Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > Bearskin

Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin
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it was amazing
bookshelves: hardboiled, mysteries, psychodelic, nature

”The giant trees were like dormant gods, vibrating with something he couldn’t name, not quite sentience, each one different from the others, each telling its own centuries-long story. On the forest floor, chestnut logs dead since the blight had rotted into chest-high berms soft with thick mosses, whispering quietly. Something called out and he turned to face a looming tulip tree, gnarled and bent like an old man, hollowed out by rot, lightning, ancient fires.

His skin tingled.”


 photo Tulip20Tree202_zpspz9btku8.jpg

Rice Moore felt the pain of parting from a dear friend when he left the desert around Tucson. He could see those thousands of saguaro cactuses in his rearview mirror and wondered when he would be able to see them again. Circumstances were against him ever see that gorgeous desert again because he had gotten himself on the wrong side of a Mexican drug cartel.

”While Apryl crouched beside him with her .22 in her hand, cursing, Rice experienced a sensation of detachment, thinking here he was in his first firefight, and that instead of a scientist he’d become some kind of ridiculous desert outlaw--a dilettante Clyde to Apryl’s only slightly more credible Bonnie, and that the bullets going by sounded sibilant, like insects.”

Any romanticism he might have felt about locking horns with the cartels was quickly dispelled when he found himself in a Mexican jail, and Apryl...well, there are things worse than a Mexican jail.

He took a job in Virginia as a caretaker of a nature preserve. He used the name Rick Morton, which slid around on his skin like an ill fitting suit. The previous caretaker had been viciously attacked, so the theory in hiring Rice was that any gringo who could stay alive in a Mexican jail might be able to handle himself with bear poachers and biker gangs.

Rice started spending so much time in the woods, laying in wait for poachers, that he had trouble returning to the meager civilization of his cabin. He began having hallucinations and hearing forest voices talking to him. He was certainly a man who threw himself into his work. He became part of the woods he was protecting. He even went beyond that. ”He tried to fit the cow pelvis over his head to wear it like a ceremonial Pleistocene headdress, but several fused vertebrae at the sacrum got in the way. He laid it on the ground and broke off part of the sacrum with a a rock, and this time it fit, resting on his crown, and he could see through the holes.”

Rice’s father gave him some great advice that could almost be my creed.

”When you slack off, what you’re really doing is choosing to fail because you didn’t try hard enough. It was a rational choice, his father had said, for people who would rather fail on purpose than risk finding out they’re not good enough, but if you made that choice you should at least be honest with yourself about what you are doing.”

When people write me and ask me how I’ve done so well on GR, they always seem disappointed when I say hard, consistent work. They were hoping I had a trick of some kind that would help them be successful without having to do the heavy lifting.

Read. Write. Repeat.

This is a slow burn of a novel with mystery elements, but really James A. McLaughlin wrote a book that ventures more into the realm of a literary novel. The lyrical prose, of which I’ve shared some in this review, are to be savored like biting off hunks of wild honeycomb. Your tongue will tingle with the resonance of the words. There is plenty of action, but it is low key, more personal, and more like real life than the explosive action flicks that fill movie theaters. Between pissed off local bikers, aggressive bear poachers, a DEA agent with an unnatural interest in Rice, and a Cartel assassin, people are having to wait in line for a chance to try and take him down. One thing I can assure them all about is that Rice ain’t going anywhere...bring it on.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Reading Progress

June 25, 2018 – Started Reading
June 25, 2018 – Shelved
June 30, 2018 – Shelved as: hardboiled
June 30, 2018 – Shelved as: mysteries
June 30, 2018 – Shelved as: psychodelic
June 30, 2018 – Shelved as: nature
June 30, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)

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Suzanne I keep almost picking this up every time I have gone to Barnes & Noble recently. I really want to read it even more now!


message 2: by Jeffrey (last edited Jul 03, 2018 06:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jeffrey Keeten Suzanne wrote: "I keep almost picking this up every time I have gone to Barnes & Noble recently. I really want to read it even more now!"

This had me written all over so when my copy arrived I was already anticipating enjoying it. I went to school at the University of Arizona so the time the book spent in Tucson, too brief, brought back some great memories for me. I'm already thinking about the book he will write next. Thanks Suzanne! I hope you enjoy this one. Most of the book is set in Virginia which will be an added bonus for you!


Theodor Stanica thats very poetic


Jeffrey Keeten Thanks Theodor!


message 5: by KC (new)

KC Great review. Have this on my shelf.


Jeffrey Keeten As you can tell I really enjoyed this one KC! I hope you like it!


message 7: by mark (last edited Jul 04, 2018 02:09AM) (new)

mark monday I like that honeycomb analogy.

and that's good advice for reviewers! consistency is good. although I'd also add Interact. there are so many awesome reviewers on Goodreads whose reviews get so little attention, and it has nothing to do with the quality of their reviews or the amount of books they are reading. I think it's that insular quality that many readers and writers have that often leads to not connecting with other people on this site, which can then mean an awesome review not getting much recognition.

I'm just glad that many such reviewers don't appear to care about attention (or even Likes (view spoiler)), and still keep reviewing. it's their insular, personal reviews that keep Goodreads a continually interesting place to me. it's a funny switcheroo - it was once the highly personal (and now long-forgotten) community of so-called Best Reviewers, and not so much the actual reviews, that initially fascinated me about this site... but now it's the quirky, personal, and often wonderfully written yet little-seen reviews that fascinate me and lead me to interesting books and in general keep me here and away from just putting up my own blog and posting there instead. well that and my Virgo need to organize every single one of my books, of course.


Jeffrey Keeten mark wrote: "I like that honeycomb analogy.

and that's good advice for reviewers! consistency is good. although I'd also add Interact. there are so many awesome reviewers on Goodreads whose reviews get so lit..."


Thanks Mark! That analogy ties back to the book in a cool way that those who read the novel will really appreciate.

I can remember when I was first on GR and was friending top reviewers like yourself so that I could get great book recommends which exploded my book budget to something close to the space program budget. I also friended those reviewers so I could figure out how to write reviews. I needed a creative outlet from work because I certainly wasn't scratching that itch being a circulation manager for a regional farm publication. In the beginning I wrote these terrible reviews (I've improved slightly, much more work to do.), but I still remember that you left a comment on one of them. Some book that you too had read and it was so encouraging. Thank you for that Mark!

It is really the layers of GR that makes it so fascinating. I agree. If someone becomes jaded about top reviewers or likes they can dig deeper into GR and find a plethora of people writing marvelous reviews to the sound of one hand clapping. I remember those days as well when every review I launched was greeted with the sound of crickets. (view spoiler)

Because my schedule has become so crazy with full time work, trying to read and review 125 books a year, and all the other sundry projects I continue to take on I don't spend as much time looking for those wonderful reviews that are under appreciated. Nothing gives me more pleasure than being the first to comment on a well conceived review of someone I've never met on GR before. I've made some great friends that way. I'm glad you reminded me to do more of that.

Have a great 4th Mark! I remember watching the fireworks while standing on Golden Gate Bridge another lifetime ago.


message 9: by mark (new)

mark monday you have a good memory and you just warmed my heart today, Jeffrey!

much like you at the beginning, writing reviews is definitely a creative outlet for me. probably why I continue to write them. I love my job, but the only writing-based creativity I have there is is when I write training curriculum, and that definitely doesn't count.

Happy 4th to you as well! as soon as this blasted migraine fades, I hope to join the rest of the country and drink some beer, shoot some shit, and watch some fireworks.


message 10: by Betsy (new)

Betsy Robinson What a tasty review . . . along with good advice. Thanks, Jeffrey.


message 11: by Diane (new)

Diane Barnes I've been dithering on whether to read this book. You convinced me. Re: that book budget thing. You have shot mine all to Hell over the years.


Jeffrey Keeten Betsy wrote: "What a tasty review . . . along with good advice. Thanks, Jeffrey."

Thanks Betsy! I don't know any way to get better at something except doing the heavy lifting. :-)


Jeffrey Keeten Diane wrote: "I've been dithering on whether to read this book. You convinced me. Re: that book budget thing. You have shot mine all to Hell over the years."

Wahaha! #evilbookvillainlaugh What would you spend that money on if you didn't spend it on books: food, shelter, clothes? *grin* I know the feeling Diane. GR has cost me thousands of dollars, but I've been a willing victim to their suggestions. I hope you enjoy the book Diane.


message 14: by Katherine (new) - added it

Katherine I heard about this months and months ago and have been eagerly anticipating its release! Excited to get my hands on it!


Jeffrey Keeten I hope you enjoy it Katherine! I certainly did!


message 16: by alisha (new)

alisha like hell!!


message 17: by Vessey (last edited Jul 11, 2018 03:08AM) (new) - added it

Vessey Okay, I’m going to give you a good laugh now. :) My brain that is obviously a mush failed to register the Y in Apryl and read it like April and even though I do know that this isn’t just the name of the month, but a human name as well, for some reason I thought I was reading about the month. And I thought, after reading this “While Apryl crouched beside him with her .22 in her hand”, I thought “Man, that’s some metaphor! :) When I got to the second line, my grey cells had started working again. :) You know, that’s funny. Yesterday – or was it the day before that? Or before? Okay, it was recently – I told this guy “My grey cells are running a marathon today. I owe them a rest. Tomorrow I should probably watch a soap opera or two” Seems to have worked out a little well. :)

”When you slack off, what you’re really doing is choosing to fail because you didn’t try hard enough. It was a rational choice, his father had said, for people who would rather fail on purpose than risk finding out they’re not good enough, but if you made that choice you should at least be honest with yourself about what you are doing.

In Grey’s Anatomy they say that event he greatest failure beats the hell out of not trying at all. So I understand. Including the whole “Be honest about it” But I don’t think it’s just a matter of fear. I think that when we bail on something, it’s actually because of pessimism. I think that on some level we are actually convinced that we’ll fail. It feels like a cold fact. Actually, this is what fear is. The feeling that something is actually happening. So it’s not just about choosing “the easy way out”. It’s about not believing that there is a point to take the hard one. And this mentality too can be overcome by the conscious effort you are talking about here:

When people write me and ask me how I’ve done so well on GR, they always seem disappointed when I say hard, consistent work. They were hoping I had a trick of some kind that would help them be successful without having to do the heavy lifting.

As Churchill would say (this man was bucketful of wisdicisms!): “Continues effort is the key to our unlocking our potential” :) Oh, and you know what? You have been totally unlocking mine with your incredible reviews. The writer/weirdiciser in me has been rearing her hopefully pretty head. Eyebrows :) And it’s because of you. I can’t write this way on anyone else’s reviews. You always inspire me so much. :) As a matter fact, it has happened to me several times now friends of yours to send me friend requests saying that they’ve liked something I have written on some of your reviews. Recently it happened again. Actually, it was to such person I told that my grey cells – I remember now when it happened. It was on Monday – needed to be fed some mindless fun. :) He was a friend of yours and he added me. :) Of course, I had to weird him out. :)

The lyrical prose, of which I’ve shared some in this review, are to be savored like biting off hunks of wild honeycomb. Your tongue will tingle with the resonance of the words.

THIS is a good metaphor. :) The writer really scared me with this Apryl :) I totally agree about the lyricism. As soon as I was finished reading your opening quote, I thought that this really reminded me of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s writing in what is my favourite fantasy series. Shadows of the Apt. :) It really reminds me of his descriptions of his creepy forests. :) I am adding this. :)

As always, an awesome review. :)

P.S. Okay, I again wrote a comment that is as long as your review. :)


Jeffrey Keeten Vessey wrote: "Okay, I’m going to give you a good laugh now. :) My brain that is obviously a mush failed to register the Y in Apryl and read it like April and even though I do know that this isn’t just the name o..."

Well I'm glad your notoriety is gaining recognition. :-) You can always use more good friends. I'm glad you are meeting new ones. I'm glad my reviews have inspired you to be more creative. I appreciate you taking the time to write such a detailed response. I hope you have recovered from your close encounter with Apryl. :-) I hope you are well.


Tammy Fantastic review, Jeffrey! I thought this was amazing, too


Jeffrey Keeten Tammy wrote: "Fantastic review, Jeffrey! I thought this was amazing, too"

Thanks Tammy! I'm already wondering what he will write next. I'm so glad you liked this one Tammy!


message 21: by Vessey (new) - added it

Vessey Jeffrey wrote: "Vessey wrote: "Okay, I’m going to give you a good laugh now. :) My brain that is obviously a mush failed to register the Y in Apryl and read it like April and even though I do know that this isn’t ..."


Words aren’t enough to express how much your response means to me. THANK YOU!

I hope you have recovered from your close encounter with Apryl :-)

The important thing is that my eyebrows survived. :)


Ms.pegasus Oh, yes. You've really nailed it. It's slow burn action, but the honey-sweetness is in the lyrical writing, and elements that are a cautious advance into a literary novel. Great review!
Pat


Jeffrey Keeten Ms.pegasus wrote: "Oh, yes. You've really nailed it. It's slow burn action, but the honey-sweetness is in the lyrical writing, and elements that are a cautious advance into a literary novel. Great review!
Pat"


Thanks Pat! I'm already anticipating McLaughlin's next book. This was a pleasure to experience.


Dorisbel Lorenzo adames Gkdjt😈


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