Thursday, September 30, 2010

'Grim Reaper' by Steve Alten

I started reading Steve Alten because of his exceptional storytelling and his edge-of-your-bed thrillers. This book eclipses pretty much everything he’s done thus far. Using a word like “epic” is so cliché but I really can’t think of another synonym to describe this book. Hell, even calling it a mere book seems insulting. When you read it you’ll understand. There are authors out there who are known for their impeccable research; Dan Brown, Eric Jerome Dickey, James Rollins, and Conn Iggulden. Welcome Steve Alten into that fraternity. But enough butt kissing and brown nosing… on to the book…

‘Grim Reaper’ is epic. (god, I hate when people say that). I get nervous reviewing books like this because it’s like asking a third grader to explain the law of gravitation as it relates to Mars. (Here goes…) I’m a sucker for end-of-the-word stories and writers who know how to tell a story. ‘Grim Reaper’ combines them both. This is a very *complicated* novel. Not complicated-hard but complicated-scope/detail. For starters Dante’s ‘Inferno’ is used as base for the story and we all know what a mind screw THAT book was. Good, yes but not something that I would read before bedtime. Scythe is a plague. But to call it just that would do injustice to the word plague. Scythe is a world clearing biological weapon of such malice, it would make Noah shiver. Of course it’s not 100% Earth-natural. Of course it has been manufactured by man. Of course you have governments that financed this and (yep) want to use this! Of course you have some lone nutcase who thinks is their duty to jumpstart Armageddon. Take all of that stick into the Steve Alten Mix-o-matic 2010 and you get this.

What really would happen if humanity was struck with an unstoppable plague? What if this plague was contained on an island? What if you could eradicate said island. Would you do it? What is an OK amount of people to kill (murder) in order to save six billion? Does God factor into this? Would he “stand by” and let man create his own Armageddon or step in to keep with scripture and wait for the appointed time to unleash his? OR… are they one in the same? The answers to those questions are not in this book, they’re inside you. They’re also inside the characters in this book. We get to observe the pain and unimaginable suffering they must witness (and in some cases, cause).

This will not be one of the best books you will read this year. This will be one of the best books you will read, period. Cliché? Perhaps. Laying it on thick? Not a chance. The longer I sit here and type the worse justice I feel I’m doing to this book because it’s magnificent on pretty much every scale and trying to convey that is daunting at best. For Steve Alten fans I don’t need to mention how flawless his writing and pace is. For those who don’t know, you do now. The development of the characters is a gem and you find that your emotions change with them. Your breathing matches theirs, your skin prickles with theirs, you dread the same fears, and you wonder if men can truly be this evil.

Steve also shows us a very unique side to the ‘Grim Reaper’. I’ve never seen… it… portrayed in such a way. The presence of the ‘Grim Reaper is the blood that gives life to this horrific end-of-times tale. Yeah I know…the Grim Reaper bringing life, Jason you’ve gone mad. Not mad, just in awe.

The only complaint that I have (and it’s personal): enough with the 9-11 conspiracy theories. It’s not that I mind them but they really seemed out of place in this book. The story would have flowed just as fine without them. It’s like going to Hooters and complaining about the type of socks the girls wore. In a book this narrative, this GRAND it came across as petty and needless. I read countless novels by authors that I disagree with politically but I read them because they are damn good authors. Steve is in the upper echelon of that, but this time I feel it took away from the story. And that is unfortunate. In spite of that I will put this book in my Top 20 best books read ever and also in that very, VERY rare category of “books that I’ll read again”.

'Welfare Wifeys' by K'wan

Fried catfish tastes better when cooked by some fat Black woman wearing a Kinte head scarf in the Deep South. Fettuccini tastes better when made in some hole-in-the-wall mom and pop restaurant in Italy. “Street-Lit” better when written by someone from the streets. K’wan is that person. If you follow him on Twitter and/or FaceBook you know that this brotha’ lives, breathes, parties (sometimes too hard), and sleeps street. It’s authentic and it’s true.

‘Welfare Wifeys’ gave me the same feeling I had when I read ‘Hoodlum’ back in the day. K’wan at his best. Animal. Man, if there was a name to perfectly describe the actions of an individual, Animal would be it. Violence seems to follow him or he follows it, I couldn’t tell which. By page six… yes, page SIX you are already caught up. I know one thing… you’ll never look at pizza the same way again. And the scene after… damn K’wan. So what you have is a bunch of thugs that have a brain for business and natural musical talent that have become rappers and CEO’s of music corporations. Unfortunately, haters hang around like crabs on a hooker, and just because YOU’RE legal that doesn’t mean that everyone in your past is going to be happy for you.

The players in this street drama only add fuel to Animal’s fire. Friend, enemy, girlfriend, afternoon jump-off, or cop. It doesn’t matter. If you’re on the wrong side of Animal you might as well call Satan and book a room in Hell. I could be speaking out of turn here but something tells me that Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines are both smiling.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

'Smooth Operator' by Risque

There are people who write erotica and then there are people who WRITE erotica. Risqué is the latter. After a pretty long wait since ‘Red Light Special’ we are taken back to the world that only Risqué can write. It’s not just the erotica that makes her work great, it’s everything else. How she fits so much into 250 pages is the magic she creates. How good is this book? I finished it in two days. I know, I know, I know, big deal right? Well for me it is Mr. & Mrs. Condescending. SO THERE!

Lyfe seems to have it all. An exceptionally good job, an exceptionally freaky wife, an exceptionally large bank account, and an exceptionally large endowment (and I’m not talking about the Arts). Problem is his woman is more of a man than Hulk Hogan. Not in the physical sense but Payton is ‘HBIC’ and if you question it she’ll damn near shoot you. Lyfe is reformed thug and you can imagine that dichotomy between those two. They fight hard, sex harder, and we get to witness it all.

Arri is a voluptuous walking definition of sex who is a secretary by day and a web-cam hottie by night. Her boss? Lyfe. I’m sure you can put two and two together. Risqué is known for her drama and her twists so put on your seatbelt and turn off your airbag. “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned”. The twist is finding out who that woman is. Pay attention grasshopper because the ending is wicked. Risque’ continues her special blend of everything in this, her latest novel ‘Smooth Operator’.

Monday, September 20, 2010

'187 When Courts Fail' by Wade J. Halverson

And again. Halverson’s books are like beer and buffalo wings; the more you eat the more you want. This installment of ‘187’ had the same extremely fast pace of his other ones but there was something more… sinister… about this one. Something more… different. I think what was different was the scale on which he wrote this story. A child sex offender is released and, like most of these filthy animals, he offends again. Unfortunately his victim this time is the son of a billionaire with a tortured soul and an unlimited bank account. The only other thing needed to dish out the type of punishment like John Boyer is a pair of horns. Know that with this adventure you will REALLY have to suspend disbelief.


John Boyle envisions a dozy of a plan to deal with the rampant child molesting going untended in the United States. Enter Kane, Si’Ling, Valentiono, and Hank. While Kane does his part to help John assuage some of his pain, this book doesn’t really center on him. He’s a supporting cast member this time. If you’re anything like me (you MUST be extraordinarily good looking) you WILL be able to wrap your mind around the scale and scope of this operation but DAMN! I’ve heard of being a vigilante, but John takes it to space with this one. This one definitely has a different feel to it simply because of everything that goes on.

This book belongs in the series, but it’s almost a universe unto itself because there is almost no way you could continue on with the rest of the books after this in a “normal” fashion. I enjoyed it, no doubt. It was just a different kind of enjoyment.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

'Daddy Long Stroke' by Cairo

I read this book and got the same feeling as when I read ‘The Kat Trap’. When Cairo is telling the story, it’s FIRE. When he’s not, it’s dead. The gulf between the two is so massive that I have to wonder what the reason is. Alexander is the biggest misogynist this side of Henry the 8th, and the biggest sex fiend this side of… well… me. He treats women like cattle and that’s putting in nice! The “bad” part is that these women don’t care, don’t mind, and have no shame. They beg, plead, pay, and lie just to get a feel for his hurricane tongue and (very) large chocolate stick. No one said he couldn’t work it, but he is beyond arrogant when it comes to how he handles his business. The sex in this book… geez! It’s in your face, on your skin, and gets buried in your subconscious.

I only gave this book three starts because of what I mentioned earlier. I don’t want to read about the characters ego and id battling it out before doing what you WERE going to do anyway. There’s a way to do it to where the story doesn’t slow down, but it doesn’t show up here. Would I recommend this book? Yes and no. Yes, if you want to make you and the entire third world horny. No, if you’re looking for a good sexual story that flows. For me there was a definite disconnect between Alexander slayin’ the ladies and Alexander trying to educate us about the ladies.

They say that ‘Full Metal Jacket’ is the best half movie ever made. There’s a very thin line between character introspective and overkill. I think if Cairo was to take out a lot of the character-chatter then I think he would have an ENTIRE book of goodness, instead of just 50%.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

'187 Pain and Bliss'

This book was given to me by the author, there, now that that stupid disclaimer is out the way… they say that the sophomore book is harder to write than the first one, especially if (as in this case) the first one was very good. Apparently Mr. Halverson didn’t get that memo. I’m glad he stuck with the formula that made his first book so good, so brutal, so sudden, while showing us the power of friendship and loyalty. While this story is billed as a ‘Kane Silver’ novel, the bad muther in this book is Axle.

Axle is on a plane with his mother that crashes into the jungles of Thailand. To survive a place crash is one thing, but to do it on the outskirts in the middle of nowhere AND at ten years old… takes someone special. Or wild. From then on Axle’s life is one long barbaric game of survival. Through violence he is introduced to the jungle. He is parented by violence and violence permeates his skin like drunken jungle mosquitoes. To quell this force Alex becomes a world-class fighter and dedicates his life to training. He does well for himself and even finds himself some local tail. But when you breathe, live, smell, taste, and caress violence, it only makes sense that it will find its way back to you. Violence finds its way back to Axle and the path it blazes is white frikkin’ hot. But not nearly as hot as the path Axle blazes back as he tracks down those responsible. One by bloody, agonizing, murdering one.

Like his first book, Wade write this one like… like… if he doesn’t get it out fast enough, something else will. I’ve come to realize that this extremely fast writing style is just how Wade is. There were a few times where it was a little too fast and I wanted more background dammit! But that’s his M.O. so I just dealt. That’s always a good/bad thing with authors like this. What they write is so good that you go through it like Kim Kardashian does bikini wax, but then you have to wait until they drink themselves into another book. (Stephen King reference, not Mr. Halverson).

Mr. Halverson delivers again with a story chock full of rage, ferocity, revenge, and vengeance.