Greg Keen’s Soho Angel

Title #3 in a series I did not know, the Soho Series, and it is a ton o’ fun.  Of course, if being hung by your heels in an abandoned abattoir and threatened with a bolt gun by a guy wearing a Trump mask is not your idea of fun, well, then….catch you later, OK?  Kenny Gabriel is a down-at-heels PI, the sole employee of OC Trace and Find where he does the leg work for the owner, a morbidly obese agoraphobic named Odeerie, and he drinks himself to sleep every night on Monarch of the Glen.  You see, all kinds of “nice” touches.  There are weird aging rock stars, an ex-roadie, now tattoo artist, named Sweat Dog, and the body?  Oh, it’s been right where they left it for over twenty years.  Unfortunately we will have to wait for #4 to find out if Kenny survives his surgery…….hey, no fair!  In the meantime, track down numbers 1 and 2, Soho Dead and Soho Ghosts.  Promising leads.

Shop your local indie bookstore for all the titles in the Soho series.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Amazon Publishing UK / Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Binnie Kirshenbaum’s Rabbits for Food

This is quite a Bunny you’ve pulled out of your writer’s hat, Ms. Kirshenbaum.  Who is this Bunny?  I don’t want to pry, but maybe bits of you, maybe bits of someone you know, maybe bits of all of us?  She’s too unique, I think, to be everyone who’s ever been deeply, seriously depressed.  Bunny is a writer, married to sweet, conciliatory Albie; she’s a middle child, brutally honest, a “more or less” friend of some pretentiously intelligent folks, and she does not like party hats.  Oh, and she’s also deeply, seriously depressed.  Deep enough to affect Bunny’s hygiene.  Serious enough to cause self-harm in a weird and public way.

Rabbits for Food?  Bunny and this book of Bunny will devour you, and it will spit you out undigested and wondering, maybe for the rest of your life.  From an opening line you cannot walk away from to the enigma of the end.  An end that you know is a sure and certain truth, but, even so and in spite of, you can only hope is true…….and you must wonder what if it is not.  Maybe for the rest of your life.  Ms. Kirshenbaum, I salute you.

Available now from booksellers everywhere so hop on out for your copy or click to shop your local indie bookstore.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Soho Press via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and Edelweiss for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness

That subtitle basically says what needs to be said.  Jennifer Berry Hawes gives us an even-handed look at the horror in Charleston on June 17, 2015.  An atrocity that, for a moment in time and shared grief, appeared to unite us in a complete reversal of Dylann Roof’s avowed hope for race war.  Nine innocent lives are lost at historic Mother Emmanuel, and there is a tenth, lost but not innocent:  the shooter, lost to hatred.  Ms. Hawes movingly recounts the anguish of the families involved, and willingly recognizes that, as human beings, we are all flawed.  In the aftermath, there are those who inspire us with forgiveness, others who struggle, family quarrels, and church schisms because, well . . . humans, you know.  The book offers no blinding insights or solutions to our ongoing struggles, but rather, it serves to remind us of the healing power of forgiveness and, for those who believe, the grace of God.  Oh, wait, did I say no insights or solutions?  Could be I was wrong.  A thoughtful read.

Out today, June 4, from St. Martin’s Press.  Shop your local indie bookstore for a copy.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Tope Folarin’s A Particular Kind of Black Man

No one fits precisely into a cubby marked this, that or the other.  No one.  So why do we, much like hermit crabs, try to squeeze into one shell after another to see which one fits, to find the one in which we feel at home?  We all do it, but for young Tunde Akinola there are so many shells, so many identities to try and nothing feels like home.  In this coming of age novel, Tunde grows to be a “particular kind of black man”, a first generation African-American, born in the U.S. to Nigerian parents.  But what is that?

Tunde begins school in Utah where he looks around and sees…..no one like himself.  Utah is mostly white and Mormon.  What, then, is he?  His mother develops mental illness and returns to Nigeria, leaving Tunde and his brother with their father, hard-working, deeply religious and now a single parent.  Enter a Nigerian-born step-mother and her two Nigerian-born sons, a family blended in name only.  His Nigerian grandmother, a voice on the phone, is a constant and steadying influence, but he never meets her face to face.

Small town Utah, next small town Texas, then Dallas, college in Atlanta and Maine, on to D.C.  Son, brother, Nigerian, black, white, juju, pop, Western, Southern, small towns, rural, hip-hop, urban, New England, American, male.  How does a wide-eyed child born into this kaleidoscope find his way, navigate, come to grips…….when, more often than not, exploration is squelched, and welcome is never guaranteed?  And how does one such child grow with assurance into the kind of man he is to become?  What will the essence of this man be?  Tope Folarin’s book is not a “how to”.  It is simply the story of Tunde growing up, but it is revelatory, and, I believe, will leave you changed.  A recommended read.

In bookstores everywhere on August 6 from Simon & Schuster.  Shop your local indie bookstore here.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe

What wild wretched excess this book is.  A creative furor.  You know how we’re often told that it’s not wise to do something or other just because we can, that some things are better left undone?  Well, Trent Dalton can and does.  He not only pulls out all the stops, he pulls it off, and it is wonderful – over the top, packed to the brim, a real gusher of a read.  We meet Eli Bell at the age of twelve, an old soul with a lucky freckle on his right forefinger.  He is younger brother to Augustus, who is mute by choice and otherworldly.  When too young to remember, both boys were nearly drowned by their biological father and now live with their Mum and boyfriend Lyle, small time drug dealers and users.  Their babysitter is Slim Halliday, a notorious prison escapee, who may or may not have murdered a taxi driver with a hammer, and something of a philosopher.  You tend to get that way when, like Slim, you’ve been through some stuff.  But it’s not all bad ‘cause the boys love and are loved by Mum, Lyle and Slim.

Don’t you know, though, original sin will get you every time.  Lyle gets ambitious and runs afoul of some seriously ugly evil in the drug trade:  “Back Off” Bich Dang, Vietnamese entrepreneur, pillar of the community, supplier to Lyle and a wicked, wicked woman; the wonderfully named Tytus Broz, manufacturer of prosthetic limbs, also pillar of the community, filthy rich drug kingpin and truly heartless bastard; and Iwan Kroll, unlikely llama farmer, cadaverous, shivery, sadistically cruel, and Tytus Broz’s hitman.  Sub-plots, mysterious depths and reflections, secondary twists, back stories, side roads and diversions in abundance, lyrical, silly and gory; but, good gravy, it all works, so let’s not analyze it.  Set in Australia by an Australian.  Some of the best writers on the planet.  Nature or nurture?

Boy Swallows Universe is in bookstores now.  Shop your local indie bookstore for it.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by HarperCollins Publishers / Harper via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

It Was the Best of Lines, It Was the Worst of Lines – April 8, 2019

Dog Late GIF - Dog Late Cat GIFs

“The dog is late, and I’m wearing pajamas made from the same material as Handi Wipes, which is reason enough for me to wish I were dead.”

          Binnie Kirshenbaum, Rabbits for Food.

Since the last Best of Lines was about a train called the Yellow Dog, you’re probably figuring that, if there’s “dog” in it, I’m there.  And you are so right.  But, no.  This line is such an unlikely combination of imponderables with all of them, every one, leading to, guess what………..pondering.  Ta damn da.

The dog is late.  A dog with an appointment?  Dogs don’t know time.  All dogs know is “supper time, supper time, sup-sup-supper time”.  I thought immediately of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series and that delightful canine Oberon, who’s hilarious and hopelessly muddled on the subject of time.  Dogs just don’t get it.  So what’s this with the non-punctual pup?

Moving on, Handi Wipes pajamas suggests disposable, maybe institutional, but I don’t know.  Doesn’t sound like something one would choose, though.  Then the speaker wishes to be dead.  So not good.  Tough times, unfortunate circumstances, perhaps even the edge of the abyss?  I WANT TO KNOW!  No details, no weather report, no trees or flowers, no location, no characters introduced or described.  This line is not about filling us in; it does not front load; rather, it intrigues.  We have no clue whether this individual is male or female, and we know absolutely nothing about that tardy dog, but, by golly, WE WANT TO KNOW!  Don’t we?

Of course, all this pondering occurs simultaneously with the reading of the sentence, in the blink of an eye, half a blink, and we simply read on, not even aware that we have pondered.  We read on because we want to know.  This tantalizing book’s not out yet (advance reader copy), but I’m going to read it (and post a review, of course), and you know why.  Because I…………everybody, let me hear you say it!  Louder!  In the meantime, here’s a reader’s tip.  If you don’t know the Iron Druid series and Oberon, literary love of my life, Kevin Hearne’s light-hearted fantasy series is great good fun.

Caite Dolan-Leach’s We Went to the Woods

Ms. Dolan-Leach’s second novel is a good one, well-told and smartly paced.  Its strength, however, is in the characters, a thoroughly unappealing lot, a nest of millennial vipers.  Five self-absorbed twenty-somethings take to an ancient rustic farm/camp in New York State to live a utopian life and show the corrupt and misguided (everybody else, pretty much) a different way to live, how to do it right and save the planet…….in other words.  Why are they the anointed appointed?  Oh, you know.  They are educated, hip, mostly privileged and just all ‘round superior.  They know nothing of agriculture and choose to ignore the failure of previous utopian attempts, but they do have one singular advantage.  The property belongs to the lawyer father of Louisa, the driving force.  Well, hey, now.  That was easy.  And, yet, in Ms. Dolan-Leach’s deft hands, you really want to know what happens to the little snots.  You really, really do.

The story of this ill-fated group is told in the first person by Mack (MacKenzie), the fifth member, and she tells a riveting tale.  The last to join the group, Mack is besotted by them at first and worries whether or not she can truly belong.  With the passage of time, growing hardship and some research, Mack’s perception begins to crumble.  As does the undertaking itself.  You might not like most of these folks, but you will like this book.  You will read, you will care, and you’ll wonder what they’d be like twenty-five years later.

Drops July 2 from Random House.  Shop your local indie bookstore for Caite Dolan-Leach’s intriguing tale.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group – Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.