Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Report: 5 I Loved and 5 I want to Read

Today's post will be a quick one sharing some books that I've enjoyed recently and that are highly recommended.   

Big Trouble in Little Boots - From the Misadventures of Butch Quick by Brian Knight

Butch Quick. Repo man, bounty hunter, nightclub bouncer. Butch is a man who doesn't have to go looking for trouble... It comes after him often enough to keep him busy. But this night, big trouble comes to him in the form of Go-Go Gidget, the Dancing Midget. When an interstate stalker tracks Gidget down to the nightclub where Butch works, it is up to Butch to make sure she doesn't end up a statistic. 

This is an insanely entertaining long short story/novelette. Dark, violent, sexy, fun, and at times very funny.  When I was finished reading it I wanted there to be more but it was probably the perfect length because any longer and it's possible the magic would have dimmed.  This isn't a knock against Knight's writing, which was spot on, but instead an observation that certain types of stories benefit from a shorter length , and this is one of them. 

I bought this for .99 at Amazon but it is FREE over at Smashwords.

It looks like Knight has future installments planned for release. Count me as a fan.

Growing Up Dead in Texas by Stephen Graham Jones

An investigation of the places we're from, and the places we still live when we close our eyes, Growing Up Dead in Texas explores small-town life, family, and what it really means to go home.

It was a fire that could be seen for miles, a fire that split the community, a fire that turned families on each other, a fire that it's still hard to get a straight answer about. A quarter of a century ago, someone held a match to Greenwood, Texas's cotton.

Stephen Graham Jones was twelve that year. What he remembers best, what's stuck with him all this time, is that nobody ever came forward to claim that destruction.

And nobody was ever caught.

Greenwood just leaned forward into next year’s work, and the year after that, pretending that the fire had never happened. But it had. This fire, it didn't start twenty-five years ago. It had been smoldering for years by then. And everybody knew it. Getting them to say anything about it's another thing, though.

Now Stephen's going back. His first time back since he graduated high school, and maybe his last. For answers, for closure, for the people who can’t go back. For the ones who never got to leave.

Part mystery, part memoir, Growing Up Dead in Texas is packed with more secrets than your average graveyard. Stephen Graham Jones’ breakout novel is a story about Texas. It’s a story about farming. A story about finally standing up from the dead and walking away.

On a practical level Growing Up Dead in Texas is a beautiful piece of autobiographical fiction with Stephen Graham Jones exploring an event from his childhood.  But it is so much more then that.

As the keeper of stories in my family I feel like this book was written for me, or at least by a kindred spirit. For some reason nobody else wants the family stories and they will likely die with me unless my kids remember any of them. And who wouldn't want to hear about when my grandfather swallowed a nickle as a kid during the depression and caused a stir; or the way that glove box on the old Mercury had a busted lock and never opened until that one time we hit a hard bump; or that time I visited the picket line and saw the scabs catch a beating on a road that doesn't exist any more; or that my grandfather's sister dated a local gangster during prohibition.


But I want all of those stories. Always did. Always want more too.

Growing Up Dead in Texas is for those who remember all those little details and the worlds that they open up, like understanding that a good hat, with a brim curled just so, only becomes a good hat after a lot of use and can't be bought at a trucker cap store (I had one once too. It was the only hat that fit comfortably on my head AND in my back pocket).

And that, to me, is what Growing Up Dead in Texas is "about".

Jonah Man by Christopher Narozny

Narrated by a one-handed juggler who moonlights as a drug trafficker, a talented young boy who longs to escape the shadow of his abusive father, and a police inspector whose overzealous efforts to solve a murder result in a series of calamitous missteps, Jonah Man explores the dark side of life behind the curtain, where artists resort to the most extreme measures—including drug dealing, self-mutilation, even murder—to prolong their time in the limelight. 

Jonah Man is an unconventional murder mystery/crime novel that takes place in the vaudeville days.  It's divided into four sections, each from the perspective of a different character and circling around the murder.
The characters and the world in Jonah Man are richly brought to life but in a concise way that lends itself well to caring for these characters. Narozny's economical style feels bigger then it is, in other words he does in a short space what would take other authors more space.  There is also a subtle bizarre, other worldly quality to the world of Jonah Man that is richly rendered.

Immobility by Brian Evenson

When you open your eyes things already seem to be happening without you. You don't know who you are and you don't remember where you've been. You know the world has changed, that a catastrophe has destroyed what used to exist before, but you can't remember exactly what did exist before. And you're paralyzed from the waist down apparently, but you don't remember that either.

A man claiming to be your friend tells you your services are required. Something crucial has been stolen, but what he tells you about it doesn't quite add up. You've got to get it back or something bad is going to happen. And you've got to get it back fast, so they can freeze you again before your own time runs out.

Before you know it, you're being carried through a ruined landscape on the backs of two men in hazard suits who don't seem anything like you at all, heading toward something you don't understand that may well end up being the death of you.
Welcome to the life of Josef Horkai….

Welcome to the life of Josef Horkai….

Evenson is a longtime stop-what-your-doing author for me. I've long since maintained that Evenson is a crime writer who won't admit to it.  He just doesn't self-identify as one. His work has found acceptance in other circles and often he is identified in some capacity as a horror writer in print.  I maintain that thematically, his work often runs along side of crime fiction and noir.  In-arguably there is a noir influence to his writing.

Immobility is a post-apocalyptic memory mind fuck that takes place over a desolate noir-ish landscape (mindscape?).  It also has that rare shocking ending that is so satisfying when done right. 

Zombie Bake-Off Stephen Graham Jones

It's time for the annual Recipe Days bake-off in Lubbock, Texas. Soccer moms and grandmothers gather to show off their family recipes, learn new secrets for the perfect shortcake, and perhaps earn a chance to be on the famous cooking show, How Would You Cook It, Then?

When the bake-off is crashed by a federation of pro wrestlers -- including American Badass, Jersey Devil Jill, Tiny Giant, The Village Person, Jonah the Whale, the Hellbillies, and the fan favorite Xombie -- all hell is set to break loose. Your heart beats faster as you anticipate who will come out on top in the ultimate showdown of the century: soccer moms or pro wrestlers. Anything can happen.

An infected batch of donuts has transformed most of the wrestlers into mindless brain-eaters and the doors of the convention center have been chained shut, leaving the survivors locked inside, forced to fend for themselves against the hungry dead.

One of my favorite books this year so far is a zombie novel.  Jones is one of my drop-everything-to-read-his-latest authors. And the beauty is that you never know what you are going to get and in 2012 we get a heart breaking work of autobiographical fiction (see above) and a freaking zombie novel that is the greatest movie that hasn't been made yet.

The great thing is that Zombie Bake-Off promises a great concept (pro wrestlers, soccer moms, and zombies all trapped in an arena) and then proceeds to deliver like nobody's business.

I simply cannot recommend this book enough.


Here are five books that sound great and that I'm looking forward to reading

Faith by John Love

Moby Dick meets Duel in John Love's debut novel of Space Opera and Military Science Fiction! Faith is the name humanity has given to the unknown, seemingly invincible alien ship that has begun to harass the newly emergent Commonwealth. 300 years earlier, the same ship destroyed the Sakhran Empire, allowing the Commonwealth to expand its sphere of influence. But now Faith has returned! The ship is as devastating as before, and its attacks leave some Commonwealth solar systems in chaos. Eventually it reaches Sakhra, now an important Commonwealth possession, and it seems like history is about to repeat itself. But this time, something is waiting: an Outsider, one of the Commonwealth's ultimate warships. Slender silver ships, full of functionality and crewed by people of unusual abilities, often sociopaths or psychopaths, Outsiders were conceived in back alleys, built and launched in secret, and commissioned without ceremony. One system away from earth, the Outsider ship Charles Manson makes a stand. Commander Foord waits with his crew of miscreants and sociopath, hoping to accomplish what no other human has been able to do — to destroy Faith!

Zombie by JR Angelella

Fourteen-year-old Jeremy Barker attends an all-boys Catholic high school where roving gangs of bullies make his days a living hell. His mother is an absentee pillhead, his older brother a self-diagnosed sex-addict, and his father disappears night after night without explanation. Jeremy navigates it all with a code cobbled together from the zombie movies he's obsessed with: Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Planet Terror, Zombieland, and Dawn of the Dead among others.

The code is put to the test when he discovers in his father's closet a bizarre homemade video of a man strapped to a bed, being prepped for some sort of surgical procedure. As Jeremy attempts to trace the origin of the video, this remarkable debut moves from its sharp, precocious beginnnings to a climax of almost unthinkable violence, testing him, and the reader, to the core.

One-Eyed Jacks by Brad Smith

At 35, Tommy Cochrane is a washed-up boxer who missed out on a shot at the heavy-weight title and has to hang up his gloves for good when he's diagnosed with an aneurysm. His best friend and former sparring partner, T-Bone Pike, isn't in great shape either as the two of them head to Toronto on a quest for the $5,000 Tommy desperately needs to buy back his grandfather's farm.

In the big city, Tommy and T-Bone encounter an intriguing cast of characters operating on the questionalble side of the tracks. Fat Ollie runs the weekly poker game on Quenn Street; Buzz Murdoch gives Tommy a job as a doorman at the Bamboo club; Herm Bell is a sharp kid on a run of luck; and Tony Broad is a small-time hood with big-time ambitions and a seedy sidekick named Billy Callahan. There's also Lee Charles, a sharp, cynical, smart-mouthed torch singer, who happens to be Tommy's ex-girlfriend.

The five grand ultimately becomes available to a number of these people in a number of ways - all at great risk to Tommy and T-Bone. 

I Hate Hockey by FanCois Barcelo 

"I hate hockey!" is the first and last sentence in this novel that offers a great take on our love-hate relationship with hockey. Narrator Antoine Vachon blames the game for killing his marriage with his beautiful ex-wife (well, that and the power outage that brought her home unexpectedly to find him in bed with her intern). But hockey is a pretext for unlikely adventure in this sardonic roman noir that at times flirts with the outrageous.Antoine Vachon is a total loser living in a pitiful bachelor apartment after he has lost his wife and his job as a car salesman. When his son’s hockey coach is found dead, he is browbeaten into coaching the team for one game. He makes it through the game (to great comic effect), but things take a turn for the worse when they stop at a motel after the game. Who killed the former coach and why? Was Antoine’s son involved? Or his ex-wife? The late coach was liked by all and was a pillar in the community. He was close to his player, perhaps too close… Why is Antoine unable to communicate with his son?

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Miriam Black knows when you will die.

Still in her early twenties, she's foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.

Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can't save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she'll have to try.

Currently Reading: Submissions, Ghosting by Kirby Gann, 


pattinase (abbott) said...

What a wildly diverse and imaginative group of books. Been meaning to try Brian E. for some time.

Unknown said...

If you're interested in an ARC of the first Butch Quick novel, contact me at thinkingbar(at)gmail(dot)com.

I'm pleased you enjoyed Big Trouble in Little Boots.

Brian Knight