Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: Ghost Walk

Ghost Walk Ghost Walk by Brian Keene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Ken Ripple decided to build a haunted road, The Ghost Walk, he has no idea what horror will be unleashed. Can Amish sorcerer Levi Stoltzfus stop unspeakable horror from entering the world and devouring it?

I've read a couple Brian Keene books (The Lost Level and King of The Bastards) in the past and the hints at his Labyrinth mythos grabbed my attention. So, when Ghost Walk popped up for 99 cents for one day only, my decision was made.

Ghost Walk is the tale of an evil trying to enter the world and the man trying to stop it. Levi Stoltzfus is a very compelling character, hearkening to Roland Deschain of The Dark Tower series and The Rider from Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter, although he's not a ripoff of either by any means. Levi is a sorcerer who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, as long as it's God's will, and is surprisingly heartless at times. Seriously, Levi has a lot of potential and I hope Keene has him live up to it in future books.

The menace isn't as compelling as the character but is fairly chilling since it plays on its victims' worst fears. The way Levi dealt with it seemed logical given the workings of magic in Keene's universe. There was a little gore but not near as much as Keene is known for. The writing isn't spectacular but is more than adequate for the job. While he's no Elmore Leonard, Keene's dialogue is still pretty slick, balancing the horror with humor.

I don't really have many gripes with this book. I probably should have read Dark Hollow first but I didn't feel in the dark by any means. Reading more Brian Keene and Levi Stoltzfus will be one of my 2017 priorities. Four out of five stars.



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Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: 2016 on Goodreads

2016 on Goodreads 2016 on Goodreads by Various
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

2016 was a big year for me. I read a crazy amount of books, the second highest number since I started keeping track. I joined Marvel Unlimited. Oh, and I visited Goodreads Headquarters.

While I've already written up The 2016 Dantastic Book Awards, I read many more notable books than I could work into the awards. The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, Radiance, Last Days, A Pretty Mouth, and Bait were all quality reads. I discovered authors like James Renner and Hunter Shea, and read new books by old favorites like Joe Lansdale, Megan Abbott, and Tana French.

What will 2017 bring? Who the hell knows? I know I'm planning on reading less, especially less ARCs, and do a lot more writing.



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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Review: Dungeons & Drag Queens

Dungeons & Drag Queens Dungeons & Drag Queens by M.P. Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Sleazella LaRuse, Green Bay's top drag queen, gets whisked away to another realm to marry a demi-god, she finds herself in deep trouble. What Dravor, the man who summoned her, do when he finds out she is in fact a he?

While I'd been aware of this book for years, I couldn't resist snapping it up for ninety-nine cents on Bizarro Monday.

Dungeons & Drag Queens is a fun bizarro romp featuring the most fabulous of drag queens in a D&D type fantasy realm. Sleazella struggles to keep things together while having crazy adventures, leading up to marrying a god.

MP Johnson does a good job of weaving the drag queen lifestyle into the story. It didn't feel forced to me and Sleazella was hilarious. I thought the fantasy elements left a little to be desired, though. Either some elements needed to be fleshed out or the book needed to be about thirty pages shorter. Still, Sleazella handling monsters in her own fabulous manner was a nice change of pace. The ending was pretty spectacular, as was the epilogue.

At the end of the day, I'd say I liked the character of Sleazella way more than the actual story. I don't think the tale lived up to the awesome title slapped on it. It was a fun Bizarro tale but by no means the best Bizarro book I've ever read. Three out of five stars.


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Friday, December 2, 2016

Review: Cycle of the Werewolf

Cycle of the Werewolf Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Under the light of the full moon, a werewolf stalks the people of Tarker's Mills. Can anyone stop... The Cycle of the Werewolf?!?!?!?

I first read this in high school, younger than my dog is now. It took me a few chapters to realize that Silver Bullet was based on it. Anyway, I found it for a buck at a yard sale a couple years ago and decided I could use a reread.

Like Kemper told me while I was reading it, Cycle of the Werewolf is essentially a Stephen King calendar. Each chapter is a month out of the year the werewolf is stalking the town, accompanied by one or more of Bernie Wrightson's fantastic illustrations. Stephen King's writing is as crisp as ever. Also, he wrote this during his prime so it isn't bloated or over-written in the least.

I actually prefer the movie in this case. It has a lot more depth. Marty Coslaw doesn't show up until halfway through the book. The book and movie hit most of the same beats. I think the book might rely on Bernie Wrightson's illustrations a little too much. For the most part, it's just a collection of werewolf attacks with not a lot else going on. That being said, I did like the structure, with every chapter being a month of the werewolf's reign of terror.

While it is strictly a B-list Stephen King book, Cycle of the Werewolf is by far the best Stephen King novel ever turned into a movie starring Cory Haim and Gary Busey. Three out of five stars.

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Review: A Pretty Mouth

A Pretty Mouth A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Pretty Mouth contains the tales of multiple generations of the Calapash family.

My first exposure to Molly Tanzer was Vermilion. When I learned Colleen Danzig from I Am Providence was based on her, I figured I was due to give her another look.

A Pretty Mouth is really fucked up but in the best possible ways. I was hooked from the opening story. Speaking of which, Bertie Wooster loses a bet and Jeeves has to help one of Bertie's friends, Lord Calapash, with his bathtub-bound sister, who is addicted to the secretions of a bizarre octopus. From there, the weirdness train rolls backwards, exploring the various members of the Calapash clan throughout history, all the way back to the beginning of the line in ancient Rome.

Each story is written in a different style, from the Wodehousian language of the first story, to Bronte, on down the line. The stories all have a Lovecraftian undercurrent, with the Calapash's being known for their look, not unlike the Innsmouth look. There's sex, incest, twincest, murder, sorcery, Lovecraftian horror and lots of crazy ass shit.

The homages to various Lovecraft tales were well done and didn't feel like Lovecraft pastiches alone. Molly Tanzer put her personal touch on each tale, writing in a variety of styles, bringing a freshness to the Lovecraftian subgenre.

A Pretty Mouth hit the sweet spot for me. About the only negative thing I can say about it is that I wish it was twice as long. Four out of five stars.



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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review: The Death of the Detective

The Death of the Detective The Death of the Detective by Mark Smith
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

As I get older, I've discovered I have no problem not finishing a book.

I'm not even bothering with a teaser on this. It's supposed to be a detective story but I got 100 pages in before throwing in the towel. Nothing much happens in the first chunk of the book. It's one of the most over-written books I've ever tried to read.

I'm not a picky guy. In fact, I grade a lot of books easier than I should. However, when reading a detective story, I ACTUALLY WANT SHIT TO HAPPEN. I don't read to have every aspect of the environment or a character's life before the story described to me in great detail.

I originally put it back on the pile with the intention of reading it again but I've decided I'm too old for that shit. There are plenty of unread books on my stack that I actually look forward to reading.

Final verdict - DNF. The National Book Award can kiss my ass.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Alice

Alice Alice by Christina Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After her disastrous encounter with the Rabbit, Alice is confined to an insane asylum in the Old City. When a fire breaks out, she escapes the asylum with Hatcher, the axe-murdering inmate next door. However, the Jabberwock is on the loose as well, and to stop him, Alice will have to cross paths with the Rabbit once again...

Confession time: While I whiled away many a day playing Dungeons and Dragons, most of today's doorstop-sized fantasy novels don't hold a lot of interest for me. Alice, however, is another animal entirely.

While it has its roots in Lewis Caroll's familiar tales, Alice has a lot more in common with works like The Magicians and The Child Thief, deconstructions of older genre works. It bites like a horror novel at times and I was happy to let the bloody juices run down my chin.

Alice is not for the squeamish. She escapes the Rabbit's warren after he rapes her and soon finds herself locked up. Many figures from the earliest iterations of Alice's adventures are present and are crime bosses, many of them trafficking in women, in addition to their other vices.

The world building in Alice was exquisite, a Victorian era society where the rich live in the New City while the majority of people live in the dog eat dog world of the Old City, a world controlled by crime lords like The Walrus, Mr. Carpenter, The Caterpillar, Cheshire, and, of course, The Rabbit.

Aided by Hatcher, who may be an incarnation of The Mad Hatter, Alice goes careening through the back allies of the Old City, going up against all sorts of miscreants, discovering her birthright, and facing her darkest fears. That, and there is a shit load of violence. What more could a guy ask for?

Apart from thinking the ending was a little anti-climactic, I don't have anything bad to say about this book. It was creepy, unsettling, brutal, and a damn captivating read. It kicked a serious amount of ass and Christina Henry can come to my tea party any time. 4.5 out of 5 stars.


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