Tuesday, August 7, 2012

East of Denver by Gregory Hill

Holy moly! So...I'm a nice handful of book reviews behind. Amazing how this stuff stacks up when you find other things to occupy your time. (Ahem, Olympics.)

I won East of Denver by Gregory Hill as a Goodreads First Reads book. Have I said how much I love winning those books? It's fun to try new things and get novels from first time authors.

Stacey "Shakespeare" Williams returns home to visit his elderly father, who is suffering from dementia. I kind of knew I was in for an odd ride quite quickly, as the book begins with Stacey driving to the farm with a dead cat in his back seat. I wasn't wrong. Upon arriving, he finds the house a mess, with rotting food out in the kitchen and litter strewn about. He is concerned with trying to understand why his father hasn't been cared for -- he was supposed to be getting help from a local woman named Unabelle. Stacey doesn't have to wait long to find out...after a short while he finds Unabelle behind a locked bathroom door, dead for an unknown amount of time. You ask...how didn't he know the moment he walked into the house? The smell...how did he not have an idea? Ah...but Stacy is an anosic--he is unable to smell. How often do you come across something like that? And how convenient is it in this particular scenario?

Stacey resigns himself to stay with his father, as he has nothing waiting for him back at home in Denver. He is attempting to revive some of the farm, but soon realizes that something has gone rather wrong. It seems that his father has been cheated out of money and equipment, including an airplane, by a local crooked banker. At this point, you'd think a lawyer would be contacted and the wrongs would be somewhat righted, but this book does not follow a normal pattern in any way. Instead, Stacey decides to take on the problem by himself.

While investigating what the true story of events has been, Stacey rekindles relationships with former high school classmates, Carissa (employed as a teller at the bank), Vaughn (his best friend, now a paraplegic living in his mother's basement), and D.J (the local drug dealer). The more he learns about the deception that threatens to cost his father the family farm, the angrier he becomes. He schemes with his father and the local misfits to even up the score.

The book is a very dark comedy, littered with rather bland attempts at humor. To be perfectly honest, it just wasn't my style. The characters are hard to believe as a whole. It all just seems too over the top with oddness. I think the plot had promise and there could have been some wonderful things to come out of it, but it seems as if the author just tries too hard. Gregory Hill does well with description and clearly paints a picture of every moment. But at the same time, there comes across a certain crudeness...a lack of refinement that just makes everything awkward.

I mentioned earlier how much I enjoy the Goodreads First Reads program. It's really been a new and fun experience for me. I have to say though, it has been a challenging task as well. I tend to feel more obligated to the authors of these books. They have put their babies in my hands in the hopes that I will praise their hard work and help them find a larger readership. And sometimes, this happens. Some of these books are marvelous and I can't get enough of them. But...I just can't say that of them all. And I have to stay true to my feelings as a reader. I have to be honest in my reviews...otherwise I'm really just wasting my time and the time of my readers.

This book unfortunately did not live up to my expectations. It was quirky and uncomfortable for me. I just didn't enjoy this book. Sadly, I gave East of Denver only two out of five stars.

Now...to end with a little bit of brightness. It's been a while since I've updated the 2012 bracket. So...here it is. Updated in all it's glory.


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