tamela_j: (old smelly books)
From Jacket: Colin Byrne is a pickpocket, an artist, and an occasional consultant for the police. He’s also an ex-felon, an initiate into the feral, unspoken magic that only prisoners know: how to vanish, how to tell fortunes, how to steal souls. Now the man who put him in prison wants him to return to Railburg State Correctional Facility to help investigate a case.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this book. I have enjoyed other works of the author and have been reading his blog for years now, so I knew that I’d enjoy his storytelling and style, I just didn’t know how much.

I think the thing that surprised me was the magical realism. As much as I enjoy that genre, I very rarely seek it out, so I didn’t go looking for it when I picked up this book. It was a lovely surprise. As was the shock that the book really came to life the moment the bars clanged shut with Colin “Suicide” Byrne on the inside...again.

Don’t get me wrong, the brief moments of domestic bliss between Colin, Joseph (the cop who put Colin away years before and who showed him a life worth living after being rehabilitated) and Joseph’s wife Analise in the beginning was touching and beautifully rendered. All the more so when they became the thing that Colin clings to while battling demons both old and new in the joint.

Starbuck does an amazing job of showing life behind bars with its gangs and seedy underbelly without weighing it down with unrelated stereotypes just for effect. In addition he also introduced a whole new group of prisoners, the special select, like Byrne and his friends, who have powers that they collectively refer to as “mojo.” In so doing, he gives us a sense of family that I was pleasantly surprised about. In fact, my only criticism of this book (and it’s one that I have about a lot of shorter novels) is that I really wanted to know much more about this family. But that could just be me and my fascination, bordering on obsession, with secondary characters.

For example, I would read an entire book about Noel, the tattoo artist, post-Aryan with an intriguing past only alluded to in the book. So much angst and untold story in that guy and in his relationship with Colin!

In other words, I completely, unequivocally recommend this book to anyone who loves stories that stick with you and work their magic into your subconscious for a long time after.

Available at Lulu as eBook, Paperback or for a free(!!!) ePub.
tamela_j: (old smelly books)
It's pulp fiction. Real pulp fiction, though, not like the movie. John Travolta is not in this book. Sorry.

That's how A.J. O'Connell describes her new novella "Beware the Hawk" on her website. I'm not suggesting I'm an expert of the genre as I can honestly say that I have read very few (if any) pulp fiction novels (wait, does Elmore Leonard count?) I'm just saying, even I know there are a few things that are absolutely essential:

Feisty Dames ✓ The protagonist of the story (who, lol, I didn't realize until writing this up, is nameless and when I figure out how O'Connell managed to do that so effortlessly I will gladly share it with you) is nothing if not feisty. Jaded, yes, but not so much so that she's unreachable and isn't constantly surprised and dismayed. You can feel shocked by her predicaments, because you sense that she is too, no matter how above it all she tries to portray herself.
Clandestine Meetings ✓ Protagonist and her Boston contact, Leo have a number of meetings in a seedy bar where things get more confused the more they're explained.
Code Words ✓ The title alone tells you this is true and yet it avoids being gimmicky.
Someone Overusing the Term "Sweetheart" ✓ Sooooo many sweethearts! But, hey, a pulp fiction book that takes place in Boston where it's not sweetheart, but "sweet-haht" is begging for this overuse.

If, like me, you are unfamiliar with the genre, I highly suggest you start here. It's a short, well written read that will have you wishing it was so much longer. Not in an unfinished way, but in a "I want to hang out with these characters for many, many more pages" way.

In addition to the subtle way that she avoids naming the main character and still makes us feel as if we know her almost intimately, the writer in me also admires and wants to know how O'Connell finds the exact perfect way with descriptions so that they not only tell us the physicality of a thing, but also a bit about the character who notices them without weighing us down with too many facts. It's a gift that's for sure.

Here are a few of my non-spoilery favorites that, thanks to Kindle being in every aspect of my life I can easily highlight on my reader and then cut and paste on my Kindle App for my PC (annotated and everything!!). ♥

It started as a tramp stamp but kind of took over. One of my roommates calls it a tramp stampede.

O'Connell, A.J. (2012-01-14). Beware The Hawk (Kindle Locations 334-335). Vagabondage Press LLC. Kindle Edition.

I turned my head to see three skinny girls wearing black tank tops and khakis. Danny picked all of them up in one gigantic hug and then dropped them. They fell on their feet, three Siamese cats, styled by Abercrombie & Fitch.

O'Connell, A.J. (2012-01-14). Beware The Hawk (Kindle Locations 355-356). Vagabondage Press LLC. Kindle Edition.

It's taking everything in me not to share every single example and every single witty sentence (of which there are many) that I have highlighted here. But I don't have the time (or copyright) for that. :)) Plus, you should probably read it for yourself and highlight your own favorites.

Link for information on ordering the e-novella
tamela_j: (old smelly books)
I like the idea of trying to read 50 books in one year. It's a good goal. I'm going to take it on. Even in my prime reading days I never read more then 40.

I have soooo many books and I really want to gobble them all up, so I figure putting a good number of them here on this list is a good start. Forty of them will be from my bookshelves and 10 will be from collected "Best of" lists from both The New York Times and the supplement I got from the Washington Post. I need more current and timely books on my list.

This post will also serve as a collection place to the reviews I hope to make for each book too.

Now, onto the list:

50 Books in 2011 )

Any thoughts on these? Recommendations? Opinions?

What are you guys reading next year?

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