Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ghost Walk

Ghost WalkGhost Walk by Brian Keene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Ken Ripple decided to build a haunted road, The Ghost Walk, he has no idea what horror will be unleashed. Can Amish sorcerer Levi Stoltzfus stop unspeakable horror from entering the world and devouring it?

I've read a couple Brian Keene books (The Lost Level and King of The Bastards) in the past and the hints at his Labyrinth mythos grabbed my attention. So, when Ghost Walk popped up for 99 cents for one day only, my decision was made.

Ghost Walk is the tale of an evil trying to enter the world and the man trying to stop it. Levi Stoltzfus is a very compelling character, hearkening to Roland Deschain of The Dark Tower series and The Rider from Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter, although he's not a ripoff of either by any means. Levi is a sorcerer who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, as long as it's God's will, and is surprisingly heartless at times. Seriously, Levi has a lot of potential and I hope Keene has him live up to it in future books.

The menace isn't as compelling as the character but is fairly chilling since it plays on its victims' worst fears. The way Levi dealt with it seemed logical given the workings of magic in Keene's universe. There was a little gore but not near as much as Keene is known for. The writing isn't spectacular but is more than adequate for the job. While he's no Elmore Leonard, Keene's dialogue is still pretty slick, balancing the horror with humor.

I don't really have many gripes with this book. I probably should have read Dark Hollow first but I didn't feel in the dark by any means. Reading more Brian Keene and Levi Stoltzfus will be one of my 2017 priorities. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Dark Collector

Vanessa North
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Jeffrey Kuyper was a once-in-a-generation talent and I was his muse.

Jeffrey's death shocked the art world and upended my life. His last portrait is an intimate reminder of our final weeks together. Now it's up for auction and I want it more than anything. When a cold-mannered man in a dark suit outbids me, I'll agree to anything to buy it from him--even a weekend in his bed.

My Review

So unexpectedly beautiful.

Oliver Conklin is grieving for his lover of 5 years, who died in a car crash a year ago.

Jeffrey Kuyper was an artist and a Dom inspired by his young, submissive lover.

Now Jeffrey’s estate is up for grabs and all Oliver wants is his last painting. With just a wave of the paddle, the Dark Collector, a big fan of Jeffrey’s work, is now its owner.

He agrees to sell Oliver the painting on the condition he spend the weekend with him and do whatever he asks.

Oh, how I wanted to hate the Dark Collector. He took advantage of Oliver and disregarded his grief. It was his smile, his soft expressions and tenderness that warmed me up to him. Their sex is kinky, passionate, and so full of emotion. Oliver likes the feeling of being “owned”, but he remembers that this is nothing more than an arrangement they made.

Gradually, the Dark Collector helps Oliver find himself and find peace.

“Is that what I’m doing? Making peace? I watch myself in the mirror as I lick the last few drops away. How long has it been since I’ve cared at all about the person I see in the mirror? Can the muse exist when the artist does not? How can this stranger, whose name I don’t even know, see me if I can’t?”

This is an exquisitely written story that explores a man’s grief, love, and healing. The ending is sweet and made me cry happy tears.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Hero, The Sword, and The Dragons

The Hero, The Sword and The Dragons (Chronicles of Dragon, #1)The Hero, The Sword and The Dragons by Craig Halloran
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nath Dragon may look like a man, but he was born a dragon. He's a rare dragon, a great dragon, like his father and grandfather before him. His father and grandfather were born dragons, became men, and had to earn their scales to become dragons once more. Nath is trying to do just that, but has yet to earn a single scale after countless years. So Nath continues to save dragons in hopes to become a great dragon like his father.

The Hero, The Sword, and The Dragons was a really solid story. A light and easy read for sure with some complexities that were quite interesting. It's also sophomoric at times like an eye roll inducing uncle with lines like this, "Nath Dragon is my name; saving dragons (and other things) is my game." I wish I could say that was the only line like that in the book, but there are quite a few more which is shocking since the story isn't even 200 pages long.

Nath is a solid character who purely desires to help dragons and please his father. He doesn't visit home often because he's ashamed that he's still scaleless. Nath has that loveable oaf type of personality yet he's a fierce fighter. His personality is offset by his mostly serious travel companion the dwarf Brenwar. Brenwar felt similar in personality to Gimli in the Lord of the Rings films in that he's a good friend, travel companion, and warrior.

The Hero, The Sword, and The Dragons wasn't a stunning story, but it makes me want to know what happens next when it ends. Any book that leaves me feeling like that when I put it down, is a pretty solid book in my opinion.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017


MonsieurMonsieur by Lawrence Durrell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”I dozed on my bed until sunrise and then set out resolutely to find a coffee, traversing the old city with affection and distress, hearing my own sharp footsteps on the pavements, disembodied as a ghost. Avignon! Its shabby lights and sneaking cats were the same as ever; overturned dustbins, the glitter of fish scales, olive oil, broken glass, a dead scorpion. All the time we had been away on our travels round the world it had stayed pegged here at the confluence of its two green rivers. The past embalmed it, the present could not alter it. So many years of going away and coming back, of remembering and forgetting it. It had always waited for us, floating among its tenebrous monuments, the corpulence of its ragged bells, the putrescence of its squares.”

We first meet Bruce Drexel when he is traveling home to Avignon after learning of the “suicide” of his best friend, Piers, who was more like a brother to him. In fact, he was his brother-in-law as Bruce is married to Piers’ sister Sylvie. The three of them were close, so close that idle speculation might allude to the fact that Bruce married Sylvie only to be closer to Piers (his lover). Their friend Rob Sutcliffe was so struck by their entwined relationship that he made them the subject of one of his novels. Sutcliffe, too, has perished, but his lingering shadow keeps slithering along the walls of the plot, long after he has gone, by way of his notebooks and letters. Given that I am an amateur reviewer, I couldn’t help, but laugh at his description of reviewers. ”The reviews of his new book were all bad or grudging. A critic is a lug-worm in the liver of literature.”

I can’t imagine that Lawrence Durrell ever had to suffer bad reviews, of course not.

This lug-worm in the liver of literature will squirm on.

The fact that Bruce was returning from a post far from the gothic dilapidated halls of Verfeuille and his wife Sylvie left behind begs the question of the current status of their relationship, and with Piers now gone, is the connection too tenuous to continue? There was once passion. ”When I closed my eyes the darkness throbbed around us and once more I returned to relive, re-experience the soft scroll of her tongue which pressed back mine and probed steadily downwards across chest and stomach to settle at last, throbbing like a hummingbird on my sex. I held that beautiful head between my palms like something disembodied, and rememorised the dark hair cropped down, and then spurred up into its chignon, the crumpled ears of a new-born lamb, the white teeth and lips upon which I would soon slowly and deliberately graft back my happy kisses.”

The soft scroll of her tongue and then throbbing like a hummingbird --quick, someone dash a pail of ice cold water in my face. Let me just say, it has been too long since I’ve read Durrell, but what I do remember from reading him before is the weight of every one of his sentences. His words choices are lush and unusual. His supporting characters are all fascinating, and each adds new levels of interest to the plot and, in some cases, new insight into the trinity of main characters. ”Toby as a victim of the historical virus could not look at the town without seeing it historically, so to speak--layer after layer of history laid up in slices, embodied in its architecture.” As another sufferer of the historical virus, Toby and I would be fast friends or fast enemies if our interpretations of history differed. Or maybe Piers and I would have been that special kind of friends for our mutual love of books. ”Though he had always been a bit of a dandy his choice of apparel was scanty, but choice, with a distinct leaning towards clothes made for him in London. A couple of medium-sized trunks were enough to house personal possessions of this kind; but the books were a different matter--Piers could not live without books, and plenty of them. This explained the sagging home-made bookshelves knocked together from pieces of crate.”

Probably about 80% of the bookshelves in my house have been knocked together by myself, not of crate, but of cheap pine. I build shelves myself because I have to take advantage of every square inch of my library, so shelves are designed to go from ceiling to floor to not lose precious book inches.

The characters are so interesting, do we even need a plot? Indeed, we do. The issue really revolves around: ”Trash was taking an English lesson with a French whore who had the longest tongue in Christendom. What happiness he knew, in all his innocence, what pride in this girl with the slit of a mouth--so spoiled and gracile a slender body.” Ok, I’m just messing with you. The plot does not revolve around the whore with the longest tongue. Though once you read those couple of sentences, one can’t help pondering the benefits of having such a long tongue, given her chosen profession.

The trio of Bruce, Sylvie, and Piers met a guru who led them into the deserts of Egypt for a mind expanding experience with the help of mind altering drugs. Akkad then infused his discussions with pearls of infinite wisdom that made it seem that he may possess the answers to all the greatest questions. They were all impressed, but Piers felt like he had finally found what he had been looking for his whole life. Something larger than himself to believe in. Is it a religion, a philosophy, or a cult? The most successful spiritual organizations manage to blend some of all three.

The circumstances of Piers’s suicide were, needless to say, suspicious. Unless he found and ordered a do-it-yourself guillotine kit or figured out how to rig a flashing blade with springs and levers, then someone had to help him, or should I say murder him? As Bruce pulled the pieces together, it became more and more clear that the cult in the desert may have very well had a hand in executing, as Piers liked to call himself, the last of the Templars.

The subtitle of this novel is The Prince of Darkness , and certainly there are gothic overtones throughout the whole novel. The setting is around World War Two, but the book has a decided Victorian feel to it. There is more light in the world in the 1940s, but this novel definitely feels like a time when darkness was only lightened by flickering candles and dancing gas flames. The writing, as I’ve mentioned, is so evocative and so succulent that I had black ink on my teeth and (normal lengthed) tongue as I masticated each sentence, trying to steal Durrell’s vast talent...and make it mine.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Gluttony Bay (Sin du Jour #6) By: Matt Wallace

Gluttony Bay (Sin du Jour, #6)Gluttony Bay by Matt Wallace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Matt Wallace makes me physically ill, I have made my problems with novellas known, it all boils down to my reading speed. YETTTT, EVERY SINGLE TIME a new Sin du Jour book comes out I drop what I am reading and devour it like I have never read a book before.

This series of books is what I call the best Netflix series that hasn't been made yet, Tons of fun, characters that you will love and wild, but awesomely good stuff.

Do yourself a favor, go get all these books, sit down and ENJOY YOURSELF.

3000 stars out of 5

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Dogs of War By: Adrian Tchaikovsky

Dogs of WarDogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an incredible view into a very very possible future. Dogs of war will make you think about the future of warfare, science and mankind. Actually, more like the nature of being. (yes, I am being vague...but I don't spoil things remember)

Great, very deep characters, which is an accomplishment considering the premise of the story, cracking action and great pace to the tale, This is a great holiday read if you like your scifi with a military edge.

Highly recommended.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Duped and Loving It!

Shutter IslandShutter Island by Dennis Lehane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Good lord, I was not expecting that! Heck of a good read, in my book!

Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island started off well for me and my tastes. Federal Marshals going into an insane asylum/prison on an inescapable island in Massachusetts during post-WWII to find a missing crazy woman, who apparently escaped. Love the setting, the characters, everything!

From here on out this review contains all kinds of spoilers, so you just stop right here, Miss I-Haven't-Read-This-But-Plan-To.


The set-up story roped me in. It took me far too long to figure out what was going on. I caught the signs Lehane shoved my why, but I willfully ignored them. Yes, looking back on them, I ignored them like a step-child.

Though the anagrams, the numbers, and then the very obvious prophetic dreams all stuck in the back of my head and told me that thins weren't as they seemed, I ignored them all in favor of trying to figure out Rachel Solando's impossible escape.

In my defense, I didn't know a thing about the book before reading it. I know people loved it, so I intentionally avoided spoilers. Glad I did!

It felt inventive to me. Maybe others weren't so fooled, but I was and I'm okay with that. I was taken in and frankly, I love it! I'm glad a book can still dupe me like that. Probably if I read more psychological thrillers I wouldn't be so impressed. But I am. 5 Stars!

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The Flattening of the Earth

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first CenturyThe World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Fucking flat-earthers...Oh wait, that's not what he means? All right, maybe I'll read it."

That was me about five or so years ago when friends kept insisting I read The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman. Finally, when my wife recently bought tickets to a local Friedman talk, I resolved to read the damn thing.

I'm glad I did. It's really good. I'm not saying it's prefect (I'll get to that in a minute), but this is a must read at least for a certain few people with their heads in the clouds. For one, it's a great book for folks who don't understand what has happened since the advent of the internet. Give this as a gift to your dad or gramps. If they don't use it as a doorstop, they'll get a hell of an education on the modern ways of business and sociability.

The other group of people that need to read this, or really any book like this, are those cretins who troll, lurk and spew upon the comment section of "news" articles online. Everybody seems to have an indisputable, unshakable opinion that they take for fact and which they feel the need to spray all over the internet. They are the modern version of every family's uncle from the good ol' days who would show up at family events and holidays seemingly for the sole purpose of annoying everyone else while starting an argument with another alpha male about politics, religion, economics and any other myriad of topics that most sane people know is off-limits around family and friends you wish to retain as such. The real crime in all this is that they don't usually know what the fuck they're talking about. They have one biased, uninformed talking point on whatever the subject is they'll let you hear it.

So yes, I do feel like a book like this is helpful for a segment of the population, especially in these particularly stupid days in the American dark ages. The problem is, at 600+ pages, this book is 300 pages longer than it needs to be.


The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century is not brief. That's because it's written as a journalist would write a book. This is a book-length feature article. Friedman makes a statement, maybe backs it up with data, and then gives an example via a full-blown biography on a business or entrepreneur. It's all good stuff. Some of it's even enjoyable. But it's more than necessary for what's actually being said. He could've done more with less. I honestly doubt I would've gotten through this if I hadn't gone with the audiobook version and had a cubic buttload of yard work to do.

Now, that's not to say didn't enjoy this or that I didn't get something out of it. I did. I am getting old and so some of these whippersnappers with their new fangled gadgets befuddle me. However, I did grow up in the age when personal computers were first coming into the home. I even had a Commodore 64, baby! So I'm not at a total loss in the computer age. On the other hand, I am a bit of a recluse and I'm not big into global politics and the economy, so sadly I am having to catch up on that and a book like this taught me a thing or two. So, let's call it a good stepping stone for the uninitiated.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017


Carrie Vaughn’s “Bannerless” is a science fiction book of ideas. Ostensibly a mystery, this short novel is really an exploration of the ramifications of the effect of scarce resources on society. But unlike the summary on the cover of the book, the main character Enid, an “Investigator” does not expose cracks in foundation of the society. What she does is enforce the laws of this community run society. Essentially, the Investigators are judge, jury and enforcer of the Coast Road rules. They travel from town to town to make sure the Coast Road polities are obeyed. The most stringently enforced rules deal with over-consumption. After the “Fall”, the apocalyptic catastrophe that killed millions and decimated society two generations or so ago, the remaining people had to band together to make it.

Small communities sprung up and down the Coast Road, grew their own food, hunted or fished and made do with a small amount of technology that survived plus the books and treatises saved by the founders. Vaughn imagines that birth control would be one of the main technologies that would survive this catastrophe. The Coast Road society uses the ability to control birth and control population to ensure that the towns and households do not over consume scant resources. People are only allowed to have children (obtain a Banner) if the community or their household can show the ability to support more children. And people who get permission proudly display their banners.

Needless to say that if people try to illegally gain a child, the Investigators are quick to punish the household by either splitting them up or taking children away from their families and parents or punishing the community by banning children for a time. In Enid’s mind these transgressions should be punished severely. Several times Vaughn depicts Enid’s anger as an Investigator. Her fear of what happened before and her desire to not have it happen again.

The novel is split into two halves. Enid and Tomas, her co-Investigator, and mentor, have been called to Serenity, a small community down the Coast Road, where one of the citizens has died under suspicious circumstances. The only mystery is whether the man, who appears to be bannerless, that is born without permission of the Coast Road, and ostracized in Serenity fell or was pushed to his death. Although the “culprit” is easily identified early on, it is Enid’s investigation of the reasons for his death that is the key. Serenity is a town run by a counsel made up of Ariana, Philos and Lee, three heads of households in the town. Enid’s discovers that Ariana requested the investigation, but has ulterior purposes. Philos, who runs the Bounty household, has run roughshod over the town for a while and Ariana wants to take him down. But while Enid pursues her investigation, she runs into Dak, a troubadour that she had journeyed with in her youth.

This is the second part of the novel. In a series of timeline shifts, Vaughn skips back and forth from the present to the past. Enid tells of the time before she was an Investigator and went down the Coast Road, visiting various towns and making love with Dak, a sweet playing musician. Enid journey is both a journey of discovery of who she is and who Dak is, but also a reinforcement in many ways of the benefits of the Coast Road society rules. Enid discovers that she wants to be useful and stand on her own merits, while Dak is a little hollow at his core, and Enid discovers does not want to get involved with Investigators or society. His wandering ways are as much a part of his reaction to what happened to him as a kid as Enid strong center are hers. Enid will also run into people in an abandoned pre-fall city, where a woman with three malnourished children is surviving in a nomadic existence. This is a woman who will not accept the population controls of the Coast Road and telling says to Enid, that the Coast Road "takes your children away"

Enid and Tomas investigation of Serenity, Dak, Ariana and Philos will reveal the tensions in a society that values control of resources and rules against freedom to do what you will. In the end, greed and power are always a danger to societal rules.

The real question for the reader is whether Vaughn through Enid makes her point. Is the Coast Road’s society just. Can religiously controlling reproduction and resources ensure that a society can grow responsibly? The jury is out for this reader. But Enid is very convinced and diligently pursues punishment for the people who want to break her society’s rules.

Cycle of the Werewolf

Cycle of the WerewolfCycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Under the light of the full moon, a werewolf stalks the people of Tarker's Mills. Can anyone stop... The Cycle of the Werewolf?!?!?!?

I first read this in high school, younger than my dog is now. It took me a few chapters to realize that Silver Bullet was based on it. Anyway, I found it for a buck at a yard sale a couple years ago and decided I could use a reread.

Like Kemper told me while I was reading it, Cycle of the Werewolf is essentially a Stephen King calendar. Each chapter is a month out of the year the werewolf is stalking the town, accompanied by one or more of Bernie Wrightson's fantastic illustrations. Stephen King's writing is as crisp as ever. Also, he wrote this during his prime so it isn't bloated or over-written in the least.

I actually prefer the movie in this case. It has a lot more depth. Marty Coslaw doesn't show up until halfway through the book. The book and movie hit most of the same beats. I think the book might rely on Bernie Wrightson's illustrations a little too much. For the most part, it's just a collection of werewolf attacks with not a lot else going on. That being said, I did like the structure, with every chapter being a month of the werewolf's reign of terror.

While it is strictly a B-list Stephen King book, Cycle of the Werewolf is by far the best Stephen King novel ever turned into a movie starring Cory Haim and Gary Busey. Three out of five stars.

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