Friday, October 30, 2015


Lloyd A. Meeker
Wilde City Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Who’s blackmailing the high-profile televangelist whose son was famously cured of his homosexuality fifteen years ago? Now in 2009, that ought to be ancient history.

It seems there’s no secret to protect, no crime, not even a clear demand for money—just four threatening letters using old Enigma songs from the 90′s. But they’ve got Reverend Howard Richardson spooked.

Proudly fifty and unhappily single, gay PI Russ Morgan has made peace with being a psychic empath, and he’s managed to build a decent life since getting sober. As he uncovers obscene secrets shrouded in seeming righteousness he might have to make peace with a sword of justice that cuts the innocent as deeply as the guilty.

My Review

Enigma's ethereal new age sounds never really appealed to me, so it was not until I came across this story that I paid closer attention to their haunting lyrics and became curious about why they were so meaningful to the mysterious blackmailer threatening Reverend Howard Richardson and his family.

Rhys (Russ) Morgan is a 50-year-old private investigator recovering from alcoholism and determined to get his life back on track again. He is also an empath whose skills come in handy while interviewing the uncooperative and evasive Richardson family and their self-important, overbearing attorney, Andrew Kommen, who promises Morgan a hefty fee for solving the case quickly.

Morgan’s investigation leads him straight into the web of the troubled and deeply dysfunctional Richardson family. The ambitious Reverend Richardson takes great pride in the fact that his son, James, was cured of his homosexuality and is now a husband and father of three children. James has also worked hard expanding his father’s ministry into Latin America. Morgan’s unique ability helps him see through the subterfuge and realize that all is not well with James.

I loved this story for its exploration of Morgan’s past, the problems he currently faces, and the ties between his current case and his own life. His character is extremely well drawn and I’m very much looking forward to learning more about him and seeing his growth in future stories.

The mystery was easy to solve, but I can easily forgive that because the story is so wonderfully thoughtful and engaging. The lies, the truth, and the pain that is revealed here is heartbreaking, shocking, and unforgettable. The one thing I can’t abide though, is one of my major pet peeves. I really hate one-dimensional villains! Even though the truly evil villain does exist and fits well into this story, I needed just a little more complexity in his characterization that would have made this a 5-star read for me.

Best enjoyed while listening to The Cross of Changes.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Superyogi Scenario

The Superyogi ScenarioThe Superyogi Scenario by James Connor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the world of The Superyogi Scenario comic book type heroes and villains are real. These exceptional individuals powers don't come from mutations, being aliens, or science experiments gone wrong, but from yoga and meditation. Verses of The Yoga Sutra are brought into a comic book style universe to explain how ordinary men and women can open their chakras to become beings greater and more powerful than most people could ever imagine.

The Superyogi Scenario is an interesting take on the superhero world which results in a story both familiar and very different at the same time. I picked this book up because it seemed intriguing. I'm certainly not one for yoga, but superheroes are an area I know and love. I wasn't at all disappointed with the familiar superhero powers and scenarios. As the book delved into The Yoga Sutra I found myself as ignorant as the majority of american sports fans trying to watch cricket. I can't help but feel that this book would be far more appreciated by a person who likes superheroes and yoga rather than one or the other. Despite large portions of the book being about topics I have little knowledge or interest in, I still found I enjoyed The Superyogi Scenario.

The author's creativity really creates a compelling story. Choosing to depict heroes gaining powers through yoga and meditation creates a new and potentially endless supply of heroes and villains. It also is a take that I don't believe I've ever witnessed before which is always fun to see. Creating super powers from verses of The Yoga Sutra went really well for the author. While the powers were familiar the way they turned on were quite intriguing with glowing eyes/skin and hair color changing.

Like nearly all books, The Superyogi Scenario has its warts. One such wart was that the point of view jumped around like a drunken bullfrog. At times the point of view changed every paragraph with no indication a change had been made. It also slipped into third person omniscient at times which I personally found to be the most annoying of the point of view issues.

The Superyogi Scenario also suffered from the recurring moments of eye rolling dialogue. The dialogue was eye rolling because it was the type of dialogue that even as a child I'd get annoyed with such as "Physique is going down" and "It's diamond time." Perhaps the author's intentions were to recall the dialogue from the most innocent heroes in the media and if that was the case then the mission was accomplished.

The story also suffers because it can't seem to decide how serious it wants to be. At one moment it's naively innocent with kid friendly dialogue the next its a woman in a wet white shirt thinking how the guy she likes can now clearly see her nipples since she apparently wasn't wearing a bra. The more adult vibe continues with a naked hero at the moment of her rebirth and comic artists trying to make the female heroes sexy costumes rather than practical ones. Honestly either tone would be fine with me I just wish the story would choose one and stick with it.

One other neutral comment I wanted to make is that all the people doing yoga were repeatedly mentioned as being extremely physically beautiful. Not one of the characters who practiced yoga seemed to have a physical flaw at all while the CIA and FBI agents were depicted as particularly average looking. The main male character is repeatedly thought of as being a gorgeous man by nearly all the female point of view characters. It's not especially important, but I wanted to note that point.

The Superyogi Scenario was something slightly different in a sea of books where many look the same. It was a nice change of pace.

2.5 out of 5 stars

An advanced read copy was provided.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Eve's HollywoodEve's Hollywood by Eve Babitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”It takes a certain kind of innocence to like L.A.”

 photo Eve20Babitz20and20Marcel20Duchamp_zpscu7jfolv.jpg
The Iconic photograph of Eve Babitz playing chess with Marcel Duchamp taken by Julian Wasser at the Pasadena Art Museum.

I have always had Eve Babitz categorized in my mind as one of the “IT” girls of the 1960s/1970s. As I was doing some research on her before reading this book, I suddenly realized that I did know her without knowing her. (I actually heard an audible click in my head as the tumblers fell into place.) The iconic photograph taken by Julian Wasser of her playing chess with Marcel Duchamp is certainly one of the more famous photographs of the early 1960s. I knew it was Duchamp (76) in the picture, but it never clicked with me until I decided to read this book that the attractive young girl (20) sitting across from him was Eve Babitz.

”The photograph is described by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art as being “among the key documentary images of American modern art.”

Eve mentioned in an interview that during this time she had started taking birth control and for some reason her breasts just exploded in size. She thought they were magnificent and should be immortalized. She also hoped that by participating in the photograph that she would be making her married boyfriend, Walter Hopps (31), who was the director of the Pasadena Art Museum jealous.

√ Magnificent
√ Immortalized
√Boyfriend jealous

Babitz’s parents were beautiful, talented, creative people, and like many people with symmetrical features and a desire to express themselves, they washed up on the shores of Hollywood. This is how Eve Babitz found herself going to Hollywood High, surrounded by some of the most beautiful teenagers on the planet. She was far from ugly, but she never made the top cut of those sirens who were not only breathtaking, but already gliding through life with self-assurance and poise.

”In the depression, when most of them came here, people with brains went to New York and people with faces came West.”

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Johnny Stompanato and Lana Turner, a fatal alliance.

She is the goddaughter of the famous composer Igor Stravinsky. Her parents were connected well enough that as Eve was growing up she was frequently in the same room, at the same dining table, sitting by a pool, or at the same party as famous writers, artists, actors, and musicians. One of my favorite stories from the book was when she was picked up from a party at age 14 by this handsome Italian man. I was surprised, not shocked, at the conclusion of the evening, but the real kicker came a year later when she saw his picture in the paper and for the first time realized the man from the party was Johnny Stompanato. He was a mobster dating Lana Turner and was suffering from bouts of jealous rage. He even threatened Sean Connery, Turner’s co-star, with a gun. Connery, in true Bond fashion, grabbed his wrist, bent his arm back, and disarmed him.

I’ve done Eve a disservice over the years, thinking of her as just a society girl. She certainly did have a lot of fun, but she wasn’t just a famous pretty face. She started out her career as an artist for a record studio. She designed album covers for Linda Ronstadt, The Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield. She wrote short stories that were published in Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Vogue. She also wrote four books.

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Cover art designed by Babitz.

All of that was somewhat overshadowed by the attention of the media regarding her liberal views about sexuality. She was romantically involved with Jim Morrison, Steve Martin, and Harrison Ford, just to name a few. One could get the impression she was famous for just being the plus one.

Books are a major part of her life. She states in this book that Dombey and Sons actually saved her life when her depression was putting her on the verge of suicide. She loaths Nathaniel West because she feels he paints a bleak and harsh view of Los Angeles without giving the city credit for what makes it great. She doesn’t apologize for the culture in California, but she does share some very fond memories of why she finds the city so amazing and so undervalued.

She knew Bobby Beausoeil who was a talented upcoming musician until he was recruited and “brainwashed” by Charles Manson. Bobby’s good looks were used by Manson to lure attractive women into “the family”. Because of Bobby’s glumness, Eve and her friends always called him Bummer Bob. Thinking about the fact that Eve actually spent the night under the same roof with Bummer Bob on more than one occasion, although she does make it clear that she never had sexual relations with him, has to produce an involuntary shiver from time to time when she contemplates his role in the Manson murders.

The narrative of this book is rambling. She jumps backwards and forwards in time as effortlessly as a circus performer on a trampoline. Many of the chapters are vignettes, mere impressions of a moment. One of the shortest ones was on Cary Grant.

”I once saw Cary Grant up close.
He was beautiful.
He looked exactly like Cary Grant.”

Bret Easton Ellis is a big fan of her subject matter and her style. She is writing about the mothers and fathers that spawned the generation that Ellis writes about in Less than Zero. Eve’s California generation was self-indulgent, self-absorbed, bored, too rich, too pretty, and self-destructive, but the children of the 1980s took those negative tendencies and expanded them into an art form of how to squander an infinite amount of opportunities.

If you only like books with a linear narrative, this is not a book for you. If you don’t like people who name drop (you might have a few issues you need to discuss with your therapist), you won’t like this book. There are times in the book where I wish she had dropped the name, but for discretion purposes she decided to withhold it. Oh, and by the way, people aren’t asked to write books, especially Hollywood memoirs, who don’t KNOW people.

If you want to know what it was like to make out with Jim Morrison...sorry she didn’t say a peep.

If you are looking for a refreshing memoir about Hollywood and all the satellite people orbiting around the entertainment business, then this is a book that you might find, like me, to be a guilty pleasure. I want to thank NYRB for putting this book back in print. Once this book went out of print, it was almost impossible to find at a reasonable price.

 photo Eve20Babitz_zpsnaajpl6r.jpg
Eve Babitz

Unfortunately, Eve Babitz is not writing for publication anymore. She had a horrible accident when ash from the cigar she was smoking set fire to her skirt, leaving her with third degree burns over half of her body. Because she didn’t have health insurance, people she had known as lovers, friends, and acquaintances all donated money to make sure she received the care she needed. I hope she does find the will to write again, one more book, a summation of a life of being almost famous.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Within by Keith Deininger

WithinWithin by Keith Deininger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Within is Keith Deininger's take on the fabled town of deceit and deception nurturing the evil within its walls. Existing almost through a tear in the fabric of reality, a place where nightmares are born and clutch at the borders of reality.

'Mesa Rapids on the Colorado River, houses many of the art fraternity, wealth resides in abundance on the hill plateau, so it was with great surprise that the unlimited resources of Klimt bought the dilapidated Upshaw mansion in the valley.'

The two community's of wealth and the other end of the spectrum existed but rarely mixed, the wealthy stayed on the hill and the working community of the valley kept to their own lives.
Klimt changed all that, wild parties followed and the people seemed to change, become more carefree, excitable, they suffered from nightmares and life slowly slipped, careening toward deviance.

‘If Mesa Rapids had been a person, it would have been an easy diagnosis to have her committed, and, in many ways, she was. She’d slipped from the minds of the outside world.’

Struggling artist Colin moves to Mess Rapids and finally amidst the drugs and alcohol, luck falls his way. He is offered a job to paint, to explore his artistic license with no restraint. The Upshaw Manor will be his canvas and blood red his colour, kindred of his darkest nightmares. Pretty soon Colin is teetering on the brink of sanity, existing in a daze from lack of sleep, where time ceases to flow as it should and his purpose at the mansion takes a sinister turn. He never leaves, he only has one thing to do and that is to finish his mural. A young boy who suffers from visions may be his only saviour and the few friends he possesses.

Soon enough the town trips as if possessed with no balance, aimless with but one notion and amidst unprecedented murder and nightmare. Klimt's true motives come to light, more sinister than any imagination could have foretold, the town of Mesa Rapids comes with an evil history that ever clutches for rebirth. Another superb story from Keith Deininger, his writing seems to come from somewhere between dream and nightmare, between solidity and hallucination. That's what it feels like, anyway and I really liked it.

I received Within from Darkfuse & Netgalley in exchange for an honest review and that’s what you’ve got.

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The Raping of Ava DeSantis by Mylo Carbia

The Raping of Ava DeSantisThe Raping of Ava DeSantis by Mylo Carbia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Raping of Ava DeSantis by Mylo Carbia is a knockout 'I Spit on your Grave' style revenge horror that is perfectly paced and practically impossible to put down.

The first chapter takes place in 2006 and a gentleman's trip to a sex club, his new dominatrix takes things purposely too far and he ends up with a plastic bag on his head, 3 minutes and counting. The whispered words of a name from the past, the last thing he will ever hear.

The story then goes back to its origin and 1991 where 18 year old Ava DeSantis, a grungy looking plain girl, ignored by most, catches the eye of three privileged rich boy's. The good looking nice guy wants to pay Ava to help him with his studies, the details to be ironed out at a party. The three friends invite Ava back to their upper class dwelling, plenty of booze, drugs and a sickeningly violet rape scene.

The characters are scrupulously laid out, the rich nice guy that doesn't remember a thing, wasn't mentally taking part, was kinda forced into it, yeah fucking right. The brash annoying jock that takes everything for granted, a cut above the rest and finally the nobody, he's there to make up the numbers and provide a particularly gruesome ending.

The Rape scene is not overplayed, there's enough there to grasp what's happening and who does what, in fact it's very well described. Morning comes and it finally dawns on these animals exactly what they've done, first thought, how the fuck do we get out of this.

"We'll clean her up. Alcohol, peroxide, we'll fix her up best we can. They won't be able to find a damn thing on her body."
"And what about the inside?" Sebastian looked at the others with deep concern.
After a loud sniffle, David finally spoke up. "My Momma left her turkey baster here at Thanksgiving."

The immediate emphasis going on the tragic after affects and the power plays that people with money take for granted. The rapists don't get what they deserve, not yet anyway, for now they get away scot-free and Ava DeSantis. She gets one million dollars, half now and half in fifteen years, and the gift of giving birth, cruelly taken from her.

Forward fifteen years and its gametime but this isn't a quick kill all and disappear type of revenge. This is a slow seeping suspenseful vengeance that dips into horror and eroticism. Dwelt on for years till madness threatens and not restricted to the three culprits. She inserts herself into the life of her chief assailant with calculated and fearless audacity, confusing his feelings, while at the same time getting friendly with nice rich guys pregnant wife.

Meticulously planned by a beautiful and dangerous woman, an enthralling revenge trip that goes just where you want it to go with a horrific end and a brilliant twist. My favourite part of which there were many, was Mr nobody with the turkey baster idea. David gets his comeuppance in spectacular fashion, a play that’s worth the admission price alone.

The Raping of Ava DeSantis by Mylo Carbia is a disturbingly perfect horror story, one of the best I've read this year. Simple, yet powerfully told, the writing is unabashedly paced with riveting characters and a completely gripping story. This certainly deserves to be filmed and I look forward to reading more from Mylo Carbia.

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The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sherlock Holmes sets aside his cocaine addiction for a case. A young woman has been receiving pearls in the mail once a year for four years and now has a chance to meet her mysterious benefactor. Can Holmes and Watson figure out what's really going on without being ensnared in a web of deceit and murder?

I read this with those scamps in the Non-crunchy Cool Classics group.

So, Sherlock Holmes. For years, Holmes has been akin to H.P. Lovecraft for me in that I'm a much bigger fan of the works they inspired than the original works. When Jeff and his cohorts decided to read The Sign of Four in September, who was I to resist? After all, Sherlock is one kick ass show...

Yeah, I'm still not a tremendous Sherlock Holmes fan. I understand that Arthur Conan Doyle was largely inventing the genre as he went but the longer Holmes stories always seem unnecessarily convoluted. Watson is a sycophant with very little personality of his own and Holmes is an ass, although not in an entertaining Benedict Cumberbatch sort of way.

Still, I didn't hate it. It was interesting to see how the detective fiction genre has evolved over time. I wasn't expecting the pulpy boat chase near the end and Holmes actually had a bit more dimension to him than I remember.

Due to its place in the genre and because I couldn't bring myself to actually dislike it, I'm giving this a hard-earned three out of five stars.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Dainty Old Timey Fantasy

The Princess and the Goblin The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A princess, a miner and a goblin walk into a story...

Feel like you've heard this one before? Maybe the characters are unusual, but the form and general content of The Princess and the Goblin written by George MacDonald in 1872 would go on to become one of the foundation cornerstones for fantasy literature in the following century. Tolkien and Lewis owe MacDonald a good deal. Without those Inklings fantasy just wouldn't be the same today.

As with many progenitors, MacDonald's book feels dated. After numerous generations style, appearance and content changes. MacDonald's book looks old, out of date, almost irrelevant, and to modern readers of the genre it might appear as if it has nothing to do current trends. Princesses with grannies and nurses, a miner boy who wards off goblins with rhymes, goblins who can be defeated via their feet...What does any of this have to do with the magic, swords, the undead, assassins, dragons and bastard kings of today? It all had to start somewhere.

For nostalgia sake, I gave this an extra star. Granted, this is not the kind of fantasy I'd like to read for the rest of eternity. However, it was nice to see one of the origin stories. It's like witnessing a birth. Fans of Tolkien, for instance, can look into this book and see the likeness in its descendants such as The Hobbit. Fairies such as goblins have been a part of lore, legend and beloved bedtime stories since before books, so it was great seeing an early depiction of such classic characters as the Goblin King, without which we'd never have this...


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Friday, October 23, 2015


Kyung-Ran Jo
Bloomsbury USA
Reviewed by Nancy
2 out of 5 stars


Emotionally raw and emphatically sensual, Tongue is the story of the demise of an obsessive romance and a woman's culinary journey toward self-restoration and revenge. When her boyfriend of seven years leaves her for another woman, the celebrated young chef Jung Ji-won shuts down the cooking school she ran from their home and sinks into deep depression, losing her will to cook, her desire to eat, and even her ability to taste. Returning to the kitchen of the Italian restaurant where her career first began, she slowly rebuilds her life, rediscovering her appreciation of food, both as nourishment and as sensual pleasure. She also starts to devise a plan for a final, vengeful act of culinary seduction.

Tongue is a voluptuous, intimate story of a gourmet relying on her food-centric worldview to emerge from heartbreak; a mesmerizing, delicately plotted novel at once shocking and profoundly familiar.

My Review

I really wanted to love this story. It’s a relatively short book at only 212 pages, but it wasn’t one of those books I could easily read in one or two sittings. There just wasn’t enough there to really draw me in and engage my emotions. A well-known young chef mourns the loss of her 7-year relationship. She loses her desire to cook, to eat, and even her sense of taste. Gradually, she starts to put her life back together and returns to the Italian restaurant where she started her career. This is more difficult than it sounds, as she is still obsessed with her ex-boyfriend and is unable to completely let him go.

It's well-written, but the passion and intensity was missing for me. I expect a book that explores the life of a woman grieving a failed relationship and where food is such a significant part of the story to overwhelm my emotions and senses. The main and secondary characters are very distant. The food is well described, but I couldn't taste or smell it. The boyfriend is hardly described at all. What little I knew of him, I didn’t like and couldn’t understand why the chef was so obsessed with him. Even the conclusion failed to disturb or elicit much emotion.

Still, it's rather unusual and I'm not sorry I read it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


UnDivided (Unwind, #4)UnDivided by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Proactive Citizenry has finally revealed why Cam was created. To make an army of rewound teens for the military. The group has also suppressed technology that would render unwinding obsolete. Connor, Risa, Lev, and Cam struggle to stop unwinding and Proactive Citizenry while bringing the suppressed technology to the surface.

UnDivided was a satisfying conclusion to the Unwind dystology. It kept me in a nervous excited state that compelled me to keep reading until I finished it. The overall blind heartlessness of the world surprisingly still shocked me. It's terrifying to fathom that people could care so little about the atrocities going on around them, but it's unfortunately all too similar to the world today.

One of my favorite parts of this book and the series as a whole was the thick sense of desperation I felt when reading the book. Clearly it's easy to see why teens would be so desperate when almost the entire world wants them for their body parts. I still can't imagine in a normal setting how a parent could sign their child's life away. I can't even imagine any person being willing to sign a child away that they raised in the case of the storked children. Now for the poor kids who are wards of the state it's not at all difficult to fathom them simply being viewed as unfortunate budget cuts.

One part I disliked in UnDivided is it transformed itself into more and more of a dystopia as it took on more tropes like the evil corporation responsible for practically everyone's misery. I enjoyed it more in Unwind when the thought was the world was terrified of teenagers and found a brutally efficient way of dealing with them. That felt more genuine and less like an evil business man, sitting in dim light, at a desk with his fingers steepled, and waiting to laugh maniacally.

The other thing that bugged me was Camus Comprix's motives. The character's actions really don't make much sense for the majority of the series and UnDivided isn't really an exception. At this point I almost wish he didn't exist. He didn't really add anything to the story overall outside of showing Proactive Citizenry's lack of ethics, but that had already been firmly established and didn't need further bolstering.

UnDivided was a thrilling story of a world I hope never approaches becoming a reality.

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Clash of Eagles

Clash of EaglesClash of Eagles by Alan Smale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a world in which the Roman Empire never fell, North America has been discovered. A Roman legion is sent to find gold and take over the land. Gaius Marcellinus leads this legion and realizes that the barbarians are far more capable at warfare than Rome ever imagined. After a massive battle, Gaius is captured and spared by the Cahokian Native Americans. Gaius's whole world is changed from that moment as he struggles to find a life for himself among the Cahokians.

Clash of Eagles was an attempt for me to branch out into historical fiction which is a genre I don't tend to read. I did enjoy learning a bit about the Cahokian Native Americans because I truly don't remember learning about them before. I am moderately knowledgeable about Rome's history so it was good to see a good amount of familiar Roman warfare.

The alternate history part was also interesting as Briton and Scandanavia are Roman provinces. Early in the book, a few mentions are made about the continuing struggles of integrating people from various recently added Roman provinces. It was also interesting seeing the author utilizing some unsupported technological achievements to make the Native Americans a far more terrifying opponent to face.

I thought the biggest thing Clash of Eagles suffers from is it's generic and stereotypical characters. There isn't one character that feels truly distinctive in the entire book. All the Cahokian characters and Gaius Marcellinus seem like various background characters from books and movies. I personally expect to have at least one character to cheer for, care about, and just plain enjoy but I didn't find such a character in Clash of Eagles. This took much of the interest out of the battles for me because I wasn't concerned with the welfare of any of the characters.

Another part of the book that didn't fit well was it's romance. Gaius becomes enthralled with one of the main Cahokia women, but it really doesn't make any sense. The author doesn't provide any explanation into why Gaius is interested in her short of the fact that she's a strong woman. The reader is in Gaius's mind and able to read his thoughts so it really seemed like some additional reason for his interest should have been provided. His interest just didn't seem realistic. I could have accepted this if not for the fact that at various times in the book Gaius is shown gazing upon voluptuous barley dressed Cahokian women and trying to control himself. I could have believed that he respected and admired this strong woman, but not his romantic interest. I did enjoy the general laughter and joking from the Native Americans about Gaius's earlier romantic partner.

Overall Clash of Eagles was an average book that is likely to be appreciated by fans of historical fiction and alternate historical fiction.

2.5 out of 5

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

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015


WraithWraith by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 photo bd717c5b-bd96-4fb7-a22b-42a0d4181ad2_zpslfuveu6p.png
Charles Manx III

I wouldn’t say I’ve been intentionally ignoring Joe Hill’s graphic novels, but...well...I have been. He trapped me like a fly in a Brown Recluse Spider web with this one because Wraith is actually a prequel to his outstanding novel NOS4A2. To entice me even further he tells the backstory of the diabolic, Christmasland caretaker, Charles Manx III.

Somehow it is so much more stomach churning to think that there were two other Manx’s before this one.

Manx drives a Rolls Royce Silver Wraith that is actually a key that takes him through a portal to the place he needs to be. In his case, that generally means he is taken to an abused child who needs to be separated from their parents. Manx induces the child to step into the Wraith and he spirits them away to Christmasland.

Are you getting warm and fuzzy feelings?

Dispel yourself of them.

You know how there are those signs up in towns that proclaim a sister city In Russia, or China, or Thailand? Well if Christmasland is the sister city to Disneyland than Disneyland is in Heaven and Christmasland is in Hell.

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So if you see this guy...

 photo Charles20Manx20Car_zpsrhvqxyui.jpg
...showing up with that car and that license plate. Run. Don’t stop for clothes, money, or the family pet just run like the devil is at your heels...because he is.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Passenger

The PassengerThe Passenger by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When her husband falls down the stairs and dies unexpectedly, Tanya DuBois cuts and runs, for she is actually a fugitive living under an assumed name. She switches identities several times but can she ever run from her past?

I got this from Netgalley.

I love Lisa Lutz's Spellman Files series dearly so I was pretty stoked to pick up her newest. It pains me to say it was a bit of a letdown.

The Passenger feels like a Lifetime movie to me. Tanya DuBuois is a woman on the run from a past that is only hinted at until the end. The marketing teaser makes is sound like she forms a Thelma and Louise partnership with Blue but Blue actually isn't in the book that much.

Eventually, Tanya/Amelia/whatever her name is hears that someone is writing a book about her and suddenly people aren't quite sure she should have been declared legally dead. Lutz achieves the paranoid feeling she's going for a few times. Otherwise, it's pretty unremarkable. I don't even know what genre to shove this in. It's marketed as a thriller but the thrilling bits are scattered pretty widely.

Still, it wasn't all bad. The last 20% kicked ass, once Lutz starting knocking down all the dominos she'd spent the rest of the book setting up. I loved the ending, complete with the unexpected metaphorical kick in the junk in the aftermath.

I'm giving this a three largely because of the ending but I wouldn't mind if Lutz stuck with Spellman novels.

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The God of the Razor by Joe Lansdale

The God of the RazorThe God of the Razor by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The God of the Razor is a collection of short stories by Joe Lansdale published by Subterranean press, bringing together all but one of his tales about the demonic entity from another dimension, the God of the Razor.

The first story is the chilling centrepiece and the one that started it all, Nightrunners is without doubt a classic in the horror genre and if you're into horror then you need to read this. Joe Lansdale is an audacious storyteller and this is by far the darkest of his stories that I've read, and in retrospect it's also by far the best.

We start with violence as a police officer pulls over a group of kids speeding in a black '66 Chevy, they're heading toward a particularly evil revenge mission and nothing will get in their way, not even the law.

Montgomery and Becky Jones are staying at a house by the lake outside Minnanette, a seemingly futile attempt at getting past the harrowing rape ordeal that Becky recently suffered at the hands of a young gang of killers. Clyde Edson was the rapist caught at the scene of the crime, who later hung himself in prison but his part in this story isn't over by a long shot courtesy of the God of the Razor. The black '66 Chevy is full of Clyde's gang, armed and just a little fucking dangerous, and they know where Becky Jones and her husband are holed up. And they are going for revenge.


So the story starts somewhere near the end and we then go back in time for an intimate look at all the characters, their stories and how everyone ended up in their current predicaments. Switching from past to present as the story progresses through brutality to outright atrocity and sheer brutality. A tale of violence, fatalities a plenty, and something else, something not of this world. Something that comes in nightmares, when the night is pitch black, and bleeds back into reality with devastating consequences.


Of the other six short stories King of Shadows was my favourite, a dark story about a young boy who goes to live with another family after his Father kills his Mother then slits his own throat with a razor. Death and sharp implements follow this boy, along with someone who wears the heads of his victims like shoes.


Unfortunately this collection is only available if you get the book and it is certainly well worth obtaining along with the fabulous artwork inside. You can however get Nightrunners on kindle and it gets my highest recommendation.

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Consumption by Michael Patrick Hicks

ConsumptionConsumption by Michael Patrick Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Consumption is one of the most horrifically intriguing novellas that I've read for quite some time and it may just make you think twice about that special dinner invitation.

Each of the six guests received their invitations through the post, a twelve course tasting meal courtesy of the renowned chef Heinrich Schauer. Through the winding roads of the Gotthard Pass, over the Devil’s Bridge to reach a remote lakeside Swiss manor in the Leventina Valley.

In keeping with the evening’s dinner theme, each guest had been issued a unique demon’s masquerade mask. They were discouraged from talking about themselves, the evening was purely about the wonders cooked up by the chef.

We spend time with Heinrich Schauer as he prepares his dishes, stripping meat from the body strapped to the kitchen table and we see the effect the dishes have on the guests. An almost hidden undercurrent of rage that the food helped to fuel, feeding their inner demons.

'The monster was feverishly hot, no doubt a side effect of Schauer’s grueling excavations. He was sure that the beast would be howling if Schauer had not had the foresight to sever its vocal cords. No shared language existed between them, of course, save for the excruciating roars of pain and misery that were common to all.'

Consumption is a quite different tale of horror that resonates feelings of dread and shock, very well written, some great ideas and some darkness around the invention of various culinary delights. This was my first read from Michael Patrick Hicks and definitely won't be my last.

A 4.5* rating.

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Pigeons from Hell

Pigeons from Hell Pigeons from Hell by Robert E. Howard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While on vacation, two men decide to spend the night in an abandoned plantation house, ignorant of its terrifying past. Can they survive the darkness that dwells within the Blassenville house?

From the creator of Conan comes this creepy haunted house story. It tosses the usual horror formula out the window, going for quick shocks rather than building suspense. It got a little tense at times. However...

Much like H.P. Lovecraft's, I find REH's dialogue to be pretty wooden. Also, I thought some of the characters' actions and thought processes to be pretty illogical.

Since I don't want the review to be longer than the short story, that's about all I have to say. Pigeons from Hell is fun in a pulp horror sort of way but it's in no way Howard's best work. We can look to a certain Puritan adventurer and a barbarian from Cimmeria for that. Three out of five stars.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Concerns of a Catholic

The Power and the GloryThe Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Power and the Glory is the sort of title to inspire readers to great deeds, pushing beyond the bounds of normal reading capabilities to turn pages at superhuman speed! But alas no. And why not? Afterall, the premise is promising...

A cynical, whiskey priest sneaks about the poor, rural lands of southern Mexico, evading capture for the treasonous action of being a priest. The question is whether he's on the lamb to preach the word of god or to save his own neck.

I haven't read much Graham Greene, but what I have read makes me think Greene could turn a phrase and slap a good sentence together right up there with some of the best of them. The problem seems to be his plots. They don't punch you like you expect. I always seemed to be waiting for something more out of this book and it never came, and this isn't the first time it's happened with a Greene book.

Straight out of college I made a pledge to read through the works of respected authors. I powered through Kafka and then Camus. Both were exciting or at least interesting. In hindsight, I think I read them both at the perfect time in my life.

Next up was Greene. He wrote over two dozen novels, and then there were plays, screenplays, children's books, travel journals, short story collections. Out of all that, all I managed to read was The Man Within, his less than spectacular first attempt at a novel. Such were the deflating affects of that ho-hum experience that twenty years passed before I picked up my second Greene, A Gun For Sale aka This Gun For Hire. It wasn't great, but it was good enough to reignite my interest. Since then I've renewed my pledge, but with lowered expectations. I just don't think I'll be able to bulldoze through his work.

If only his work was a bit more exciting. As you read on a growing sense that nothing will be resolved starts to envelope you, and if you're a person that likes resolution, you're up shit's creek paddle-less, my friend. If you let the current take you, you'll float along into a boggy morass of self-doubt and moral ambiguity, where you're left to stew in unpleasant juices (<<< like contemplating a poorly mixed metaphor). Graham Greene writes thinking man's books and I don't mean books for smart folk necessarily. I mean he intends you to ponder his ideas well after you've put the book down. The Power and the Glory is just such a book. That's fine, but couldn't he have managed both? Say perhaps, a thinking man's thriller? I'm just asking for a little more spark. It would make me leap to his next book!

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Drinking Boston: A History of the City and Its Spirits

Stephanie Schorow
Union Park Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


From the revolutionary camaraderie of the Colonial taverns to the saloons of the turn of the century; from a Prohibition period rife with class politics, social reform, and opportunism to a trail of nightclub neon so vast, it was called the Conga Belt, Drinking Boston is a tribute to the fascinating role alcohol has played throughout the city's history. Teasing out this curious relationship in particular, the clash between a constrained Puritanism (lingering like a hangover today) and a raucous revolutionary spirit, Drinking Boston introduces the cast of characters who championed or vilified drinking and the places where they imbibed legally and otherwise. Visiting some of Boston's most storied neighborhood bars, this pub crawl ends with Boston's distinct recipe for the current cocktail renaissance sweeping the nation. Stephanie Schorow serves up a remarkable cocktail representative of Boston's intoxicating story: its spirit of invention, its hardscrabble politics, its mythology, and the city's never-ending battle between personal freedom and civic reform.

My Review

Since Boston has the dubious honor of coming in first place on the Daily Beast's 25 Drunken Cities list for two years in a row and I regularly enjoy the pleasure of working, eating, and drinking there, I knew this book would be right up my alley.

This is a very well laid out chronology of Boston’s drinking history starting with the city’s revolutionary past and Prohibition and continuing with a detailed exploration of the city’s changing landscape, the public’s drinking tastes and habits, and an interest in classic drinks while inventing new creations using a variety of ingredients not available in years past. It covers saloons, taverns, nightclubs, jazz bars, gay bars, dive bars, and today’s neighborhood eateries that serve craft cocktails.

The mention of Cocoanut Grove’s tragic fire in 1942 that killed 492 people makes me want to visit its former location and explore the subject further, since it is a part of the city’s history I wasn’t aware of.

One of Boston’s oldest surviving bars is Jacob Wirth’s. I enjoyed reading about how it survived Prohibition by serving “near beer” that had less than .5% alcohol and loved how customers celebrated Repeal at Jacob Wirth’s even though the establishment had not yet obtained a liquor license. 

Getting smashed at Jacob Wirth's (est. 1868)
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It was also interesting reading about McGreevy’s (formerly called the Third Base Saloon), a long-standing sports bar and baseball museum that is now owned by the Dropkick Murphys. Even though I’m not into sports bars, I’m tempted to visit just for its history.

Reading about some of the bars that have come and gone made me a little nostalgic for the Rathskeller (known as The Rat), a punk club in Kenmore Square known for its music scene, sticky floors, and fights. I remember seeing The Neighborhoods there in the early 80’s.

Along with the history, there are lots of interesting black & white photos and illustrations. Each chapter concludes with a drink recipe.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable and comprehensive history that I was glad to find at the library.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


UnSouled (Unwind, #3)UnSouled by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the destruction of the graveyard Connor and Lev are once again running, but this time they aren't just running away from something. They are running to find answers. Connor believes the answers will come from an old friend who he's discovered is so much more than she appeared.

Make no mistake UnSouled is a transition book. Most large series have at least one and UnSouled is the transition book for the Unwind Dystology. The board is being set, the pieces are taking their places, and events are about to become the next book. This book is a bit slower with more parts that didn't feel quite as important as the events in the previous two books in the series, but there is still a lot of great storytelling happening here.

First off I have to discuss the curious case of Camus Comprix because his existence at this point makes no sense. I assumed at some point the purpose of his creation would be made clear, but after two books it seems Neal Shusterman and Proactive Citizenry made him for the same reason...just because they could. On top of that his own motives are inexplicable. Cam basically fell for a picture of a girl who he came to learn thought he was a monster and by the end of book two had some respect for him. So what does Cam do because of this? Vows to take down his makers who have provided him with a lavish lifestyle to say it nicely. He has minimal reasoning for practically all his behaviors and he's kind of harshing my vibe when I'm reading the book. I get it he had no choice in being made, but I can't feel sympathetic for him.

I love Grace. I love that nothing about her is standard. She isn't a beautiful girl to be saved or gawked at. Grace is described as "not fat, but heavyset and unshapely. Dowdy..." Also that "[t]he slack expression on her face speaks of a dullness that isn't her fault." She's immediately introduced as being a low cortical which I imagine is supposed to say she has a mental disorder of some sort. Don't be blinded by her outward appearance or slack face because she is something special and the story displays it quickly and often. I just loved her.

I'd be remiss to not mention Starkey. When he first arrived in the story I thought he was a murdering version of Roland, but this young man is far more capable and resourceful than I could have ever imagine. He builds on his ruthlessness and resourcefulness from UnWholly. If the AWOL unwinds simply needed to go to war to stop unwinding then Starkey is undoubtedly one of it's best options for a general.

UnSouled was a good story and I'm excited to see what happens next in the dark world of the Unwind Dystology.

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The End of Fantasy

The End of the Fantasy (Sage Saga, #6)The End of the Fantasy by Julius St. Clair
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bastion's destiny is here. Whatever he decides will dictate the future of the world.

Catherine and her remaining Sages desperately search for a way to save all the kingdoms in the most dire of circumstances. At the same time the three kingdoms prepare to face the Yama invasion.

The End of Fantasy concludes the second Sage Saga trilogy. Julius St. Clair really reached to try to do something different in this book and this trilogy and I applaud him for making the attempt at creativity and something new. Unfortunately for me this just wasn't a satisfying read. The storyline became far too convoluted. The ending made me cringe because I'm just not a fan of the type of storyline that it foreshadows.

Far too much time was spent having every character who met Bastion saying he's clearly destined for great things. This praise is a lot like salt, a little bit improves the meal, but too much makes it nearly inedible. By the end of the trilogy all I could see was salt on my plate.

The Siege of 88 is still mentioned often, but I just realized they don't ever make mention of any measure of time other than that. It would have made more sense to just refer to it as The Great Siege or something along those lines.

I've been trying to figure out why I enjoyed the second Sage Saga trilogy far less than the first. As I was coming to the conclusion to The End of Fantasy, I realized it's because of Bastion. After the events of the first Sage Saga trilogy, some kid shows up and is stronger than everyone without any training at all. So what happens when the guy who is stronger than everyone gets hurt? He basically turns into the Incredible Hulk...his eyes turn black and he's nearly unstoppable. So rather than being a weakling who turns into an incredibly strong being he's an incredibly strong being who goes Super Saiyan or perhaps super Wolverine in a berserker rage. It's hard for me to enjoy a character who is overwhelmingly more powerful than everyone without even trying. It's the same reason I've never liked Superman.

For me The End of Fantasy was a disappointing conclusion to a much less than stellar second Sage Saga trilogy.

1.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Night FilmNight Film by Marisha Pessl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 photo RedCoat_zpsfbdlc4xl.jpg

”Whatever the truth about Cordova, within fifteen horrifying films, he taught us how our eyes and minds perpetually deceive us--that what we know to be certain never is.”

In the shadows stood a girl in a red coat.

Stanislas Cordova disappeared from public life thirty years ago. Scott McGrath, an investigative reporter, made an attempt to uncover the truth about Cordova and his films. McGrath paid a heavy price financially when Cordova sued him, and also professionally when some of his allegations proved to be based on chimeric evidence.

It wasn’t that he was necessarily wrong; it was just that he couldn’t conclusively prove he was right.

The Cordova films are fascinating, disturbing, and not readily available. Part of the lure of them is that basically the only way you can see them is from the original film canisters or from bootlegged VCR tapes. Cordova film watching parties are thrown, but the people invited to those parties are those exclusively hip enough to know that watching a Cordova film should be on their bucket list.

So who is Cordova? A question that McGrath keeps asking those few who knew him who are willing to talk. ”He was the vampire. He made you feel like he loved you, like you were the dearest person in the world to him; all the while he was sucking you dry, leeching your life out of you. You’d spend an hour with him. Afterward, you were a carcass. You lost all sense of yourself, all dimension, as if there were no difference between you and the chair you were sitting in. He’d be more alive, of course, invigorated for a week, writing, filming, insatiable, so wildly alive. Art, language, food, men, women---they had to be constantly fed to him as if he were a ravenous beast that could barely be contained within human walls. There was no end to his appetites.”

 photo Ashley20Cordova_zpsr6czplmt.jpg

When Ashley Cordova, the filmmaker’s daughter, commits suicide by hurling herself off a building, McGrath, despite still recovering from his last losing bout against Cordova, senses that finally he has a line of inquiry that might lead him to vindication.

He is convinced that Cordova is evil, and his daughter’s death can’t possibly be a coincidence.

McGrath traces Ashley’s final days as she goes from rehab to lockdown to living in a dilapidated building. He picks up a Scooby Gang of a girl named Nora and the “loneliest boy in the world” named Hopper. Both are marginally connected to Ashley. Like everyone else that met Ashley, even in the briefest of situations, Nora and Hopper were profoundly changed by meeting her. There was something strange about the girl with the red coat, the girl with the piercing gaze, the girl who played piano like Mozart and who was so strikingly beautiful that men and women found her irresistible.

She was smart and profoundly sad.

She was a bird chained to a life that even in death one wonders if she could ever fly far enough away to escape.

As McGrath continues to investigate, tirelessly tracking down anyone who once worked with Cordova he starts to unravel more and more madness. Madness that spills into his own mind. ”My memories seemed to have been trashed, ripped and crumpled, strewn haphazardly around my head.”

Cordova without ever meeting McGrath has a finger stirring in the journalist’s mind. The Filmmaker has spent a lifetime manipulating people, conjuring up demented versions of the truth, and using his sinister intelligence to control every situation. Life, for Cordova,is but a larger version of a movie set. McGrath and his gang, not surprisingly, are overmatched at every turn. The question is how far will McGrath take this quest? Can he catch a phantom? Is Cordova even Cordova anymore? Does the need for revenge outweigh the need for the truth?

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Marisha Pessl has written a compelling story where she makes the reader feel s/he is directly involved with the investigation. She does this by sharing the screenshots of the research documents that the team finds on the web and the pages of the police dossiers that a McGrath mole shares with them. Witnesses disappear almost as quickly as they are found. No one can give McGrath a clear and distinct picture of Cordova, his Moriarty. The slivers and crumbs of information he collects only create a puzzle without edges that spiral him deeper into a black hexagon of his own lunacy.

And all along in the shadows stood a girl in a red coat.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Disintegration by Richard Thomas

Disintegration: A Windy City Dark MysteryDisintegration: A Windy City Dark Mystery by Richard Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘There are no mirrors in my apartment. I have forgotten my own face. My wife is a distant memory, and I can’t remember what she smells like, the melody of my son’s laugh, the butterfly kisses of my daughter’s soft lips on my cheek. They are shadows that haunt my every movement, and I drown them out, blur them every chance I get.’

Disintegration is a relentlessly dark nightmare of a thriller. The story of a man irrevocably lost, a past always just out of reach of his memories, tainted with tragedy, loss and ruin.

Told in first person our narrator is a mystery man existing in the backstreet's of the Windy city. Manipulated by Vlad his pusher, controlled and compelled by a mixture of drugs, sex and a complete loss for the value of human life, to kill repeatedly every time that envelope gets pushed under the door. A tattoo honours every kill and this man looks nothing like his former self, no resemblance to the man who once had a family to care for.

An assassin whose targets are the worst of humanity, killers, abusers, wholly justified or so he believes. The dregs of society, those with no chance or need of redemption, the very thing he searches for but just what's real in this twisted existence of killing, exploitation, sex, violence and the sense of a man fading, living on the edge, a breath away from falling off it.

Searching for answers persistently kept from him, forever watched and continually broken, clinging to a semblance of life, drifting through each day, waiting for the next job and a step away from the end.

Disintegration is a story of a man lost, desperate to find a path into the future but fighting through a fog that offers only resistance, a man's fight to find out who he is, what he was, what happened to a family he's aware of but only through slithers of consciousness. This is without doubt a dark and dirty trip through a bleak haze that never seems to end but its one well worth taking. The style of writing is one that's becoming more and more popular, a short, sharp sentence structure that gets you in the mind of the protagonist but never allowing you to settle into a rhythm. Certainly giving an intense feel amidst the darkness.

This was my first read from Richard Thomas and it definitely won't be my last.

Disintegration was provided by Alibi from the Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review and that’s what you’ve got.

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Leave the Living by Joe Hart

Leave the LivingLeave the Living by Joe Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leave the Living is a horror novella from Joe Hart and Darkfuse publications. Mickey Bannon is suffering, his ex-wife who he still loves is about to remarry, feelings are up in the air waiting for it all to end when the phone call comes that tells him his Father has died. Now he's got to travel to his hometown as a harsh Minnesota winter threatens his journey and sort everything out, see his Father for the last time.

'Mick froze, his foot dangling over the next step. The darkness was complete in its totality. Swimming afterimages left by the light danced before his eyes like capering spirit energy dissipating into some unseen dimension. His foot hovered over open air, and he pulled it back, sure that if he stepped down, there would be nothing there. He would fall into darkness, only the rushing wind in his ears and the sound of his own scream to accompany the plummet. The lights popped back on as if a switch had been thrown.'

When he arrives at his Father's house things definitely take a turn down strange alley, and he starts to question his sanity as things, impossible things start to happen. Is his imagination bursting into overdrive or is there a message for him, a path he must travel to find both secrets and answers.

Now Leave the Living is very well written, this was my first read from Joe Hart and I have a feeling it won't be my last, his writing is technically proficient and his prose is top notch. I noted loads of quotes I could have used in my review and that's generally a good sign. The story was ok, not the best I've read but this author without doubt and with the right story will be an award winner, he is that good.

'Mick let his air whistle out from between clenched teeth. In the theater of his mind, he saw the door flying open and some dark horror climbing out from inside, released from its prison by his own hand, eager and hungry.'

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Whom the Gods Would Destroy

Whom the Gods Would DestroyWhom the Gods Would Destroy by Brian Hodge
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For most of his childhood, Damien was shunned by his sinister mother in favor of his older half-brother. Decades later, Cameron shows up, wanting help. Will Damien help him?

When I read the blurb saying this was HP Lovecraft meets Carl Sagan, I jumped on it since that's a pretty clever-sounding elevator pitch. Plus, I've loved some of Brian Hodge's short stories so I was itching to see what he'd do with a novella. He did pretty well.

Damien is an astronomy student with mother who was a little too interested in the occult. When his brother shows up, things quickly go off the rails in a tale of alien gods, meteor showers, and human sacrifice. Cameron's appearance shake's Damien's life to the core and one gets the sense it keeps on shaking long after the final page.

That's about all I want to say without revealing too much. Whom the Gods Would Destroy asks a lot of questions about man's place in the universe, the sheer vastness of the cosmos and whether or not we're alone. It's not fantastic but it was a fun, fascinating read. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

One Side of a Football Story

The Blind Side: Evolution of a GameThe Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FOO-BAH! FOO-BAH! 24-7, 365 Days a Year!

Seriously, doesn't it seem like football is happening year 'round these days? The NFL with the help of ESPN has done a hell of a job making themselves ubiquitous. Lucky for me, I love the game. Sucks for those who don't, though...

The Blind Side is a nice, concise slice of today's true American Pastime, and it's the sort of feel-good story that will appeal to a broad audience (and by broad I don't necessarily mean dames!) *twiddles cigar and jiggles eyebrows ala Groucho Marx*.

This is essentially the story of Michael Oher, current NFL offensive lineman, former skid row forgotten child of delinquent parents. This is also the story of privileged white Christians plucking a boy from the ghetto and raising him as their own, giving him an opportunity he would've otherwise never had.

Much of author Michael Lewis' book tells Oher's heart-warming tale. When not evoking tearjerking scenes, he occasionally questions the morality of the sport in question as well as the people that thrust this naturally athletic kid into it. Analysis of the game's (after all, Evolution of the Game is its subtitle) progression and how it's changed the very shape of the players who play it runs through out and provides a nice base from which to play off the Oher example.

Football enthusiasts, historians and strategists may glean some interesting insights from this well-written, flowing story with its palatably presented data tucked in as thought-nuggets through out. Very nice read. I can see why they made a movie out of it, which I ought to get around to watching someday.

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The Sword in the StoneThe Sword in the Stone by T.H. White
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A time-traveling Merlin? Stop it, White ol' boy, you're killing me!

TH White's version of the King Arthur myth is...unusual. It's not a straight up retelling of the tale that tries to pinpoint any kind of actual date upon when the "real" King Arthur lived and base the story in that period. It floats about, taking little bits of history from here, a legend or two from there, and cobbles them together. It makes for an interesting fantasy.

It's also distracting. I'm the sort that likes to get immersed in my fantasy. I want to feel like I'm in that world. So, when a ghost knight is questing after a mythical beast and out of nowhere the author is talking about police officers it breaks up my willing suspension of disbelief. Funny, I know, that something that's real should ruin my belief of something fake. It worked so well in Python's "The Holy Grail"...


Ah, but I'm making too much of this and right from the start of my review. The fact is I really enjoyed The Stone in the Stone. The above gripe is a relatively minor one. For the most part I was able to sit back and enjoy the fantastical scenes, colorful imagery and oddball characters cooked up by White. It's an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink kind of book at times, but you just have to go with it, because of course it would be a kooky life, the adolescence of the man who later drew a sword from a stone in order to become king, referenced water spirits for his life choices and overcame the Knights Who Say Ni with a two letter word and a herring. Damn it. Now I'm the one mixing things up!

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Friday, October 9, 2015


Paul G. Bens, Jr.
Lethe Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


When the Truth Is All That Matters.

The truth begins with a family evacuated from Saigon during the final days of the Viet Nam War. Or perhaps it begins later, with a devoutly Catholic child with the voice of an angel who is troubled by visions both sacred and profane. Or perhaps later still, with a couple drifting apart following a tragedy. Kelland appears to them all in the guise of a small boy, a lover, a priest...Kelland is an enigma, a puzzle, and an almost imperceptible presence. Kelland is violence, sorrow, and joy. Kelland is the common thread tying five disparate strangers together against the danger that awaits them.

My Review

Kelland definitely has the makings of a good horror story, but there is so much more that prevents it from being lumped solidly into one genre. There are elements of magical realism, family drama, suspense, and mystery. The story also explores religious faith, breaches of trust, and forgiveness.

Kelland is the mystery that binds the lives of five very different individuals. There is Minh and Toan, two brothers who left Vietnam to start a new life. There is 9-year-old George, with a strong religious faith and the awareness that he’s different from other boys. And there is Gareth and Melanie, whose marriage is deteriorating after they suffer a tragic loss.

The story bounces back and forth between the lives of each character and different stages in their lives. It was a little disconcerting at first, but the characters are so vividly described and each section builds on their story, so there is never any confusion.

Kelland is the force that helps each of these characters confront the evil that directly and indirectly affects their lives.

This story shook me to the core and left me breathless. It was dark and painful at times, but ultimately hopeful.

Just read it.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


UnStrung (Unwind, #1.5)UnStrung by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After leaving CyFi and before heading to the graveyard, Lev stayed at a wealthy Native American reservation. Native American reservations don't participate in unwinding and they sometimes shelter AWOL kids. While there, Lev meets a young man Chowilawu, Wil for short, who has an incredible talent with a guitar.

UnStrung is an interesting tale that I must admit didn't sound too intriguing. I thought I knew enough about why Lev became a clapper and wasn't all that interested in reading the novella. Fortunately for me Unstrung was available at my library as a digital download so despite my mild interest I checked it out anyway. I'm thankful I didn't skip it because this really is a strong and emotional novella.

The story started out slowly and doesn't seem at first to fit into Unwind outside of Lev being involved. Some unfortunate circumstances change that quickly and bring the heartbreaking reality of the Unwind world into the novella. I think I have to leave some time between reading the different books in this series because I can barely handle the hell these children live in.

Lev and Wil's time together was a bright spot in the story. Despite the brevity of their relationship Lev and Wil seemed to bond and understand one another quite well. I also appreciated seeing a whole people group stand against the atrocity of unwinding.

UnStrung is a quick strong novella that's worth reading for any fans of the Unwind series.

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The Legendary Warrior

The Legendary Warrior (Sage Saga, #5)The Legendary Warrior by Julius St. Clair
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Everyone is fighting to sway Bastion to their side.

Meanwhile Catherine seeks to find out if the threat from the Yama is real or not.

Bastion is at odds with his feelings and actions. He hopes to just be a normal teenager, but that seems to be impossible.

The Legendary Warrior was an adequate addition to the Sage Saga. The Sage Saga is losing steam for me and I felt like I forced my way through this book.

The characters have mainly stopped behaving like themselves by this edition. Catherine has turned into a character where the ends justify the means. James has taken a dark path in order to save Allay and hates himself for it. Bastion seems like a robot learning to be a real boy. The others really don't feel all that important.

A lot of questions that have gone unanswered since the first trilogy are answered in The Legendary Warrior. That was probably the best part of the book for me. There were also a few new plot twists that have peaked my interest. The characters have lust their luster, but I still intend on finishing the trilogy.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015


The Dark HalfThe Dark Half by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“But writers INVITE ghosts, maybe; along with actors and artists, they are the only totally accepted mediums of our society. They make worlds that never were, populate them with people who never existed, and then invite us to join them in their fantasies. And we do it, don't we? Yes. We PAY to do it.”

Thad Beaumont wanted to write from the time he discovered that a person could make a living as a writer. He pounded away at the typewriter so much that his parents were beginning to fear that something was wrong with him.

They were right...

something is wrong with Thad, but to fully understand what is wrong will take decades to figure out.

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Birds, thousands of them, chittering and flapping their wings, a cacophony of noise. Sparrows in particular. The sounds of them are a precursor to setting off a lightning storm in Thad’s head that leaves him flopping on the ground like a fish trying to find its way back to water. His parents take him to a doctor, and scans show that something is in his head.

The surgeon takes that something out of Thad’s head. It is something so unusual that he decides not to tell Thad or his parents. He has saved Thad’s life, and for now that is enough.

Thad goes on to write a couple of critically acclaimed books which unfortunately do not do well financially. He teaches to make ends meet, but there is something nagging at him like he has left some unfinished business. He decides to create a pseudonym that will allow him to get these increasingly dark thoughts out of his head and put them on paper.

He becomes George Stark, or George Stark becomes him. The separation between them creates no daylight.

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While writing as George Stark, he transforms into someone else, someone meaner, someone who likes seeing blood. ”Cut him. Cut him while I stand here and watch. I want to see the blood flow. Don't make me tell you twice.” Thad Beaumont writes with a typewriter, but George Stark don’t write with no faggoty typewriter; oh no, it is Black Beauty pencils or nothing. The words are etched into the paper like words carved over the doors of the ”stone hotels” in which Stark has spent so much time incarcerated.

The sparrows are back. The sparrows are flying.

Stephen King shares some interesting thoughts about sparrows. Sparrows are so common here in Kansas that they have about the same significance as a blade of grass or a tree leaf. ”Gatherings of sparrows are rather more ominous…. Sparrows are said to be outriders of the deceased. Which means their job is to guide lost souls back into the land of the living. They are, in other words, the harbingers of the living dead.”

Living dead? Like zombies you might ask?

Well, not exactly.

When Thad decides to retire George Stark and go back to writing as Thad Beaumont, things start to get weird and not in a wow isn’t that kind of weird way, but more in a OMG someone is killing everyone Thad knows kind of way.

And Thad is the number one suspect.

It doesn’t take long for Thad to realize that he is involved, that he is the source of the problem.

”I am the knower. I am the owner. I am the bringer.”

George Stark doesn't like being dead. He wants just what everybody else wants. He wants to live. ”When you fuck with him you are fucking with the best.” As things become clear, crazy clear, Thad realizes that he can’t share these revelations with his wife Liz.

” I’m not going to tell Liz this time, he thought. Be damned if I will. And not just because I’m scared, either...although I am. It’s perfectly simple--not all secrets are bad secrets., Some are good secrets. Some are necessary secrets, and this one is both of those.”

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George Stark drives a 1966 Black Oldsmobile Toronado. In college I drove a 1969 White Oldsmobile Toronado. There are differences between the years, but let's just say I understand the power that Stark felt when he was driving that Black Beauty down the road. My father has a 1966 Black Toronado he is having restored. I hope he doesn’t turn into George Stark!!!

When Stephen King writes about writers, it is simply irresistible. I don’t know if there is another writer on the planet who understands all the nuances of being a writer, a famous writer, better than King. He conjures things out of his mind that scare the hell out of millions of people every time he releases a new book. His nightmares have nightmares. As King taps into the dark side of himself to find those horrors, I think he has met his George Stark. This evil doppelganger feeds him with the images that become words that become horrors made out of the worst of human impulses. I guess the question he has to ask himself is will these feathered soul catchers come for him someday.

The day after I finished reading this book I opened the garage to take out a bag of trash before heading to work, and hundreds of birds exploded over my head flying just a few feet over the top of my house. They were sparrows, providing me with one last bone deep chill that brushed skeletal fingers down my spine.

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