Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Plaster City

Plaster CityPlaster City by Johnny Shaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jimmy Veeder is living the straight life with Angie and Juan, apart from the occasional Mavescapade, when Bobby's sixteen year old daughter goes missing. Together, Jimmy and Bobby navigate a cesspool of gang members and underground girl fights. But is Julie still alive? Or does she even want saving?

Plaster City was part of the Kindle First program in April. And it is spectacular! There aren't many sequels that don't diminish the original but I'd say Plaster City is even better than Dove Season, the first Jimmy Veeder fiasco.

Plaster City sees Jimmy and Bobby go on another of their alcohol and testosterone fueld adventures, this time looking for Bobby's sixteen year old daughter, a girl he barely knows. There's plenty of action, humor, and general mayhem, much like the first book. Buck Buck and Snout come back, as do Gris, Angie, and both the elder Morales and his criminal grandson Tomas. In addition to that, we get to meet Bobby's ex Becky and his father. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree there.

Even more than in Dove Season, I can't help but notice the resemblance of Shaw's tales to those of Joe Lansdale, both in humor and violence. The interplay between Jimmy and Bobby had me chuckling out loud quite a few times. I can't emphasize enough how funny these Jimmy Veeder books are. Hilarious but never degenerating into outright nonsense.

As in the first book, the dynamic duo took a world class ass kicking, especially Bobby. The ending surprised me a bit since there was a character I suspected was introduced to do some kind of heroic sacrifice but I'm glad Shaw went his way with it.

If you're looking for action, laughs, and outright enjoyment, you'll be hard pressed to find another book this awesome. Five out of five stars. It's a contender for the best book I've read in 2014 so far.

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Dove Season

Dove SeasonDove Season by Johnny Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When he finds out his father has terminal cancer, Jimmy Veeder returns home for the first time in over a decade. His father has one last request: one last visit with a bar girl named Yolanda. Little does Jimmy know the shitstorm his is about to unleash...

Since Plaster City was part of the Kindle First program this month, I thought it was high time I read Johnny Shaw's first Jimmy Veeder novel, Dove Season, and I'm very glad I did.

Dove Season is a crime tale that feels like something Joe Lansdale would cook up after a night of bad Mexican food. It takes place in the poor communities on the California/Mexico border. Jimmy Veeder is a conflicted Slacker who returns home to spend what remaining time his father has left with the old man. Who knew crossing the border to track down a hooker would stir up so much trouble?

Shaw's dialogue reminds me of Joe Lansdale's; full of black humor and sounding authentically rural. I lost count of all the quotable lines. Jimmy and his best friend Bobby Maves drink and wisecrack their way through the Mexican underworld, getting their asses handed to them repeatedly.

The humor is tempered with some brutality and surprising plot twists. I'm not going to spoil anything but this is certainly a book where the main character doesn't leave the story in a mass of unicorns and rainbows.

The relationships between Jimmy and his friends and the depiction of small town rural life were what separated this story from other crime books for me. The way Bobby and the Buckley's helped Jimmy blunder through everything was awesome.

I guess it's harder than I thought to articulate all the things I liked about this book. Here's a line that I found particularly hilarious: "I feel like I just walked into a tampon ad. I love the shit out of her but it's time we put on our man pants."

4.5 out of 5 stars. Bring on Plaster City!

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Thursday, April 10, 2014


DeceiverDeceiver by Kelli Owen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A man's wife is murdered and he's understandably wrecked. When he finds a notebook in her luggage, he finds that his wife may not have been the person he thought she was...

I got this from Darkfuse via Netgalley.

Imagine you find evidence that your recently deceased spouse was a serial killer. That's the boat Matt Newman is in in Deceiver. He gradually slides from being the grieving husband to brimming with anger as he reads the entries in his deceased wife's notebook.

I've never read a Kelli Owen book before but she knows about building tension and conveying feelings of loss and anger like nobody's business. I sympathized with Matt at the various stages of his emotional journey.

The payoff at the end is pretty damn sweet. I don't have a bad thing to say about this book. It's an easy four star read.

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SavageSavage by Gary Fry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A stodgy academic runs out of gas in a secluded English town, a town devoid of joy and dedicated to discipline. When the townsfolk ask him to treat an undisciplined man whom they say murdered four men, Daryl's life takes a dark turn...

I got this from Darkfuse via Netgalley.

I didn't really know what to think about this DarkFuse novella. It seems to be a story about the dangers of conformity and discipline gone wrong. Daryl lives a rational, disciplined lifestyle and ends up in a secluded village where the people make him look like John Belushi by comparison. But then reality seems to be breaking down at the village and things get really strange.

It was a creepy story but I'm not exactly sure what happened. I've had a great experience with DarkFuse so far but they can't all be home runs, I guess. Two out of five stars.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Damoren (Valducan, #1)Damoren by Seth Skorkowsky
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

*** in progress ***
When Matt Hollis, a lone demon hunter with a magical pistol, is approached to join the ancient order of Valducan knights, he warily accepts. Can the Valducans put aside their suspicions and accept Matt before they are overwhelmed by a demonic force bent on ridding the world of holy weapons?

I got this ARC from Ragnarok Publications, the fine folks responsible for the Dead West series.

Firstly, Damoren, a magical pistol with an equally magical bayonet attacked, was forged from a shattered magical sword, also called Damoren. Damoren's current wielder, Matt Hollis, is tainted by demon blood after a bullet fired by Damoren passed through a demon into him, giving him some cool abilities.

I really liked the mythology Skorkowsky established around the demons. Pretty much any monster you can think of was actually a human infected by a demon. Even dragons and vampires.

The story was pretty good. Matt has to overcome the mistrust of the rest of the Valducans and help them deal with a shit ton of demons. There's a lot of action and gore. Unfortunately, there's also a lot gun porn in this; long descriptions of weapons and lots of technical details.

Another thing I liked was the inclusion of excerpts from the Valducan's history interspersed with the regular chapters. Funny how I'm reading Carrie at the same time and it uses a similar technique.

It was a fun read and things got really tense in the last 20%. Since it's the first book in a series, I knew some people would live but if the first book is any indication, the story of the Valducan knights is going to be a bloody one with lots of casualties. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Wanna Cook?

Wanna Cook?: The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking BadWanna Cook?: The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad by Ensley F. Guffey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wanna Cook? is an episode guide for the exquisite television program, Breaking Bad.

I got this from Netgalley.

Wanna Cook is an episode by episode analysis of the rise and fall of one Walter White, cancer sufferer and meth cook. Each episode is picked apart, highlighting the milestones on Walt's rise and fall, as well as commentary on the actors and camera work. Some of the symbolism is also picked apart.

The writing is pretty good and I liked learning about the underlying philosophy of the show. I thought they may have read a little too much into some of the symbolism, however. The book made me want to watch Breaking Bad in its entirety once again. There were some clever insights and I enjoyed the trip down memory lane immensely but I'm not sure how necessary the book actually is in this day and age since there are probably thousands of websites out there dissecting Breaking Bad in great detail.

The only thing I thought may have been lacking in the book was that there were no "what might have been" sections. No mention was made that Jesse PInkman wasn't originally intended to survive the first season, for instance.

Wanna Cook is a good look back at a great TV show. I am on the one who knocks! Three out of five stars.

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