Firing Squad Of Disappointment

18364487Chance: A Novel by Kem Nunn
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

If the bar is a psychological thriller pace, then CHANCE didn’t measure up. It moved at a slow, leisurely pace instead of an all-out race. The vocabulary and sentence structure weighed in with a bit more heft than one might expect from your typical thriller, but I still felt shortchanged in the end. I had higher hopes for this tale, but I ended up facing the firing squad of disappointment with my head lowered and my hands held high.

Jackie Black proved a bit more intriguing as a character than the prim and proper Jaclyn Blackstone, and Dr. Eldon Chance certainly had more than a few issues to work through. And there were other characters with issues to spare, leading the charge of disparity and marching out of step. Which did up the interest but I still managed to end up less than fully engaged. What made me shift a little more to the left was the forgettable nature of this troublesome tale.

Nothing really stood out for me. Instead of being twisted in knots, I found myself sorely lacking in the suspense department, and maybe I didn’t know about the bomb underneath the table that was about to go off, or the detective with the threats that seemed a little less demanding than I would have preferred. Either way, I ended the tale somewhat impressed with the writing but feeling as though the story lacked more than a few thrills.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

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.

Your Latest Life Lesson

10859145Pest Control by Bill Fitzhugh
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If you’re here for your latest life lesson, it’s this: Don’t ever answer an exterminator ad. You might find your life terminated, after the CIA takes a hit out on your ass. Sure, the money sounds good and all, but fifty grand ain’t what it used to be. And if I have a choice between life and death, I think I’ll go with life, Bob.

PEST CONTROL finds us in the midst of a painful existence of one Bob Dillon (not to be confused with the Bob Dylan) who has some trouble with bugs after he shoves a garden hose up his boss’s nose. Yes, the man has anger management issues, and he’s probably breathed in his share of toxic fumes (which doesn’t really help his cause). What he lacks in employment, though, he more than makes up for in spirit. Or you could just call it gusto. He hops up on desks and shouts to the heavens and breeds beetles in his spare room and deals with one pissed off landlord on a semi-regular basis.

If that isn’t bad enough, he also has a hit man named Klaus (not to be confused with Santa) breathing down his neck. There’s also a little person who has a penchant for pink panties, which wouldn’t be so bad except the she is a he; a hit woman (after all we’re equal opportunity employers here) with a fondness for shoving white truffles down the gullet of her latest victim; a cowboy with his own rodeo and a fondness for killing; and other nefarious individuals who shall not be named.

If you’re looking for the straight and narrow, you won’t find it here. What you will find are enough strange individuals to fill an entire city block, an over-the-top plot that at times had trouble maintaining believability, dialogue that shuddered, a narrative that might have had a loophole or two in logic and a bit of a jump in time, and pages plastered with dead insects in every possible manner known to the pest community.

If you can believe it, this was even musical material. While I’m not sure I understand that particular angle, I did find myself amused at what took place over the course of this tale. If you have a penchant for half-baked tales that could have been composed on the back of a napkin after you (and possibly the author) surrounded yourselves in a smoke-filled haze, then this story’s for you. Just make sure you wash your hands first and then possibly after.

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.

Prose Popped My Nose

12497No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If I ever decide to sneeze sawdust and spit nails, I might just have to change my name to Anton Chigurh and move my wife to the Texas-Mexico border. Of course, that assumes I own a cattle gun, determine fate through the flip of a coin, and have approximately $2.4M stuffed in my jeans. During my subsequent relocation, I’ll acquire a pair of recently shined ostrich boots and a white cloth for my boots and nose, not to be used successively without prior washing.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN caused me to jump at even the slightest noise, and I might have pried my eyes open with toothpicks to help me sleep at night. The journey nearly led to a forty mph drive by through a stop sign, and I might have run a red light during the completion of this novel. The prose popped my nose and jaw out of alignment, and I might have hugged the sidewalk for warmth and comfort and moral support. Had I owned a shotgun, I might have tossed it out of my bedroom window (unloaded of course) and buried the shells in my backyard.

The sparse prose rocked me more than the San Andreas, and I might have considered a four-wheeler purchase to aid my night travels. I’d remove the toothpicks from my eyes for the completion of this journey. The dialogue confused me at times, since I’m a simple man who prefers quotation marks and contractions with the aid of an apostrophe. But that could just be me. Who needs grammar rules if you have a Pulitzer swinging from your gun belt? I ask you. Since I own neither a Pulitzer (unless you count the one I stole from that bastard from Kentucky) nor a gun belt, I guess I’ll have to continue to use punctuation correctly. But when I do acquire my Pulitzer through legal means, you bastards better watch out.

If you like your world filled with reprehensible characters and you want to watch as the world gets blown to smithereens, or maybe just the backseat of a Jeep, then this novel might just make you feel all warm and cuddly inside.

Engaging Read, Flawed Main Character

8140650Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

So it was hard for me to like the main character, Annemarie Zimmer. Even a little bit. She’s self-centered, socially inept, and she flies off the handle at the slightest provocation. She’s a walking nightmare, and yet she’s not a complete lost cause. She does try, however miserably, and she always ends up failing, but there’s something to be said for effort, right?

There is something to be said for the tragic character, and in many respects that’s exactly what Annemarie is. And if it hadn’t been for Sara Gruen’s deft hand, RIDING LESSONS might have been lacking. In fact, I might have turned away completely.

But I didn’t. My fingers pressed against my Kindle, as I turned page after electronic page, and I began to realize that Annemarie—at least to a certain extent—was a victim of her own circumstances, those from her past and those she had yet to face. She may not have been able to completely save herself, or her daughter, or in some cases even her family, but she was broken and flawed and she popped right off of the page as real as life itself.

Sometimes that’s what we need to see in life. And I was okay with that. If you enjoy engaging reads with characters you may not totally enjoy or completely agree with, you might enjoy this one well enough. If not, you may want to set your sights elsewhere.

Open Orifices

18002456The Troop by Nick Cutter
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Reading a book about a guy drinking his own piss would have been easier to swallow than this particular novel. To be clear, this isn’t a bad book. It’s not even a poorly written book. The structure, with letters and interviews and the plot moving forward, kept me on edge, while the slaughtering and stomach-churning antics kept my nausea on red alert. If I could have punctured a hole through my brain without doing any permanent damage, I might have briefly considered the notion, before I permanently discarded in the ocean. If I could have jammed about five thousand volts of electricity through my body without the need for a diaper, it might have been a viable alternative. But in the end, selective amnesia works just fine, and I plan on using it to its fullest.

What disturbed me more than tapeworms exiting through open orifices was there wasn’t a single character that I could stand behind without worrying about taking an elbow to the chin. THE TROOP made me want to march in the opposite direction in a most expeditious manner, and I kept reading through sheer determination and a need to push myself to the limit rather than some impending notion that there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I probably looked away from the page as much as I looked at it.

This tale made me realize that coming up with the absolute worst case scenario and working backwards isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when the boat was stuck at full speed ahead, and I couldn’t find a way to turn off the engine or drop anchor. I plan on employing a taste tester to consume my food before I do, and if I see any suspicious or slightly pale or slow-talking individuals, I plan on running first and asking questions later.

And if you want to read a review by a reviewer or four who actually knows what the hell he or she’s talking about, you might want to take a gander at what Dan or Trudi or Kelly or Karen has to say on the subject. Since after wiping my brain, I will now consume applesauce, Jell-O, smoothies, and liquid vegetables for the rest of my days.

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.

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.

Redneck Poetic Prose

6464524 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemper might just be the best redneck I know, and I mean that in the most endearing way possible. If I ever need to know about the best lawn ornaments, or how to best utilize my Cool Whip salad bowls, or what to do if I get more than a few IQ points deducted on account of my accent, or if I need to know what to do with the dead body in my backyard, I’d probably try to get in touch with him. And if I ever decide to start a crystal meth operation in my garage, I plan on getting in touch with Daniel Woodrell—he just doesn’t know it yet.

This book might have landed firmly in a brand new category. Wait for it…wait for it…redneck poetic prose. My teeth might have been covered in pop; the bag of Doritos stuffed in the corner of my pantry started looking pretty good, even though I’d just eaten a steak dinner; I wanted to find a beagle with a slightly lopsided ear and a short leash, after I punched out my two front teeth with a Coke bottle. I’ll show all the lovely ladies my farmer’s tan as I ride around on my John Deere, tractor that is, and I plan to wander off in the woods over the weekend and get lost for approximately twenty-four hours.

All I need is a Four Wheeler and I’ll scream yee-haw at the top of my lungs. Life will be pretty nice, but it might be even better within the confines of WINTER’S BONE, as I long as I can continue to live vicariously through Ree Dolly, and not actually have to experience the trials and tribulations of her Ozark-infused life. But she’s one tough walnut sitting rather nicely atop a piece of peach cobbler, and I devoured this prose so fast I might have caused myself a bit of acid reflux, right before I went back for seconds.

The dialogue struck me with as much force as an uppercut, and the abject poverty nearly caused me to start handing out ones. But it’s not all toothless smiles and haphazard grins and next-of-kin. There is hope and promise contained within the sparse prose. You may just have to get the crap kicked out of you first.