Good grief, where did this month go? I actually started this a couple of weeks ago! I guess now is as good a time as any to finally do some catching up!
–What I’ve Been Reading–
The Two-Bear Mambo by Joe Lansdale — 4/4.5 out of 5 stars
Lansdales’ Hap and Leonard series is quickly becoming one of my favorite series, and the third installment is probably the best one I’ve read so far. The unlikely duo head to east Texas to try and track down a woman named Florida, with whom Hap once had a brief affair. The results are usual H and L chaos, sprinkled with dark humor and side anecdotes that will make you cringe. Labeled as “country noir,” this series is not a good fit for everyone, and is far from being “politically correct,” but if you are a fan of well-written action stories that venture into the seedier parts of life and are filled with some pretty memorable characters, be sure to check this series out. I do recommend starting with the first book, Savage Season, as a way to get to know the characters, but I’ve been reading the series out of order and haven’t had any problems with ongoing character development, timelines, etc.
The Lizard King by Bryan Christy — 4 out of 5 stars
Subtitled “The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smuggler,” this takes a look at the Van Nostrand family, their internationally-known Florida-based business, Strictly Reptiles, and the multi-billion dollar industry of smuggling exotic reptiles and other animals. Author Bryan Christy did an excellent job of researching and interviewing, and the writing is fast-paced and engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking. I have always loved reptiles, and this book will now have me doing even more research and asking more questions on any future purchase I may do. Highly recommend.
The Ruin Season by Kristopher Triana — 4 out of 5 stars
One of my favorite splatterpunk novelists takes a look at the darker side of mental illness. Jake is nearly forty, divorced, dating a nineteen-year-old drug addict, and still carrying a torch for his ex-wife. As his mental illness begins to take a deeper hold, Jake finds himself heading down a very dangerous and disturbing road. There were a few stereotypical elements thrown in that got a bit worn out as the story went on (as someone who has listened to death metal since the late 1980’s/ early 1990’s, I can tell you from first-hand experience that not everyone who listens to it turns to shooting heroin and pulling trains for low-budget porn movies. Just sayin’.), but overall this was a truly bleak tale with no fairy tale ending…and one I could NOT put down. Not the usual gore-fest that is Triana’s trademark, but still with enough gruesome and unsettling scenarios for me to issue a “not for everyone” warning.
The Spite House by Johnny Compton — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars
Eric and his daughters are running from a mysterious past, and eventually wind up as caretakers at a mysterious haunted mansion in the middle of Texas. The mansion’s owner is looking for answers behind the supposed haunting. Will Eric and his daughters make it out unscathed? I really did enjoy this one, especially since I’m a sucker for a good haunted house story. And I honestly did not see the reveal coming, it genuinely took me by surprise. My only problem was the pacing and flow (and this is probably a “just me” issue). I don’t mind stories with multiple points of view, but I just couldn’t get a good momentum going with this narrative as it just felt choppy (?) to me. That aside, this is good haunted house story to add to your Halloween reading list, and an author I will be following.
Splinters of Silence by Ann J. Loring — 1.5 out of 5 stars
One of my April TBR selections. What started out as “not bad” quickly derailed and ultimately earned a spot in my top five worst books I’ve ever read. A shining example of “just because you can self-publish doesn’t mean you should.” I took one for the team by finishing this one. You’re welcome.
Novellas, Short Stories, and Anthologies
Austin Noir — 4 out of 5 stars
Another great addition to the Akashic Noir series! A strong assortment of stories set in and around Austin, Texas, taking the reader on a journey to the darker side of the city. I was familiar with a couple of the authors and discovered some great new-to-me authors (one of the reasons I enjoy this anthology series so much is reading authors who would normally not be on my radar). As with all short story collections, I found some stronger than others, but overall I would give a high recommendation.
Suburban Monsters by Christopher Hawkins — 3.5/4 out of 5 stars
A creepy collection of stories dealing with dark desires, hidden secrets, and the depths of human depravity. These tales run the gamut from bullying to body horror, spousal abuse to weird children’s television shows. There were some tales that appealed to me more than others (as with any collection), but I truly liked the writing style and the variety. I was unfamiliar with Hawkins work before this and now I can’t wait to read more by him.
Stay safe, and Happy Reading!