Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Lucretia and the Kroons by Victor LaValle

Lucretia and the Kroons is considered literate horror and is an excellent piece of novella length writing. It is also a touching story as it examines the relationship between Lucretia and her best friend Sunny.

Victor LaValle manages to paint an accurate picture of what it's like to be a 12 year old girl. From the beginning with her social concerns about her friends who she sees later "clumped together like socks that had just come out of the dryer" to her personal concerns about appearance and what people think of her, and her longing for Sunny to come back and make it all tolerable, Lucretia is 100% a 12 year old.

Sunny has been away getting treatment for an illness. Just when Sunny gets back and things look like they could become a little more normal for Loochie, as Lucretia is known to friends and family, things go sideways. She sees a Kroon on her fire escape who tells her through gestures that Sunny is upstairs in apartment 6D.

Louis, Loochie's older brother, has told her that 6D is where the Kroon's live and how monstrous they are and dangerous. And here begins a real adventure for Loochie. She feels she must go up there and rescue Sunny who is weak from treatment for the illness and being sick. Inside the apartment as she runs to evade the Kroons, she finds trees and concrete and more. Her resolve is tested more than once. She remembers Louis saying, "Horrors come for kids too. Being young doesn't protect anyone."

Lucretia and the Kroons is definitely worth reading. (In fact, I read it twice.) I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: DarkBeat by James Solo

DarkBeat by James Solo is a horror novel. Ricardo Sosa witnesses a Santeria ritual as a young teen. A policeman, Chuck Bolan,  mistakes drummer Adrian Lee for a cop killer and nearly beats him to death. Adrian Lee goes to Cuba and meets up with Sosa and begins to learn about Santeria and a kind of circle is beginning to be forged that will eventually be completed.

Honestly, I didn't like this novel that much. Parts of it were excellent, parts not so hot. James Solo handled the suspense in the novel very well for the most part. The tempo in the novel picked up as the novel goes on just the way you'd want it.

The horror parts however struck me as very heavy handed. The descriptions of the 2 sacrifices were very similar and I had a lot of trouble with the sacrifice that Adrian performed. If you are at all squeamish, this book is not for you. I expected the first sacrifice, but not the subject of the second. I lost all sympathy for the character at that point which may have been the author's goal. If I wasn't trying to finish to give my unbiased opinion of the book, I think I would have stopped reading right there.

Plot wise, I had a problem hanging in there in the beginning while the characters were introduced and their relationships to each other made clear. I wasn't sure who was important and who was not until chapters in. And later in the book, things seemed rushed towards the end. Some things were happening suddenly with no explanation or little transition.

Overall, the novel was ok, but not the greatest. I gave it 2 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

Review: That Bear Ate My Pants! by Tony James Slater

That Bear Ate My Pants! is an entertaining coming of age story involving more wild things of the non-partying variety than those that drink beer.

After some introspection admitting his acting abilities weren't the best and examining his options, Tony decided that a trip to Ecuador as a volunteer at the Santa Martha Animal Rescue Center was in order. At any given time, the rescue center is home to a variety of animals from monkeys, parrots, tortoises, big cats, to the bear that ate his pants and more. And according to Tony most of them seemed to want a piece of him, including the plant life.

The coming of age part involves the motivation that the ranch owner used on Tony on multiple occasions. When he wanted Tony to do something that he was reluctant to do, he asked him, "Are you a man?" And Tony would find himself doing whatever it was, no matter how absurdly dangerous he thought it was. And the funny thing is, by the end of his time at Santa Martha, after doing all these manly things and from some of his other experiences, he might find that he had indeed become more mature.

Honestly there is a lot more to it than that. His descriptions of their activities on and off the ranch are humorous for the most part and at the same time fascinating. He also makes a good case for learning more Spanish before a trip like that to Ecuador. There is a definite language barrier that he has to fight.

You need to read the book for the humor, the adventure and for the gems of characters such as Lady, Machita, Jimmy, and Toby. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars for making me laugh out loud on more than one occasion.