Monday, March 31, 2014


Courtesy of Booklikes

Booklet.  I'd rather read three entertaining shorter books than plod through one tome.

Pre-owned if I can swing it.  I'm pretty cheap.

Fantasy.  Historical fiction is too easy to spoil.

Paperback.  They're easier to store and easier to lug around.

Funny.  The world is already full of sad things.

Winter is a heavier reading time.  There's not much else to do when the snow is forty feet deep in the middle of the winter that lasts a generation.

I don't consider most of what I read to be Mainstream but it's definitely closer to Mainstream than it is to Classics.

Fiction.  I'll guide my own way.

I prefer crime novels because I generally find them to be more intelligently plotted and have more surprises than thrillers.  I don't want to invest time reading something when I can see all the twists coming.

This one is tough.  If I'm reading in bed or have to do a lot of traveling, I prefer e-books.  For casual reading on the couch or kitchen table, print all the way.

I used to be a collector until I saw what a fine line there was between collecting and hoarding.  Now I only hang on to my favorites.  Much less stuff to move if I have to flee in the middle of the night.

If I'm paying for them, I'll always go to the used bookstore.  I hate paying ridiculous prices for ebooks since they can't be turned in for store credit when I'm finished.

Lately, I've been hitting NetGalley pretty hard so I'll say New Publication.

Bad Seller.  Being a best seller is normally a red flag for me since most of them are dumbed-down crap.

Cookbooks.  I find them way more practical.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Doctor Who: Touched By An Angel

Doctor Who: Touched By An AngelDoctor Who: Touched By An Angel by Jonathan Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eight years after his wife's death, Mark Whitaker receives a letter from his future self, giving him instructions on how to save her. But why are the Weeping Angels following Mark? And can The Doctor, with Rory and Amy in tow, stop the Weeping Angels from rewriting history? Of course he can! He's the Doctor...

I got this from Netgalley.

I have a few Doctor Who tie-in novels under my belt at this stage in the game and few of them really manage to capture the feel of a Doctor Who episode. Touched By An Angel could have easily been a fifth or sixth series Doctor Who Adventure.

The plot looks pretty simple on the surface. Mark gets a letter for himself and tries to stop his wife from being killed in a car accident. However, Touched By An Angel uses a lot of timey-wimey stuff and has more twists and curves than a Moebius strip.

The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are well-written and true to their episodic incarnations. Mark Whitaker is the character that sets this Doctor Who novel head and shoulders above most of the others. If you had a chance to undo the untimely death of the love of your life, wouldn't you do it?

Once Mark finds himself in the past, the plot really starts twisting in on itself. The Weeping Angel's plot makes a lot of sense, as does the actions future Mark, the Doctor, Amy, and the Rories(?) take in order to make sure history doesn't get rewritten and empower the Weeping Angels. Mark's final fate is right in line with some of the more poignant Doctor Who endings.

That's about all I can say without spoiling too much. If you're looking for an Eleventh Doctor novel, this is the best one I've run across so far. Four out of five stars.

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Cruelty: Episode Four

Cruelty: Episode Four (Cruelty #4)Cruelty: Episode Four by Edward Lorn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tom Morgan is in a coma but still alive. Twon and Ollie go looking for Will Longmire and their money. Markum is closing in on Cruelty and Forgiveness is on the loose. Oh, and Merlo the cowardly dog and Randy Miser join forces.

Mama Lorn's little boy has done it again. While Cruelty didn't make an appearance, a lot of dominos were set up in this installment. The setting is starting to feel a little True Detective-ish, always a good thing.

There's not a lot more I can say without revealing too much. As always, the episode blew by and left me wanting more. I'm looking forward to rereading the series in one whack once the whole series is released. Four stars out of five stars.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Ten Thousand Things

The Ten Thousand Things (Dead West, #2)The Ten Thousand Things by Tim Marquitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nina Weaver and company are riding the rails and Lao Xu's hell train is right behind them. Can they stop the train full of Deaduns before it catches them? And even then, can they elude Lao Xu?

Step aboard the cliche train for a moment. The Ten Thousand Things is Those Poor, Poor Bastards on steroids with the volume turned up to eleven. Nina and company go out of the frying pan and into the fire so many times they should have burn marks on their asses.

Ahem... The Ten Thousand Things is the second book in the Dead West series, currently slated as a sextology. Heh, sex. Anyway, these books are so action-packed they're exhausting to read at times. Lots of Deaduns get killed and the good guys take a world-class shit-kicking. The gore level is pretty high.

The writing group of Soward, Marquitz, and Martin deliver the goods. I've grown to care about the Daggett brothers, miserable assholes they may be, as well as the rest of the cast. Nina continues taking steps toward her destiny and the rest of the characters prove to be more multifaceted than originally suspected. I'm getting really excited about the final confrontation with Lao Xu and it's likely still several installments away.

I don't have many bad things to say about this series so far. I expected a higher body count among the main cast in this one but I'm sure a few of them will drop like flies in the next installment. Much like the last book, there's a gag-inducing part near the end, this time involving a worm the size of a whiskey bottle pulled out of someone's head.

If you like weird westerns prominently featuring zombies, give this one a shot. The guys at Ragnarok Publications are good people and they know how to spin a yarn. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Dead Man's Drive

Dead Man's DriveDead Man's Drive by Michael Panush
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Zombies, demons, and a new crime boss named Roy Roach threaten the sleepy 1950s town of La Cruz, California, and the only ones that can save them are the supernatural hot rodders at Donovan Motors. Will Roscoe the hot rodding zombie discover his old memories before his friends are killed? What's Wooster's secret? And what are the bad guys really after?

I got this from Netgalley.

It's hard to resist a book about supernatural creatures driving around in hot rods. The Donovan Motors crew acts as troubleshooters for the town of La Cruz, named for an unholy relic hidden in the nearby mountains. Roscoe, their newest recruit, is an amnesiac zombie. Other members of the crew include a bankrobber named Wooster, a Mexican named Angel, a college student named Bettie who is also a witch, and young Jewish teen Felix who is also a wizard. Oh, and Felix's pet Yeti cub, Snowball.

Sound good so far? How about leftover Nazi Reed Strickland, who wants to run the crew out of town so he can take over? Or Mr. Roach, the cannibal with a centipede for a tongue?

Dead Man's Drive is like a 1950s hot rod movie, only with lots of supernatural creatures and laughs. There's also a fair amount of gore but most if it is perpetrated against zombies. It's a really fun little book and didn't overstay its welcome like a lot of books of the same type.

The book didn't really have many slow parts. The book may as well have been written according to Lester Dent's formula. The heroes were introduced and the shit kept piling up, like an overflowing toilet in a lackluster Mexican restaurant. Even though it's the first book in the series, I wasn't sure who was going to survive.

Befor I wrap this up, here are potential blurbs I came up with while reading:
- Zombies, flying skeletal birds, yeti cubs, quaint 1950's style racism, this book has everything!
- Dead Man's Drive is head and shoulders above all the other books about zombies driving hot rods while defending a small California town from supernatural threats in the 1950s out there.
- It's like The Fast & The Furious meets The Munsters, only it doesn't suck!

3.5 out of 5 stars. I'll be returning for the next Rot Rods adventure, Detour to the Apocalypse.

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Sharcano (Sharkpocalypse Trilogy, #1)Sharcano by Jose Prendes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When volcanoes erupt all over the world, the lava is not as dangerous as the unholy beasts that swim in it, the lava sharks! Can a motley crew scattered all over the world save humanity from the lava shark menace and the accompanying hellfire flu?

I got this from Netgalley.

I eyed this up on Netgalley for a couple weeks before finally pulling the trigger on it. It looks like a B-movie in book form. What could be wrong with that? I'll get back to that in a minute.

Sharcano is way better than it has any right to be. It reads like one of Christopher Moore's Pine Cove books, only on a global scale. Instead of a B-movie in book form, it's more like a parody/homage of big budget disaster movies. It could easily have been a Michael Bay movie with an all Aerosmith soundtrack.

Sharcano packs a lot into its pages: philandering newscasters, hot lady scientists, sinister Asian scientists, redneck Bigfoot hunters, Area 51, volcanoes, disease, and sharks made out of lava. It's a buffet of carnage up in this bitch.

Like I said earlier, the writing was way better than I thought it would be. I actually cared about the characters, something I did not anticipate. It's loaded with funny similes and quotable dialogue, which contributes to the length. And therein lies the rub.

For what it is, Sharcano is about twice as long as it needs to be, especially since it's the first book in a trilogy. When you watch a B-movie or cheesy disaster flick, it's only two hours out of your life. This cheesefest is over 420 pages and it's not as fast of a read as you'd think. Ultimately, it feels like a spectacular 100 page novella crammed into a 420 page book, to paraphrase the mighty Ebert.

Still, it's pretty fun. I was entertained by the concept of lava sharks but it had all worn a little thin by the end. Imagine the feeling you'd get after watching three disaster movies in row.

Three out of five stars. I doubt I'll be returning for the next installment, though.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Word Exchange

The Word ExchangeThe Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When her father disappears just days before his life's work, the third edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, is set to debut, she has no idea of the rabbit hole she'll soon be going down. People are forgetting common words and coming down with what is called the word flu. Is there a connection between the word flu and her missing father?

I got this from Netgalley. My initial impression was that the book was overwritten by someone who was into literary fiction and "slumming it" by writing a sf book and a little too in love with its own cleverness. Did my impression change? Read on...

The Word Exchange is set in a very near future where everyone uses electronic devices called Memes for lots of everyday tasks, like the way people use Smartphones now, only kicked up a few notches. Meme use is so prevalent that people commonly pay a few cents to look up words online. That's fine, until everyone starts speaking gibberish.

First off, I found the worldbuilding a little lazy. Douglas Johnson's age and birthdate didn't gibe with the book's post 2016 time frame. Also, I found it a little too convenient that the only technological advancement was in the Memes. However, I was able to brush that aside. What really irked me early on was that the story was told by two POV characters in the form of journal entries. In and of itself, that's fine. The problem was that both narrators were ramblers so it took forever for anything to actually happen. And the footnotes! Footnotes should only be used in sf/fantasy if your last name starts with a "P" and ends with "ratchett."

Around the 40% mark, I stopped being such a curmudgeon and focused on the story, which had finally begun making some forward progress. The intrusion of nonsense words into Anana and Bart's journal entries was fairly well done and the word flu actually wound up being pretty good, though I liked the way Neal Stephenson did the language virus concept in Snow Crash better.

As people lose their ability to communicate and later access the Internet, society quickly slides downhill, illustrating how dependent everyone has become on electronic devices.

So here we are at the end and I'm not really sure how I felt about this book. I thought parts of it were good but I wouldn't precisely say I liked it. It felt about 100 pages too long. It was a mystery/conspiracy novel that featured sf concepts I thought were done better in other books. I'm giving it a 3 but I'm not really thrilled about it.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Doctor Who: Tales of Trenzalore: The Eleventh Doctor's Last Stand

Doctor Who: Tales of Trenzalore: The Eleventh Doctor's Last StandDoctor Who: Tales of Trenzalore: The Eleventh Doctor's Last Stand by Justin Richards
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Time of the Doctor only scratched the surface of what happened during the Doctor's centuries on Trenzalore.

Let it Snow by Justin Richards: Mysterious ice meteors rain down on Trenzalore and the Ice Warriors are responsible. But what do they have in mind for the town of Christmas and the Doctor?

Justin Richards utilzes the Church of the Papal Mainframe's truth field to the utmost in this tale. The Doctor proves to be as clever as a mongoose and Christmas is saved.

An Apple a Day by George Mann: A bizarre seed pod crashes through the roof of a glasshouse orchard and soon a Krynoid is running amuck in Christmas! Can the Doctor stop the Krynoid before it kills and devours everyone in Chrismas? Of course he can. He's the Doctor!

An Apple a Day is a fun tale that hearkens back to the era when all you needed in a Doctor Who episode was a monster and some running. The Krynoid was actually a little scary and reminded me of similar creature in Day of the Triffids and The Ruins.

Strangers in the Outland by Paul Finch: A prospector gets ambushed and his daughter wanders the forty miles back to Christmas, only to say that his attackers looked just like The Doctor?

The Autons are the villains this time. While I liked some of the Doctor's dialog and the Lifeboat, it was kind of weak compared to the previous story. The Autons are as creepy as ever, however.

The Dreaming by Mark Morris: A malign intelligence threatens the people of Christmas. But can even the Doctor stop an evil that attacks in the victim's dreams?

The final story in the collection is the creepiest and features the Mara. As always, the Doctor saved the day.

Tales of Tenzalore did a good job filling in a few gaps during the Doctor's time on Trenzalore in The Time of the Doctor. As the foreword said, there is ample room for hundreds if not thousands more like it so we'll probably see a sequel. The first two stories were my favorites but it's a pretty good collection overall. Three out of five stars.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth

Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth (Time Trips)Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth by Trudi Canavan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While blokarting on holiday in Australia, The Doctor and Jo Grant run across a bizarre type of salt that turns any life form it touches into a statue made of salt. Can the Doctor figure out what's creating the salt and stop it before he and Jo become the next salt statues? Of course he can! He's the Doctor...

I got this from Netgalley.

Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth, is the latest of the Time Trips series and the best one yet. It reads like the script of an unproduced half hour episode starring Jon Pertwee.

The Doctor takes Jo on a vacation, intent on bringing her back to UNIT headquarters minutes after they've left. While blokarting (go-karts with sails, used in the Australian salt flats), the encounter some curious salt statues. From there, all the usual Doctory things happen.

The characters rang true to me and the writing was the best I've encountered in a Doctor Who story so far. I loved that one of the POV characters was a cattledog named Smithy. The third Doctor gets down to business in short order and solves the salt problem, as The Doctor is wont to due. I had a feeling I knew what was behind the salt problem but there are only so many ways a Doctor Who episode can go so it wasn't a disappointment.

As I've already said, best Time Trip so far. Four out of five stars.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Attack the Geek - Did Not Finish

Attack the Geek (Ree Reyes, #2.5)Attack the Geek by Michael R. Underwood

I got this from Netgalley and could not finish it.
The Short Version: It was too concerned with being a GEEK book and not concerned enough with being a geek BOOK. Too many geek references, not enough plot, the end.

The Much Longer Version: Back when I was a never-getting-laid fifteen year old, I would have thought this book was the shit and probably the toilet paper, too. The very things that make me unpopular make me powerful enough to smite my enemies? It's a geek boy's wet dream. Throw in a bisexual hot gamer girl as the lead and it's time to start fapping.

However, as an occasionally-getting-laid thirty-six year old, the book annoyed the living crap out of me. I've seen the book described as Harry Dresden meets Ready Player One. That's true if it combines the worst aspects of both works, I guess.

The reason the pop culture references worked in Ready Player One worked for me and these didn't was that the references in RPO had already stood the test of time, for the most part. The ones this book are going to seem dated in 5-10 years. They were also critical to RPO's plot. All the geek stuff in this seemed like it was being mentioned in case I'd forgotten I was reading a geek book in the two sentences since the last geek reference.

At the 25% mark, I still had no inkling of what the plot was going to be and I was beyond annoyed with the barrage of geek references. Copious pop culture references are fine but there needs to be something resembling a plot too. As near as I can tell, the plot is spout as many geek references as possible. Also, there are gnomes involved in some way.

I caught most of the geek references but to the uninitiated, this book will resembled the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Darmok, where Picard meets that alien that can only speak in quotes from a story.

Maybe if I was more of a hard core geek, I would have appreciated this more but I get the feeling it's meant for a 20-something gamer. That's all I've got to say about that.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Reaping the Dark

Reaping the DarkReaping the Dark by Gary McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A robbery goes south and the getaway driver winds up with the money. Now, the planner is on his tail and his only friend has been butchered. Can he and his pregnant girlfriend get out of town with the money before the reaper in the dark claims his prey?

I got this from DarkFuse via Netgalley.

Reaping the Dark feels like a crime book for most of the story, only the people getting ripped off are a cult and they send something supernatural after the crooks for retribution. Or do they?

Like a few of DarkFuse's other novellas, Reaping the Dark feels like an episode of Tales from the Darkside or a similar show, directed by Guy Ritchie during the Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels era. The story seems to be going one way and then makes a U turn near the end. I suspected part of the big twist but the rest of it threw me for a loop.

The reaper of the title was a summoned creature that had much deeper purpose than I originally thought. That's about all I can say. It's a novella so there's not a lot more I can reveal without spoiling things.

Four out of five stars. I'll be on the lookout for more Gary McMahon in the future.

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DeadlockDeadlock by Tim Curran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When presented with an opportunity to have a $50,000 gambling debt wiped out in exchange for spending the night on an allegedly haunted ship, Charlie Petty jumps at the chance. Will Charlie Petty survive the night or will the violent history of the ship catch up with him?

I got this from DarkFuse via Netgalley.

Every time I read a Tim Curran book, he rises a couple notches in my esteem. Deadlock is no different.

I have to say that I wasn't overly impressed with Deadlock at first. A haunted ship? Big whoop. Then the Curran magic kicked in. Charlie starts getting more and more paranoid as his night goes on and he learns more about the horrible things that happened on the ship in the past. For most of the book, the horror was strictly atmospheric.

Things really took off around the 70% mark and the book was impossible to put down after that. Lots of revolting things happened and I almost gagged a few times. By the end, Tim Curran's talent was affirmed once again. And the last line was one last kick to the groin.

Deadlock is a delightful horror novella that isn't for the squeamish. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fourth Motive

The Fourth MotiveThe Fourth Motive by Sean Lynch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Someone is stalking DA Paige Callen, someone who can guess her every move. Her father hires Bob Farrell to catch her stalker since the cops have proven ineffective. Can Farrell persuade Kearns to help him catch the lunatic and stay one step ahead of the PD? And will Paige let them?

I got this from Exhibit A via Netgalley.

There's not a whole lot scarier than a killer that's constantly one step ahead of the police and makes the victim powerless to stop him. That's the running theme of The Fourth Motive, the second Farrell and Kearns thriller from Sean Lynch.

Much like Vernon Slocum in the first book, the villain of The Fourth Motive is frighteningly capable. Bob Farrell is in fine form, drinking whiskey, talking smack, and backing it all up against corrupt cops and anyone else who gets in the way. Kearns, who I originally thought would have more of a starring role in the series, provides the Bad Ass Friend firepower for a lot of the book.

Since this book is one long cat and mouse game, there's not a lot more I want to reveal about the plot. I like the way Kearns was used since Farrell is a far more interesting character. The killer's connection to Paige was well done and not an overused cliche. However, I didn't like this book as much as Dangerous Prey.

My problem with this book was Paige Callen. For the first 80% of the book, she was so stubborn I wouldn't have minded her stalker getting her. A man saves you from getting raped and/or murdered and you try to prosecute him for carrying an unlicensed firearm? Really? Really? She was also so resistant to protection that I hoped Farrell would give Judge Callen his money back and leave her to her own devices.

Anyway, the book was pretty good despite Paige being pretty unlikeable for most of the book. Three stars. I'll be picking up the next Farrell and Kearns book.

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Friday, March 7, 2014


GalvestonGalveston by Nic Pizzolatto
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When terminally ill mob thug Roy Cady is instructed to do a job without taking bringing a gun, he gets suspicious. The situation goes south and soon Roy is on the run with a packet of important papers and an 18 year old sex kitten named Rocky. What will kill Roy first? The cancer or the mob?

Like everyone reading Galveston these days, I love HBO's True Detective, the best thing since sliced Breaking Bad. I'd planned to wait until the series wrapped before reading it but I finally said piss on it. Why kill time reading something else when I've got Galveston at my fingertips?

Fans of True Detective won't be disappointed. Galveston is a noir detective tale but it's also a story about getting older and looking death in the face. As he runs with Rocky and her sister TIffany in tow, Roy is forced to think back on all the mistakes he's made. Not to say it's still not a crime book. It very much is, from the job at the beginning to Roy protecting his charges to some stomach churning brutality near the end.

There are a few things Galveston has in common with True Detective and it's clear Pizzolatto had his masterpiece in mind even while he was working on Galveston, the scoundrel. Cady has an army of soldiers on his coffee table made from spent Miller High Life cans on his coffee table. He also ponders the nature of stories, time, and death a fair amount. There's also another element that they have in common but I'm not going to spoil that one.

Roy is something of a beer can philosopher akin to Pizzolatto's later creation, Rustin Cohle. He has quite a few quotable lines, most of which deal with getting older. "The last new song you liked came out a long, long time ago, and the radio never plays it anymore."

Roy's relationship with Rocky and Tiffany does a lot to show what a nuanced character he is, with his conflicted feelings about Rocky and love for her sister (or is it daughter) Tiffany. All the lead characters are completely different people by the end of the novel. The ending almost squeezed a few man tears out of me but I manned up and powered through it.

True Detective fans, have no fear. Galveston will be the methadone to your True Detective heroin. Five out of five stars.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Those Poor, Poor Bastards

Those Poor, Poor Bastards (Dead West, #1)Those Poor, Poor Bastards by Tim Marquitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Nina Weaver and her pa ride into Fort Coburn, they have no idea of the carnage they are about to endure, for the Deaduns walk the earth...

Those Poor, Poor Bastards is the first in the Dead West series, a weird western from the fine fellows at Ragnarok Publications. If Night of the Living Dead happened in the Old West, it would be Those Poor, Poor Bastards.

While it's the first book in a series, it in no way falls victim to the syndrome common to those sorts of books. TPPB is polished and as smooth as fine Scotch. It's violent, gorey, and delightful.

The cast of characters is pretty large so you know some people aren't going to live through this book or the next. Nina is a halfbreed Indian that feels conflicted about her heritage. Her pa, Lincoln, is just trying to keep things together. You've got tough guy Manning, those asshole Daggett brothers, and a myriad of others, most notably Thomas Mathias, the Black Robe, and his archnemesis, Liao, the Yellow Hood.

Of course, I have to talk about the Deaduns. They are zombies of the angry fast sort, and have a hidden purpose. Things get a little Lovecraftian near the end, soemthing I always regard as a good thing.

The bodycount and gore level is pretty high. There's one particular scene near the end involving a ruptured eyeball that almost made me gag. Also regarding the end, it leads into the sequel but is pretty satifying on its own, unless we have to wait a decade or more like the gap between the third and fourth Dark Tower books.

Those Poor, Poor Bastards is a nugget of Weird Western gold. Four out of Five stars.

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