Friday, July 29, 2016

Review: IQ

IQ IQ by Joe Ide
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Someone is gunning for rapper Black the Knife and he hires Isaiah Quintabe to find the killer. Can IQ stop the killer and the people who hired him before Black the Knife takes the big dirt nap?

Mullholland denies me for everything on Netgalley so when they sent me an invitation to read this one, I almost passed out of spite. I'm glad I didn't.

IQ is the first mystery starring Isaiah Quintabe and I hope there are many more to come. IQ is a high school dropout who takes cases for whatever people can pay. This book tells two tales, the current case involving Black the Knife and another tale of how Isaiah came to be who he is.

I really got into the book's parallel structure. The twin tales of Isaiah, one in the present day and the other in the past, did a lot to get me behind IQ. IQ is like a young black Sherlock Holmes, although not as much of an asshole. He's got a lot of knowledge and inductive reasoning skills in his cranium but is far from behind a super hero. Dodson, his Watson, isn't a sycophant like Holmes' sidekick either. The two have an adversarial relationship at times and it does a lot to set this book apart from similar ones.

The writing is pretty slick, particularly in the dialogue. East Long Beach felt real to me and the dialogue reminded me of Elmore Leonard or George Pelecanos, authentic and readable. There was also a fair bit of comedy.

The villain of the present day case was fairly believable and more than a little scary. The way Isaiah and Dodson eventually handled things, again, didn't make them look like super heroes. By the end, who hired the hitman to kill Black the Knife was almost an afterthought. I sure didn't figure it out.

Isaiah's not the most sympathetic character until the story delves into his troubled past with his brother and Dodson. By the time the two stories dovetailed together, I knew I was hooked on the series for the long haul.

If you're looking to jump aboard a new detective series at the ground floor, IQ is a little different than most of the crime books on the racks. IQ reads like an episode of Sherlock written by George Pelecanos. Four out of five stars.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

You Will Know Me

You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Katie and Eric Knox will do anything for their gymnast prodigy Devon. When the boyfriend of one of her gymnastic instructors die, will Katie be able to keep their idyllic life from disintegrating around them?

Here we are, another Megan Abbott book and another series of cold knives in my heart. At first glance, I thought this might be similar to Dare Me, Megan's book about cheerleaders. You Will Know Me is about the parents of star gymnasts and the crazy shit they do for their kids.

From the first page, I knew I'd wolf this down like it was a brisket sandwich. All the dark hints of the coming train wreck were like a fishhook through my eyelids. I was powerless to look away as the lives of the Knox family and the rest of the gymnastic families were torn asunder.

The Knox family were as realistic a depiction of the alien world of elite gymnasts that I can fathom. Eric was the charming dad, Katie the doting mother, and Drew the little brother that wound up getting pushed into the background a lot of the time. Devon was the star, the thoroughbred the Knox family and most of the families at the gym pinned their hopes on. I hated that damn Gwen Weaver!

You Will Know me raises a lot of questions about families. How well can you really know someone, even if you've been with them for the better part of a decade? How far would you go for your kids?

Ryan's death scrapes open a lot of wounds and unearths a lot of dark secrets. I gasped aloud like a 1950s housewife when one of the twists was revealed but, even then, the Megster had a couple more twists to throw at me. Once again, she was the matador and I was the bull.

The writing was fantastic. It's been fascinating to watch Megan develop as a writer as I've devoured her books over the last few years. I lost track of lines I wanted to read out loud, bent on finishing it before bedtime.

I will share this gem:
the things you want, you never get them. And if you do, they're not what you thought they'd be. But you'd still do anything to keep them. Because you'd wanted them for so long.

There are other suspense writers that get more press but Megan Abbott's girl-noir tales are the best things going today. Five out of five stars.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review: Death of the Mallory Queen

Death of the Mallory Queen Death of the Mallory Queen by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Mavis Mallory, owner and operator of Mallory Mystery Magazine shows up at the home/office of Leo Haig, she has one odd task in mind for the detective and his young assistant, Chip Harrison: find out who murdered her.

I was looking for a way to avoid coworkers while eating my lunch and found this Lawrence Block short on my kindle. It was a very enjoyable way to avoid human contact.

First off, Leo Haig and Chip Harrison are Lawrence Block's homage to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Haig is obsessed with tropical fish instead of gardening and Chip Harrison is obsessed with chasing skirts.

Death of the Mallory Queen is a satirical throwback to the mysteries they don't publish many of these days. Mavis knows she is going to be killed and wants to make sure whomever does the deed gets punished. The story's primary setting is a mystery convention and all of the suspects are modeled after real people in the mystery genre, like Mickey Spillane, Otto Penzler, and others.

The conclusion was as outlandish as those in the mystery novels it parodies. The case was okay but I really enjoyed the interplay between Leo Haig and Chip Harrison. I'll have to pick up more of their adventures at some point. Four out of five stars.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: Lion's Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling

Lion's Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling Lion's Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling by Chris Charlton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lion's Pride is the story of New Japan Pro Wrestling.

As with a lot of guys my age who were wrestling fans during the 1980s and 1990s, Japanese wrestling always held some mystique. I didn't see a single Japanese wrestling match until the dawn of the internet made it much easier to get tapes and such. Lion's Pride lifts the veil and reveals the inner workings of one of Japan's biggest wrestling organizations.

As with all talk of Japanese wrestling, the book starts with Rikidozan and the Japanese Wrestling Association. From there, it follows the career of Antonio Inoki and his formation of New Japan. The many exoduses of talent are covered and New Japans ups and downs are many. Antonio Inoki, like many owner-wrestlers, booked himself over the rest of the talent time and time again. It's a wonder New Japan survived long enough for him to retire.

The book talked a lot of the creation of stars like Tatsumi Fujinami and Riki Choshu in the 1980s, Keiji Muto, Masa Chono, and Shinya Hashimoto in the 1990s, and Tanahashi and others for the new millennium. The book concludes in 2015, with the rise of Bullet Club and the launch of New Japan's streaming service.

Lion's Pride was really informative, highlighting some backstage stuff I wasn't privy to and expanding on a lot of things I'd only read about on Wikipedia. The writing was pretty good for a book of this type. I did think the organization was a little weird, deviating from the main narrative to talk about completely unrelated things. For the most part, however, the book did what it set out to do. Three out of five stars.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review: Night of the Living Trekkies

Night of the Living Trekkies Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a zombie outbreak hits a Star Trek convention, it's up to Jim Pike, hotel manager, to get his sister and her friends out alive...

This showed up in my ebook deals a couple days ago. I'm a Star Trek fan and I liked zombies before the concept was run into the ground so this promised to be some brain-chomping good fun.

And it was. There are plenty of Star Trek references for the Trekkers and lots of zombie goodness for the fans of the reanimated. When you've got Klingons, a woman dressed like Princess Leia in the bikini from Return of the Jedi, and a red shirt named Willy Makit, you can't help but have a good time. While the Star Trek piece supplies the humor of the book, it doesn't go to a ridiculous level and the zombies still feel like a viable threat.

Jim Pike, a veteran of Afghanistan, denies the depths of his Star Trek fandom until it counts, and he steps into his Captain's tunic admirably. The book wound up feeling like Die Hard with zombies more than anything else.

Night of the Living Trekkies is a fun diversionary read. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Review: Labyrinth

Labyrinth Labyrinth by Yoshinori Shimizu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An amnesiac is given an experimental treatment by a specialist, reading various accounts of a violent sex crime, in order to regain his memories. But is he the killer? And is the treatment for something more sinister? Who is the specialist?

I got this from Netgalley

I'm not really sure about this one. I got it from Netgalley because it sounded bizarre and it was. I'm not precisely sure how to describe it.

Labyrinth starts in a hospital with a patient being given an experimental treatment in order to restore his memories. The bulk of the book is told in newspaper articles, interviews with people who knew the victim and the killer, statements to police, and even fictionalized accounts of a gruesome murder/mutilation.

I'm not sure if the identity of the patient is supposed to be a mystery since pretty much everyone will guess who he is in the first ten pages. The identity of the specialist wasn't overly mysterious either.

Maybe something was lost in translation, it was translated from Japanese, but I'm not sure what this book was trying to be. It seemed to be about identity and the senselessness of some crimes but I felt more confused by it than anything else. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Time out of Joint

Time Out of JointTime Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While the rest of the world toils at their jobs, Ragle Gumm stays at home, his sole source of income a daily newspaper contest called "Where will the little green man appear next?" When odd things start happening, Ragle thinks he may be having a nervous breakdown. Is he or is it something much more sinister?

Of course it is something more sinister. This is a Philip K. Dick novel.

A Dickhead at work has been after me for years to read this. After mindbending reads like The Great Forgetting, Dark Matter, and The Mirage, the road I was on was leading to Dick anyway so I gave this a shot.

First off, the things I didn't care for: The prose was really bland and the pace was a little slow for a 250 page book with huge type. As for the rest of it, I liked it quite a bit. I wish the Goodreads summary and the back cover blurb hadn't spoiled the big twist, though.

Time out of Joint reads like an exceptionally paranoid Twilight Zone episode. Most aspects of Ragle Gumm's life are staged in order to keep him pacified and focused on "Where will the little green man appear next?" It's a conspiracy of massive proportions that safeguards America at the cost of Ragle Gum's day to day life.

When I picked up the book, I had no idea it would wind up being about a war between Earth and its colonies on the moon. Ragle Gum gradually pieces together what's really going on and tries to get the hell out of town. A lot of reviewers mention the Truman Show and it is about like that, only much crazier.

While I didn't think it was awesome, I did enjoy Time out of Joint. It's a literary ancestor to books like The Great Forgetting and Pines. Three out of five stars.

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