This is not a perfect book. In her passion for the subject and her glowing respect for LA Homicide Detective John Skaggs, Leovy's effusive praise can This is not a perfect book. In her passion for the subject and her glowing respect for LA Homicide Detective John Skaggs, Leovy's effusive praise can feel overstated, venturing into fangirl territory -- as if she were writing up an application essay to have Skaggs knighted or appointed to sainthood. But I'm going to cut her some slack since this book is extremely well researched, and powerfully presented. Leovy has been embedded for years in the crime area she is writing about -- the infamous South Central Los Angeles. This isn't an outsider elbowing her way into the quagmire of violence, but rather an LA citizen that deeply cares about the "plague of murders" devastating LA County's young black men and the tragic toll it has taken on those who loved them.
While the narrative arc for the book is to cover in-depth one particular homicide -- that of 18 year old African American Bryant Tennelle (son of Wallace Tennelle, a highly respected detective with the Los Angeles police), Leovy does a great job balancing the intimate details of this case with a larger encompassing analysis of race relations in America and the rise of Los Angeles gangs and black on black homicidal violence. The statistics she presents are both shocking and depressing; for example, African-American males make up “just 6 percent of the country’s population but nearly 40 percent of those murdered.” Furthermore, in the wake of improving national crime statistics (even for LA County), homicide remains the No. 1 cause of death for African-American males ages 15 to 34.
So Leovy wants to try and put some of this numbing tragedy into a meaningful context -- how have the lives of young black men become so cheap? Why has this bloody pattern of black on black violence become so commonplace? And what needs to be done to end this plague once and for all? Leovy doesn't have the answers, but I appreciate her attempts to tackle the at times, controversial and painful issues, and shed light on a problem that's difficult to know, understand and talk about.
Again I will reiterate: this is not a perfect book. There are a lot of names and shifting points of view that, as a reader, it's easy to get lost or frustrated. But at its best, this book will make you think, consider, and question. It will make you want to understand. It will bring you to a place of empathy away from preconceived notions and prejudices, and that's a powerful thing.
If you think you might read this book, I highly recommend checking out the documentary Crips and Bloods: Made In America, which provides an excellent overview of what's been called the longest running civil war in the history of America. Like Leovy wants to do with her book, this unflinching documentary humanizes what's been a very dehumanizing reality for the black citizens of South Los Angeles.
First off, in case you didn't know Craig Davidson is also horror writer Nick Cutter who blasted onto the scene in 2014 with The Troop -- the book Step First off, in case you didn't know Craig Davidson is also horror writer Nick Cutter who blasted onto the scene in 2014 with The Troop -- the book Stephen King declared scared him. Davidson, writing as Cutter, then went on to publish two more horror novels in quick succession -- The Deep and The Acolyte. I binge read all of them as fast as he could get them published (actually, truth be told I couldn't even wait for the books to be published; so smitten was I from the start I begged, borrowed, stole advance reading copies any way I could get them).
You could say Nick Cutter was my gateway drug to finding Craig Davidson. Once the connection was made it was only a matter of time before I picked up a Davidson novel to see what his other more literary, less genre focused, alter ego was capable of. Let me just say, no complaints here. Not a single one.
If like me, you're finding your way to this book because you've loved any or all of Davidson's Cutter books, just know that Cataract City is not graphic horror but rather contemporary literature. Yet, there is a lot of similarities in the intensity and emotionality of the writing. The character development that defines his horror writing is present here as well, taking possession of the narrative and of the reader in a way that's as addicting as it is signature.
These are tales about ordinary folk trapped in dead-end places in dead-end lives who don’t even have the wherewithal or wisdom to get the hell out of Dodge even if it means chewing their own goddam leg off to do so. No matter how beautifully written — the stories reveal a kind of brutalization lined with a deep and abiding sadness. People are desperate — or deranged — and behave accordingly. Sometimes it’s because of crushing poverty, other times it is because of inheriting a mantle of family violence that stretches back countless generations. I don’t know what that says about me that this sort of visceral reading experience appeals to me, but it does. Perhaps it’s the cold comfort that no matter how bad my life seems at any given moment on any given day, it will never be as bad as that.
Cataract City is not rural noir in the strictest definition, but it is close enough to get you a cigar. It's small town life, it's being trapped, it's facing lack of opportunity and tragedy with grace, or reckless ineptitude. And reading it is going to break your heart.
This book is many books in one. It starts out a coming-of-age story worthy of Stephen King -- two 12 year old boys, best friends, lost and starving in the woods. Then Davidson moves his narrative along to include dog racing, dog fighting, and bare-knuckle brawling. The stakes are always high, the details so sharp and expansive that vivid pictures are created in your head whether you want them there or not. Davidson is not shy about being graphic -- this is cinematic, visceral writing at its finest. You will feel the blood spatter across your face, you will taste the aluminum tang of adrenaline. You will grip this book in your hands white-knuckled and hang on for dear life.
I couldn't put it down. I could have binge read this in a few days, but I was glad life and work got in the way. Because it forced me to slow down. I was able to savour the prose -- let the sentences roll around in my mind and on my reader palate like smooth whiskey and unfiltered cigarettes. I am in love with Nick Cutter, but I will gladly have a torrid affair with Craig Davidson.
I gushed over Lyndsay Faye's The Gods of Gotham, her debut foray into the dark heart of New York City 1845 and the violent and inauspicious origins ofI gushed over Lyndsay Faye's The Gods of Gotham, her debut foray into the dark heart of New York City 1845 and the violent and inauspicious origins of its first police force -- the copper stars. In its pages Faye strikes a remarkable balance between the thrilling and cerebral aspects of a good mystery and blends it with the rich detail and sumptuous atmosphere of the best historical fiction.
More than the mystery and the historical details, what really makes this series a great read is Faye's colorful cast of characters. Timothy Wilde is flawed and sympathetic. For all of his bravado and prickly self-righteousness, I have such a soft spot for Tim because I know how much room there is for him to grow into the man he's supposed to be.
But who I was really excited to get more of this time around is Tim's drinking, whoring, brawling older brother Valentine. Val is one of the most scurrilous, scandalous, lovable characters I've had the pleasure of reading in a long, long, time. While Tim is over-serious and pining after a woman he can't have, Valentine is a man of huge appetites and humor, chasing after his demons with alcohol and drugs and any warm body he can find to curl up next to. The two brothers together are a yin and yang of contradiction and chemistry. A study in the unbreakable bonds of brotherly love (and all the hate, hurt and simmering resentment contained therein).
The things my brother and I don't say could pave over the Atlantic Ocean.
I am a huge fan of Faye's prose style as well, but I can see how some readers might be put off as at times it does flirt with superfluous and 'purple'. But I lick all that historical detail up as if it were buttercream icing and it is a marvel to me how she can write about the most despicable, tragic things in such a beautiful, luscious way.
I don't think the mystery was quite as strong in this second book as in Gotham, and the ending felt a tad drawn out (twice I thought I had read the final sentence only to have to keep turning the pages). But other than those quibbles, this is a very strong second book in a series that I cannot wait to get more of.
Hot damn, what an utter hoot this book is. It's gravel and grit lit but with a lighter, sunnier touch, that bleeds zippy dialogue, colorful characters Hot damn, what an utter hoot this book is. It's gravel and grit lit but with a lighter, sunnier touch, that bleeds zippy dialogue, colorful characters and zany situations. It's a road trip buddy picture type deal that very nearly turns into a circus caravan. It's Breaking Bad meets Pineapple Express on the Mississippi Delta where "crackers" and "white trash" abound, as much fiscally as they are hygienically challenged.
Nick Reid is just your regular guy trying to get along as best he can as a repo man -- repossessing unpaid for goods. It can be a dangerous, sticky job coming to take from people what they already consider to be theirs. Nick finds this out the hard way when he comes to repo a plasma TV from Percy Dwayne Dubois (that's pronounced Dew-boys). Percy Dwayne gets the jump on Nick and smacks him upside the head with a fireplace shovel. It knocks Nick temporarily senseless, during which time Percy Dwayne flees the scene with his wife, baby, plasma TV and Nick's mint-condition 1969 Ranchero. The Ranchero is actually borrowed from Nick's elderly landlady who he's quite fond of so he feels honor bound to do everything in his power to get it back from the lowlife who drove off with it.
Thus kick-starts Nick's hunt and chase across the Delta to recover the '69 Ranchero. Joining him will be his best buddy Desmond -- extremely large, black, very fond of Sonic Coney Islands and averse to any place or situation that might have snakes or other biting stinging things.
"I don't go in attics. I don't go in basements. I don't go in bayous. I don't go in the woods."
Along the way, Nick and Desmond will pick up a cast of bayou misfits and miscreants in their bid to track down and steal back the Ranchero. There will be many mishaps and much mayhem along the way.
I laughed. A LOT. Fans of Frank Bill and Donald Ray Pollock looking for something less bloody and despairing, and more slapstick and outrageous need look no further than Nick Reid. There's two more books in this series so far, and I can't wait to see what Nick gets up to next.
Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters. This is more than Scudder has ever gone up against previously an Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters. This is more than Scudder has ever gone up against previously and definitely the strongest in the series since Eight Million Ways To Die. While we've moved along in years out of the 80's into the early 90's, New York City continues to be a seething trap of anger and violence and desperation with all those ways to die and Scudder has stumbled upon yet another one. This time, he didn't even go looking for it, not really. It sort of finds him in a weird, chilling series of coincidences.
Two words: snuff film. Yeah, like I said, dark and depraved waters.
Scudder is moving along nicely in his life these days. He's sober and regularly attending meetings. He's got his girlfriend Elaine (who one dewy-eyed reviewer wistfully and with no irony whatsoever refers to as Matt's snuggle bunny) no matter that she's a call girl and continues to see clients. He's also forged a pretty meaningful friendship with Mick Ballou, the Irish gangster who may or may not have carried around some guy's head in a bowling ball bag, the man who proudly wears his father's blood stained butcher's apron (and which of those stains are man or animal, nobody knows).
I keep coming back to these books mostly for Scudder. He's such a great character to spend time with. But also for the sense of time and place that Block is able to conjure. I find the Scudder books act like time capsules in a way. So much of the plotting of this story relies on VHS tapes and renting them from a video store. It made me remember what that was like and how long it's been since I've actually done it.
I remember when my family got its first VCR ever and it was this huge exciting moment, like we had finally arrived at a Jetsons' version of the future. And with Block, it's so authentic, because he's not writing these books from a 21st century perspective and recreating 1991, he actually wrote this one in 1991 without the long view and hindsight that we have as readers. I love that. That doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to Scudder aging and getting Block's take on a 21st century New York. I can't wait actually.
I'll wrap this up with a note on the ending -- holy shit snacks. (view spoiler)[If Scudder had done this in his heavy drinking days, I would have blamed it on the booze, but to do it stone cold sober, I'm positively shocked. Yet pleased. Satisfied. There was a time early on when I was so angry at Scudder for letting a child rapist walk free (forcing him to donate money to Boys' Town). I was so disappointed with his lack of action then. Well, no one can accuse him of lack of action here. Decisive. Unequivocal. Was this justice or cold-blooded murder? I loved when Scudder tells Ballou about his mentor who told him you don't ever do something with your own hands you can get somebody else to do for you. Well I guess Scudder decided that wasn't for him. If this was going to happen, he was going to have blood on his hands to show for it. I can respect that. (hide spoiler)]
Now I think I'll go for a walk among the tombstones. ...more
It seems I'm always late to these things. Humans of New York had long existed as a blog with tens of thousands of loyal followers by the time I discovIt seems I'm always late to these things. Humans of New York had long existed as a blog with tens of thousands of loyal followers by the time I discovered this book. It was a thrilling discovery all the same, and better late than never as the saying goes.
When I found out about the book I checked out the blog immediately starting about 10:30 at night. At 2 am I was still riveted. I literally could not stop looking. It's since become one of my newer addictions/obsessions. It appeals to the people watcher in me, to the girl who truly believes the right picture can be worth a thousand words, and the small town Canadian who imagines New York City as the epicenter of all that is gritty, inspiring, crazy and authentically human.
I think HONY is an inspired project by a beautiful mind. History told through the photographic lens has always been one of our most powerful, evocative mediums since its invention. I also love that Stanton has tried to put these photographs into some sort of context by the very human questions he asks of his subjects (and the illuminating -- sometimes heart-wrenching -- answers he receives).
If I'm ever stranded on a desert island, I want my copy of HONY to keep me tethered in some fundamental way to my human life and what it means to be human. ...more
Deciding to tell a story about a physically disfigured child who lusts after his biological mother while living out their lives in the long, judgmenta Deciding to tell a story about a physically disfigured child who lusts after his biological mother while living out their lives in the long, judgmental, crucifying shadow of the Catholic Church in 1950's St. John's Newfoundland ... is ... curious at best. But also weird and ... questionable.
I'm not sure what kind of a book Johnston thought he was writing. At first it seems humorous and whimsical, a slice of Frank McCourt meets a heaping portion of John Irving. There's poverty, a dysfunctional family, religion, sexual awakening, and some odd occurrences that make you laugh just for their very oddness and inappropriateness.
But as the book progresses, the oddities start to fall flat onto the very shoulders of uninteresting and boring. If Son of a Certain Woman is meant to be Johnston's indictment of the corrupt and nasty hold the Catholic Church at one time held over the historic and capital city of St. John's it really doesn't succeed, neither as a parable, or tongue-in-cheek satire (if that's what you're looking for, get Codco on DVD).
Where it really fails is as a meaningful and emotional coming-of-age story. I didn't fall in love with anybody and did not feel as if there were any stakes worth cheering for. (view spoiler)[Despite Percy's precociousness and precarious place in the world, I could not open my mind wide enough to hope that his gob-smackingly, sensual mother finally lays him. (hide spoiler)]
My disappointment here is heartfelt. I love Johnston's writing and his unerring ability to capture the layered realities and eccentricities of my home and my people. I did enjoy some of his descriptions of the 1950's streets of St. John's, but sometimes, in an effort to paint that portrait, the brush strokes felt a little heavy-handed and clumsy, like a travel book or described video.
While it pains me to do it, I am recommending a pass on this one.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Congratulations, Ms. Tartt on such a stunning return.
The Goldfinch is a doorstopper, weighing in at oveWinner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Congratulations, Ms. Tartt on such a stunning return.
The Goldfinch is a doorstopper, weighing in at over 700 densely written pages. Yet, I found myself tearing through it as if I couldn't read it fast enough. I don't know what the secret is to Ms. Tartt's prose, but I dig it. I dig it a lot. Maybe it's due to sheer deprivation (absence making the heart grow fonder and all that jazz), because this lady, while her talent goes undisputed, has only managed to pen three novels in three decades -- the very antithesis of James Patterson (whom I wish would just go away -- how many trees have to die for you, Jim? HOW MANY?)
I can be a real sucker for a sense of place. Tartt writes New York in such a way that I was able to feel the thrum of traffic and smell the bakeries (and the sewers). Taxis, doormen, park benches, museums, lunch counters -- all swirling together in a portrait that's as carefully rendered as any artist's painting. When she transplants readers to the parched and desolate Las Vegas suburbs, I became just as enthralled by the startling contrast between bustling city and dry desert.
There's really not much to say here other than I became totally immersed in this book while I was reading it. It's a character-driven piece in the sense that it's without an intricate plot, or Big Reveals. But oh, what characters! All the feels! It was just such a heartening experience to get to know them all and watch them hurl through life together, for better and for worse. It's the characters from which we draw the tension and the pace of the story and it's all so deftly handled by Ms. Tartt that I'm actually left floundering for ways to adequately describe it.
So I won't. Let her take you on this journey and I'll get the hell out of the way. ...more
This book has everything I love -- a Southern setting, secrets, family tragedy, religious zealotry run amok, and strong narrative voices. If I had reaThis book has everything I love -- a Southern setting, secrets, family tragedy, religious zealotry run amok, and strong narrative voices. If I had read it, it would have been an easy four stars. But because I listened to it, and the audio version is one of the best I've ever heard, it's getting five stars.
This is a debut novel -- is it flawless? No. But you know what? I didn't care. I don't think you will either. I got so swept up and carried away by the story I was being told I was living it. I was right there in that small town watching it all go down with a flutter of anxiety in my stomach, and a lump of sadness in my throat.
What really made me love this story as an audiobook is that we have three narrators read by three different readers-- 1) Jess Hall, a precocious nine year old who has a penchant for spying and will eventually see something he wishes he hadn't that will change his life and the life of his town forever 2) Adelaide Lyle, a feisty old woman who has born witness to much of the town's history and dark secrets and 3) Clem Barefield, seasoned Sheriff with a painful past who must confront the evil that has taken hold of his town like a cancer.
Getting the story from these three very distinct voices and points of view is fantastic. It makes what is essentially a simple and straight forward story feel richer, more layered and emotional. I loved the reader for the Sheriff. What a fantastic performance. That voice married to the author's prose is a match made in heaven. In the best ways it reminded me of Tommy Lee Jones's performance in No Country for Old Men.
A Land More Kind Than Home is set deep in the heart of snake-handling country where you better hope that when the preacher arrives in town, he ain't the devil in disguise.
Read this book -- and if you do the audio thing -- listen. You won't be able to stop, I promise.
And since I have a thing for book trailers, this one does a great job of capturing the edgy, southern Gothic mood of this novel that's so portent with revelation, betrayals, and tragedy.