Saturday, April 20, 2019

Bound: Forget Me Knot


H.B. Pattskyn
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Jason Kennly needs to get a closer look when he spots a gray leather collar from across the dealers’ room at a science fiction convention, even if there’s no way he can afford it on his college student budget. After all, looking is free. But then he spots something he wants even more than the collar: leather booth owner Henry Durand, who insists Jason try it on. When Henry asks Jason to be his model at a bondage demo, Jason agrees despite his lack of experience as a sub and ends up spending a no-strings-attached weekend exploring his kinky side with a virtual stranger.

Then the con is over, Jason and Henry go their separate ways, and it’s back to real life. Coming to terms with his identity as a submissive and masochist isn’t easy for Jason. Suddenly he has to face fear, doubt, and a best friend who’ll do anything to get him away from “that creep” and back together with the ex-boyfriend who ignored him. All Jason wants is to be with Henry, but what if that means becoming his slave?


My Review



I don’t read a lot of BDSM stories just because I associate them with pain and I really don’t get off on pain.

With the right partner, however, loving dominance and submission, bondage, spanking, and blindfolding can be extremely erotic.

Jason puts a lot of trust in Henry early on and though their sex was blisteringly hot, some of their encounters made me squirm a little. Boundaries were pushed, but I trusted that Henry would respect Jason’s hard and soft limits and at no time did he betray my trust.

Trust works both ways, according to Henry:

“I only just met you too, Jason. Trust is a two-way street. You have to trust that I’m not a psycho, and I have to trust that you’re not gonna go telling all your friends ‘bout how some creepy old dude raped you. I have to trust that you’re not gonna have second thoughts in the morning and call the cops.”

Henry may be an experienced Dom, but he also has a vulnerable and tender side that is not sufficiently explored in this story. Jason lacks confidence, has difficulty communicating his needs, and desperately needs acceptance. His on-off relationship with his boyfriend, Terry, is frustrating. Terry has been rather inconsiderate on numerous occasions and Jason is unable to let Terry know what he wants and needs. His best friend, Kendra, borders on being too meddlesome, but she genuinely cares for Jason and has a very good reason to be concerned about his relationship with Henry. Jason does not have a good relationship with his father, who was unexpectedly saddled with him after his mother’s death. Despite Jason’s flaws and his inability to effectively deal with the difficulties in his life, I found his character genuine and difficult to dislike. I enjoyed being a part of Jason’s thoughts while coming to terms with his submissive nature and enjoyed his conversations with Henry.

Though the time they spent together was rather short, Henry is eager to teach Jason while at the same time forming a gradual connection.

I hope in time they will fall in love and have a more balanced relationship. As things are now, Jason’s precarious situation has me very worried and he still has so much growing up to do. 

I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Following the Shimmer

Following the Shimmer (Seven Forges, #3.1)Following the Shimmer by James A. Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read here for free

Desh Krohan discovered the people of Louron have no fear of the Sa'ba Taalor and he sent Tataya to discover why.

Following the Shimmer reveals Louron's biggest secret and their reason they are so unafraid. It's explained in a simple easy manner. My only real complaint is it's so short that it doesn't have an opportunity to truly get into the Shimmer.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

THE KREWE BY SETH PEVEY

The Krewe (Herbert and Melancon #1)The Krewe by Seth Pevey


”When you run over a human being with a train, there isn’t so much as a bump for those people riding or conducting inside the cars themselves. People are just too soft, and trains too hard and inestimably heavy. It might as well be mud under the flanged steel.”

When Felix Herbert, the frequently stoned underachiever, finds out his older brother Robert, the always overachieving doctor, has committed suicide, he doesn’t believe it for even one millisecond. When he discovers that his brother was wearing an angel corkscrew mask before he stepped out in front of that train, there is no doubt in his mind that his brother was trying to leave a clue to lead him to the truth.

Who and what drove Robert beneath the wheels of a train?

Fortunately, Detective Melancon is on the case. ”Detective Melancon was old and thin. His clothes fitted poorly and were of a forgotten color. But his eyes were bright, pale blue, piercing, and his mouth seemed far from tired. He cleared his throat and sat down.” His sixty-two year old body might remind him all too often that his best years are a distant memory, but his mind, honed by experience, is still as sharp as a butcher’s blade.

The Herbert legacy was made in pork, and as Felix begins to wield the power of his family to open those doors, closed to most of New Orleans society, he will need the steady hand of the honor-fixated Herbert family butler, Tomas De Valencia to help guide him. Felix, in his obsessive search for the truth, can quickly become mired in trouble so deep that even the Herbert fortune won’t be able to distract him.

Everyone Felix knows has been wanting him to grow up and accept the responsibility his family position has made possible for him, but now, with needing justice for his brother, he will have to finally become the man that everyone has been waiting for him to become.

And who is driving the black Plymouth that keeps following him all over town?

Felix may not have trained in the medical field, but with spending several years trying various illicit and prescription drugs to keep a hazy barrier between him and real life, he has a working knowledge of the effectiveness of most drugs. When he finds a drug called Scopodol is part of the swirling mists surrounding his brother’s death, he knows this is the clue that could lead him to the killer.

How does all this tie into a carnivale organization called The Krewe?

If his brother’s death is a suicide, who exactly keeps chasing him all over New Orleans? Felix has to discover skills he never knew he had. ”How to Survive a Foot Chase in 1000 Quick Steps.” He can tell he is getting closer to the truth by the level of interest that is being paid to his actions.

Tomas, Melancon, and Felix might not be Hollywood casting for the three musketeers, but together they prove to be a relentless trio against the diabolical schemes of the most ambitious and fiendishly driven villain I’ve met in a long time. It will take the combined efforts of all of them to have a chance to bring Robert’s killers to justice.

I caught up with the author, Seth Pevey, lounging in his hammock, under a Spanish moss draped Bald Cypress tree, sipping a Hurricane with... fortunately... no storm clouds on the horizon.

Jeffrey D. Keeten: Tell me a bit about where the inspiration to write The Krewe came from?

Seth Pevey:New Orleans Mardi Gras is a big deal, to put it lightly. The entire city shuts down for days, and most of the elite, old-money families are deeply tied in with its machinations, one way or the other. Local nabobs wear masks, drink out of flasks, ride horses down the main thoroughfare of the city while being hailed by the crowds. I always thought, watching those parades growing up, that the situation was just so ripe for mystery and intrigue. Who are those people behind the masks? What is going on behind the scenes of this incredibly expensive, excruciatingly planned party? Therein were the seeds of "The Krewe.”

JDK:I found the characters of Tomas and Melancon to be much more interesting than your main protagonist. That could be because I am older and love to see wisdom being appreciated over, say, youthful enthusiasm. What are your plans for those two characters going forward?

SP:Melancon is the main focus of book #2, Roots of Misfortune, and really kind of the main character of the series, despite how things open in the first book. Tomas, as you've hinted at, is meant to be the sort of moral bedrock of the crazy, chaotic NOLA of the novels. I can't say much more than that without spoiling what I have planned, but know that both older characters will be dispensing their wisdom in more adventures to come.

JDK:With the voracious, Kindle loving readers chewing through books like a beaver on amphetamines, do you have any plans to write some short pieces, say a 1.5 or a 2.5, to keep your series in front of them while you write the third novel?

SP:At least the beaver would eventually burn out! I see the Kindle market only getting bigger and more voracious as time goes by. I do have some plans for short, free (or .99c) novellas, which may be prequels or dive more deeply into particular characters. But, I'm not one of these writers who can churn out a book every eight weeks, unfortunately. So, I may end up just taking the hit to sales in order to produce the quality that I need to satisfy myself. I do seem to be getting faster as momentum and experience build and have some pretty ambitious plans for the future.


JDK:Lena Troxclair is a great villainous character. You've combined beauty and the beast into one person, which is frequently confusing to people who meet her. Is she beautiful, or is she horribly disfigured? Tell me about how that character evolved in your mind?

SP:The villain is always secretly my favorite character in a thriller/mystery, particularly if they are done well. For me, the best villains were always coming out of left field-- those that made you drop your guard and then stabbed you in the back. Lena has a beautiful face, but a disfigured body with a bit of a hunchback. That beauty is only a mask. It's nothing but a weapon in itself. The idea of "face" played largely into my construction of her: a person who places all their energy on controlling what you see when you look at them, while secretly hiding something toxic on the inside.

JDK:If you were working in a bookstore, what section would you shelve The Krewe? The young adult market is exploding right now. I came away thinking this could work well as a YA book, given the morality, good versus evil, no steamy sex scenes, or gory violence parameters of the plot.

SP:I don't like gore for gore sake, or sex for sex sake, in books or film. At the same time, I think some of the themes in my work (drug addiction, the darkness of humanity, the futility of resisting death and decay) might not lend "The Krewe" to a kid's summer reading list. I still hope they'd read it (and other dark, disturbing books) because all those things do exist and are going to have to be dealt with at some point in a kid's life. I sure read the darkest stuff I could get my hands on when I was a kid and relished every second of it. To answer your question more directly though, the book is written to be in the thriller/mystery section, and hopefully one day to sit in it's place in the "local fiction" section that's in every independent NOLA bookshop. That's the dream.

JDK:Speaking of no steamy sex scenes, there were no romantic entanglements in the book. I haven't read the second book yet, but do you have plans to bring romantic interests into the plots of the series?

SP:Absolutely-- Roots of Misfortune will definitely satisfy if you enjoy a little romance with your mysterious deaths and disappearances. I tend not to like romantic subplots all that much, but the characters led me there, and I couldn't say no to them.

JDK:What other interests besides writing do you have? I've heard rumors that you are a Cleaner for the mob, which must be exciting. By denying it, you are confirming it.

SP:I talk far too much to work for the mob. I bought an old house in the country and have been fixing it up, learning all that's involved with that, and really enjoying it. I also read a lot, obviously. I have a nice treadmill parked in front of Netflix as well, and that is something I'd recommend to anyone who loves story but feels guilty about binging. Besides that, I work in the family business (real estate) and make frequent trips down the road to New Orleans with my wife for the food, music, and festivals.

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

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Book Expo is returning to Jacob Javits in New York City -- May 29-May 31 This is the Book Trade Show you need to attend


Book Expo America is returning to the Jacob Javits Center in New York City on May 29 to May 31.  This is a huge trade show by the publishing industry -- with tons of book professionals for book professionals.  Besides the publishers, librarians, book sellers, bloggers, reviewers, authors and celebrities roam the halls of the Javits Center. And, there will be brand new books, both recently published, about to be published and advanced reading copies of books. Its a madcap way to see and obtain a ton of books. While the event is not free, there are a lot of free books to be had.

Books are what makes this event so special.  The publishing industry pulls out all stops to bring in authors who sign their soon to be published books, both fiction and non-fiction, young adult and children, mysteries, popular and expected best sellers.

The industry provides a huge amount of free books over the three day event, which authors sign.  Its a great way to get your hands on the newest books that the industry is highlighting.  I find that many books are in the young adult, teen and children area, which makes the event very good for librarians looking for new books for up and coming readers.

A good strategy is to get the Book Expo guide to the author signings and plot out which books based on the synopsis and what can be gleaned on line to determine the best books to wait on line for (or go with a whole passel of co-workers) as there are too many free books available at the same time to score (I mean obtain) the books that you want.

The event typically has some big draws. Sonia Sotomayor, the United States Supreme Court Justice is giving a speech on Thursday May 29 from 6:15 to 7:15 pm about her life and what made her write a children's book.   All you need is  your pass.

In addition, the Book Expo typically has Author breakfasts. On May 30, the Adult Book and Author Breakfast will include Rachel Maddow, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Malcolm Gladwell among others.  On Friday, May 31, the Children's Book and Author Breakfast (a 1000 attendee event) will be co-hosted by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, daughters of President George W. Bush and  they will be joined by actress Lupita Nyong'o to discuss her new children's book along with Tomi Adeyemi and Eoin Colfer, the author of the Artemis Fowl books.

Typically at Book Expo there are some authors that the show ranks as so illustrious that the show only allows select people into get their books.  There typically is a line prior to the show to nab red tickets to get into the lines for these books and these tickets are on a first come first serve basis. This year the Book Expo is also selling an Avid Reader Pass which will allow you access to certain authors online before the Book Expo and you will get a "front of the line pass" so you get to skip to the head of a line.

Another technicality is that there are two areas to obtain books.  The Book Expo typically has 10-15 separate lines in an author signing area where people stand in line for books.  In addition, the major publishing houses also offer free books, but typically give out tickets to their book signings at their stands prior to the book signing.  No ticket, no book, so it pays to go to the Publishing houses prior to obtain your ticket. 

Finally, its a good idea to get to Book Expo early because the publishing houses also give out free books especially on Thursday and Friday morning before the events get started.  Surf their areas to get free books.

Friday, April 12, 2019

New York: Portrait of a City


Reuel Golden
Taschen Books
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars



Summary



Trace the epic story of New York through hundreds of atmospheric photographs, from the mid-19th century to the present day. This remarkable collection, now available in a popular edition, pays tribute to the extraordinary architecture, civic, social, and photographic heritage of the Big Apple.

From the building of the Brooklyn Bridge to the immigrants arriving at Ellis Island; from the slums of the Lower East Side to the magnificent Art Deco skyscrapers, the city is laid out block by block, in all its chaos, complexity, energy, diversity, and style. Featured photographers include such feted talents as Berenice Abbott, Weegee, Margaret Bourke-White, William Claxton, Marvin E. Newman, Ralph Gibson, Steve Schapiro, Peter Lindbergh, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, and Ryan McGinley. With cover art by Robert Nippoldt, the collection is complemented by an extensive appendix showcasing some 100 books, movies, and records inspired by the city that never sleeps.



My Review



Even though I left New York in 1976 and have no desire to live there again, it still holds a special place in my heart.

So you can imagine how happy I was when I found this large picture book in the library.

The book has five sections:

City of Reinvention 1850-1913
Reach for the Sky 1914-1945
The World’s Capital 1946-1965
Mean Streets 1966-1987
Tragedy to Triumph 1988-today

Each section starts with a brief and interesting overview that had me going off in tangents reading about the city’s history, significant and little-known events, and the backgrounds of the photographers who shot this collection of gorgeous color and black and white images.

There were photos by Jacob Riis, Berenice Abbott, Alfred EisenstaedtWalker Evans, Weegee, Esther Bubley, Jamel Shabazz, and others.

There was a brief mention of the 1904 steamboat fire that caused more than 1,000 people, mainly women and children, to perish in the East River. This was the city’s worst disaster in lives lost until September 11, 2001.

I learned about Ninalee Craig's death in 2008. She was the subject of Ruth Orkin's controversial photo, American Girl in Italy.

I’m sad that most of my years in New York were during the Mean Streets era. During the 70’s there were cuts to the police force and a significant increase in crime. Many friends moved to other parts of the city or the suburbs. The subways were a mess. Graffiti, garbage and the stink of urine were everywhere.

The city cleans up well and even my old neighborhood in the Bronx looked fresh and felt a lot safer than the place I left.

Still, I’m afraid all this gentrification has leached the character from New York and other cities and made them unaffordable for many.

If you’re interested in New York, you will not want to pass this up.

At the end are recommendations for viewing, listening, and reading.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

City of Wonders

City of Wonders (Seven Forges, #3)City of Wonders by James A. Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sa'ba Taalor and their Gods have declared war on the Fellein Empire. People are retreating to Canhoon, also known as the City of Wonders, as the Taalor annihilate everything in their path. Desh Krohan's peers and apprentice search for a way to stop them while a mysterious individual is gathering people and heading for Canhoon.

City of Wonders is truly brutal. The Sa'ba Taalor aren't like normal Invaders who wish to take everything for themselves. They are butchers and the entire Fellein Empire is the fattened calf. The book feels largely hopeless as the Taalor have been forged for battle since birth while those of the Fellein have never experienced anything that could truly be called a war.

No character except perhaps the mysterious Pilgrim stands out in this book. Everyone largely stays the same except perhaps Nachia who appears to have learned fear by the book's end.

There are a few moments that are massively unexpected and I truly appreciated each of those moments. One of which had me whispering no as it was revealed. I'm glad the book didn't stop providing surprises as the fighting began in earnest.

City of Wonders was a devastating book that has me eager to see the conclusion.


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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

NORSE MYTHOLOGY BY NEIL GAIMAN

Norse MythologyNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place, with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them. As best we can tell, the gods of Asgard came from Germany, spread into Scandinavia, and then out into the parts of the world dominated by the Vikings…. In English, the gods have left their names in our days of the week. You can find Tyr the one-handed (Odin’s son), Odin, Thor and Frig, the queen of the gods, in respectively, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.”

Christianity very nearly drove the old gods of the Northmen from the face of the Earth. There was something so tangible about the pagan gods. They had personalities, fallacies, and a sense of humor that didn’t always bode well for their human worshippers. If we learned that Loki, in particular, had taken an interest in our troubles, we felt more trepidation than relief. His cunning intelligence was more often used for creating mayhem than it was providing solutions to dire problems. He was the gasoline that turned a smoldering, warm, ash heap into a raging forest fire.

Loki made enemies of everyone, which was why he had to live in a house with four doors facing each direction. He was the instigator of much of the troubles the gods found themselves facing, but he was also the one who always brilliantly conceived a plan that saved them from those troubles. Was Loki more of an asset or a liability? You will have to decide that for yourself. I do know that finding out he was not on the side of the gods in the final battle, Ragnarok, made me tremble with concern for the gods.

Who didn’t want Thor on their side? He wasn’t the brightness bulb in a chandelier, but once he entered a fight, one side breathed a sigh of relief, and the other side started fleeing for their lives. His magic belt, Megingjord, doubled his strength, but it was his hammer, Mjollnir, that made Giants, Trolls, and other gods tremble. The great, recently departed, Stan Lee mined the Old Norse tales heavily for his writing. These Norse gods were superheroes long before the term ever existed.

What would we give up to have all the wisdom of the world? Odin gave up an eye. He even plucked it from his head with his own fingers. He was the god of the gods and, according to legend, the father of us all. ”Because he was the father of the gods, and because he breathed the breath of life into our grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents. Whether we are gods or mortals, Odin is the father of us all.”

How about this for creepy? The Death Ship, Naglfar, was made from the untrimmed fingernails of the dead. A friend of mine was once moved into a different office where he worked. He kept finding fingernail clippings in drawers, in between stacks of paper, under the desk legs, wedged behind the computer speakers, snagged in the carpet fibers. Every time he would clean a new section of his office, he would find piles of fingernail clippings to sweep up. This was all very creepy for him, but when I told him that the man those clippings belonged to had recently died, he nearly came out of his skin. Suddenly, those annoying nail clippings became eerie reminders of mortality.

Speaking of mortality: ”When the gods felt age beginning to touch them, to frost their hair or ache their joints, then they would go to Idunn. She would open her box and allow the god or goddess to eat a single apple. As they ate it, their youth and power would return to them. Without Idunn’s apples, the gods would scarcely be gods…” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could use a bite of those Golden Apples. I’m not even greedy; just a nibble would be great.

Even the mighty Thor could be temporarily flummoxed. ”There was a giantess in the kitchen, cutting up onions as big as boulders and cabbages the size of boats. Thor could not help staring: the old woman had nine hundred heads, each head uglier and more terrifying than the last. He took a step backward.” If you were fighting a monster like this, where would you start and where would you end?

The stories that Neil Gaiman gathered together here were based on what little was left of the pagan stories of the Norse gods. Fortunately, a 13th century Icelandic saga writer named Snorri Sturluson recorded these tales in his book Prose Edda. Neil Gaiman retold them with his entertaining and illuminating prose. Check out the life of Snorri Sturluson when you get the chance. He might have written about heroes of old, but his life was equally fascinating to read about.

What stories we have were the tip of the iceberg of the stories that were originally told. Wouldn’t it be great if more of them were found? The Norse gods were mere shadows of what they were in the past.

This was a wonderful introduction to Norse Mythology. If you know very little about the old gods, this would be a great place to start. If you have some idea of the Norse legends, you would certainly benefit from reading them in Gaiman’s engaging style. I even found myself chuckling at several points...that Loki kills me every time.

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


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Saturday, April 6, 2019

Armed and Dangerous


Abigail Roux
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
2 out of 5 stars



Summary



Left alone in Baltimore after his unpredictable lover bails, Special Agent Zane Garrett takes his frustration out on everything in his path until he is ordered to Chicago to back up an undercover operative. When he gets there, though, he finds himself face to face with his wayward partner, Special Agent Ty Grady. They have to deal with the uncertainty lingering between them while they work to retrieve their intended mark, a retired hit man and CIA wet-works operative named Julian Cross.

Ty, once a marine and now an FBI hotshot, has a penchant for being unpredictable, a trait Zane can vouch for. Zane is a man who once lived for his job but has come to realize his heartbreaking past doesn’t have to overshadow his future. They're partners, friends, lovers, and the go-to team for unusual cases. With Cross and his innocuous boyfriend, Cameron Jacobs, in tow, Ty and Zane must navigate the obstacles of a cross-country trek, including TSA pat-downs, blizzards, their uncooperative prisoners, CIA kill teams, a desperate lack of sleep or caffeine, and each other. Ty and Zane are determined to get Julian Cross to DC in one piece, but it’s starting to look like it might be the last thing they do.



My Review



I think I’m done with Ty and Zane.

In this fifth book of the Cut & Run series, it seems that one half of the author duo is now going it alone. And the other half has absconded with the Ty and Zane I loved in the earlier books.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that Ty and Zane are now at the stage of their relationship where they have found a happy equilibrium. The problem is, their behavior is so out of character, especially after Ty’s sudden departure in the last book. Forgiveness happened a little too quickly for my liking, and the excessive declarations of love, the “oh, baby’s” and humming by most of the male characters made me want to stick a fork in my eye.

Number of hums
Ty Grady – 10
Zane Garrett – 6
Julian Cross – 5
Cameron Jacobs – 2
Nick O’Flaherty – 1
Richard Burns – 1

These guys are supposed to be badass. Instead, they are sitting around talking about feelings! I miss the verbal sparring and the snarky humor of the earlier books. The action scenes, though, are as ridiculous and unrealistic as always. While I was able to overlook that before, I am unable to do so now.

“Julian struck out at him so quickly it was easy to think it was imagined. He grabbed the gun and pulled the slide, his free hand moving in a flash, and the gun fell apart in Leatherface’s hand. Julian swung at him with the slide, hitting him in the temple and dropping him in a heap.”


This scene confuses me. No matter how scrappy Julian may be, I seriously doubt he would be able to disarm a rogue CIA agent, strip the slide off his pistol and knock him unconscious. If Julian grabbed the gun to pull the slide, wouldn’t the gun be in Julian’s hand? And while many guns may be designed to be quick and easy to disassemble, they don’t just “fall apart” in someone’s hand.

Unlike earlier books where the focus was on the main couple, we are introduced to two new characters, Julian Cross (the only witness to a contract killing) who Ty and Zane must bring to DC in one piece, and his milquetoast boyfriend, Cameron Jacobs.

The lengthy road trip undertaken by these four guys while Julian and Cameron were often restrained was excruciatingly slow. I quickly tired of their banter. I skimmed through the sex scenes, which were drawn out and repetitive. Julian’s cats, Smith and Wesson, were a nice touch. I hope Ty and Zane get permanent custody.

Since I have the next book on my Kindle, I’ll probably read it. But I don’t have high expectations.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Blasted Lands

The Blasted Lands (Seven Forges, #2)The Blasted Lands by James A. Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Emperor is dead. Murdered in his own palace by someone he welcomed as a guest. Desh Krohan, Merros Dulver, and the soon to be named Empress Nachia Krous are preparing for war against the most dangerous force they've ever imagined.

The Blasted Lands is a slow burn of a book. I was expecting war to break out immediately, but instead this book was another build up book. Many secrets are revealed before the book ends and the conclusion is jaw dropping. I wish that conclusion came much sooner as I'm left to imagine the next book will be incredibly intense.

The characters largely remained the same in the book despite many of the main ones being given new roles. The one exception is Andover Lashk. He's been transformed from the beginning of Seven Forges. He was a victim and now he's becoming a predator. His personality itself is changing slower, but the lessons provided by the Sa'ba Taalor and the Daxar Taalor change him.

The Blasted Lands was good, the ending made it intriguing, and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

BLACKBIRDS BY CHUCK WENDIG

Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”Miriam’s been out here for twenty minutes, and she wonders why this isn’t easier. Here she is, tight white T-shirt--a tight, white, wet T-shirt with no bra in sight--and her thumb out for a ride. Prime, Grade-A Road Trash, she thinks. And yet, nobody stops.

A Lexus speeds past.

‘You’re a dick,’ she says.

A white SUV rumbles by.

“You’re a superdick.”

A rust-fucked pickup approaches, and she thinks, this is it. Whoever’s driving this junk-bucket is sure to think he can score with this thin slip of road pussy.”


To say that Miriam Black is living on the edge is almost a laughable understatement. Here she is, standing out by the side of the road, a living breathing woman, in dire circumstances, sporting a she-must-like-it-rough black eye, and she can’t get anyone to even slow down to take a lingering, leering look at the dark smudges of her cold induced erect nipples.

What’s a girl got to do?

The white elephant of a question is, how does a woman find herself in so much trouble that even a potential rapist, stopping to spirit her away, is a relief?

As she will tell you, her body is no temple. There is no vestal virgin lurking behind the zipper of her jeans. The laws of the universe are clear: ass, grass, or gas, no one rides for free.

Her life has always been a kaleidoscope of varying degrees of trouble, but recently somebody turned the fan on high and shit started flying at her faster than she could flutter her eyelashes.

She needs some ”zen and the art of repression.”

Her boyfriend, Ashley Gaynes, who is not her boyfriend, is carrying a suitcase full of stolen meth. He is a real asshole, too.

”’I figured you might be able to push it.’

‘Me? Are you kidding?’

‘You look...like you maybe do meth. Or did.’

‘No,’ she seethes, ‘I look like I do heroin--and I don’t do that either. I have all my teeth and I don’t smell like cat piss, so don’t think I’m some basehead tweaker fuckface.’”


Yeah, he is a gem.

There is also Ingersoll, whom we will just call the Hairless Fucker, well, because he is hairless, and his two hench people, Frankie and Hannah, want and need to hurt Ashley because they want the meth back.

Miriam turns out to be a pleasant surprise. She has something that is much, much more valuable to Hairless Fucker than a suitcase full of meth, even if that meth was blue and made by Walter White. It isn’t, but if it was, it still wouldn’t be more valuable than what Miriam can do.

She can tell you when you are going to die.

Now if you are a unmitigated, unequivocal asshole like the Hairless Fucker, you know your demise is probably going to be heinous, gory, and probably have something to do with fucking somebody over.

If you can know when you are supposed to die, maybe you can avoid the whole damn thing and live to a ripe old age in the Cayman Islands.

In Miriam’s experience, ”Fate is an immovable object.” There is no changing your destiny. Your life has already been woven, and the fates are plucking the strings. ”All of our lives are just a series of events carefully orchestrated to culminate in whatever death fate has planned for us. Every moment. Every act. Every loving whisper and hateful gesture--all just another tiny cog in the clockwork ready to ring the alarm for our ultimate hour.”

There is the possibility that Miriam is wrong. What if we could change our fate by making different decisions? On the day we are supposed to be splattered all over the front of a Greyhound bus, what if we stay home, locked in the bathroom, curled up in the tub, waiting for a new day to dawn? Does the bus crash through our house and splatter us anyway? Or does the Grim Reaper find us, snickering at our feeble attempts to trick him, and we are found in the tub split from head to toe by a weapon that the coroner can’t identify because it hasn’t been used to cut wheat in a hundred years?

*Sigh*

Would you want to know?

Me, you’re asking me?

No way, no how. I want to be the most surprised person on the planet when my heart explodes in my chest, or a burst vessel sprays hard pumping blood all over my brain pan, or a meteorite blows through my head at a thousand miles an hour. Knowing the ending would certainly screw up the middle pages of my autobiography.

Miriam needs to get away, as far as she can, from the Hairless Fucker and from Ashley Gaynes. The only problem is, she can’t ever run far enough or fast enough to outrun herself. The same old face will still be staring her in the face in Milwaukee as it was in Phoenix.

You will cringe. You will laugh. Your sphincter will pucker. Your stomach will churn. Your head will ache. You will emerge from the pages of this book a different person, tasting tarnished pennies in your mouth and needing to spend the rest of the day with the shades drawn, Tom Waits on the turntable, and slowly working your way through a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Wait! Miriam?!?! Is this how I croak? Shit! No, no, for the love of Odin, don’t tell me.

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