Friday, December 2, 2016

Reaping Havoc


A.J. Rose
The Grim Writer Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



No one asked Mitch Seeker if he wanted to be a grim reaper. He didn’t sign up for the rumors, the lack of friends, or the erratic schedule. He doesn’t want to go through life watching people die. Especially not a man he loves. Mitch’s solution is simple—don’t fall in love. He’ll never have to explain why he doesn’t age or why he’s around death so often. Most of all, he will never be a widower.

But when his head is turned by world-class skier Nate Koehn, Mitch believes he may have the answer. If the soul attached to Nate is any indication, Mitch has found himself another reaper, in which case, his undeniable feelings don’t have to be suppressed. However, the spectral tag-a-long is only the beginning of Nate’s burdens. After a catastrophic loss, Nate is no stranger to grief and the hole it leaves behind.

The question they both must answer is loud and clear: is the pain of losing love worse than the pain of never having loved at all?



My Review



Mitch Seeker longs to have a normal life, but his job as a reaper prevents him from doing so. His family has aroused suspicion in the inhabitants of the small town in Colorado they call home. Every time someone dies, you can count on any one of the Seeker family members to be around. It’s not as if Mitch volunteered for this job either. A major screw-up and a deal made with a demon by a distant relative back in the 1670’s ensured that all future male descendants begin their reapership on their twenty-fourth birthday.

Mitch’s life becomes complicated when he meets Nate, an Olympic skier who is new to town and looking to start a new life after the tragic death of his twin sister, Tate, in a skiing accident. Nate’s only friend, a cop named Wes, is deeply suspicious of the Seeker family and encourages Nate to steer clear, but Nate is not having any of that.

Though there are death scenes and spectral beings throughout the story, there are no real horror elements here.

This was a fun and delightfully quirky story that explores love, death, family relationships, friendship, and grief without wallowing in drama and sadness.

Both men have lots of issues to deal with and it was fun watching them fumble through difficulties and eventually grow and discover themselves and each other.

At times, I found their interactions bland and the story a little sluggish through the middle. Thankfully, there was a cast of secondary characters that popped off the page and kept the story moving along.

Overall, I enjoyed this and look forward to more of Mitch and Nate.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Uncanny Inhumans, Vol. 3: Civil War II

Uncanny Inhumans, Vol. 3: Civil War IIUncanny Inhumans, Vol. 3: Civil War II by Charles Soule
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An Inhuman who can predict the future, Ulysses, has appeared. After one of his predictions led to the death of James Rhodes aka War Machine, Tony Stark heads to New Attilan and kidnaps Ulysses to learn the truth about his power. This did not sit well with Medusa and the other Inhumans an New Attilan is it's own nation and kidnapping one of it's people would not be tolerated. Medusa sets plans in motion to ruin Tony Stark's personal life, but chose to avoid a full on war.
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That didn't sit well with some Inhumans who decided Stark must pay dearly and he does when Stark Tower is destroyed.
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New Attilan versus Tony Stark begins.

Uncanny Inhumans Civil War II was solid overall. I enjoyed it, but I was expecting something else. The majority of the actual fighting between the two sides is minimal and many of the key moments don't even take place in the pages of Uncanny Inhumans. That being said the last chapter made up for a lot of what was lacking. Medusa was being very conscious about how she handled Tony Stark's act of war by coming into a foreign nation, I know they are basically in Manhattan, but still a foreign nation, and kidnapping one of their people. Tony came off as quite the self righteous jerk in this volume to me. He acted as though starting an international incident is no big deal.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Vol. 1

Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Vol. 1Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Following Secret Wars Miles Morales, his friends, and family have joined the main Marvel Universe. An even bigger surprise is Miles' Mom is alive again. Now Miles is once again attempting to balance his superhero work with his school work.
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Unfortunately his school work isn't fairing so well at the moment.

Post Secret Wars Miles Morales' existence is anything but clear. His Mom's alive again which is a massive plus. No one seems to have any memory of the Ultimate Universe. Even Peter Parker who met Miles in Spider-Men has no recollection of the other world where Miles and his loved ones are from. Miles' father still knows he's Spider-Man, but there is no longer any anger over that point. Prowler is alive and no word if he's Miles' uncle or not in this world. It's frustratingly confusing because the story is saying, Forget what you learned before...well except for the characters...um well that's not entirely true because some of them have changed and one came back to life. Don't be concerned that no one remembers Miles' past even him.
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The storyline itself is the standard school aged hero. Basically it's I have to save the world, but I have to do my homework too. I imagine it speaks to kids, unfortunately I'm way past that point in my life so reading about balancing school and being a superhero holds little interest to me at this point. I do like Miles, but the comic's focus is significantly different from my own.

All in all Spider-Man: Miles Morales vol. 1 is a good title, but I'm not sure it's what I'm looking for anymore.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

THE AUCTIONEER BY JOAN SAMSON

The AuctioneerThe Auctioneer by Joan Samson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”Just remember this,” he said in a deep voice that cut neatly through the confusion. “Whatever I’ve done, you’ve let me do.”

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When Perly Dunsmore moves to Harlowe, New Hampshire, with his auctioneering company and starts espousing the natural beauty of the community, he is mostly regarded as a man a few slices short of a full loaf. Most of the people in Harlowe have been on the land for many generations, and for most of the year, they exist at a sustainable level. They are poor and don’t know it. They raise a lot of their own food and trade for what they don’t have. They are salt of the earth people, suspicious of strangers, and content with what they have.

When Perly decides to start having a regular auction every week, there are snorts of laughter and several shaking heads over this fool from out of town thinking he could make money in Harlowe. Perly decides that the first auctions should be held as a benefit to add a deputy to the police force.

Deputy?

They barely needed a sheriff. Well, there was that person hacked up not too long ago, but then that crime must have been committed by a stranger passing through town, right? Because no one around here would kill someone.

The sheriff comes around looking for donations, stuff that people aren’t using anyway. Everybody pitches in because no one wants to be seen as not helping the community, and everyone ends up with a check after the auction. Cash money is as scarce as hen’s teeth. Then there is an auction to help the volunteer firemen. Perly puts advertisements in papers as far away as Boston for people to come to the auction.

And people come.

Perly doesn’t seem to be as crazy as everyone thinks.


John and Mim Moore have a four year old daughter named Hildie. John’s mother lives with them. Several generations of Moore’s are buried up on the hill, resting under poison oak and the dust of many seasons. They clean out the barn of all the stuff they aren’t using anyway for the auctions and then the attic. Every week the Sheriff, sometimes accompanied by the honey worded Perly, stops by to see if there is more to be contributed.

The weekly contribution is becoming something more than voluntary.

”’Does it mean so much to you? I know the pleasures of a dressing table to a good-looking woman. But there are other things--better schools for Hildie, year-round church, more ready cash, more comforts…I know what I want.’

Mim could not move without flailing out at the man and making him back off, and she trembled from the effort of suppressing her need to do so.

‘Comfort,’ he said almost fiercely.’You’ve never known much comfort, have you Mim?’

Mim raised her eyes to Perly’s, blue and defiant.

Perly dropped his gaze to Mim’s hands, pressed flat and angry against the wall behind her. Slowly, he raised his eyes to Mim’s again, his face curling into lines of pleasure, perhaps of triumph.’You and I will have to get together someday, Mim,’ he said. ’I admire a woman with grit.’ Then, with his own glittering stillness, he held Mim motionless against the wall while the clock in the kitchen chimed over and over again. When she dropped her eyes, he moved quietly away.”


I wanted to share this scene because it conveys the simmering, menacing uneasiness that permeates the whole novel. Perly keeps adding more and more deputies who are really just there to keep the contributions coming for the auctions. People give and give and give until all they have left is the land, and Perly has plans for that as well.

There are so many points in the novel where I wanted the Moore’s to make a stand. To push back, but when others in the community push back, unfortunate misadventures happen to them. Everyone has families, and having families makes it natural for strong men to be afraid. It almost seems implausible, the level of control that Perly achieves over this community, but it is so gradual that, by the time people realize how bad it is, it is almost too late.

I kept thinking to myself, where is my line in the sand? Where do I make my stand and say... no more? How do I do that and keep my family safe?

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Joan Samson

There is very little to share about Joan Samson, unfortunately. She passed away shortly after the publication of The Auctioneer from cancer. She was 39 years old and was working on a second novel. If she had lived, there was a good chance that she would have surpassed the work of Shirley Jackson or at least be mentioned in the same sentence as the famous gothic horror writer. This book has fallen into obscurity, but like other novels I’ve reviewed on Goodreads, a perfect example being Mortal Leap by MacDonald Harris, I’m simply not going to let this book stay a lost novel. It is a wonderful example of gothic horror with superb writing that will make you feel the mounting terror as options for these good people shrink to the size of a mustard seed.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel By: James Luceno

Catalyst - A Rogue One NovelCatalyst - A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am of two minds on the expanding Star Wars Canon..one, I don't dig what you could view as Disney trying to suck up as much money as possible, but two..and two is important, when you expand a cool universe in an exciting way, my nerd bell goes off.

Catalyst does that, I love the idea (with this and the Rogue One movie) of telling "military" style stories. The empire and rebellion are in a war, ever noticed you don't see that much?

Very good set up for Rogue One, and don't kid yourself, it's a set up for the movie. A quick read and tons of fun if you are a fan of the universe.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Champion of Satire

Breakfast of ChampionsBreakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Phew, it has been a LOOONG time since I've read Vonnegut. I mean "classic" Vonnegut. It feels good to be back!

I mean no offense to his most recent work, but it just doesn't compare with what he put out from about the '60s through to the '80s. It's all good stuff. I mean, I've read about a dozen books of his and I don't recall a true stinker in the lot. But if I'm going to recommend "a Vonnegut" to the interested and uninitiated, it's going to be something like Breakfast of Champions from 1973.

This chuckle-full and sometimes hilarious tour de force of satirical wit is a razor-sharp criticism of humanity's worst traits: its greed, its pure and unadulterated avarice, its lack of a moral compass...

Ah, that last one is a tricky one. Vonnegut was no saint and he doesn't expect anyone else to be. However, a little decency and compassion would go a long way. Jesus fucking Christ, Vonnegut seems to say in just about every one of his books, can't we all stop acting like shits for second?!

I won't try to describe the plot of Breakfast of Champions. The plot is seldom the point in a Vonnegut novel. Oh sure, things happen, after a fashion. But it's more about people and ideas, and people with ideas, for better or worse.

I will however say that this book is a good starting point - not a necessary one, but a good one - from which to begin a Vonnegut reading journey. His recurring character, the strange and often estranged author Kilgore Trout is fully explained here, much more so than in other books in which he makes an appearance, at least in the ones I've read. In fact, many of the theories and rules of Vonnegut's world, his parallel universe, if you will, are laid out in this one, so I highly recommend starting here. Then again, you won't go wrong starting elsewhere. Just start.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Radiance

RadianceRadiance by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Documentary filmmaker Severin Unck never returned from her last project on Venus. Thus begins the meta-fictional odyssey into Severin Unck's life and fate.

Radiance is the story of Severin Unck's life (and death?), told by Severin and the people who knew her in the form of articles, journal entries, scripts, and films, most notably Severin's own. I was apprehensive at first, since this sounds like a first class ticket to fancy-pants town, like a lot of books that use meta-fictional devices. However, Catherynne Valente can get into my fancy pants any day.

Told in a non-linear fashion, Radiance tells the story of Severin Unck through interviews and films of the people who knew her, from her father, Percival Unck and his seven ex-wives, to Erasmo St. John, her last lover, to Anchises St. John, the little boy who was the only survivor of the Adonis colony on Venus. Unlike a lot of literature that uses meta-fiction to tell the tale, the techniques are actually relevant to the story.

The setting is an enjoyable one, one where space travel was mastered decades earlier and every planet and moon in the solar system is habitable. Colonization is depended on monstrous Venusian beasts called callowwhales. Because of the tyranny of the Edisons, everyone is still making silent movies, making for a very unique setting indeed.

There's not a whole lot more I want to say about the plot. Catherynne Valente shows her writing chops in this outing, going from sf to screenplay to soap opera to noir, and all points beyond, without missing a beat. I'd read a library of Madame Mortimer mysteries.

4.5 out of 5 stars. This one is not to be missed.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Fight the Tide


Keira Andrews
KA Books
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Adrift in a post-apocalyptic world, they only have each other. Is it enough?


A virus that turns the infected into zombie-like killers spreads through a burning world thrown into lawless chaos. Lovers Parker and Adam have escaped to the open sea when they hear a message over the airwaves from a place called Salvation Island—a supposed safe haven.

Orphaned as a child, werewolf Adam has always longed for a pack. He’s eager to investigate the island, but Parker doesn’t think for a nanosecond that the voice on the radio can be believed. He doesn’t trust anyone but Adam and is determined to keep it that way. They don’t need anyone else complicating their struggle to survive. Or do they?

Danger on the high seas can surface in a heartbeat, and if Parker and Adam aren’t careful, the current will drag them under.



My Review



I complained that Kick at the Darkness, the first book in Keira Andrews’ zombie apocalypse series was lacking in the horror elements and thrilling action scenes that I expect from zombie novels. It is a horror-romance, with the romance front and center, so I should have known better than to expect the gore-fest in Brian Keene's stories. Despite my criticism, I still enjoyed the growing relationship between Parker and Adam along with the difficulty of trying to survive in a changing world.

The second book in the series was even more sedate, yet I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it considerably more. Parker has accepted that Adam is a werewolf. Adam’s keen eyesight and extra strength come in handy when watching for possible threats or fighting off zombies. Adam is sweet, protective, and considerate of Parker. Now that he’s not hiding who he is, he has become a much more open and warmer person. There is some backstory about Adam’s past, the isolation he grew up with, and the untimely death of his family. His wolf craves the warmth and love of a pack.

The opportunity comes when Parker, despite his misgivings, responds to a radio call from a family whose boat is in danger of capsizing during a storm. Earlier on, while Adam is making a supply run and Parker is alone aboard Bella, pirates sneak up on him, conk him on the head with his own pistol and make off with his supplies. The physical assault and humiliation Parker endured has left him deeply suspicious of other people.

Though it takes time for Parker to warm up to the newcomers – Craig and his daughter, Libby, Craig’s girlfriend, Abby, and her teenage son, Jacob – they end up bonding and working well together. The secondary characters were very well developed and memorable, so when bad things start to happen, the tension really ramps up.

Though Parker feels at times that he is not enough for Adam, his character has matured significantly. He’s not the snarky, annoying youth he was in the beginning. He is an adept sailor, his survival skills have improved, and he is developing a relationship with the family in his care, particularly with the pimply and stubborn Jacob. The growth of Adam and Parker was one of the most enjoyable parts of this story for me. Their sex was hot, intense and loving. There was a fisting scene, lovingly written and helping to further develop the trust between Parker and Adam.

When Jacob is injured, they can no longer ignore that seductive voice on the radio beckoning them toward Salvation Island. Finally, there is a chance for security and the pack that Adam needs. Do they continue on their journey, or risk the possibility of entering a trap?

Though the story ends hopefully for our main characters, I’m glad to know their journey is far from over.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

New Avengers: A.I.M. Vol. 2: Standoff

New Avengers: A.I.M. Vol. 2: StandoffNew Avengers: A.I.M. Vol. 2: Standoff by Al Ewing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Avengers Idea Mechanics have no shortage of trouble. The Maker is meddling with them again.
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The Whisperer is desperate and is seeking out the New Avengers help against an increasingly corrupt SHIELD.
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Doing so means war with SHIELD which Roberto da Costa has no problem with, but he's only taking volunteers. Anyone who isn't sure needs to get off the ship.
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Standoff was a good volume. Sunspot's New Avengers AIM is an interesting group that is more concerned with doing good than the personal cost to them. Which was quite substantial in this volume. I'm growing to appreciate a more obscure cast because I don't know everything about them like I do about the classic Avengers roster. This volume is full of unexpected events and betrayal.

I have to mention that Al Ewing may have done the best tie in to an event issues I've ever read. He knew where his story was heading and seemed to make a small tweak or two while continuing his story. It makes for strong mostly seamless writing. Without having read the Standoff event I felt as though I hadn't missed anything of importance which is fairly shocking.

Standoff was a good volume and it was better than its predecessor.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

THE AWAKENING BRETT MCBEAN

The AwakeningThe Awakening by Brett McBean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”The day that was to change Toby’s life forever started out like any typical summer morning.”

We’ve all experienced that ball-peen hammer between the eyes that takes us off our feet and leaves us staring up at a blood red sky. We didn’t see the hammer coming. It comes from the shadows, like Poe’s Pendulum swinging on an arc designed to sweep right through us. Toby is just a kid on the verge of manhood. He has finished 8th grade and is looking forward to a summer of hanging out with his best friend, Frankie, watching horror movies, playing baseball games, and having deep philosophical discussions with a zombi (yes, I spelled it right. Have patience, grasshopper).

Wait? Zombis? Discussions?

Mr. Joseph likes to sit, looking out his front window, watching the kids walk to school. He is old. He is strange. So logically, he is a pervert. Belford, Ohio, is a small town, and we heard all about “small town values” when Sarah Palin was running for Vice-President. Those living in larger cities are considered caretakers of dens of inequity.

Boy, I wish. I always wanted to run a den of inequity.

I grew up in a very small town, so I know of what I speak. There are no higher values maintained in smaller towns. The same things happen in small towns as they do in big cities. Drug use, teen pregnancy, suicide, and murder happen per thousand just as frequently as in the cities. The difference is, with everyone knowing everyone, the crushing judgement for any misstep is almost more than many people can bear. Anyone with differences must conform or be castigated relentlessly. The Norman Rockwell small town probably exists somewhere, but I’ve never experienced it.

So Mr. Joseph freaks the kids out. Some of them throw rocks through his windows, behead chickens in his yard, and spray paint obscenities on his house. It doesn’t help that he is from Haiti, horribly scarred, and...black.

Toby and Frankie are just trying to navigate the social, shark infested waters of being a teenager. The transition from being the biggest kids in middle school to the smallest kids in high school is always treacherous. In my school, being caught in the open in front of a group of seniors might mean being thrown in the showers in the middle of the day, or experiencing the joys of a toilet swirl, or if you are lucky, just getting thumped around, emasculated, and embarrassed in some other fashion.

Ahh man... the memories.

There is always that guy, right? That guy with the Neanderthal brow, bloodshot pig eyes, mad at the world attitude, and looking for anyone weaker than himself to take out his frustrations on. In Belford, Ohio, that guy is Dwayne Marcos.

And Toby and Frankie can’t help but do something to inspire his ire.

Which leads to a tragic ass kicking.

Which leads to Toby and Mr. Joseph becoming friends.

Which leads to Toby discovering that Mr. Joseph is nice, but a whole lot more scary than what anyone could possibly comprehend. ”Mr. Joseph is a zombi. Yep, the real-deal, the living dead. Now, I know what you are thinking, but it’s not like in the movies. It’s kinda complex, but basically he’s what is known as a zombi savane, that means he was turned into a zombi, but sort of brought out of it, kind like he was brought out of trance.”

Wrapped around all these events is Toby’s burgeoning, gobsmacking, reciprocated love of glorious Gloria. The most bodacious girl in the whole 8th grade class. He is convinced at any moment she is going to come to her senses and see him for who he really is... the wimpy, insecure guy that he sees in the mirror every morning.

What Toby learns is that he can’t trust anyone. His parents are just as worried about fitting in as anyone else. That doesn’t make them racist like the rest of the town, but instead of standing up to prejudice they’d rather just sidestep the issue. They have real fear of the consequences of trying to stand up for what is right in this small town. Toby is finding out just how hard it is growing up. He discovers how disappointing adults can be, how garden variety meanness can turn into something much more insidious, and how the town monster can be the only true friend you’ve got.

There are certainly Ray Bradbury aspects at work in this story. The coming of age in the midst of terror that Bradbury was so good at. I looked forward to coming home every day and spending some time with Toby. I shared his frustrations, rooted for him, and hoped he’d find a way to continue to be himself and survive the small town prejudicial mentality. The day will come when Toby will lay a black streak of rubber on the highway on his way out of town and hopefully Gloria will be smiling at him from the passenger seat.

Meanwhile he has to figure out how to survive the summer before his freshman year.

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