Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Special Place

Goodreads Summary:
A Special Place, Peter Straub’s first published novella, will come to stand as one of the author’s most deeply unsettling works of fiction. A rumination on the nature of evil, the story centers on a boy, Keith Hayward, who is drawn by his nature to an irresistible fascination with death and the taking of life. His father’s brother, the good-looking, suave Uncle Till—the infamous ladykiller, who has led a shadowy career as a local celebrity—recognizes his nephew’s innermost nature and gleefully tutors him in art of doing ill without getting caught.

Even a cold-blooded sociopath must learn some lessons in survival, in seems, and Uncle Till is only happy to provide a tutorial, in the latest imaginative and disturbing work from one of America's most celebrated horror writers.

My Review:
Reading this book is like being inside the head of a serial killer...except we meet him when he's only 12 years old. And he's being coached by his uncle. It's shockingly realistic and at times extremely disturbing. I've read True Crime that upset me less than this book.

All that being said it was excellently written. The prose is tight, compact. This is a novella and really a character study of a boy who will later appear as a man in a full length novel. It can be read as a stand alone. It's about the relationship between an uncle, who is a sociopath, training his nephew in the ways of not getting caught and of how to acquire and manage "a special place."
4/5 stars

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top Suspense

Goodreads Summary:
Hold on tight for a literary thrill-ride into the wickedly clever, frightening, and exhilarating world of Top Suspense, a sizzling collaboration of twelve master storytellers at the peak of their powers in thirteen unforgettable tales. This pulse-pounding anthology - packed full of cold-blooded killers, erotic tension, shady private eyes, craven drug dealers, vicious betrayals, crafty thieves, and shocking twists - is only a taste of the thrills you will find in the breathtakingly original ebooks by these authors at So sit back, bite down on a piece of strong leather, and prepare to get hit by some gale-force suspense and writing so sharp it will draw blood.

My Review:
Overall this was a really great collection. Usually with compilations like this I get bored or feel the need to break it up with a novel after a few stories. With this one I read it all the way through and could have read more. The stories were in a good order, I think, and were all well written and interesting. They are thrillers but were very much in the spirit of noir in my opinion.

Stories in the order they appear:

-Unreasonable Doubt by Max Allan Collins
This is a story about a detective who is hired to follow an important woman in his life. It's by one of my favorite authors and has a very surprise ending.

-Death’s Brother by Bill Crider
What would you do for a woman you loved? What about just a really hot chick? This is a great story in a classic noir fashion...with a twist.

-Poisoned by Stephen Gallagher
A very creepy childhood story...

-Remaindered by Lee Goldberg
By far my favorite story. There is dialog in this one that I will probably always remember and even though it was a thriller, it was also laugh out loud funny.
This is about a man who was once on the bestseller list and as his career tanks he ends up on the remaindered table and doing book signings in K-Mart. However, he does still have a fan...

-Fire in the Sky by Joel Goldman
A great story about a small town, with a twist, of course.

-The Baby Store by Ed Gorman
This is such a great tale about genetically engineered babies being the norm. The ending is disturbing in the way it really holds up a mirror to humanity and what we are all capable of.

-The Jade Elephant by Libby Fischer Hellmann
A story about two burglars and a pawn shop...need I say more?

-The Big O by Vicki Hendricks
Wow, this is a story about one horny gal who is trailer park trash looking out for her baby, and definitely herself. The writing is sharp and the main character is well developed, even though the author only has the length of the short story to do so.

-The Chirashi Covenant by Naomi Hirahara
A not so typical Japanese woman wanting something more from life.

-El Valiente en el Infierno by Paul Levine
This story was fast paced and kept me on edge. In the end I actually found it to be touching and nicely done. It's about border crossers and the vigilante's they encounter.

-A Handful of Dust by Harry Shannon
An amazing story about a contract killer.

-The Canary by Dave Zeltserman
Sometimes a painting is worth more than its street value...

-The Chase by Top Suspense Group
This one was done in a round robin manner and as expected, it came out quite differently than the others. I liked that it had a high level of sexual tension and yet was the first story to include a crime boss.
4/5 stars

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The List

Goodreads Summary:
THE LIST is a bit of a departure for Konrath. It's a technothriller about a group of ten people who all have tattoos of numbers on the bottoms their feet, and don't know why.

One of them, a Chicago Homicide cop named Tom Mankowski, has had one of these strange tattoos since birth. When he investigates a violent murder and discovers the victim also has a tattooed number, it sets the ball rolling for an adventure of historic proportions.

My Review:
This was my second read, but it was just as good, if not better, the second time. It's really amazing that he can write horror that could also be categorized as a funny techno-thriller police procedural as well as a medical thriller to some extent. Oh and there is an appropriate level of love interest. This book is every genre and does them all amazingly well. I'd definitely recommended this book to anyone who enjoys horror.

This book is about two cops trying to track down a ring of killers while being aided by a female martial arts expert who has contacts in Hollywood (and is also one of the ones being hunted down). She seems more like a federal agent than someone in Hollywood and her actions reflect that. It's not fluffy, it's a strong thriller along with all of the other genres I mentioned above. It's also quite a page-turner and highly unpredictable.
4/5 stars

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Praying for Sleep

Goodreads Summary:
Praying for revenge...Psycho killer Michael Hrubek has escaped to find the woman who put him away. He'll show her what killing is all about...Praying for salvation...Lis knows he's out there. He's haunted every sleepless night, watching and waiting to take her to hell with him...And now Lis is Praying for Sleep.

My Review:
This book caused different feelings in me at different times. As I felt myself cringing I felt, at various times, disgust, awe, shock, horror, concern, confusion, resentment, and finally understanding. Sometimes books take us on a journey we aren't quite prepared for, but like anything new, we're usually grateful for the experience in the end.

Simply put and without spoilers or confusing you with names (he went Stephen King regarding the number of characters in this book). It's simply about an escaped paranoid schizophrenic who is seemingly going after the woman who testified against him in court. He is high functioning and much smarter than a "typical" schizophrenic. So, the chase he gives is on par with someone highly trained.
4/5 stars

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Rumblin: A Short Story

Goodreads Summary:
Phil Knite is so ready for a vacation, but he and his family get more of mother nature than they can handle. The rumblin', as described by the camp ranger, is something to be feared. When a wicked wind blows in from the north, Phil Knite and his family are forced to shack up with the rest of the campers in a cabin, and discover that the ranger is more than crazy and the rumblin' is deadly!

This book is based upon actual events and is written in the Twighlight Zone/Stephen King Style.

My Review:
So I must say I was initially thrown off a bit by the writing (I think a tad more editing is in order), and the slang felt wrong...that being said the story itself was really good. And I am a hard grader! Halfway through I realized I was in the room with all of those crazy people. The story really does take on a life of its own and pulls the reader in. All in all it was a good story and I'd rather have a solid story, which this was.

This is a short story about a family that goes camping and finds themselves in the midst of a natural as well as supernatural disaster, which causes all of the nearby campers, both good and bad, to crowd into one room. The action that unfolds is both disturbing and unexpectected!
3/5 stars

Monday, March 14, 2011

Living Dead Girl

Goodreads Summary:
After his estranged wife disappears, a husband returns to the remote lake house where their young daughter died, and he soon loses his grip on reality.

Paul Luden has been haunted by a memory he can't recall. Whatever happened to his marriage, to his two-year-old daughter, is too traumatic to remember, so his unconscious has chosen to block out key details. But when he receives a phone call from the small lake town where they'd lived, telling him that no one had seen or heard from his wife in ten days, he knows what he has to do.

He and his nineteen-year-old girlfriend drive from L.A. to Washington State where he's forced to confront his past. And as he pieces together his buried memories, Paul unravels mentally, falls into self-destructive trances and ultimately discovers the truth about his wife.

My Review:
There are few more disturbing books that I've read. I felt insane myself by the end and my mind is still swimming. I feel like the addiction this man has to his missing wife is the same addiction the reader feels for this book, it's more than a page-turner, it quite literally sucks the reader in.

This book is about a man's journey to find his missing ex-wife with his 19-year old girlfriend in tow. His mind is fragmented and the reader sees the story through this disturbed mind. All of the lives around him are deeply affected, including his own missing ex-wife as well as his 19-year old girlfriend. However, as usual, nothing is quite what it seems. There are no likable characters and I think that's a good reflection of the isolation this man feels because no one in his life, including himself, is faultless. His love for his wife (or ex) is so great it drives him and aids this insanity.
4/5 stars

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Help

Goodreads Summary:
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

My Review:
This book is about what it was like living in Mississippi in the 1960's from the perspective of two black maid's and a young white female college graduate who pushed social boundaries by both wanting a writing career and not wanting to follow the segregation laws.

The book is written alternating the points of view of these three women, and it shows how they are much more the same than different.

This is the author's first book, but her writing is more like that of a seasoned writer. This is undoubtably one of the top ten books I've ever read. It begs so many questions about segregation, what it means to be human, and whether we are really different at all. It made me think of something I really have never given much thought to: because of segregation it wasn't just blacks who couldn't associate with whites but vice versa. A white person couldn't have a black friend in the 1960's because of segregation. This book incites so many profound questions, greatest of all being what does it mean to be human? It also makes one wonder if equality really exists and if not, will it ever?
5/5 stars

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ethan Frome

Goodreads Summary:
Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious, and hypochondriac wife, Zeenie. But when Zeenie's vivacious cousin enters their household as a "hired girl", Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent.

In one of American fiction's finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio toward their tragic destinies. Different in both tone and theme from Wharton's other works, Ethan Frome has become perhaps her most enduring and most widely read novel.(l

My Review:
This is an excellent novella. It being so short, by it's nature, I think it's a book everyone should read. It implicitly asks the questions: What does it mean to be married? To be in love? and What obligations do we really have to our spouse? Sometimes a person has to live with the choices that he/she has made and oftentimes we must put the feelings and needs of another in front of our own.

It is about Ethan Frome, a man who came to great hardship while chasing after a fantasy of another life, a happy life. It is about his relationship with his wife and the complications that her cousin brings to their household.
4/5 stars

Dexter is Delicious

Goodreads Summary:
Dexter Morgan's happy homicidal life is undergoing some major changes. He's always live by a single golden rule - he kills only people who deserve it. But the Miami blood-spatter analyst has recently become a daddy - to an eight-pound curiosity named Lily Anne - and strangely, Dex's dark urges seem to have left him. Is he ready to become an overprotective father? To pick up soft teddy bears instead of his trusty knife, duct tape, and fishing wire? What's a serial killer to do?

Then Dexter is summoned to investigate the disappearance of an eighteen-year-old girl who seems to have been abducted by a bizarre group...who just may be vampires...and - possibly - cannibals. Nothing like the familiar hum of his day job to get Dexter's creative dark juices flowing again. Assisting his bull-in-a-china-shop detective sister, Deborah, Dex wades into an investigation that gets more disturbing by the moment. And to compound the complication of Dexter's ever-more-complicated life, a person from his past suddenly reappears...moving dangerously close to his home turf and threatening to destroy the one thing tat has maintained Dexter's pretend human cover and kept him out of the electric chair: his new family.

From an uncharacteristically racy encounter in the Florida Everglades to the most bizarre fringe nightclub in the anything-goes Miami scene, Dexter Is Delicious is an ingenious journey through the dark recesses of Dexter's lovably cold soul. Jeff Lindsay is once again at the top of his game, with this new novel that will thrill fans of his bestselling series.

My Review:
Wow, this is probably the one I liked the least in the series. Dexter's character changed a lot and he was mostly about being a good person, which is a drastic change from his feelingless self. I would still read it as it's still a good story, just not nearly as good as the others.

It is gruesome at points, but unfortunately, not at his hand. It's about vampires and cannibals and a mad dash to save a young girl's life before it's too late and she's taken by both.
3/5 stars