Wednesday, August 23, 2017

RULES OF CIVILITY BY AMOS TOWLES

Rules of CivilityRules of Civility by Amor Towles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”She was indisputably a natural blonde. Her shoulder-length hair, which was sandy in summer, turned golden in the fall as if in sympathy with the wheat fields back home. She had fine features and blue eyes and pinpoint dimples so perfectly defined that it seemed like there must be a small steel cable fastened to the center of each inner cheek which grew taut when she smiled. True, she was only five foot five, but she knew how to dance in two-inch heels--and she knew how to kick them off as soon as she sat in your lap.”

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Lower Manhattan 1938.

Eve Ross, a New York transplant from Indiana, is one of those friends that manages to always have a good time whether she is in a jazz club or on her way to a funeral. She is an energy vampire. She takes it. She gives it. As one party ends another one begins. Katey Kontent is Eve’s sidekick. She was born in New York and enjoys the octane fueled experiences with her friend, but she can never throw herself into the fray quite the way Eve does. She’s always more reserved, more willing to observe and ponder events rather than be lost in the moment.

It is 1938.

They meet Tinker Grey, a well groomed, well heeled banker who is a man in need of a good time and Eve and Katey are the right two gals to provide it. He has the money. They have the energy. Katey is used to taking a backseat to Eve and as their dueling relationship starts to evolve with Tinker it is no secret that as much as Tinker appreciates Eve he is developing a serious crush on Katey. Eve is a force of nature and provides the whirlwind effect to any outing, but if a guy wants a moment to have a quiet drink and a deeper conversation Katey is the right ticket.

--”Eve leaned toward Tinker confidentially.
--Katey’s the hottest bookworm you’ll ever meet. If you took all the books that she’s read and piled them in a stack, you could climb to the Milky Way.
--The Milky Way!
--Maybe the Moon, I conceded.”


She is HOT and she READS? YOWZA! She reads everything from Charles Dickens to Agatha Christie and appreciates that pendulum of reading experiences equally and for different reasons.

”I read a lot of Agatha Christies that fall of 1938--maybe all of them. The Hercule Poirots, the Miss Marples. Death on the Nile. The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Murders...on the Links...at the Vicarage, and, ...on the Orient Express.
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I read them on the subway, at the deli and in my bed alone.
You can make what claims you will about the psychological nuance of Proust or the narrative scope of Tolstoy, but you can’t argue that Mrs. Christie fails to please. Her books are tremendously satisfying.
Yes, they’re formulaic. But that’s one of the reasons they are so satisfying. With every character, every room, every murder weapon feeling at once newly crafted and familiar as rote ( the role of the postimperialist uncle from India here being played by the spinster form South Wales, and the mismatched bookends standing in for the jar of fox poison on the upper shelf of the gardener’s shed). Mrs. Christie doles out her little surprises at the carefully calibrated pace of a nanny dispensing sweets to the children in her care.”


If you are still not sure that you want to be friends with Katey Kontent than how about this.

”In retrospect, my cup of coffee has been the works of Charles Dickens. Admittedly, there’s something a little annoying about all those plucky underprivileged kids and the aptly named agents of villainy. But I’ve come to realize that however blue my circumstances, if after finishing a chapter of a Dickens novel I feel a miss-my-stop-on-the-train sort of compulsion to read on, then everything is probably going to be just fine.”

Katey when she needs a moment of contemplation, a place to be alone with her thoughts she finds an empty church. I too find a church most spiritual between services when the thunder of religious verbosity is dissipating into the distance. In New York such churches are works of art, good for the soul and the intellectual mind.

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St. Patrick’s New York

”St. Patrick’s on Fifth Avenue and Fiftieth Street is a pretty powerful example of early nineteenth-century American Gothic. Made of white marble quarried from upstate New York, the Walls must be four feet thick. The stained-glass windows were made by craftsmen from Chartres. Tiffany designed two of the altars and a Medici designed the third. And the Pieta in the southeast corner is twice the size of Michelangelo’s. In fact, the whole place is so well made that as the Good Lord sees about His daily business, He can pass right over St. Patrick’s confident that those inside will take pretty good care of themselves.”

There is a car accident and Eve is hurt the worse of the three. Guilt, a powerful tool, swings all of Tinker’s attention to Eve. Any burgeoning relationship he has with Katey comes to a skidding halt with the shattering of glass and a great beauty marred by scars. They don’t see as much of each other, but when they do there is still a trip of a heartbeat.

She can’t get him out of her head.

He isn’t who he seems.

He is more and less than what she believed.

Tinker’s brother provides a little insight into what makes Tinker more than the sum of his parts.

”Never mind that he speaks five languages and could find his way safely home from Cairo or the Congo. What he’s got they can’t teach in schools. They can squash it, maybe; but they sure can’t teach it.
--And what’s that?
--Wonder.
--Wonder!
--That’s right. Anyone can buy a car or a night on the town. Most of us shell out our days like peanuts. One in a thousand can look at the world with amazement. I don’t mean gawking at the Chrysler Building. I’m talking about the wing of a dragonfly. The tale of the shoeshine. Walking through an unsullied hour with an unsullied heart.


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Mother Nature competing with Tiffany

Yeah, I know, I had to take a moment and spend a little time thinking about that line as well. I do know that perfection, those amazing moments where everything lines up from the moon to the breeze are few and far between. They need to be logged, carefully wrapped in gossamer, and placed in the deepest, safest vault of your memories so that when things go to crap they can be retrieved, savored, and hope can be restored that more of those moments are in your future. Life can never take everything away from you. Like most of us Katey doesn’t end up anywhere near where she expected, but 1938 is a year of those gossamer wrapped memories that can bring a whimsical smile to her lips when she is forty, seventy or a hundred and seven.

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The Dover Demon

The Dover DemonThe Dover Demon by Hunter Shea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thirty years ago, four teenagers saw a creature the newspapers named The Dover Demon. Now, people are seeing the creature again and the four people's lives are going to converge. Will any of them survive?

I think Hunter Shea and I would have a lot to talk about. There was a five year period where I was into UFOs and an even longer time when I was fascinated by cryptids. How could I not give this a shot?

The Dover Demon uses the Dover Demon sighting in 1977 as a jumping on point and runs with it. The four people who saw the creature are leading very different lives when their shared past surfaces again. Kelly is an alcoholic. Sam runs a comic book shop and has a son, Nicky. Tank and Stephanie are happily married. When Nicky and his friends go looking for the Dover Demon after reading a blog post, the apple cart gets upset in dramatic fashion.

I love what Hunter Shea has done with the Dover Demon here, tying it with lots of staples of UFO lore and linking lots of different aspects of UFO mythology. Not only that, this is one balls-squeezing read. I wolfed it down in one long sitting, occasionally making noises of surprise and/or disgust.

Shea's writing reminds me of Richard Matheson's, not overly flowery but really punchy and evocative. There's some Kingliness in it as well, although it's from the early days of Stephen King. Some of his descriptions were nauseating and the mind-bending effects of the Dover Demon(s) was pretty disorienting. Also, he has a gift for suspense. I never once felt like the characters were working with a safety net. Unless they make safety nets out of razor wire these days...

Either Hunter Shea is one of my new favorite horror writers or he had me abducted and brainwashed by aliens. Either way, 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy By :Kliph Nesteroff

The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American ComedyThe Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this type of book, jumping deep into the histories of things I love. I always had a deep love of all things comedy and Mr. Nesteroff does an excellent job covering the history of the artform from its beginnings to current day.

I rounded up to 4 from 3.5 however, here's why. Comedy, although being a broad subject, Mr. Nesteroff glossed over alot of stuff. He gives short shift to several artists, which I don't know if I can blame him due to the length of directions the topic can go in, BUT..I didn't like that. Then, there was a LOT of focus on the negative aspects, the sex, the violence, the substance abuse..again, I am sure it makes for a more entertaining story, but really? is it that necessary?

That being said, wonderful history of the funny men and women in comedy, I recommend it.

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Calcio: A History of Italian Football By: John Foot

Calcio: A History of Italian FootballCalcio: A History of Italian Football by John Foot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am still deep into my current obsession with the beautiful game and I decided to jump off into some leagues I knew nothing about.

This is a well written, very informative and complete history of football in Italy. I consumed it and enjoyed every page. Now I definitely know why I am drawn to the sport. It has by far the most passionate, most diverse, just outright wild and awesome fanbase.

If you have any love of soccer, football, whatever you call it in your neck of the woods, this history is for you. Deepen your base and expand your mind, you won't be disappointed.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Acid Bath is a Blood Bath of a Production

Acid BathAcid Bath by Vaseleos Garson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was not...what's the word I'm looking for?....good. This was not good.

I don't blame the story, so much as the production. I got Acid Bath from the Black Gold library system and listened to this short story during one quick walk down to the post office and a bit of yard work on my return. Unlike most audiobooks, it was produced like a radio drama with sound effects and ambient music, none of which was particular necessary. Aside from the overlong playing of some adult contemporary pop-schlock at the end, it didn't add or detract from the overall experience.

What really did detract from the reading was the voice, cadence and pronunciation of the narrator. He sounded like a robotic German struggling with the English. This was perfect for the robot speaking parts, but those were minimal.

The story itself is solid. It's a nice, quick action piece set on an asteroid, where a human is pitted against mechanical aliens wishing to do some testing on their captive. The author wastes no time and jumps right into it. We get very little character depth, but that's hardly to be expected in such a short work. The plot could've been deepened with a craftier twist ending, but hey, this was written in the '50s, so I'm willing to give it that forerunner, originator pass.

Not a bad little story, but I would suggest just reading it. Don't seek out this audio version.

Ratings:
Audio adaptation: 1.5 stars
Text: 3.3 stars


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The Continuing Tales of Uthred of Bebbanburg

Warriors of the Storm (The Saxon Stories, #9)Warriors of the Storm by Bernard Cornwell
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

description

Dashingly handsome Uthred of Bebbanburg's life story vikings along in Warriors of the Storm, the ninth book in the Saxon series.

First off, Uthred is never described as being handsome in the books. That is a tv fabrication. Okay, I just needed to get that out of the way.

Anywho, this is a serviceable book that continues the saga admirably. It's not anything special. No major historically related events take place. It's more personal. In fact, at one point Uthred has to rescue his daughter and son-in-law.

It does feel like maybe Bernard Cornwell is wrapping things up. A prominent character from earlier books bites the dust, and when that begins to happen the end is often nigh. However, we're talking about an author who's learned his lesson about rushing a good thing along just to get to the end. With his Sharpe series, Cornwell ended up going back and writing prequels because a tv show had developed and fans clamored for more. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Saxon series double in size before he's done with it. However, it probably should've already ended. I mean, at this point it feels like he's having to pull out of his ass new ways to get Uthred into hot water.

Having said that, if he does keep putting out more and more of these, I will keep reading them. It's enjoyable stuff and I'm fully invested in the characters. "Please sir, may I have some more?"

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Friday, August 18, 2017

THROAT SPROCKETS BY TIM LUCAS

Throat SprocketsThroat Sprockets by Tim Lucas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”I wondered if I hadn’t been so deeply affected by Throat Sprockets because it had given this unfinished something deep within me, after all these years, the teeth it needed to access a body-temperature flow of nourishment.”

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A tasty well defined neck.

Our unnamed narrator frequently escapes to the sticky floored darkness of his favorite pornographic theater to relax and eat his lunch. His trenchcoated companions are barely a distraction in the periphery of his vision. If we are trying to place him on the scale of perversity, he ranks a bit above average, but certainly not in the red zone. He is a garden variety, breast man.

Until he sees Throat Sprockets .

”The director had a thing for women’s throats.”

His wife, Paige, starts noticing some changes in his behavior. He has always liked to give her shoulder massages, which always culminated with him groping her breasts. She can count on the fact that he is a breast man, and she has the breasts to keep him happy, but then he starts giving her massages that end with a special fixation on her neck. Her breasts, ready to be offered as a reward,...are...ignored.

Puzzling, but not alarming.

He continues to watch the film at every opportunity. His behavior becomes even more strange, more emotional. ”Men cry, but we tend to be moved to tears quietly, as quietly as we masturbate. Men are raised to purge themselves in strictest secrecy…”

He knows this need is not natural. He is developing an unnatural appetite. It scares him and invigorates him. He begins listening to different music. ”It was all about throat music. He couldn’t have cared less about the content of the music, he was after the substance of it, the texture, the sex of it, the husky vibrato. He was burrowing, digging, chewing into sounds, completely unconcerned with melody, ignoring everything but the simple conceit that these sounds coming in moans and coos and wanton wails and soaring arias were an erotic discharge pouring into his ears from women’s throats.”

If Paige’s breasts had grown to the size of cantaloupes and had sprouted wings, he wouldn’t have cared less, nor would he have been moved to desire if she had grabbed his head and stuck his face in her cleavage . His eyes would have been locked on the pulse in her throat.

The marriage ends when she has to defend the silky contours of her neck with a kitchen knife keeping his brandished teeth away from her cervicibus. His admiration for women’s throats has grown into a full on erotic obsession.

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Just a nibble please!

He works as an advertising writer, and soon he starts to realize that all of his ideas are centered around his interest in the concepts expressed in Throat Sprockets. He starts to realize that his desires are not as unnatural as he thought. The term sprocketing is becoming a known term, and whole groups of young people are becoming chokers, offering their necks and their blood to those who have found a desire that exceeds their sexual lusts. It is on the verge of an epidemic.

His descent into madness continues to spiral downward; each spiral is tighter and moving faster. He seeks the well spring of the film. The director proves elusive, but he does find some people involved with the film. He pays exorbitant amounts of money for anything connected with the film that will give him a better understanding. The question is, can he save himself before…”I hear the sound of a garroted camera as my blood runs out of film.”

This isn’t a vampire book. It is actually a fascinating journey of erotic obsession. I happen to find women’s necks very attractive, but I have no interest in the blood that pulses beneath the skin. Beauty for me is best left unmarred...well...maybe mussed a bit. For our narrator, it isn’t enough to gaze upon say the beauty of a dark round mole on a lovely female neck. He wants to consume it. He wants to possess it. I’ve learned over the years that those things that most of us might find unnatural or even disgusting are the very things that turn other people on. Any perversity that you can conceive is something that someone else has turned into an obsession. To say it is unnatural or unique may not be as true as I would like to believe. As Google releases more and more information about our true online interests, which actually are a more honest representative of our true desires than we would ever reveal in a survey, we might discover that our neighbors are more kinky than we had previously thought.

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Oh my what nice hardware you have my dear.

Tim Lucas explores the dark side of desire. He does so with evocative sentence structures and dangles all kinds of threads for the discerning reader to pull on to open up the truth about your own obsessions. The book left me wondering if I have even found my kink. If the narrator had never seen Throat Sprockets, he would have lived out his life being perfectly fine venerating breasts. Is there a song or a movie or book that will reveal a desire I had no idea I possessed? Am I living a lie while unknown desires are dormant in some dark corner of my mind? Read this book at your own risk, my friends and followers.

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The Rainbow Connection


B.J. Sheppard
Self-Published
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary


Living a care-free party life-style, junior journalist and gay lifestyle reporter, Liam Adams thought he had it all; the money, the job, the endless supply of men in his bed. But when his work causes him to question the very foundation of the life he has built for himself, Liam finds certain areas are glaringly lacking. All it takes is one assignment to unravel the very fabric of his promiscuous antics, compounded by the arrival of a long-forgotten tryst. With the rusty screech of the mailroom guy’s trolley wheels, Liam lands head-first in the arms of something bigger; something more.

As the romance burgeons between Liam and the Mail-Manny of his dreams, each article he writes proves to uncover something new and never realized about himself, namely that all the one-night-stands in the world could never give him what he truly wants; love. In a slapstick commentary through the eyes of the world’s most hypersensitive journalist, watch as Liam’s story unfolds in the most ridiculous of fashions, leading him straight into the arms of love, via The Rainbow Connection.



My Review



Oh, what a loathsome character Liam Adams is! It was so hard for me to care about him initially, that I was tempted to set aside the book more than once. But who am I to judge? It’s not as if I’ve never made bad decisions, or had contempt for some of my co-workers, or gotten stinking drunk at lunchtime. So I kept reading, and while I never fell in love with Liam, I grew to appreciate his thought process, his sense of humor, his witty sarcasm, his view of the world, and empathized with him that at 28 years old, he has never been in love.

Liam is an aspiring author and works as a journalist for an online gay magazine. He’s good at his job and thrives on deadlines. When he writes an article about the reasons women love to read gay romances, and puts his soul into his work, he begins to see what he’s missing and yearns for more than the casual one-night stands he’s accustomed to.


“I wrote it with hope and I wrote it with my newfound sense of belief that, man or woman, the words of these books were reaching out to people. That it was the journey that mattered. And it flowed out of me like a red wine hangover. Pressure be damned; it was inspiration. I hit send, and off it went, through the interweb to that special place where things go that I have no idea about, ready to be read by our entire readership. I hoped, as I pressed send, that the people who read it would have their own journeys.”



I loved Liam’s relationship with the mail clerk, Manny, that started with a sizzling fuck on Liam’s desk and progressed to dinner and conversation. I also loved his boss, Lourdes, a tiny sassy woman with a penchant for wine.


“On days like these I was glad we were of the same ilk. Any other boss would have canned me on the spot, but not Lourdes. She liked a drink as much as the next hobo and I was completely convinced she sprinkled Prozac on her cornflakes in the morning.”



Liam writes various articles of interest to the gay community and before long, his hilarious and unorthodox methods of research lead to problems in his newfound relationship. At the same time, I enjoyed the solid friendship between Liam and Lourdes and the significant growth in Liam’s character as he and Manny overcome communication barriers and start becoming honest with each other. Once Liam starts to think with his heart, he becomes a much better person, and one I gradually started to like.

Life is never simple, though. With Liam’s boss in rehab, a nasty new boss makes his life very difficult. Even though there is a love interest and hot sex, this is not a typical romance. Each character is unique and well developed, with strengths and flaws. Don’t look for the traditional happy ending, for you won’t find it here. No one is fortunate enough to have everything work out for them, and I’m really glad the author chose to write an unpredictable and more realistic ending. I’m confident that Liam’s strength, capacity for love, humor, and good friends will help him get through life’s difficulties.

I’m very much looking forward to the next installment!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Broken Banners

Broken Banners (A Reaper of Stone, #2)Broken Banners by Mark Gelineau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aldis, a friend from Elinor's time in the academy, has gotten himself and the men he leads into trouble. Many of them lay dead in the field and others are locked in cages. Elinor cannot stand to see the King's soldiers and her brethren in such a state.

Broken Banners is similar to A Reaper of Stone as it centers around the greed of nobility and sees Elinor and her forces up against much stronger forces. Elinor is still determined to set things right even when it isn't easy.

While I enjoyed Broken Banners the novella format of the series is getting frustrating. This is the second story featuring Elinor and yet it hasn't even hit the 200 page mark. More questions have arisen yet a date for an answer isn't in sight. Even when it is, will the follow-up be another 70-80 page novella. It's hard to be patient for books as they come out slowly at times.

Broken Banners was a solid addition to the Echoes of Ascended series. I hope the next stories are either longer or come out much closer together. In the meantime I'll be waiting to see how Elinor's story continues.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

True Stories

True StoriesTrue Stories by Jon Scieszka
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Guys Read: True Stories has some women doing the reading too, and it's not nearly as macho as the title might lead you to believe. Furthermore, you can't describe your book as "100% amazing, 100% adventurous, 100% unbelievable" and put out this less than stellar collection of stories!

It's not terrible by any means, yet I had more hope for this than it delivered. I thought it was going to be all kinds of exciting, but only one or two of the stories lived up to the hype. The lead story about a early 19th century America ship's crew getting stranded in the Sahara was more harrowing than exciting. The somewhat tall tale of a bear attack was mostly just goofy. The endearing memoir-like remembrances of a Vietnamese girl trying to weasel her way into her pack of brothers' activities was totally out of place. As an audiobook, its performances varied in quality as well.

Now, it should be noted that this was produced for elementary school students and maaaybe high school kids, though I think they'd consider some of this stuff hokey....That's a word kids these days use right? Hokey? Anywho, the stories don't go into great detail, however, they are quick and mostly entertaining to a certain degree.

The producers make a BIG deal about these stories being non-fiction and thus real. Reality seems to be an important learning tool these days. I'd like to believe that comes from a place of integrity, where learning the facts is the pinnacle of importance. Unfortunately, it's more likely the publishing company is trying to push the "reality" angle, because of the ubiquitous role reality tv plays in the lives of American youth these days. "Cashing in" I believe is the phrase.



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