Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Honky Tonk Samurai (Hap and Leonard #9) by Joe R. Lansdale

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*No Major Spoilers*

Only Hap and Leonard would catch a cold case with hot cars, hot women, and ugly skinheads.

The story starts simply enough when Hap, a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough black, gay Vietnam vet and Republican with an addiction to Dr. Pepper, are working a freelance surveillance job in East Texas. The uneventful stakeout is coming to an end when the pair witness a man abusing his dog. Leonard takes matters into his own fists, and now the bruised dog abuser wants to press charges.

One week later, a woman named Lilly Buckner drops by their new PI office with a proposition: find her missing granddaughter, or she’ll turn in a video of Leonard beating the dog abuser. The pair agrees to take on the cold case and soon discover that the used car dealership where her granddaughter worked is actually a front for a prostitution ring. What began as a missing-person case becomes one of blackmail and murder.

I was recommended this series through a user on Reddit. Someone was looking for novels about gay detectives, and this was one of the recommendations. I chose this novel purely on the title, the other novels in this series have unique titles as well so let’s jump into Honky Tonk Samurai!

This novel is one of the more memorable detective novels I’ve read. Honky Tonk Samurai is filled with colorful characters, non-stop action, and redneck/Texas humor. I will say that the language used is very vulgar. So if you’re not into that kind of thing, you might want to pass on this one. In defense of the choice words and jokes, I felt like that was part of the charm.

Hap and Leonard have great chemistry! You can tell they’ve been through a lot together. Leonard made me laugh at his love of vanilla cookies and Dr. Pepper. That kind of reminds me of myself, I love cookies and Dr. Pepper.

The main plot twist left me baffled, but in the end, it all made sense once all of the pieces were put together. So bonus points for me not guessing the mystery! Usually, I’m able to figure out the mystery about halfway through the book. This one kept me guessing and I really liked that about it.

More on Hap and Leonard’s chemistry, with them being like brothers from another mother, it was a nice change of pace from a lot of the other stories I’ve read in recent weeks. Leonard, I’d say, is the rougher of the two characters even though he’s gay. He’s one that does not mess around when it comes to protecting those that need it. Hap, on the other hand, is more of the mediator type, kind of like keeping the rough part of Leonard in control when necessary.

Overall this book was something new and interesting that I’d never heard of or thought to look up, the subject matter was a bit different but extremely interesting! If you like a story about rough and tough southern boys and some redneck action, this is most definitely the book for you! Although, like I said if crude and vulgar language isn’t your thing then this book is kind of a pass.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Club Reads, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

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*No Major Spoilers*

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history–and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society–the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal–private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

“Poor people all think they deserve to be rich,” he continued. “Rich people live every day with the uneasy knowledge that we do not.”
Graham Moore, The Last Days of Night

This historical fiction novel was interesting to me because I’ve always had a fascination with the early inventors. The remarkable scientific leaps are amazing even for the times. Without these such inventors, we wouldn’t have things like the Internet, our smartphones and computers.

The mythos that surrounds Nichola Tesla is fascinating. How he was so far advanced for his time, and whether the government was conspiring to hide his inventions or ideas. Tesla is featured prominently in this novel, and I enjoyed how not only foreign in a fact that he is from another country, but foreign in how his intelligence far outpaces everyone else.

Paul’s adventure into this strange new world full of scientific wonders was awe-inspiring. How Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb and so many other inventions from the scientific community. I can understand Paul’s struggle to comprehend new technologies.

I would highly recommend this novel for lovers of historical fiction, early inventors, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and early lawyering.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Boneyard (Deadlands #3) by Seanan McGuire

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*Spoilers at the very end of the review*

Step right up to see the oddities and marvels of The Blackstone Family Circus and Travelling Wonder Show! Gasp at pit wasps the size of a man’s forearm. Beware the pumpkin-headed corn stalker, lest it plants its roots in you!

Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus’s star attractions, drawing wide-eyed crowds at every small frontier town they visit. But Annie is also a woman running from her past . . . and the mother of a mute young daughter, Adeline, whom she will do anything to protect.

Hoping to fill its coffers before winter sets in, the circus steers its wagons to The Clearing, a remote community deep in the Oregon wilderness, surrounded by an ominous dark wood. Word is that a traveling show can turn a tidy profit at The Clearing, but there are whispers, too, of unexplained disappearances that afflict one out of every four shows that pass through the town.

The Clearing has its secrets, and so does Annie. And it may take everything she has to save her daughter―and the circus―from both.

I’ve been interested in reading this novel for a while now, it’s been on my ‘to be read’ list for a few years. I felt like it was finally time to jump into this Weird Wild West novel.

Annie’s trailer of oddities made me realize just how far we’ve advanced in science and biology. Her “nibblers” are piranhas, she owns a pet lynx named Serenity, and other monstrosities of nature.

Overall I enjoyed this weird wild west tale. It had plenty of spookiness, horror, action, and adventure. It was worth the wait to be able to add this to the “weird wild west” subgenre.

Here’s a short story collection of Weird Wild West

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

In this story, wendigos are the main antagonists, other than the town itself they are a threat to the circus. The wendigos weren’t something to be taken lightly, the town had made a deal with them to keep them from eating the townsfolk during the harsh winters and to keep outsiders away. The wendigos would attack any outsider that came to the town by either killing them on the spot, kidnapping them and taking them back to their lair to save for later. Which I felt like a convenient circumstance so we can have somewhat of a happy ending to the story.

I first heard of wendigos when I was watching a playthrough of the video game “Until Dawn”. With that said, when I found out the wendigos were a supernatural based entity I did plenty of research on them because they captured my interest. I found them unique and fascinating compared to other supernatural beings and entities talked about in average lore.

This is a book I’d recommend to anyone interested in wendigos, the supernatural, circus stories, and mysteries. It is definitely worth a read, whether you get it from your local library or you buy it, it’s definitely an excellent story.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Gone to Dust (Nils Shapiro #1) by Matt Goldman​

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*No Major Spoilers*

Private detective Nils Shapiro is focused on forgetting his ex-wife and keeping warm during another Minneapolis winter when a former colleague, neighboring Edina Police Detective Anders Ellegaard, calls with the impossible.

Suburban divorcee Maggie Somerville was found murdered in her bedroom, her body covered with the dust from hundreds of emptied vacuum cleaner bags, all potential DNA evidence obscured by the calculating killer.

Digging into Maggie’s cell phone records, Nils finds that the most frequently called number belongs to a mysterious young woman whose true identity could shatter the Somerville family–but could she be guilty of murder?

*Just my thoughts real quick about book summaries before my review*

Why do the authors put too much about their novel in the summary? I’ve read some novel summaries and thought yeah I already know how this is going to end. I prefer a summary that focuses on the main ideas. What is the mystery? What makes this case unique? That’s all I need to know.

I usually copy and paste the summaries from Goodreads. I have to edit them sometimes due to spoilers, and too much of the story.

Ok, now on to my review. I honestly can’t remember whether I found this on a book list or if I found this on my own. No matter, I’m glad I got the chance to read this one!

Nils Shapiro was a relatable character, he was going to be a police officer, and when he graduated from the police academy he decided to become a private detective. Since private detectives and the local police force are not quite the best of friends, the fact that the local police are asking Nils for help is surprising.

Most private investigators tend to work more in the gray areas of crime, cheating spouse, being hired to find dirt on someone important. So the police don’t usually ask them for assistance on a case unless the family of the victim(s) hires them.

This investigation was surprising and kept me guessing on how committed this heinous crime. I felt the use of the vacuum cleaner bags to cover up evidence made this mystery all the more intriguing.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. This is one of the more memorable ones I’ve read in the past months. The conclusion was thrilling and exciting. I can’t wait to hear more from Nils Shapiro in the future.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Troop by Nick Cutter

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*No Major Spoilers*

*This Novel Is NOT for the Squeamish*

Once a year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a three-day camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story and a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—stumbles upon their campsite, Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. An inexplicable horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival that will pit the troop against the elements, the infected…and one another.

I found this novel on a book list (if it’s not the library it’s email newsletters). I thought the author sounded familiar, and I found out he also wrote The Deep which I reviewed previously. Read my review of “The Deep”. I had written a not-so-good review, so with that in mind, I decided to give Mr. Cutter another chance.

I’m going to state upfront if you are squeamish or have Entomophobia (the fear of bugs); another phobia this novel addresses is Vermiphobia (The fear of parasitic worms) I would be hesitant to read this novel. I do not have these phobias and at times I found myself grossed out at how detailed the boys’ struggles escalate throughout this novel.

“How could you hide from a murderer who lives under your skin?” – The Troop

The Troop reminded me of a ramped up rendition of Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Lord of the Flies follows a group of young boys that were shipwrecked on a deserted island. The parallels are there, but it’s pulled off nicely.

I found this to be more enjoyable than Mr. Cutter’s previous book The Deep. The characters were likable and relatable. I found the ending to not be too far out in the leftfield. Sometimes horror writers *cough* Stephen King *cough* tend to take things too far with the crazy and bizarre for my liking. This ending was surprising and ended on a somewhat positive note.

Overall, I thought The Troop was a good and creepy read. If you are into untraditional horror, or what something different to read then this novel is for you!

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Arsenal: Full Metal Superhero (Full Metal Superhero #1) by Jefferey H. Haskell

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*No Major Spoilers*

Amelia Lockheart can’t walk, but she can fly. As the armored superhero-Arsenal, she has the power of a small army at her disposal. Fourteen years ago her parents disappeared after a horrific wreck which left her wheelchair bound. With thieves salivating to steal her armor, and supervillains trying to kill her, Amelia must learn to trust her new team if she wants to survive long enough to learn the truth.

This novel caught my attention because of the cover, the series name, and the concept. With the Marvel and DC movies battling it out at the theatres, one might hesitate to go into a superhero series without drawing connections to previously established characters. However, I felt that this would have been unique enough to be entertaining on its own two feet.

I felt like Amelia was amazing in the facts that she doesn’t let others tell her what to do just because she’s a handicapped woman. She is brilliant in what she can build and create with just enough imagination and determination.

At first, her thoughts about what really happened to her parents sounded like a coping mechanism. When something tragic happens, you naturally want to blame it on someone or something. Blaming her parents’ disappearance in the company they worked for is logical and reasonable.

As you go through the battles and struggles with Amelia and her new friends you find that there is something more going on than meets the eye. Is someone trying to set them up to fail? Who is really after Amelia’s armor? These questions and more are what drives this story and the over-arching plot forward.

I couldn’t help myself but draw connections between this novel and Marvel superheroes. It never took anything away from the novel, but it was kind of fun to be like “oh this guy sounds like Doctor Strange”. Or “This sounds like a combination of Captain America and The Hulk”. I found that instead of being direct rip-offs, they were their own unique identity.

The final battle shows how determined and how brilliant Amelia truly is and how her cool head and thinking under pressure is more valuable to the team overall. She is able to do just as much when she is Arsenal, and when she’s just Amelia.

I know this was meant to be an adult novel, but for some reason, I couldn’t get the thought of this being a Young Adult novel out of my head. Something about how Amelia is portrayed had me thinking she was a teenager instead of being in her early 20s.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, it was a breath of fresh air to have some new superheroes to read about. I felt like this novel is appropriate for everyone of all ages to enjoy. If you like underdog stories and superheroes, then this book is for you!

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

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*No Spoilers*

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

I know I’ve stated in the past that I don’t read what’s popular and trending. However, I think the hype about the Netflix Original Birdbox has died down enough to where I feel comfortable finally getting around to seeing what all the hype is about.

I found the premise to be intriguing, most of us heavily rely on our sense of sight to function day to day. When you have a threat to take that ability away, you suddenly are forced to learn how to hone your other senses that aren’t as heavily relied on.

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This novel caused my fiancé and me to have a discussion of the premise. Something that normally doesn’t happen much when I’m talking to him about the books I read. I’m really thrilled that this actually gave us something to sink our teeth into.

I liked most of the main group of survivors. I felt like each one was a real person who made their decisions whether it was for the better or the worst of the group’s survival. Just like other apocalyptic novels, you have several people who each have their own motivations and goals.

I wouldn’t say that I found the ending to be predictable per se. Without spoiling the ending, I’ll say that it was a pleasant surprise that I hadn’t guessed the ending completely. The ending was nice and sweet, I felt like the journey for the trio was wrapped up nicely.

Overall, this novel was well worth the wait, I enjoyed the theme and tension of the unknown. This book is just the right length to get a grasp on what’s at stake without having much fluff. I’m glad to finally have read this novel.

I would highly recommend this novel for those who loved the Netflix adaptation of Birdbox. If you love a good mystery, and some horror definitely please check this novel out.