Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Below are a few (somewhat) brief, $.02 opinions about several books I've read (or listened to) recently but don't and won't have time to review in full. Their appearance here has nothing to do with merit, many I enjoyed as much or even more than those that got the full court press. I hope you'll consider one or two for your own TBR stack.

Woman of the Dead, by Bernhard Aichner
Coming out in a translated U.S. edition today, Woman of the Dead was a smash sensation in Austria. While it may have lost a little something in translation, it left me a bit cold, I thought the premise was fabulous: Blum, a woman mortician, sets out to avenge the death of a loved one. The story was a good one, and often compelling, I just didn't fully connect with it. I found the back story setup somewhat forced and unnecessary. Some of the more graphic scenes felt as if they were written to shock rather than add to the story. Despite all that, Woman held my interest pretty well and had me turning pages to see how Blum tracked down and dealt with the targets of her vengeance. The first in a trilogy, it's 50/50 whether I'll pick up the second.

Bull Mountain, by Brian Panowich
This summer's crime fiction sensation, Bull Mountain is a right good read. It's the story of the Burroughs family, who have resided on Bull Mountain in North Georgia for generations, running moonshine and drugs. The Burroughs men are not good men, but Clayton has tried to separate himself from the family legacy by becoming sheriff of a neighboring town. When an ATF agent comes to town, Clayton will be pitted against his brother Halford, currently running things up on the mountain. Told from alternating perspectives and time periods, Bull Mountain is an epic story of family history and vengeance. I had some trouble connecting with the narrative and dialogue at times, they felt distant to me; for some reason, I didn't plug in entirely. That being said, I was caught up in the Burroughs' saga and Panowich turned some nice corners with the story to keep readers on their toes. I recommend this one, just a teensy bit less than wholeheartedly.

Among the Ten Thousand Things, by Julia Pierpont
I'm going to write a sequel called The Ten Thousand Things I Should Have Done Instead of Reading This Book. Interesting premise, boring execution. Jack's jilted mistress sends a box of documents to his wife, containing copies of email correspondence sent throughout their affair. Through a snafu on the receiving end, Deb and Jack's kids end up with the box. With that compelling setup, one would think all hell would break loose; or at least some interesting things might happen. Not so much. I never figured out the point of the rest of the book. Not only was it slow and dry and fairly uneventful, but it was told in four parts, with part two basically giving away the rest of the story. Bizarre. Skip this one and feel good you saved the time. If you read it and loved it, please stop by and tell me what I missed.

Way Down on the High Lonely, by Don Winslow
I first read High Lonely, the third entry in Winslow's Neal Carey series, when it was published in 1993. I remember it as my favorite of the series (other than the first, A Cool Breeze on the Underground, which was my eye-opening introduction to both Neal Carey and Don Winslow, starting a decades-long love for Don's work). High Lonely stuck out for me and I remember it being an emotional, chest-kicker of a read. It's always a Catch-22 revisiting such a book, there's an inherent risk the memory won't hold up. It did here, and I still got verklempt 22 years later. Neal is trying to track down the young son of his client, who disappeared with her ex-husband during his visitation. The chase takes Neal undercover to Texas, where he's faced with infiltrating a white supremacist community while trying to balance relationships with perhaps the first real friends he's ever had. Those forces are bound to collide before the case is over and the only question is who will be left standing and what bonds will remain intact, if any. Loved it then, and I love it now; great stuff.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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