Dirty Pair Of Drawers

18672509The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

There’s something about an athletic woman wielding a long bow that really helps me find my stride on the highway. What proved most interesting were the pieces about the Amazons and their sparse history, as THE LOST SISTERHOOD overflowed with Greek mythology. But that was where this tale and I parted ways on the positive side, as many of the negatives pressed into my flesh.

First, this novel splayed itself across a few too many pages, and then it managed to develop an ambitiousness best reserved for politicians and CEOs. It may have been historical, or women’s fiction, or action & adventure, or literary, or possibly even fantasy. Had the fantasy only been in my head, I would have been perfectly fine with the outcome. Instead, the fantasy spread itself across over 600 pages of stilted prose, as I held my nose with one hand and flipped each page of my Kindle with the other.

The characters proved a bit hard to swallow—like thumbtacks as I asked for my life back—and the ending felt like it was sprung upon me, like a dirty pair of drawers. Had this novel discovered the pace and precision of The Da Vinci Code, I would have gladly hung on for the ride. Instead, though, I gripped this story with two fingers held firmly away from my face, and waited for the ride to end. The end, though, didn’t come soon enough.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Promptly Forgot It

17795589The First Rule of Swimming: A Novel by Courtney Angela Brkic
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

THE FIRST RULE OF SWIMMING: stay afloat. Easier said than done when I hovered beneath the depths of prose, and searched for my bubbles on my way toward the surface, popping above the water and gasping for air. More often than not, I drowned, swallowing seawater, my lungs filling, my eyes popping out of my head, my clothes drenched, as I ended up entrenched with the sharks and a stingray. But I did see a blowfish explode, and I tried to blow my nose underwater—it didn’t work—and I coughed my way to the surface, barely making it to the top.

What kept me treading water was the writing. But what smacked me over the head was elongated prose, a world filled with bastard characters, loose threads, and strangled sensations that had me traipsing through time.

Needless to say, this book probably came at the wrong time, along with being more than a tad too ambitious in 337 pages. Instead, of punching through my psyche, it ripped me in about six different pieces, none of which seemed to lead the charge. How would you like to phrase the answer, Alex? Maybe we’ll call it a historical, psychological, literary, contemporary women, domestic thriller. And if you figure out what the frick that is, please let me know, because I honestly don’t have a clue.

What might have been this book’s greatest sin of all, though, was once I finished it, I promptly forgot it. And not just a slight memory lapse either. By the time I reached the end, the whole damn book might have been nothing more than a figment of my imagination.

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.

Creeped Me Out Something Fierce

8521731Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

If my mother were Lorraine O’Sullivan, I’d have shot her self-absorbed ass and fed her decomposing corpse to the coyotes, while whistling the theme to Deliverance through my missing two front teeth. Which would have presented me with one of two scenarios: either I would have been locked up so fast I wouldn’t have had time to stop whistling let alone scream for an attorney, or Clayton Falls might have thrown a parade for me on the spot, to include fire engines and penny candy and clowns and the local marching band. Either way, though, it would have ended in fireworks.

But aside from parades and jail cells, STILL MISSING creeped me out something fierce. Heck, Deliverance (which I should disclose I haven’t seen) with its mountain men and male rape scene sounds more like rainbows and pixie sticks compared to what transpires in this novel. STILL MISSING is told through flashbacks via Annie O’Sullivan’s therapy sessions, as she talks about her yearlong mountain cabin confinement, daily rape, scheduled pee breaks, and attempts to escape. David, her captor, brings a new definition to the word psychopath.

There’s also a second narrative recounting events in her life following her escape, and frankly, it doesn’t sound like her life has improved all that much. Annie sleeps in closets, jumps at any sound that races through the night, and shuts down from the world around her. She’s a victim in every sense of the word, and her strong, vibrant nature and social life suffer accordingly. Reading about her dramatic change was near gut-wrenching, but this was a book I wasn’t about to put down. With its plot twists, true-to-life characters, confinement issues, and individuals with psychopathic tendencies, this novel has something for everyone, minus the kiddos.

With her debut novel, Chevy Stevens has already proven that she’s a psychological thriller master. I’ve already purchased her follow-up NEVER KNOWING, and I eagerly await the opportunity to be creeped out all over again. I just need to take a few deep breaths before I make the plunge.

Shotgun Weddings

18522265Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Secrets in small towns spread like tumbleweed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That is to say a secret lasts about as long as a change in wind direction, or a flying ball sailing across a major highway in the middle of rush hour traffic. SHOTGUN LOVESONGS brings up many of the negative points about small town life, and therefore it won’t be at the top of my Christmas list anytime this century. The third person multiple perspective nature of this tale peppered with the occasional flashback left me with a head scratch or two for my trouble, but I was in charge of my fate as I continued onward. Perseverance pushed me toward the finish line, not the writing or the story itself. Each perspective proved mostly unique, but I did feel as though it was all a bit convoluted.

Lee and Kip and Chloe represented a trio of selfish bastards and bastardettes. With more than a secret or two between them, I wanted to offer up a tongue lashing, but it might have fallen on a group more focused on a Droid phone clutched between delicate fingers, or lost in a previous reverie. With my thoughts scattered and my hopes shattered, I had really hoped a few more lives might turn out better, instead of shotgun weddings and battered relationships and subsequent divorces.

The story sounded better in the synopsis, or maybe I had higher hopes, or the bleakness of the tale shattered my optimistic dreams. Whatever the reason, I found myself more put off than satisfied, and that included the mostly unrealistic ending. If this story was supposed to represent life, it wasn’t a life I was particularly interested in living.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Slitting Your Throat

19826961That Night by Chevy Stevens
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I needed to write this review, and it wasn’t because Jesus told me to. I just wanted to clear the air on that particular point, because a few of my proclivities and tendencies will be made abundantly clear over the course of the next several hundred words, and if profanity ain’t your cup of java, you may want to leave the building before Elvis does.

Sonofabitch, she’s back. I don’t know where she went for novels two and three. I can speculate, but I prefer to stick to the facts, since I’m a simpleminded person at heart. What I do know is that I read Never Knowing and wasn’t particularly impressed, and I’ll probably read ALWAYS WATCHING at some point before I kick the bucket, but I’d say the chances are better than average that I’ll be underwhelmed. But in the meantime, let’s focus on the task at hand, and if I had to sum up THAT NIGHT in one sentence it would be thus: It was damn good.

This was one serious mindfuck from the first page to the last. Women can be some serious bitches and torment each other for years, decades even. Men, on the other hand, simply don’t function that way. We’re either not smart enough, or vindictive enough, or maybe it’s some combination of the two.

I mean growing up I thought my brother was a little shit, and to be perfectly honest, I was probably a little bastard, but I didn’t plan his imminent demise for sixteen years of my life. If you’re looking for that kind of deep-seated revenge, you might as well start planning out multiple graves, or maybe you’ll need a whole cemetery to bury the bodies. But it makes for good entertainment. Just ask the creators of Revenge.

Sorry, getting back on track here. More than once, my eyes were wide, and the little voice in my head said, “That couldn’t possibly happen.” And then the roller coaster of emotions started, and I found myself clinging to the edge of the cliff by my teeth. The pages flipped with effortless ease like I was giving the fuzz the bird from the front seat of my Corvette. I piled emotions on top of emotions until I was buried in a haze and cloud filled stupor, the bottle caressing my lips over and over again.

Shauna and Rachel, Kim and Cathy reminded me of a viper or a praying mantis. If I ever had any inclinations of returning to high school to relive my glory days, I’d bury them right now in my own backyard. If you want to see nasty, it doesn’t get much nastier than the four of them. Holding your hand one minute and slitting your throat the next is just how these girls roll, and if you don’t like it, you can back the fuck off. Dealing with the bodies might prove to be a bit of a challenge, but one that can be overcome with smiles and more hand holding and quite possibly a tire iron.

Despite my better judgment, I liked Toni. While some reviewers might shout at the heavens and curse her very name, I found myself rooting for her. She wasn’t just dealt a bad hand; she had an entire deck of fraudulent cards. If you don’t like her pity party, that’s fine, but she truly wants to turn her life around and move on, and if that means she stumbles once in a while, she just needs to pick herself back up.

If you believe I have a soft spot for the underdog, you’re absolutely right. That’s just how I roll. Nicole, though, was the good one, the pretty one, and she used all of her assets to her advantage, her mother doting on her like she was a doll. So, yeah, she didn’t get any sympathy points from me, but then I like to see the little gal win.

It’s easy to say that these teenagers are mere caricatures, but when have young adults not been a bunch of bastards and bitches. I was young once, I know how it all goes down on the playground. And if you’re in the popular crowd, it’s like being in a mosh pit at the latest hard rock concert. I stood back and watched all the madness unfold, and that’s exactly what I did here. If you’re smart, you’ll do the same, and might even glad you partook in the festivities.

You might, however, be a bit disappointed in the ending, and I can’t say that I’d blame you in that regard.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Reality Avenue

20566182Real Happy Family: A Novel by Caeli Wolfson Widger
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Danger Will Robinson. I’m about to get nostalgic on your asses, and I really hope you’ll indulge me for just a minute. If you’re looking for my review, it’ll begin in the next paragraph. But I honestly can’t think of another way to do this. What I’d like to do is take this opportunity to say thank you. I started on Goodreads to improve my social media footprint and get my name out there via another avenue, and maybe discover another book or two, but it’s become so much more than that. It’s become a community. A family. My wife has said, “You’re pretty lucky.” But I’d go above and beyond that, and say that I’m damn lucky.

If you’re looking for that other type of family—you know the ones that snort drugs and bomb out on reality television and drift away from their respective husbands and wives and might not behave like true parents and veer off script more often than they stay on it and just happen to come in all various shapes and sizes—then REAL HAPPY FAMILY is for you. This novel takes Speidi and Bennifer to the brink of extinction with the proverbial train wreck waiting on every corner and maybe twice on Reality Avenue.

Sure, it’d be easy to call this novel a disaster, and then hang my head in shame, as I run for the nearest restroom to get a little bump to go along with my steak tartare and Pinot Grigio. But I was proud to discover this find, even if it reminded me of the rubberneckers on 95 or the 405. With characters that proved somewhat simple in nature and constantly choosing the wrong door, I was happy that I only temporarily occupied the stark raving universe otherwise inhabited by Colleen, Darren, Carl, Lorelei, and Robin and a handful of other misfits and oddballs and eccentrics and cranks.

The story followed a non-linear construct, so if straight lines and moving in order from A to B to C are your modus operandi, you might find yourself scratching your head a time or two. But the pace moved along at a reasonable clip, and I found myself a little sad to reach the end, even if it took me a few pages to find myself fully immersed in this tale.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

The Voice Kept Me Turning Pages

13051956 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

What I hope to find (and what will get me to spend my money quicker and invest hours upon hours of my own time) when I pick up a book is one that doesn’t sound like 95 out of 100 books that I pick up and read the first few pages of, a voice that grabs my nose and yanks harder than a semi-truck in the middle of I-95.

WHEN IN DOUBT, ADD BUTTER is such a book, and it managed this feat admirably from the very first sentence of the very first page. “When I was twelve, a fortune-teller at the Herbert Hoover Junior High School carnival said to me: ‘Gemma Craig, you listen to me. Do not get married. Ever. If you do, you’ll end up cooking for a man who’d rather eat at McDonald’s; doing laundry for a man who sweats like a rabid pig, then criticizes you for not turning his T-shirts right side out; and cleaning the bathroom floor after a man whose aim is so bad, he can’t hit a hole the size of a watermelon–’ ” I could go on, but you get the general idea. This is a book that I’m invested in; where I want to know what happens; and that I can’t wait to get to the ending, because like Beth Harbison, the author, I’m going all in. And then it becomes a mad rush to get to the finish line.

For me, this was such a book. The characters and the story line certainly kept my attention, but it was the voice, that voice kept me turning pages as fast as frying butter in a saucepan, and when I reached the end, I felt completely satiated. While this was the first Beth Harbison book I read, I’ll certainly keep my eye out for another one with a voice as fulfilling and unique as this one.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Poked Me In The Nose

18248415 by
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

How far would you go to save your children? For many parents, you don’t even see a line. In your mind, it doesn’t exist. You’d do whatever it takes. Special film for windows, creams, ointments, face masks, friend screening, and neighbor counseling sessions are only the tip of the iceberg. You’d probably shoot out halogen lights with a shotgun from your front porch with a bottle of Jack standing ready by your side. You’d wheedle and cajole and squeeze out one more day, one more month, or one more year for your son or daughter, even if it meant another child or two ended up with the short straw out of the haystack.

Even though the prose poked me in the nose, and the poignant conversations left me feeling complete and fulfilled, I hated every last one of the sons-a-bitches in THE DEEPEST SECRET. From Eve to Tyler to Melissa to David to Charlotte to Holly, I could have punched them individually or as a group, and that still might not have been enough. I’d hoped for a sympathetic character, and instead, I had a slew of misfits and miscreants who might have been better served on The Jerry Springer Show.

It was hard to dig myself out of the funk of despair that permeated throughout the pages, with lies and isolation and deception rising up from the blackness and wrapping around my neck. There’s talent at work here—I have no doubt—but I need a character that I can stand behind without worrying about taking an elbow to the chin.

On a totally unrelated note, I’d have to say the following was my favorite line of the entire novel: “The Steelers rolled over the Eagles.” Had this been discussed in a bit more detail, I might have found myself rising up out of the muck, even if it was only briefly.

I received this ARC for free at Bouchercon.

Conflicted Individual

20943457 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Debbie may not do it anymore, but she was pretty damn good at it when she did it. She started out giving fifteen dollar blowjobs in her teens, living a life on the streets, and in the passenger seat of the latest motor vehicle, and offering up her own piece of heaven to the casual male observer who just happened to park his car in the parking lot and beckon her over. Her long platinum blond hair and crystal blue eyes along with the tattoo under her eye became her trademark in an industry filled with thousands of boobs and genitalia. It certainly didn’t hurt her reputation that she could handle approximately four guys at once, and still leave the poor bastards begging for more. And her hundreds of films along with her trademark looks made her instantly recognizable to many men over the age of eighteen, and possibly a few who slipped under the radar.

Losing her fornicating husband to a hot tub electrocution while he pounded away at the next wannabe starlet managed to slow her down just a bit. But in the end it wasn’t too much. Instead, she’s a woman on a mission, and that mission is to move on with her life, and leave her waxed past firmly in her rearview mirror.

Debbie Dare/Sandra Peel might have been one of the most conflicted individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting over the course of a novel. She was raw and uninhibited and passionate and suicidal and conflicted and emotional and overflowing with turmoil and grief. But the way she stepped across the page with naked and unadulterated ambition, pretty much telling the world they can either pay attention or not, and that either way she doesn’t really give a fuck made me love her all that much more.

She may have had the greatest orgasm of her life on her last porn shoot before the instant and dramatic change in her existence, but I must say I had a rather enjoyable (certainly not the greatest) reading experience, as I pounded my way through DEBBIE DOESN’T DO IT ANYMORE with something resembling a reckless abandon and a burning need and desire to find out what would happen next.

Oh, and for those of you who are certainly going to make the comment “This ain’t no Easy Rawlins novel” and then be proud of yourself for your profound and bold statement. I’d just like to take a moment and say that it’s not that profound and certainly not that bold, and that each book should be judged individually and stand on its own merit. If it doesn’t work great, or if it does great, but to make that particular comment isn’t really making a statement at all. And this is one book that should certainly be celebrated for the statement it does make.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.