June 14, 2013

Trail of the Chupacabra by Stephen Randel

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At the top of the stairs, Avery heard footsteps coming. He backed up over the bodies of two dead cartel soldiers and took a fighting stance in the doorway of the nearest room. Whipping his broom handles in a figure-eight pattern, he steadied himself. He’d been training for this his whole life.

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Warning: This review may contain spoilers to The Chupacabra: A Borderline Crazy Tale of Coyotes, Cash and Cartels by Stephen Randel. Buy that book at a great price here (I highly recommend it!).

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Publisher's Synopsis: Avery Bartholomew Pendleton is back, and he's j ust as crazy as ever. Avery is a paranoid loner obsessed with global conspiracy theories who spends most of his time crafting absurd and threatening letters to anyone who offends him. That means pretty much everyone.

Still convinced of the existence of the mythical Mexican chupacabra*, Avery enlists the assistance of the Southwest Texas Revolutionary Armed Confederate Border Operations Militia (STRAC-BOM) and their manic leader, General X-Ray, to help him invade Mexico. Accompanied by Ziggy, a burned-out hippy, and an uncommonly large iguana named Nancy, the group follows the advice of a New Orleans voodoo priestess and heads straight into the Mexican desert.

Unfortunately for the motley gang of explorers, Mexico can be a dangerous place if you cross the wrong people -- specifically, the Padre, a vicious drug cartel boss, and El Barquero, a murderous gunrunner who has crossed Avery’s path before.

What unfolds is a laugh-out-loud dark comedy of insane humor, unforgettable characters, and chilling thrills.

*No chupacabras were injured in the writing of this book.

Review:  Just like the first novel in Randel's Avery Bartholomew series, The Chupacabra, Trail of the Chupacabra had me laughing out loud one minute and on the edge of my seat in suspense the next (but mostly laughing the whole time). Most of the colorful characters from the first book resurface in this novel and it really reminded me of Randel's gift of creating characters whose personalities jump off the page. From Avery, who is hands down my favorite character, to El Barquero, Avery's polar opposite, these characters are real enough to care about. Because this book has so many characters and stories that link together, I think I might have lost interest if not for the vibrancy of every personality; they are the glue that holds all of the hilarious and intense pieces together.

While a lot of the things that happen in this book are way too coincidental or extreme, the exciting story and hilarious writing gave me more than enough reason to suspend my disbelief. Randel's juxtaposition of violent Mexican cartel murderers and self-important idiots like Avery and the members of STRAC-BOM, already make for an interesting story. Additionally, the hilarious (and often deadly) miscommunications (like members of STRAC-BOM insinuating to the cartel that they are an official military group) used to move the story forward make for even more to appreciate in its execution.

Trail of the Chupacabra included a lot more personal background to some of the key characters than in The Chupacabra, and I think this helped readers gain insight into their motivations. I especially liked the history of El Barquero and General X-Ray. Even though they have their faults, I always have had a soft spot for them both and it was good to hear about what made them who they are respectively. Similarly and without giving away spoilers, I really love Avery during the climax of this story. I feel like as stupid and self-important as he is, he's also underestimated.

Personally, I could have done without Ziggy and Nancy, although I do understand that Ziggy signifies Avery's dysfunctional ability to make and keep friends on some level and provides more comic relief. I just didn't think the story would change much if they were omitted.

I'm often asked by male friends and family if my book review blog ever reviews books that guys would like. To be honest, I do read a lot of "chick lit" and not all of my reviews are those men would read; but I'm very excited to report that this book (along with The Chupacabra) is a book that men and women would both equally enjoy. While there isn't a love story or anything sappy (unless you count Ziggy and Nancy...), I was entertained as a female and there is plenty of action and adventure for guys to love it, too. In fact, I think anyone would love this book and it really should be turned into a movie with an all-star ensemble cast (starring Zach Galifianakis and The Rock... does he still go by The Rock? haha).

Bottom Line: If you like action, adventure and love to laugh (who doesn't?!),  I highly recommend you pick up a case of Mountain Dew and start reading immediately! 4/5 stars

About the Author:  Stephen Randel, CFA, was born in Houston, Texas. He is a graduate of Texas Christian University. Steve now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and their two rescue dogs.

Next week's book is Matched by Ally Condie 

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