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



Summary



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.
description
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.
description
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.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Phantom Pains (The Arcadia Project 2) By: Mishell Baker

Phantom Pains (The Arcadia Project, #2)Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the first book of this series and honestly, this one is stronger, BUT I gave it slightly lower rating...why you ask? (no, you didn't ask..but I'm writing this )

I'll tell you later, The Arcadia Project is a fresh, inventive and deeply human. As a person who has suffered from depression (no spoilers) I really identify with the premise and throughly enjoy that the characters are flawed and not perfect.

That being said, I think the main character and the illness she deals with and it an important part of her being, in this book...it got to me. It hit a bit close to home, so I dock it a star for making me think about the past, STILL..a great read go get book one and this and get with it

View all my reviews

Monday, April 17, 2017

Aesop's Fables

Aesop's FablesAesop's Fables by Aesop
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These moral lessons were my bible.

...when I wasn't made to learn my bible as a kid.

The other day I realized I didn't know all of Aesop's Fables. Certainly I've read a few and heard many more, but I'd never sat down and read the whole thing. So I rectified that.

Now I can see why some of the lesser known fables are lesser known. Not every one of these often-anthropomorphic tales of animals wise and woeful is a winner. None are terrible, but every once in a while one of them doesn't quite resinate.

A Cock is walking around the farm and sees a pearl. He excitedly picks it up. The other cocks laugh. "You may have a treasure," one says, "but I'd rather have corn any day."

Moral: The ignorant despise what is precious only because they cannot understand it.


However, most of them knock the moral lesson right out of the park and make for a solid basis of wisdom with which to live a decent life by.

The Tortoise and the Hare - Slow and steady wins the race.
The Crow and the Pitcher - Use your wits.
Belling the Cat - Saying you'll do something is one thing, doing it is quite another.
The Ants and the Grasshopper - Work before play.
The Young Crab and His Mother - Lead by example.

There's others about humility and being a good person to your fellow man, but I'm not awake right now and can't seem to find them online. Trust me, they're there.


View all my reviews

Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire 2) By: Yoon Ha Lee

Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire #2)Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you have not read Ninefox Gambit, DO IT. This is how hard scifi should be done, wild ideas, vivid worldscapes and the limits of science and space and physics stretched out to the max.

Raven Stratagem continues that trend, A world that reminds me of the brutality of warhammer and the strangeness of the Iain Banks Culture series. Jedeo, one of the leads, I totally love. He is a total weapon, smarter than everyone (in this world that says something) and 41433984 steps beyond everyone else, and APE CRAP crazy, made my day.

IF you are a scifi person, give Mr Lee your money and read this series, it will make your week.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lion's Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling

Lion's Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro WrestlingLion's Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling by Chris Charlton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lion's Pride is the story of New Japan Pro Wrestling.

As with a lot of guys my age who were wrestling fans during the 1980s and 1990s, Japanese wrestling always held some mystique. I didn't see a single Japanese wrestling match until the dawn of the internet made it much easier to get tapes and such. Lion's Pride lifts the veil and reveals the inner workings of one of Japan's biggest wrestling organizations.

As with all talk of Japanese wrestling, the book starts with Rikidozan and the Japanese Wrestling Association. From there, it follows the career of Antonio Inoki and his formation of New Japan. The many exoduses of talent are covered and New Japans ups and downs are many. Antonio Inoki, like many owner-wrestlers, booked himself over the rest of the talent time and time again. It's a wonder New Japan survived long enough for him to retire.

The book talked a lot of the creation of stars like Tatsumi Fujinami and Riki Choshu in the 1980s, Keiji Muto, Masa Chono, and Shinya Hashimoto in the 1990s, and Tanahashi and others for the new millennium. The book concludes in 2015, with the rise of Bullet Club and the launch of New Japan's streaming service.

Lion's Pride was really informative, highlighting some backstage stuff I wasn't privy to and expanding on a lot of things I'd only read about on Wikipedia. The writing was pretty good for a book of this type. I did think the organization was a little weird, deviating from the main narrative to talk about completely unrelated things. For the most part, however, the book did what it set out to do. Three out of five stars.



View all my reviews

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sticks & Stones


Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Six months after nearly losing their lives to a serial killer in New York City, FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are suffering through something almost as frightening: the monotony of desk duty. When they're ordered to take a vacation for the good of everyone's sanity, Ty bites the bullet and takes Zane home with him to West Virginia, hoping the peace and quiet of the mountains will give them the chance to explore the explosive attraction they've so far been unable to reconcile with their professional partnership. Ty and Zane, along with Ty's father and brother, head up into the Appalachian mountains for a nice, relaxing hike deep into the woods... where no one will hear them scream. They find themselves facing danger from all directions: unpredictable weather, the unrelenting mountains, wild animals, fellow hikers with nothing to lose, and the most terrifying challenge of all. Each other.


My Review



It’s just as well FBI agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are required to take a mandatory vacation after failing their psychological evaluations. Six months later, they are still haunted by the Tri-State murders. A relaxing hike, a chance for the guys to explore their simmering attraction, and spending time with Ty’s family is just what they need.


“If Zane could survive a trip to West Virginia to meet the Gradys, he could live through anything. Like a cockroach.”


It’s not that easy, though, as both guys are great at keeping a lid on their emotions. On top of that, they are each dealing with issues from their pasts. Zane is hurting from the death of his wife and recovering from an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Ty is a former Marine who is suffering from PTSD, troubled by nightmares and flashbacks.

While this story is not as action-packed as the first, there are very gripping moments that had this reader flipping pages well into the evening. It began with the mysterious ATV tracks and ended with Ty’s sorry encounter with a cougar. Though they have to deal with bad guys on the trail, the focus of this story was on Ty’s and Zane’s deepening relationship and the interaction with Ty’s family.

I especially liked Ty’s brother, Deacon, who is a psychiatrist and more aware of how Ty and Zane feel about each other than they are themselves. His mother, Mara, is warm, loving, protective, and bakes amazing pies. Ty’s father, Earl, has a gruff, military bearing. The complicated relationship he has with his sons made it difficult for me to warm up to him, but there was no question his love was strong, especially when Ty’s life was in danger.

Just like in the first book, there were unbelievable scenes and stupid mistakes made. The writing style seems a bit more controlled, or maybe I’m just getting used to it. I love the slow-burning romance, the humorous banter, and the tension in Ty’s and Zane’s relationship.


“What he was afraid of, he’d come to realize, was not dark spaces or falling from great heights or being buried alive. His greatest fears, in the end, were letting down those he loved and saying the words “I love you” without any hope of hearing them in return.”


I’m enjoying this series so far and look forward to more danger and thrills, as well as seeing Ty and Zane overcoming their fears and insecurities.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir

Darth Maul - Son of DathomirDarth Maul - Son of Dathomir by Jeremy Barlow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Darth Maul and his Shadow Collective are in disarray from Darth Sidious's actions.
description
Maul's Mandalorians have a plan to save him.
description
Maul's mother intends to help him eradicate Darth Sidious.
description

Son of Danthomir wasn't as good as the previous comics because it got prequel gunk all over it. It has the disappointing General Grevious (who never received a decent introduction to the film series), Count Dooku, and the Droid armies. It just is less fun thinking about what Maul might have been when I have to see all that garbage. I now realize this comics and it's predecessor directly tie into the Clone Wars TV show. I imagine the creators didn't want the two series storylines to go to waste so it was utilized in comic form.

2.5 out of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

CANNERY ROW BY JOHN STEINBECK

Cannery RowCannery Row by John Steinbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Doc would listen to any kind of nonsense and turn it into wisdom. His mind had no horizon and his sympathy had no warp. He could talk to children, telling them very profound things so that they understood. He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement. He was concupiscent as a rabbit and gentle as hell. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him. And everyone who thought of him thought next, 'I really must do something nice for Doc.’”

 photo Cannery20Row_zpsuqwq6fdw.jpg
Cannery Row

Doc is one of those fictional characters that never leaves a reader’s memory. This book is dedicated to a man by the name of Ed Ricketts who was a marine biologist with a lab, like Doc, on Cannery Row in Monterey, California. Whenever I discover that a fictional character is based on a real person, it seems to lend extra life to that fictional person. It puts bones under the skin and blood in the veins.

It becomes evident, very quickly, how much John Steinbeck admired Ricketts. The biologist has a profound impact on his writing and also on the writing of Joseph Campbell, who, like Steinbeck, lived in Monterey and spent as much time in Ricketts’s lab as possible. The influence of Ricketts on Steinbeck is palpable in The Pearl, Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, The Log of the Sea of Cortez, The Moon is Down, and The Grapes of Wrath. Ricketts’ death, killed tragically young when his car is hit by a Del Monte Express Train just up the hill from Cannery Row, has a profound impact on many people. Steinbeck’s writing suffers after the death of his friend, and in the opinion of many critics, his writing after 1948 is diminished, except for his final epic East of Eden.

 photo Edward20Ricketts_zps7jbedciu.jpg
Edward Ricketts

It makes me wonder, would we know John Steinbeck’s name if he’d never met Ed Ricketts? Or what if he had never been influenced by what he experienced while living in Cannery Row?

It is a place at the right time tailor made to inspire a writer.

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, "whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches," by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen’ and he would have meant the same thing.”

Lee Chong runs the grocery store which is really a general store because you can find just about anything that you need and most things you never knew you wanted. Lee never discounts. Everything is the price it was when it was first carried in the door. He “rents out” a building he acquired as trade for an overdue grocery bill to a group of layabout guys who work when they have to, but choose not to work when they absolutely don’t need any money. It was interesting to see a bit into the mind of Lee as he ponders the universe and weighs the benefits and risks of any investment. He has an ongoing financial battles with the boys from The Palace Flophouse and Grill, which is the rather creative name the guys decided to use to refer to the Lee Chong storage shed, as they try to tempt him into their many doomed enterprises.

There is also Dora Flood who manages the Bear Flag Restaurant, but she is more accurately described as Madam Flood as the Bear Flag Restaurant isn’t a restaurant, but a whorehouse. She gives twice as much to charitable organizations as anyone else. She bends over backwards (Not so much over a bed anymore) to help people in need. She never turns a whore out when they get too old to be productive. "Some of them don't turn three tricks a month, but they go right on eating three meals a day." She is a whore with the heart of gold, but with an astute head for trying to not agitate the more conservative wives of the community.

 photo Ed20Rickettss20lab_zpsv5cs5le6.jpg
Ed Ricketts’s lab on Cannery Row.

Doc is lonely, but he isn’t alone. He doesn’t have a John Steinbeck living next door or a Joseph Campbell living down the street, but he never seems to lack for female companionship. Whenever the Sistine Choir or Gregorian Chants can be heard coming from Doc’s laboratory everyone knows he is in the midst of wooing well on his way to fornicating.

Doc takes a road trip down the coast of California to collect some specimens for his laboratory. We travel along with him and as the towns are listed off...Salinas, Gonzales, King City, Paso Robles, Santa Maria, and Santa Barbara I had a distinct heart pain of longing for the Golden State. He stops off frequently to sample the local cuisine and also manages to cross a very unusual concoction off his bucket list. “If a man ordered a beer milkshake he'd better do it in a town where he wasn't known.” He orders more than once while on this trip a healthy slice of pineapple and blue cheese pie. It sounds so weird that I have to try it.

Steinbeck sprinkles in some poetry from Black Marigolds by E. Powys Mathers. It is sensual and evocative poetry.

Even now
Death sends me the flickering of powdery lids
Over wild eyes and the pity of her slim body
All broken up with the weariness of joy;
The little red flowers of her breasts to be my comfort
Moving above scarves, and for my sorrow
Wet crimson lips that once I marked as mine.

Steinbeck includes several stanzas and with each one I read my appreciation for Mathers continued to grow.

 photo Cannery_row_poster_small_zpsjb2tcquu.jpg

This book is an ode to a friend, an ode to a period of time when I can tell Steinbeck may have felt most alive, and it is an ode to Cannery Row. A perfect storm of diverse elements that contributed to making Steinbeck one of the Great American Writers. There is a film version of the book starring Nick Nolte and Debra Winger which I have queued up to watch sometime this week. It looks like they muck up the film version with a love story, but I will reserve judgment until I’ve actually watched it.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder, #1) By: Brian McClellan

Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder, #1)Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yet another in my series of digging into my stack :) Weirdly enough, I didn't finish the first trilogy, not because I didn't like it, (it was amazing) I just got sidetracked, soooooooooooo I went looking into the files and found this.

THIS is terrific, easily the best thing I have read from Mr McClellan, and I WILL go back and finish the first trilogy now. If you want a fresh take on fantasy and a slightly different view, read this stuff todayyyyyyyy.



View all my reviews