up my world to this particular read, but then I reevaluated my original decision and decided a few more of you need to get on the Craig Johnson bandwagon before we run your ass over. Whether I decide to drive this truck, or sleep in the passenger seat, this is one ride filled with beautiful prose and strings of curse words (courtesy of Victoria Moretti), a rather large Indian, and more than a little folklore and Wyoming history weaved through its elegant pages. And that doesn’t even include the man himself. Longmire, or so the TV series goes, but most of you probably know him as Walt. He may have his way with the ladies, and he hates to run for more than a mile or two, but he can drink a longneck better than any redneck, and he has friends who can commune with the spirits, so yeah, he’s got that going for him. He’s also a bit stubborn, and he has this habit of actually finishing his cases, and not leaving a single man…or woman behind.

To top it all off, he’s on the verge of his first grandchild, and he’s been left to the Wyoming elements more than once in his life, but that just means he’s gotten good at dealing with the cold and the snow and even a few coldhearted souls who show their fangs at the first available opportunity. With a lingering sensation at the back of my neck and hairs standing at attention saluting the sky, I charged through this read with my elbows out and my game face on, and I plunged into a universe filled with more than just dead bodies.

Victoria “Vic” Moretti might just be one of my favorite fictional characters of the female persuasion. She’s got a mouth on her that could get you arrested in Colombia, and she has more curves than the letter S, and she nips earlobes and other available body parts at will. Boy howdy. That’s all I have to say about that. Now that I have picked my jaw up with the back of my right hand, we’ll move on.

Dickzilla. Not to be confused with Bridezilla can be one evil bastard. He’s not known for intelligence, or even a slight amount of competence, but he’ll lead the charge and stomp you into the nearest cow patty. But once you hose yourself off, you’ll soon realize it’s nothing personal.

ANY OTHER NAME certainly made me loud and proud and more than a little glad I had the opportunity to do so before the masses. I was entertained for the better part of this tale with my six-shooter on my right hip, and my wink ready to go, along with my cowboy boots and sweet lass on my right arm. But if you really want to see Craig Johnson exhibit his true talents, you may want to start a bit earlier in this series. If you’re a longtime fan, or even if you’ve fired off a round or two with the man himself, you may find yourself happy you hopped along for the ride.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Bonafide Killing Machine

18923500The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If religion ain’t how you like to swing from the tree branches, then there’s much you won’t like about THE LINCOLN MYTH. If you’re a southern who still refers to the Civil War as The War of Northern Aggression, you may find yourself nodding along at times, and still wishing you had shown those northern bastards a thing or two. The idea of a continuing, perpetual union was fought on the battlefield leading to what has continued to this day. Unless, of course, you’re in Texas, which ends up being its own entity entirely. But that’s a story for another day.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aka Mormons filled more than a few pages of this story, and I couldn’t help but have flashbacks (possibly visions or nightmares) to my Fifty Shades days. The body and soul may have departed, but the stench remains. I guess you could say Mormons aren’t exactly at the top of my Christmas list, so what follows might be slightly tainted by my own beliefs and opinions. Not visions. So if you’re still reading at this point, remember Jesus hasn’t told you to.

Cotton Malone may not sound like much of a man, but don’t let the name fool you, he’s a bonafide killing machine. He’ll rock your world six ways from Sunday, and he won’t even think twice about it, and that swift kick to the nuts you feel all the way in your toes, will drop you faster than a sack of potatoes. He can also be a bit slow to love, but that’s just because he’s seen a side of the world most of us only read about in newspapers and magazines.

I don’t know why, but the name Cassiopeia Vitt rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it was just the name, but I wasn’t particularly endeared to her character either. She seemed a tad too manipulative for my tastes. She reminded me of a black widow ready to strike me dead. Had I been fortunate enough to live, I might have wished I hadn’t.

The story felt a bit long and drawn out, even if the plot did move at a somewhat expeditious pace. Even though I’d check off the religion category on the latest Excel spreadsheet iteration, the religious angle was a bit much for me at times. Other than Cotton Malone, the rest of the cast of characters lacked a bit of dimension to truly make them whole. While I prefer not to jump to conclusions without all the available facts, it did feel like Steve Berry had decided to coast a bit through this one, instead of shifting his car out of neutral.

If you’re new to the Steve Berry arena, you may be better served by starting a bit earlier in this series. But if you’re already a fan, and you don’t mind the appearance or reference of a few prophets, you may find yourself right at home between the pages.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Heart-Pounding Thrill Ride

19941395The Accident by Chris Pavone
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If I didn’t already know the publishing industry was filled with a bunch of crazy bastards, THE ACCIDENT would have sealed the deal for me. So, of course, I was thrilled with my particular choice. But I digress. What thrilled me to no end were the constant references and insights and foresights into the world of agents and editors and writers that is publishing.

Filled with big dreams and even bigger unfulfilled promises, the odds are stacked against you before you even step up to bat. And since nobody in America reads, other than the select few on Goodreads, you can be the next big thing in a country that doesn’t read. And as this brilliant novel so aptly proves, you can even get shot or killed or stalked or sued for your trouble, so if you’re a writer or a publisher, you’ve got that to look forward to as well. Again, it’s not as wonderful as you might think, because you actually have to have a good bit of luck involved, along with talent and skill, unless you happen to have the next big celebrity reveal stashed in your hip pocket.

If you want to know how to maneuver from the A list down to C level, you might want to talk to Jeffrey Fielder, who for a middle-aged man happens to be more gun shy than he’s ever been in his life. Or maybe you want to converse with Isabel Reed, who can be seen running through the halls of the ATM agency on her way out of town. Or maybe you’d prefer to take a gander at Camilla Glyndon-Browning, who can rock your world courtesy of the closest bathroom sink. Or maybe you’d like to speak to Alexis, who might be looking for a career change or a step up in an industry filled with plenty of novels and not always the best commissions.

If you want to know how to spend your next twenty-fours, you first might want to consider how you shouldn’t spend it. What this novel does is give you a whole lot of arguments for shying away from the present predicaments contained within this 402 page heart-pounding thrill ride. It ramps up the tension around every street corner and every neighboring town, and it doesn’t really ease off the gas until you’re headed across the finish line. So, yeah, you could say I was entertained.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

A Little Punch With My Applesauce

21951372The Shill by John Shepphird
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If I ever need a little punch with my applesauce and pinto beans, I might just have to focus my gaze in the direction of John Shepphird, and hope to heck I don’t blink first. With Jane Innes in my corner, it’d be hard to steer myself in the wrong direction. Sure, she’s had her share of bad luck, but I’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t ran into a door or two in her day, or ended up as a hood ornament on a Chevy Impala in the middle of Sunset Boulevard. That kind of shit happens all the time in LA. If this city is filled with angels, then I must have gotten off at the wrong bus stop. And while it does add a certain amount of tragedy to the situation, it amps up the reading factor by about six or seven.

THE SHILL reminded me of a clown, who was bitten by a rattlesnake, injected with steroids, and then fed human flesh until his ears popped. The pace nearly dropped me over the edge of the cliff, a hail of bullets accosted me from every direction, and an errant branch was my only saving grace that kept me out of a tunnel of water three hundred feet below.

The dialogue had more punch than grace or style, and the prose may have lacked a bit of flowery language. But I don’t need roses and rhododendrons when there are guns and ammo to break my fall. This novella was filled with masculine words and musk and AXE and clipped phrases and femme fatales and seduction and dead bodies and I didn’t want to look away.

Full disclosure: I’m on the hook for a novella with Stark Raving Press.

San Bernardino Mountains

18932044Plaster City by Johnny Shaw
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Dan and Kemper just might be reading geniuses. George Pelecanos notwithstanding. After all, even Albert Einstein didn’t get it right all the time. But Johnny Shaw is one beautiful bastard. He even has a great one liner when he was asked to describe PLASTER CITY: “Two dumb guys with a really bad plan.” I mean, shit, how much better could it possibly get. I’d buy that book. And when I was threatened within an inch of my life for previous sins committed against Saint George, I decided that it might be time to trickle out of the darkness and poke my head at the sun. So instead of a live grenade strapped to my waist and a bullwhip wrapped around my neck…well, I chose to live. Being strangled and blown to dust in the middle of California just doesn’t provide me with enough excitement in my world.

If you could take all the bad luck in the universe and hand it off to two ignorant bastards, you’d probably choose Jimmy Veeder and Bobby Maves, and these two fools would probably be stupid enough to thank you. But that’s what made them so cute and cuddly. Pure ignorance was coupled with a wave of bliss, and I was left tearing through pages like a gun was pointed at my head with the hammer cocked.

Seeing the fiery inferno headed my way, I chose to stand on the sidelines and watch the blaze roll on by. It tore through trees and tumbleweed and California sand before it passed out just short of the San Bernardino Mountains, and I found it hard not to look away. No, I stared directly into the flames, and I might have even had the slightest uptick of a smile.

The dialogue punched me in the gut and knocked me on my ass, and some man with steel cables for arms nearly took out my nose. I might have lost two lead pipes in the fight, but I was damn sure going to walk away with my pride. And maybe a stupid grin. In the end, I’d say it was all worth it, and I have no doubt Johnny Shaw and I are going to get along just fine.

A Weakness For Cops

18891519 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Maxine “Max” Revere might have what one could call a strong personality. She knows what she wants, and she’s not afraid to go after it, diving right into the swimming pool. Whether it’s men, or a friend, or a story, or a dead body, she’s not afraid to mess up her manicure. Her strong will could bowl over even the hardest of hearts, and she has one devilish smile to even out the fair trade. And she knows how to dress for all occasions, even if it means she might get a little blood on her clothes.

She may have a weakness for cops, or one might call it an obsession, and she’s rather adept with a pair of handcuffs. While I appreciated her sticky situation, I had trouble with my focus at various points along the way. Max, while intriguing, managed to keep me at a distance throughout much of the story, even while her NOTORIOUS circumstances managed to hold me in suspense and despair.

The cold case concept intrigued me, and her beguiling smile deceived me, and her off-putting attitude caused her a whirlwind of trouble wherever she went, even if she kept her head in the game, and her eyes on the horizon. Making friends might not have been at the top of her list, but she commanded attention and a second glance wherever she managed to turn up next.

Other than Nick Santini, many of the males felt like caricatures, instead of full-bodied versions ready to spring off the page and into my living room. Had the men measured up to the women, it might have provided a bit more balance to the equation, and made it a bit easier to swallow for this particular reader. Not bad writing, or a bad story, mind you, but not a tale that showcases Allison Brennan at her story writing best.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

More Populated State

18134782 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I must be one sentimental bastard. While I’d like to say, “I ain’t missing you at all.” I’d be hard-pressed to do it with a straight face. Eighteen years? No problem. But, on the other hand, life’s too short to let that much time pass. Seize the moment. That’s what I always say. Or maybe it was Sigmund or Freud or Siskel or Ebert.

MISSING YOU did have its sentimental moments. But it also contained a rather prominent criminal element, since this novel falls smack dab in the suspense/thriller category. With detectives and captains and bad dudes galore, and at least one bloodbath soaked its way through the printed pages, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better roller-coaster ride. I even managed to get a little soppy on at least one occasion, but shhhh (holds a finger up to my lips), you can’t tell anyone. And when blood made its metallic appearance, I had one of my woo-hoo moments. Probably one of just many reasons why I’d say I’m not necessarily a normal member of society.

That’s also why I probably need to find a slightly more populated state for my twilight years. I’d have to say I’m a bit creeped out to live in isolation, so I’m scratching Wyoming and the Dakotas and Montana off my wish list for the sake of my own sanity. The quiet and the possibility of being a mile or so from my nearest neighbor just doesn’t necessarily give me the same warm feeling that an axe to the jugular does. No, wait, a hug around the neck would probably be more appropriate here.

The plot kept me on the edge of my seat, as the pages flipped with effortless ease, and I ground my teeth to relieve just a bit of the tension. Kat and Dana and Brandon proved a dynamic trio that I could get behind, or in front of, as we headed off into battle, even if I ended up in a rather precarious position. The ending came a bit too soon (although not at the wrong time), but I wanted to continue to dangle on the edge of the plateau staring down at the river below.

Was I satisfied? Yes, Stagger, I believe I’d say I was.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.