Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: In the Hall With the Knife (A CLUE Mystery #1) by Diana Peterfreund

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*No Major Spoilers*

When a storm strikes at Blackbrook Academy, an elite prep school nestled in the woods of Maine, a motley crew of students—including Beth “Peacock” Picach, Orchid McKee, Vaughn Green, Sam “Mustard” Maestor, Finn Plum, and Scarlet Mistry—are left stranded on campus with their headmaster. Hours later, his body is found in the conservatory and it’s very clear his death was no accident. With this group of students who are all hiding something, nothing is as it seems, and everyone has a motive for murder. Fans of the CLUE board game and cult classic films will delight in Diana Peterfreund’s modern re-imagining of the brand, its characters, and the dark, magnificent old mansion with secrets hidden within its walls.

“Just then, there was a horrible crash right outside the door, and suddenly the sound of the storm got a whole lot louder.”

I loved playing the CLUE mystery game while I was growing up. So when this novel was on a list from one of my newsletters, I knew I had to read it.

This novel is perfect for mystery lovers. There are twists and turns, as well as learning about all of the characters involved in this mystery. The story is told from different perspectives, and at first, it was difficult to tell Orchid and Scarlet apart until more character development helped me differentiate the two.

Scarlet Mistry, she was on the Council for Beautification. She lived, along with other students, in the Tudor Dorm. She would also try to keep up and boost morale with the female students to do better at their schoolwork and activities.

Also, she and Finn Plum were essentially a “Power Couple”, together they ran schemes and Finn helps Scarlet with her Chemistry homework.

Orchid McKee, she never saw Scarlet as a friend, but while they were snowed in at the dorm she confided in Scarlet her biggest secret. It’s a spoiler, but I felt like this should be mentioned because Orchid is a private person.

One of the characters I suspected to be the murderer in this story was Vaughn Green because when the other characters would ask about his sudden change in personality, he would internally blame his brother for the mishaps around the dorm. Even though when Vaughn was introduced we met his brother, he hated the school and the students because they were all preppy, rich kids and the only reason Vaughn was able to attend the school was because of a scholarship. So Vaughn was sort of considered an outcast because his home was next door to Blackbrook in the next town over. Only hearing about his brother during the murder investigation, I suspected Vaughn having multiple personalities.

A character I didn’t know much about in this story because he was introduced about halfway in the story was Sam “Mustard” Maestor. He was a former military academy student and he was kicked out, but we never find out why. The only thing we know anything about his background was when he was first introduced into the story from his perspective. He starts referring to his military experience but never says exactly why he was kicked out.

Beth “Peacock” Picach, is Blackbrook’s best tennis player. She is always righting down what she eats and the calories included and what her exercise routines were. All of her chapters included this log and a few thoughts about her day. She was the most suspected character due to an altercation between her and Headmaster Boddy.

I would highly recommend In the Hall with the Knife if you are a fan of locked room mysteries, the board game Clue, and a twist you won’t see coming, this a great book I’d highly recommend.

Posted in Book Reviews, DC comics, Graphic Novels

REVIEW: Batman: Gordon of Gotham by Chuck Dixon

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*No Spoilers*

Collects BATMAN: GORDON OF GOTHAM #1-4, BATMAN: GCPD #1-4 and BATMAN: GORDON’S LAW #1-4.

Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon stars in this new collection of crime stories from the 1990s that stars the colorful, determined cops of Batman’s home town.

The first story in this volume, Batman: Gordon’s Law, Commissioner Gordon has stumbled upon a coverup of a huge money laundering bust, the only trace is the few remaining $1,000 dollar bills.

Now, without Batman’s help, by Commissioner Gordon’s request, is a man on a mission to set things right and bust up the corrupt cops involved.

I felt like this novel set the tone for the rest of this collection. It was gritty, rough, and brought Gordon into a light not many others get to see. He might be the commissioner of Gotham City, but he’s still a cop no matter what politics may say.

Seeing him take this case on without much of Batman’s aid, makes you truly see how rough and corrupt not only the Gotham Police Department but Gotham City as a whole. Gordon is just one man, but he’s doing his best to clean up the police corruption.

The second story, Batman: GCPD includes three stories from three of Gotham City’s finest detectives. I have read some of the comics surrounding the GCPD, and I have enjoyed them. It’s interesting to see an inside look into Gotham’s police department.

The story starts when Sargent Harvey Bullock beats up a costumed low-life and his partner goes to request a transfer. Commissioner Gordon grants her the transfer, and so she reassigns Bullock a new partner. All while Harvey is dealing with a rampant serial killer, Internal Affairs breathing down his neck, and his partner getting kidnapped on her new case, Another set of detectives are on the hunt for a string of high-stakes thefts.

I found Sargent Bullock’s case the most interesting, someone in Gotham is going around killing seemingly random men and only leaving them with a teddy bear dressed up as their profession. The mystery was entertaining and intriguing.

Overall, I enjoyed this second story in this collection. I would say the writing was good, and the characters had interesting storylines and characteristics.

The final and main story: Batman: Gordon of Gotham is as fantastic as the other two stories in this epic volume. The story is about Gordon opening up to Batman about a time in his past when he was a beat cop in Chicago. An assassin who got away.

I love how Gordon is telling Batman a story about his past. Both are lonely characters and to see them bonding in this way makes me happy. I just figured the this was just Gordon getting something off of his chest. Boy, was I wrong!

After storytime is over, Batman tells Gordon something he already knew he had to do: go get sweet vengeance.

Overall these three stories, I enjoyed each of them for different reasons. I would highly recommend this collection for lovers of crime dramasCommissioner James Gordon, and of course Batman. Even though Batman doesn’t have that much of a presence in this collection, it’s not Batman’s story, it’s the hard-working detectives at GCPD who make this collection worth reading.

Check Out My Review of Gotham Central!

Check Out Some of the DC Comics I’ve Previously Reviewed!

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.

Posted in Book Reviews, Novels, Short Story Collections

REVIEW: Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns by Various Authors

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*No Spoilers*

From best sellers and writing legends to the brightest stars of the next generation of crime writers, the twenty-five authors here have taken pen in hand to say enough is enough. Gun violence has got to stop and this is our way of speaking out – by showing that gun violence can be removed from the narrative, and maybe from our lives.

It’s not anti-gun, it’s pro-sanity. And above anything else, these are thrilling crime stories that will surprise and shock, thrill and chill – all without a gun in sight.

Notable Short Stories:
The Old Man and the Motorized Wheelchair by Joe R. Lansdale-This story of a retired detective who has Sherlock Holmes-like capabilities made for a fascinating read.

The Starry Night by Grant Jerkins- This story exposes how insecure the children’s ward in the hospital can be. Especially when it’s busy, and you have clowns and people in and out visiting loved ones. Gave me the major creeps.

The Business of Death by Eric Beetner- A funeral home director who’s fallen on hard times might make unethical choices if it means some illegitimate money to fix up the parlor. I liked this story, this one is one of the more memorable stories out of the bunch.

The Final Encore of Moody Joe Shaw by Thomas Pluck- I felt this novel to be so sad and heartwarming at the same time. A man who is an outcast and misfit, finding comfort in an elderly lady’s company. The ending will have you reaching for your tissues!

Mysterious Ways by J.L. Abramo- I enjoy a good private eye story, no matter if it’s modern day or 1920s Same Spade. This novel follows a PI as he investigates the assault of the daughter of the man who hired him. A father’s love can make a man make immoral decisions.

Now, I’m not saying all of the other stories in this collection are bad, I’m just listing my favorites. The more memorable ones to me are the ones where I looked at the table of contents and instantly recall the story by the title.

I thought this short story collection was worth the read for the stories I mentioned earlier in my review. However, I thought several of the stories didn’t belong because there was no murder or mystery involved.

I would recommend this collection to lovers of short stories, mysteries, and for supporters of gun control/gun regulations.

More Short Stories HERE!

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner

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*No Spoilers*

An enduring classic, this book offers a dramatic and prophetic look at the potential consequences of the escalating destruction of Earth. In this nightmare society, air pollution is so bad that gas masks are commonplace. Infant mortality is up, and everyone seems to suffer from some form of ailment.

I had never heard of this novel until recently. I was surprised how this novel was originally published in 1973, and how much this book rings true in today’s world and tomorrow’s possible future. I was shocked.

There’s an ingrained distrust in our society of highly intellegent, highly trained, highly competent persons. One need only to look at the last presidential election for proof of that. – The Sheep Look Up- John Brunner

This novel was terrifying in a subtle way. This novel reminded me of the battle with the anti-vaxxers, the vegans, and others who are “different”. The Sheep Look Up also discusses the issues of racial tension and prejudice that seems to have to be prevalent in the news again.

This novel does suffer from one common problem with apocalyptic aspects, too many characters. I don’t like having to take notes while I’m reading a book if I wanted to that I’d go back to college [heavy sarcasm].

Even so, I felt this novel was an excellent discovery and a terrifying read. Everyone wearing gas masks, everyone catching all kinds of diseases just by trying to survive, and all of the animals going extinct.

 

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Here’s my Doctor Who reference for the month!

 

With the fear of bees going extinct, and the rhinos and elephants being killed for their ivory, it is mostly foretold in this novel. The discussion for environmental change is on every page. Even though there are those of us who are trying to slow down the destruction of the world, the rest can’t seem to break those old habits.

You can’t blame the people who can’t hear the warnings; you have to blame the ones who can, and who choose to ignore them. – The Sheep Look Up – John Brunner

I would highly recommend this classic novel to those who enjoy the underrated classics. I think this novel is also for those people who like dystopic and apocalyptic future of our current world and possible future. This book is a great read if you’re looking for an apocalyptic read, but don’t want the zombie kind.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Beast of Barcroft by Bill Schweigart

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*No Major Spoilers*

Ben McKelvie believes he’s moving up in the world when he and his fiancée buy a house in the cushy Washington, D.C., suburb of Barcroft. Instead, he’s moving down—way down—thanks to Madeleine Roux, the crazy neighbor whose vermin-infested property is a permanent eyesore and looming hazard to public health.

First, Ben’s fiancée leaves him; then, his dog dies, apparently killed by a predator drawn into Barcroft by Madeleine’s noxious menagerie. But the worst is yet to come for Ben, for he’s not dealing with any ordinary wild animal. This killer is something much, much worse. Something that couldn’t possibly exist—in this world.

Now, as a devilish creature stalks the locals, Ben resolves to take action. With some grudging assistance from a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the crackpot theories of a self-styled cryptozoologist, he discovers the sinister truth behind the attacks, but knowing the Beast of Barcroft and stopping it are two different animals.

If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while, then you’ll know I seem to have a tendency to read the monster subgenre of horror. In most of these novels I read, I felt like the monster was uncreative, and just a personal take on a Xenomorph from the Alien franchise. However, this novel is not one of those.

I liked how this monster only affected a small neighborhood and its residents. It made the stakes feel so much higher. Instead of the monster affecting a large area such as a large town or a whole state, it’s a couple of blocks of cookie-cutter houses, To me, that’s more terrifying than anything.

I won’t spoil what the monster is, but I will say that it’s one I am not familiar with and had to do some light research on it. This author gets bonus points for making me learn! I will give this hint: for something so prominent in Alaskan folklore, how it traveled to Washington D.C. is anybody’s guess.

If you are a fan of Stephen King but want a cohesive story, then this novel is definitely for you! This novel will have you looking in the bushes at night.

My favorite part is how Ben overcomes the depression brought on by his father’s death and his fiance abandoning him. The loss of his dog forces him to pull himself up and get revenge for his furry best friend’s passing. By hunting this monster, he not only defeats the monster itself but also defeats the demons inside himself.

I would highly recommend this novel for lovers of horror, monsters, folklore, and all things that go bump in the night. I felt this was a breath of fresh air for me, no xenomorphs, no predictable endings, just a good scary story.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Double Wide by Leo W. Banks

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*No Spoilers*

After fastball phenom Prospero Stark’s baseball career craters in a Mexican jail, he retreats to a trailer park in the scorching Arizona desert. He lives in peaceful anonymity with a collection of colorful outcasts until someone leaves his former catcher’s severed hand on his doorstep. Beautiful, hard-living reporter Roxanne Santa Cruz, who keeps a .380 Colt and a bottle of Chivas in her car, joins Stark to help him uncover his friend’s fate, a dangerous pursuit that pits them against a ruthless gang of drug-dealing killers.

This novel caught my eye because of the cover art. The imagery of the parched, Arizona desert with the lone camper trailer gave me the impression of a modern-day western.

I found Double Wide to be an entertaining read. Prospero just wanted to disappear from the spotlight after being caught with his best friend who had some cocaine, on top of him losing his throwing arm. However, when the disembodied hand appears, it throws Prospero back into the spotlight as he tries to solve his friend’s murder.

I liked how Prospero ran his own trailer park, and how all of his neighbors called him “Mayor”. I found all of his neighbors to be enjoyable and likable in their own ways. Especially how Prospero would give them rides into town when they needed to go to their jobs. It just shows that Prospero cares about his tenants.

I found Roxanne to be a little annoying, I felt like she was manipulating Prospero to do things that might be considered unethical. Like showing up on the doorstep of the hottest baseball manager in town in the middle of the night. Even though it was all for a good cause, I didn’t like how Roxanne was controlling the narrative when she was involved.

I enjoy baseball from time to time, and I thought a sports-related mystery made this novel and intriguing read! Even if you’re not familiar as the sport, the rules and techniques are explained in a way where anyone could understand what was going on.

If you’re looking for a mystery novel that combines the love of baseball with the struggles of drug cartels along the Mexican border; this is the book for you!