Thursday, April 27, 2017

City of Miracles

City of Miracles (The Divine Cities, #3)City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thirteen long years Sigrud je Harkvaldsson has waited. He has waited to hear from his friend Shara Komayd that it is finally ok for him to come home. Sigrud's hopes are snuffed out like a candle when he learns Shara has been assassinated. Sigrud decides to find and make those responsible for her murder does not matter if they are man or divine.

City of Miracles was an excellent conclusion to The Divine Cities trilogy. I have to admit I wasn't sure if I was really interested in reading it as I wasn't overly fond of City of Blades. Once I learned the story centered around Sigrud I had to read it. Sigrud was an excellent protagonist. His dogged determination and surprising cunning make him a man that no sane person would wish to fight.

The storytelling excelled in City of Miracles. The author laid the groundwork for much of what happened in City of Stairs. Many questions I hadn't truly considered asking were answered and new mysteries unfolded smoothly throughout the book.

There is so much I wish I could say about City of Miracles, but I won't because I don't want to remove the slightest part of the mystery for anyone. City of Miracles may be my favorite book in the series.

4 out of 5 stars

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Daredevil: The Man Without Fear

Daredevil: The Man Without FearDaredevil: The Man Without Fear by Frank Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The journey that transformed Matt Murdock into Daredevil had many twists and a few key people. His love for fighting came from his father, but he promised to be better than his Dad by not fighting. His life changed when an accident sprayed him with chemicals costing him his sight get giving back more than most people could imagine.

Matt Murdock's origin story is one I'm fairly familiar with even though I have rarely read any Daredevil stories. It was interesting seeing Stick training Matt after he was blinded.
I have to say the stylistic choice for Elektra's look was quite surprising. She's basically looked the same for as long as I can remember, but she really didn't resemble the Elektra I'm familiar with.
I enjoyed the fact that Matt's heightened senses seemed to take a back seat to his training. His senses were still mentioned, but it was done in a way that didn't diminish Matt into being an individual who is helpless without his gift.

I have heard for a long time that Frank Miller did Daredevil right and I must admit after reading The Man Without Fear, I agree.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Killers of the Flower MoonKillers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”Today our hearts are divided between two worlds. We are strong and courageous, learning to walk in these two worlds, hanging on to the threads of our culture and traditions as we live in a predominantly non-Indian society. Our history, our culture, our heart, and our home will always be stretching our legs across the plains, singing songs in the morning light, and placing our feet down with the ever beating heart of the drum. We walk in two worlds.”

The Osage Indians lived in Kansas until the 1870s when the government decided that their land was too valuable for them to own. Laura Ingalls Wilder, writer of Little House on the Prairie, was confused as to why the Osage Indians were being forced off their land. Her father explained: ”That’s why we’re here, Laura. White people are going to settle all this country, and we get the best land because we get here first and take our pick.”

Indians were looked on as a subspecies of human being who didn’t deserve to breath and certainly didn’t deserve to own any useful land. The Osage Indians were moved to Northeastern Oklahoma on a patch of ground that was deemed worthless.

But was it?

When oil was discovered beneath the reservation land in the 1920s, those dirt scratching Indians became extremely wealthy. The federal government, due to the Osages’ inherent racial weakness, deemed them incapable of managing their own affairs and appointed guardians to manage their affairs, white guardians. As an example, if an Osage wanted a car, the guardian would buy a car for $250 and sell it to the Indian for $1,250. The definition of guardian used words such as protector or defender. It didn’t say anything about exploiter.

This is a tale of greed, but unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.

It became murder.

When the suspicious deaths of Osage Indians reached twenty-four, the fledgling director of the Bureau of Investigations ( It would not be called the Federal Bureau of Investigations until 1935.) J. Edgar Hoover decided that he needed Federal agents on the ground. Hoover had already been systematically removing agents from the program that did not meet his criteria for education level and impeccable character. The agents out West, many of them ex-Texas Rangers, did not fit either of those profiles, but Hoover was smart enough to realize that, for a case like this, spit shined shoes and snappy ties were not going to get the job done.

He sent in Tom White, one of those disreputable former Texas Rangers. White brought some people in as undercover agents, and slowly the details of what was going on began to shimmer into view. The problem was witnesses disappeared or clammed up when they were asked to testify at trial. One white man who was trying to help the Osage was mysteriously thrown from a train. Another was kidnapped. Building a case was one thing, but actually prosecuting someone was not easy. It became more and more clear that this was not the act of just one man, but a conspiracy.

”A conspiracy is everything that ordinary life is not. It’s the inside game, cold, sure, undistracted, forever closed off to us. We are the flawed ones, the innocents, trying to make some rough sense of the daily jostle. Conspirators have a logic and a daring beyond our reach. All conspiracies are the same taut story of men who find coherence in some criminal act. “
--Don DeLillo, Libra

Meanwhile, the murders continued unabated. Osages were shot, poisoned, stabbed, and even in one case blown up with dynamite. The ruthlessness with which they were systematically eliminated was actually terrifying. I can’t even imagine the level of fear that the tribe was living under. Death was not a nebulous unknown creature, but was actually embodied by members of their community intent on their destruction.

The other problem was that white people felt the Indians did not deserve the money. The adage the only good Indian is a dead Indian was still in common use, especially if anyone encountered a situation where Indian ownership was in their way.

David Grann has done a wonderful job of investigating these murders. Though some people were incarcerated for the crimes back in the 1920s, the more Grann dug, the more threads he found that led to other guardians who should have been investigated more thoroughly as well. The descendents of those murdered Osage still want closer. They still want justice, even if the killers are moldering in their graves. ”The blood cries out from the ground.”

”During Xtha-cka Zbi-ga Tze-the, the Killer of the Flowers Moon.
I will wade across the river of the blackfish, the otter, the beaver.
I will climb the bank where the willow never dies.”

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Change Agent By:Daniel Suarez

Change AgentChange Agent by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mr. Suarez writes great scifi and now has moved into techo thrillers and it IS AWESOME. Imagine the movie Faceoff written way the hell better and you get the point, this will be short and sweet, but if you love very high scifi and future police style stories, this will make your day.

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American War By:Omar El Akkad

American WarAmerican War by Omar El Akkad
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was powerful and massively frightening, as a Southerner, I can totally see this occuring and it scares me to death. A tale of the second civil war in America that in all honesty feels almost timeless, it could almost have easily been the first civil war.

Horrible times, lawlessness, death and disease at every corner and so tangibly possible it hurts to read it. Powerful storytelling and characters and as a lifelong Mississippian, ripped out my heart in places, but that is a good thing.

Read this book.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

An Easy Company Soldier In His Own Words

Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II's Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II's "Band of Brothers" by Don Malarkey
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What fascinating insight to an incredible, horrible time in recent history. Don Malarkey, a regular guy from Oregon, has written quite an impressive autobiography about his extraordinary WWII experiences.


And believe it or not, as of this day Sept 26, 2016, he's still alive.

His service is well documented here, but you may also know him from the engrossing Spielberg/Hank tv series Band of Brothers. If you've seen the series, you know much of Malarkey's wartime story. If you're intrigued enough to learn more, Easy Company Soldier is an excellent way to discover the backstory of one of the men on the frontline.

Consider all that this man has done: his heroism and courage in the face of death; his youth devoted to a career in soldiering; and yet, he is also able to write a better bio than a few professional writers I've read. Amazing. Simply amazing.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

In “The Prisoner”, his eleventh John Wells novel, Alex Berenson continues his intelligent espionage/ thrillers that probe the possible threat of Islamic terrorists obtaining weapons of mass destruction while showing how human intelligence gathering can thwart these threats. Berenson continues to exhibit a keen eye for threats that are possibly in the reach of terrorists. Here it is an agent that has been used by terrorists in Japan and Syria against its own citizens. The threat is real. At the same time, Berenson’s main characters remain real, their abilities, in line with real people and not overdone.

At the center of why Berenson remains a must read in this category is the great is John Wells, a character who embodies the best characteristics of intelligence agents.<br /><br />John Wells is humanized by a home life. His ex girlfriend Anne has had a baby girl and Wells is learning to be a father. So there is for the first time a little balance to his life. But these are not books where we are going to probe the dichotomy of his life as a father and a killer. The home life is a sidelight. These are intelligence / espionage / thrillers. And despite his home life, Wells still has the itch to return to the spy business.

While at the same time that we witness an American mission in the contested Mideast go sideways, Wells learns of a possible mole in the CIA, who is feeding intelligence to Islamic terrorists, who are using it thwart American missions in the Middle East. The source of the intelligence is a Bulgarian spy, who runs a prison holding terrorists overseas for the United States. Wells and Shafer team up again. Wells wants to assume a Islamic terrorist persona and infiltrate the prison, while Shafer will run a probe against 4 top level CIA executives to see if he can figure out who is the mole.

The novel unwinds a little slowly, Wells, a man in top shape, must lean himself out so he has the look of an itinerant terrorist, who has been on the run in the Middle East. His program to get in shape could be captured in a few short paragraphs, and Shafer’s investigation seems in some respects to be a non-starter as “Wayne” the mole is firmly entrenched in his plotting. Berenson drops clues early on revealing some facts about the mole that the reader can use to figure out his identity.

But Berenson takes the opportunity to escalate the novel, by setting up a terrorist plot to use nerve gas against Americans. And the mole is deeply involved in the plan. Berenson does show how hard it would be for a Non State actor to produce a nerve gas, but that it can be accomplished. It’s an eye opening discussion.

Once Wells gets himself into shape, the plan is for him to be captured by US agents in the Middle East, but of course, nothing goes according to plan. The Mole makes moves against Wells and Wells also has to take steps to protect himself from kidnappers, who obviously were unprepared for Wells training and fighting prowess.

Once Wells finally makes it to the prison in Bulgaria, the action really starts to heat up. There are murderous Bulgarian gangs to thwart while at the same time gaining the trust of the Arab prisoners. Intelligence is learned, and Wells takes his knowledge of an unknown plot to France, where while nursing wounds from the prison, he must find a well concealed terrorist, who with the Mole is planning a vigorous attack on the West.

The last half of “The Prisoner” showcases John Wells unique trademark skills, the ability to blend into the Arab world, gain intelligence, pick up just a few words, a sneaker brand even, and put the pieces together to ferret out the terrorist plot. I motored through this part of this novel. And again, Berenson’s story is not about drone warfare or teams of super soldiers fighting the terrorists. Maybe that is because John Wells is a lone wolf agent, but I find it more realistic.<

It’s a good read, slowly building to a tight confrontation with lives on the line, exhibiting all the trademarks of the Berenson John Wells novels.

You Will Know Me

You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Katie and Eric Knox will do anything for their gymnast prodigy Devon. When the boyfriend of one of her gymnastic instructors die, will Katie be able to keep their idyllic life from disintegrating around them?

Here we are, another Megan Abbott book and another series of cold knives in my heart. At first glance, I thought this might be similar to Dare Me, Megan's book about cheerleaders. You Will Know Me is about the parents of star gymnasts and the crazy shit they do for their kids.

From the first page, I knew I'd wolf this down like it was a brisket sandwich. All the dark hints of the coming train wreck were like a fishhook through my eyelids. I was powerless to look away as the lives of the Knox family and the rest of the gymnastic families were torn asunder.

The Knox family were as realistic a depiction of the alien world of elite gymnasts that I can fathom. Eric was the charming dad, Katie the doting mother, and Drew the little brother that wound up getting pushed into the background a lot of the time. Devon was the star, the thoroughbred the Knox family and most of the families at the gym pinned their hopes on. I hated that damn Gwen Weaver!

You Will Know me raises a lot of questions about families. How well can you really know someone, even if you've been with them for the better part of a decade? How far would you go for your kids?

Ryan's death scrapes open a lot of wounds and unearths a lot of dark secrets. I gasped aloud like a 1950s housewife when one of the twists was revealed but, even then, the Megster had a couple more twists to throw at me. Once again, she was the matador and I was the bull.

The writing was fantastic. It's been fascinating to watch Megan develop as a writer as I've devoured her books over the last few years. I lost track of lines I wanted to read out loud, bent on finishing it before bedtime.

I will share this gem:
the things you want, you never get them. And if you do, they're not what you thought they'd be. But you'd still do anything to keep them. Because you'd wanted them for so long.

There are other suspense writers that get more press but Megan Abbott's girl-noir tales are the best things going today. Five out of five stars.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror

Mark Matthews et al.
Wicked Run Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


The intoxication from a pint of vodka, the electric buzz from snorting cocaine, the warm embrace from shooting heroin--drinking and drugging provide the height of human experience. It's the promise of heaven on earth, but the hell that follows is a constant hunger, a cold emptiness. The craving to get high is an intense yearning not unlike that of any other blood-thirsty monster.

The best way to tell the truths of addiction is through a story, and dark truths such as these need a piece of horror to do them justice.

The stories inside feature the insidious nature of addiction told with compassion yet searing honesty. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental deaths, and some of the most incredible names in horror fiction have tackled this modern day epidemic.

My Review

As a person who has dabbled in illicit drugs and gone through periods of excessive alcohol use, I feel fortunate not to have succumbed to addiction like some of my friends and family members have. Even though I now drink little and haven’t touched drugs in years, I understand the allure of drugs and alcohol and how difficult it can be for the addict to stop using. While the decision to use drugs is mostly voluntary, for many people it takes a lot more than willpower to stop. That is why effective education about the dangers of drugs, prevention measures, and treatment for addicts and their family members is crucial. I feel for those who are coping with an addicted friend or family member. I’ve been there. It can wear you out emotionally and physically. A little empathy, however, goes a long way.

Thanks to Mark Matthews for providing me with this compelling, moving, and devastating collection of stories that compassionately portrays the effects of addiction on users and those who love them. It deeply unsettled me, invaded my dreams, and brought back some painful memories. Addiction is indeed a human tragedy. I agree with Mark when he says in the introduction, “The best way to tell the truths of addiction is through a story, and dark truths such as these need a piece of horror to do them justice.”

The stories:

★★★★★ A Wicked Thirst by Kealan Patrick Burke. I have a number of KPB’s books on my Kindle, but haven’t read them yet. There is no better time than now! Told from the alcoholic’s perspective, this reader felt his keen thirst and slow destruction. This story was so deeply affecting and powerful that I set aside my half-finished glass of wine.

★★★★★ The One in the Middle by Jessica McHugh. After finishing this amazing story, I learned it is an excerpt from The Green Kangaroos, which I promptly purchased and eagerly look forward to. In a near-future world, where Atlys is a popular street drug most effective when injected into the testicles and the rich have developed a taste for unusual dishes, we learn about Perry Samson and journey on his path toward ruination. This story left me feeling sad and horrified, yet needing to know the characters more and spending time in their world. Is it wrong for me to want to hug Perry? One of my favorite stories in this collection.

★★★ Everywhere You’ve Bled and Everywhere You Will by Max Booth III – Jeremy is a recovering heroin addict, but the people in his life and a series of bizarre events lead him to relapse. Blood I can handle, but spiders? Eek! I liked the energetic pace of this story and the dash of humor. Towards the end, it got a little too weird for me and failed to make a real impact.

★★★★ First, Just Bite a Finger by Johann Thorsson – When we think of addiction, we mostly think of drugs and alcohol. In this potent little flash fiction, we get to see how difficult it is to quit.

★★★★ Last Call by John F.D. Taff – Though Ted attends meetings, he is having a hard time staying sober. His well-meaning sponsor provides him with a quick cure. Ted learns the hard way that there are no shortcuts to sobriety. This story packed a punch and brought a tear to my eye.

★★★ Torment of the Fallen by Glen Krisch – Only Maggie’s online acquaintances on the paranormal boards know she can see demons. When a homeless man posts on a forum she visits regularly, Maggie travels hundreds of miles to see the father who abandoned her and help take away his demons. But demons always lie and never welsh on their deals.

★★★★★ Garden of Fiends by Mark Matthews – This story is told in alternating perspectives, by Tara Snyder, a heroin addict and Gregory Snyder, the father who tries desperately to protect her. There is an interesting cast of characters that help add depth to the story and magnify difficulties faced by the characters. There is Tara’s addict boyfriend, Brett, Gregory’s wife, Heather, who lovingly tends the urban garden that feeds her soul and all the neighbors, and the homeless man, Lorenzo. Gregory’s good intentions go awry. Addiction affects everyone who cares about the addict. A heartbreaking story and one of my favorites in this collection.

★★★★ Returns by Jack Ketchum – I love ghost stories and this one is so poignant and humane, not at all the gorefest I would expect from Jack Ketchum. Jill’s alcoholism starts gradually and worsens when her husband of six years dies after getting hit by a cab. Dying is far less painful than the ghostly visit to his wife and seven-year-old cat.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Doctor Strange: Season One

Doctor Strange: Season OneDoctor Strange: Season One by Greg Pak
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Doctor Stephen Strange seeks out the Ancient One for the magic to heal his hands.
After speaking to the Ancient One and an encounter with Baron Mordo, Stephen decides to stay and train. After learning of magical rings Stephen and Wong head out to secure them with the help of a young woman.

Dr. Strange Season One seems like a different Dr. Strange story. Clearly the story is being reinvisioned, but I'm not familiar enough with his original story to know how much is different or the same. The biggest surprise for me is that Wong is not only a student of the ancient one, but that he's so antagonistic towards Stephen.
This story read like an extra magic version of the Lord of the Rings, enough that the author jokingly calls their female companion their hobbit on multiple occasions.

Dr. Strange Season One is an OK story, but I'm not sure it provides the most accurate portrayal of Dr. Strange and Wong.

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