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

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

*I recieved an Advanced Reader copy from DarkFuse via NetGalley for an honest review*

The Crazy Kill (Harlem Cycle, #2)

The Crazy Kill (Harlem Cycle, #2) - Chester Himes 3.5 stars
The 3rd novel in Himes's Harlem Cycle begins like a twisted Harlem version of an Agatha Christie mystery. During a liquor-filled wake for Big Joe Pullen, a man is killed on a bread basket with a very distinctive knife. There are many at the wake who have motive for killing him, including his sister Dulcy, her husband Johnny Perry, her wanna-be lover, Chink Charlie Dawson, the victim's girlfriend Doll Baby, and their opium-addicted Holy Roller preacher. But instead of Miss Marple trying to find out who did it, it's Harlem's two gun-happy detectives Grave Digger and Coffin Ed!

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


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

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

I was completely unfamiliar with the author [a:Greg F. Gifune|579779|Greg F. Gifune|], but not anymore. "Restoration" is an extremely well written story with loads of atmosphere. It's a moody noir/horror hybrid with a creepy tone all throughout, while maintaining a level of sadness as well. It's a very quick read at only a tight 20 pages. I really enjoyed it and would like to read more by Gifune and more by DarkFuse in the future.

Revival: A Novel

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

As usual, King his talent for great writing here, especially in the sections showing Jamie coming of age in a small town. But ultimately the book was strangely unengaging, and it's hard to pin down why. But I think it might have something to do with it's time-jumping structure. With Jamie and Charlie reinventing themselves almost completely throughout the decades, it's hard to really connect with either of them. And the book feels like King had tons of ideas he wanted to get down on paper, but it never really amounts to something satisfying. In fact the climax feels like something out of a completely different novel from the first half. Sometimes, as in the disappointing ending of [b:Needful Things|411204|Needful Things|Stephen King||1812101], when King pulls out crazy supernatural stuff from way out of left field, it doesn't really fit and feels forced. I liked the idea behind the ending, but I just feel it wasn't executed right and would been better in another novel. Part of me feels as if this would have been better as a tighter written novella or long short story.

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

The World of Ice and Fire: The Official History of Westeros and The World of A Game of Thrones

The World of Ice and Fire: The Official History of Westeros and The World of A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin, Linda Antonsson, Elio M. Garcia jr. I was surprised that there's so much negative stuff written about this book. But it's mostly written by people who are all butt-hurt that there's not a new book in the actual series yet. I don't understand people sometimes. George R. R. Martin doesn't owe us anything. One of my biggest pet peeves in books, movies, or TV is pandering to fans. That's why I dislike most network television. So although I'm also foaming at the mouth for The Winds of Winter, I'd rather Martin take the time he needs to write a book equal or better in quality to the previous epics, rather than churn out dreck just to appease impatient fans.

I really enjoyed this companion book. It's coffee-table-sized and wonderfully designed, from it's pseudo-vinyl cover to the gorgeous interior artwork. It's a real pleasure to flip through. I've always thought that the backstory for A Song of Ice and Fire is just as rich as the present-day book narratives. But I'm kind of an Ice and Fire nerd so there really wasn't much in there that I didn't know previously. My biggest gripe is that I wish the authors didn't use the idea of writing the history as a Maester of the Citadel would and wrote it as a more omniscient, encyclopedia-like concordance. I feel that would've included more information and less opinions and artistic flourish. I wish there were more things included like more details on Robert's Rebellion, the creepy history of the Night's Watch, more details on the religions, etc. But other than that, it's a gorgeous book, a great collectors item, and a great read for anymore interested in learning more about the back story behind this great series.

The Red Scarf

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

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

Kings of Midnight (Crissa Stone Novels)

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

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

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes

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

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

Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone - Daniel Woodrell 4.5 stars
I love it when I read a book or watch a movie and I discover a new and unique world or community that I was never familiar with before. Daniel Woodrell writes about the tight knit communities in the Missouri Ozark Mountains. I'm almost totally unfamiliar with small American towns like this, having grown up in the Caribbean, and spent all of my adult life in major cities. So I found Woodrell's world fascinating: this community of people in which your last name is more important than your first, and is destined to effect everything about your life before you can even grow up to understand. It's a place with their own rules so deeply entrenched for so long that it goes beyond the reach of most government law.

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

This is a stark, immersive book, and even though Woodrell is sometimes prone to some pretty purple prose, his writing is gorgeous and evocative, really giving you a sense of place. I could almost feel the cold of the winter landscape in which the story takes place. Woodrell is a writer I would dare to compare to Cormac McCarthy with the way he has with words and how well he's able to evoke a sense of place.

Some may be tempted to call this book a coming-of-age story, but I disagree. Ree has already come-of-age, and too early, becoming more of an adult than I am even now. Her hope is that she can teach her little brothers in a way that they can grow up to be something more than the destiny the town gives them and that she can escape it herself by joining the Army. Ree is at times both strong and vulnerable, incredibly courageous while we get glimpses of the child hiding inside. She is an amazing young heroine right up there at the top of the literary list with [b:True Grit|15816419|True Grit|Charles Portis||1320617]'s Mattie Ross.
“She would never cry where her tears might be seen and counted against her.”

When the Nines Roll Over: And Other Stories

When the Nines Roll Over: And Other Stories - David Benioff Many know David Benioff as being overdue for another great novel!

Those Across the River

Those Across the River - Christopher Buehlman *Sigh*. This book had such great potential and loads of missed opportunities.

It follows a couple, Frank and Eudora, moving to a small town in the Depression-era South. Frank has inherited a house and land that stretches back generations and he travels there to write what he hopes to be a bestseller about the violent history of his great grandfather's slave plantation that lies in the mysterious woods across the river. Soon, after arriving, the town is terrorized by...dunh dunh dunh! Those Across The River!

The novel begins in a very similar way to [b:'Salem's Lot|17288638|'Salem's Lot|Stephen King||3048937], with no major action happening until about halfway through both books, instead focusing on the going-ons around the small town. But while Stephen King's novel took this time to really get to know the small town so that when the horror happens to the community, it's truly affecting, Buehlman's novel spends a large chunk of its time with Frank's mostly unnecessary dreams about his time in war and the couple's extremely healthy sex life. They literally make hot, sweaty, love every other chapter! Now, I'm no prude; I love sex just like everyone else and would love to have it all day like this couple, but I don't care about reading it when I should be reading about things that truly develop the story. And I may be biased about dream sequences, because I rarely think they work very well in stories, but for the life of me, I still can't figure out what they had to do with the story in any way. I mean, I guess they developed Frank's character a little, but maybe I could've just read one, not FIFTEEN repetitive dreams! Most of those pages that featured sex and dreams could've been used for something more useful.

I won't spoil what lies beyond the river, but the time spent building the suspense was effective and creepy, and once the action kicks off, it's at times very exciting, but eventually, it feels like Buehlman just ran out of steam and couldn't figure out how to finish it. A true, satisfying climax is missing! A great build-up of what lies across the river, and then the potential just peters out. The great character of Martin Cramner has SOOO much potential for interesting ideas and scenes, and nothing much happens with him either! Again, this book really had many chances to be great, and they were either flubbed in the messy storytelling or hijacked by hot sex or dreams of trench warfare.

The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy Most people are familiar with the case of the Black Dahlia, one of the most infamous unsolved murder cases in U.S. history, where a young, pretty Hollywood starlet named Elizabeth Short is found in a vacant lot, her body mutilated, disemboweled, and cut in half. But this isn't a true crime book. Just as in the fantastic The Big Nowhere, the first book I read by author James Ellroy, he mixes L.A. history and fascinating fictional characters and weaves an awesome tapestry of the seedy and depraved world of 1940's Los Angeles. The novel is told from the point of view of Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert, who starts the book as a promising new LAPD warrants officer, until he gets embroiled in the case of the Black Dahlia, changing his life forever in more ways than one, as he is swept up in the obsessive circus that the investigation becomes.

This fixation on the case is personal for the author, he also fell victim to the Dahlia's pull in real life in the late 50's after Ellroy's mother was brutally murdered. He became fascinated with historical violent crime and studying the murder of Elizabeth Short became a proxy for dealing with his mother's death. This personal attachment fills the book with real earnestness and passion that helped to make it a crime classic.

Aside from the fact that Ellroy's usual knack for great wordplay is on display, one of the most interesting things about the novel is the way the obsession over the Dahlia is detailed, an obsession that jumps from person to person like a disease, eating away at everyone it touches. Although his partner jumps headfirst into the investigation, Bucky starts off fairly unfazed by the murder, annoyed at the media frenzy and eager to get back to working warrants; catching normal bad guys he can understand, not ones that cut Glasgow smiles into pretty girls' faces from ear to ear. But eventually he succumbs to the Dahlia's pull and falls deeper, the way Danny does in The Big Nowhere, so deep it becomes all he thinks about. The Black Dahlia is the story of that kind of obsession, the one that can eat away at the soul.

The Deep

The Deep - Nick Cutter I received this advanced reader's copy from Gallery Books through NetGalley in exchange for review. I had heard great creepy things about Nick Cutter's debut novel The Troop, and decided to give his upcoming follow-up a try during this Halloween season. The book begins with a great premise, humanity is dying away after a worldwide outbreak of a disease called the 'Gets, which causes the victim to begin to forget, starting with little meaningless things, but eventually evolves to forgetting things far more serious and fatal. This concept is terrifying in itself and deserves its own novel. In an effort to find a cure, a team is sent into the deepest point on Earth, miles down into the Mariana Trench, and then even further, to the bottom of Challenger Deep. The story that follows is a mix between Sphere, Event Horizon, and The Shining. It's a total nosedive into insanity.
"Don't worry, it'll get even darker. You've never seen the kind of dark we're gonna encounter."
All of you Goodreaders are my friends now and all my friends should know that I have a fear of deep ocean and open water. So this book had me by the throat from the very beginning. I'm not ashamed to say that if I got sent on a mission to the bottom of the Pacific, I'd probably be the one to go totally bonkers. The book wastes no time getting to the goosebumps, ratcheting up the creepy tension as soon as the trip begins to the bottom of the sea. Nick Cutter is great at building suspense and atmosphere. But once down at the underwater facility, the plot goes ALL over the place. I never fully got a sense of what the threat really was. There were so many antagonizing ideas thrown into the story that it sort of became a mess; a kind of a reverse deus ex machina of perils and obstacles, thrown in to move the story along. What did work were the descriptions of the psychological breakdown of the characters. That was the stuff that really affected me. The style of writing told in slipped, short chapters, kept my eyes flying through the book, to the point where I felt that I might actually be going a little crazy myself by the time I got to the insane final chapters.


Sphere - Michael Crichton I'm reading Nick Cutter's upcoming horror novel [b:The Deep|22119322|The Deep|Nick Cutter||40713268] right now and it's reminded me of how much I enjoyed Sphere, Michael Crichton's best novel. It was my favorite book when I was a kid. I remember what a page-turner it was and how much the tension kept ratcheting up until it was unbearable. I remember the plot being extremely clever as well, and how much of it was dependent on less of the sci-fi aspects and more on the characters themselves. I read it so much when I was younger, the book fell apart. But I'd love to read this again to see if it holds up!

Cold Shot to the Heart

Cold Shot to the Heart - Wallace Stroby I recently read Wallace Stroby's standalone novel Gone 'Til November, and was disappointed in it, mostly because of the inefficiency of the lead female character, who proved to be non-essential to the story and seemed terrible at being a police officer once the action started popping off. So I was a little hesitant going into this book. But, my worries were in vain! Stroby creates one badass series character in Crissa Stone (book 4, [b:The Devil's Share|23014743|The Devil's Share (Crissa Stone, #4)|Wallace Stroby||42580863], comes out next year), one that is a breath of fresh air in crime fiction. There are a bunch of female protagonists in crime today, but mostly of the do-gooder detective type, like Kinsey Millhone or Tess Monaghan, but I don't know of any straight rumble-tumble, female criminal antiheroes similar to Richard Stark's Parker. Until now. Or maybe not now, but in 2011, when this book came out...

Crissa Stone is an efficient thief, who's all business, always has a plan, never works near her home in NYC, has never needed to fire her gun on a job, and is careful about the people she works with. But it all goes to hell once pricey payoffs to the sleazy Texas lawyer dealing with the case of her imprisoned mentor, partner, and lover pressure her to take a job ripping off a high stakes poker game in South Florida. Things go south bad. And now Crissa is targeted by a psycho Mob hitter named Eddie The Saint.

I loved reading about Crissa going about her business and setting up heists. I always love reading about people being good at their jobs, and especially about women who can throw down on their own in a fight. But Crissa is not just an emotionless criminal. She's trying to make money to provide a nice life for her estranged daughter, who is being raised by Crissa's cousin and doesn't know Crissa at all. And she finally wants to have something of her own and set roots by finally buying her dream house in Connecticut. That's why she decides not to run. She needs to protect what's hers. So she decides to face off with Eddie The Saint. And stand tall while doing it.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz

It's hard to describe this book or the effect that it has. The novel is an exposé on the troubled history of the de Leon/Cabral family, their immigration from the Dominican Republic to America, and how a curse that stretches all the way back to that pendejo Christopher Columbus haunts them throughout time. It focuses specifically on Oscar, the youngest child, an obese nerd in the 80's/90's, who falls in love easily but is destined to be the only Dominicano to never get laid.

This book may sound like every other immigrant family/coming of age saga out there, but what sets this apart from any other book I've ever read is the novel's style and it's delightful narrator. The story is dictated by the almost omniscient Yunior, a friend of the family who was once Oscar's roommate, with a conversational, word-on-the-street style. A style that's a gumbo mixture of formal, poetic prose, code-switching Spanglish, historical footnotes, and a plethora of nerd culture references: everything from Lord of the Rings, Dune, Point Blank, Joseph Conrad, and Planet of the Apes. I know a bit of Spanish and I'm familiar with some of the references so I didn't have a hard time with it the way some people have. There is lots of history about the Dominican Republic during the reign of dictator Rafael Trujillo, and the story could have easily turned into a depressing, boring slog, but the book's irresistible style prevented all that.

I feel silly reading the above synopsis that I wrote. The book is about more than that. It's about love, family, and legacy that manages to be heartbreaking and joyous at the same time. It's about embracing your inner nerd and about finding your way back home. I don't know, I feel like I'm not doing this awesome novel justice with this review. Maybe I shouldn't have even written one! I'll just stop here and let the book (and Yunior) speak for itself:
"Hey, it's only a story, with no solid evidence, the kind of shit only a nerd could love."

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