Friday, April 29, 2016

The Reapers are the Angels

Aiden Bell
Holt Paperbacks
4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Nancy


Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself - and keeping her demons inside. She can't remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

My Review

I’m glad I read Megan's review, or I might have overlooked this slim but very satisfying post-apocalyptic story.

If you are looking for thrills, mad and ravenous zombies, and intense gore, look elsewhere. You won’t find it here. Not that there isn’t violence or zombies, it’s just that they don’t overpower the story.

Without family or a place to live, 15-year-old Temple wanders around a bleak and barren landscape ravaged by zombies. Many of the human survivors live in groups, sheltering themselves from the outside world.

Nothing is mentioned about how the zombies came to be, but that’s OK. This is not their story, after all. This is a story about Temple, her grief, the things she must do to survive, her thoughts and reflections, her loneliness, her self-loathing, the people she meets, and the beauty that can be found in such grim circumstances.

It’s not a book you’ll easily forget.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Death of Spider-Man

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: Death of Spider-ManUltimate Comics Spider-Man: Death of Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Why a mask? Why a secret identity? Heroes could all sign up for the police force, the FBI, or something like that and get paid to save humanity rather than be vigilantes. Why a mask? Why a secret identity? Probably because whether it be a comic book or real life, if someone wants to hurt you it's bad if they know your name and where you live. That's bad enough under the best of circumstances, but then let's add that your enemies are super powered and want to squeeze the life out of you. When your friends, loved ones, and even your neighbors could become collateral damage, a mask and a secret identity aren't a luxury they're a necessity.

In Death of Spider-Man everything that could go wrong did. His worst enemies know his name, they know where he lives, and they came to his front door.

I'm all emotional about this and I knew what was happening even before it happened. The story was well told and absolutely pulled on my heart strings.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016


The North WaterThe North Water by Ian McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”There is no sin left now, there is only the blood and the water and the ice; there is only life and death and the grey-green spaces in between. He will not die he tells himself, not now, not ever. When he is thirsty, he will drink his own blood; when he is hungry, he will eat his own flesh. He will grow enormous from the feasting, he will expand to fill the empty sky.”

The Yorkshire whaler named the Volunteer is on its way to the Arctic Circle to hunt for whales. While other whalers go South, they are going North. The captain has a theory that there is a pool of calm waters at the very center of the Arctic full of whales, more than enough to make a man rich.

Of course, that is all poppycock.

The Captain has to have some mad theory to justify going the wrong way during the wrong time of year. He is an unlucky captain. He has already lost a ship, so losing another will more than likely be the end of his career. Of course, as we discover, he is not mad nor unlucky, but has a mandate to make sure the ship becomes scuttled.

One has to do these things at the right time and the right place, or instead of collecting your payment, you collect an icy grave.

This isn’t the real story though. This book isn’t about the Captain or about the ship. This isn’t about defying the odds, although that does happen. This isn’t nature vs. man, though there is plenty of that. If Jack London could have written a book without any restrictions, he might have written this book. This is about two men who unknowingly are on a collision course that can only end one way.

One man embraces the dark beast of his desires. ”It is not a matter of need or pleasure, not a matter of wanting or not wanting. The thirst carries him forward, blindly, easily. Tonight he will kill, but the killing is not topmost in his mind. The thirst is much deeper than the rage. The rage is fast and sharp, but the thirst is lengthy. The rage always has an ending a blood-soaked finale, but the thirst is bottomless and without limit.”

His name is Drax.

The more he kills, the less satisfaction he receives. The pain he gives to others must be magnified for it to satisfy his cravings. He is a perfect harpooner. Killing a whale, now at least for that moment he can feel like a GOD.

”’Give me one last groan,’ he says.’That’s it, my darling. One last shudder to help me find the true place. That’s it, my sweetheart. One more inch and then we’re done.’

He leans in harder, presses, seeking out the vital organs. The lance slides in another foot. A moment later, with a final roar, the whale shoots out a plume of pure heart’s blood high into the air and tilts over lifeless onto its side with its great fin raised like a flag of surrender. The men, empurpled, reeking, drenched in the fish’s steaming, expectorated gore, stand up in their flimsy boats and cheer their triumph.”

His crimes against nature and against man have no beginning or an end. He is a man at war with everything. He takes what he wants. With whores, the more pain he can give them, the more pleasure he receives. With cabin boys, they must do what he wants, or he slits their throats. He steals. He cheats. He is unbounded by any laws. His thirst is unquenchable. On the scale of humanity, he stands at the bottom...alone.

Then there is Patrick Sumner, an unlikely hero. A man addicted to laudanum. A surgeon who has recently been cashiered out of military service in India due to pilfering. He is trying to escape his past, but finds it impossible, even with the help of the opiate, to escape himself. Whalers are used to hiring men with a past; few normal men would do this work. Only desperate men with few other options will sign up to be on a ship reeking with death. Sumner is trying to become nothing, but finds he must embrace his own darkness if he has any chance of destroying Drax.

”He drops the blubber knife onto the snow and pushes both his bare hands down into the dead bear’s steaming guts. His frozen fingers feel like they might burst apart from the warmth. He grinds his teeth and pushes his hands in deeper. When the pain reduces he pulls them out, dripping with red, rubs his face and beard with the hot blood, then picks up the knife again and begins to sever and remove the bear’s innards.”

When Sumner finds himself facing death, he finds that he does have the will to do whatever it takes to survive. In that moment he is Drax. He chases this bear for hours, knowing that if he catches him and kills him, he will live. If he doesn’t, he will most assuredly perish. The chase scene for me was vintage Jack London. Man trying to overcome nature.

There are no feminists in this book. They, in fact, are suspicious of women. ”Behind every piece of sweet-smelling female loveliness lies a world of stench and doggery.” If there ever was a mother in these men’s lives, she is but a distant memory. They only know sluts and whores and women who try to cheat them out of their pay. They are brutal men who club baby seals, shoot polar bears with cubs, and kill the most magnificent creatures on earth. They do it for money. They do it for pleasure.

Ian McGuire writes an unflinching novel about these men and what they are tasked to do. The brutality is unbridled. The feralness of their needs is embraced and helps them to survive. You aren’t supposed to like them, but you can’t deny how real they are. The portraits are stark, and all of them ring true. Drax is a force of nature, completely unprincipled in his view of life, and more dangerous than any villain I’ve met in a long time. He is McGuire’s most stunning creation.

Sumner isn’t the right man to stop Drax, but in the end it turns out he is the only one who has a chance.

Recommended for the brave at heart.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Everything Box By Richard Kadrey

The Everything BoxThe Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book makes me happy.

As a huge fan of the Sandman Slim series, and why haven't you read them?!?!?!?! This somewhat lighter take on some of the same tropes previously hit on in that series made me smile from beginning to end. THIS SHOULD BE A TELEVISION SHOW..someone get on this already.

Fun characters, great world, the snappy dialogue and snarky fun you have come to expect with Mr. Kadrey's writing. This book is a blast and there honestly, very simply, isn't enough fucking fun reads now a days.

one of my highest possible recommendations, if you don't enjoy this you are probably are dead.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Uncle Fred's At It Again!

Uncle Fred in the SpringtimeUncle Fred in the Springtime by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness, what in the dickens is going on now? Impostors, you say? At Blandings Castle, you say? Well, you don't say!

Lord Ickenham, aka Uncle Fred is at it again. The OCC (original cool cucumber) has cooked up another improbable scheme to make all well again in a world in which he loves her, she loves him, Father A doesn't approve, Father B doesn't approve, Young Gadabout A needs a bit of the ready cash, and so does Young Gadabout B. Who better to tie these things all together than Uncle Fred?

Wodehouse juggles plots with dizzying skill. I did a rough count and Uncle Fred in the Springtime contains approximately a bucketload of characters. Every character's got an agenda and they all compete with and against one another simultaneously. Sometimes the plot lines are silly, sometimes skillful, and sometimes they leave you wondering, "What? Who? Where?" in the most delightful way. It's like a murder mystery in which no one gets murdered...not too seriously at any rate.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Necromancer

The Necromancer (Johannes Cabal, #1)The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a bid to win back his soul, necromancer and scientist Johannes Cabal runs a demonic carnival in order to win the souls of a hundred people to exchange for his own. With the help of his vampire brother, can he find one hundred people willing to sell their souls?

This is one of those books that I'm having a hard time verbalizing my opinion on. I'll give it a shot, though.

The Necromancer is a funny tale about a man trying to win back his soul. I found the dark British humor right up my alley. Johannes Cabal is a delightful asshole and his relationship with his brother Horst was one of my favorite parts of the book. I like the idea of a demonic carnival. Who knows where carnies go after they leave your town? I'm surprised Stephen King hasn't written something about that with his recent carnie obsession.

The dialogue is great and, as I said before, I loved the humor and the brothers Cabal. The story itself was a little too linear for me. The carnival travels for a year and Johannes collects souls. That's pretty much it. There weren't really any twists until the last 20% of the book and those were a little telegraphed in my opinion.

So I guess this book is firmly in 3 territory. I liked the characters quite a bit but I was never compelled to take a day off work to read the book in one sitting and I'm not sure I'll read the rest of the series.

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Friday, April 22, 2016


Geoff Ryman
Penguin Books
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


A haunting novel exploring the lives of characters intertwined with The Wizard of Oz: the "real" Dorothy Gale; Judy Garland's unhappy fame; and Jonathan, a dying actor, and his therapist, whose work at an asylum unwittingly intersects with the Yellow Brick Road.

My Review

This is a very unusual story that jumps back and forth in time and between a variety of characters, all connected by “The Wizard of Oz”. There was Dorothy Gael, a poor and abused child, growing up in Kansas during the 1880s. Another story introduces Jonathan, an actor dying of AIDS whose love of Oz helped him cope with an unhappy childhood. Then there is the story of Jonathan’s therapist, who discovered early on a talent for helping people and making money. And let’s not forget the young and troubled Frances Gumm, who later became Judy Garland.

This story started off a little slow and I got frustrated bouncing back and forth between characters. Shortly after, I got absorbed by the lives, history and struggles of the characters. Their stories started to flow and intersect. I loved the mix of reality and fantasy, how the characters' lives all connected, and the way they coped with difficult and unhappy lives. At times this was bleak, but it was also a beautiful, imaginative and heartbreaking story.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Rocket Raccoon Vol. 1: A Chasing Tale

Rocket Raccoon, Vol. 1: A Chasing TaleRocket Raccoon, Vol. 1: A Chasing Tale by Skottie Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While on break from his work as a Guardian of the Galaxy, Rocket finds himself in trouble.
Turns out he's wanted for murder.
Yes he murders people, but those are all perfectly legal. It seems another creature who looks like a Raccoon is murdering people and Rocket is receiving the blame.
Rocket always has a plan and he fully intends to clear his name.

A Chasing Tale is definitely a volume intended for fans of Rocket. He puts his ingenuity on display while defending himself with all he has.
Rocket is a strange combination of violent and goofy and he's no different in this volume.

There are two additional stories in this volume including one told entirely by Groot.
The extra stories are short, but the artwork is good. All the stories end up with Rocket fighting his tail off.

A Chasing Tale really highlights Rocket and the kind of messes he could easily find himself in.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016


The Hatching (The Hatching, #1)The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”She didn't know how many of them there were, but they were frantic. Dozens of them at least. They'd been packed in the egg, and they came out in a swarm, their bodies unfolding, alien and beautiful. Big and fast, black apricots thundering against the glass. Skittering.

She put her palm against the glass of the insectarium, and the spiders flew to it."

 photo spider-animated-gif-49_zpsudaedem1.gif

Professor Melanie Guyer has dreamed about being on the cover of Science or Nature Magazine. When she gets a Fed Ex package from an archaeological dig in Nazca, Peru of an ancient spider egg sac, she has a chance to eclipse anything that has ever been done before.

She can hatch the eggs and bring back a new/old species of spiders.


Cause it would be cool.

Except these spiders aren’t normal. They are aggressive. They eat flesh. They breed like fleas.

They are an apocalyptic tide of destruction. Good thing they are locked up in the lab.

 photo nazca-lines-spider_zpssttgdj3p.jpg
Nazca spider drawn in the ground by an ancient civilization...maybe as a warning?

In Peru, billionaire Bill Henderson takes his private jet to stretch his legs and see the sights. He has a guide, Miguel, his bodyguard, and three ridiculously beautiful women, thirty years his junior, with him. Without all that money, none of these people would give him five minutes of their time, and he knows it. He steps off the trail to take a piss.

”And then the blackness started streaming toward him, covering the path and moving quickly, almost as fast as a man could run. Miguel knew he should be running, but there was something hypnotic in the quietness of the water. It didn’t roar like a river. If anything, it seemed to absorb sound. All he could hear was a whisper, a skittering, like a small patter of rain. The way the river moved was beautiful in its own way, pulsing and, at certain points, splitting and braiding into separate streams before rejoining itself a few paces later. As it got closer, Miguel took another step back, but by the time he realized it wasn’t actually a river, that it wasn’t water of any kind, it was too late.”

Henderson didn’t wait around. He made a run for the plane. The shrill screams of his entourage only inspired his fat legs to run faster.

Something bit him.

He made the plane and headed back to Minnesota.

Now if you are thinking what a rat bastard, there probably wasn’t anything he could do to save the beautiful trio of muses or poor Miguel, but still... the billionaire... had to make it?

Don’t fret because... well... a spider is going to crawl out of his face. Well, actual do fret because his plane has become the Plague ship Mary.

Bill Henderson is bringing those spiders to YOU.

Meanwhile, a seismic station in India is hearing rumblings beneath the earth that don’t make sense. The Chinese have dropped a nuke on themselves. Of course, being Chinese, they don’t just say we have a HUGE SPIDER PROBLEM. They get all cryptic as if they are too embarrassed to ask for all our RAID MAX SPIDER BLASTER supplies.

So as we start to put all the various reports together, we begin to understand how totally screwed we are. Something has started all these spiders hatching, and it isn’t the brilliance of Professor Guyer because they are hatching everywhere.

I’ve read a few zombie apocalypse books. I’ve read a slew of post-apocalyptic books with everything from nuclear war to the moon exploding to flu destabilizing civilization and sending us back to a more primitive society, but I’ve never had the pleasure of reading about spiders who are capable of stripping the planet of every living thing.

WARNING: there are ramifications and behavior modifications possible after reading this book!

 photo Spider20Face_zpsrnvdmxxi.jpg
This was nearly me!

I was driving to Woodward, Oklahoma, the other day, listening to Metallica, when a spider the size of a half dollar leaped out of the vent in my dash and landed on the windshield right at eye level. My first thought was that I had to save all of humanity by lighting the molotov cocktail I always keep handy and driving off the road into a deep culvert, grasping a spider leg for what little comfort it could provide (I couldn’t decide if I was Thelma or Louise.), but after my heart rate reduced to normal levels, and I quit screaming like a republican at a presidential rally, I decided that I needed to pull over and commit arachnicide. Now I’m going to blame Ezekiel Boone for the death of that spider, just like I blame Alfred Hitchcock for my natural aversion for flocks of crows or blackbirds or ravens. Those beady eyed black bastards!

I’m also suffering from Eight Legged Freaks (2002) flashbacks.

Boone will convince you to quit worrying about zombies or meteorites or nuclear explosions and start paying better attention to something a little more likely...spiders, a black tide of spiders.

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The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-boats by William Geroux

The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-boatsThe Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler's U-boats by William Geroux
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”The U.S. Merchant Marine’s fatality rate in World War II was approximately 3.9 percent---one of every 26 mariners who sailed on a merchant ship. The only branch of the U.S. military with a comparably high fatality rate was the U.S. Marines. The casualty rate for the U.S. Navy was 1.49 percent---less than half the casualty rate of the Merchant Marine.”

 photo Merchant20Seamen_zpsbkufz6bn.jpg

All a man from Mathews County, Virginia, had to do to get a job on a ship was to mention to the person in charge of hiring where he was born. They were not only well respected seamen, but were also expected to rise up the chain of command quickly to become captains. When World War II broke out, many were already serving on ships, but soon most of the men of Mathews County were serving in the Merchant Marine. There were five families who contributed almost every available male to the war: the Hodges family had ten men serving, the Callis family also had ten, the Hudgins family had seven, the Hammond family had three, and the Respess family had two. A predominant number of those men had Captain in front of their name before the end of the war. Many of them never made it home.

”For ten months after Pearl Harbor the U.S. Merchant Marine had kept the war from being lost. They had kept Britain supplied with the oil, munitions, and food needed to continue fighting the Nazis. They had delivered enough oil and raw materials such as manganese and bauxite to keep American factories churning out ships, planes, tanks and other weapons. They had carried tens of thousands of American troops to England for future invasions.”

The Merchant Marines have always had a romantic allure to men from all over the world. It was a organization from which to escape; few questions were ever asked. It was a place a man could avoid his past and make a new name for himself. Spurned by your wife, join the Merchant Marine. Kill a man, join the Merchant Marine. Have a knock down drag out with your father, join the Merchant Marine. I’ve always thought of them as hardworking, hard living men, who lost fingers at sea and lost their wages to crooked card games, to alluring light fingered hookers, and thugs in dark alleys.

 photo Loose20Lips_zpsqmyypwfc.jpg

I was shocked to discover that, out of all the American men who went to war, the Merchant Marines had the most dangerous job.

”For seven months the U-boats had had their way in American waters, sinking more than three hundred merchant ships and killing thousands of merchant seamen. They had sent millions of tons of Allied food, supplies, munitions, and fuel into the sea playing havoc with the enemy’s supply line.”

So the plan during the first seven months of the United States officially entering the war was to send out hundreds of these ships with supplies and hope the majority of them managed to make it to their destination. These ships did not have any weapons to defend themselves or air cover or destroyers standing between them and the German wolfpack of U-Boats.

It is really baffling.

It didn’t make sense to the German Admiral Karl Donitz either. He was in charge of the wolfpack and had no qualms about sinking unprotected ships. He only knew that the more tonnage that America allowed him to sink, the better chance Germany had to prevail.

 photo Wolf Pack_zpsl5d298gg.jpg
A German Wolf Pack of U-Boats.

Sometimes boats would sink slowly, sometimes they went down quickly. In many cases, the U-Boat captains did allow seamen time to escape the ship before applying the coup de grâce with a final devastating point blank torpedo shot. Escaping a floundering ship is difficult.”A sinking ship was a deathtrap that could kill a man in a thousand ways. Falling masts and guy wires snagged mariners and pulled them under. Jagged debris swirled through the water. The ship’s hot boilers could explode from contact with cold seawater.”

William Geroux shares with us numerous stories of sacrifice, of heroism, of terror, of maddening bad luck, of triumph, of death, and even an intriguing story about a baby born on a life raft. The men of Mathews County were at the heart of all these stories.

 photo allied20convoy_zps3atpdpvq.jpg
Allied convoy getting ready to cross the Atlantic.

Donitz was merely putting his wolfpack in the most likely places for allied shipping to be. I was amazed to learn how long the United States thought that loose lips were sinking ships instead of just realizing it was a matter of logistics. Even after the U.S. government decided to begin protecting their Merchant Marine ships, it still wasn’t easy. The run to Murmansk to resupply the Russians was a nightmare. Surviving the constant attacks from German fighters and U-Boats was only half the battle. Once their ships reached Murmansk, the level of danger only increased.

”It had an apocalyptic feel. Fires continuously burned throughout the city. German bombers attacked five to six times a day. Russian fighters rose to meet them, and engaged in dogfights with German fighters. Antiaircraft guns crackled from sandbagged bunkers in the rubble of buildings.”

By 1943, the predators of the deep, the wolfpack, had become the prey. Fatality rates of U-Boat seaman reached 70%.

The women who were left behind had to wonder about the fate of their men. In many cases, they never found out what happened to their father, husband, son, or brother until after the war when German records were available. Their ship was just overdue.

”Overdue, an ominous threat of loss and sorrow trembling yet in the balance of fate...There is something sinister to a seaman in the very grouping of the letters which form this word clear in its meaning, and seldom threatening in vain.”---Joseph Conrad

With not knowing the fate of their loved one, there is always room for hope. Maybe he is stranded on a deserted island or in a hospital unable to tell anyone who he is, or maybe he has been taken prisoner. The burden of not knowing weighs down people more than the burden of grief. It is like waiting in a cell after being condemned to die without knowing when you will be executed. Every time there is a clang of a cell door opening or the sound of hobnailed boots you wonder if this is finally it. For the women of Mathews County, it was the ringing of a phone or the receiving of a telegram, or in the case of the Hodges family, the appearance of Spencer, the son who had to tell his mother each time one of his brothers died.

 photo Sinking20Ship_zpswcelunpk.jpg
Sinking Ship during WW2

When I think about my understanding of the scope of World War II, I didn’t know I was missing a major piece of the history of how the allies won the war. I knew about the importance of supplies being in the right place at the right time, but it just never occurred to me to think about the seamen on those ships who took the risks and the part they played in saving the world from tyranny. Geroux brings these men out of the shadows of the conning towers. He discovers the bones of their corpses lying on the ocean floor and brings them back to life, however so briefly, to add their tales of courage to those of the Army, Airforce, Navy, and Marines.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Mortal Tally by Sam Sykes

The Mortal Tally (Bring Down Heaven, #2)The Mortal Tally by Sam Sykes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a bit torn here, first of all I love Sam Sykes, his fantasy world is the kind I love..deep, interesting and full of action. The characters are well fleshed out and the dialogue is smart and funny. Oh, yes my friends the witty remarks run deep in these waters.

However, I do have a few issues, and I mean a few. The book suffers from the second book syndrome, the pacing gets a bit draggy and slow but its all good because things get set up for the next book. Some of the characters are a bit hard to like, but that is a "me" thing, still well done...just not really easy to get behind.

That being said, Sam Sykes writes kick ass it even with minor issues you will not be disappointed.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

The Journey of Crazy Horse

The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota HistoryThe Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You read or hear about Gen. George Custer and think, "oh I know all about Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse" but upon reflection you realize you do not know a damn thing about the Native American side of things...and then you go and do something about that.

Joseph M. Marshall III

The name doesn't sound very "Native American," but Marshall is about as close as you'll get these days. According to his Wiki page he speaks Lakota and "can craft a Lakota bow in the traditional style. He was on the founding board of the tribal college, Sinte Gleska University, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Joseph is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Joseph grew up in Horse Creek Community near White River (Maka Izita Wakpa, Smoking Earth River) on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota."

He is Lakota. He studies and teaches the Lakota ways and history. What better person to tell you about one of the Lakota's greatest heroic figures of all time?

Marshall's The Journey of Crazy Horse gives the reader more of an insight into the true daily life of this northern plains tribe than most depictions of Native Americans often receive.

How do we know this is true? Granted, much of this is taken from oral history, since written accounts of Crazy Horse have mainly been from whites, soldiers, boastful victors and the sour defeated (funny how the US Army named their loses as "massacres" back then, isn't it? Makes it sound like they were blind-sided in a unfair fight).

I'm on the side of Native Americans and their gripes about the Europeans that took their lands. If there's anyone in America with the right to complain about illegal aliens it's these guys. However, I'm not a fan of whiny losers. You fought, you lost, the victor gets your shit. That's the way war works. Were the Americans underhanded in their dealings with the Native Americans? Hell yes. Did the Romans treat the Celts kindly or did they hunt down their leaders and holy men and stamp out their culture? Did one tribe wipe out another? When they had the chance. It's the way of conquerors. Much of human history is about war. Just think about what gets recorded and retaught, the battles or the times when blood-shed was avoided? History bluffs are more apt to read/write about the strategies at Waterloo rather than poring over the notes and lab hours of Louis Pasteur. To this point, we've been a war-like people. Expect it. Don't be surprised and shocked by its disgusting ways when it shows up upon your doorstep. My point is, I have a low threshold for listening to or reading "woe is us" laments from the losing side. Genocide of a peaceful people is one thing. They can righteously complain all they want and have my heart and ear the whole way through. But a people that pride themselves upon their fighting prowess, and the Lakota certainly did, get a little less sympathy from me.

So, with that rather long harangue in mind, I'm happy to say Marshall's The Journey of Crazy Horse does not go overboard with the laments. Yes, there is sorrow for the tribe and hatred for the whites, which I suppose some with a lower threshold for complaints might balk at, but I didn't have a problem with it. I've seen worse.

(From a '70s anti-pollution campaign. Which bothers me, because the Native Americans were some of the worst polluters. Look into the heaping midden piles they left behind. Again, I'm on their side. I'm glad there are anti-pollution campaigns, but let's have some perspective...and less misguided melodrama, please.)

As far as biographies go, this sets a good tone and pace, and it's the perfect length. I sensed that creeping feeling of boredom I get with a book that's pushing it's interest-limits coming along just as it ended. It's a tough subject to tackle. It's so much easier to research written histories from a people long-versed in writing things down. The Lakota were not that kind of people. However, they did have a long and rich oral history from which Marshall has crafted a fine biography upon a figure that would be intriguing no matter what people Crazy Horse came from.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Miracleman, Vol. 1: A Dream of Flying

Miracleman, Vol. 1: A Dream of FlyingMiracleman, Vol. 1: A Dream of Flying by Alan Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After an almost 20 year absence, Miracleman reappears, throwing his alter ego Mike Moran's life into chaos...

Back in the day, before he was Alan Moore: Supreme Curmudgeon and Master of Beards, Alan Moore was simply a cutting edge comic book writer. Miracleman was his ticket to the big time, before Swamp Thing, before Watchmen, before whatever it is he's doing these days besides seemingly being pissed off all the time.

Miracleman started life as Marvelman, a 1950s British Captain Marvel homage/ripoff. Moore, Alan Davis, and some others brought him back in the pages of Warrior, a UK comic magazine. How does one revive a ripoff character from the 50s and make him relevant?

Spectacularly! That's how. Moore takes essentially a kid's comic, breaks it down, and shows what superheroes might be like in real life. I love how he deconstructs the Captain Marvel-like hero and actually makes it believable. Also, this volume nicely illustrates the carnage super heroes would create in the real world.

I do have a couple gripes, though. This volume is super thin for what it costs. Also, I'd much rather have a couple more issues included instead of the Warpsmith material and the sketches, especially considering I still have a couple issues of Warrior and Miracleman lying in some dark corner of the Dan Cave. The story itself is a little dated, more by the writing style than the cultural references. For a comic, it was pretty wordy.

All things considered, Miracleman is still pretty damn good and a cool piece of 1980s comic book history. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, April 15, 2016


Lia Black
VineDark/BlackHouse Press
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


How far would a man go in the name of faith?

Fydelis was once worshiped as the Angel of Fidelity, but his love for Gareth, a mortal knight, caused him to fall from the heavens. He has now become the demonic aspect of Regret, and the unwilling plaything of the Sunderer, the darkest of all dark gods. His only hope is for death, but first, he must find someone to take his place as the Sunderer’s favorite toy.

Father Gareth De'Aubyn is a man tormented by his past and ready to sell his future to save the souls of his flock. Questioning the wisdom of war, he’s traded his Crusader’s armor for a cassock, and now ministers to the very people his army sent fleeing for their lives. When his church is attacked by unknown assassins, Gareth is mortally wounded, and with his dying breath, he calls out to the Creator for help.

But his god does not answer.

Instead, the demon, Fydelis, heeds his call, cajoling him to promise his soul to the god of the underworld for a chance to tap into the powers of dark magic, and set everything right.

A stranger to Gareth, the man who once swore to him his honor and his love, Fydelis is forced to make the dying priest an offer he can’t refuse: in return for sparing the lives of those under his care, Gareth must collect several very stubborn souls.

Together, they’ll begin a journey that will test everything they thought they knew about faith, love, and fidelity.

My Review

Father Gareth De’Aubyn, former Crusader, is wracked with guilt for his part in the destruction of innocent lives. Now a priest, he has an opportunity to repair some of the damage he caused and atone for his sins. When Gareth is gravely wounded during an attack on his church, his pleas to his god are answered by the demon, Fydelis.

In return for Fydelis’ help in saving his life, protecting his followers, and seeking vengeance against his attackers, Gareth must sacrifice his soul to the Sunderer god, Malaketh, a nasty piece of work and Fydelis’ master. Fydelis isn’t just any ordinary demon, though. He was once Gareth’s guardian angel, and just because he now possesses cloven hooves and a forked tail doesn’t mean he stopped having feelings for Gareth.

I’m watching Supernatural now (yeah, I know I’m late to the party) and was keen to read a story about a regretful priest and the reluctant demon that turns his life upside down.

The story went down as smoothly as a mug of cheap lager, pleasant tasting and drinkable.

What I liked:

- The slow-burning romance between Gareth and Fydelis, two broken men who must overcome the difficult hurdles of loneliness, regret, and grief.
- The humorous banter between Gareth and Fydelis that offset the violence and despair.
- Gareth’s unshakable faith and kind heart.
- Gripping and well-paced story.

What didn’t work so well:

- One-dimensional villains. I would have liked some insight into the minds and motivations of Malaketh and General Karathis.
- Fydelis’ telepathic ability was interesting, but not fully explored or utilized. Similarly, his ability to enter Gareth and direct his actions.
- Interesting minor characters, like Yeol Havram and Paetrik, deserved far more page time.
- The graphic physical and sexual torture of Fydelis by Malaketh felt distracting more than disturbing. Because Malaketh lacked any depth and Fydelis did not appear to be permanently affected, these scenes failed to have any impact on me.
- Errors, plot holes, and incoherency in places made this a sometimes frustrating read.

For example:

Does Fydelis have a soul?

“He felt himself shatter; his heart, mind, soul, and spirit breaking into a million pieces. He collapsed on top of Gareth, kissing his throat as tears ran from his eyes and he sobbed like a child.”

Or doesn’t he?

“They ignored both Gareth and Fydelis, for neither of them had a soul for the taking, but something else seemed to draw their notice.”

By the time I finished reading, I was fast forgetting details in the story. It felt just like getting to the bottom of that mug of cheap lager and yearning for a richer, more full-bodied beer.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Painted Goddess

A Painted Goddess (A Fire Beneath the Skin Book 3)A Painted Goddess by Victor Gischler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rina Veraiin's friends are scattered searching for more ink magic tattoos to protect Helva. The threats Helva is facing are more dire than initially believed and ink magic may be Helva's only chance at survival.

A Painted Goddess was a strong story. The entire A Fire Beneath the Skin trilogy caught me by surprise. The story picks up directly after the cliffhangers in The Tattooed Duchess. The author Victor Gischler spent a lot of time setting the enormity of the events the protagonists faced. I had come to care about a lot of the characters and it was hard reading at times because not everyone survives their ordeals.

I'm still loving the idea of ink magic bestowed through tattoos. It presents one of my favorite story aspects of incredible powers in a way I've never witnessed before. Unlike The Tattooed Duchess, new tattoos emerge of incredible power. I'm floored by the creativity needed to envision such powers and how they'd be utilized.

My complaints, which in truth are minor, are that the booked wrapped up too quickly and chose not to explain what everything meant at the end. Perhaps it was simply left open for the potential of sequels and that's easier to swallow if that's the case. I hope there wasn't any other reason to leave the reader guessing.

A Painted Goddess and it's predecessors were truly a pleasant surprise. I hope the author Victor Gischler chooses to revisit the world in the form of prequels or sequels because I really enjoyed the A Fire Beneath the Skin series.

5 out of 5 stars

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

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In the Field Marshall's Shadow

In the Field Marshal's Shadow: Stories from the Powder Mage UniverseIn the Field Marshal's Shadow: Stories from the Powder Mage Universe by Brian McClellan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Field Marshall's Shadow is a collection of short stories from the Powder Mage Universe.

The stories are from varying times in the past and have different protagonists in each one. The Girl of Hrusch Avenue and Return to Honor revolve around Vlora, The Face in the Window is Taniel's story, Hope's End is told from Captain Verundish's perspective, and Green-Eyed Vipers is from Lady Petara's point of view. I have already read and reviewed Hope's End, The Girl of Hrusch Avenue, The Face in the Window, and Return to Honor so this review will revolve around Green-Eyed Vipers.

Green-Eyed Vipers tells a predator's tale, but not in the way you'd imagine. Lady Petara is on the hunt with one prey in mind and that's Field Marshall Tamas. This takes place after Erika's death so it's easy to imagine that it's good for Tamas to get some intense interest from an aggressive woman, I certainly had that thought. Unfortunately Petara attraction goes well beyond what any sane person would deem appropriate. The hunt is on and what is done is done.

I liked Green-Eyed Vipers and it was good seeing Tamas again in a new story. The story left a small smile on my face when I finished it.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Man Who Was Thursday: Centennial EditionThe Man Who Was Thursday: Centennial Edition by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”A man’s brain is a bomb,” he cried out, loosening suddenly his strange passion and striking his own skull with violence. “My brain feels like a bomb, night and day. It must expand! It must expand! A man’s brain must expand, if it breaks up the universe.”

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Gabriel Syme attends a dinner party of his friend, the poet Lucian Gregory. He is there under a pretense of friendship, but his true intention is to find out if his friend can be his entry into joining a group of anarchists. You see, Gabriel Syme ”was not merely a detective who pretended to be a poet; he was really a poet who had become a detective.” There might be some assumptions that the best way to infiltrate an anarchy group is by hanging out in dive bars, brothels, and dens of inequity (my favorite) where the disgruntled, unwashed masses would gather, but Syme is much more suited to mingling with the intellectual set. These men of high ideals might see anarchy in a romantic light and prove to be as dangerous in their naivete as the man, scarred by life, looking to get even with a government for ill treatment or with a society who chose to ignore him.

”The ordinary detective goes to pot-houses to arrest thieves; we go to artistic tea-parties to detect pessimists.The ordinary detective discovers from a ledger or a diary that a crime has been committed. We discover from a book of sonnets that a crime will be committed. We have to trace the origin of those dreadful thoughts that drive men on at last to intellectual fanaticism and intellectual crime.”

Syme, purposely, pushes his friend. Traps him really, into feeling a need to prove to Syme that he is a true anarchist and not just a man of radical thought incapable of deed. Syme tries to reassure Gregory’s pretty sister that all will be fine. She feels her brother may have said too much. ”Now, sometimes a man like your brother really finds a thing he does mean. It may be only a half-truth, quarter-truth, tenth-truth; but then he says more than he means---from sheer force of meaning it.”

I’d like to know how many times I’ve said something that sounds clever, but logically is full of holes. Someone pops off with some dismissive comment, and the next thing I know, I’m scrambling to defend a thought that was barely a concept to begin with. I’m bailing water out of the boat and trying to patch the bottom at the same time, but I’m too stubborn to just let it go because I know the seed of the idea was something worth defending. So we do wonder if Gregory has any real idea of what true anarchy is or is he just a bored poet who finds the whole idea of belonging to a bomb throwing organization... exciting.

In other words, is he a true believer or an annoying, bombastic, romantic moron?

For the purposes of our hero Syme, it may not matter. The young man turns out to have a legitimate connection to a group of anarchists who each go by a name of the week. Gregory is intent on becoming Thursday, but Syme convinces the group to add him to their network instead of his friend. He deftly gets what he wants and at the same time puts his friend out of harm's way.

Syme is a ”rebel against rebellion” which is really, if truth be known, what I am as well. I don’t want the general social order to be disrupted. Usually the people who die when a bomb is exploded are just normal, hardworking people who are picking up food for dinner, or dancing with some friends, or going to work. Their deaths are meaningless, except for the fact that their death provides a number that will have terrorists giving each other high fives and politicians wringing their hands. So I’m against anarchy because all it does is destabilize society in an attempt to replace a government with a new government that would quickly resemble the old government.

Besides bombs, gunfire, rape, murder, and all that screaming tends to disrupt my reading time.

G. K. Chesterton was a serious man passionately interested in the occult, theology, and philosophy. Usually when I see those three branches of study all attached to the same individual, I think to myself that this was a person questing to understand the mysteries of life. The interesting thing about this book is you can read it on a multitude of levels and still enjoy the book. You can see it as a metaphysical thriller or as sarcastic political intrigue or as commentary on a society searching for god in all the wrong places.

The power in the anarchist group rests with the man Sunday, who intimidates the rest of the members. He is a large man or does he just seem to expand when he needs to make a point. His eyes are blue, blue as the sky. His hair is snow white, like the peaks of the highest mountains. As the plot turns fantastical, he takes on a supernatural aspect that leaves this reader wondering if he was the god, or a god, or just a man touched by god.

Of course, it all becomes comical as one after the other, the members of this anarchist society, turn out to be someone other than what they pretended to be.

I mentioned philosophy; how about this for something to ponder?

“‘Listen to me,’ cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis.’Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front -.’”

There is also intrigue. Syme is finally relaxing in the belief that he has lost a man who has been tailing him all over the city.

”When he had been seated for about half a minute, he heard behind him a sort of heavy asthmatic breathing.

Turning sharply, he saw rising gradually higher and higher up the omnibus steps a top hat soiled and dripping with snow, and under the shadow of its brim the short-sighted face and shaking shoulders of Professor de Worms.”

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Chesterton was a large man standing 6’4” and weighing 286 pounds.

There is no doubt in my mind that G. K. Chesterton was brilliant, quite possibly a renaissance man in his desire to understand everything. His prose is at times exquisitely glistening with honey dipped poetry. The book can be confusing with twists and turns made more difficult with an overlay of nightmarish fantasy. I wish I’d been able to read it in one sitting so I could keep the reins of the many divergent thoughts firmly held in my hands like a team of prancing Lipizzan horses.

This is a fascinating book that deserves to be read more than once, and without a doubt I’d be closer to understanding exactly what Chesterton was intending the more times I read it. My copy of the book will be slid back on the shelf very gently in case there are any bold ideas or a stray piece of dynamite that could roll out on the floor at my feet. Both are equally dangerous, and I’m simply not as fast on my feet as I used to be.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Outriders By: Jay Posey

Outriders (Outriders, #1)Outriders by Jay Posey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, Mr. Posey...

I liked the Duskwalker series alot, but you got me. You reached into the depths of my cobweb and comic book addled brain, took my love for scifi and military action and put it on paper.

Great action, cool characters, great setting and to quote the Joker, wonderful toys to play with! I offically add you to the increasingly large list of authors I buy on sight. (and I got a ARC from the lovely overlords at Angry Robot, and yes I did order it after)

buy this book, buy it now. 23 stars out of 5.

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The Silent Army By: James A. Moore

The Silent Army (Seven Forges, #4)The Silent Army by James A. Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this series, I will not lie about it. It has ALL the things that make a great fantasy read. Mr. Moore steadily ups his game with each new installment.

I call this "dark" fantasy, it does have epic leanings, great characters, great action and an awesome world, that pretty much wins me everytime. I won't gush much more, but if you like the fantasies and you like sword swinging and heads flying through the air like so much dust in the wind, give James A. Moore all your money! (and sacrifice goats or whatever, make him write more and faster)

22 stars out of 5, and a goat.

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Trident's Forge (Children of a Dead Earth 2) By: Patrick Tomlinson

Trident's Forge (Children of a Dead Earth, #2)Trident's Forge by Patrick S. Tomlinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have so far really enjoyed the Children of a Dead Earth series. It did not realllly suffer from the middle book slump most trilogies have, Mr. Tomlinson nailed in the first book the setting of a mystery on a ship, even though it was a spaceship. However, although I felt the characters on the new world were interesting, I don't feel the actual world was fleshed out enough, and YOU GOT BUILD the world for me!!!

All that nonsense aside, it was a good read, and the series is fun. Grab both books and throw them in your whatever you carry stuff in for the beach, because you KNOW you aren't gonna do anything but drink under an umbrella and read anyway

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Sharpe's Devil Finishes Sharpe

Sharpe's Devil (Sharpe, #21)Sharpe's Devil by Bernard Cornwell
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A surprisingly sharp-written later novel in the long-running Sharpe series!

Stop, stop...I need to apologize for that horrible previous line.

I'm sorry.

Okay, continue:

I didn't expect much from Sharpe's Devil, because the war is over. The very basis for these novels' existence is gone. Napoleon has been defeated and it's time for old soldiers to go home.

That's just where former British Army officer Richard Sharpe is when duty calls yet again. The wife of an estranged friend desperately wants to know what's become of her husband and Sharpe agrees to be her errand boy. And of course his sidekick Patrick Harper comes along too, because why the fuck not.

Okay, so the premise isn't rock solid, but Cornwell's writing is sharp (damn it!), the plot is engaging, the history accurate and the action is on point (just be happy I didn't say "on fleek"). Following history, we're off to Chile, where post-Napoleonic War Spanish and British warmongers are tearing up the country amongst the poor natives.

Many a bored ex-serviceman of the European theater took his talents to South America in the early-ish 19th century in search of gold, power and adventure. Lord Thomas Cochrane, the famous/infamous British naval captain writers like Forester and O'Brian based the heroes of their stories upon, played a big roll in the Chilean rebellion of this era. Cornwell teams Sharpe up with Cochrane and even develops a nice scene with his fictional hero and Napoleon himself. Pretty daring of him to attempt a version of such a famous historical figure! Not only that, but to take Cochrane, use him and then reveal a damning bit of his personal history takes balls!

Perhaps most impressive of all is Cornwell's ability to crank out yet another exciting adventure from a series that by all rights should've been put to rest books ago!

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Hellsblood Bride

The Hellsblood Bride (Mookie Pearl, #2)The Hellsblood Bride by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nora Pearl is stuck in Hell and the only way out is to marry a demon. Her father, Mookie, has other ideas...

The second Mookie Pearl book is just as bad ass as the first. When the book starts, Mookie has one foot in the grave and a daughter that's all the way there. From there, things just get worse.

The book shifts viewpoints between Mookie and Nora and both threads are full of awesomeness. Mookie is like a human battering ram and Nora is much more subtle, making their viewpoints very distinct. The powers tugging the strings behind the scenes give the book a touch more conflict and unpredictability.

Chuck Wendig's writing is even crisper than ever, full of unique similes perfect for the novel's noir flavor. Just as in The Blue Blazes, I really enjoyed the inventiveness of the setting and creatures Wendig has crafted, largely free of the usual urban fantasy staples.

The Hellsblood Bride has more twists than one of the god-worms of the Deep Downstairs. I lost count of the number of times I found myself grinning in amazement. The ending was the biggest surprise of them all. I'm definitely on board for the third book in the series, whenever that drops.

If you want urban fantasy that doesn't feature the tired tropes, the Mookie Pearl series might be up your alley.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Way Station

Clifford D. Simak
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Enoch Wallace is not like other humans. Living a secluded life in the backwoods of Wisconsin, he carries a nineteenth-century rifle and never seems to age—a fact that has recently caught the attention of prying government eyes. The truth is, Enoch is the last surviving veteran of the American Civil War and, for close to a century, he has operated a secret way station for aliens passing through on journeys to other stars. But the gifts of knowledge and immortality that his intergalactic guests have bestowed upon him are proving to be a nightmarish burden, for they have opened Enoch’s eyes to humanity’s impending destruction. Still, one final hope remains for the human race . . . though the cure could ultimately prove more terrible than the disease.

My Review

This spare little story is set in a small Wisconsin town. Despite the pastoral setting and the narrow-minded, clannish inhabitants of the town, Enoch Wallace, keeper of an intergalactic transport system known as the Way Station, is a very likeable and open character.

This wonderful, thought-provoking book is a fast and easy read. There is no action, no alien battles in the stars, no government agents surrounding the Way Station and bundling Enoch off in an unmarked van. Way Station is a very quiet book that explores war and violence, racial tolerance, friendship and loneliness and what the definition of home is.

One of my all-time favorites!

"For years I've tried to understand and to conform to the ethics and ideas of all the people who have come through this station. I've pushed my own human instincts and training to one side. I've tried to understand other viewpoints and to evaluate other ways of thinking, many of which did violence to my own. I am glad of all of it, for it has given me a chance to go beyond the narrowness of Earth."

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Tattooed Duchess

The Tattooed Duchess (A Fire Beneath the Skin Book 2)The Tattooed Duchess by Victor Gischler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two months after the events of Ink Mage, Rina Veraiin is officially the Duchess of Klaar. She's struggling balancing the life she wants to live with Alem, the desire to use her powers, and the responsibility of being a Duchess. Meanwhile events are unfolding around her that could easily change not only Klaar, but the entire world.

The Tattooed Duchess is a far different story than it's predecessor Ink Mage. I envisioned Rina would turn into one of those kind of hot yet kind of scary tattooed motorcycle women, but she's firmly committed to caring for Klaar and she's not traveling the globe in search of new tattoos. It's a nuanced approach as many authors would have her gather power rather than handle her responsibilities to Klaar. She's quickly learning for all the power of being a Duchess, she's somewhat powerless in choosing how to live her life as the King of Helva's heir, Gant, has explained.

The story immediately adds a new threat in the form of a resurrected god Mordis. The resurrection was unexpected yet fitting considering the exchange Rina had when she obtained the hand of death tattoo. Mordis is on the periphery of this story, but when he appears things go insane.

In many ways The Tattooed Duchess is the standard middle book of a trilogy. It sets the table for the events in the final book. The book is full of cliffhangers even though less events happened in this book compared to the Ink Mage. I'm looking forward to the conclusion of the A Fire Beneath the Skin trilogy.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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

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The Grace of Kings

The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty, #1)The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

King Réon of Xana conquered the seven kingdoms of Dara and forged them into The Xana Empire. With his new empire Réon gave himself a new name Emperor Mapidéré. The Emperor had grand plans for The Xana Empire and to accomplish them he plans to enslave many of the conquered men of Dara. As the years pass the people of Dara yearn to be free and two special men rebel against the empire. Kuni Garu an intelligent youth with little motivation and Mata Zyndu the giant last son of the Zyndu Clan fight back against the cruel empire with the utmost of their varied skills.

The Grace of Kings was an interesting story that in many ways felt like Greek Mythology. The main reason for that is the Gods of Dara are among the people watching, vying for power, and playing favorites. They even disguise themselves as humans to interact with their favorites and those they find useful.

Before I say anything else I want to say The Grace of Kings is long and also feels long. The story has a slow pacing to it and reads almost as if it's a history book. The story also feels as though it's two books in one. I can't help but feel most authors would've made two books out of it because there are two very different objectives in the first and second half.

My biggest complaint about the book outside of the slow pacing is the characters. Outside of Kuni and Mata none of the characters have much personality. They have characteristics that the author talks about, but little distinction that makes them unique. Even Kuni and Mata aren't as fleshed out as I'd like. They make some choices that just don't fit the personality the author previously described particularly with Mata.

My other main complaint is that the author constantly dumps tons of information on the readers.  The author tells us how characters think and feel, but the characters don't provide this information.

The Grace of Kings was a solid novel with a lot of room for growth in its sequels.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Nine Toes In The GraveNine Toes In The Grave by Eric Beetner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

”She had the right amount of leg, ample up top, dark hair with light eyes. Pale, pale skin like she was keeping secrets, y’know? Out there, on the side of a highway coming from nothing and going to nowhere, she qualified as a vision.

So, yea, she and I took up together.”

Reese is a busboy in a greasy spoon in the middle of nowhere. Life is baffling for a guy like him because every time he tries to do anything he ends up on the cropped end of the the stick.

He is the short straw guy.

He is the guy that always has to do the shit work because he is always the biggest loser with the least leverage.

So when Moira, the hot wife of his boss, decides to hike her skirt and let him bend her over a restaurant booth, Reese isn’t going to say no. He isn’t going to think to himself, why is this woman, who could have anyone she wants, letting him put the wood to her? Is she bored? Desperate? Or maybe she has a plan for him? The fact is Reese has never even been close to doing a woman as good looking as Moira, so really there is no time for thinking, just time for grabbing this baffling, but once in a lifetime, opportunity.

Sex with Moira is the type of memories a guy likes to keep for when he is on his deathbed. Those last flashbulb photos raising the flag one last time before the Grim Reaper whacks it off with one swing of his scythe.

Reese is a loser used to losing, but the question remains, how much more can a loser lose? When you don’t have any skin in the game (well except for some sweaty quick sex), the only thing a guy like Reese has to lose is his life.

Now if you are hearing the chimes of a Postman Always Rings Twice, you are on the right track. You and I know that Moira is up to no good. She isn’t the type of gal who gives out pity sex or feels the need to dumpster dive for the perverted thrill of it. She has a plan, and that plan involves the early demise of an inconvenient husband.

Reese, well shit, he was born to be the fall guy.

The tank on his car is closer to E than F. He has just enough dollars to give himself illusions of the possibility of escape, but not enough to put a long enough dust trail between him and the electric chair. It is bad enough being a loser, but being a desperate loser...well that just makes him doubly stupid.

He takes a job, too good to be true, for which I have to give Reese credit. He keeps rolling the dice, thinking he is going to see something other than snake eyes staring back up at him. Two guys offer him $500 to go “repossess” a car. He asks a few questions and accepts their nonsensical answers because he has $$ signs in both eyeballs.

Greed, stupidity, and desperation is a cocktail for just about everything that normally goes wrong to go wrong on an epic, turbocharged scale.

How does a man like Reese get accused of two murders (he didn't commit) within the same twenty four hour period? Well, you are just going to have to spin the top off a bottle of Jack and read Nine Toes in the Grave to find out.

”YOU EVER FEEL like the biggest fucking idiot in the world? Well, you’re not. I am.”

The cover art on this book is irresistible. It conveys a hardboiled treat with elegant simplicity. What makes it even more special is that the writer Eric Beetner designed the cover. Kudos to a writer who is also a creative book art designer.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Demonists by:Thomas E. Sniegoski

The Demonists (Demonist, #1)The Demonists by Thomas E. Sniegoski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am not big on horror but the premise hooked me. If you are a fan of stuff like the Conjuring, you will dig this. Well developed characters and a big dose of horror mixed in with your urban fantasy.

Horror is not my thing, I will read it but I don't generally seek horror titles out, but the strength of Mr. Sniegoski's writing makes this read worth a look.

If you like the spookiness, check it out

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Borderline by Mishell Baker

BorderlineBorderline by Mishell Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a terrific start to a new urban fantasy/not fantasy in my view. I say not fantasy because honestly, the fantasy elements were in the story but didn't overpower the story. HOWEVER, it made the pace of the tale, the characters, and the world that much cooler.

Millie, our main character, suffers from mental illness and I applaud the author, as myself someone who suffers from depression, for making her incredibly well rounded and showing all the flaws and cracks in her. I for one am grateful for that.

The world and the story isn't groundbreaking, but it is highly entertaining and I am interested to see where these characters go.

give it a read.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

A Collection of Kids' Books

Be Careful, Mr. Frumble! (Pictureback®)Be Careful, Mr. Frumble! by Richard Scarry
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

* * * The following three books were read and reviewed by me & my niece Emma * * *

I am on a mission to bring the joy of Richard Scarry to my niece. I am determined that one day she will love his work as much as I did as a kid.

I've got a couple things holding me back though. One is the quality differential of illustrated books from my era to today. When I was a kid we had the simple line drawings of Shel Silverstein and we liked it...HELL, WE LOVED IT! We were lucky to have them and we cherished them, damn it! Today the kids have books based on Pixar movies that contain the same 3D, realistically shadowed, professionally rendered, and highly life-like cartoon characters. It's tough to compete with that.

The other issue is Scarry himself. Not necessarily his unfortunate name, which gave me pause as a child, but rather the books themselves. I've picked up two from the library for Emma so far, just what was available at that branch. One was a turd and this one wasn't much better.

Be Careful, Mr. Frumble is about a messy pig who gets his hat blown away by the wind. He spends the whole book chasing after it. He races by bug-eyed anthropomorphic neighbors, by Swiss Alps scenery, alongside a World War I German fighter pilot, through a town, over water, etc. It's quite the long chase, but it's also redundant and not that thrilling. Emma was pressing me on, pushing me to turn the next page. I read at a frantic, excited pace and part of her wanted to see what was next and part of her wanted to finish the thing.

Come on, Scarry, help me out here!

Big Monster, Little Monster (Monsters University: Step into Reading)Big Monster, Little Monster by Mary Tillworth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A movie tie-in easy-reader for the sequel/prequel to the incredibly successful Monsters, INC. It's about going to college, but the text is extremely basic: "Big monster, Little Monster; Hairy Monster, Bald Monster". It could really be about anything if it weren't for the pictures showing the characters going to school.

Emma whizzed through this one with only one trip up on the word "together". I think she could've gotten it on her own except that she got distracted by the colorful, lively pictures.

Having never heard of the movie Monsters University, because I am old and out of it, I looked it up on IMDB, which led me to click on Billy Crystal's page. On actors' IMDB pages they post billboard pictures of the movies that the actor is known for. Crystal is known for When Harry Met Sally, Analyze This, Monsters INC...and Monsters University???? That's ridiculous! What about City Slickers, Soap or even SNL?! What a travesty!

Crayon Craze! (Julius Jr.)Crayon Craze! by Mary Tillworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While everyone else is outside playing, a couple girl animals use a crayon to make most everything in the classroom pink.

And why not? Doesn't everyone love pink? Emma sure does and I think that's why she picked out this book. Heck, even I chuckled as Emma read to me about when Ping the Panda paints Worry Bear's monkey pink, because I am childish and things that make me think of private parts still make me laugh.

Anywhooo, Emma was in for a surprise when at the end of the story all the other animals were NOT super happy about all their things being pink! What to do, what to do?! You'll have to read this enjoyable and quite colorful book yourself to find out!

The Emma-o-meter showed a surprisingly wide range of emotions over Crayon Craze!: fun and happiness, shock and bemusement to name a few.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Word Museum

The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever ForgottenThe Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten by Jeffrey Kacirk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Word Museum is a collection of words that have gone into disuse. Some of these words are absolutely marvellous. Rather than quote the entire book, I've selected a word for each letter of the alphabet.

abracadabrant - marvellous or stunning
barley-child - a child born in wedlock but in the first six months of marriage
chaser - a ram that has only one testicle
deosculation - kssing
extranean - an outsider
flamfoo - a gaudily dressed female
gallywow - a man destitute of power of begetting children
haggersnash - a spiteful person
infradig - below or beneath one's dignity
jannocks - fairness
kiddliwink - a small shop
leachcraft - the art of medicine or surgery
mastigophorer - a fellow worthy of being whipped
nicknackitarian - a dealer of curiosities
ogerhunch - any frightful or loathsome creature
papmeat - milk for babies
quignogs - ridiculous notions or conceits
repurple - to make purple again
sand-knocker - a man who grinds sandstone into grit
teaty-wad - a small portion of moist sugar tied up in a rag of linen of the shape and size of a woman's nipple
umstroke - the edge of a circle
vorago - gulf
walapang - to disguise oneself in order to commit theft
xanthodont - having yellow teeth
yesterfang - that which was taken, captured, or caught on the previous day
zythepsary - a brew house

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