Tuesday, November 25, 2014

FACIAL by Jeff Strand


This screwed up little novella begins like an everyday noir story and then transforms into something vastly different. Impotent resume writer Greg has hired a hitman to kill the boldest of his wife's many lovers, but he doesn't want any loose ends and murders him in his office. Of course, the problem arises of how to dispose of the body. Conveniently, Greg's brother Carlton has a need for a dead body and a great way of disposing of it. It has something  to do with the terrifying thing that he just found in his basement.

This was a pretty entertaining, quick read. It's not life-changing literature by any means, but I wouldn't have been able to stop reading even if I wanted to. My eyes were glued to my Kindle by the sheer audacity of the story, thinking: "I can't believe I'm actually reading this!," but also anxious to read more because it was cool to see how the story evolved and I had a desire to see how far the author would take the craziness. And I'm here to tell you, he took it pretty far!

*I generously received an Advanced Reader Copy from DarkFuse via NetGalley for an honest review*

Monday, November 24, 2014

THE CRAZY KILL by Chester Himes


*Book 3 of the Harlem Cycle*

The 3rd novel in Himes's Harlem Cycle begins like a twisted Harlem version of an Agatha Christie mystery. During a liquor-filled wake for Big Joe Pullen, a man is killed on a bread basket with a very distinctive knife. There are many at the wake who have motive for killing him, including his sister Dulcy, her husband Johnny Perry, her wanna-be lover, Chink Charlie Dawson, the victim's girlfriend Doll Baby, and their opium-addicted Holy Roller preacher. But instead of Miss Marple trying to find out who did it, it's Harlem's two gun-happy detectives Grave Digger and Coffin Ed!

This book is more of a straight murder mystery than the first two novels and the plot is much more complicated and confusing, with many characters and motivations introduced in the first chapter. But Chester Himes's hard-hitting, satirical prose is still in full effect here! While not as remarkable as the previous books, this one is still entertaining!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

RESTORATION (short story) by Greg F. Gifune


A beat cop is chasing a drugged up robbery suspect when he accidentally shoots and kills a child bystander. He subsequently loses his job, wife, and self-respect, landing a minimum wage job guarding a used car lot. But, things might start to get a lot worse now that he begins to see the little boy again.

I was first introduced to the publisher DarkFuse recently through reviews on Goodreads. Since then, I've been doing more research on them and they seem to be a fun little company that puts out cool titles with awesome cover art and affordable price. I signed up for membership and received this short story as an ebook gift. I couldn't sleep last night and decided to crack it open and give it a read. 

I was completely unfamiliar with the author Greg F. Gifune, but not anymore. "Restoration" is an extremely well written story with loads of atmosphere. It's a moody noir/horror hybrid with a creepy tone all throughout, while maintaining a level of sadness as well. It's a very quick read at only a tight 20 pages. I really enjoyed it and would like to read more by Gifune and more by DarkFuse in the future.

Friday, November 21, 2014

REVIVAL by Stephen King


Although I've taken a little break from reading lots of Stephen King in order to focus on discovering other authors, he remains one of my very favorite writers. And when I read the synopsis for his latest novel Revival, I wanted to give it a shot. The book narrates the decades-long connection between Jamie Morton and Charlie Jacobs, which began when Jamie was a little boy and Charlie a young, popular Methodist reverend. 

As usual, King his talent for great writing here, especially in the sections showing Jamie coming of age in a small town. But ultimately the book was strangely unengaging, and it's hard to pin down why. But I think it might have something to do with it's time-jumping structure. With Jamie and Charlie reinventing themselves almost completely throughout the decades, it's hard to really connect with either of them. And the book feels like King had tons of ideas he wanted to get down on paper, but it never really amounts to something satisfying. In fact the climax feels like something out of a completely different novel from the first half. Sometimes, as in the disappointing ending of Needful Things, when King pulls out crazy supernatural stuff from way out of left field, it doesn't really fit and feels forced.  Part of me feels as if this should have been better as a tighter written novella or long short story.

I don't know, maybe my my expectations were high because it's King and the book has been promoted as having "the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written." No, not so much. That distinction still goes to Pet Sematary or his short story "The Jaunt."

Friday, November 14, 2014



I was surprised that there's so much negative stuff written about this book. But it's mostly written by people who are all butt-hurt that there's not a new book in the actual series yet. I don't understand people sometimes. George R. R. Martin doesn't owe us anything. One of my biggest pet peeves in books, movies, or TV is pandering to fans. That's why I dislike most network television. So although I'm also foaming at the mouth for The Winds of Winter, I'd rather Martin take the time he needs to write a book equal or better in quality to the previous epics, rather than churn out dreck just to appease impatient fans.
I really enjoyed this companion book. It's coffee-table-sized and wonderfully designed, from it's pseudo-vinyl cover to the gorgeous interior artwork. It's a real pleasure to flip through. I've always thought that the backstory for A Song of Ice and Fire is just as rich as the present-day book narratives. But I'm kind of an Ice and Fire nerd so there really wasn't much in there that I didn't know previously. My biggest gripe is that I wish the authors didn't use the idea of writing the history as a Maester of the Citadel would and wrote it as a more omniscient, encyclopedia-like concordance. I feel that would've included more information and less opinions and artistic flourish. I wish there were more things included like more details on Robert's Rebellion, the creepy history of the Night's Watch, more details on the religions, etc. But other than that, it's a gorgeous book, a great collectors item, and a great read for anymore interested in learning more about the back story behind this great series.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

THE RED SCARF by Gil Brewer


Pulpy Tagline!: The money was hot and so was the girl, but it was cold-blooded murder just the same. (Crest edition)

This fast-paced noir novel from one of the star writers in the genre follows sad-sack Roy Nichols who's hitching rides across the country begging for money for his floundering business running the Southern Comfort Motel with his doting wife. Things start looking up when he gets involved with sexy, black-haired Vivian, her brooding boyfriend, and a briefcase full of dough. Getting a cut of that money might be just what he needs to keep the motel open, if he can stay alive and out of jail to spend it!
"The sight of that money was like catching a cold and know it would turn into pneumonia."
Although at times awkwardly written, this was a fun, quick read! I love how Brewer kept ratcheting up the tension as everything starts closing in around Roy from all sides. I was surprised by the complete lack of sex in the book! Because it's a major genre convention, every minute I expected Roy and Vivian to get it on, but they never did. I found it interesting that Roy could care less about her. Although he finds her attractive, he finds the money more ravishing and that's where most of his attention goes. And besides, with so many complications he has to stay ahead of, he doesn't have time to be thinking with his penis!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

KINGS OF MIDNIGHT by Wallace Stroby


*Book 2 of the Crissa Stone Series*

This 2nd novel in the Crissa Stone series picks up shortly after shit hit the fan at the end of Cold Shot To The Heart. Now professional thief Crissa is desperately trying to rebuild her nest egg and get control of her life again. But desperation is a dangerous thing to have in this business. Desperation drives the usually careful and meticulous Crissa to team up with a former OG wiseguy–turned government informant–turned short order cook on the lam and agrees to a risky job tracking down millions in cash left over from the famous 1978 Lufthansa airline heist. It could be the big payday that Crissa need. But it also would be a big payday for a host of rough guys on the hunt for the same dough.

This is totally a worthy follow-up to Cold Shot To The Heart and once again loved reading about Crissa and her badassness. I love how Crissa is a woman of few words, even when people question her abilities just because she's a woman. She lets her actions speak for themselves. But I also love that even though she tries to put up the front of being unemotional and all-business, she can't help but feel empathy for people being hurt and a drive to do the right thing. The book is a real page-turner and I can't wait to read the next one.

Saturday, November 8, 2014



*Book 6 of the Matthew Scudder series*

This is the latest installment in my journey into Lawrence Block's stunning Matthew Scudder crime series. This one comes on the heels of the showstopping Eight Million Ways To Die, and I was wondering if it was possible for this book to be as good. I was pleased to see that it comes pretty damn close! Block keeps it fresh by showing us a different side of Scudder, flashing back to events from Matt's past that occurred even before the first novel. Here, Matt tells the story of when he and his hard-drinking saloon homies got in and out of trouble during a hot, eventful, New York summer in '75.

This book felt totally different from all the others. Matt seems less of a loner here and more connected with his buddies. I felt like he was also a lot less interested in his cases, more aloof, which is understandable as I was reading about a slightly younger Scudder than I was used to. Even the writing itself fits into this tone. This one is very nostalgic as well; it's a love letter to a throwback New York City that doesn't exist anymore, and to a simpler, more innocent time for Matt (who at this point hasn't even begun to consider himself an alcoholic). This book also has a first-rate, bittersweet ending where, like most of the great crime novels, the mystery is solved not in the way you expected or even wanted, but in a way that is undeniably satisfying. This ending took my expected four star rating and turned it into a solid five.

Monday, November 3, 2014

WINTER'S BONE by Daniel Woodrell


I love it when I read a book or watch a movie and I discover a new and unique world or community that I was never familiar with before. Daniel Woodrell writes about the tight knit communities in the Missouri Ozark Mountains. I'm almost totally unfamiliar with small American towns like this, having grown up in the Caribbean, and spent all of my adult life in major cities.So I found Woodrell's world fascinating: this community of people in which your last name is more important than your first, and is destined to effect everything about your life before you can even grow up to understand. It's a place with their own rules so deeply entrenched for so long that it goes beyond the reach of most government law.

This novel follows Ree Dolly, a poor 16-year old girl who has quit school to take care of her sick mother and her two little brothers now that her crank-cook father is M.I.A. But now she must track him down after he fails to show up in court and the law comes knocking, threatening to take their house, because her dad put the house up for his bond. 

This is a stark, immersive book, and even though Woodrell is sometimes prone to some pretty purple prose, his writing is gorgeous and evocative, really giving you a sense of place. I could almost feel the cold of the winter landscape in which the story takes place. Woodrell is a writer I would dare to compare to Cormac McCarthy with the way he has with words and how well he's able to evoke a sense of place.
Some may be tempted to call this book a coming-of-age story, but I disagree. Ree has come of age too early, becoming more of an adult than I am even now. Her hope is that she can teach her little brothers in a way that they can grow up to be something more than the destiny the town gives them and that she can escape it herself by joining the Army. Ree is at times both strong and vulnerable, incredibly courageous while we get glimpses of the child hiding inside. She is an amazing young heroine right up there at the top of the literary list with True Grit's Mattie Ross.
“She would never cry where her tears might be seen and counted against her.”

Sunday, November 2, 2014

THE QUEEN OF BEDLAM by Robert McCammon


*Book 2 of the Matthew Corbett series*

Although The Queen of Bedlam is the 2nd book in the terrific Matthew Corbett series, this is the novel where the series truly kicks off! The first one, Speaks the Nightbird is a great book, but might have possibly been written as a stand-alone novel and can be read that way. But not only is this the tale that really introduces Matthew and his world the way we know it now, but this is where author McCammon also ratchets up the excitement and doesn't let up all the way through the latest installment, The River of Souls. Don't get me wrong, it's hard to have a plot more interesting than Speaks The Nightbird's witch hunts, but this novel is a faster-paced adventure!

In this installment, it's 1702, three years after the events in the first novel, and Matthew has settled in the growing colony of New York City working as a clerk. A serial killer is terrorizing the city and no one can figure out how to catch the guy. Soon, Matthew gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he's recruited to join the famous London-based Herrald Agency in it's newly-formed New York team as a professional "problem solver," and must travel to a creepy mental asylum where he might find the clues he needs to solve the killings.

McCammon is a playful, energized writer that makes reading these novels irresistible! The historical details of the world in early 18th century NYC is fascinating. We also get introduced to what will become Matthew's circle of allies and friends, including the spunky Berry Grisby and Matthew's resourceful new partner Hudson Greathouse, while you also get hints of the evil that will plague Matthew in the future in the form of an arch-nemesis! While long and detailed like the first novel, I found the book fast-paced, never boring, and filled with great moments (the heart-pounding hawk sequence is still one of the best scenes in the series). The book also sets the stage beautifully for the action packed 3rd installment, Mister Slaughter. You will want to read it immediately after finishing this one, trust me!