Friday, January 19, 2018

Review: Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place for kids who've returned from places not unlike Narnia or Wonderland and struggle to find a place in life. When some of those kids start dropping like flies, Nancy and her group of outcasts struggle to figure out whose their assailant is...

Ever wonder what happens when you're too old to have adventures with Peter Pan or can't find the door back to Narnia? Apparently Seanan McGuire did enough to write a series about it. And judging by the first volume, it's pretty grand.

After a stay in the underworld, Nancy's parents send her to Eleanor West's school to help her adjust to a normal life, which would be a lot easier if her fellow students weren't dying around her with body parts removed. The mystery wasn't all that hard to crack once the skeleton showed up but I don't think the mystery was really the point of the of book.

My first impression of Every Heart a Doorway was The Graveyard Book meets The Magicians but that's kind of a lazy way to describe it. There's also some Peter S. Beagle in its parentage, I should think, as well as an infusion of loved childhood tales. While on the surface it's a natural progression of a lot of portal fantasy story, it's also a book about fitting in, enduring trauma, and never being able to regain lost innocence.

I'd recommend this to people who enjoy dark takes on old tales, like Alice or The Child Thief and books in that vein. Pretty sure I'm going to need to read the rest of these. Four out of five stars.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review: Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

James Holden is a crewman on an ice mining ship near Saturn that runs across an abandoned ship and quickly finds itself ambushed. But what does that have to do with a detective on Ceres tasked with finding a missing rich girl and bringing her back to Earth?

I'm only seven years late to the party on this but what's the point of watching a TV show based on a book without being able to annoy everyone by pointing out the differences? One of my earliest memories was watching the re-release of the original Star Wars in the theater 1981-ish so I've always been interested in space stories. This one was more Firefly than Star Wars but I liked it quite a bit.

Told using two different viewpoint characters, Leviathan Wakes is the story of a war unfolding between Earth, Mars, and the Belters, denizens of various asteroid settlements. Someone tries their damnedest to shift the blame around, though.

The Miller thread was by far my favorite. The down and out detective won me over with his sheer doggedness, losing everything in the process of finding a missing girl that no one actually wanted him to find. The thread with Holden and his ragtag gang reminded me of Firefly quite a bit. Their asses went from the frying pan to the fire so many times they should have been burned beyond recognition. When the two threads finally converged, I knew I was in for the long haul.

Leviathan Wakes is very hard to put down. It's written in an accessible style and is light on the science, though its portrayal of space and space travel is a lot harsher and leaning toward what life in space might really be like than a lot of science fiction. There's action, humor, intrigue, pretty much everything you'd want from a science fiction adventure story. It's not a perfect book, though. Sometimes the characters make a few too many snarky remarks and sometimes they do outright stupid things. Other than that, I've got no complaints.

I don't take a lot of chances on series that aren't yet completed but I'm glad I took a chance on this one. Leviathan Wakes is the best first book in a sf/fantasy series I've read in years. Four out of five stars.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: High White Sun

High White Sun High White Sun by J. Todd Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two years after the death of Sheriff Ross, Sheriff Chris Cherry has another body on his hands and a gang of white supremacist bikers living in a nearby town...

The Far Empty wound up being fantastic so I scooped this up when it popped up on Netgalley.

The second book set in the sleepy Texas border town of Murfee packs almost as big of a punch as the first. When a man winds up dead outside a bar, Chris Cherry picks up the trail and it leads him to a family of white supremacist bikers in a nearby town. However, nothing is as cut and dry as it seems.

Much like the last book, it's the ensemble cast that powers the story forward. Chris has a mentor in Ben Harper, a widowed lawman that's Chris' right hand and a capable deputy in America Reynosa. The Earl family is a horrible reflection of the makeshift family Chris has in the Murfee PD. Aside from the undercover cop in their midst, that is...

There are wheels within wheels in this one. Lots of people are lying and keeping secrets and more than one person ends up in the ground because of it. Once I got over the 50% hump, it was a hard book to put aside.

Once again, J. Todd Scott did a great job with the scenery and location, making Murfee and the surrounding areas almost a character in the story. Chris Cherry, however, is probably the least interesting character in the book. If the supporting cast wasn't so rich, I don't think I'd rate this or The Far Empty as highly.

The ending wound up being an even bigger trainwreck than I thought. The Murfee PD went through the flames and none of them came out without at least minor burns. While satisfying on its own, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

While I didn't like it quite as much as The Far Empty, High White Sun was quite a read. Four out of five stars.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: The Last Whisper in the Dark

The Last Whisper in the Dark The Last Whisper in the Dark by Tom Piccirilli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few months after his brother's execution, the man who married the love of Terrier Rand's life goes missing and Terry starts sniffing around. Meanwhile, Terry's mother's family reaches out to her for the first time in decades to tell her that her father is dying and Old Crowe might just have a job for Terry...

The Last Kind Words was phenonmenal and the goal for 2018 is to read as much Tom Piccirilli is possible. I broke through my ebook cheapness ceiling and grabbed this one post haste. I knew it was going to be good when I was threatening to shed tears after the first few pages.

The Last Whisper in the Dark picks up months after the events of The Last Kind Words. Terrier is watching Kimmi and Scooter, Chub's family that could have been his, when Chub goes missing after a botched bank robbery. The other thorns in his side are Danny Thompson, local mob boss, and Perry Crowe, Terry's estranged grandfather.

Much like The Last Kind Words, The Last Whisper in the Dark is all about family secrets and lies. Terry is hiding things from everyone, especially himself. His mother's family proves that not all the illegal inklings come from the Rand side.

There's a lot more going on in this one than Terrier Rand's previous outing. While I could see where some of it was heading, some of it still caught me off guard. I love that Terry showed some integrity and didn't immediately try to worm his way into Kimmi's life. He did some dumb things, though, things that I think would have come back on him had Tom Piccirilli lived long enough to write future volumes.

While I love the crime elements, my favorite parts of the book are the moments Terry shares with his mother, Wes, and even Endicott. The supporting cast was very rich, even after only two books.
The Rands are much more complex characters than they could have been. Terrier's father dealing with the onset of Altzheimer's was very sad and one of the many elements that sets this above 99% of crime books out there.

I only had a couple gripes with this. I thought the ending came out of left field and was a bigger logical leap than Terrier ought to have been able to make. The other gripe was the way Darla could have been a richer character but wound up pretty much being someone for Terry to bang.
The entirety of my reading experience was tinged with regret that Tom Piccirilli was dead. The Rand family had enough skeletons in the closet to fuel any number of future books.

The Last Whisper in the Dark is a great entry in the Terrier Rand saga. I just wish it wasn't the end. Four out of five stars.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Review: Taste of Marrow

Taste of Marrow Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the aftermath of The Harriet operation, the crew is scattered. Hero and Houndstooth think one another dead. Adelia has baby Ysabel to contend with... until she doesn't. All roads lead to Baton Rouge and the gang may find themselves on opposite sides...

This one had been on my wish list since I finished River of Teeth. Fortunately, Richard rode to my rescue on the back of a hippo steed yet again.

Set months after River of Teeth, the gang is scattered to the four winds. Ysabel is kidnapped and Adelia is coerced into heading to Baton Rouge for one last job. Houndstooth and Archie are searching for Adelia and eventually their paths converge.

I was afraid some of the shine might have worn off the penny since River of Teeth but I was wrong. In some ways, the book felt like an extended epilogue of River of Teeth and gave some much needed closure if Sarah Gailey doesn't return to the hippo infested world she's crafted.

At first I was rolling my eyes at Houndstooth and Hero pining for one another so much but I was a believer by the end. Adelia's plight effected me more, though, torn apart by new motherhood and blackmail. Also, who knew your nipples could get infected? The partnership between Adelia and Hero provided my favorite character moments of the book.

The feral hippos continue to fascinate me. I really hope there's another book set in this universe.

Taste of Marrow is the best hippo-strewn gumbo western starring mostly nonheteronormative characters you'll read all year. Four out of five stars.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Review: Broken Shells

Broken Shells Broken Shells by Michael Patrick Hicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When down on his luck mechanic Antoine DeWitt gets something in the mail saying he won $5,000 from the local car dealership, he has his doubts but his wife, baby, and mounting bills make him go to claim it anyway. The worst that can happen is that he doesn't get any money, right?

WRONG! The owner of the car dealership is part of a generations-long pact, sacrificing people who won't be missed to an alien evil that lurks beneath the ground! Can Antoine escape with his skin intact or will he join the rest of those that have vanished over the years?

Michael Patrick Hicks was the 2017 recipient of the coveted Dantastic Book Award for Goodreads Author Who Doesn't Suck. I saw on the twitter that he had a novella coming out in February and hit him up. Let's just say Michael might be the first two time winner of the Goodreads Author Who Doesn't Suck award because this was pretty damn good!

Broken Shells is a novella of desperation, both on the part of Antoine DeWitt and Jon Dangle. Antoine lost his job and his wife Channy is on his ass to find another one when he gets the Money Carlo flyer from the car dealership saying he's won $5,000, he's just desperate enough to go down there. Jon Dangle, on the other hand, is desperate for a different reason. For generations, his family has been responsible for keeping subterranean monsters in check by throwing them a victim every once in a while.

Claustrophobic carnage is the name of the game. Antoine wakes up in bad shape and things only get worse. Tight spaces, gore, and inhuman horrors infest the pages. There are no training wheels or hand holding during this read. There were a few times I thought "Mike, you sick bastard!" Not only is it ghastly fun, it's very well written, carrying none of the things I loath about a lot of self-published or small press horror. It's very well edited and professional, slick and seamless.

The ending was a little bleaker than I'd like, though I had a feeling it was headed that way. All in all, Broken Shells is an exceptional horror novella. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Review: The Last Kind Words

The Last Kind Words The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Terrier Rand returns home, summoned by a phone call telling him of his brother Collie's impending execution. While Collie admits to the murders he committed, he knows one of the killings he's been charged with isn't his doing and wants Terrier to find out who was behind the murder of Rebecca Clarke. Will his investigation tear his family, a multi-generational gang of thieves, apart?

While I enjoyed A Choir of Ill Children, I wasn't super motivated to read another Tom Piccirilli book. I snapped this up for $1.99 and soon found I'd been quite a fool.

The Last Kind Words looks like a crime book on the surface. Terrier Rand has been on the run from his past for five years, a past full of burglaries and such, when he gets the fateful call. Terry slips back into his old life like a pair of shoes that don't fit right anymore, all the while trying to make sense of why his brother would murder eight people and wondering if he didn't have the same potential in himself.

While the mystery element is there, it's more about what binds a family together and what can tear it apart. Terrier didn't leave town under the best of circumstances and now he's reaping the rewards. His family mostly communicates through silence and minding their own business. A lot of things aren't the way he remembered them. His little sister is a teenager. His grandfather has Altzheimers and his uncles seem to be heading in that direction. Reports swarm the Rand house daily and Detective Gillmore is around all too often.

The mystery in and of itself was pretty engaging. It was just over the halfway mark that I had an inkling of who the killer was and I turned out to be right. I knew the big confrontation was going to be bad and I was not disappointed. The final ending was pretty sad.

Terrier Rand is one of the more interesting protagonists I've come across in recent years, a man from a family of thieves who finally has to take a long hard look at himself. While he's not a killer, he's definitely a thief through and through.

The Last Kind Words is a dark, funny, sad, thought-provoking book, so much more than what I thought I was getting. Time to buy more Tom Piccirilli. Five out of five stars.

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