Friday, July 31, 2015

Richard Estes

John Wilmerding
Rizzoli Publications
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Richard Estes (b.1932) is one of America's leading photorealist painters. This new large-format book will cover fifty-five years of Estes's work, from 1950 to 2005, and will include paintings, watercolors, and preparatory sketches. Estes is regarded as one of the most important painters of the New York urban landscape. The crisp clarity of Estes's paintings is reminiscent of photography, yet upon closer inspection his work reveals elements and perspectives that do not exist in reality and have more to do with minimalism and realism than with traditional landscape painting. The book will also include his work of the last ten years, much of which will be published here for the first time. A detailed chronology and list of exhibitions and public collections are included.

My Review

After enjoying a magnificent photorealism exhibit at my local art museum and reading Richard Estes’ Realism, I just can't get enough of the artist, so I dragged this big book home from the library.

It was published in 2006 and covers fifty-five years Estes’ work through 2005.

John Wilmerding does a nice job discussing Estes’ life, his career, his artistic influences, and the detailed processes of creating his art.

“Estes will take hundreds of photos, often returning to reshoot a site of special appeal. He will print up dozens of contact sheets, from which to select and then assemble the parts of a tentative composition.”

By using a combination of photographs, the artist can then create an original piece that is so meticulously detailed, the delicate brushstrokes practically invisible, that it looks as precise as a photograph. Yet, if you look at the work closely, there is a sense of unreality about it that makes it unique.

Among my favorite paintings are Estes’ richly detailed NYC street scenes that are so effective at evoking particular moments in the city’s history. I’m really glad this book devotes a large section to these works.

The book has a few flaws, however. I wish the paintings had been better organized. I found myself flipping through the book numerous times to see what painting the text is referring to. There was also a lot of white space that could have fit larger versions of certain paintings. It’s a minor complaint, though. If you are interested in photorealism and the work of Richard Estes, this book is a perfect choice.

Check this out! My local museum recently acquired Baby Doll Lounge for its permanent collection.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


The Man in the High CastleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“They want to be the agents, not the victims, of history. They identify with God's power and believe they are godlike. That is their basic madness. They are overcome by some archtype; their egos have expanded psychotically so that they cannot tell where they begin and the godhead leaves off. It is not hubris, not pride; it is inflation of the ego to its ultimate — confusion between him who worships and that which is worshiped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.”

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If Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been assassinated in 1934 instead of dying of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1945, what would the world look like? Do our lives, our futures, hang on the shoulders of one man? The New Deal that gave Roosevelt so much power, so much influence with the American public, would not have been possible if presented by a different man, a less sure man, a man more willing to make deals to pass the legislation even if it guts the intent of the program. The American people have probably never trusted a politician as much as they trusted FDR. So if we remove him from history during those critical years in the 1940s when the world went mad, what would happen?

Philip K. Dick is going to tell you.

We lose.

The Pacific States form a new country called The Pacific States of America and are controlled by Imperial Japan. A Rocky Mountain States is formed as a buffer between The Reich Controlled East Coast of America and the PSA. Europe is under the management of the Reich. The Soviets were completely destroyed by the Reich, and most were exterminated. A cold war has sprung up between the two remaining superpowers: the Japanese and the Reich. Adolf Hitler has descended into madness…batshit crazy madness... not the garden variety I want to rule the world madness.

”Old Adolf, supposed to be in a sanitarium somewhere, living out his life of senile paresis. Syphilis of the brain, dating back to his poor days as a bum in Vienna...long black coat, dirty underwear, flophouses.”

There is this interesting film called Max starring John Cusack from 2002 that was directed by Menno Meyjes. It discusses the possibility of what would have happened if Hitler had been accepted as an artist. Would he have channeled his anger into something more edifying than world destruction? I know that others, besides myself, must have watched that film, but they seem to be few and far between.

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Noah Taylor plays the young, frustrated Hitler.

Martin Bormann has been in charge of the Reich, but with his death a power struggle has broken out between Joseph Goebbels, Reinhard Heydrich, and Hermann Göring for the ultimate leadership. The thought of those men surviving the war gives me a chill. Hitler may have brought the vision, but these were the men who implemented it.

Robert Childan owns an Americana antique business on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. The Japanese are avid collectors of old American gadgets, comic books, and toys. He used to run a bookstore, but found that dealing in Americana was much more profitable. He isn’t an expert, which as the story unfolds, creates some issues for him. People don’t mind paying exorbitant prices as long as what they buy is legitimate. He meets a young progressive Japanese couple who want to discuss a future based on the book by Hawthorne Abendsen called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which presents an alternative reality where the Axis lost and the Allies won. It is still different from our present day, but certainly more recognizable than the dystopia of The Man in the High Castle.

Philip K. Dick is having a bit of fun writing an alternative reality which includes a novel about alternative reality.

The young couple are very disappointed to learn that Childan has not read the book. They assumed that any “American” would want to read this book. They were also disappointed that Childan, when pressed for his own philosophical take on this life, mouths the platitudes of the controlling governments because he thinks that is what his potential clients want to hear. I expected more from one of my own kind, a retired bookseller, but in his defense he doesn’t want unwarranted attention. He doesn’t want change as much as he wants to be safe. “What they do not comprehend is man’s helplessness. I am weak, small, of no consequence to the universe. It does not notice me; I live on unseen. But why is that bad? Isn’t it better that way? Whom the gods notice they destroy. Be small . . . and you will escape the jealousy of the great.”

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Mokkei Tiger from the 13th Century

Childan does get a glimmer of a lost past that might be reclaimed by the future when he holds the Frank Frink jewelry collection in his hands. Frink has recently left his work of employment, where he made replica guns from America’s past (for those Japanese collectors), to start his own business designing and creating original jewelry. To Childan the jewelry is much more than just pretty bobbles to adorn women’s throats, fingers, and wrists. It represents the American ingenuity that used to determine the fashions, trends, and innovations that led the world.

Meanwhile, Frink’s ex-wife, who lives in the RMS, has taken up with a truck driver who is not who he says he is. He has an agenda involving The Man in the High Castle. The man, Abendsen, who has taken the world by storm with his book depicting a different outcome from the war.

The I Ching plays a pivotal role as characters use I Ching to make decisions. Dick also used the I Ching to determine the twists of the plot as he was writing it.

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Having difficulty making decisions? Do you find that most of the time you make poor decisions? Turn your life over to the I Ching. Your future will no longer be your fault.

This book convinced me of the viability of this alternative reality. I certainly would have read more about this world that Dick created. The ending is open because Dick had always planned to write a sequel, but he couldn’t progress on the second book because he couldn’t stand the thought of going back and reading about Nazis. I’m in the same boat recently with all the history channels that I normally watch suddenly becoming obsessed with everything Third Reich. This is disturbing to me because programming is based off viewership, and obviously they have determined that people are tuning in to watch Nazi documentaries more than other much more fascinating time periods of world history. *Sigh* I don’t know what that means!

Amazon has recently filmed the pilot episode of a new series based on The Man in the High Castle. The episode is available on streaming. I read this book another lifetime ago, but wanted to refresh my memory before watching the pilot episode. I’m glad I did as much of my memories of the book had eroded into snippets of disjointed pieces. There is much more in the book than what I’ve discussed, but I hope what I have decided to highlight will encourage more people to read this novel of science fiction that also can rest comfortably on the same shelf as literature.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath: A Graphic Novel

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath: A Graphic NovelThe Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath: A Graphic Novel by I.N.J. Culbard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Randolph Carter wanders the dreamlands in search of Kadath, home of the gods, in order to find a path to the sunset city of his dreams.

First off, I'm going to say something that may get me eaten alive by a swarm of zoogs but I've never held the writing of H.P. Lovecraft in high regard despite loving a lot of his concepts. Untold aeons ago, I read the prose version of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. When I saw the graphic novel version, I decided it was time to revisit it.

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath works fairly well as a graphic novel. The adaptation has a somewhat disjointed feel, which I think fits the tale since it is a dream, after all. Unlike a lot of Lovecraft tales, it's a quest story rather than a race toward insanity. Randolph Carter encounters all manner of Lovecraftian beasties on his journey and I.N.J. Culbard depicts them rather well. Much like the pacing, the art contributes to the dreamlike feel of the story.

Even though I only have vague recollections of reading the prose version of this story, I felt like something was missing at times. The transitions from scene to scene were a little rough in places. Overall, though, I felt this was a worthwhile adaptation. Three out of five stars.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Truly Terrible Jokes

Funny Jokes (FREE Joke Book Download Included!): 125+ Hilarious Jokes (Funny and Hilarious Joke Book for Children)Funny Jokes (FREE Joke Book Download Included!): 125+ Hilarious Jokes by Johnny B. Laughing
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The other day the family went out for dinner together and my niece decided to entertain us with jokes, which I thought would be AWESOME!

Unfortunately, her jokes suck.

She's five, she just started school and she needs help, as I am of the opinion that all right-thinking kindergarteners should know at least a few ham-fisted knock-knock jokes. So, I commenced a dinnertime lesson in hilarity....only to discover I actually didn't know any jokes. I tried the old "Orange you glad I didn't say banana?" classic and f-ed it up. I needed help.

This led me to Johnny B. Laughing's Funny Jokes: 125+ Hilarious Jokes. You know you're in good hands with an author with a surname like that! Dude must've been born funny! At least you'd think so, but this book is filled with some real duds...

Q: Which astronaut wears the biggest helmet?
A: The one with the biggest head!

Q: What kind of doctor does a duck visit?
A: A ducktor.

Q: What do you get if you cross a skunk and a wasp?
A: Something that stinks and stings!

In fairness, there are a few good 'uns...

Q: What happened when the owl lost his voice?
A: He didn't give a hoot!

Q: What did the worm say to the other when he was late home?
A: Where in the earth have you been?

Q: Did you hear the joke about the skunk?
A: Never mind, it stinks.

By the time I finished I was inspired to pen one of my own off the top of my head...

Q: What's a monkey's favorite letter?
A: Eeee-Eeee!


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A Gaiman Book That Doesn't Feel Very Gaimany

InterWorld (Interworld, #1)InterWorld by Neil Gaiman
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't know what to expect. Once I knew, I expected more. I got less.

Interworld is the coming-of-age story of a boy finding himself, quite literally. Joey Harker is your typical kid, whose main concern is a certain girl and popularity at school. He comes off fairly average, but the way he's written, you're never sure if he's smart or stupid. Whatever the case, he sure did know a lot of pop culture references through out the ages, regardless of his own age and point of reference, so I would have to guess that he spends all of his time gathering useless knowledge that a kid his age normally wouldn't know. That isn't really touched on in the book.

Everything seems normal, until SUDDENLY occasionally bad writing with adverbs and such force the plot and Joey into a world where science (or pseudo-science) and magic are thrust together, supposedly in many forms, through out a multi-dimensional universe. Countless possibilities exist on an infinite number of planes...yet the survival of everyone and everything falls into the hands of one boy and his misfit band of buddies. Of course it does. What is everyone else doing? Why don't they lend a hand? I mean, there is quite a lot at stake here, their own existence for one. Meh, let's sweep that under the rug. Ain't nobody got time for that!

So, Joey and his pals fight the baddies with special powers and it's all supposed to be very exciting, but it's not. I've read worse, but seldom do I care less and just want to get through with a book.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

King Perry

Edmond Manning
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


In a trendy San Francisco art gallery, out-of-towner Vin Vanbly witnesses an act of compassion that compels him to make investment banker Perry Mangin a mysterious offer: in exchange for a weekend of complete submission, Vin will restore Perry's "kingship" and transform him into the man he was always meant to be. Despite intense reservations, Perry agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that will test the limits of his body, seduce his senses, and fray his every nerve, (perhaps occasionally breaking the law) while Vin guides him toward his destiny as "the one true king." Even as Perry rediscovers old grief and new joys within himself, Vin and his shadowy motivations remain enigmas: who is this offbeat stranger guiding them from danger to hilarity to danger? To emerge triumphant, Perry must overcome the greatest challenge alone: embracing his devastating past. But can he succeed by Sunday's sunrise deadline? How can he possibly evolve from an ordinary man into King Perry?

My Review

This story frustrated me initially, as I had no idea where it was going and I expect a certain kind of predictability in romance stories. I was afraid it was going to be a feel-good story, the kind that is anathema to my cynical heart. Though I was tempted to set it aside a few times, my curiosity got the better of me and I pressed on. Grudgingly, I opened my mind and my heart and embarked on an unforgettable journey that begins in a San Francisco art gallery.

Perry Mangin is an investment banker who lives relatively well in one of the most expensive cities on earth. Vin Vanbly, an auto mechanic from Minnesota, knows quite a bit about art and takes an interest in Perry. Though Perry seems not to want for anything, he has issues that prevent him from getting close to others.

This is not your average boy-meets-boy story, and Vin is not your average car mechanic. His job is to “King” Perry, get him to open up his heart, explore long-buried grief, shed tears, learn forgiveness, and ultimately find love.

I was on vacation in Montreal while reading this story and was only able to get through bits and pieces at a time. Though I wanted to devour it in one sitting, this way allowed me to integrate Perry’s experiences with my own, observing people more closely, finding common connections, and feeling a part of the fabric of the city rather than a mere explorer. Well, except for the cute duck and the wild sex, of course.

Vin’s mysterious nature, while bothersome at first, grew on me, as I realized that every single action he took, no matter how bizarre, was for Perry’s own good. His sexy charm, his humor, his way with words, and the way he seemingly knew more about Perry than Perry knew of himself endeared me to him.

King Perry is definitely not a romance in the traditional sense, but it is a story about love of the deepest kind. It made me laugh and made me cry, sometimes at the same time. It warmed my heart, dredged up some father issues and brought buried feelings to the surface. I was happy for Perry, but sad for Vin, who could not forgive.

Maybe one of these days I will forgive my own father, maybe not.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


PraguePrague by Arthur Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"What does it mean to fret about your fledgling career when the man across the table was tortured by two different regimes? How does your short, uneventful life compare to the lives of those who actually resisted, fought, and died? What does your angst mean in a city still pocked with bullet holes from war and crushed rebellion?"

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Budapest: City of Grit

John Price left California for Budapest in search of adventure, but also to reconnect to his older brother Scott. When he was younger, Scott was a fat, unathletic, unhappy kid, but since leaving for Europe, he has sculpted his body and mind into someone very different from whom he used to be. By being around John again all the insecurities of his past come back to nag at the veneer of his new identity.

When I graduated from high school, I moved to Phoenix to go to college. I can still remember waking up that first morning in Arizona and thinking to myself I don’t know a single soul in this city. I was elated. I could finally be me. Growing up, especially in a small farming community, everyone knows everything about you. They have these disjointed ideas of who you are that have been formed from the shedded skins of your younger self. You have no control over what they decide to remember (or exaggerate) about you, and to ever escape those older versions of yourself is impossible. I wish I’d been able to flee to a vibrant European city like Budapest but I had to settle for Phoenix.

Scott does introduce John to his group of ex-pat, pseudo-intellectual friends. In the midst of them is a corn fed, patriotic to the bone woman from Nebraska named Emily. There is also Charles, an investment banker, who in the course of the novel puts together a deal to bring the historic Horvath press back to life. ”There was something incorrect about this boy. His smile and word of thanks were wrong. He was made of dirty mirrors.” There is Mark, a Canadian, in love with architecture and the past. ”Can you imagine standing right here and being in love and seeing the world how it looked before movies existed, before movies made you see everything a certain way?”

As John settles into the city and starts to make a name for himself as a journalist working for BudapesToday, he begins to put together a life of his own. He finds an apartment, absurdly cheap. ”The balcony’s floor was cracked in a map of meandering rivers, demarcating flakes, and slabs of concrete loose enough to lift. It seemed evident that eventually the balcony would collapse under its own, or someone else’s weight. The building’s exterior walls bore decades-old scars and bullet holes.” The original owner leaves a picture of his wife and asked that John not take it down. This picture becomes a talisman of the apartment to the point that she almost seems like a part of John’s own past.

He meets a colorful Hungarian woman named Nadja at a bar who tells him stories of her past. She has been forced to leave Budapest too many times but always comes back when sanity has returned. John takes Emily to see Nadja in the hopes of impressing her, but Emily can not believe that someone has had that many experiences. To John those stories are wonderful pieces of culture history. To Emily they are just lies.

As I skimmed some other reviews of this book, it was interesting to see the reactions to these twenty something characters who are all very intelligent, who have just read enough, seen enough, to formulate what they feel are informed opinions, but of course they are just on the beginning edges of actually knowing what they are talking about. The people who gave this book one star because they loathed the characters I believe missed some of the point of the book because Arthur Phillips is very hard on these people. He exposes them. He certainly does not romanticize them. I identified with many aspects of these characters. The flaws they display are certainly ones that I could attribute to my past self as I grappled with knowledge, trying to evolve beyond just being smart into someone with actual intelligence.

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I must warn you about travelling to Budapest. I did have to dance for my supper.

The one star reviews seemed intent on punishing a writer for creating characters they’ve met versions of in real life and didn’t like. Many of them admitted, begrudgingly, that the lyrical writing is at times awe inspiring. Phillips also displays a depth of understanding of the human condition that had me rereading and thinking about passages such as this:

”John understood that some things mattered and some things did not and that the happy people in this world were those who could easily and rapidly distinguish between the two. The term unhappiness referred to the feeling of taking the wrong things seriously.”

I must admit though I really didn’t like Emily. She is so square, so judgmental, and certainly someone who would give this book a one star rating. She certainly wouldn’t like the direction her character takes, a direction she would have thought was impossible.

Luckily, John meets the plucky, bald headed, artist Nicky who makes him really see things, and forces him to expand his thinking about what he really wants out of life. She has her thorns certainly and is always looking to fortify the voracious hunger of the creative monster. ”John, not knowing the topic under discussion, knew she was collecting garbage to feed her ravenous, drooling Muse, and loved her for her open use of people, even himself.”

Phillips also weaves in the history of the Horvath Press and the heritage of the current owner, Imre. The Press survived war, poor ownership, and anticipated the changing tastes of the Hungarian population. The books he published saved the cultural history not only of his city, but also of his country. ”This was Hungary, and Imre was its memory. For some, the book acted almost as an opiate: The pleasure of leisurely or impatiently traveling from page to page and seeing lovely Budapest unbombed, undamaged, in black and white, was almost pornographic in its unattainable, voluptuous gorgeousness. Lipotavaros, the Elizabeth Bridge, the Corso, the Castel, the Nyugati Station in the day of its inauguration--the day it was the largest, cleanest train station in the world….”

Towards the end of the book the First Gulf War breaks out. Mark becomes absolutely addicted to CNN, which was the station that first gave us the twenty-four hour news cycle. I was working at Bookman’s Used Books in Tucson at the time. We brought a TV up to the front of the store so that we could get updates as the war unfolded. The war was over so quickly that it almost felt like a movie with too abrupt an ending. Like most of America, for quite a while, I continued to be addicted to news. My obsession with play-by-play news cooled a long time ago as I discovered that news is too influenced by half lies, hidden truths, and political agendas.

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Maybe there is some fascinating reason why Phillips decided to call this book Prague, but I actually find it annoying. Almost all the book is set in Budapest, so logically the book should bear the name of that city not the sister city on the Danube who has always been considered more elegant, more interesting. It has been a long time since I’ve been to Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, but I remember mimosas for breakfast in Vienna, a wonderful vibe in Budapest, and the breathtaking beauty of Prague. Each city was easily explored on foot and provided new wonders around nearly every corner. I can’t recommend that tour enough.

You may not like the characters, but I will say that no one remains twenty forever, and most pseudo intellectuals eventually discover how much more there is to know than what they can ever know. They grow up, and most become more humble. They take hard knocks just like the rest of us do and soon realize the universe doesn’t play favorites. With time, they become less self-absorbed and start to realize the benefits of using their intellect to help people instead of using it to offer a pithy evaluation of others' shortcomings. You might like these people better in their forties, but until then don’t bother to hate them. The wax of their character is still being poured into the mold.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Mother Tongue

The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That WayThe Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Mother Tongue is the story of the evolution of the English language, from its humble beginnings as a Germanic tongue to what it has evolved into over the centuries.

So, Bill Bryson + cheap equals insta-buy for me, apparently. Too bad even Bill Bryson couldn't make this terribly entertaining.

I have a long history as "the obscure facts guy" at social gatherings, at least, I did when people still invited me to such things. However, even I had trouble sticking with this one at times.

Old Bill is in fine form, cracking wise and still being informative at every opportunity. He didn't get much in the way of interesting material to work with in this case.

The book was not without its moments, however. I did enjoy the chapter on swearing, as well as numerous tidbits, or titbits, as they were called in a less prudish era, that peppered the other chapters. Too bad the gems were scarce and some of the reading resembled the back-breaking labor involved in mining.

While I found the book informative and mildly amusing, at the end of the day, it's still a book about the history of words. Even one of the funnier travel writers alive can't make chicken salad from chicken feathers in this case. 2.5 out of 5.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

A Fun Old-School Dungeon Crawl

The Citadel Of Chaos (Fighting Fantasy, #2)The Citadel Of Chaos by Steve Jackson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Assassination, sorcerer style, is the name of the game in The Citadel of Chaos!

Steve Jackson has been pumping out these gamebooks for decades. I believe there's something like 60 of them. In them you play an adventurer on a quest that involves a dungeon crawl, a term gamers use to describe an adventure in which your character is going room-to-room through some kind of controlled area, like a dungeon, crypt, catacombs, caves, etc. For the purpose of books like this, which are very much modeled upon the Choose Your Own Adventure style of reading, it's necessary to keep "on track," if you will. More on this will be explained below.

But now for some book-representative illustrations!


Not all fantasy art is created equal, but Russ Nicholson's got the goods!

With the advent of ebook readers, you can now read/play these without having to keep track of ability scores, health level or inventory. You don't even have to make a map of your progress. That's a good thing, because I just don't have the time or desire to do all that. I just want a bit of fun and, after purchasing it for my kindle, that's what a book like this provides.

In The Citadel of Chaos you play a wizard and the coolest part about that of course is that you get to cast spells. That was an exciting first for me! The spell choices are limited and the ones on offer (Strength, Stamina, ESP, Levitation, Fire, and a few others) are designed to be useful at some point in the dungeon. Some more so than others, and if you take a certain path through the dungeon you may not find a use for some of these spells at all.

These books aren't "open world," meaning you can't investigate the whole place, at least not in a single adventure. You see, the story is linear and although this is a game you can manipulate, it too is fairly linear. Per each adventure, you pick a path. Usually you're given a couple choices. But you must keep moving forward, no backtracking. It's a drawback and failing of these kinds of books.

Occasionally the writer is able to include choices that allow readers to experience variant parts of the adventure that would normally only be found by following a different path than the one you're on. That's difficult and if not handled correctly could lead to an infinite loop, which would be embarrassing for the publisher. I think I've only come across one of those, so the editors/testers have done their due diligence.

Anyhow, the linear nature of these books is honestly a minor quibble and just one of the rules of the game you must abide by. No big whoop.

A fun aspect to these particular books is the creatures you meet. Sure, you encounter your standard goblins, leprechauns and witches as well as the slightly more rare golems and lizardmen, which are still fairly well known in the fantasy world, but you also get some often delightfully original - or at least oddball - creatures and characters. For instance, that Whirlwind was a breath of fresh air! *rimshot*

Overall, this was fun. I've enjoyed the two of these books by Jackson that I've read so far and I will no doubt read more.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Don't Let Me Go

J.H. Trumble
Kensington Publishing
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Some people spend their whole lives looking for the right partner. Nate Schaper found his in high school. In the eight months since their cautious flirting became a real, honest, tell-the-parents relationship, Nate and Adam have been inseparable. Even when local kids take their homophobia to brutal levels, Nate is undaunted. He and Adam are rock solid. Two parts of a whole. Yin and yang.

But when Adam graduates and takes an Off-Broadway job in New York—at Nate’s insistence—that certainty begins to flicker. Nate starts a blog to vent his frustrations and becomes the center of a school controversy, drawing ire and support in equal amounts. But it is the attention of a new boy who is looking for more than guidance that forces him to confront who and what he really wants.

J.H. Trumble’s debut, DON’T LET ME GO, is a witty, beautifully written novel that is both a sweet story of love and long-distance relationships, and a timely discourse about bullying, bigotry, and hate in high schools.

My Review

If you decide to read this book, there are two things you need to overlook.

- The frequent time jumps throughout the story can be disorienting. Considering that very bad things happen to the main characters, I appreciate the author’s use of this technique that in some ways helps to lessen the intensity of the events and in other ways makes them even more horrifying. Just pay attention and you will find the story flows nicely and comes together in the end.

- The end! The craptacular ending that takes place 10 years after the story’s events. Though it was nice to see most of the story’s main conflicts resolved, I wanted more evidence of the characters’ work to get to that point. I also felt that certain significant issues were not addressed, which left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied.

Nate and Adam meet in high school and are joined at the hip. Their love is true, but Adam heads off to New York to take an acting job after graduation, putting great strain on their relationship. Nate and Adam’s relationship has all the passion and intensity of young people in love and was portrayed so effectively and authentically, that I found myself remembering my own difficult teenage years. It was easy to empathize with Nate and Adam, even if they lacked communication skills that would have prevented many of their problems. This is not just a love story, though. There is pain, heartbreak, and betrayal in spades. And there is the brutal sexual assault that left Nate emotionally wounded long after his injuries healed. Sensitive readers need not worry. Trumble skillfully interweaves details of the attack and its aftermath delicately through flashbacks.

I loved this book and gobbled it up in two days, discreetly swiping my tears while I was riding the bus to work. Nate and Adam were so real that I wanted to reach through the pages and hug them. Though Nate’s neediness and insecurity irritated me at times, I had to keep reminding myself that he is a teenager who suffered a traumatic experience. I’m glad Nate and Adam had the support of their friends – Danial, a straight ally of Pakistani descent; Juliet, Adam’s best friend who has a crush on Nate; and Luke, a sensitive, closeted boy who is drawn to Nate and is equally as needy. While I liked the supporting cast, I couldn’t help being slightly annoyed by Juliet. One of these days I would like to read about a strong female character who can have a close gay male friend while still having a fulfilling life of her own. I realize this is a book for young adults, but I was slightly bothered that the sexual intimacy between Nate and Adam was perfunctorily handled and lacking in sensuality. It would have been nice to have a tender love scene contrast with all the homophobia and brutality.

Minor complaints aside, this was an amazing book. Very highly recommended!

I can’t wait to read Luke’s story.