A WISTFUL 3.5 STARS (Damn you, GoodReads for not allowing half-stars!)
Ah...such a mixed, bittersweet bag of emotions about this gritty little noirishA WISTFUL 3.5 STARS (Damn you, GoodReads for not allowing half-stars!)
Ah...such a mixed, bittersweet bag of emotions about this gritty little noirish novel.
See? In a former life, this book would have set my pierced punkrawk heart afire. It would have titillated my tattooed nineteen year old self to no end - the boozy haze of dive bars, the dirty, ravenous and gratuitous sex scenes, the strong ties to the alternative counterculture - all of this would have rang true to me in a former life. But now? Well, now, I guess these things hold a glimmer of their former greatness to me. I'm a pregnant housewife and mother who plans her days around tot-time play dates and library story times. Reading this, it was kind of a like hearing a siren's song over the sounds of a new and more immediate reality. And I'm fully willing to admit - this may just been a case of a right read at the wrong time. I'm willing to accept that, in terms of this book, it's not a you-thing, but a me-thing that has left me unable to give it my unrelenting endorsement. I'm getting ahead of myself, though.
Our unnamed protagonist has a past that he can't quite remember but is desperate to forget. He spends his nights and days in an alcohol and drug induced haze that leave him unable to negotiate the territory of his new life. In stumbling through the wreckage of his addiction and grief, our protagonist has become engaged in an effort to rid the windy city of its human debris, Employed by a seemingly powerful and dangerous Russian, our down-on-his-luck everyman has become a highly efficient hitman, targeting the morally deficient and criminally responsible in an attempt to atone for his mysterious and painful past. Yet, as the story progresses and the bodies amass, our dazed antihero has himself asking what is real - and what has been fabricated the circumstances in his new life.
I mean, really, this should have been an easy five stars. As advertised, it was Chuck Palahinuk meets William Christopher Baer (not so much American Psycho, for me - other than the violence which wasn't graphic ultra-violent and therefore not so Brett Easton Ellis). Even better, it was all this goodness meeting Craig Clevenger meeting Jim Kalin's One Worm. It delivered, but I guess I fumbled the catch. I still enjoyed it - don't get me wrong - and I'd definitely make a point to read another Windy City Dark Mystery, if this is to be part of an on-going series. (Bonus points: unlike other books in a series, this didn't leave the reader hanging so much; it can stand alone as a neatly told, completely told tale). I'm going to make a point of bumping Transubstantiate higher up on my ever-growing "to-read" list; it's been on there for awhile, and if nothing else, Richard Thomas has proven himself to be an author worthy of being on that list. Keep your ears to the ground, and do yourself a favor: check out Disintegration for yourself in a week or so. ...more
I don't understand the hype. Maybe, partially, it's because I don't understand the book. I''ll be the first to thI don't understand. There, I said it.
I don't understand the hype. Maybe, partially, it's because I don't understand the book. I''ll be the first to throw that out there: I don't get it. And, you know what? That's fine. Different strokes for different folks, and different books for different...people, I guess. If there is one thing that I can embrace about this book, it is undeniably different, and for that, I'm grateful to have read it...but having read it, I'm not quite sure what all the hoopla is about.
I mean, my GoodReads' page was saturated with big, colorful ads (multiple ads on the same screen) all telling me just how Neal Gaiman-ish and super, special wonderful this book is supposed to be. I wanted the story to be half as good as the advertising campaign or even half as beautiful the cover, but, alas, it was not to be. I struggled through this one, hoping for a payoff at the end, something, anything to really pull the story together. That never really came to fruition here. And, again, I'm willing to accept that my dislike of this book could stem from me missing something that everyone else can apparently see. After the enchanting merwomen of The Book of Speculation, these mantis-fairy-stick-light-hive creatures didn't hold much sway,
It wasn't all bad or incomprehensible. It held "glittering" moments of promise - extremely interesting scenes or characters that would break the monotony of the rest of the book. The descriptions and flashbacks: Blue's cage days in the basement of Grandma Flora's house, Elisa and Blue's drug-fueled, fuzzy clubkid nights in New York, the artist colony's frightening murals - these are the shiny moments that made me hold out hope for the rest of the book, I felt the the meat of the story, the detail, had all had the stuff of magic; it just fell apart in execution. Maybe I disagree with the way the story is told - fragmented into the four sections each focused on one of the four main characters: Blue, Jason, Elisa and Gabe, Maybe I would have liked it if it was limited to either Gabe or Blue's perspectives. Maybe, I don't know, if I found the plot more compelling, I would have liked the book.
As it stands, I didn't like it. Not much at all. And because I didn't get it, just didn't connect, I would have a problem recommending it to anyone.
I received this e-galley from Gallery Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion. Obviously, I wasn't a fan of this particular read; however, I appreciated the opportunity to read it nevertheless. Thank you! ...more
Oh dear. [Cue the dull hum of crickets chirping]. This is awkward.
I had a difficult time reading this book, and I'm having an even harder time reviewiOh dear. [Cue the dull hum of crickets chirping]. This is awkward.
I had a difficult time reading this book, and I'm having an even harder time reviewing it. As a Caucasian, I have difficulty verbalizing and discussing racial inequities and discrimination. It isn't that I think things are right or fair or equal between the races - just the opposite, but I don't know how to talk about it without causing offense or being antagonistic. The desire to be politically correct is almost ingrained, at this point, and I'm terrified of being perceived as offensive when I'm trying to be anything but. So, you know, I'm not in the habit of really talking about race - or any potentially inflammatory subject like religion or politics - because I'd rather polite than start a fight. Forty Acres forces the issue, making readers address issues like slavery and reparation head on.
Martin Grey is an African American attorney on the very brink of fame and fortune. Coming off a high-profile win, Grey is invited to join an exclusive group of similarly minded successful black men. He is taken to Forty Acres after agreeing to partake in a type of team-building whitewater rafting expedition. Upon arriving, there are no raging waters to be found; but there is danger beyond anything that Martin Grey could imagine. Unknowingly, Grey has been invited to join a members-only club where the members are exclusively African American and the wait-staff is exclusively Caucasian. The grounds of Forty Acres are strikingly similar to the Southern plantations of long ago, and the traditions they keep there, with the oversight of Dr. Kasim and his staff, are just as antiquated. Slavery has been resurrected in an attempt to empower these black men, and the slaves have been, um, recruited (see also: kidnapped) according to their ancestry, In fact, all the slaves laboring on Forty Acres have been chosen because of their relation to those persons who profited most directly from slavery. Which, then, begs the question: should those who have profited from slavery be compelled to provide reparation decades after the initial offense? Martin Grey isn't sure, but he knows that if reparation are due, the debt should not be paid in blood.
This book wasn't quite my cup of tea. It was a luke-warm, weak, sugary-sweet concoction that could maybe pass as tea - just not tea that I would want to drink again. It could be choked down with a little bit of effort, but it isn't something that I would order again, I may recommend this one to fans of legal thrillers like those of John Grisham or to fans of mystery/suspense books with strong, morally-minded African American protagonists like James Patterson's Alex Cross. The twist ending was a pleasant surprise. Let's just hope that it isn't another lead in to a sequel - because I've had my fill, ummkay?
This review is based on an e-galley provided by the super nice people at Atria Books and NetGalley....more
This book has everything that my deep, dark, trashy reality-TV-loving inner self doesn't want to publicly admit to loving: liars, cheats, and sociopatThis book has everything that my deep, dark, trashy reality-TV-loving inner self doesn't want to publicly admit to loving: liars, cheats, and sociopathic con-men. (While I wouldn't casually announce it at dinner parties, I consider myself a chronic closet talk show/ reality TV show fan. Dr. Phil? Love it. Dance Moms? I DVR it. World's Dumbest Criminals and Cops? My favorite shows to watch while nursing a particularly intense hang over. And I won't even talk about the time my husband took me to the Jerry Springer show. As a audience member, mind you, not a guest;) I know. This stuff is mind-rot, drivel, the down of America. Whatever. I agree, but it is mindless entertainment that I can turn to when I need a break). This book is about the quest for reality-show fame - for any sort of fame, really, and the lengths that some people will go to claim their 15 minutes of glory or infamy.
In 2010, Chris Butler made a splash when he appeared on multiple media venues (Dr. Phil, The Today Show, featured in People magazine) promoting his P.I. Moms. This is the story of how local San Fransiscan journalist/editor, Pete Crooks, got entwined in a unbelievable story of hidden debauchery, illegal drug trafficking and dirty cops when covering the seemingly innocent fluff story of a proposed Lifetime reality show centered around Butler and his P.I. Moms. (This reality show never aired due to the malicious internal sabotage from one of Butler's employees, the douchiest villain to grace the pages of true crime since Scott Peterson, male actor/model/part-time P.I and full-time liar, Carl Marino.) It is a wild ride down the rabbit hole that unearths unsettling setups and betrayal in the San Francisco Bay Area.
What made this a great read (apart from the reality TV raunch that I so love) is the quirky voice of Pete Crooks. In terms over covering the larger-than-life personalities of this case, the author is both witty and cutting, but also, in turns, empathetic and fair-minded. (Side note: the author could also be rather self-congratulatory and over indulgent in repeatedly reminding the author that he was the journalist who cracked this whole case open. I've noticed this with journalists who write full-length features - the pluming of their literary accomplishments and the puffing repetition of the reminders of their hard work. You could call it a pet-peeve). Overall, it was a fast, fun read that had incredibly memorable characters. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to fans of celebrity gossip, "reality" TV and the lighter side of investigative reporting.
Carnival Side-Show Performers and Librarians... Does it get much better than this?!
Carnies and book-jockies are two of my faCOMING SOON: June 23, 2015
Carnival Side-Show Performers and Librarians... Does it get much better than this?!
Carnies and book-jockies are two of my favorite subsets of the human race, and their powers combined make for one hell of a delightful book, Fortune-telling tarot readers, computer-savvy information professionals, tattooed jugglers who emit their own electrical charge, modern day mermaids - this book has it all. Mermaids?! I mean, the last time I gave a crap about mermaids was in the nineties when I was singing along with Ariel and Sebastian on VHS; but, this book made me care about mermaids (and those men doomed to love them) all over again. I love this book. A lot. And I can't wait until other readers can love it too.
The Book of Speculation isn't due to hit the shelves until June, so I don't want to ruin any of the surprises that this beautiful book has in store for the legion of readers who will, no doubt, run to discover its secrets. I'll try to gloss over the nitty-gritty details and big reveals, but this is a sprawling family history with back-story out the wazoo.
Simon is a youngish librarian living in a decrepit house teetering on the precipice of certain disaster and the raging waters of the Long Island Sound. Simon's mother drowned in those very waters when he was just a boy. She, presumably, committed suicide - because Simon's mother was able to hold her breath for upwards of ten minutes (a feat she displayed as a sideshow Carnival act). His father died of, quite literally, a broken heart shortly thereafter, leaving Simon to care for his sister, Enola. Only, now that she's grown, Enola has chosen the life of a travelling tarot card reader, leaving Simon to care for the crumbling family homestead all by himself. His solitude is interrupted with the delivery of an unexpected parcel: an ancient diary that appears to be tied to an early 19th century circus show. In reading and researching this unusual artifact, Simon begins to unknowingly uncover disturbing truths about his family history. The most frightening of these revelations is that seemingly all of the Watson-family women, the merwomen of the circus circuit, meet their death by willful drowning on the same day, July 24th. Their suicides stretch out over the years, claiming the matriarchs' lives with pin-point precision. When his sister Enola makes an unexpected trip home, mid-summer, acting strange and claiming to be troubled, Simon realizes that the past may still hold a very powerful hold on their future.
This book shifts between two stories: that of Simon and that of the lives of the people contained in the ancient book he has inherited. As Simon researches the history of the book, the reader is transported into the past, into the very pages of history, to travel alongside Amos and Evangeline, performers in Peabody's traveling circus. I was equally interested in both stories. The switch between the present and the past created tension, a delicious anticipation, that simmered throughout the entire book. When I was with Simon, I longed to be with Amos; when I was with Amos, I longed to be with Simon. I was hooked, though and through. Like I said, it doesn't get much better than circus tents, decrepit beach houses and dusty libraries. Plus, librarians (I love me some librarians). And fortune tellers. And mermaids.
The Book of Speculation is a well-balanced, finely-woven family history. I'm going to go out on a ledge here and say that this may be one of my favorite reads of 2015. But, it's only February, and time will tell. Definitely worthy of a re-read in the future. I wouldn't mind adding a physical copy of this book to my library when it comes out!...more