Books I Read: October 2017

Not a big month for reading for me, apparently.

N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season. ***** Imaginative and incredibly thoughtful. I will read the rest of this series. Science fiction that explores a world that is familiar but entirely different from our own.

Emma Ennis, Red Wine and Words. **** A delightful collection of dark stories. Ennis has a tendency to lead the reader down a haunted garden path before knocking them down and stealing their map. Several of these stories kept me guessing. On more than one occasion I’d finish a story to find myself wanting more, like a literary coitus interruptus.
I look forward to seeing what else Ennis has up her sleeve. She has the unique ability to imagine innovative worlds and the gift to describe them effectively to the reader. Highly recommended. Plus, the Kindle version is only a couple bucks – a bargain!

Brad Carter, Satan Walks The Trailer Park. *** I read this because I really enjoyed Uncle Leroy’s Coffin by the same author. Carter did not disappoint. This is a fun, twisted story with interesting characters. I would say that this is incorrectly billed as a “humorous” story – it’s fun, don’t get me wrong – but it’s not a laugh-out-loud romp. Good story nevertheless.

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Last Night’s Dream: The Return of Last Night’s Dream

I dreamed a kid told me he liked the blond streaks in my hair. I told him it was gray hair.

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Books I Read: September 2017

I’m getting worse and worse at getting these done in time. Four books in September.

Theodore Wheeler, Kings of Broken Things. **** A novelization of the Omaha race riots of 1919. Very interesting book – Wheeler comes at this event from different angles and explores the world of the time.

James W. Hall, When They Come For You. *** It appears this will be the first in a series of books. My hunch after reading this is that this will be a series much like the Harry Bosch or Jack Reacher books – a reader would benefit from reading these in order but I don’t think it will be a deal breaker. This is the first in a series about a photography-turned-globe trotting badass named Harper McDaniel. Pretty fun stuff.

Brad Carter, Uncle Leroy’s Coffin. **** I was really impressed by this book and wasn’t able to put it down. Brad Carter’s use of the “story within a story,” his sympathetic characters, and his sensory descriptions made this book a real treat to read. Carter shares Stephen King’s uncanny ability to make even mundane situations and relationships interesting.

Dan Wells, I Am Not a Serial Killer. *** This is another fun book and it looks like this will also be the first in a series. The protagonist is a teenage boy with a self-identified unhealthy obsession with serial killers. He struggles with his psychopathy by tracking down a real serial killer.

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Books I Read: August 2017

I’m getting really bad and doing these in time. I’m already two books into September and I still haven’t done my report for August. Here we go. I’m going to be more brief than usual because I suspect I don’t get these done on time because it feels like work.

Marcus Sakey, A Better World. **** A continuation of the Brilliance trilogy I started in July. Good stuff.

David Deal, The Buffeteer’s Guide: Mastering the Art of All-You-Can-Eat Dining. ***** My friend David wrote this hilariously helpful book about gluttony.

Marcus Sakey, Written In Fire. **** The final installment of the Brilliance trilogy.

Matt Hayward, What Do Monsters Fear. **** Psychological horror at its finest. It’s hard to believe this is Hayward’s debut novel. It’s a real page-turner and I was hooked from the first chapter. This is a book about addiction and rehabilitation, hopelessness and retribution. This is a book about the power of evil and the strength of the weak to overcome it. I’d skip this book if you prefer psychological horror without a supernatural bent.
An aside – one thing I really appreciate about authors like Stephen King and Philip K. Dick is they make mundane characters and situations interesting. Matt Hayward does this pretty well and I look forward to seeing him develop this talent in the future.

Adam Mitzner, Dead Certain. *** This is a good detective book but I had difficulty relating to the characters. A high-profile murder that affects a privileged family and the special treatment they get from the media and the legal community. That last sentence wasn’t a good one; sorry.

 

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Books I Read: July 2017

Dang, I waited a whole eleven days to post this. Apologies to the three of you who check this.

David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon. ***** In the 1920s the Osage Indians were the richest group per capita in the country. This book discusses the string of mysterious murders and disappearances among members of this group. It reads like a detective novel but it’s all true. I could see this being a mini-series.

Rachel Caine, Stillhouse Lake. ***** Another great one. I almost didn’t read it because it’s the first in a trilogy and the other books aren’t out yet – I don’t like to wait for books. I’m too impatient. Anyway, this book: a woman discovers her husband is a serial killer. The neckbeards on the internet blame her. Some of them come after her. She has to go into hiding with her children. This description makes the book sound dumb but trust me on this one. It’s good.

Marcus Sakey, Brilliance. **** Another book I almost didn’t read because it’s the first in a trilogy and I’m afraid of commitment. A really neat alternate-present type book where 1% of the world is born with special gifts that give them advantages over “normals.” Not superpowers – that would be dumb – but like powers to recognize patterns or read people based on body language. Spoiler alert – the next two books in this trilogy will be mentioned here next month because I already finished them.

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Books I Read: June 2017

Some good ones this month.

Luke Harrington, Ophelia, Alive. ***** A brilliant, mindbending psychological thriller. This book is billed as a ghost story, but it’s not – at least not in the sense that you think it is. I started reading it in bed one night until I realized that this book requires more attention than a casual sleepy brain can allocate. Brilliant and highly literate.

Greg Keen, Soho Dead. ***** This is the gritty neo-noir detective story you want to read. It has murder, art, sex, alcoholism, nepotism, and British accents. Your brain has to supply the British accents, of course.

Stephen King, Finders Keepers. **** I mean, you can’t go wrong with Stephen King. If you liked Mr. Mercedes and want to read more about Bill Hodges (Det., Ret.), you came to the right place.

Jason Downes, The Bogeyman. *** Holy crap, this book is scary. Downes has an incredible imagination and does a great job showing his readers a world full of worlds. An epic spanning decades and multiple characters, The Bogeyman will have you turning pages. I look forward to more from this author. Could have done with another pass through the editing process.

Stephen King, End of Watch. *** More Bill Hodges. This one had a bit of a supernatural element that felt out of place in this trilogy.

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Books I Read: May 2017

A couple days late this month!

John Scalzi, Old Man’s War. ****  It’s been a while since I’ve read some good science fiction. I like it when authors actually pay attention to what happens when we travel through space. Even though it isn’t central to the plot, I was fascinated with Scalzi’s FTL idea.

Victoria Jamieson, Roller Girl. ***** I bought this graphic novel because I heard my niece Astrid really liked it. Besides sharing a name with the book’s protagonist, Astrid shares a similar stubborn tenacity and enthusiasm. This is a book about a adolescence, friendship, and athletics.

Stephen King, Mr. Mercedes. **** I feel like folks shouldn’t need recommendations to read Stephen King. He’s just a really solid and entertaining writer. I’ve read this before but I decided to reread before I read the other two books in this series.

Nathan Singer, The Song in the Squall. **** A tremendously unique twist on the YA fantasy genre. Alternating between a current timeline and flashbacks, a truly interesting story of a young woman torn between worlds. I found myself wanting to know more about Dya’s world and the biological origins of her species. A Gaiman-esque look at the evolution of folklore as well.

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Books I Read: April 2017

Hey guys, here’s what I read in April. It’s been a long day and I kind of forgot to do this until the last minute, so my summaries may not read like fine literature.

Art Edwards, Badge. **** I am a big fan of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers and I recently watched a documentary about the previous incarnation of the band – The Refreshments. I learned that the former bass player quit the band and became a novelist. He writes about musicians from Arizona and the novels are captivating.

Art Edwards, Ghost Notes. **** Here’s another one. This is also good. It feels kind of semi-autobiographical, but I could be reading into it.

Art Edwards, Stuck Outside of Phoenix. *** It is at this point that I discovered that all of these novels take place within the same world. I look forward to reading more of these as they come out.

Casey Lankow, Realizing. **** A Young Adult novel that isn’t about vampires. I went to college with Casey. We weren’t best pals or anything but we ended up in the music building a lot at the same time so we knew each other. I discovered through Facebook that he wrote a YA novel about a young man who discovers and comes to terms with his sexuality. Very very good book. Would be a tremendous resource for all young people.

Jennifer Reinfried, Grim Ambition. **** I don’t read a lot of superhero material, but I do enjoy crime literature. This book reads like a comic book and a gritty detective book had a baby and then sat it down for the talk about the birds and the bees before training it to kill. This is my friend Jen’s first book in a trilogy. She writes fast so I wouldn’t be surprised if she was finished with the third book by the time I finish typing this sentence.

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Books I Read: March 2017

Here’s another month of books I read. Eight of them this month. Don’t expect me to keep up this pace.

Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology. **** This is a pretty good telling of some of the Norse myths. I mean, it’s good in that it reads like folklore. I have no idea how close this comes to the original stories. Also, I’m kind of cynical when a pop persona like Gaiman writes about an academic subject as if he is an expert. But still – enjoyable.

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Talents. **** A great follow up to Sower. This book makes you think about things. I read this on the beach while on vacation and felt like a huge entitled jerk.

Joe Hill, NOS4A2. *** I think by now I’ve read all of Joe Hill’s stuff. He writes like his dad but his bad guys are more empathetic. This is a trait missing in a lot of King’s villains.

John Darnielle, Universal Harvester. **** The dude who is The Mountain Goats is also a novelist? Did you know that? I didn’t. I read both of his novels this month. This reads like a thriller in the craziest way. You have to pay attention when you read this.

John Darnielle, Wolf in White Van. **** Dang, this guy is good at writing. I feel like Darnielle was probably an interesting kid when he was growing up. Less cerebral than Universal Harvester, but I felt more empathy for the main character.

Josh Malerman, A House at the Bottom of a Lake. *** I read this because I really really enjoyed Bird Box when I read it in January. Read that book. This one’s good, but read Bird Box if you read one book by Malerman.

Caitlin R. Kiernan, Agents of Dreamland. *** This is the type of book that your college roommate would call a “mind fuck.” If you like Philip K. Dick, which I do, you’ll enjoy this one.

Josh Malerman, Ghastle and Yule. **** This book details the creepy and obsessive relationship between two competing horror directors during the golden age of horror. The way he describes the fictional movies in this book make me want to watch them and it really bugs me that they don’t exist.

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Books I Read: February 2017

Neil Gaiman, Trigger Warning. *** Fans of Neil Gaiman will enjoy this collection of short stories and poems. Neil Gaiman, like his wife Amanda Palmer, is a talented writer who is just no good at poetry (he is talented at writing fiction, she at writing music). But the other stuff is delightful. There’s a Shadow Moon story in here that fans of American Gods will enjoy.

Ernest Cline, Ready Player One. **** This and the next two books from this month are set in a dystopian future and each tells a story from a different perspective. This is a story of escapism.

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale. **** A fantastic story of what can go wrong. What happens when the very existence of patriarchy is dependent on women. This is a story of survival.

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower. ****  Building a religion. I think that religion building happens in times of crisis. The texts we now know as the bible came from periods of change and distress. Other religious and philosophical texts do as well. A person or group has lost their foothold in what is comfortable and needs to find or create something that can provide grounding. This is a story about finding freedom in change. I think.

 

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