Friday, October 21, 2016

Tigers and Devils

Sean Kennedy
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


The most important things in Simon Murray’s life are football, friends, and film—in that order. His friends despair of him ever meeting someone, but despite his loneliness, Simon is cautious about looking for more. Then his best friends drag him to a party, where he barges into a football conversation and ends up defending the honour of star forward Declan Tyler—unaware that the athlete is present. In that first awkward meeting, neither man has any idea they will change each other's lives forever.

Like his entire family, Simon revels in living in Melbourne, the home of Australian Rules football and mecca for serious fans. There, players are treated like gods—until they do something to fall out of public favour. This year, the public is taking Declan to task for suffering injuries outside his control, so Simon's support is a bright spot.

But as Simon and Declan fumble toward a relationship, keeping Declan's homosexuality a secret from well-meaning friends and an increasingly suspicious media becomes difficult. Nothing can stay hidden forever. Soon Declan will have to choose between the career he loves and the man he wants, and Simon has never been known to make things easy—for himself or for others.

My Review

Declan Tyler is a famous, but closeted, football player. Simon Murray is a film festival director. These two very different men meet at a party that Simon is forced to attend by his best friend, Roger, and his wife, Fran. Declan and Simon hit it off instantly, but they are in for many difficult times ahead.

Because of Declan’s fame, both men have to deal with lots of media attention, which eventually casts a spotlight on Declan’s sexuality and creates problems for Declan and Simon, both within their relationship, and among their friends, families and colleagues. As if this is not difficult enough, Declan and Simon are typical of many men who have a problem with communication. Misunderstandings and hurt feelings are rife, but Declan and Simon really love each other and are determined to make their relationship work. They are very fortunate to have loyal, understanding and supportive friends who stand by them.

Tigers and Devils is a sweet, angst-filled, emotional, humorous and heartwarming romance. While the guys do have sex, it is subtle and non-explicit. The emphasis here is on the relationship. The main and secondary characters are well-developed, interesting, and complex. It is refreshing to read a gay romance with likable female characters. Football is a significant part of the story and helps move it along, but if you’re not a fan, don’t worry. There is just enough detail to give the reader a picture of the sport without bogging down the plot.

Oh, did I mention the story takes place in Australia? And thankfully there are no Americanisms! Sure, I had to look up a few terms, but that certainly didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story. I loved the glimpse into Australian life and culture.

I loved spending time with Simon and Declan and enjoyed the full-length of this story. My only complaint is that it ended.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Doctor Strange, Vol. 1: The Way of the Weird

Doctor Strange, Vol. 1: The Way of the WeirdDoctor Strange, Vol. 1: The Way of the Weird by Jason Aaron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Magical creatures are fleeing their normal realms and appearing on Earth.
The cause isn't clear, but what is clear is all things magic are under attack.

The Way of the Weird shows what life is like as the Sorcerer Supreme and it sucks. For all the grief other heroes like Spider-Man go through this volume made it clear that Stephen Strange likely has the worst hero job. The others at least get acknowledged for their actions, but to the general public Dr. Strange gets little credit for his sacrifices. A few new aspects of magic were revealed in this issue and I'm not sure how I feel about them. Magical heroes aren't the titles I normally read, but this was pretty good.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Dream StoryDream Story by Arthur Schnitzler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Am I sure? Only as sure as I am that the reality of one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime, can ever be the whole truth.”

 photo The-Bride20Klimt_zpsagvssd9o.jpg
The Bride (1918) by Klimt

It all begins with a confession of sorts as his wife Albertine tells him of a fantasy she had involving a man that she saw on their vacation. Fridolin also confesses that he had desired a young woman on the beach.

It seems fairly harmless after all.

When we marry, we don’t go numb from the waist down and the neck up. We continue to notice attractive people and continue to be titillated by charming and intelligent ones, as well. It could be a ruggedly handsome waiter in a restaurant or a pretty pearl wearing bartender or a French beret wearing poet or a saucy librarian with libidinous thoughts. There are a host of emotions that are involved with noticing that our spouse is interested in some other person. If it is one sided, it can just be amusing or mildly annoying. If the interest is reciprocated, then it can unleash a torrent of reactions from fear to pride to jealousy to finding your spouse that much more alluring because someone else recognized those qualities that you may have started to take for granted.

Flirtations or mild crushes, in most cases, just adds a bit of spice to life.

For Fridolin, this confession of his wife, even though his confession is very similar, unmoors him. It is as if the possibilities of his life are suddenly opening up to him, and women whom he met every day suddenly take on the glow of possibility. Soon after the dream confessions, Fridolin, who is a doctor,, is called out to a client in dire health. Unfortunately, his trip is for naught as the man has passed when he arrives.

Thus begins one of the strangest evenings, an odyssey really, of Fridolin’s life. By the end of the night, he has met a series of women, all women who are interested in sleeping with him and all whom he would like to sleep with. In thinking about which he would prefer, he canot decide. ”To the little Pierrette? Or to the little trollop in the Buchfeldgasse? Or to Marianne, the daughter of the dead Court Counsellor?” It does not matter for they are all about to be replaced by a woman he is on the verge of meeting in precarious circumstances.

”Fridolin was intoxicated, and not merely by her presence, her fragrant body and burning red lips, nor by the atmosphere of the room and the aura of lascivious secrets that surrounded him; he was at once thirsty and delirious, made so by all the adventures of the night, none of which had led to anything, by his own audacity, and by the sea-change he felt within himself. He stretched out and touched the veil covering her head, as though intended to remove it.”

He has fallen into a secret sex club with the help of his piano playing friend Nachtigall. He isn’t supposed to be there. He was never supposed to meet this woman with the burning red lips. He is supposed to be home with his wife and daughter.

Though it is an evening fraught with sexual possibilities, he is like a man walking through a museum admiring the intriguing paintings, but touching none of them.

His wife has more dreams to confess.

 photo arthur-schnitzler_zpss6f74utp.jpg
Look at all that hair the young Arthur Schnitzler had.

Arthur Schnitzler’s work was considered filth by Adolf Hitler. Anything that upsets that goose stepping, stiff necked, little pipsqueak should be read by the rest of the civilized world with reverence. Schnitzler was born in 1862 and died in Vienna in 1931. If he had lived long enough, the Nazis would have most certainly beaten him and had him thrown in some damp hole for being the Viennese Henry Miller, a few decades before Miller knew he was Miller. If his writing was not enough of an incentive to bring him to the attention of the Third Reich, certainly his Jewish ethnicity would have condemned him just as quickly.

Schnitzler had numerous affairs, sometimes with several women at the same time. He kept a Journal for most of his life and dutifully recorded not only every assignation, but every orgasm. A bit OCD about the adventures of his willie, wouldn’t you say? The venerated Viennese doctor of psychology Sigmund Freud said in a letter to Schnitzler, "I have gained the impression that you have learned through intuition – although actually as a result of sensitive introspection – everything that I have had to unearth by laborious work on other persons." Was there a bit of Freudian jealousy in that observation? Does Freud need some time on his own couch? Fridolin may have thought about making conquests of women, but Schnitzler turned thought into deed.

 photo Kidman_zpsy5zrw2yl.jpg
Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut. Is it just me or do those wire rimmed glasses make her look very naughty!

Stanley Kubrick directed a film based on this novel called Eyes Wide Shut, (1999) starring the then married Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. I know I watched the film, but I don’t remember a bloody thing about it. I must have been plastered or snogging or both when I watched it, so I must apologize for not being able to make at the very least some pithy remarks comparing the film to the book. I have a feeling the two may have very little to do with each other, but I’m sure out there in GR land, there are several people who can weigh in on whether the film conveyed Schnitzler’s thoughts or was just a jumping off place for Kubrick/Kidman/Cruise to explore their own ideas.

A quick read with some fascinating observations about relationships, the brain, and our natural/unnatural attractions to the people we come into contact with.

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Monday, October 17, 2016


The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIAThe Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA by Joby Warrick
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading this was pretty much like watching Zero Dark Thirty. It's about the man who blew himself up in 2009 at the CIA base Camp Chapman at Khost in eastern Afghanistan.

Seven American CIA officers and contractors, an officer of Jordan's intelligence service, and an Afghan working for the CIA were killed when al-Balawi detonated a bomb sewn into a vest he was wearing. Six other American CIA officers were wounded. The bombing was the most lethal attack against the CIA in more than 25 years. - Wikipedia

"Al-Balawi" refers to Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi a doctor, who spent much of his free time using an alias to write fanatical diatribes for fundamentalist Islamic sites online. Jordanian agents got ahold of him, thought the converted him into a mole and sent him off to supposedly infiltrate al-Qaeda leadership. It appeared he had.

Appearances deceived.

Balawi went to al-Qaeda and they turned him into one of their most successful weapons. A video surfaced of Balawi with the radical Islamist group's number three man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. It appeared Balawi was treating the ailing Zawahiri. Balawi's intimate knowledge of these ailments, which were known in detail by the CIA and Jordanian agents, seemed to lend credibility to his claims of infiltration. Relating such details gave the pro-western forces hope that they had themselves a reliable mole.

Not all were convinced. But U.S. pressure for results rashly hastened as face-to-face meeting with their relatively new supposed double agent. And then the shit hit the fan.

The title, The Triple Agent, might be technically correct, but its validity is tenuous at best. I believe it's used to titillate and entice. When thinking of a "triple" agent, one imagines an intelligence officer of brilliant cunning and possessing the wherewithal to lie convincing while maintaining the appearance of cooperation. Balawi may have been smart, but it seems he had little need to display cunning. After he was sent off to join al-Qaeda as a double agent, the CIA/Jordanians had very little contact with him. It doesn't take a hardened veteran of spycraft to keep the sort of cover Balawi had to keep. He just didn't make himself available and said next to nothing until the CIA literally opened their gates and gave him free access without the usual checks and precautions.

The book mostly stays on topic, veering off only to give background to an event, idea or person in order to infuse the whole with a greater understanding. The Triple Agent is only as long as it ought to be and that's a big plus.

Don't let the 3 stars fool you. This was quite good, imo, and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps I'm unfairly docking it a star for its subject matter. I already knew the basics of the story, a story without much depth. Man hates western ideals, man blows self up and takes western agents with him. It's fascinating, emotional, and horrible and it's over quite quick.

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Poetry or just religion re-write?

The ProphetThe Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kahlil Gibran is a name that's been revolving around the fringes of my to-read possibilities. As one of the most widely read writers in the world, how could he not?

The Prophet combines faith and philosophy in a series of questions and answers on life and death and all the big topics in between, all delivered in a style similar to the Socratic Method...except that it's not really promoting any kind of critical thinking. Yes, there are some fundamental truths to be gleaned herein, same as you'd find in the Bible for example. But then there are passages that essentially say: don't bother learning, you know it all already. I guess you just have to coax it out of yourself by yourself. Or just listen to God. Have faith and you'll know all you need to know. Oh, and don't bother talking. Gibran says talking murders thought. Certainly it's tough to get any thinking done while someone is talking to you, but is really does help your thoughts to evolve when you talk things over with others with experience and wisdom.

Poetry isn't my thing anymore, so I was hesitant to read The Prophet. Luckily it's not poetry. Well, it's "prose poetry". But to me this sort of writing has very little resemblance to poetry...which is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. However, many of the lines do have a certain poetic flair. There is a melodic flow and it is a pleasure to read, especially when one of Gibran's philosophical tidbits rings true.

I'm not surprised this saw a resurgence in popularity with the counterculture of the 1960s. This offers up the sort of loose philosophy that would attract those in search of something to believe in outside of organized religion. There was some good to be found within the pages of The Prophet. There was also some good within The Bible. I'd rather read this again though. It's a lot shorter.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Miracleman, Book One: The Golden Age

Miracleman, Book One: The Golden AgeMiracleman, Book One: The Golden Age by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

People struggle to live in the utopia Miracleman and Miraclewoman have created.

The Golden Age is a collection of single issue stories, slice of life tales set in the world Miracleman and Miraclewoman have created. While well-written, not a hell of a lot actually happens.

It pains me to rate something Neil Gaiman wrote less than a four but The Golden Age is pretty boring. Parts of it read like a trial run for things he later made magical with The Sandman. Buckingham's art also feels like a prelude to greater things. I will say that The Golden Age feels a lot more polished and less dated than in places than Alan Moore's take on things earlier in the series.

I respect The Golden Age's place in the Miracleman pantheon but I can't muster a whole lot of enthusiasm for ever reading it again. Three out of five stars but it really had to work for them.

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Friday, October 14, 2016


Jordan Castillo Price
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


The hunt is on.

Pretty young men and women like Michael's best friend, Scary Mary, are disappearing from underground goth clubs all over Detroit. For over two years, Michael has been scouring the midwest for buried newspaper articles and obscure medical reports, and now he's finally pinpointed the source of the problem. Too bad he can't exactly go to the cops and tell them his friend was murdered by vampires. Since it's his duty to start wiping out the scourge, he's posing as bait—and he's got a bag of sharpened hickory stakes to do the job.

Everything should go smoothly, given the amount of preparation that Michael has put into the hunt. He's got a practiced repertoire of come-hither eyeliner looks and a full blister-pack of the date rape drug Rohypnol. But he didn't count on Wild Bill showing up.

Wild Bill is a vision in spiked hair and scuffed black leather—exactly the type of guy Michael would have fallen for…if he'd ever had the chance. Unfortunately, with a vampire in his sights, Michael has no time for an actual date. Despite his best efforts, it seems there's nothing Michael can do to shake Bill loose. Looks like they're in for a wild, wild ride.

My Review

Michael is sitting in a bar awaiting the vampire he spent two years tracking. There’s no way that a hot little number with bleached blond hair who calls himself Wild Bill is going to distract him from his mission.

Though Wild Bill is persistent, Michael rebuffs him and suddenly is face to face with his vampire. As Michael is getting ready to leave the bar with the seductive vampire, Gray, Wild Bill decides to intervene.

“I had dibs on Michael,” said Bill. This was news to me. “But I might be willing to share.”

And share they do. While Michael is figuring out a way to finish the vampire permanently, the men’s blazing sex is heating up my Kindle.

I enjoyed reading Michael’s perspective of events, his thoughts, his sexual desires, and loved the dialogue between the characters. There are a few surprises and twists that keep things really interesting.

This is a short, humorous, erotic story that is just enough to hook me in and buy the rest of the series so I can learn more about these characters and see what the future has in store for them.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Uncanny Inhumans, Vol. 2: The Quiet Room

Uncanny Inhumans, Vol. 2: The Quiet RoomUncanny Inhumans, Vol. 2: The Quiet Room by Charles Soule
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So what do former Kings do when deposed from their throne? Open a night club of course.
The Quiet Room is the place where Black Bolt gets to express his freedom, have a midlife crisis, and play bouncer.
The Quiet Room is a multi use club that features gambling, conference rooms, and seemingly much more. Ennilux, the Inhuman run company, just happens to be having a conference there to show off their newest invention which will shortly be ready for sale. Unfortunately it's stolen and Ennilux is holding Black Bolt, The Quiet Room, and New Attilan responsible if it isn't returned.
Black Bolt's associate Reader is tasked with getting it back.

The first volume of the Uncanny Inhumans, Time Crush, was excellent, but The Quiet Room is a mixed bag. It has some interesting moments such as the origins of Medusa and Johnny Storm's relationship,
a special prisoner keeping the Unspoken company in New Attilan's dungeons, and learning the back story of Reader.
A large portion of the story is devoted to The Quiet Room which was first introduced in the Secret Wars story Inhumans: Attilan Rising. The Quiet Room was fine as some throwaway story's location and the business of an altered Black Bolt, but it's not so interesting for the deposed King of the Inhumans in this volume. It's hard to know much about a guy who basically never gets to speak his mind without the risk of killing the person listening. Perhaps night club owner was Black Bolt's dream as he learned to hone his especially destructive power as a boy. If I never see The Quiet Room again, I'd be perfectly fine.

The characters also have mixed performances. Ahura, Reader, and Iso were quite interesting. Particularly Ahura and Reader. Their actions will undoubtedly lead to some more interesting stories in the future. Iso continues to display a keen mind and high IQ. Frank McGee and Inferno finally had some page time in Uncanny Inhumans, but neither were particularly memorable. That's unfortunate because I really enjoyed them both in the series Inhuman. Frank was Frank and perhaps he'll never be more than a former cop with glowing eyes. Inferno didn't really even do anything. If he was removed altogether and not replaced it wouldn't have effected the story whatsoever.

The Quiet Room was spectacular in moments and overall it was a solid entry. I do however hope the storyline gets back to the more exciting adventures in the first volume.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders By: Joshua Foer

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden WondersAtlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The world is a weird and wonderful place, and the Atlas Obscura does a bang the hell up job of showing the strange, amazing and downright bizarre corners of this big blue ball we live on.

I am a information junkie and between this beautiful book and the website, my jones is fed on many levels. If you have a wanderlust, this book will make you extremely happy, if you are like me and just like knowing things..this book will make you extremely happy. (do you get my point)

So get your passports out, load this puppy on your tablet, and on the way to the airport or out of town, stop and get you a physical copy too, (its a great addition to your shelf, for whenever you return from parts unknown)

12 stars out of 5, that's a steal of a deal of a meal (something like that)

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Monday, October 10, 2016

The Rise of ISIS

Black Flags: The Rise of ISISBlack Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OH! ISIS! I thought they were saying Icees, as in...


Well, now that I'm up to speed on radical Islamic terrorism, who wants to invite me over to their bbq, so I can be the life of the party? Cuz nothing says FUN like bringing up politics and religion at a social gathering! Just look how enjoyable Facebook is these days.

All silliness aside, Black Flags is a solid way to understand how ISIS came to be. A good number of pages are also spent on Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, but the real focus is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the thug turned religious zealot and leader of a violent fundamentalist movement.

Joby Warrick gives the reader plenty of details on Zarqawi's past and what made him who he eventually became. It's not an in-depth character study that a psychologist could publish a paper on, but I certainly know the man much better now than I ever have.

But do I know the real story? I mean, what's Warrick's bias? He's certainly not kind to the Bush administration's handling of terrorism for most of this book and seems to side more with the CIA. And what does Warrick know? He worked for the Washington Post and as far as journalists go he seems to be the one most well-connected to what happened after 9/11. However, even the most well-connected journalist generally isn't going to have intel on the government's secrets and what went on behind the scenes.

As an average-joe-know-nothing, us readers will just have to be satisfied with what we can glean from folks like Warrick. That's not a terrible problem, because this was an enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to moving on to Warrick's next book The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA.

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