Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: High White Sun

High White Sun High White Sun by J. Todd Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two years after the death of Sheriff Ross, Sheriff Chris Cherry has another body on his hands and a gang of white supremacist bikers living in a nearby town...

The Far Empty wound up being fantastic so I scooped this up when it popped up on Netgalley.

The second book set in the sleepy Texas border town of Murfee packs almost as big of a punch as the first. When a man winds up dead outside a bar, Chris Cherry picks up the trail and it leads him to a family of white supremacist bikers in a nearby town. However, nothing is as cut and dry as it seems.

Much like the last book, it's the ensemble cast that powers the story forward. Chris has a mentor in Ben Harper, a widowed lawman that's Chris' right hand and a capable deputy in America Reynosa. The Earl family is a horrible reflection of the makeshift family Chris has in the Murfee PD. Aside from the undercover cop in their midst, that is...

There are wheels within wheels in this one. Lots of people are lying and keeping secrets and more than one person ends up in the ground because of it. Once I got over the 50% hump, it was a hard book to put aside.

Once again, J. Todd Scott did a great job with the scenery and location, making Murfee and the surrounding areas almost a character in the story. Chris Cherry, however, is probably the least interesting character in the book. If the supporting cast wasn't so rich, I don't think I'd rate this or The Far Empty as highly.

The ending wound up being an even bigger trainwreck than I thought. The Murfee PD went through the flames and none of them came out without at least minor burns. While satisfying on its own, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

While I didn't like it quite as much as The Far Empty, High White Sun was quite a read. Four out of five stars.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: The Last Whisper in the Dark

The Last Whisper in the Dark The Last Whisper in the Dark by Tom Piccirilli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few months after his brother's execution, the man who married the love of Terrier Rand's life goes missing and Terry starts sniffing around. Meanwhile, Terry's mother's family reaches out to her for the first time in decades to tell her that her father is dying and Old Crowe might just have a job for Terry...

The Last Kind Words was phenonmenal and the goal for 2018 is to read as much Tom Piccirilli is possible. I broke through my ebook cheapness ceiling and grabbed this one post haste. I knew it was going to be good when I was threatening to shed tears after the first few pages.

The Last Whisper in the Dark picks up months after the events of The Last Kind Words. Terrier is watching Kimmi and Scooter, Chub's family that could have been his, when Chub goes missing after a botched bank robbery. The other thorns in his side are Danny Thompson, local mob boss, and Perry Crowe, Terry's estranged grandfather.

Much like The Last Kind Words, The Last Whisper in the Dark is all about family secrets and lies. Terry is hiding things from everyone, especially himself. His mother's family proves that not all the illegal inklings come from the Rand side.

There's a lot more going on in this one than Terrier Rand's previous outing. While I could see where some of it was heading, some of it still caught me off guard. I love that Terry showed some integrity and didn't immediately try to worm his way into Kimmi's life. He did some dumb things, though, things that I think would have come back on him had Tom Piccirilli lived long enough to write future volumes.

While I love the crime elements, my favorite parts of the book are the moments Terry shares with his mother, Wes, and even Endicott. The supporting cast was very rich, even after only two books.
The Rands are much more complex characters than they could have been. Terrier's father dealing with the onset of Altzheimer's was very sad and one of the many elements that sets this above 99% of crime books out there.

I only had a couple gripes with this. I thought the ending came out of left field and was a bigger logical leap than Terrier ought to have been able to make. The other gripe was the way Darla could have been a richer character but wound up pretty much being someone for Terry to bang.
The entirety of my reading experience was tinged with regret that Tom Piccirilli was dead. The Rand family had enough skeletons in the closet to fuel any number of future books.

The Last Whisper in the Dark is a great entry in the Terrier Rand saga. I just wish it wasn't the end. Four out of five stars.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Review: Taste of Marrow

Taste of Marrow Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the aftermath of The Harriet operation, the crew is scattered. Hero and Houndstooth think one another dead. Adelia has baby Ysabel to contend with... until she doesn't. All roads lead to Baton Rouge and the gang may find themselves on opposite sides...

This one had been on my wish list since I finished River of Teeth. Fortunately, Richard rode to my rescue on the back of a hippo steed yet again.

Set months after River of Teeth, the gang is scattered to the four winds. Ysabel is kidnapped and Adelia is coerced into heading to Baton Rouge for one last job. Houndstooth and Archie are searching for Adelia and eventually their paths converge.

I was afraid some of the shine might have worn off the penny since River of Teeth but I was wrong. In some ways, the book felt like an extended epilogue of River of Teeth and gave some much needed closure if Sarah Gailey doesn't return to the hippo infested world she's crafted.

At first I was rolling my eyes at Houndstooth and Hero pining for one another so much but I was a believer by the end. Adelia's plight effected me more, though, torn apart by new motherhood and blackmail. Also, who knew your nipples could get infected? The partnership between Adelia and Hero provided my favorite character moments of the book.

The feral hippos continue to fascinate me. I really hope there's another book set in this universe.

Taste of Marrow is the best hippo-strewn gumbo western starring mostly nonheteronormative characters you'll read all year. Four out of five stars.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Review: Broken Shells

Broken Shells Broken Shells by Michael Patrick Hicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When down on his luck mechanic Antoine DeWitt gets something in the mail saying he won $5,000 from the local car dealership, he has his doubts but his wife, baby, and mounting bills make him go to claim it anyway. The worst that can happen is that he doesn't get any money, right?

WRONG! The owner of the car dealership is part of a generations-long pact, sacrificing people who won't be missed to an alien evil that lurks beneath the ground! Can Antoine escape with his skin intact or will he join the rest of those that have vanished over the years?

Michael Patrick Hicks was the 2017 recipient of the coveted Dantastic Book Award for Goodreads Author Who Doesn't Suck. I saw on the twitter that he had a novella coming out in February and hit him up. Let's just say Michael might be the first two time winner of the Goodreads Author Who Doesn't Suck award because this was pretty damn good!

Broken Shells is a novella of desperation, both on the part of Antoine DeWitt and Jon Dangle. Antoine lost his job and his wife Channy is on his ass to find another one when he gets the Money Carlo flyer from the car dealership saying he's won $5,000, he's just desperate enough to go down there. Jon Dangle, on the other hand, is desperate for a different reason. For generations, his family has been responsible for keeping subterranean monsters in check by throwing them a victim every once in a while.

Claustrophobic carnage is the name of the game. Antoine wakes up in bad shape and things only get worse. Tight spaces, gore, and inhuman horrors infest the pages. There are no training wheels or hand holding during this read. There were a few times I thought "Mike, you sick bastard!" Not only is it ghastly fun, it's very well written, carrying none of the things I loath about a lot of self-published or small press horror. It's very well edited and professional, slick and seamless.

The ending was a little bleaker than I'd like, though I had a feeling it was headed that way. All in all, Broken Shells is an exceptional horror novella. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Review: The Last Kind Words

The Last Kind Words The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Terrier Rand returns home, summoned by a phone call telling him of his brother Collie's impending execution. While Collie admits to the murders he committed, he knows one of the killings he's been charged with isn't his doing and wants Terrier to find out who was behind the murder of Rebecca Clarke. Will his investigation tear his family, a multi-generational gang of thieves, apart?

While I enjoyed A Choir of Ill Children, I wasn't super motivated to read another Tom Piccirilli book. I snapped this up for $1.99 and soon found I'd been quite a fool.

The Last Kind Words looks like a crime book on the surface. Terrier Rand has been on the run from his past for five years, a past full of burglaries and such, when he gets the fateful call. Terry slips back into his old life like a pair of shoes that don't fit right anymore, all the while trying to make sense of why his brother would murder eight people and wondering if he didn't have the same potential in himself.

While the mystery element is there, it's more about what binds a family together and what can tear it apart. Terrier didn't leave town under the best of circumstances and now he's reaping the rewards. His family mostly communicates through silence and minding their own business. A lot of things aren't the way he remembered them. His little sister is a teenager. His grandfather has Altzheimers and his uncles seem to be heading in that direction. Reports swarm the Rand house daily and Detective Gillmore is around all too often.

The mystery in and of itself was pretty engaging. It was just over the halfway mark that I had an inkling of who the killer was and I turned out to be right. I knew the big confrontation was going to be bad and I was not disappointed. The final ending was pretty sad.

Terrier Rand is one of the more interesting protagonists I've come across in recent years, a man from a family of thieves who finally has to take a long hard look at himself. While he's not a killer, he's definitely a thief through and through.

The Last Kind Words is a dark, funny, sad, thought-provoking book, so much more than what I thought I was getting. Time to buy more Tom Piccirilli. Five out of five stars.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review: Single White Female

Single White Female Single White Female by John Lutz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Allie Jones suddenly finds herself in need of a roommate, she meets Hedra. Hedra is timid at first but she and Allie become friends and Hedra shows her true colors...

I remember when the movie version of Single White Female came out, although I was too young to be interested. I've read a couple John Lutz books before so I was ready for this when I found it on the cheap.

When you look for a roommate, try not to find one that's a psychopathic chameleon. I knew the bare bones of the plot but it was still a wild ride at times. Hedra moves in and starts usurping Allie's life. Before too long, Allie is in the soup so deep she might never get out.

The book was a slow burner at first but things picked up around the halfway mark. I've never seen the movie but from what I understand, the book is a lot more gruesome.

The resolution actually bugged me a little bit. A little too easy, maybe? Anyway, Single White Female was a fun way to spend a few hours. Three out of five stars.

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Review: The Bedding of Boys

The Bedding of Boys The Bedding of Boys by Edward Lorn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When hebephile Regina Corsi sets her sights on young Nevada barnes, she'll do whatever she can to get him in her clutches. But how hard can it be for a gorgeous woman in her thirties to seduce a horny fourteen year old boy? And what about Ghost, the sheeted figure that does Regina's bidding?

Just after I reviewed Tampa last year, Edward Lorn emailed me, worried that he'd just wrote the same book. I said his approach was probably different and told him not to worry about it. Turns out, I was right.

Set in the town that gave Bay's End its name, The Bedding of Boys is about sexual predator Regina Corsi and her prey, Nevada Barnes. It's also about male and female sexuality and the differences thereof.

When the tale begins, Nevada is living happily with his parents and foster brother August. August spends a lot of his time catatonic with periods of wakefulness but there's much more to him than meets the eye. Regina is a predator and Nevada soon falls under her gaze. The mysterious Ghost following Regina around seemed like a pretty way to conveniently keep Regina under the radar until it was explained.

Edward Lorn clearly remembers what it's like to be fourteen, to be perpetually horny and to be as hard as a shovel handle at the slightest provocation. It's all too easy to see how Nevada gets entangled with Regina.

When things go off the rails, they do in a spectacular fashion. The ending was pretty much what it had to be after everything that came before it. After all, you can't very well have a train heading toward a chasm with no bridge suddenly stop at the last minute.

I loved the callbacks to the other books set in Bay's End, like Fog Warning, Life After Dane, The Sound of Broken Ribs, and Cruelty. I'm not sure The End will recover from this one, though.

If I had to pick something to bitch about, it was the way Ghost's origin tale killed the momentum toward the end of the book. It was necessary and I'm not sure of any other way that information could have conveyed. It still felt like a speed bump, though.

While it's not my favorite Lorn book, this one is up there, just a notch below The Sound of Broken Ribs. 4.5 out of stars.

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