inverarity

Blood Standard, by Laird Barron

An ex-killer tries to go straight, and he's a long way from Nome.


Blood Standard

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018, 321 pages



A novel set in the underbelly of upstate New York that's as hard-boiled and punchy as a swift right hook to the jaw, a classic noir for fans of James Ellroy and John D. Macdonald.

Isaiah Coleridge is a mob enforcer in Alaska - he's tough, seen a lot, and dished out more. But when he forcibly ends the money-making scheme of a made man, he gets in the kind of trouble that can lead to a bullet behind the ear. Saved by the grace of his boss and exiled to upstate New York, Isaiah begins a new life, a quiet life without gunshots or explosions. Except a teenage girl disappears, and Isaiah isn't one to let that slip by. And delving into the underworld to track this missing girl will get him exactly the kind of notice he was warned to avoid.

At turns brutally shocking and darkly funny, heartbreaking and cautiously hopeful, Blood Standard is both a high-tension crime novel and the story of a man's second chance - the parts of his past he will never escape, and the parts that will shape his future.


He's big, bloodthirsty, brutal, and his banter is boss. He also has a soft spot for walruses.

Also by Laird Barron: My reviews of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, The Croning, and Occultation.




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inverarity

The Amulet, by Michael McDowell

A bloody Southern Gothic from the golden era of paperback horror novels.


The Amulet

Avon Books, 1979, 352 pages



When a rifle range accident leaves Dean Howell disfigured and in a vegetative state, his wife Sarah finds her dreary life in Pine Cone, Alabama made even worse. After long and tedious days on the assembly line, she returns home to care for her corpse-like husband while enduring her loathsome and hateful mother-in-law, Jo. Jo blames the entire town for her son's mishap, and when she gives a strange piece of jewelry to the man she believes most responsible, a series of gruesome deaths is set in motion. Sarah believes the amulet has something to do with the rising body count, but no one will believe her. As the inexplicable murders continue, Sarah and her friend Becca Blair have no choice but to track down the amulet themselves, before it's too late...


Bloody, bloody Alabama.

Also by Michael McDowell: My reviews of The Elementals, The Caskey Family Saga, and Cold Moon Over Babylon.




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Golden Hair

Beyond the Hundred Kingdoms

Beyond the Hundred Kingdoms by Rod Espinosa

The Courageous Princess book 1.

The beloved Princess Mabelrose, her parents' only child, goes to a ball -- and has a horrible time. And when she returns home, a dragon kidnaps her. It intends to hold her for ransom despite her kingdom's poverty.

The tale winds on from there. It involves Mabelrose's tricking the dragon into leaving for a time, a magical rope, her father's leaving home in search for her, a sage, a king in a cage, a fair number of fairy tales, talking animals, and more.
inverarity

The Hunger, by Alma Katsu

A retelling of the story of the Donner Party with supernatural flourishes.


The Hunger

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018, 376 pages



A tense and gripping reimagining of one of America's most fascinating historical moments: the Donner Party with a supernatural twist.

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy...or the feelings that someone - or something - is stalking them.

Whether it's a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history. As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains...and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.

Effortlessly combining the supernatural and the historical, The Hunger is an eerie, thrilling look at the volatility of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.


The Oregon Trail written by Stephen King.




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inverarity

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham

Continuing my presidential biography series, we come to the problematic third POTUS.


Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Random House, 2012, 759 pages



In this magnificent biography, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power gives us Jefferson the politician and president, a great and complex human being forever engaged in the wars of his era. Philosophers think; politicians maneuver. Jefferson’s genius was that he was both and could do both, often simultaneously. Such is the art of power.

Thomas Jefferson hated confrontation, and yet his understanding of power and of human nature enabled him to move men and to marshal ideas, to learn from his mistakes, and to prevail. Passionate about many things - women, his family, books, science, architecture, gardens, friends, Monticello, and Paris - Jefferson loved America most, and he strove over and over again, despite fierce opposition, to realize his vision: the creation, survival, and success of popular government in America. Jon Meacham lets us see Jefferson’s world as Jefferson himself saw it, and to appreciate how Jefferson found the means to endure and win in the face of rife partisan division, economic uncertainty, and external threat. Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American history.

The father of the ideal of individual liberty, of the Louisiana Purchase, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and of the settling of the West, Jefferson recognized that the genius of humanity - and the genius of the new nation - lay in the possibility of progress, of discovering the undiscovered and seeking the unknown. From the writing of the Declaration of Independence to elegant dinners in Paris and in the President’s House; from political maneuverings in the boardinghouses and legislative halls of Philadelphia and New York to the infant capital on the Potomac; from his complicated life at Monticello, his breathtaking house and plantation in Virginia, to the creation of the University of Virginia, Jefferson was central to the age. Here too is the personal Jefferson, a man of appetite, sensuality, and passion.

The Jefferson story resonates today not least because he led his nation through ferocious partisanship and cultural warfare amid economic change and external threats, and also because he embodies an eternal drama, the struggle of the leadership of a nation to achieve greatness in a difficult and confounding world.


A book that tries a little too hard to burnish Jefferson's tarnished halo.




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