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review 2017-06-15 20:50
Hardball
Hardball - Sara Paretsky

This was a frustrating read to me. And honestly this and the next few books in the series started a slow slide of quality IMHO with this series. "Hardball" is way too unbelievable to be believed. And I really hated the introduction of VI's cousin Petra (called Petey) that everyone including Mr. Contreras is infatuated with. I had a hard time that VI's dogs would not have been impounded at this point with her dragging them along when she's investigating and or when people come to her apartment to be shouted at by her and her annoying downstairs neighbor. There were so many scenes like this in this book that took me entirely out of the book.

 

We have VI going asking questions that somehow according to her partially estranged Uncle Peter has caused her cousin Petra to be kidnapped. The book then jumps back in time to what exactly was VI up to that would have caused Petra to be kidnapped and what does it have to do with a murder that occurred during the Civil Rights Era.

 

I think the whole story was terrible. Not that I don't believe that something like this could have happened back then (hello look at news headlines now) but because I think VI tried to force fit too many things in this one dealing with her family, her dead parents, her investigation that turned into something else, that turned into something else. I mean at one point we have nuns in this one and there's a fire and someone is dead and VI who at this point should be in the hospital is still running around. It's just unbelievable at this point that she's not suffering from some long term medical issues due to her always being beat up, shot, or something is blowing up near her in every book.

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text 2015-12-20 11:48
My favorite books of 2015
Peckerwood - Jedidiah Ayres
Brother, Frankenstein - Michael Bunker
The End of the World as We Knew It - Nick Cole
Zero Saints - Gabino Iglesias
The Bastard Hand - Heath Lowrance
Country Hardball - Steve Weddle
Medium Talent - Forbes West
False Magic Kingdom - Jordan Krall
Bad Alchemy - Jordan Krall
Your Cities, Your Tombs (Book 4) - Jordan Krall

There is an odd fascination with End-Of-The-Year lists as if it is rather easy to divide a year in review in the good, the bad, and the ugly. Admittedly, I have never fully embraced the concept myself, but I am more than happy to jump on the bandwagon now. Those are fun, right? 2015 was a good year, reading-wise, and there were more awesome moments than less stellar ones. Still, tough choice to include books as my perception of them changes occasionally. There are a few books I keep coming back to, thinking about them months after having read them, so I guess those are the ones I want to include in my own "best of" list. Your mileage will wary, as those are highly subjective as we all know, but you´re still wrong. :-) In no particular order but since I have to sort them somehow... It goes without saying those books were not necessarily published in 2015, but rather I have read them this year.

Peckerwood - Jedidiah Ayres

Peckerwood is the book that started it all, that is my new found love for crime noir stories. I can´t even remember how I found this one, but I remember I picked it up because I loved the cover so much. Anyway, it made me laugh a lot as the hillbilly characters are nothing short of cray-cray but there is something touching about their nonsense that made me smile a lot too. Told from three different main POVs it is incredibly tight and extremely smart. Interwoven stories of losers and drunkards, who nevertheless are very comfortable in their skins, where blackmail and booze and crime are part of their lives.

My review of Peckerwood

Brother, Frankenstein - Michael Bunker


Brother, Frankenstein falls a bit on the philosophical side of the fence, even it is still fiction, as the main character is an 11-year-old autistic boy who is transformed by a borderline sociopath/genius doctor into an artifical intelligence and deadly weapon. A rather uncomfortable social commentary on the question of makes us human.

My review of Brother, Frankenstein 


The End Of The World As We Knew It - Nick Cole


Nick Cole is the only guy who made me cry this year. Here I said it, you´re welcome. While on the surface it is a zombie apocalypse/end of the world tale it is as much a romance about two lovers hoping to find each other again when most of the population has ceased to exist. Audio transcripts and diary entries fill in the gaps where history has erased their stories. My personal Redemption Song.

My review of The End Of The World As We Knew It


Zero Saints - Gabino Iglesias


Zero Saints was the biggest surprise for me. A novel about an illegal alien in the USA who has to flee his homecountry and is pushed into the criminal underworld of Austin. A large chunk is written in Spanglish but those feels as natural as the supernatural elements, the superstition and loneliness, the crime and violence Iglesias describes. It isn´t about someone taking revenge, even it is, but the transgressive powers of violence all around us and how we deal with it.

My review of Zero Saints 

The Bastard Hand - Heath Lowrance


Apparently a cult novel, who ever made it into one. It wasn´t me, pinkie swear. Psycho preacher plus slightly naive drifter, who has problems to adjust to reality after he gave psychological care the slip, in a small town full of skeletons. The Reverend is abusive and manipulative, taking over a vacant spot as a pastor in Cuba Landing, while Charlie is his sorta right hand. Lowrance dissects the small town bubbles which are about to burst and mocks the abyss under the surface of their lives until old testamentical judgement is spoken, hellfire and all. I am not quite sure what I adore more in the book, the storytelling skills of Lowrance, his fine craftmanship on a sentence-by-sentence basis or the darkly humorous but perfect dialogue.

My review of The Bastard Hand 

Country Hardball - Steve Weddle


A novel-in-stories that follows different characters around in another small town where a failing economy has taken its toil a long time ago on everyone. Weddle uses sparse, almost reluctant, language and comes from unexpected angles to talk matter of factly what is happening. There are simple, even every day events like a busted check, a woman fighting cancer, even some petty crimes but those events are less important than how they deal with it. That is what shapes those characters in Country Hardball. It often reminded me of the visual language of old westerns, and I imagined the book in black/white. No reason, really, just the visuals are reminiscent like that. The atmosphere, the vibe and feel of the place and time are breath taking.

My review of Country Hardball 

Medium Talent - Forbes West

As some may know I was heavily invested in the Apocalypse Weird metaverse (RIP, sort of) and while there were three books I especially enjoyed - The Serenity Strain by Chris Pourteau and Texocalypse Now co-written by Michael Bunker and Nick Cole being the other two - Medium Talent has left the biggest impression. The aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, a halfcrazed main character, time travel, Hemingway, this book has it all. I still hate the book for how it made me feel though. Mainly I´ve included Medium Talent exactly for that reason, and maybe, but only maybe because Forbes West is the most talented of the lot. He is insane, alright, but fucker knows what he is doing.

My review of Medium Talent  

As the story trilogy by Jordan Krall is a different beast as opposed to all those standalone novels I have added it on the bottom. No judgement call about it but more for organizational reasons even personally I see it as one, single unit and entry.

False Magic Kingdom Cycle - Jordan Krall

aka False Magic Kingdom; Bad Alchemy; Your Cities, Your Tombs


No list of mine would be complete without the False Magic Kingdom Cycle. A three part book "series" where traditional or established means of story telling are abandoned in favor of a looser form of interconnected thoughts and surrealistic events. A 9/11 novel, deeply personal in a larger context of the good guys vs the bad guys, who are not always so very different. It is hard to explain what makes this stories so exciting. It is a challening work, emotional too, but how Krall defines metaphors or sounds, while creating an untypical tale of hyperawarness and an odd estrangement to and by his characters - and to the text itself - is nothing short of impressive.

My review of False Magic Kingdom

My review of Bad Alchemy

My review of Your Cities, Your Tombs

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review 2015-10-27 19:55
Country Hardball By Steve Weddle
Country Hardball - Steve Weddle

Country Hardball is quite a challenging work. It´s ambitious, maybe overly ambitious at times, when Weddle circles around those many characters´ lives (and Lord knows there are many) but somehow he does all of them justice. It takes patience, and plenty of that, and the occasional back and forth to remember who the hell this or that guy is, but there is a logic to the madness as Weddle connects all them to a bigger picture of a small Arkansas town where everything and everyone is intertwined. It can be confusing to keep track of what all their individual stories are, and how someone is connected to someone else.

The language is sparse, almost reluctant, quiet, intimate, but always eloquent in its simplicity and accuracy. Indeed I have the Cormac McCarthy feeling once in a while, but maybe more ´Child Of God´ than ´The Road´, as a very crude sort of comparison. Laid back, waiting for things to explode, while the stories within the novel unfold. While technically speaking those are short stories it counts most definitely as a novel, an unusual one, but a novel nevertheless. Stories that sometimes simply fade away, sometimes end with a punch, or an unexpected twist of events as questions are being answered no one wanted to ask.

The most common main character is Roy Alison, who made a terrible mistake in his youth, and now´s trying "to be good", and stay on the right side of the law. The stress is here on trying, as circumstances have it that he doesn´t always manage. After years in jail coming back to his old hometown, a working class community, and moving in with this grandmother he simply wants to fit in. A town that was never very much to begin with, starting a new life and get out of the circle of getting hold hostage by shit that happens. Which is not easy as everyone knows his story, and sure people let him know. His decision making is crude, following a path that might not be the best choice, but maybe the only one that makes sense at the given time.

Other characters take over a story or two, like Deputy McWilliams who understands the people and their struggles better than everyone, just to be left behind in others and then to drag on a cigarette at another place, at another time.

As the title already implies baseball does play a big role in the book, but as a way of showing how life itself takes its toll on everyone. Which also holds together the community as a glue. That it isn´t really about baseball works great for me, as I have no idea about baseball, don´t care one bit about it and wouldn´t miss it when it´s gone.

Most remarkable in those stories is what is not there. The characters, and the town itself, defines themselves with what is absent, has been or lost. Husbands, wives, children or jobs and money where everyone and everything is corrupted, ethically or financially. The people somehow trying to get by. Somehow it will turn out alright, but maybe it doesn´t . It´s a bleak book, but what it is not is without hopeful moments and glimpses of love.

What Weddle does not is bashing me over the head with exaggerated tales of crimes and poverty, but finds subtle ways to incorporate it to show how much everything is falling apart. And that´s where he is the most touching, the most interesting. When he quietly shows me around the town and I can make a picture for myself.

Country Hardball pretty much screams for a re-read. It made me think and feel unease at times. I am not sure why. The stories are not overly violent, there are no bogeymen around the corner, but because of that the actions are so real. Neither are the characters saints or sinners, good or bad, they simply are in a grey area in between.

An unexpected bill to pay, a job lost, a son getting killed in an accident, a woman hit by cancer just to get robbed by some guy eager for a quick buck. Those kinds of stories, plus the already "noir" setting just hit closer to home than if it would have been some kind of ... I don´t know, just pure crime I guess. That way it feels more real, more something I can relate to, and understand, even I´m an ocean away.

Weddle just pushes those forgotten characters in the middle of his stories, gives them a voice, a place to call home, and that´s where his greatest strength is. Sure, you kinda know they will face a hard life, no matter what is going to happen, but maybe things will turn out alright. And maybe it really will.

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review 2014-10-05 00:00
Hardball
Hardball - Steven Barwin A well-written, high-interest contemporary fiction for middle and high school boys, particularly those with a low reading level.
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text 2014-08-26 04:02
Hardball (The Philadelphia Patriots Book 2) By V.K. Sykes 99 cents
Hardball - V.K. Sykes

After years of hard work and keeping her nose firmly to the grindstone, Dr. Holly Bell has finally achieved her dream: a position as a pediatric surgeon at a prestigious teaching hospital. Children’s lives rest in her skilled hands. That means total dedication to her work and her patients without letting anything or anyone get in..

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