Becky’s Eighty-Ninth Book Review: “Faces of the Gone” by Brad Parks

I feel like there is so much to read and so little time to do it. After reading the new books by Charlaine Harris and Sophie Kinsella, I didn’t know what to pick up next. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at things) I recently acquired a new series by a debut author and decided to start that. (By acquired, I mean I went on a book-buying rampage). “Faces of the Gone” by Brad Parks is the first book in the Carter Ross series which is, in my opinion, one of the best new series out there. I am so glad that I started the series, although I can already tell that I am going to be moving through the series very quickly and will need to get the next book in the series very soon. (Sadly I only have the first three books…)
“Faces of the Gone” by Brad Parks starts out with four people being murdered execution-style in the back of the head. The main character, Carter Ross is an investigative journalist and is charged with getting to the bottom of the story. Carter Ross is a very clever, witty journalist who makes for a very entertaining main character. Whether Ross is discussing the interns in his office and their inferior writing, “it’s a four-paragraph story written by an intern whose primary concern is finishing quickly so he can return to inventing witty status updates on Facebook.” (Faces of the Gone, pg 3) or his own inability to come up with a proper comeback, “Just a conversation that didn’t go well,” I huffed. “My life needs better script writers.” (Faces of the Gone, pg 35) Carter keeps up a humorous rapport with his audience.
Although “Faces of the Gone” is humorous, it is a murder mystery–one which kept me guessing until the end. I think Brad Parks does a wonderful job with his debut novel. Not only is his main character well developed, but there are a number of supporting characters that are very entertaining in their own way and developed just enough to keep the reader interested, but not overly done. I especially liked the character ‘Deadline’–the lovable cat that belongs to Carter Ross. Tina Thompson is the city editor at the Newark Eagle-Examiner. She serves as a sort-of love interest to Ross, although she is more interested in what he has to offer than being in an actual relationship with him. Tina has decided that it is time for her to have a baby, and so she frequently is propositioning Ross to be her baby’s daddy. The interactions between Tina and Carter are entertaining to say the least. Then there are the sources that Carter has (one of whom connects him with some gang members which leads to one of the funniest scenes in the book) and the intern Tommy who is constantly trying (unsuccessfully) to impart his fashion wisdom onto Carter.
Carter Ross, as mentioned above is an investigative journalist or to simplify, a writer. He works at a paper where he is frequently interacting with editors. Being an editor and a writer myself, I found it very interesting to read about Carter Ross’s experiences with editors. He makes many amusing comments about this, one of which I just had to share, “The editing process often reminds me of my favorite joke: a writer and an editor are stranded together in the desert. They’ve been slogging over the dunes for days and are about to die of thirst when, miraculously, they come across an oasis. The writer dives in and begins happily drinking the water. Yet when he looks up, he finds the editor pissing in the oasis. Aghast, the writer screams, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ The editor replies, ‘I’m making it better’.” (Faces of the Gone, pg 166). Quite entertaining–this is the kind of writing that Parks keeps up throughout the entire novel. He keeps enough humor in his novel to contribute to the fast pace while at the same time keeping the mystery going with hints as to who the mastermind behind the murders is.
“Faces of the Gone” was a really entertaining, fast-paced novel full of fun characters, witty dialogue, plenty of comedy, and suspense which left me wanting more. Lucky for me, there are three more books in this series so far. Carter Ross is a very likable character that is easy to relate to and whom I cannot wait to read more about. Would I recommend “Faces of the Gone”? Most definitely, it is a great debut novel that will keep you on your toes and leave you guessing until the end.

Becky’s Eighty-Eighth Book Review: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a book that I read in grade school when it was assigned. I read it like I was required to, but I never felt a real connection with the book. I never felt overwhelmed with emotion while reading the book. This was just as true the second time around that I read it. I know that “The Great Gatsby” is considered a classic, but I really don’t get what all the fuss is about. Perhaps I’m just jaded in my perspective on books. The reason that I picked up “The Great Gatsby” to reread is because of the movie coming out. The previews looked so good that it made me want to read the book again. I’m pretty sure that I will enjoy the movie a lot more than I enjoyed the book. I mean, just take a look at the cast! (I can’t be the only one who loves Leonardo DiCaprio)
Despite the fact that I found the book to be less than an ideal read, there were some moments where I was quite entertained by the language that Fitzgerald uses. “He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced—or seemed to face—the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you, with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believe in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.” (The Great Gatsby, pg 48). The thing is, while I was reading the book, I spent most of the time wondering when it would all be over. That isn’t the reaction that you want from your audience, but that is how I felt when reading “The Great Gatsby”. It was just too slow for me.
Would I recommend this book? I don’t know. I mean, it seems to be a book that everyone should read, but at the same time, there are so many good books out there that it seems unnecessary to waste your time reading a book that was ‘only ok’. There are some classics that I completely understand why they got that title, and then there are others such as “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald that I just don’t understand the big deal.

Becky’s Eighty-Seventh Book Review: “Dead Ever After” by Charlaine Harris

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SOOKIE STACKHOUSE NOVEL AND ARE PLANNING IT

“Dead Ever After” by Charlaine Harris wrapped up the Sookie Stackhouse series very nicely. I absolutely devoured the novel. It came out on Tuesday. I finished it Wednesday. The book was very well done, true to Harris’s usual style, a swift plot, colorful characters of the supernatural persuasion, entertaining dialogue, and an extreme attention to cleanliness. This is one thing that is consistent throughout all of Charlaine Harris’s novels–her characters are always clean freaks. Reading about her characters and their cleaning habits makes me want to clean my house. But back to the novel.
“Dead Ever After” features pretty much all of the characters that we have come to know and love from throughout the series including Quinn, Bill, Tara, Jason, Barry, Amelia, Bob, Alcide, Pam, Mr. Cataliades, Diantha, and a slew of enemies which I am not going to name because some of them were a big surprise to me and I’d like them to be a surprise to you! At the conclusion of the book before this, Eric and Sookie’s relationship was on the rocks, partly because Sookie had used her Cluviel Dor to bring Sam back to life. This book picks up right where that one left off and Sookie has to face many challenges that had come to light because she used such a powerful magical object. Magic always has its price and it seems that Sam has changed since coming back from the dead. While Sookie is trying to come to terms with the fact that one of her closest friends has become distant, she also has to decide what to do about her relationship with Eric. As always, there are people out to kill Sookie and in addition to dealing with all her personal problems, she has to dodge her unknown enemies. Another problem that arises in Sookie’s never-dull life is that she is arrested for murder. It is at this point that most of the characters come back into Sookie’s life to help prove her innocence.
“Dead Ever After” has a very quick pace to it and never a dull moment which is why I read it so quickly. I very much enjoy Sookie’s character, from her crazy adventures, to her funny thoughts such as, “I’d rather have a gun than magic any day, but maybe that was just American of me.” (Dead Ever After, pg 165). The series definitely has a southern influence to it, this is very obvious in not only the food that she describes, but the people and behaviors–quite entertaining. I am sad that this is the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, but it wrapped up the series very well and I personally am eager to see what new character Harris comes up with next. Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think anyone who enjoys a light read and does not object to the supernatural would enjoy this book, although if you haven’t read the other books in the series, you would be very confused as to what was going on. “Dead Ever After” was a great read.

Becky’s Eighty-Sixth Book Review: “The Black Dahlia” by James Ellroy

“The Black Dahlia” by James Ellroy was an interesting read. Unless you’ve lived in an extremely remote setting where you hear nothing of infamous crimes, you know who “The Black Dahlia” is. On January 15th, 1947 the severely mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, nicknamed “The Black Dahlia”, was discovered in a vacant lot. She had been severed at the waist, her mouth was slashed to her ears creating a ‘glasglo smile’, her body was covered in torture marks including cuts, rope burns, and the removal of chunks of skin and her body was drained of blood. Pretty brutal. Although this happened back in 1947, the case is still unsolved despite the fact that there have been many people who confessed to the crime. James Ellroy took this real event and created a crime noir around it with “The Black Dahlia”. The book has been turned into a movie which I haven’t seen for such a long time that I am not going to evaluate it.

I enjoy reading ‘true crime’ novels and as an aspiring murder-mystery writer, books such as “The Black Dahlia” can fall into the category of research. I wasn’t blown away by Ellroy’s novel, but it was interesting and gave a different perspective on the unsolved crime. There were times where I had to struggle through the book, but right when I was about to put it down and find something else to read, the plot would pick up again and I would have to keep reading. This happened several times throughout the novel.

While “The Black Dahlia” does revolve around the murder of Elizabeth Short, the main character of Ellroy’s novel is Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert. Bucky is one of the many police officers who gets assigned to the “Black Dahlia” murder along with his partner, Lee Blanchard. In Ellroy’s version, Bucky eventually finds out who killed Elizabeth Short, but is unable to bring them to justice for a couple reasons. I don’t want to give too much away in case you do chose to read this. We do learn a lot about Bucky and Lee’s relationship and the woman that they’re both in love with. I think Ellroy developed his characters very well and overall I think this was a good read. It just probably isn’t something that I’ll be picking up again anytime soon. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who do not enjoy reading true crime novels and I also do not think this would be a good read for someone who doesn’t have a great attention span.