Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Specimen 313

Specimen 313Specimen 313 by Jeff Strand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A flesh-eating plant named Max gets a new neighbor, Specimen 313, aka Jenny. What are these strange feelings Max starts experiencing?

Jeff Strand is one of my favorite self-published authors so I was sure Specimen 313 would be an enjoyable experience. For once, I was right.

Specimen 313 is a love story of sorts, set in a lab of experimental plants. That's pretty much all I should divulge since the story is only 17 pages. Strand hits his usual high notes in the humor and gore departments, delivering a bloody and somewhat touching tale.

This freebie is well worth a read. Four out of five stars.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Steel Valentine

Steel ValentineSteel Valentine by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you're having an affair with a madman's wife, make sure you don't get caught...

This was a short, brutal tale by Joe R. Lansdale. Getting chained to a maddened Doberman doesn't sound like much fun to me. If you have any fear of getting attacked by dogs, this is not the story for you. However, it's pretty powerful and you won't soon forget it.

Four out of five stars.

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Friday, May 8, 2015


HothouseHothouse by Brian W. Aldiss
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Millions of years into the future, the Earth is tidally locked with the sun and the sunny side is dominated by a banyan tree of mind-boggling size. Mile-wide plant spiders crawl from the Earth to the moon on vast webs. As for man, he is now a foot and a half high, green, and running scared all the time...

I got this from Netgalley.

I was pretty conflicted about this book. On one hand, I love the setting. Come on! A far-future earth dominated by colossal plants with giant spiders crawling from the earth to the moon and back! Telepathic mushrooms! Flying plants! Giant insects! What's not to like?

Well, there isn't much of a plot to speak of. The story starts with one band of humans, moves on to the kids they leave behind when they Go Up, and then follows two of them. I think some of this is due to the book being a patchwork of several of Aldiss' stories set on the Hothouse earth.

Still, it's not without its charms. There's a wackiness to it that I enjoyed. It reminded me of Philip Jose Farmer's Dark is the Sun quite a bit. Also, the setting reminded me a bit of Harry Harrison's Deathworld 1.

I guess I should wrap this up somehow. I love the setting but I don't think the story ever came close to doing it justice. Two out of five stars.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Crime of Our Lives

The Crime of Our LivesThe Crime of Our Lives by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Crime of Our Lives is a collection of Lawrence Block's non-fiction writing, taking from columns, tributes, introductions, and other sources.

Ever wonder what a crime writer thinks of other crime writers? Wonder no more! In the Crime of Our Lives, Block covers a wide variety of writers, starting with himself and running through a great portion of the alphabet, from Anthony Boucher and Frederic Brown, all the way to the great Donald E. Westlake and Charles Willeford.

Along the way, Block touches on such diverse topics as going on a bender with Ross Thomas, working at Scott Meredith's literary agency, writing erotica to cut his teeth and pay the bills, and whether or not it's a good idea to finish another author's work.

Some of the selections are taken from introductions Block wrote to other author's books, and I'm happy to say he doesn't ruin any plot points in them, unlike the intro to Lonesome Dove I read a couple weeks ago that spoiled the last hundred pages of the book for me.

I'd say my favorite parts of the book were the parts focusing on Block himself and also the ones about Donald Westlake, which reminds me that I'm due for a reread of the Parker books.

Lawrence Block's non-fiction is just as enjoyable and accessible as his fiction. Four out of five stars. Go buy it.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Last Town

The Last Town (The Wayward Pines, #3)The Last Town by Blake Crouch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Ethan Burke reveals the truth about Wayward Pines, the ensuing chaos is nothing compared to the hell unleashed when David Pilcher throws open the gates...

I got this from Netgalley.

The Wayward Pines trilogy draws to a close with The Last Town. How does it stack up?

Well, while the books all feature the same characters and share the same setting, they aren't really the same type of books. Pines is a paranoid tale of a man trying to unravel the truth. Wayward is a tale of a man struggling with that truth. And The Last Town is more survival horror than anything else.

The pace is pretty frantic with aberrations swarming the town. Throw in the monkey wrench that is Hassler and it's off to the races. Lots of people die and Wayward Pines is left with an uncertain future.

As with the previous book, much of my dislike of this book has to do with Pines setting the bar way too high. It's a pretty suspenseful tale but doesn't stack up to it's progenitor very well, mostly because, again, Pines set the bar too high.

The Last Town, while not my favorite of the series, wrapped up the tale of Wayward Pines in a very satisfactory way. Three out of five stars.

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Friday, March 27, 2015


Wayward (Wayward Pines #2)Wayward by Blake Crouch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Ethan Burke, sheriff of Wayward Pines, runs across a body, he's tasked with investigating her murder. But what does the deceased have to do with Burke's ex-partner and former lover? And what will Theresa think about her husband and his old flame spending time together?

I got this from Netgalley.

After the jaw-dropping reveal at the end of Pines, I was pretty sure Wayward would suffer from the sophomore slump. It did not.

Instead of bucking the system, as in the first volume, Wayward sees Ethan trying to keep order in the manufactured reality of Wayward Pines. His investigation leads him to an underground movement of people bent on getting to the bottom of things. It also brings him closer to his wife, Theresa, and son, Ben.

This book had a paranoid tone like the first but the pace wasn't nearly as frantic. I really like how Blake Crouch doesn't maintain the status quo and isn't afraid to shake things up. I also liked that Ethan and Kate didn't get their genitals tangled. Pam and Pilcher both moved a bit higher on the douche bag scale.

I have to say that I didn't quite like this one as much as the first. Trusting Ethan made Pilcher look like an idiot. Mostly, though, I think the first book set the bar a little too high.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Luckily, I have the final volume on deck. Time to poach this pear.

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Monday, March 23, 2015


Pines (Wayward Pines #1)Pines by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke wakes up in the mountain town of Wayward Pines, his memory full of holes aside from that of a horrific car wreck that landed him in the hospital. But where are his belongings? Why can't he contact anyone outside of Wayward Pines over the phone? And why can't he seem to leave?

I got this from Netgalley.

I've been curious about this for quite a while. Since it showed up on Netgalley last week, complete with promises of being a television show soon, I jumped on it.

Pines is quite a wild ride, combining the pace of The Fugitive with the weirdness of Twin Peaks and The Prisoner. Ethan Burke wakes up in the idyllic paradise of Wayward Pines and things quickly go pear-shaped. Just what is Wayward Pines and why does everyone seem to want Ethan Burke dead? Read and find out.

Pines is a gripping page turner. Once the cat is out of the bag, Ethan Burke makes Dr. Richard Kimble look like a couch potato. By the end, he's tired, mangled, and running from pretty much everyone in The Pines.

The Big Reveal at the end was very well done. I had my doubts on the way there but Blake Crouch stuck the landing. I'm really curious how the sequels will play out.

Pines is a rip-roaring thriller, full of twists and turns. Four out of five stars.

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