Review: Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R Lansdale

 

Title: Honky Tonk Samurai {Hap and Leonard #11}

Author: Joe R Lansdale

Published: Mulholland Books Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 07 to 09, 2016 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Honky Tonk Samurai is the 11th book by Joe R Lansdale to feature the entertaining adventures of best friends Hap ‘a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel’ and Leonard ‘a black, gay Vietnam vet and Republican with an addiction to Dr. Pepper and vanilla cookies’.

Their language may be crude, their banter often tasteless but it’s impossible not be charmed by these redneck tough guys whose hearts are usually in the right place. Hap and Leonard may have casual regard for the law, but they share a strong sense of justice, they fiercely defend each other, those they love, and those who need their help.

“I don’t think we ask for trouble, me and Leonard. It just finds us. It often starts casually, and then something comes loose and starts to rattle, like an unscrewed bolt on a carnival ride. No big thing at first, just a loose, rattling bolt, then the bolt slips completely free and flies out of place, the carnival ride groans and screeches, and it sags and tumbles into a messy mass of jagged parts and twisted metal and wads of bleeding human flesh. I’m starting this at the point in the carnival ride when the bolt has started to come loose.”

In Honky Tonk Samurai, Brett, Hap’s live in lady, purchases Marvin Hanson’s private detective agency now that he has been rehired as police chief. The new agency’s first client is an elderly woman who blackmails Hap and Leonard into searching for her granddaughter, who has been missing for five years. Their investigation leads them to an upscale dealership selling much more than just cars, and puts a target on their back.

The plot is fairly simple and a bit of a stretch, but its all in good fun. There is plenty of action and violence on offer as Hap and Leonard, with a little help, take on a biker gang, the Dixie Mafia and a psychotic brotherhood of assassins. The humour is cheeky, often coarse, but the rapid fire banter is laugh out loud funny.

Readers familiar with the series will welcome appearances from characters such as Vanilla Ice, Cason and Jim Bob Luke. Lansdale’s descriptions of the characters that populate his novel are as colourful and vivid as ever.

“That’s when the door opened and a lady came in who was older than dirt but cleaner. She had a cane, which explained the cricket, but the elephant walk was a little more confusing, as she wasn’t much bigger than a minute. She had more dyed red hair than she had the head for. That hair seemed to be an entity unto itself, mounded and teased and red as blood. You could have shaved her like a sheep and knitted a sweater with all that hair, maybe have enough left over for at least one sock or, if not that, a change purse. Her face was dry-looking. She had a lot of makeup on it, as if she were trying to fill a ditch, or several. Her clothes were a little too young for her age, which was somewhere near to that of a mastodon that had survived major climate change but was wounded by it. She had on bright red tight jeans and a sleeveless blue shirt that showed hanging flesh like water wings under her arms. Her breasts were too big, or maybe they were too exposed; the tops of them stuck out of her push-up bra. They looked like aging melons with rot spots, which I supposed were moles or early cancer. “

The last few pages came as a shock but I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned that another Hap and Leonard book (Rusty Puppy) is on its way, and I’m looking forward to the premiere of Hap and Leonard on Sundance TV in March 2016.

Available to purchase via

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Review: Mercury Striking by Rebecca Zanetti

 

Title: Mercury Striking {The Scorpius Syndrome #1}

Author: Rebecca Zanetti

Published: Zebra: Kensington Jan 2016

Status: Read from January 28 to 29, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A fast paced, action packed dystopian romance, Mercury Striking is the first in a series from Rebecca Zanetti.

After the world is devastated by a mutated alien virus that usually either kills it’s victims or turns them into psychotic killers, Lynn Harmony, a former director at the CDC, is probably the only person left alive who can find a cure. She desperately needs information from a lab in Los Angeles but to get there she has to safely traverse the dangers of the lawless country while eluding the President’s men and then beg favour from Jax Mercury – nicknamed the King of L.A.

Zanetti has created a rich and intriguing world, the population of America all but decimated by the Scorpius Syndrome. Of the few that survive the virus most become ‘Rippers’, uncontrollable serial killers, but a handful recover most of whom develop varying degrees of sociopathic behaviour.

Small enclaves of survivors fight to endure the destruction of society and its infrastructure across the US including the stronghold ‘Vanguard’ in L.A. led by ex special ops soldier and former gang member, Jax Mercury who protects a group of around 500 men, women and children.

Jax is the only one placed to help Lynn find ‘Myriad’ and complete an important task but with the stain of her glowing blue heart and a presidential bounty on her head she is taking a huge risk when she seeks his help. Jax grants her request for asylum under strict conditions as eager as she to find a cure, but neither is prepared for the relationship that develops between them or the consequences of their relationship.

This is story with plenty of grit, involving plenty of action including deadly firefights and chases, and with some brutal scenes of violence and death, but at its heart Mercury Striking is a romance. . It’s all very ‘alpha male’ meets ‘feisty damsel in distress’ but I enjoyed the development of their relationship and the physical intimacy between Lynn and Jax sizzles (though I really could have done without the spanking scene).

The secondary characters, both allies and enemies, add interest and breadth to the story. I’m guessing that Raze and Vivienne will be the couple to feature in the next book to continue the series.

A quick, exciting, escapist read with an interesting premise and appealing characters, I enjoyed Mercury Striking and I’ll be looking for the next in The Scorpius Syndrome series.

 

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Paranormal Romance

Review: Night Study by Maria V Snyder

 

Title: Night Study {Soulfinders #2; Study#5; The Chronicles of Ixia #9}

Author: Maria V Snyder

Published: Harlequin MIRA Jan 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from January 25 to 26, 2016 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Shadow Study ended on a cliffhanger so I’ve been looking forward to Night Study, the second installment in the Soulfinders trilogy, the fifth book in the ‘Study’ series, and the eighth installment in ‘The Chronicles of Ixia’ series.

I don’t want to spoil the many surprises Night Study has in store for fans with a lot of personal upheaval for Yelena and Valek against the background of escalating tension between Sitia and Ixia.

Perhaps it’s enough to say there is plenty of excitement and action – a terrible conspiracy is discovered, and there are some game changing moments for several of the characters. I raced through the book caught up in the adventure and mystery, entertained by the humour and made breathless by the emotion.

A great read for fans like myself, I’m looking forward to (and slightly dreading) the epic conclusion in Dawn Study.

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also reviewed at Book’d Out

 

Poison Study Magic Study Fire Study

Review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty

 

Title: Rain Dogs {Sean Duffy #5}

Author: Adrian McKinty

Published: Allen & Unwin Jan 2016

Status: Read from January 14 to 17, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Adrian McKinty gives DI Sean Duffy another ‘locked room’ mystery to solve in his fifth Irish police procedural novel, Rain Dogs.

“No note, a missing notebook, a shoe on the wrong foot.”

When the shattered body of an English journalist is found in the locked grounds of Carrickfergus Castle, it is assumed the young woman committed suicide but something is not quite right and Duffy can’t leave it alone.

With the patient assistance of Lawson and McCrabban the Irish detective unravels a shocking conspiracy with roots in the highest echelons of power spanning three countries. It’s an interesting puzzle solved by Duffy’s intuition, dogged investigative skills, and disregard for authority, which I enjoyed trying to figure out. Lily Bigelowe’s death also pits Duffy against an old friend leading to a life and death confrontation.

Set against the Belfast’s “Troubles’ and referencing real events, this story, as are McKinty’s others, is well grounded in time and place. Riot police are a necessity at every public event and as a matter of course Duffy checks under his car every day for a bomb. The wintry weather underscores the bleak social and political atmosphere, and Duffy’s dismal personal life.

Madness, rain, Ireland, it all fits.”

I’m enjoying this gritty series, entertained by Duffy’s dark wit and the strong, interesting plots. I’m looking forward to the next.

 

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Review: Hold On To Me by Victoria Purman

 

Title: Hold On to Me {Boys of Summer #4}

Author: Victoria Purman

Published: Harlequin MIRA Jan 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from January 20 to 22, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Hold On To Me is another sweet and sexy contemporary romance in Victoria Purman’s ‘Boys of Summer’ series.

Set on the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia, this novel features Luca Morelli, the younger brother of Anna from Our Kind of Love, and local boutique owner Stella Ryan. The pair meet when ‘Style by Stella’ is destroyed by fire and Anna insists her brother, a contractor, helps her rebuild.

The chemistry between the characters is obvious from their first meeting, despite the age difference (Luca is 6 years younger than her). At 29 and still establishing his new business, Luca hasn’t given much thought to settling down but he is intrigued by the feisty, if prickly, Stella. While he is one of the least complicated heroes of this series, Stella is perhaps the most complex heroine. Fiercely independent, a tumultuous childhood and a devastating betrayal has ensured she trusts no one. She is certain she isn’t interested in any type of relationship, but Luca slowly wears down her defenses, and Stella is eventually forced to confront her demons.

I love that Julia and Ry (Nobody But Him), Lizzie and Dan (Someone Like You) and Anna and Joe (Our Kind of Love) play a part in this story and I was glad for the opportunity to revisit the beautiful coast of Adelaide.

I enjoyed losing myself in the romance, drama, humor and heat of Hold On To Me and am happy to recommend it.

Hold On To Me is available to purchase from

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Also by Victoria Purman on Book’d Out

 

 

Review: Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon

 

Title: Try Not To Breathe

Author: Holly Seddon

Published: Corvus Jan 2016

Status:  Read from January 19 to 20, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Try Not to Breathe is Holly Seddon’s debut novel, an interesting story of psychological suspense which has been picked up by publishers worldwide.

The story unfolds through the perspectives of three main characters; Alex Dale -a barely functioning alcoholic working as a freelance journalist, Amy -who has lain comatose for fifteen years after a brutal attack by an unidentified assailant, and Jacob -Amy’s teenage sweetheart who has never quite been able to let her go. Their lives become entwined when Alex, writing a story about a medical breakthrough in communicating with patients in a persistent vegetative state, recognises Amy from the reports of the crime at the time, and becomes obsessed with her story.

Slowly Seddon allows Alex to unravel the mystery by digging through media and crime reports and speaking with Amy’s family and friends. Despite his misgivings, Jacob, Amy’s boyfriend at the time of the attack, agrees to cooperate with Alex. He has secretly been visiting Amy regularly for the last decade and now with his wife about to give birth to their first child is desperate for closure.

There are a number of red herrings in the plot though honestly it’s not difficult to guess the identity of Amy’s attacker fairly early on. Still the author maintains the general tension well as Alex pieces the circumstances together.

Seddon’s characterisation of Alex is the star of this novel. Deeply flawed, Alex is an alcoholic whose drinking has destroyed her marriage, career and friendships. She devotes a few hours every morning to her freelance work and then begins drinking at noon til she passes out, waking up with soiled sheets and little memory of her nights, to repeat the cycle again. As Alex delves into Amy’s life she is forced to exert more control over her drinking if she has any hope of seeing justice done.

Amy’s dreamy, confused narrative meanwhile lends a real sense of poignancy to the story and ensures the reader doesn’t forget the reality of the tragedy. And though Amy’s possible level of awareness is in reality unknowable, her plight is heart wrenching.

Try Not to Breathe (though I’m at loss to explain the relevance of the title) is an impressive debut novel with an intriguing premise and well drawn characters. I’m looking forward to seeing how this author develops.

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Review: Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid

 

Title: Splinter the Silence {Tony Hill & Carol Jordan #9}

Author: Val McDermid

Published: Atlantic Press December 2015

Status: Read from January 13 to 14, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“Men like him, they loved women. They understood the kid of life that suited women best. They knew what women really wanted. Proper women didn’t want to be out there in the world, having to shout the odds all the time. They wanted to build homes, take care of families, make their mark and exercise their power inside the home. Being women, not fake men.”

Val McDermid’s ninth novel, Splinter the Silence, reunites the formidable team of Carol Jordan and Tony Hill in the hunt for a stalker determined to teach feminists a lesson.

In the aftermath of the tumultuous events in The Retribution and Cross and Burn Carol Jordan has buried herself in rural Bradfield, spending her retirement renovating her late brother’s property and drinking far too much. When she finds herself arrested for DUI there is only one person she can ask for help, Tony Hill, who is determined to dry her out. In order to distract Carol from her demons, Tony raises his concerns about the recent suicides of two women who had been the victims of a barrage of online vitriolic and threats. What begins as an abstract exercise quickly develops into a legitimate case and when Jordan is offered the opportunity to come out of retirement to set up a ‘flying’ major case unit, she can’t resist. Calling on former colleagues including DS Paula McIntyre, computer whiz Stacey Chen and of course, profiler Tony Hill to join ReMIT, Carol and her new team dig deeper, identifying a cunning serial killer.

Splinter the Silence is evenly split between developing character and the investigative plot.

It’s been a tough year or so for Carol in particular, who has faced several professional and personal challenges. Despite choosing to retire, it’s obvious that left to her own devices she is spiralling downward, and she needs help to get it together.

Commonwealth Cover

Also very much in focus is the complicated relationship between Carol and Tony,

“She didn’t think there actually was a word for the complicated matrix of feelings that bound her to Tony and him to her. With anyone else, so much intimacy would inevitably have led them to bed. But in spite of the chemistry between them, in spite of the sparks and the intensity, it was as if there was an electrical fence between them. And that was on the good days.”

Readers familiar with the series will also appreciate catching up with Paula, Stacey, Ambrose and the introduction of new team members.

The investigation highlights a topical subject – that of the extreme cyber-harassment too often visited on women via social media. The ReMIT team tracks down some of the worst offenders who have hurled vile abuse and threats of violence at the victims in an effort to identify in what manner they may have contributed to their deaths as they try to formulate a case.

As their inquiry coalesces, McDermid gives the killer his own narrative to illuminate his motives and methods. While I think this reduces the tension somewhat, it does lend the mystery an interesting cat-and-mouse quality as the police team closes in.

Splinter in Silence is a well crafted tale from award winning McDermid. A strong addition to a popular series that fans should enjoy as I did, it’s not one for a new reader to start with though. I’m looking forward to further developments in the series.

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Also by Val McDermid


 

Review: A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard

 

Title: A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back

Author: Kevin Hazzard

Published: Scribner January 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on January 07, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A Thousand Naked Strangers is an interesting and fast paced account of Kevin Hazzard’s decade long tenure as a paramedic in Atlanta, Georgia.

At age twenty six, after just eight months of a part time course Emergency Medical Training, and a brief period spent at a rather disreputable private ambulance service ferrying around chronically ill and nursing home patients, Kevin finds himself riding shot gun in a 911 ambulance with a near burnt out partner, responding to calls in some of the worst areas of Atlanta.

EMS is the greatest show I’ve ever seen, except its not a show, it’s all real. No, it’s more than that -it’s reality distilled and boiled down to its essence. It’s life and (hopefully) death, and unlike the general public, I’m invited and allowed to wander freely amid the debris. So send me anything.”

Hazzard details his first few months on the job as he grows in confidence as an EMT, enjoying the novelty, despite a frustrating rotation of partners. However, it’s not until he is teamed with Chris, a career medic, that he begins to view his job as a calling, and decides to upgrade his qualification to become a paramedic, eventually joining the sought after Grady Trauma service.

Hazzard punctuates his narrative with sometimes bloody and often bizarre vignettes of injury and tragedy, severed toes, shattered skulls, choking dogs, angry drunks, and shirtless crack heads. Squeamish readers may not appreciate Hazzard’s descriptions or his dark sense of humour that medicos are famed for, but I admired his candor.

“I just put my hand in brain”
“What’d it feel like?”
“Squishy.”

Eventually Hazzard’s service begins to take an emotional toll, it is a stressful, often thankless job and eventually the adrenaline fades.

A Thousand Naked Strangers is a gritty, thrilling and compelling glimpse into the world of a paramedic.

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Review: The Prison Book Club by Ann Walmsley

 

Title: The Prison Book Club

Author: Ann Walmsley

Published: Oneworld December 2015

Status: Read from December 31, 2015 to January 02, 2016 — I own a copy {Courtesy Allen and Unwin}

My Thoughts:

In The Prison Book Club, journalist Ann Walmsley shares the story of the eighteen months she spent as a volunteer with Book Clubs for Inmates, a fledgling project that began at the Collins Bay Institution, a medium-security penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario that has now grown into a successful nationwide program.

Walmsley was understandably reluctant when her friend, Carol Finlay, asked her to support the Collins Bay book club, several years before she had been badly traumatised when she was violently mugged outside her London home. She has little recollection of the first meeting at Collins Bay but decided to return, taking strength from her late father’s (a former judge) advice, “If you expect the best of people, they will rise to the occasion.”

For eighteen months Walmsley joined inmates in Collins Bay, and later the Beaver Creek Institution, to discuss selected fiction and nonfiction titles including The Cellist of Sarajevo , The Book of Negroes , The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Walmsley recorded the book-club discussions and conducted regular one on one interviews with a select number of prisoners who also kept diaries for her, not only about their thoughts on reading but also aspects of their daily lives. It is this material she draws on to tell the story.

I admit to being surprised that the literary titles chosen engaged the men so much. I enjoyed the discussion and insights of the prisoners, even though I was unfamiliar with several of the books. The program is an excellent initiative that seems to offer tangible benefits to the prisoners that choose to participate. What particularly struck me was Walmsley’s recognition of the way in which reading seems to encourage the development of empathy, something I have long believed to be true.

I was less interested in Walmsley’s musings about nature and felt perhaps that she could have better explored the contrast between the book club made up of her affluent friends, and the prison book club, beyond the menu and setting.

Overall I found The Prison Book Club to be an interesting read, I really admire the program and I’m heartened to learn that Australian prison’s are encouraged to establish book clubs for inmates. I’ve also added a few books to my own reading list as well including The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story and Alias Grace

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Review: Fall by Candice Fox

 

Title: Fall {Archer & Bennett #3}

Author: Candice Fox

Published: Random House AU December 2015

Status: Read from December 21 to 21, 2015   – I own a copy

If Detective Frank Bennett tries hard enough, he can sometimes forget that Eden Archer, his partner in the Homicide Department, is also a moonlighting serial killer . . .
Thankfully their latest case is proving a good distraction. Someone is angry at Sydney’s beautiful people – and the results are anything but pretty. On the rain-soaked running tracks of Sydney’s parks, a predator is lurking, and it’s not long before night-time jogs become a race to stay alive.
While Frank and Eden chase shadows, a different kind of danger grows closer to home. Frank’s new girlfriend Imogen Stone is fascinated by cold cases, and her latest project – the disappearance of the two Tanner children more than twenty years ago – is leading her straight to Eden’s door.
And, as Frank knows all too well, asking too many questions about Eden Archer can get you buried as deep as her past …”

My Thoughts:

Review to come

 

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