The Bookworm: No pain, no gain; an education in friendship

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“Nothing to Lose”

By Angela Winters

c. 2013, Kensington

$15/$16.95 Canada

320 pages

“No” is definitely not your favorite word. You can’t stand to hear it in any form. You can’t stand to read it and you very rarely say it. You hate the word because it only means you can’t have something you want. That’s a word you’ve removed from your vocabulary.

So how far would you go to get your heart’s greatest desire? In the new book “Nothing to Lose” by Angela Winter, three friends want what they want and they’ll destroy lives to get it.

Sherise Robinson was “demanding and spoiled, and that was the way she liked it.” She’d grown up on in Southeast D.C. and had clawed her way to where she was, working with the man who would surely be the next President of the United States.

Yes, she was at the top of her game, but it hadn’t been easy. Sherise had slept with a lot of men, both for revenge and for social position. It had almost cost her marriage but she and Justin had been in therapy and were now more in love than ever before. Sherise only hoped that would be enough if, for some reason, the lid was ever blown off the biggest potential scandal of all-time.

It had been a long year for Billie Carter, but things were finally looking up.

She’d made a career-altering mistake at her D.C. law firm, and while the partners were reluctant to fire her, she knew they were relieved when she resigned. After six months of joblessness, though, her old lawschool chum offered her a plum job with strings attached. Billie had to win over a headhunter and, once she did that, she would have to work with her ex-husband on a big case. The first part would be a piece of cake. The second part would almost ruin everything.

Erica Kent had discovered the truth about her paternity by mistake. It was a bigger mistake to confront powerful Jonah Nolan about it because now he wanted to control her life, for her own good, he claimed. But Erica was fully capable of making decisions and finding her own love. Wasn’t she?

Oh, my. Where do I begin?

Let’s start with this: I fully believe there are way too many characters in this book; eight of them before you’re even at the end of page three. Add in an extremely convoluted tangle of infidelity that ultimately matters little to the storyline and you’re off to a not-so-good start.

If it got better, I would tell you. But I can’t.

From this weak opening, more characters are added: manipulators, alcoholics, liars, sniping “girls,” not much to like. The scandals are ho-hum, toss in a silly faux-intrigue story-with-a-story, and it’s all quite hard to follow. No matter: I pretty much stopped caring long before the contrived ending is revealed.

There are better books out there some, by author Angela Winters! but I just can’t recommend this one. You may want to try “Nothing to Lose” but I don’t see anything to gain by it.

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“The Thicket”

By Joe R. Lansdale

c. 2013, Mulholland Books

$26/$29.00 Canada

352 pages

You know who your friends are. They’re the ones who keep your secrets, or your car keys when you need them to. They’ll loan you five minutes or five dollars, tell you when your ideas are good and your breath is bad, and can be counted on, but never out. You’d like to think they’d even take a bullet for you but, as in the new novel, “The Thicket” by Joe R. Lansdale, you hope you’ll never have to know.

It all started with the pox.

Right after Jack Parker and his Grandpa finished burying Jack’s Ma and Pa, dead from the disease, Grandpa decided that Jack and his little sister, Lula, would be better off in Kansas City with their Aunt Tessle. And that might’ve been true they’d never know because, while crossing the Sabine River , they were attacked by bandits and Lula was kidnapped.

His Grandpa dead, his sister gone, seventeen-year-old Jack ended up in a nearby town where he hoped to find The Law but instead found a dead sheriff, a black boar hog with tusks, and a tall Negro man who was commencing to bury the aftermath of mob justice. The man introduced himself as Eustace, and told Jack that he was a tracker and could help him find the men that took Lula but it wouldn’t come cheap and he wouldn’t do it unless they could “get Shorty to sign up.”

With the hog tagging alongside, Eustace took Jack down a “rabbit path” to meet with Shorty. As they neared Shorty’s home, Jack saw a child peering through a telescope and it took him a minute to understand that he wasn’t meeting with a child. He was meeting with a dwarf.

Eustace seemed a little unstable. Shorty seemed to want to kill, but Jack was a Parker and that wasn’t how Parkers did things. He didn’t want violence or bloodshed. He didn’t want any trouble at all, really. He only wanted his sister back.

And he’d learn quick enough what it would take to get her.

Let’s say you planned to write a story set in, oh, about 1916 in Texas . Borrow a little from The Wizard of Oz, a little Mark Twain, and make a nod toward classic western literature. Add humor, some savagery, and remove just about everything “PC” and you might come close to the perfection that is “The Thicket.”

Actually, scratch that. Don’t even try. Nobody does a modern-western novel like author Joe R. Lansdale.

And that’s good because you won’t find any fully-stereotypical “western” characters in a Lansdale novel. You’ll find the gunslinger, a prostitute, and a man-boy who grows up fast, yes, but they don’t do things the way they do in other westerns. You’ll find them in shocking situations of cruelty and violence with rays of goodness and surprising playfulness, though, and it works. It works wonderfully.

If you’re in the mood for something down-and-dirty but oh-so-enjoyable, here’s your book. Read “The Thicket” and then loan it out carefully.

You know who your friends are ...

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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