Friday, December 19, 2014

Atlanta Burns

Atlanta Burns (Atlanta Burns #1-2)Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this Atlanta Burns omnibus from Netgalley.

Shotgun Gravy: When a friend of a friend is violated by bullies in an attempt to set him straight, Atlanta Burns goes on the offensive. But can a teenage girl everyone is afraid of get the job done?

Add redneck noir Young Adult fiction to the list of things Chuck Wendig is good at. Shotgun Gravy is tale of fighting against bullying by a teenage girl that's seen a lot in her young life. I've seen her referred to as Nancy Drew with a shotgun but she's more like another Wendig character, Miriam Black, only younger and without supernatural abilities.

Shotgun Gravy isn't a trip to the YA parade, either. There are neo-Nazis, bullies, and even the protagonists are damaged goods. It's way more like Winter's Bone than stereotype YA love triangle mush. I was halfway through the first novella before I realized it. I kept thinking "Is Atlanta going to Red Harvest these shitheads?"

Side note: One thing I think Chuck Wendig excels at is creating gay characters that have an identity outside of being gay. You wouldn't think that would be as rare as it is in this day and age but here we are.

Bait Dog: One of Atlanta's friends dies, apparently a suicide. When a classmate hires her to find her who stole her dog, Atlanta stumbles upon a dog fighting ring. Are the two connected? And can Atlanta find out AND make enough money to keep the bank from foreclosing on her mother's house?

Bait Dog is a powerful little book. When you hear a book described as Young Adult, you don't think of this. Well, maybe if someone speculated what a Young Adult book by Jim Thompson would read like. You know what really puts the cherry on top of killing gays? A dog fighting ring! There sure are some galaxy-class douche bags in Atlanta Burns' general vicinity.

This is some bleak shit. Shotgun Gravy was just the tip of the iceberg of despair. Atlanta goes through the meat grinder once again, this time dragging her friends with her. It was novel length but felt a thousand times longer because of the unrelenting hopelessness of Atlanta's plight. Dirty cops, dirty millionaires, dirty dog fight ring owners, dirty, dirty dirty. I enjoyed it and thought it was very well done but I was glad as shit when it was over.

Side note: I have to think Chuck Wendig is a fan of the Wire since there are characters named Bird and Bodie and a dog named Omar.

If Atlanta Burns is any indication, 2015 is going to be another stellar year for Chuck Wendig. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

It's Only Death

Its Only DeathIts Only Death by Lee Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When he was a teenager, Elmore James Jackson killed his father, a cop, in an attempted bank robbery and has been on the lam ever since. When his sister contacts him, saying their mother is dying of pancreatic cancer, James heads home to find a number of people want him dead...

I got this from the fine folks at DarkFuse via Netgalley.

This is one of those books that's hard to quantify. Is it a noir tale at redemption? Is it about family and loss? Does it emphasize that we all make our own choice and life is a circle? Or is it about a bunch of fuck-knuckles doing each other dirty?

Yes. I'd say it's all those things.

When James rolls into town, it sure seems like he's going to be rolling out in a pine box. Killing his father six years earlier threw his family life off the rails. His once angelic sister is a stripper. His father's old partner is gunning for him. His sister's douche bag boyfriend and his biker pals have it out for him. His only ally is the guy whose been pining over his sister since they were kids and even that's not on solid ground.

It's hard to root for a screw-up sociopath but Lee Thompson does a great job making me feel sympathy for James. When almost every character in the book is a gaping asshole, James is the least assholish, I guess. It would have been easy for Thompson to use the tale's setup to do the Jack Reacher-style tough guy rolls into town and becomes a gun-toting super hero on all the bad guys but it doesn't go down like that. It's Only Death is more or less a bleak tale about facing the music and getting what's coming to you.

That's not to say there isn't bloodshed. I'm pretty sure everyone is dead or dying by the end apart from one or two characters. There is gunplay, brutal fisticuffs, knives, and even an alligator. It wasn't a long book but I was pretty worn out by the end of it.

It's Only Death is a bleak dysfunctional noir tale that only someone with the last name Thompson could write. Four out of Five Stars.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

The Art of Growing a Beard

The Art of Growing a BeardThe Art of Growing a Beard by Marvin Grosswirth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Art of Growing a Beard is a book about the history, selection process, and maintenance of beards from throughout history.

I got this from Netgalley.

This book was written in the 1970's and has been reissued. It is also a hilarious text on all aspects of bearded life and essential for the bearded or wannabe bearded gentleman.

Did you know we haven't had a bearded president in over a century? Or that it's perfectly acceptable to draw beards on photographs of oneself when selecting your beard? Or that the perfect accessories for a goatee are a string tie, mint julep, and a pillared mansion in some state of decrepitude?

Grosswirth also covers the impact growing a beard will have on your life, be it increased attention from the opposite sex or giving you an air of authority.

The Art of Growing a Beard does show it's age a bit. It was written in the 1970's and 70's slang and attitudes are prevalent, which makes it even more hilarious, in my opinion.

If you have a beard, know someone with a beard, or want to know someone with a beard, you will find this book both informative and hilarious. Four out of five stars.

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Macaque Attack!

Macaque Attack!Macaque Attack! by Gareth L. Powell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the wake of the Gestalt's defeat, Ack-Ack Macaque is now the leader of an army of uplifted monkeys and wandering the multiverse. When cyborgs from Mars launch an asteroid at earth, which foul-mouth cigar chomping primate are they going to call?

I got this from Netgalley and it was damn sweet!

Here we are, the thrilling conclusion to the Macaque Trilogy. When the backup consciousnesses of Celeste and her minions wake up on Mars, they send Earth a present in the form of a giant asteroid. Sure enough, Ack-Ack is up to the challenge of going Armageddon on its ass, once he finds his way back from a different reality, that it.

I find it amazing how Gareth Powell took a fairly ridiculous premise, that of a cigar-chomping macaque fighting in WWII and turned it into a three book cyberpunk epic featuring parallel worlds and things of that nature. What could have been a hilarious novella about an ass-kicking simian morphed into a fantastic trilogy featuring such heady topics as quantum physics, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and what it means to be alive.

For a book featuring an ape with a mouth like a sailor, this bastard is a pretty serious tale. Entire timelines are destroyed, lots of shit blows up, and a certain woman has to say goodbye to her husband. The increasingly world-weary Ack-Ack finds he'll be facing the most brutal battle of them all: Fatherhood.

It's hard not to like a series book that prominently features a super-intelligent, gun-toting, chain smoking macaque. Not only that, the Macaque trilogy also features such winning ingredients as clones, cyborgs, parallel universes, nanomachinery, personality backups, homages to pulp sf, hive minds, and uplifted primates, most of which have foul mouths. Even though it was left open-ended, this fuck-knuckle was a very satisfying conclusion to the tale of Ack_Ack Macaque. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Angel of the Abyss

Angel of the AbyssAngel of the Abyss by Ed Kurtz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a reel from a legendary lost film is discovered, Graham Woodard flies out to LA to help restore it. However, complications arise when the film goes missing and the owner gets herself murdered. But what does all that have to do with Woodard's ex-wife?

I got this from DarkFuse via Netgalley.

Angel of the Abyss is a short novel. "Modern Hollywood Noir" would be a handy label to slap on it. The timeline shifts from the past, when Gracie Baron was making The Angel of the Abyss, to the present, when Graham Woodard is hired to restore the legendary lost silent film.

First off, I have to admit that this book probably arrived at the wrong time for me. Consequently, it felt like I was reading it forever. There was nothing wrong with the book but it was definitely not a "drop everything" kind of read. It was more like a "I'll read this during the Cardinal game and maybe while I'm trying to fall asleep" kind of read.

Anyway, the shifting viewpoints keep the tension mounting. While I've never heard of Ed Kurtz prior to this, he knows how to use his noir conventions. He surprised me with quite a few of his twists and I should have seen the ending coming but he still got me. While the modern era plot thread was my favorite, I loved Ed's Hollywood noir dialogue during the Gracie chapters. There was a lot of action and both plot threads kept me interested when I made time to read.

Like I said earlier, I'm pretty sure this was a case of wrong book, wrong time for me. Since it's a DarkFuse release, I was expecting horror rather than noir. I still enjoyed it, though. Three out of five stars.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014


FacialFacial by Jeff Strand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Once the hitman he hired to kill his wife's lover finishes the job, Greg kills the hitman in his office. Fortunately, his brother is suddenly in need of a fresh corpse after finding a dead lion in his basement. Then things get a little strange...

I got this from DarkFuse via Netgalley.

I'm a big fan of both Jeff Strand and DarkFuse so this one was a no-brainer when it showed up on Netgalley. It was neither my favorite Jeff Strand book nor my favorite DarkFuse publication but it was still entertaining.

So, what would you do if you went into your basement and found a lion carcass with a talking face beneath it? Yeah, we've all had that problem a few times but Jeff Strand is the first one to write about it. Strand is the Christoper Moore of horror. He can take things like serial-killing and make them hilarious. I kept chuckling when Greg and Carlton were discussing killing and such. Felicia was also pretty hilarious. There were a ton of funny one-liners in this little novella.

I'm a fan of bizarro fiction but this one was almost too weird for even me. The face was part of the floor and every time it ate another head, another face appeared on the floor. Interesting but I was expecting a lot more in the way of explanation when the tale wrapped. Still, it was a pretty entertaining read. Three out of five stars.

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Friday, October 3, 2014


BRISCO: The Life and Times of National Collegiate and World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion JACK BRISCOBRISCO: The Life and Times of National Collegiate and World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion JACK BRISCO by Jack Brisco
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brisco is the biography of professional wrestler Jack Brisco.

I was interested in this book for a long time but wasn't in a hurry to read it. I've had a mixed experience with Crowbar Press's wrestling books in the past. I almost quit reading it since it was almost 20% of the way through before Jack transitioned from amateur wrestling in his college days to the professional ranks.

However, I'm glad I stuck with it because it wasn't too bad. It was better written than most of Crowbar's offerings. Another strong selling point for me was that at the time it was written, Jack Brisco had been out of the wrestling business for something like 30 years and didn't have to worry about burning any bridges since he was doing fine financially.

Brisco covers Freddie Joe Brisco's rise from dirt poor roots in Oklahoma to NCAA wrestling national champion, and to his breaking into professional wrestling. Too much time was spent in his college days for my taste but I persevered.

Once Jack goes pro, things take off. He talks about being brought into the Funk's territory of Amarillo just to make Terry Funk and Dory Funk Jr. look good. His time with Eddie Graham in the Florida territory is given the most coverage, both in ring and out. He also mentions who screwed him out of pay, noteably Fritz Von Erich, The Sheik, Jim Barnett and even the head of the Florida territory, Eddie Graham.

Brisco seemed like he was still trying to protect the business a bit, like a lot of old timers, but still covers a lot of the backstage stuff, like how he got $25,000 dollars plus $8k a day working for a week in Japan and dropping the title to Giant Baba, only to win it back before the tour was over. He also mentions taping all that money, in cash, to his body to sneak it through customs.

His stories cover a lot of the wrestlers from his hay-day, like the Funks, Rick Steamboat, Jay Youngblood, Wahoo McDaniel, who broke Jack's nose with a headbutt. Jack's days as part owner of the Florida and Georgia territories and eventually selling out to Vince McMahon are pretty much how his career ends. I love his retirement story and don't want to spoil it.

My usual gripes about wrestling books, Crowbar's in particular, apply to this one as well. There was too much pre-wrestling and not enough road stories, although I liked the one about Terry Funk wrecking two cars in one night and the one about Don Muraco not being able to find his car in the airport parking lot because it had two feet of snow on it.

Three out of five stars, although your mileage may vary.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Go Home, Oaxaca. You're Drunk.

Go Home, Oaxaca. You're Drunk.Go Home, Oaxaca. You're Drunk. by Jason R. Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Remember you were in college and one of your friends was in a band that you were afraid sucked so you avoided seeing them at all cost? That's how it is when one of your Goodreads chums writes a book. However, my fears were unfounded. Not only is Jason Koivu a funny guy and gentle lover, he's actually a darn good writer.

Go Home, Oaxaca. You're Drunk is a travel journal about Jason and his wife living like entitled college kids in Oaxaca, Mexico, for a month and a half. Supposedly, they are there to work, but it seems like they're living the high life to me. Aside from an unfortunate bout of the grizzly shits, Jason makes it sound like an amazing place to visit.

Normally, I find travel books as uninteresting as listening to someone describing a dream they had but Jason Koivu, Esquire, has a way with words, as smooth as a Tequila shot first thing in the morning. I had no trouble staying engaged while he described Mexican plumbing, hunting for a laundromat, and sharing the travel tip of throwing away your clothes before returning home. I found myself getting sad along with him as the Koivu clan's time in Mexico ran out.

Four out of five stars. I'm deducting points since they didn't eat any roasted grasshoppers or attend a donkey show on the trip.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Spellman Files

The Spellman Files (The Spellmans #1)The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Spellmans are a dysfunctional family of detectives. When Rae, the youngest, goes missing, her sister Izzy drops what she's doing and goes looking for her while delving into the Spellman family's past. Who kidnapped Rae Spellman? And does it have something to do with a cold case Izzy is working on?

The Spellman Files reads like Sara Gran on mood elevators. The writing style reminds me of a more humorous version of the Claire DeWitt books. As for the Spellmans themselves, they remind me of The Royal Tannenbaums if the Tannenbaums were a family of dysfunctional detectives instead of quirky for the sake of being quirky Wes Anderson characters.

I'll be honest. Usually, humorous crime/mystery books aren't my bag. Hell, Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake are two of my favorite authors but their humorous works are largely untouched by me. I'm proud to say that the Spellman Files made me reconsider my stance on mixing mysteries and mirth.

The Spellman Files is one entertaining book and came highly recommended by Amanda and Carol, two ladies who I've learned not to doubt during my tenure at Goodreads. As the kidnapping plot slowly unfolds, Izzy reveals what got the Spellman family to that point, a hilarious tale of mistrust, familial surveillance, and lies.

Mysteries, especially those purported to be humorous, aren't generally known for their well-drawn characters but the Spellmans and those unfortunate enough to get pulled into their orbits all seemed like real people to me. Even though a family of detectives isn't the most likely of protagonists, I had no trouble believing in the way they constantly violated one another's privacy in the name of love.

Izzy reminded me of Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt quite a bit, as if Claire had been raised by a family of detectives and quick doing every drug known to man once she left high school. Her dialogue and thought processes won me over in the first 10-15 pages. I love how she said things like "He was destined to be ex-boyfriend #9" when meeting Daniel while on a job. Izzy's battles against her family's constant surveillance manage to be hilariously outlandish while still being in the realm of possibility.

I think this book worked for me while other "humor" mysteries failed is the way it was structured, mostly being an exploration of the Spellman family rather than a straightforward mystery. Also, the tone was consistent. It didn't try to juxtapose comedy with grim violence or anything like that. It was a mystery that happened to have comedic elements, not a comedy with a lame mystery shoehorned into it.

With The Spellman Files, Lisa Lutz and her dysfunctional detective family have earned a place in my hearts and a future void in my wallet. Five out of five stars.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Murder is the Deal of the Day

Murder Is the Deal of the DayMurder Is the Deal of the Day by Robert J. Randisi
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When two women are found dead, smothered on their couches with tapes of Claire Hunt and her Home Mall shopping show playing in their VCRs, Claire and her husband Gil decide to play detective and find the killer themselves...

I really wanted to like this. After a so-so experience with another Randisi novel, I had the chance to take part in a phone interview with Randisi and his wife, the co-author of this piece, Christine Matthews, and they were hilarious. Too bad the book wasn't great. I didn't precisely hate it but it was not good. Is that clear enough?

The book went back and forth between illogical and just annoying. First off, the police treat Claire like a suspect because a video of her was playing on the victim's TVs. What the hell kind of sense does that make? Beyond that, the police are just set dressing while Gil and Claire coo over one another and run around Saint Louis tracking down leads.

The blurb on the back compares Gil and Claire to Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man. Yeah, they're a married couple but they lack the alcohol and sense of humor that makes Nick and Nora so entertaining. They're much more like Spenser and Susan Silverman, except less competent or interesting. They were like that annoying couple you're friends with on Facebook who are constantly updating their status with crap like "I love my wonderful husband!" Getting reminded how perfect their relationship is on every other page got old really fast.

The writing was really bland. Randisi has a reputation for being one of the last pulp writers but I don't think they mean that in the Chandler-Hammett sense, more in the sense of how Walter Gibson could churn out 2 or 3 Shadow novels a month back in the day. Of course, when you're busting out one or more of those Gunsmith dirty westerns every month under a pen name, you don't have time for similes, metaphors, or colorful adjectives, I guess.

I enjoyed the St. Louis references and the fact that Gil owned a bookstore but that was pretty much it. I guess the story was engaging but when there are only two suspects and one of them has cutaway scenes, you pretty much know who's doing the killing. It wasn't total crap so I'm giving it a two. It's definitely not recommended, though. I think I'm done with Randisi unless I pick up one of his Gunsmith books for comedy reasons.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Doctor Who: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time TravellerThe Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller by Joanne Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While dying of radiation poisoning, the Doctor finds himself at The Village, a strange place where every day is April 8th and everyone must pretend to be happy or the Princess will strike them down...

I got this from Netgalley.

The latest Doctor Who Time Trip sees the Third Doctor find himself in The Village, a small town that resembles Oxfordshire that no one can leave. Doc Pertwee is portrayed true to form, complete with bow tie and frilly velvet coat. It's actually surprisingly deep for a Doctor Who short story.

The tone is somber, not surprising since the Doctor is heading back to earth to die and regenerate into Tom Baker.

Since it's a short story, that's all I'm prepared to reveal at this time. Unlike a lot of the Time Trips, this one feels authentic and is a very worthwhile addition to Who-lore. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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The Deep

The DeepThe Deep by Nick Cutter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While a disease called The 'Gets ravages the surface world, a substance that may be the cure is being researched at an installation on the floor of the Marianas Trench. When one of the scientists requests his brother's help just before the communication system dies, Luke has no choice but to descend to the unknown depths and confront horrors he cannot imagine...

I got this from Netgalley.

That was one harrowing read. I thought Nick Cutter couldn't top The Troop. I was wrong. Not only did he top The Troop, he sunk it's feet in cement and dropped it in the deepest part of the ocean.

The Deep taps into man's fear of the unknown, fear of the dark, and fear of being alone. When Luke Ronnick descends to the ocean's bottom in a submersible, he's also slowly descending into madness.

I'm almost at a loss as to how to describe this book. It's a claustrophobic nightmare of one man's sanity unraveling when confronted with an alien horror eight miles below the ocean's surface. It took me forever to get through because I could only handle so much at a time. It reminds me of two John Carpenter films, The Thing and The Abyss, with some Stephen King thrown in.

I don't know what was worse: the creepy ass flashbacks, Luke's brother Clayton, or the alien horror that lurks in the deep.

Nick Cutter cuts very deep. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

In the Shadow of the Arch

In the Shadow of the Arch (Joe Keough Mysteries)In the Shadow of the Arch by Robert J. Randisi
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After his police career in New York is ruined, Joe Keough moves to Saint Louis, Missouri, and gets a job with the Richmond Heights PD. An hour into his first day, a three year old boy walks into the police station, leaving a trail of bloody footprints. But he connected to the string of murder-kidnappings all over St. Louis count?

I had this book pushed on me several minutes after I was told Randisi would be a guest on The Review Board in coming weeks. So far, not impressed.

In the Shadow of the Arch had a lot of strikes against it going in. First off, I wasn't really keen on reading it. Secondly, it features a serial killer. These facts didn't consciously influence my opinion of the book but they probably didn't help.

Looks like I'm going to attempt the compliment sandwich approach to this review to lessen the blow. I loved a lot of the St. Louis details worked into the story. To me, New York is the city of skyscrapers I see on TV and two airports I've spent some time in. St. Louis is nearly my back yard so I was thrilled with the authenticity of cops calling the The West County Mall "The Bird Mall," and it was twelve kinds of awesome when Keough and Steinbach ate at Gingham's, the greasy spoon I used to eat at all hours of the night after seeing bands in dive bars.

Unfortunately, getting St. Louis cultural references was most of my enjoyment. First off, while the book was first published in 1998, the internet and cellphones are nonexistent. Not only that, wives are constantly deferring to their husbands, making this book feel like it took place in the late 1950's. Some of the St. Louis references also seemed a little off but the good far outweighed the bad on that score.

Those gripes, however, paled in comparison to Keough and the various St. Louis police departments. Apparently, despite St. Louis being nicknamed Murder City because of the crime rate, the STLPD ran around like a bunch of monkeys trying to fuck a football until supercop Keough took charge. Jackson makes incredible leaps of logic to figure out who the killer was before even Keough but he is killed before we ever get to find out how he did it! Keough was kind of an asshole but it didn't annoy me as much as his "New York Attitude" mentioned once every other page.

I said I was doing the compliment sandwich so I guess the other piece of bread will be it was a pretty engaging read despite the annoyances. I'll give Randisi the benefit of the doubt and not completely write him off just yet. Two out of five stars.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Mucho Mojo

Mucho Mojo (Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, #2)Mucho Mojo by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Leonard's Uncle Chester dies and leaves him a house, Hap and Leonard move in in order to fix it up and find a child's skeleton wrapped in a porno mag. Was Uncle Chester a child predator or was someone else the killer? And does it have anything to do with the crackhouse next door?

2014 Reread

Here we are, the second book in Joe Lansdale's redneck noir adventures of Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. While I had vague recollections of reading this sometime around the turn of the century, it was mostly a new book.

Leonard's Uncle Chester dies so the boys pack up and head to LaBorde to settle his affairs. While repairing his house, they stumble upon a child's skeleton and uncover a wasp's nest of religious-themed serial killing that has been going on for decades.

While the first book wasn't quite firing on all cylinders, this one roared down the track like one of those crazy tractors with four or five engines on it. Hap and Leonard's investigations come from the Spenser school of walking around, pissing people off, and eventually having the case come together in the midst of some bloodshed.

Some longtime supporting cast members were introduced in this volume, like Marvin Hanson and Florida. Marvin is also the star of Act of Love, a Lansdale that I still have yet to read but own at least two copies of. Like most of the early Hap and Leonard's, Hap and Leonard do a lot of philosophizing when they're not cracking wise or cracking skulls. This may account for the brevity of later volumes when Hap isn't such a bleeding heart. Also, this is the first time Leonard burns down a crackhouse, something that happens at least two more times in the series if I remember correctly.

The mystery is fairly intricate. I guessed part of it, both the first time and this time but forgot some of the wrinkles. I guess I'm lucky I remembered the details that I did considering it's probably been over a decade since I first read it. In fact, if the girlfriend I'd let borrow this book sometime years ago hadn't left a couple post-its in the book with notes on them, I probably would have been a little further afield than I was when all the shit went down.

Funny thing, I completely forgot about one character's death and was surprised when another one lived. Like I've said before, old books magically become new books once enough time passes.

Lansdale's really shows his chops in this one, writing like a backwoods Elmore Leonard. When the killers are revealed, their motives make a certain amount of sense, to me and Hap, at least. Leonard's not as kind was we are. The contrasting personalities of Hap and Leonard set them a cut above other buddy teams for my money.

Mucho Mojo is one of the best books of one of my favorite series. Five out of five stars.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Savage Season

Savage Season (Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, #1)Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When laborer Hap Collins' ex-wife Trudy pops back into his life with a story about retrieving unrecovered money from a bank robbery, Hap's up for it. In tow is Hap's best friend, Leonard, a gay black man who happens to be the toughest son of a bitch on the planet. Will Hap and Leonard finally make the big score that saves them from a life of backbreaking labor or is Trudy leading them to their deaths?

2014 reread: Since nothing on my unread pile looks appealing at the moment and a Hap and Leonard TV series is in the works, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the Hap and Leonard books I read pre-Goodreads. One of the perks of getting older is that old books magically become new books after seven or eight years. I remembered the basic plot of this book but forgot most of the wrinkles.

Savage Season introduces Hap Collins and Leonard Pine to the world. Hap is an ex-hippy who spent a year and a half in prison for dodging the Vietnam draft and Leonard is a gay black Vietnam vet who is the toughest man on Earth. Together, they coast through life on crap wages and make a lot of smart ass remarks.

Since originally reading this, I've read a lot of other crime books. It seems to me that Hap and Leonard owe something to Robert Parker's Spenser and Hawk characters, transported to Lansdale's rural east Texas setting. No matter how you slice it, though, Hap and Leonard are one of the most entertaining duos in crime fiction.

The plot of this one is pretty straight forward. Some money from a bank robbery was stashed on boat and sunk in the Sabine River. Trudy, Hap's ex, with some other radicals in tow, want Hap's help in retrieving it. Funny quips and bloody double-crosses ensue and Hap and Leonard wind up in the hospital for the first of many times in the series.

It always surprises me how funny Joe Lansdale's books are without lessening the impact of the violence that often follows. There are some pretty brutal images in this one.

While Savage Season isn't the best book of the series, it's a great beginning. Even in their first appearance, Hap and Leonard are very much the losers I've come to love over the years and I'm excited to be experiencing their adventures once again. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters BrothersThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

When the Commodore orders the Sisters brothers to kill Herman Kermit Warm and take his mysterious formula, they have no idea the series of misadventures they will endure in the undertaking.

I've been interested in this book forever and nabbed it on the cheap when it popped up on one of my ebook newsletter things. It may have been that my expectations were too high but this didn't live up to the hype for me.

I liked the characters of Eli and Charlie Sister, natural born killers in the old west. They were funny at times and brutal at others. I also liked the overly-formal Western dialog with few contractions, much like the Coehn brothers version of True Grit. I suspect the novel has the same style of dialog but I've yet to read it. It also reminded me of Richard Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster at times.

The book is described as being a picaresque adventure, which it is. It's also not a very interesting one for long stretches at a time. I loved the writing but I kept getting drowsy while reading it. I've never before been torn between my admiration for writing and my desire to toss a book back on the unread pile for something more interesting.

I did like it more than I thought it was bland, though. There were enough twists and reversals of fortune to keep me from drooling on my Kindle. There were a few close calls, though. Three out of five stars.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror (New Series Adventures, #55)Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When the TARDIS takes The Doctor and Clara to a seemingly sleepy English town, they are stunned at what they find: giant, mutated insects and arachnids. But what does that have to do with townsfolk wandering around in a zombie-like state, the stone circle at the edge of town, and something mysterious that happened during WWII? That's what the Doctor intends to find out!

I got this from Netgalley.

This is the third Twelfth Doctor novel I've read and it's a pretty middle of the road Doctor Who novel. Clara rings true and, as with the previous novels, I can't be too sure how accurate Doctor Capaldi's characterization will turn out to be. I will say that he doesn't feel like the Tenth or Eleventh Doctors, though.

Much like Silhouette, this Doctor Who had all kinds of plot elements that eventually converged. However, it may have had a little too much going on. There were some chapters that didn't feature Clara or the Doctor.

I did like how Mike Tucker managed to bring everything together in the end. What could have simply been a giant monster tale turned into quite a bit more. It was a fun Doctor Who adventure but by no means was it one of the better ones I've read. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Doctor Who: Silhouette

Doctor Who: Silhouette (New Series Adventures, #53)Doctor Who: Silhouette by Justin Richards

When the Doctor and Clara visit a carnival in Victorian London after the Doctor detects a power spike, they cross paths with Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax. Vastra and Jenny are attempting to solve a locked room mystery while Strax is on the trail of someone who murdered a friend of his. How are the cases linked with the mysterious power spike the Doctor detected and what do they have to do with origami birds and the carnival?

I got this from Netgalley.

This is the second Twelfth Doctor novel I've read and it's pretty damn good. Since we haven't seen much of Doctor Capaldi so far, I can't vouch for the accuracy of Richards' portrayal but it didn't feel like a book written for a different version of the Doctor that was hastily modified. Clara rang true to character and the Paternoster Gang were well done, especially Strax, not surprising since Justin Richards also wrote Devil in the Smoke, a novella featuring the trio.

Orestes Milton proved to be a good foil for The Doctor and company, as did his weaponized carnies. Without a doubt, my favorite part was when the shapeshifter tried to distract the Doctor by assuming the forms of past Doctors, which the Doctor ignored.

The plot was like a greased pig at first. It took me a little while to grab hold of it. When you combine a carnival, a weapons dealer in hiding, a shapeshifter, and a creature that drains emotions, you've got a certain amount of fiddling to do to get everything into the proper place. Richards proved himself a good fiddler. Everything game together in the end and it was a pretty satisfying Doctor Who adventure.

However, it wasn't without a minor hiccup. I thought Madame Vastra made a stupid mistake around the midpoint of the story, funny considering she's The World's Greatest Detective.

Anyway, Doctor Who: Silhouette is a worthy addition to any Doctor Who fan's library. Four out of five stars.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Rain Dancers

The Rain DancersThe Rain Dancers by Greg F. Gifune
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Will and Betty Colby are at her recently deceased father's house preparing it for sale, an old man shows up out of the rain. Bob Laurent claims to be a friend of the family. But why can't Betty remember him? And why is he putting his hands all over her...

The Rain Dancers is one creepy little novella. It's basic premise reminds me of Joe Lansdale's Mr. Weedeater a bit. Bob Laurent shows up, undermines Will, and has some pretty sinister intentions. In addition to Mr. Weedeater, The Rain Dancers reminds me of Stephen King's It as well.

Gifune's writing conveys a growing feeling of unease from Will very well. The story goes down a dark path and events Betty herself can't remember come to light.

Since it's a novella, that's about all I'm prepared to reveal at this time. The Rain Dancers is a worthwhile entry in to the DarkFuse novella series and will likely prove to be a very memorable read. Four out of five stars.

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8-Bit Apocalypse

8-Bit Apocalypse8-Bit Apocalypse by Amanda Billings

When Jimmy was seven, he was one of the best video gamers in the world until he choked during a Donkey Kong tournament and his dreams died. Now 35 and working at Chuck E. Cheese, Jimmy's life is going nowhere until a giant irradiated Atari cartridge invades Denver. Will this be Jimmy's last chance at redemption?

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, the New Bizarro Author series is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. Sometimes, it's chocolate, sometimes a crunch frog, and sometimes it's a story about a giant video game cartridge trashing Denver.

Back in the 1980's, Atari buried some cartridges in the New Mexico desert, mostly ET but some others and Amanda Billings builds her tale around this event. Jimmy, the Chuck E. Cheese loser, is the only one around who realizes what is happening and how to stop it. Imagine playing Centipede but shooting at a train instead of a pixelated insect. Or dodging real cars to play Frogger.

The story reminds me of The Last Starfighter a bit but what it really reminds me of is the episode of Futurama where Fry has to fight the aliens from the planet Nintendoo 64. It's a fun story with equal measures of video game nostalgia and wholesale carnage.

If I had to complain about something, I'd say I wish the book was at least twice as long. At 90 pages in the print version, there's not a lot of meat to it. Still, it was a lot of fun while it lasted. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell (New Series Adventures, #54)Doctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Prisoner 428 shows up at The Prison, the Governor knows he's going to be trouble. But what does Prisoner 428 have to do with the mysterious power fluctuations? And will Prisoner 428 make good on his promise to escape? Of course he will. He's The Doctor...

I got this from Netgalley.

Since I'm a dyed in the wool Whovian, I was pretty excited when this popped up on Netgalley. Should I have been? Meh...

On the surface, this had the makings of a good Doctor Who book. The prison asteroid setting had a lot of potential, as did the prisoners who were mysteriously vanishing. I even enjoyed the paranoid feel sometimes, wondering what was behind everything.

Too bad this book is deeply flawed for a Doctor Who book. First off, it's narrated in the first person by the Governor of the prison planet, making us detached from the Doctor's antics. When I read a Doctor Who novel, I want the Doctor and whomever his companion is at the time center stage, not have their exploits relayed to me by some schmoe. Secondly, it's also not really exciting. It took forever to reveal why the Doctor was in the clink in the first place and also reveal the background of the Governor, something I could have safely gone the rest of my life without knowing.

My third objection is a litty iffy. As of this writing, all we know of the Twelfth Doctor is from the seconds of footage from Day of the Doctor and his regeneration sequence from Time of the Doctor. Apart from some remarks about his age, this very much felt like the Tenth Doctor was paired with Clara.

It wasn't a terrible book but I was very ready for it to be over by the 75% mark. Two hard-earned stars.

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Grapper: Memoirs of a Masked Madman

Grappler: Memoirs of a Masked MadmanGrappler: Memoirs of a Masked Madman by Lynn Denton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grappler: Memoirs of a Masked Madman is the biography of pro-wrestler Lynn Denton, aka The Grappler.

Unlike most of the wrestling bios I've read, I've never actually seen The Grappler wrestle. What I know of him, I gleaned from wrestling magazines back in the day. This book makes me wish I'd seen him in action during his prime.

The way I normally gauge how much I'm going to enjoy a wrestling book is by how much time is devoted to his pre-wrestling life. I think this one went less than 3% by the time the Grappler was in the ring. My attention was bear-hugged almost immediately.

This book is surprisingly funny. Denton's self-deprecating sense of humor sets this appart from most wrestling books. Lines like "After a year of lifting weights, I put on fifty pounds of muscle thanks to Porkchop's training methods. That and the steroids" pepper the text. I don't think I would be exaggerating by saying every page has at least one smile- or chuckle-inducing line.

The book covers The Grappler's humble beginnings as plain old Lynn Denton, to his days with Bill Watts, the Funks, the Crocketts, and the Stampede territory, to his transformation into The Grappler and making $3000 a week headlining for Bill Watts at age 22. And then quitting Watts' territory when he found out how much more The Junkyard Dog was making per week.

From there, The Grappler was on the road again, eventually making it back to Bill Watts' Mid-South, then to World Class to work with Bruiser Brody, the Von Erichs, and Rick Rude, to Kansas City with Harley Race, eventually ending up in Portland, where he would finish his career.

Unlike a lot of wrestling books, Denton doesn't make himself sound like the best thing to come along since sliced Lou Thesz. He freely admits to some bonehead moves that hurt him personally and/or financially in the long run. The honesty plus the sense of humor makes this wrestling book several cuts above all the rest.

It's hard to pin down what my favorite moments in the book were. His reaction when he found out he and his partner were going to win a tag match against Dusty Rhodes and Andre the Giant, his final match in Kansas City with Harley Race, and working with Bruiser Brody are all pretty memorable. I also loved how free he was when talking about where he borrowed the various bits of the Grappler persona from.

For my money, Grappler is now the measuring stick against all future wrestling biographies will be measured. Five out of five loaded boots to the head.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Cheat Code for God Mode

The Cheat Code for God ModeThe Cheat Code for God Mode by Andy de Fonseca
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Margy and Victor find a rare video game, Adamina, for an obsolete system in a pawn shop, little do they know the havoc they are about to unleash, for Adamina holds the key to the universe...

The New Bizarro Author series has been a favorite of mine for the last few years. Alas, I've let myself fall a bit behind.

Imagine playing Grand Theft Auto and being horrified when you find out that you're actually controlling someone in the real world and doing horrible things. That's kind of what The Cheat Code for God Mode is like.

Cheat Code reads like a mix between Snow Crash, Ready Player One, PKD, and every obnoxious internet meme you can think of. Margy and Victor inhabit a city on one of Jupiter's moons, a city with humanoid bulls acting as cops, animal people, portals, and flying turtles, a world where everyone is connected to the Infranet. When they find Adamina and activate it, all hell breaks loose.

The book explores questions about identity, even as Margy and Victor are confronted with dancing babies and rabbits with pancakes on their heads.

The Cheat Code for God Mode would be a good intro to Bizarro fiction, especially for video game and pop culture enthusiasts. While it's weird, it's weird in the vein of the Twilight Zone, not in the vein of talking penises running for president or people having sex with furniture. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Beyond the Door

Beyond the DoorBeyond the Door by Jeffrey Thomas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two men swap tales of terror from opposite sides of a bathroom stall door.

This is the final book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

I left the choice of my final Kindle Unlimited book to my Booklikes followers. I only got two suggestions so this one got the nod, mostly due to the use of a frame narrative, one of my favorite seldom-used literary devices. Two men get into a dispute in a bathroom and begin telling stories in an effort to top one another. How's that for a unique frame?

Thankfully, the stories aren't nested so things don't get too crazy. The men tell the stories of a haunted house, a carnival of death, a museum of oddities with a flea circus, an insect-loving teacher, and several others.

As the book goes on, the stories become more and more twisted, involving parallel worlds and such. I have to say that if someone tries to talk to me through the bathroom stall door at the train station, I'll probably engage them in a story swapping contest. Three out of five stars.

Final Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $137.82.

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The Morning Dew

The Morning DewThe Morning Dew by Edward Lorn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

James, Mike, and Henry camp out in the treehouse behind James' house, not knowing what horrors the morning sun will bring...

This is the twenty-seventh book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

I was all set to quit my Kindle Unlimited experiment a day and a half early until Edward Lorn served this one up. It's a short story but I was immediately hooked when I realized James was playing the age-old "the living room floor is actually molten lava" game.

What happens to James and his friends in the morning slightly reminds me of Stephen King's The Raft, although the amoeba-like monster in that was at least confined to a lake.

Since it's a short story, that's all I'm prepared to divulge. As always, Edward Lorn shows why he's a rising star in the horror genre. Four out of five stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $135.83.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kindle Unlimited Experiment - Putting my fate in your hands

As of this writing, it's Thursday afternoon, leaving just two and a half days on the clock.  I pulled the ripcord on the last Kindle Unlimited book I selected for myself after not being overly engaged.  I put out the call to the Booklikes crew to pick my final book.  Let's hope they serve up something good.

The last couple days have been great.  I just have to say that Jeff Strand is an author to watch.  Since Monday's post, I've read three more of his books and liked them all quite a bit.  In fact, I gave two of them five stars.

  1. Kumquat
  2. Kutter
  3. Stalking You Now
I'll save my final thoughts for Sunday morning, when I try to weave my Kindle Unlimited experience into something substantial.


KumquatKumquat by Jeff Strand

Beta-male Todd Bryan meets the girl of his dreams, Amy Husk, who shares his obsession with Exit Red, a long running television show. Turns out Amy has an inoperable brain aneurysm and not much of a shelf life left. Together, they go on a road trip to Rhode Island for a hot dog and much much more...

This is the twenty-sixth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

So, that Jeff Strand is one smooth sea otter. "How smooth?" several of you ask. He's so smooth he got me to read something that some might consider to be a romance novel. I wouldn't say it's a romance, however. It reminds me of that Zach Braff flick The Garden State, only good instead of fairly boring.

Kumquat is about the relationship between two people who know they don't have a whole lot of time together. They go on a road trip, have a series of misadventures, and wind up at a sci-fi convention for a purpose I will not divulge here.

Strand and I both ventured outside our comfort zone for this one but not too far afield. You can still see our respective comfort zones in the distance. Strand's trademark dark humor is present, only without the gore or horror, although I suppose if you wanted to nitpick, you could say Amy's impending door gives it a horror element. Stop picking nits, though! What are we, chimps?

The story is chock full of dark humor, geek references, and some tender moments between Todd and Amy. As usual, Strand has quoteable lines on every page, like "At least she didn't say she had herpes" or "Virtually every social situation I'm part of ends without me having intercourse."

Each chapter is headed with a quote from Exit Red, the show they share a love for, which also sounds like the best TV show that never existed aside from that Fantastic Four series starring the guy that played the professor on Gilligan's Island. Google it.

Anyway, I dreaded the ending of this the whole way through, picturing myself sobbing like a teenage girl at the end of Titanic. Fortunately, the ending wasn't what I thought it would be, though I shared Todd's dread for most of the book.

I wasn't planning on giving this a five but I guess I'm a big softy despite my hard-boiled exterior. Five out of five stars. Strand is an author to watch.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $134.84.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014


 KutterKutter by Jeff Strand

While on a hunt, serial killer Charlie finds an injured dog in the park, brings him home, and names him Kutter. Hilarity ensues and Charlie's life is changed forever.

This is the twenty-fifth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

One of the benefits of this somewhat misguided KU experiment of mine is that I get to try a lot of authors for free. Jeff Strand is swiftly becoming one of my new favorites.

Kutter is the age-old story of a man and his dog. Only this time, the man is a serial killer. The way Kutter transforms Charlie is hilarious but still pretty plausible. As Charlie takes baby steps toward normalcy, things from his past start floating to the surface and he has some decisions to make.

Much like Stalking You Now, Kutter is hilarious without becoming silly. Strand points out some of the absurdities involved with being a serial killer in clever ways. His writing reminds me of a more serious Christopher Moore.

Even though it's largely a dark humor novel, there are a couple tender moments in the book, especially if you're a dog lover.

The novella continues to be my preferred delivery system for horror and Jeff Strand is proving to be a great delivery man. Four out of five stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $130.85.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Broken Sigil

Broken SigilBroken Sigil by William Meikle

When Internal Affairs agent Joe Connors is called to a crime scene, he's surprised to find his former partner, Johnny Provan, dead with a strange sigil carved into his abdomen, gunned down by another cop. What drove Johnny Provan insane, causing his partner to shoot him? And what did that have to do with the affair Provan had with Joe's dead wife?

This is the twenty-fourth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

William Meikle serves up a supernatural noir tale of love, loss, and the afterlife in Broken Sigil. Joe Connors canvases the building his former partner was gunned down outside of and finds that the building harbors a connection to the afterlife. After learning the particulars, Joe moves into one of the vacant apartments and tries to pick up where Johnny left off.

I love the concept of an apartment whose rooms are a connection to the afterlife and Melke uses that setting to really noir things up, using a DVD of the Maltese Falcon as a plot device. Joe would have slipped into oblivion had things not gone off the rails, leaving him with a mystery to solve.

The ending was a little brutal but ultimately satisfying. Extra points for the Dark Tower reference. I am an addict and the DarkFuse novella series is my drug. Four out of five stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $127.86.

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Stalking You Now

Stalking You NowStalking You Now by Jeff Strand

The Flatside Killer stalks the man who blundered upon the bodies of his victims 25 years ago and ended his rampage. He captures the man and it would have gone perfectly but he didn't count on the man having another stalker; his girlfriend Mindy...

This is the twenty-third book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

I have a confession to make. One of the reasons I jumped on board the Kindle Unlimited free trial was because DarkFuse has a ton of stuff that's part of the program. Stalking You Now might be the best DarkFuse novella I've read yet.

Jeff Strand's Wolf Hunt was a gore-strewn dark humor tale and I liked it quite a bit. This one didn't have as much gore but I thought the dark humor was even better. Once Mindy shows up and Flatside has to improvise, the book is one of the funniest things I ever read in a dark sort of way, mostly in Flatside's internal monologue.

One of my favorite lines was "For a split second I'm offended she would suggest I'm the one responsible for the problems in my relationship with my completely fabricated girlfriend."

I know I shouldn't have felt sympathy toward Flatside but I felt sorry for him close to the end. He was just trying to get revenge when Mindy blundered upon the scene and was surprisingly capable. Cut a poor killer some slack...

The DarkFuse novella series continues to kick ass by the truckload. Five out of five stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $124.87.

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Dreams the Ragman

Dreams the RagmanDreams the Ragman by Greg F. Gifune

When Derrick Ricci was a boy, his grandfather would tell him and his friend Caleb tales of the Ragman, a junk dealer clothed in rags. The Ragman haunted their dreams from then on. When people are brutally murdered, Derrick and Caleb, now adults, are convinced it is the work of the Ragman. But Derrick is going through a divorce and Caleb is now a junkie. Can they stop the Ragman from killing again?

This is the twenty-second book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

This was an atmospheric little novella from the fine folks at DarkFuse. Dreams the Ragman is a short tale dealing with destiny and growing up. It's more of a character study than anything else.

The Ragman is a creepy figure, a rail-riding hobo carrying a rusty bell and clothed in rags, who may or may not be responsible for some grisly killings. How is he tied to Derrick and Caleb?

Greg Gifune's writing does a great job of conveying the creepiness of the Ragman and the hopelessness Caleb must be feeling. The shifting from the past to the present keeps the book from being predictable.

However, not much actually happens. I think Dreams the Ragman would have been better if it had been expanded into a novel and had more time for the suspense to build. Three out of five stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $121.88.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Kindle Unlimited Experiment - The Home Stretch

Ever try to eat an exceptionally large sandwich?  Even if it's the best tasting sandwich ever made, eventually your jaws get tired and you just want to finish the son of a bitch.  That's how my Kindle Unlimited Experiment is shaping up.

It hasn't been a terrible experience thus far.  I've read over 118 dollars worth of ebooks, $118.89, to be precise, and I've discovered some books and authors I've really liked.  However, as I've stated pretty much every time I've written about Kindle Unlimited, the selection is very limiting, even with nearly 700,000 books to choose from.  Lucky for me, I've been in a horror mood or I wouldn't have lasted this long.  If you're into horror novellas, you can do some serious damage with Kindle Unlimited.

The best of my Kindle Unlimited Experiment so far:

  1. Deadlift
  2. Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead
  3. Sow
  4. Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway
  5. Wolf Hunt
  6. Ugly As Sin

My goal was to hit $100.00 when I started.  Now I'm shooting toward $130.00.  I have until Saturday night so I'd say it's doable.

The Lost Art of Tag Team Wrestling

The Lost Art of Tag Team WrestlingThe Lost Art of Tag Team Wrestling by Todd Roberg

The Lost Art of Tag Team Wrestling is a very brief history of tag team wrestling.

This is the twenty-first book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

This was a mediocre wrestling book. First, I'll briefly go over the parts I actually enjoyed.

The Lost Art of Tag Team Wrestling gives a brief overview and history of tag team wrestling, explores the psychology behind tag team wrestling matches, and then profiles a few of the great tag teams of the 1980's. The psychology was by far the most interesting part of the book. The profiles were decent but nothing earth-shattering.

My issues with this book are two-fold.
1. The length. It's supposed to be 229 pages long but that's due to the photos and the ginormagantuan font. There's maybe 75 pages of text here.
2. The length. I realize the length is the #1 issue but it's such a big issue that I'm listing it again. How about including more tag teams? Or some quotes from wrestlers? Or anything else to justify calling this a book and not an overly long magazine article?

It wasn't completely without merit but this one would go on the completely unnecessary pile if I had such a thing. Two stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $118.89.

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The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next DoorThe Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

When a pretty girl named Meg moves in next door, young Davy is smitten. Soon, however, Meg's aunt Ruth begins mistreating Meg and invites her children to help. Can Davy help Meg escape? Or will he join in her torment?

This is the twentieth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

This is one brutal damn book. At the beginning, it felt like Stephen King's coming of age horror, like The Body or It. Then it became darker and darker until it was physically wearing me out to read it.

The Girl Next Door is a story of abuse, torture, and helplessness. Like I said, it's a pretty brutal read. Davy is torn between fitting in and trying to save Meg from the progressively more hellish life at Ruth's house.

Ketchum paints a horrifying picture of life in an abusive environment. The book became increasingly more uncomfortable to read because of his skill at depicting the horrors going on in the basement.

In the end, this was a hard book to rate. I thought it was very powerful but I can't say I actually enjoyed reading it past the halfway mark. The torture was too much but I had to see the book through until the end. The most horrifying thing about the book is that it was based on an actual incident.

I'm giving it a four because of the impact the story and the writing had, not because of any enjoyment or entertainment I got out of the story. I doubt I'll be reading more Ketchum any time soon.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $115.39.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ugly as Sin

Ugly As SinUgly As Sin by James Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nick Bullman used to be The Widowmaker, the baddest man in sports entertainment. That is, until two crazed wrestling fans kidnapped him and cut his face off. Now he's disfigured and drifting through life after assaulting his former boss, Lance McDougall. When a daughter he hadn't seen in years tells him the granddaughter he never knew existed is missing, Nick goes looking to find the people who took her...

This is the nineteenth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

There isn't a ton of crime fiction featuring a former pro-wrestler as the main character. In fact, Hoodtown is the only other one I can think of. Since this one is redneck noir with a former wrestler as the lead character, it was right in my wheelhouse.

The title, Ugly as Sin, seems to refer to Nick Bullman's disfigured state, but it also refers to the ugliness Nick encounters while looking for his granddaughter. Nick enters a world of meth, crack, prostitution, and pedophiles. Nick approaches the mystery of his missing daughter much like he did his wrestling matches, like a battering ram knocking aside all obstacles.

There's not a lot more I want to reveal. The main villain is easy to hate and the cops turn out not to be totally clueless assholes for once. I loved that the town's theater was called the Lansdale Drive-In.

I wanted to give this a five but I had to dock it a bit for something really illogical that happened near the end. Other than that, this book was pretty great. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $108.40.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Wolf Hunt

Wolf HuntWolf Hunt by Jeff Strand

When thugs George and Lou are hired to transport a man in a cage, it sounds like a gravy job. Only the man is actually a psychotic werewolf just waiting to go on a rampage...

This is the eighteenth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

As far as classic monsters are concerned, werewolves often get the short end of the stick. How many really good werewolf movies or books can you name? That's what I thought. From now on, though, Wolf Hunt is going to be the first book I think of when people mention werewolves.

While Wolf Hunt has more than its share of gore and general werewolf carnage, I'd say it's more of a dark comedy. The violence is tempered with grim humor. For instance "He was pretty sure the first female orgasm he ever witnessed was when his grandmother found an antique coffee table."

Ivan the werewolf makes a great foil for professional lowlifes Lou and George, a psychotic killer driven by his base desires. George and Lou just keep plugging along, trying to recapture him so they don't end up sleeping with the fishes. Hostage Michelle throws a wrench in the works but proved she wasn't just bait or an available orifice for the main characters.

Wolf Hunt has a lot of things going for it; gunplay, comedy, gore, and car chases. It's almost like Smoky and the Bandit with a werewolf in it at times and is even more fun than it sounds. Four furry howling stars!

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $104.41.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014


CrustaceansCrustaceans by William Meikle

When an alcoholic fisherman pulls a strange crab out of the Atlantic, he has no idea what is about to befall the east coast; giant armored crabs with a taste for human flesh!

This is the seventeenth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

In some ways, Crustaceans, like Clickers, is an homage to Guy Smith's Crab books, which I confess I have yet to read. Giant crabs hit the coast and go on a killing sprees, slicing people in half and devouring them. Oh, and these crabs are bulletproof.

As per usual, I'll be doing the compliment sandwich in this review, since I did like it more than I disliked it.

Crustaceans was a fun read, full of the carnage one comes to expect from something involving giant monsters. I came in expecting killer crabs on the rampage and that's what I got.

However, there were some issues with the editing. Stark is called Stack the first three or four times he's mentioned. Also, the book doesn't have anything signaling the transition from one viewpoint character to another, making it kind of jarring. Even an extra line break would have helped. The characters are pretty much stock characters: army guy, lady scientist (complete with insta-love) and alcoholic fisherman.

Again, though, I didn't come into this expecting a Michael Chabon book. I loved the underground action, especially when the heroes ran into progressively bigger crabs. The nod to Aliens about nuking the site from orbit was a nice touch. Meikle managed to create an homage to B-movie giant monster horror but still managed to deliver a fairly compelling book that begs to be made into a SyFy original movie.

3 out of 5 stars. I've never wanted to eat crab legs so much in my life.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $100.42.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Hacksaw: The Jim Duggan StoryHacksaw: The Jim Duggan Story by Hacksaw Jim Duggan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hacksaw is the biography of pro wrestler Hacksaw Jim Duggan.

This is the sixteenth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

I first became a wrestling fan when I was around 7 years old, about the same time Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, right around the time Hulkamania exploded on America and changed the wrestling business forever. As I got older, I became a workrate snob decades before I ever heard the term, gravitating toward Ricky Steamboat, The British Bulldogs, and similar wrestlers. However, I always had a soft spot for a crosseyed brawler named Hacksaw Jim Duggan.

First off, this book was way better than I thought it would be. I can usually gauge how much I'm going to enjoy a wrestling book by how much of the book is devoted to a guy's pre-wrestling life. Duggan was in the ring before the 10% mark, after stints in the NFL and CFL.

Unlike a lot of wrestling books, Duggan doesn't portray himself as one of the all time greats. In fact, he's not afraid to tell stories that make him look like a dumb ass. He also talks about how important his family is to him without preaching about it.

This book is a little thin but packed with road stories, of adventures on the road while working Mid-South with Terry Gordy, Ted DiBiase, Steve Williams, and the Junkyard Dog. He talks about the incident when he got caught driving drunk and stoned with the Iron Sheik, whom he was feuding with at the time, as well as a fight on an airplane with Koko B. Ware. Like most wrestlers, he mentions his respect for Harley Race.

His time in the WWF during the boom is a little glossed over and he doesn't rehash what we've all heard before about WCW, although he talks about the Bruise Cruise, which I vaguely remember from commercials but never saw written about before.

The WWE bringing him back for one last run gets a fair amount of time, as does working the independents and getting inducted in the hall of fame. Like all wrestling books, I would have read more road stories but I didn't really have any complaints about this book.

3.5 out of 5 stars. What do you think about that, tough guy? Hooooooooooooo!

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Between the Ropes

Between the Ropes: Wrestling's Greatest Triumphs and FailuresBetween the Ropes: Wrestling's Greatest Triumphs and Failures by Brian Fritz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some guys who host a wrestling radio show rehash the last 15-20 years of wrestling.

This is the fifteenth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't this. Since the authors host Between the Ropes, I thought there would be wrestler interviews in this. Nope. It was mostly a recap of the last couple decades of wrestling, most of which was during the height of my fandom. There's very little new information here for me, and what little there was could have been found on Wikipedia if I'd cared enough about TNA Wrestling to investigate. There weren't even any opinions thrown in. Give me something! Even some arm-chair quarterbacking would have been nice.

There were some interesting quotes from wrestlers scattered throughout the text but it wasn't enough to make this book feel necessary. I'm glad this was part of the Kindle Unlimited program and I didn't actually have to spend money on it. 2 out of 5 stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $87.04.

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Monday, August 4, 2014


ClockersClockers by Richard Price
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A drug dealer is gunned down in a diner and the brother of another drug dealer is the prime suspect. Did he do it? That's what Rocco Klein wants to find out. But can he get the suspect's brother, a crack dealer named Strike, to cooperate?

This is the fourteenth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

Like most people who have read this in recent years, I loved HBO's The Wire and Price was one of the writers. This feels like the novelization of four Wire episodes in the best way possible.

Clockers is a crime book but it's also a window into the lives of cops and the crack dealers they're trying to catch. Much like The Wire, Clockers shows that both sides of the conflict are fairly ordinary human beings, not knights in shining armor or scene-chewing villains.

Strike and Rocco, the two leads, are both well-drawn, conflicted characters. Neither is particularly happy with his lot in life. Rocco sees an actor as his way out of the cop's life and Strike just wants to make enough money to get out.

The mystery is actually secondary. The real focus is on the lives of Rocco, Strike, and the rest. The crack business is a lot more complicated than I thought and now I'm even more keenly aware of why so many cops wind up divorced, alcoholic, and/or eating their guns.

The writing is a notch above most crime books, akin to Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos. I thought the plot meandered a bit but not as much as in the last Price book I read, Lush Life. The city of Dempsey is almost a character.

Four out of five stars. Maybe it's time I rewatch the entire run of The Wire.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $77.48.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Kindle Unlimited Experiment: The Halfway Point

Has it only been 15 days since I embarked on this mad experiment?  It feels like centuries...

My current savings total is $67.49, well on track to hit $100 by the end of the trial.  I'm reading Clockers and liking it quite a bit.  I've even managed to reKindle my enthusiasm for the project to a degree.  However, the selection is still dragging me down and I feel like I'm stuck going to one restaurant and scouring the limited menu for things I want to eat.

All is not lost, however.  I've found a couple pro-wrestling books I'm interested in, as well as a few horror books and even a couple Bizarro titles.  Since I'm over the hump, I'll let momentum take its course.

Still not planning on paying for the service, though.  At least not until they beef up the selection.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Satan's Mummy vs. Teenage Frankenstein

Satan's Mummy Vs Teenage Frankenstein(Mummy Horror # 2)Satan's Mummy Vs Teenage Frankenstein by Henry Price

Professor Vergerius, aka Satan's Mummy, wants a new body and finds Jake Beaufort, a teenage Frankenstein descendant, to build it for him. However, Kyle, the brain inside the patchwork body, wants only to be reunited with his girlfriend, Sarah. Can he fight off a crocodile, a dwarf, and Beaufort's army of ravenous stitched-up sex salves to find her?

This is the thirteenth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

Satan's Mummy is back and his grindhouse horror-inspired rampage continues. This time, he teams with a teenage made scientist to get a new body. Too bad things don't go as planned for him. There's even more sex in this one than in the last one. Lots of monster on monster action, for the most part.

I didn't quite enjoy this one as much as the first installment. For one thing, it didn't feel like a complete tale, just the first half of something larger. There wasn't much in the way of resolution. Secondly, so much necro-rape. Poor Kyle's junk must have been like raw hamburger by the time he escaped Beaufort's sex dungeon.

Still, it's fun in a nasty, sleazy gorefest kind of way. 2.5 out of 5 stars. When's the next Satan's Mummy come out?

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Satan's Mummy: Mummy Horror #1

Satan's MummySatan's Mummy by Henry Price

Suzanne Waterman and her buxom friend Angelica are invited by the lecherous Professor Caswell to a retreat at his estate and attend lectures by Professor Vergerius. However, Vergerius is really Thoth Sekhmet, a mummy that eats human hearts to survive and his eyes set on Suzanne and Angelica. Can Suzanne's cop boyfriend Vinnie arrive in time to save them?

This is the twelfth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

Satan's Mummy is an homage to the dirty grindhouse horror movies of the 1970's and it shows. It reads like an Italian horror movie, complete with horror movie cliches, only with more sex. The plot is pretty simple. Some college kids are lured to a mansion and carnage ensues. There's a ton of gore but there's even more sex. Girl on girl, girl on girl on dwarf, dwarf on girl, and mummy on girl. And those are just the encounters that involve the main character.

It's a pretty slim book at only 54 pages but packs in a lot of sex and violence. And there was a nice twist at the end, even though I suspected it was coming since Satan's Mummy vs. Teenage Frankenstein: Mummy Horror 2 is already queued up.

Satan's Mummy is a quick dose of sleazy good fun. 3 out of 5 stars.

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