Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hollow Man by Mark Pryor

What's it like to be a functional, passing-for-normal psychotic?

Dominic is an American lawyer who grew up in England and supplements his income as a musician in the thriving Austin scene. He's a part of the justice system and works hard for his clients.

And yet there's something he's hiding. He's known he was a psychopath since childhood and his move to the US may have been strategic - he's spent his life controlling himself (and everyone around him, honestly).

So when an opportunity for a long-shot windfall drops in his lap, it's not a big leap for him to enjoy a life of crime. It may be both the perfect crime and a way to get revenge on someone who's trying to tarnish his reputation ... or maybe not. It may all fall apart.

I loved the unpredictability of the storyline - how far will the scam go, and who will it take down? It's an interesting look inside the head of someone decidedly different and also a frightening look at how reasonable and rational planning a crime can be. I'm really enjoying Pryor's style of writing (he also writes the Hugo Marston series) and his characters - who all share just a bit of his own backstory, once you read his bio!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Strandal

THIS IS MY BOOK OF THE YEAR! It's that simple.

Eva Thorvald is a once-a-lifetime palate destined to greatness, born to a foodie father and an oenophile mother. In this series of short stories, we learn about Eva's life, but we don't hear about it from Eva herself; these stories each star someone else - random characters with whom Eva has varying degrees of involvement. Yet through their eyes we get a reflected-light look at Eva's life and a truly multi-faceted story.

This book is funny, sad, and even heartbreaking. But right from the start you're drawn into the characters, their struggles, and this all-encompassing story of Eva. I wanted to know more, I couldn't get enough, and if Eva didn't show up right away in each new chapter I started peering into the shadows and around the edges to find her. How does she relate, this time? But even without Eva these are fantastic stories of common people and regular Midwestern lives.

The audiobook was narrated by Amy Ryan and Michael Stuhlbarg. The pair delivers an amazing performance of characters from snotty teenagers to harried moms, from redneck drunks to wealthy businessmen.

I have been evangelizing to everyone I meet about how SPECTACULAR this book is - it's a must-read. Don't delay in finding a copy for yourself!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Elevator Ghost by Glen Huser

A new tenant in a bustling, ancient apartment building adds drama to all the residents' lives with her dramatic flair and fantastic stories.

Carolina Giddle attracts all the kids' attention right from the start - she's got a trinket-decorated art car, a pet tarantula in a cage, and an endless bag full of homemade snacks. She quickly becomes everybody's favorite babysitter, able to calm savage tantrums and coax reluctant bedtimes with her ghost stories and impeccable timing.

This is a great, not-too-scary Halloween story with fresh ghost stories to be enjoyed by all ages.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Stand Off by Andrew Smith

In this sequel to Winger, we return to Pine Mountain Academy for Ryan Dean West's senior year of high school. Things got serious at the end of last year, and Ryan Dean may not have fully processed everything

But on top of his post-traumatic stress from that incident, he's got new concerns too: mainly, that since he forgot to apply for a room assignment, he's stuck in a tiny ground-floor dorm room with a claustrophobic freshman. That his roommate Sam is practically a reincarnation of Ryan Dean's own awkward former self is an irony not lost on our oh-so-much-cooler-now senior lead.

Again this time, the novel is hilarious and more than a bit sexually frustrated. Again this time, Ryan Dean is both wise before his years and an utter dolt, interchangeably. It's maybe not as strong as the first book - you'll definitely want to have read that one first - but it's a great continuation of the story and an engaging look at friendship.

And the myriad nicknames for Sam are worth the time alone!