Monthly Archives: May 2017

Review of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, by Paul Krueger

I borrowed a copy of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, by Paul Krueger from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.

Review:
This was all right. I suppose if I hadn’t gone in with such high hope I wouldn’t have been disappointed. As it was, I liked it but thought I’d love it, which as disappointments go, isn’t too bad.

There were things I absolutely appreciated. The book is effortlessly diverse. By which I mean there is a diverse cast, but I never felt the author was tokenizing anyone for the diversity cookie. But there was a Chinese American main character (who has to deal with back ground fetishizing and people being insensitive to her culture and identity), a strong and important black female character, a disabled gay man, a foreigner and a trans character. And none of them had tragic back stories, died or turned out to be evil. Yay. Admittedly, there was some stereotyping. Like the Chinese American who just happens to be smart, detail oriented and studious, with a love of flash cards and post-it notes, or the overly effusive Canadian. But this was all mostly a yay.

The writing is clean and easily readable, plus it’s quite funny. So, there are some strong positive here. Where my problems started though was with the silly cocktail recipes interspersed at the end of each chapter. They felt gimmicky and really broke up the flow. Then, I just kind of got caught up in the whole cocktails as magic thing. Logistically, I couldn’t figure out how this worked. Did it have to be special liquor? It was inferred at one point that it did, but other times they just seemed to grab what was available. Why didn’t ‘civilian’ cocktails contain magic? If all bartenders and baristas are protectors, why didn’t anyone know about them. And yes, I understood about oblivium (erasing memories), but such a large population wouldn’t stay secret. Then, I couldn’t get past the uselessness of the council. No one could really be that stupid and function. And while I could and did manage to suspend my disbelief, it just got harder and harder to do as the book went on. Plus, the romance felt really shoe-horned in there.

So, while this was an ok read, I didn’t love it.

Review of Yakuza Pride (The Way of the Yakuza #1), by H.J. Brues

I borrowed Yakuza Pride, by H. J. Brues, from Hoopla.

Description from Goodreads:
When yakuza underboss Shigure Matsunaga meets Kenneth Harris at a boring social event, he’s surprised to find himself attracted to the blond gaijin with the mismatched eyes. Shigure is even more pleased when he discovers Ken not only speaks Japanese fluently, but is fluent in Japan’s ways, even the more violent of the martial arts. Ken’s expertise at kendo is not his most striking quality—it’s the passion beneath his quiet, almost fragile exterior that ignites Shigure’s lust, and the two come together as explosively as they spar. 

Shigure is a dangerous man in a dangerous position. He’s been trying to keep the peace with the Daito-kai—his hated rivals—but the danger on the streets is escalating, threatening those Shigure most wants to protect. He may claim to love his gaijin, but before he can keep Ken safe, Shigure will have to overcome hostility from his people, a hidden enemy, and, the most insidious opponent of all, his own hard-won pride.

Review:
I suppose this could just be a matter of taste, since the writing seemed fine, but even being a bit of a Japanophile, I didn’t care for this book much. I thought it was far too long and there was way too much sex for the amount of plot it contained. Further, the large chunks of exposition in the middle of the too frequent and often too long sex scenes were just annoying. Honestly, I skimmed the last two sex scenes completely.

But worst of all, I disliked the style. The book was meant to be based in Japan with one character being Japanese and the other being a gaijin, a foreigner, in this case American, but one who grew up in Japan and is fluent and familiar with the culture. So, it’s meant to be seen as from inside Japan and Japanese culture. But the author’s insistence on including Japanese words, that then had to be defined, pushed the reader into outsider, gaijin territory. Creating an uncomfortable distance for the reader. This was heavily reinforced by the way the characters were referred to as ‘the American,’ the yakuza,’ ‘his lover,’ ‘the gaijin,’ ‘his gaijin,’ etc, especially during the sex scenes, when a reader should ostensibly be as close as they can get to the characters. I dearly wanted names.

I don’t know anything about Brues and his/her bio doesn’t specify, so I could be wrong. But I would strongly suspect they are not Japanese. That’s how this book felt, like a Westerner trying to write a Japanese book. Even if they are obviously informed on the culture, it still felt like an outsider’s perspective.

Review of My Life as a White Trash Zombie, by Diana Rowland

I borrowed a copy of My Life as a White Trash Zombie, by Diana Rowland from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Angel Crawford is a loser.

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she’s a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who’s been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.

That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn’t have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there’s a job waiting for her at the parish morgue—and that it’s an offer she doesn’t dare refuse.

Before she knows it she’s dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey—just when she’s hungriest!

Angel’s going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn’t, she’s dead meat.

Literally.

Review:
Sigh, there wasn’t really anything wrong with this. The writing was fine. It’s a bit funny. The editing didn’t stand out as problematic. I liked the character all right and the mystery, while not difficult to figure out, wasn’t super obvious either. But I was just kind of bored and blasé about the whole thing. Nothing stood out or struck me as particularly interesting. Meh