Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Word is Murder

Anthony Horowitz has been writing books for a few decades now. Despite that, I hadn’t read any of his work until I wound up with a review copy of The Word is Murder. The book was released in the U.K. last year, but it’s just now making its way to the U.S. Magpie Murders caught my attention, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it just yet. This felt like the perfect opportunity to dive into a book by Horowitz.

The Word is Murder is a Sherlockian novel where we see that the author inserts himself into as one of the main characters. He’s a writer who follows a former police detective, Daniel Hawthorne, as he solves a mysterious murder. Putting himself in the book is one of the most meta things that Horowitz could do and it works so well.

I found myself not wanting to put the book down because it was such a compelling story. It wasn’t until semi-recently that I binged my way through Sherlock, and this book captured a similar essence that the show did even without Sherlock being in it.

Just when you think you know who committed murder, the story takes a turn and everything you thought was wrong. There are also moments when you’re reading it and your thinking is in line with that of Horowitz in the story. You read this from his perspective, so naturally you might find yourself agreeing with his version of what happened.

The book is clever and fascinating. It’s not often that I fall in love with an author immediately after reading a single book by them, but that’s what happened here. Thanks to The Word is Murder, I’ll be going back and reading previous books from Horowitz. His attention to detail and ability to create an intriguing story make the mystery work so well.

Grab a copy of The Word is Murder via Amazon.

Review: Chuck Palahniuk – Adjustment Day

Adjustment Day

Chuck Palahniuk makes sure that you aren’t prepared for Adjustment Day in any way, shape, or form. The book puts chaos on display as people run for their lives, just trying to make sure they survive it. Gaysia, Blacktopia, and Caucasia play on today’s current political climate in a bit of a terrifying way.

Chuck Palahniuk does satire well and it’s on full display in this book. The story revolves around a manifesto-like book that can be compared to Mein Kampf. This brings about Adjustment Day, which is meant to be a fresh start, should you make it out in one piece. All crimes, warrants, and debts will be erased for those left standing.

While Fight Club is still my favorite piece of work from Palahniuk, I love that he doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at it in this. He calls it “seemingly transgressive.” He also has some fantastic descriptions in this book that just bring the pages to life.

Aside from the Fight Club reference, many other pop culture references can be found throughout. One of my favorites is when the book mentions that it was debated to kill Mr. King. Naturally, the first thought would be Martin Luther King Jr., but instead, they mean Stephen King. Having him killed was debated because he “had almost convinced white people of the majestic uncanny powers blacks kept under wraps.” So not only does he take a jab at his own work, but he tosses Stephen King into the fun, as well.

Adjustment Day is a book that isn’t afraid to offend anyone and everyone. At times it’s harsh and unpleasant, but such is life. While Adjustment Day might not be real, in a way, it felt like it could be if things keep going downhill from here. Once you get going, you won’t want to put this book down.

If you’re interested in buying a copy of the book, you can do so via Amazon.

Book Review: Smoke City by Keith Rosson

Smoke City

Last year, Keith Rosson released The Mercy of the Tide. I dove into the book not knowing what to expect since he was an author I hadn’t read before. There’s always that moment when you try something new and you aren’t sure how it will go. However, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the book. When word got out that he had a new book, Smoke City, on the way, I knew instantly that it would be something I wanted to read.

Smoke City tells a tale of three strangers hitting the road together, traveling from Oregon down to Los Angeles, CA. Marvin Deitz is a complex character who has so much history to him that you never stop learning something new as you read through the book. Mike Vale is a bit more rough around the edges when we first meet him, but things smooth out along the way. Casper makes himself the third man on the road trip by hiding in the van before Mike and Marvin make it out of Oregon.

The three are an unlikely group, but that’s what makes the story so compelling. One wouldn’t think that a story that largely involves being stuck in a vehicle would be exciting, but the three different personalities and everything they see along the way makes it work. Not to mention, the “smokes” that are causing chaos in California play an interesting role.

What Rosson does is he makes you care about these guys who aren’t the best guys in the world, but they also aren’t the worst. Mike has so many problems piling up that it’s hard not to feel bad for him even if he had control over at least some of those problems. He writes these complex characters in a way that doesn’t feel dense. You aren’t getting everything all at once. Instead, things are coming piece by piece, just as if you were in the van with them and getting to know them. It’s a clever way to rope you in.

Smoke City is a journey. Three people who feel like they’ve hit rock bottom or just need a fresh start make a trip that changes all of their lives. Additionally, Marvin is a reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, which provides a separate storyline detailed in his journals. He doesn’t reveal why exactly he’s in LA until he tries explaining it to Casper at one of the studio parking lots. There’s always this anticipation with Marvin because he’s aware early on that he’s only supposed to have a limited time to live. The book keeps you on your toes and it all pays off in the end. This is a satisfying read, so be sure to check it out.

Smoke City is out on January 23, 2018 and you can grab a copy on Amazon.

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Andy Weir self-published The Martian back in 2011, before it was picked up for a film and re-published in 2014 by Crown. Artemis is his next space adventure, that takes place on the moon. The story revolves around Jasmine Bashara, who goes by Jazz. She’s sly and her father typically never approves of what she does. At the start of the novel, her business is smuggling goods in for people. Despite that, she’s stuck in a tiny room that she rents, which she calls a “coffin,” because it’s that small.

Jazz is a wonderful character to center a story around because of just how witty and multifaceted she is. Sure, she’s good at smuggling things in, but if she just applied herself a but more, there’s pretty much nothing that she couldn’t do. She’s hired by a very rich man to sabotage a company for him. We’ve established that she smuggles things in, but it’s mostly things like cigars, not anything too terrible. She’s a criminal, but even this is going to be quite the challenge for her.

Friends are few and far between for Jazz, which is probably for the best as far as the story goes. There aren’t too many people to keep track of and it keeps the novel concise. She has a handful of people helping her out, despite how dangerous her task is because the company she’s going after is run by a cartel and they do not mess around.

Artemis brings high stakes to the moon and the world building that Andy Weir accomplishes is amazing. Before getting into all of the action, we learn what the tourists are like, what the living situation is like, what the main jobs are, and what type of food they eat. We also find out that Jazz has a pen pal back on Earth, who also helps her with a few things when needed.

This story has everything you would want in a space heist. Even though her goal is to sabotage something, she’s still stealing away the company for the cartel by doing so. Not everything goes as planned, but then again, how many heists go exactly as planned all the time? Artemis is a page-turner and a completely fun ride. You can now grab a copy of the book, which is out today.

Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Krysten Ritter is largely known for playing Jessica Jones and starring in Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. She did have a brief role in Breaking Bad, too. Now she’s taking her talents to the book world. Her debut novel, Bonfire, is out on November 7th. As I was browsing around NetGalley and saw this book, I knew right away that I had to read it.

Bonfire takes you to the small town of Barrens, Indiana. The book’s protagonist, Abby Williams, returns to her hometown with a new perspective on not only her life, but that of the people in Barrens. She’s been an outsider for quite some time and it lets her piece together what ends up being a suspenseful mystery.

What Ritter does well is she takes her time with the story. The book isn’t long by any means. In fact, it feels like just the right length (it comes in just under 300 pages). She could have crammed a much more dense mystery in those pages, but she chooses instead to give you pieces here and there. Abby Williams is an environmental lawyer, so you would think things wouldn’t be too thrilling for her, right? Well, her return to Barrens proves otherwise.

Tying the present day story into Abby’s past is a delight. It’s the perfect opportunity to give background on the characters without making it feel forced. Without giving anything away, let me just tell you that this story won’t go where you expect it to. Whenever it felt like things were all figured out, another twist came up and changed everything.

Typically, I find myself reading a lot more non-fiction than fiction these days. So to get this book and thoroughly enjoy it is a huge plus. Fiction is so much fun when it works well and this book was a fun one to dive into. Plus, it was so engrossing that I finished it in two days. If you’re looking for a good suspense novel to check out this fall, go grab yourself a copy of Bonfire. It’s well worth the time.

Book Review: Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson

Captain Phasma was introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 and has made appearances in various Star Wars media since then. One of the most recent appearances is in Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson. The book covers a variety of stories from her time on Parnassos, her home planet, before she joined the First Order.

What Dawson does well with this book is that she tells the story from the perspective of Siv, who spent time with Phasma on their home planet. She tells the story to a rebellion spy, Vi Moradi, who ends up being captured by Cardinal in the First Order. He keeps her his little secret as he tries to find out how to get rid of Phasma. Telling the story that way gives you an outside look at Phasma, instead of seeing everything from her perspective, which would likely come across quite differently.

Having the outside perspective lets you know just how cold and calculating Phasma could be and how everyone around her perceives her. While we don’t get much of her own thoughts on her past, she says enough by the end of the book to make you realize exactly who she is and how accurate the stories about her are.

Throughout the book, you also see what Cardinal thinks of her and they’re supposedly on the same side. Both are trusted within the First Order to train the troopers, but Phasma is a step above Cardinal and that irks him to no end. Dawson portrays every character in the book with a great amount of care and detail. Switching between the stories and the present day gives a little break in the action, but also leaves you wanting to know more about Phasma, which is exactly how Cardinal feels when Vi finished up a story, too.

Overall, this book is a great look into the character and with Phasma appearing in The Last Jedi, I recommend checking it out if you want to know more about her. You can pick up a copy of the book via Amazon.

Review: In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs

In Their Lives

In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs is an anthology edited by Andrew Blauner. Various writers talk about a single Beatles song. Some are written by other artists and some are writers who you may be familiar with. Chuck Klosterman covers “Helter Skelter,” while Rosanne Cash writes about “No Reply.” Those are just a couple entries in what is a great read on various songs and how they relate to the writers.

In one passage, David Duchovny admits to not even listening to the song again and going off of pure memory. It’s a fun section to read simply because it’s an unorthodox approach. Most writers will try to make sure that they have all of the facts straight before writing about something (although, one could argue that a lot of writers don’t actually do so). However, Duchovny just wants to talk about the song as he remembers it because he doesn’t want to ruin his own memory of it.

I wouldn’t say that the book on the Beatles is revolutionary in any way, but it is an approach to music writing that I personally haven’t come across before. Sure, there are plenty of anthologies out there, but this one allows the writers to approach the songs from a personal aspect rather than an academic one. It’s not pure fact in here, but it’s also how the songs make them feel.

If you’re a fan of the Beatles, there’s a good chance that you feel the same way about some of these songs as the writers do. Overall, I found the book to be an enjoyable read from start to finish. Even with different writers and styles each chapter, there’s a strong sense of general agreement on how great the Beatles were. Be sure to check In Their Lives when you have the chance. You can grab a copy of the book over at Amazon.

Book Review: ‘The Mercy of the Tide’ by Keith Rosson

The Mercy of the Tide could be considered Keith Rosson’s debut novel. While he’s written books before, this is the first one to be picked up by a publisher. I dove into this book knowing nothing about the author and very little about the book itself. It takes place in the fictional town of Riptide, Oregon, based off of Rosson’s hometown. Some portrayals of Oregon are accurate while others are twisted just enough to fit the story.

The story is told from the perspective of four different people: Sam Finster, Trina Finster, Dave Hobbs, and Nick Hayslip. They aren’t the only characters in the book by far, but the story largely revolves around them. Sam and Trina lost their mother, Dave lost his wife, and more bodies are discovered throughout the story.

When the story initially starts, there’s no way to know how it will end, unless you read books backwards, and I really hope you don’t. At first, the connection between the characters is unclear (except for Sam and Trina, who are brother and sister). As you make your way through the book it will take you on quite the ride. Piece by piece, Rosson guides you to the conclusion and nicely puts all off the connections together for you. It’s a great way to keep you engaged and wondering just what their actions have to do with one another.

Keith Rosson has shown that just because your first book doesn’t work (or maybe even a few books) doesn’t mean you can’t continue to hone your craft and release something wonderful. This book might not be for everyone. As I mentioned earlier, there are bodies found that come along with some vivid descriptions. And there are also some animal scenes that some may not be fond of. However, if you can handle those things, it would be irresponsible to not recommend this book. It’s a good read and the mostly short chapters make you feel like you’re speeding right through it (or is that something that only happens to me?).

Keith Rosson will have at least one more book coming in the future and I’m hoping for many more. He’s a writer who is now on my list of “check out everything they release.” If you’re interested you can grab a copy of the book via Amazon.

Review: ‘Little Heaven’ by Nick Cutter

Little Heaven by Nick Cutter takes readers on a trip to the middle of nowhere, New Mexico to a strange cult. Little do the four main travelers know, things will not go as planned. Nick Cutter drops three mercenaries into a place called Little Heaven, where a reverend is living with a group of his followers. The road trip to this place is vividly described, and gives a good idea of just how bleak of a place it would look like to outsiders. Miles from civilization, it’s a hard place to get out of, as the main characters find out.

The story gives us some back story on Minerva, Eb, and Micah, the three mercenaries. It also flips between time periods throughout the book to show how things come full circle in the end. When I first read the description for this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect as someone whose knowledge of horror novels pretty much only extends to Stephen King. I also don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that I truly found scary. In Cold Blood might be the closest any book has ever come, and that’s likely because it’s a true story. Despite this, the book was a solid read. It had some twists and turns that were unexpected, which is what kept me into the book. It initially started off as a slow read, but once the mercenaries and Ellen, who was looking for her nephew, head to Little Heaven, the book begins to shine.

This comes in at almost 500 pages so it’s no small feat to get through it. At times, it will feel slow, which was mostly in the more current passages for me. There also could have been a bit more meat to each of the mercenaries considering how long the book is. While the characters were still solid, at times it felt like they didn’t have much to do, especially once in Little Heaven. Nick Cutter’s writing style is pleasant to read and it’s clear that he takes his time to carefully craft descriptions, which stood out in regards to the various locations.

All that said, I still enjoyed a good chunk of the book, enough to say that if you’re into horror novels, you should at least check it out. If you are interested, you can grab a copy of the book here, which is now out today.

Review: ‘Cardinal and Gold’ by Steve Delsohn

Cardinal and Gold: The Oral History of USC Trojans Football by Steve Delshon takes a look at 40 years of the team. It’s an engaging read, and an easy one too. You get a look at the Trojans through the years with commentary from players and coaches. This format helped make the book enjoyable because you get the thoughts and opinions from a lot of various people who were there firsthand. It’s an absolute must-read for USC Football fans, and probably even just college football fans in general. You get a look into the usual rivalry with UCLA as well as the Notre Dame rivalry that have lasted all of these years. Delsohn also did a great job with depicting the various coaching situations throughout the years.

I did have a few gripes with the book. The first was that there felt like a lack of focus on the defensive side of the ball. There could be various reasons why we didn’t get to hear from certain people, but I would have loved to hear about the defense from Troy Polamalu or Clay Matthews; the latter mainly because I’m a Green Bay fan. My second was that it’s an oral history of the program, but only covers 40 years. This wasn’t as big of a gripe. When you have a program as old and as storied as USC’s, it might be hard to get an oral history from any of the players and coaches, since there’s a good chance they aren’t around anymore. These gripes didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the book too much, and that was a huge plus. Overall, it’s a great read and I highly recommend it.

If you’re interested, you can grab a copy of the book via Amazon.