Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

An Accident of StarsAn Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful storytelling, a stunning world and concept, slow tale to start but the intrigue picks up. My issues are few and they are purely my issues. I don't understand all the polyamory stuff, lately everything I read seems to have huge families, but that will not affect your enjoyment of the story.

Thanks to the robot overlords at Angry Robot for the ARC, this is a great introduction into an amazing world, check it out most definitely.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Cornwell Keep Plugging Away With Death

Death of Kings (The Saxon Stories, #6)Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These books make me wanna go http://ledzeppelin.alexreisner.com/so... !!!

In an England ravaged by Danes, as marvelously and meticulously laid out by Bernard Cornwell in his The Last Kingdom series, an English lord with Danish roots finds himself often at odds with which side to side with.

Here in book six Death of Kings, the English king who's ruled since the beginning of the series finally kicks the bucket and now the new kid gets to sit in the big boy chair...and the new kid is shitting his britches. Lord Uhtred to the rescue!

Lots of little armies move about a well-described Medieval English countryside, angling for position and on the verge of attack during a trying time for the country. This is the Danes' big chance to win it all for themselves and our anti-hero Uhtred is tasked with discovering their plans. In true Cornwell style, his main character has as many enemies and ill-wishers in his own camp as he has actual enemies, so it's a struggle at every turn.

I gave it four stars, yet Death of Kings wasn't necessarily better than others in the series. I just liked it better than most, I think, because it's one of the more balanced of Cornwell's books. The typical character problems and actual historical stuff blend well together here. Nice pacing on the action, too. This is a solid bridge to the next book...CHARGE!!!

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Tastier Than Spam-a-lot

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble KnightsThe Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One doesn't associate John Steinbeck with fantasy literature and yet here it is, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck. Go figure!

It's all* here, the rags-to-riches story of how Arthur ascended to the throne, the many deeds of his knights, the magic of Merlin and Morgan Le Fay.


His translation of Thomas Malory's version of the Arthurian legend is almost strangely faithful, seldom veering from that 15th century work in order to modernize the language enough for today's reader. And it is immensely readable! I breezed through from start to finish. Certainly not every story is a winner. Movies, tv series and books often skip a good number of the stories and stick with the most well-known. This gives you the lesser known stuff in full color and it is often beautiful.

However, this faithful translation dismayed and disappointed the publisher, who expected a Steinbeckized version of the Arthurian tales, something more like a Grapes of Wrath-gritty tale of down-and-out knights. Don't you too make that mistake when reading this! Steinbeck was a childhood fan of these stories and with childlike devotion, he captures their essence with a picture-perfect imitation intending to flatter via flattery's sincerest form. Well done and highly worth a read!

* Well, I say "all" but the book is not actually complete. Steinbeck put many years of hard work into this and yet inexplicably didn't finish it.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016


Floodgate: A NovelFloodgate: A Novel by Johnny Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Down and out ex-cop Andy Destra uncovers a decades old conspiracy that will shake Auction City to its core. Who really runs the city and how does it connect to how Andy was booted off the force?

I got this from Netgalley.

New Johnny Shaw books don't fall out of the sky every day and I jumped at this one the instant Shelby tipped me to it being on Netgalley and dropped what I was doing to read it.

However, things were off to a rocky start. I was discouraged for the first 10%. The plot moved slowly and gone was the trademark Johnny Shaw wit. My motivation flagged. My lady friend urged me to continue despite my misgivings, noting that I'm a crabby bastard when I don't get my reading time. As in most things, she was right. I stuck with it and things really took off.

Floodgate is the story of the people behind the curtain, the people that keep Auction City's various factions from killing one another and destroying the city. In a way, Auction City reminds me of a modern version of Deadwood and the people called Floodgate are Al Swearengen.

Andy Destra isn't too far from the usual Johnny Shaw leading man, a guy that many would consider a loser. However, he stands up for what he believes in despite being in way over his head. While I was bored by the book initially, Johnny Shaw really did a hefty amount of world building, with Rocco, The Flood, Kate, and the rest.

One of my favorite lines was "The last time he masturbated, he fantasized about a previous time he masturbated." Pure Shaw.

Anyway, the book was a slower build than Shaw's other work but had a bigger payoff in the form of the orgy of violence that was the last 30% of the book. While I wouldn't recommend this be anyone's first Johnny Shaw, it's a very solid book. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Saying Uncle

Greg F. Gifune
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Andy DeMarco and his little sister Angela worshiped their Uncle Paulie. To them, he was a god, an enigmatic savior, the man who took the place of their absent father, who protected them and their mother, and who taught them about the true nature of life and family.

But one horrible summer day something unspeakable happened to little Angela, and everyone’s world changed forever.

Now, twenty years later, in the middle of a snowstorm, Andy has returned home to bury his uncle, a man with a shady past that ended with a caper gone wrong and a bullet in the back of his head. Only now can Andy begin to understand who his uncle truly was, and in doing so, finally begin to also understand who he is, and who he may still one day become.

Author Greg F. Gifune has crafted a journey of one man’s voyage into the darkness of the past with the pace of a thriller but the poetic and thoughtful writing he has become known and praised for by critics and readers alike. A lyrical, complex and mysteriously enchanting novel that delves deeply into the dark side of family, friendship, love, grief, loyalty, revenge, and ultimately, redemption.

Saying Uncle is a lean but thought-provoking novel about crimes of the past and the scars they leave behind. A study of violence and spirituality, of a family torn apart by a senseless act of brutality and the equally brutal aftermath that haunts them still, Saying Uncle is at once elegant, horrific, emotionally shattering, and sadly beautiful.

My Review

At less than 200 pages, Saying Uncle is a short story and a fast, gripping read. Andy DeMarco is a young man who returns home after many years to bury the uncle who was like a father to him. Uncle Paulie tried to do well by his family, but he was a man with dark secrets.

This is an intense and powerful coming-of-age story that explores family relationships, friendship, grief, loss, and the scars left by a brutal crime that happened in the past. It was dark, violent, heart wrenching and beautiful. It got me angry, moved me to tears, and made me feel like a helpless child all over again. It made me think about the father I hadn't spoken to in over 20 years, the two best friends I lost touch with, and the things I wish I had done and said and didn't. Amazing story! Very deep, emotional, and engaging.

I hate having to return this book to the library. It is one to savor and treasure.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Inhumans: Attilan Rising

Inhumans: Attilan RisingInhumans: Attilan Rising by Charles Soule
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dissension to the point of rebellion is brewing in the Battleworld governed by New Attilan. Doom commands Medusa, Queen of New Attilan, to annihilate the rebellion quickly.

Attilan Rising was an interesting Secret Wars miniseries. It reinvisions many of the Inhumans personalities most notably Black Bolt, who has never gone through terrigenesis instead of being exposed to the terrigen mist in the womb.
Instead of the Inhumans being a fledgling group, they are the power and hands of Doom in that Battleworld.

One oddity in the story is that it's never clearly stated why anyone would want to rebel against Doom. The reasons listed were mild at best. Anyone who read Secret Wars or other Battleworld miniseries would undoubtedly understand why people would rebel against Doom, but little reason is provided in the series.

I enjoyed Attilan Rising overall, but I was disappointed about some of the characters excluded. It features most of the Inhuman Royal Family and most of the NuHumans, but some notable characters are left out such as Maximus and Crystal. Crystal often is excluded so that isn't surprising, but it's rare for Maximus not to make an appearance. It would have been interesting seeing him in a total different way and perhaps working with Black Bolt. I also was disappointed that Inferno, Reader, and Iso weren't featured. Most notably Inferno because he is my favorite NuHuman.

Attilan Rising was a good miniseries that allowed the author to freely mess with establish pieces of the Inhumans story.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of AmericaBeaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America by Jonathan Dixon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”I took another bite, then sawed at the duck, and started getting pissed off.

‘Whoever did this,’ I said, ‘is a jackass.’

‘Yeah,’ Adam said. ‘This is pretty shameful. I can’t eat this.’ He pushed it away.

‘I agree,’ Lombardi said. ‘What would happen if you took it back to the kitchen and told them it sucked? Would they give you another entree or something? Isn’t that actually the responsible thing to do in this case? Shouldn’t they know how bad it is?’


‘And---damn---this duck once walked around. It was happy. It enjoyed itself. And look at it now. This creature truly died in vain. A pointless, useless death.’”

 photo Jonathan Dixon_zpsysxutzjj.jpg
Jonathan Dixon, chef or superspy or both?

I’ve read a decent amount of spy novels in my reading lifetime, so every time the author Jonathan Dixon uses the acronym CIA, my mind instantly translates that as the Central Intelligence Agency. With the recent activity of the Bush Administration, the title Beaten, Seared and Sauced might also have been applied as a normal function of the CIA. Now that I’ve finished this book, and I think of the CIA as the Culinary Institute of America, the next American spy novel I read could be a bit tricky.

There are a couple of points in time, typically, when a young man or woman might feel the need to start applying themselves in a more productive direction. It could be when they are knocking on the door of thirty, or if they are particularly stubborn, it might take until they are approaching forty. Usually, these realizations come when they finally give up the last vestiges of their childhood and find that scraping by, while trying to figure out what they are supposed to do with the rest of their lives, is starting to be embarrassing rather than charming.

Jonathan Dixon is 38 years old when he makes the decision to attend the CIA. He wasn’t confused about the acronym. He really did want to learn to cook, not learn how to infiltrate terrorist organizations in the Middle East. When you are his age and doing an apprenticeship at a restaurant that normally is filled by twenty somethings…,”It’s more physically difficult to stand in one place, immobile, than to keep moving. My back bitched at me, and the bones of my feet murmured obscenities. But the orders started coming steadily at 8:00, first in small bursts announced by the ticket printer in staccato coughs, then in a quick steady stream.”

No rest for the wickedly OLD.

I would think that the first qualification for a student at CIA would be that they love food, but Dixon runs into students who don’t seem to like food at all. One eighteen year old guy will only eat hamburgers for every meal.

”’Do you want to try some of this?’ I pushed a plate at him that had foie gras mousse piped into profiteroles. It had been up for grabs on the buffet table when you walked in the cafeteria door. I was ecstatic when I figured out what it was….

‘No, man. That’s cool. I won’t like it.’

‘Really? How often are you gonna get this? Try it.’ I suddenly felt like my mother.

‘No. I just want the burger. I can’t wait until they teach us to cook these things.’”

Raising my kids, who are certainly not food explorers, and having to deal with their friends having even more reduced palates than my own kids, I’ve reached a point in my life where I refuse to dine with people under 30 unless they can answer a few questions first.

Will you eat…
Brussel sprouts ( Okay, I only use that one if they have already annoyed me.) If they haven’t annoyed me, I’ll ask if they eat green vegetables.

Life is too short to dine with people who truly are incapable of enjoying food.

So if the only food you personally desire is a hamburger, why would you want to be a chef? Simply baffling!

Jonathan Dixon frequently consults his Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which brings back some fond memories for me. When I lived in San Francisco and worked for Green Apple Books, my boss had a standing reservation at the Zuni Cafe. I was fortunate to be invited to dine there several times. This was the only time in my life where I’ve walked by this long line of people outside a restaurant waiting to eat and been whisked immediately to our table with vodka martinis miraculously appearing simultaneously with our arrival.

I like the fact that the teachers at the CIA are so intent on nothing being wasted. This is to help future employers of these students, because waste is lost revenue. Also, this philosophy reflects a respect for nature, whether it is an animal or a plant that gives up its life to become food. The teachers are not created equal, of course, and each one has his own style which is a reflection of his personality. One teacher in particular achieves that allusive combination of being tough and, yet, inspirational.

”’I’ve gotta say, that he is one of the best educators I’ve ever encountered. Hands down. It isn’t that you’re going to remember every single thing he said or be an expert at cutting up fish after seven days. But come on, didn’t you find yourself studying really hard?’

‘Shit, yeah.’

‘Okay, that’s the mark---that guy made you and me want to be like him. Not be him, but be like him---know as much you can, to be really good. We wanted to measure up. That’s being a really good teacher.’”

The best way to learn anything is through repetition, but given the scope of what needs to be covered in the short amount of time with each course, repetition is impossible. For instance, deboning a roast...Dixon butchers his poor roast in the one time he is allowed to try. It is not pretty.

On to the next thing.

An instructor shows him how to perfectly cube his potatoes, which is harder than it sounds. It involves standing at the right angle and holding your knife at the right angle. Dixon can’t go out and buy a bunch of roasts to practice deboning, but he can buy a 50 pound bag of potatoes and practice his cubing...outside of class.

I do have to applaud Jonathan for making the decision to go back to school and start a new career at 38. It is not easy. Money is a looming concern that adds stress to an already stressful school schedule. He makes some extra money freelance writing. At one point he takes a semester off from school to accept a writing project that will keep him afloat for a while longer. He does what he needs to do to keep his dream of graduating alive. I picked up this book remembering fondly reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and nobody tells cooking stories like Bourdain, but the truthfulness and the accessibility of Dixon’s strife and ultimate triumph are...inspirational.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ninefox Gambit By: Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire, #1)Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You ever wonder what would happen if Hannu Rajaniemi wrote a warhammer novel? (me either) BUT!!! it would probably be kind of similar to Ninefox Gambit. Brutal, dense, weird, just seriously intense military scifi opera.

I loved it, hit all my buttons and then beat them over and over and over and OOOOOOOOVERRRR.

buy this book when it comes out, then harass the author to write more.

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Digging up Mother (A Love Story) By: Doug Stanhope

Digging Up Mother: A Love StoryDigging Up Mother: A Love Story by Doug Stanhope
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a heart wrenching love story, A fractured, twisted genius of a man and his mother, who is just as messed up as he is.

If you aren't a fan of Stanhope, you are missing something...this won't make you like him, he's hard to deal with. But that's part of it, his ability to tell a story and his honesty sets him apart from the crowd, and honestly...aren't you tired of the crowd?

This is filthy, depraved, disturbing and all around jacked up, and it's one of the most human things I have read this year.

Give Stanhope your money, he needs cigarettes.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Carlin In His Own Words

Last WordsLast Words by George Carlin
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last Words...an apt title for an autobiography penned at the time of the author's death.

I wasn't sure I wanted to read a retrospective of a dead comedian's life. I've done it before and it can be depressing. Plus, I love George Carlin in a way. I mean, I was a fan back in the 80s/early 90s, but I haven't followed his career since. What interest would I have in the life of a man I hardly know? I thought about it, realized I was talking about one of the great comedians of our time, spanning generations, and decided I really ought to know more about the man. Who better to hear about him, but from himself?

As always when reading books by comedians, I suggest going with audiobooks, especially when they're read by the author/comedian themselves. Books by Tina Fey, David Sedaris, and Amy Poehler are all recent reads of mine that attest to the value of that wisdom. There's nothing like hear the intonation, the inflection, the rhythm of the words as they were intended. In the case of Last Words that was going to be a problem, as Carlin died before he finished it. Luckily George has a brother, Patrick, who narrated this book with his magically "Carlin" voice so very similar to George's that after a couple hours of listening I forgot it wasn't George speaking.


Ghost-written with friend Tony Hendra, who said in an included interview with Carlin's daughter that the experience was more like writing with a ghost, Last Words lays out Carlin's entire life in a very satisfying, linear timeline, touching on all the important personal events, as well as the history moments, that molded him.

His Irish-Catholic upbringing, childhood joys, and growing up with an alcoholic, abusive and estranged father kick it all off at the perfect pace and just the right amount of "sharing"...after all, don't we read these books with some amount of snoopy curiosity? Of course we do.

Carlin was never what you'd call "straight laced", but he did spend time in the military and started out with somewhat of a right-wing, conservative mind. He takes us through the relationships and times that changed this young, self-admittedly ignorant person into the radical comic of the '70s.

As the times changed, so too did the thinking of what already would've been considered a very successful comedian. He could've rested on his laurels, but he pushed on, reinventing himself, while somehow doing that most uncommon of things, becoming more true to himself and his ideals. It's an incredible transformation and one quite worth reading about.

All of Last Words is quite worth reading. I highly recommend you let Patrick take you through the raucous life of his beloved brother George.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Silver Surfer, Vol. 2: Worlds Apart

Silver Surfer, Vol. 2: Worlds ApartSilver Surfer, Vol. 2: Worlds Apart by Dan Slott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Silver Surfer and Earth girl Dawn Greenwood soar the spaceways, encountering Planet Prime, space hillbillies, and the graveyard of worlds. What will the Surfer do when Dawn finds out about his past with Galactus, with a hungry Galactus on the prowl?

The Doctor Who-flavored adventures of The Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood continue. The Surfer takes Dawn out for the greatest ice cream in the universe, reminisces about instances when he had to save Dawn from peril, and accidentally leads Galactus to a planet full of the survivors of worlds he lead the planet devourer to during his centuries of servitude.

It's not as dire as it sounds, though. It's actually pretty funny at times and has some charming moments. Allred and Slott did a good job conveying the emotion when Dawn found out about the Surfer's past and his role in Galactus consuming trillions of innocent lives. The ending was pretty great and left me chomping at the bit for the next volume. I'm eager to see where Slott and Allred take the Surfer and Dawn from here.

Any gripes? Not a damn one unless a craving for more Silver Surfer the way Galactus craves planets is a gripe. Dan Slott and Michael Allred continue to make the Silver Surfer a character I'm dying to read more about. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Puppet Boy

Christian Baines
Bold Strokes Books
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


A school in turmoil over its senior play, a sly career as a teenage gigolo, an unpredictable girlfriend with damage of her own, and a dangerous housebreaker tied up downstairs. Any of these would make a great plot for budding filmmaker Eric's first movie. Unfortunately, they're his real life. When Julien, a handsome wannabe actor, transfers to Eric's class, he's a distraction, a rival, and one complication too many. Yet Eric can't stop thinking about him. Helped by Eric's girlfriend, Mary, they embark on a project that dangerously crosses the line between filmmaking and reality. As the boys become close, Eric soon wants to cross other lines entirely. Does Julien feel the same way, or is Eric being used on the gleefully twisted path to fame?

My Review

Right from the start, I was gripped by this story. 18-year-old Eric’s mom has a busy career, leaving him alone for months at a time. All this freedom enables him to straddle multiple worlds – as a student producing one of Shakespeare’s more controversial plays, a boy toy to Margaret, an older female client, and as mate to Julien and Mary. Oh, and let’s not forget about the complicated relationship Eric has with the burglar tied up in his house and that godawful MP3 he keeps playing.

So even though there’s not a single likable character in this story, Eric’s conflicts, craziness and unpredictability kept me entirely enthralled, making me laugh, hold my breath, and shake my head in disbelief. I liked that Eric’s bisexuality is understated, yet unrepentant. I also appreciated the stellar writing which easily elevates this book into the literary realm.

This is the type of book best read without knowing any specifics, so I’m not going to spoil it for you. Just know that you’ll laugh your head off, be horrified, and question your sanity…or Eric’s.

A total mindfuck and one of the more creative books I’ve read in a while.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Squadron Sinister: Warzones

Squadron Sinister: WarzonesSquadron Sinister: Warzones by Marc Guggenheim
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Squadron Sinister is a powerful group of individuals that are conquering all corners of the Utopolis Battleworld by force.
Surprisingly the biggest threat to their power is each other.

From time to time I have wondered how Marvel or DC could get away with characters who are clearly copied from one another. Squadron Sinister is quite likely the most blatant copying I've ever seen. They are very clearly copied off of the Justice League.
What surprised me is that I actually really liked these evil jerks. It was always very easy for me to envision the main characters in the Justice League as villains and the Squadron really embodies the League's potential darkness.

I really enjoyed the volume until the end. The story unfortunately didn't get what I would deem a proper ending and instead it somewhat abruptly had a Secret Wars ending. I realize there was a loose thread to be tied up, but it really wasn't a satisfying conclusion.

The Squadron Sinister has me interested in learning more about their past and future as The Squadron Supreme.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016


The Vanishing Velázquez: A 19th Century Bookseller’s Obsession with a Lost MasterpieceThe Vanishing Velázquez: A 19th Century Bookseller’s Obsession with a Lost Masterpiece by Laura Cumming
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”They were like guests at a surprise party waiting for your arrival and now you have entered the room---their room, not the real one around you---or so it mysteriously seems. The whole scene twinkles with expectation. That is the first sensation on the threshold of the gallery in the Prado where Las Meninas hangs: that you have walked into their world and become suddenly as present to them as they are to you.

And what keeps them here, what keeps them alive, or so the artist implies, is not just the painting but you.”

 photo Las-Meninas--009_zps7hic0vvs.jpg

It has been twenty plus years since I was last in the Prado, but I do still remember this painting. It wasn’t a scene that would usually be of much interest to me. At first glance, there is nothing really going on in this painting, barring a princess getting ready for a ball or a dinner party or to meet some dignitaries from another court from another country. It would be easy to pass it by, except for the scale of the painting. It is huge. Instead of scurrying on past, I suddenly found myself trapped under the gaze of the painting. These people, all long dead but very much alive, are looking at me as if I just interrupted their activities by walking in the room. These sensations I felt that day all come back to me when I read Laura Cumming’s description above.

I, without intention, have fallen into 1656. Of course, in real life we can’t stare at people like I stared at the people in this painting. I think that at any second the little girl would lift a hand to her face and giggle, or Velazquez himself would raise an eyebrow at my imprudence. They are so guileless and welcoming. Velazquez has immortalized all these people from the dwarfs to the ladies in waiting, from the artist to the king and queen reflected in the mirror, as if everyone in this painting were, at least in paint, equal.

For Velazquez everyone is unique, and by him showing us their remarkableness, they become indispensible to the rest of us.

”He finds a Venus and a Mars in the humble people around him, sees a king as compellingly ordinary and is able to make an old man selling water seem like an ancient prophet. There is an extraordinary equality to his empathetic gaze.”

 photo Velaacutezquez_ndash_Bufoacuten_don_Sebastiaacuten_de_Morra_Museo_del_Prado_c._1645_zpsz9qnhwow.jpg

If Velazquez had only painted Las Meninas, he would have been immortal, but luckily for the rest of us, he shared his gift in a number of paintings, not enough, mainly because he became so successful in the court of Philip IV that his duties to the king, beyond just painting portraits, were taken up with tasks that would have been better left to others.

The story may have begun in the 17th century, but the second act happened in the 19th century when a bookseller by the name of John Snare bought a painting at a liquidation sale. Take it from me, booksellers are always trouble, and Snare was no exception.

Now just being in the book business, we can assume that Snare was “gently mad.” There is something about art, books, and race horses that take the gently mad to the certifiably insane. This painting, luminescent beneath the grime of dust and smoke, is of the Prince of Wales, the future Charles the first, significant in the fact that he is young, but sports the beard he grew while he was petitioning Philip IV for an alliance with his daughter.

In 1649, Charles is overthrown by Oliver Cromwell and his supporters and very publically beheaded. He wore two shirts to the execution so that a morning chill would not be misinterpreted as a shiver of fear. He put his head on the block and signaled the executioner he was ready by spreading out his arms. Regardless of whether history sees him as a good king or a terrible one, his courage in his last moments was incontestable.

Could the painting be the long lost Velazquez portrait? It could be a Van Dyck, who painted Charles many times. There is something though about the eyes and the deftness of the brush that convinces Snare that it must be Velazquez. He sets out to prove it. Laura Cumming found herself consulting the same exact sources that Snare did almost a hundred and seventy years earlier.

He displays it and makes some money off people coming to see this painting by a Spanish painter rarely seen in England. Snare has a lien that doesn’t exist slapped against the painting by unscrupulous people in an attempt to steal and sell the painting before the court system can prevail. He survived that near parting with his precious; and yes, there is a bit of Gollum in Snare. He is later sued by an estate believing that the painting was stolen from a private collection. He goes bankrupt defending his right to own the painting, but even though he wins the court case, he leaves for America.

He doesn’t run away, like a normal man, with a young doxy. He runs away with a painting.

Snare leaves a wife and children. One child is born after he leaves. His paterfamilia responsibilities are superseded by his responsibility to art.

He could have sold the painting for a handsome sum and avoided bankruptcy. I can imagine he considered it, but who he is, by this time, is so defined by being the owner of this “Velazquez” that he can’t give it up. It would be like selling Secretariat or selling a building with your name on it or selling a Gutenberg Bible. You know that by selling something that precious that you will never be able to own it again.

Cumming not only expanded my knowledge of Velazquez exponentially, but also introduced me to a 19th century, mad as a hatter version of myself whom I understood completely. I knew that Velazquez was an important painter. I learned that at the Prado, when I laid my eyes on Las Meninas, the people of the Spanish court laid their eyes on me. He was such a humanist. He depicted dwarfs and poor people and famous people and royalty with the same deft brush strokes. He held no one up for ridicule, but showed each of his subject with the power of their uniqueness, evident for all to see.

He was a maestro.

”Even now one wonders how he could know where to place that speck of white that ignites a string of flashing glints across pale silk, how to convey the stiff transparency of gauze with a single dab of blue on grey, how to paint eyes that see us, but are themselves indecipherable. How could he lay paint on canvas so that it is as impalpable as breath, or create a haze that seems to emit from a painting like scent, or place a single dab of red on the side of a head so that it perfectly reads as an ear?”

 photo thewater-sellerofsevillebydiegovelazquez_zpsomhg5gnl.jpg
Velazquez sold this painting of The Water-seller, but then when he had the chance, he bought it back and kept it for the rest of his life.

It would have made everything so much easier if Velazquez had signed all of his paintings, but then the more that I get to know the man, the more I realize that he was saying something by not signing them. He was but an instrument of his talent. His paintings belonged to the world.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Too Like the Lightning by: Ada Palmer

Too Like the LightningToo Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Incredibly deep and thought provoking debut by Ms. Palmer. I am not a guy who is deep into the philosophical things of life, but Ada Palmer has created an incredible story that makes you think. Thinking is way more rare in fiction nowadays that it used to be.

I will have to read this book again, its very similar in tone to the Thessaly series by Jo Walton. It sort of feels like science fiction should be more like this, strange and worms its way into your brain and changes you from the inside out.

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Queen of Thorns (Pathfinder Tales) By: Dave Gross

Queen of Thorns (Pathfinder Tales)Queen of Thorns by Dave Gross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the third of the Pathfinder stash I got cheap and my favorite. The characters Jeggare and Radovan are two of my favorite in recent memory. Great story, interesting mystery and ton of fun, HOWEVER, I didn't know this is not the first installment of their adventures soooooooooo if you want to test these waters, you need Prince of Wolves and Master of Devils too.

So far, I have been super pleased with my sojourn into the Pathfinder universe, they are nothing groundbreaking, but they are solid, well done, totally fun fantasy books. Give them a try.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Another Good One From Lehane

Moonlight Mile (Kenzie & Gennaro,#6)Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lehane, that guy can write!

I'm climbing on to the Dennis Lehane bandwagon really late, but I am fully on board! Even though Moonlight Mile wasn't ragingly exciting, it's so well-crafted I couldn't put down this story of a Boston-area private detective who gets into new trouble because of an old case.

This PI's career is coming to an end, but he doesn't know it yet. Russians, wunderkind and drug freaks all get the poor, aging family man deeper into the shit than he realizes he's about to fall into.

Just like me! I didn't know I was getting into a series and that it was the last book! It wasn't a problem. I could tell these were people with a past, but I was never overwhelmed by my ignorance. This is the second jump-into-the-middle-of-a-Lehane-series I've done and in both cases the author does a fine job of giving enough detail to keep the reader abreast of the haps. In other words, the books are self-contained.

I could see others giving this perhaps only 3 stars. It does drag with the chit chat here and there. I don't know, perhaps I've given this an extra star because it artificially kept my interest at times due to the setting being New England-based, which is where I grew up. Name-place dropping happens often in Moonlight Mile and that didn't bother me none!

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Drive-In

The Drive-InThe Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jack and his friends live for one thing: the Friday all night horror show at the Orbit Drive-In. When a comet with an eye visits, the drive-in is cut off from the rest of the world and things quickly degenerate to a no-man's land of cannibals...

Confession time: I read this way back in the Stone Age, pre-Goodreads and early in my Lansdale love affair. When I saw how cheap the trilogy was on the Kindle, I figured it was time for a reread.

The Drive-In is Bizarro fiction from back before such fiction had a name. Jack, Bob, Willard, and Randy are horror nuts who have the misfortune of being trapped at the Orbit when the shit goes down. Imagine being in eternal darkness with the only light coming from the drive-in screens and the only food coming from the concession stand. It's not hard to see how things degenerated, is it?

The Drive-In is a really fun book, full of gore, weirdness, and laughs. While it's an early Lansdale and not as slick as his later work, the beer and tailgate style is still there. Since it had been over a decade since I read it, it was pretty much a new book. Ah, the magic of getting older.

It's a pretty short tale, but like a good punk rock song, it's as long as it needs to be. When you have cannibals, motorcycle gangs, and crazy religious nuts, all trapped in the confines of a Drive-In parking lot, how long can you expect people to survive anyway? The Popcorn King was pretty damn creepy and I liked how Lansdale explained his origin, making it make logical sense, to a degree.

The Drive-In was a lot of gorey good fun packed into a pretty slim book. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, May 13, 2016


J.F. Gonzalez
Dorchester Publishing
Reviewed by Nancy
2 out of 5 stars


It was supposed to have been a romantic weekend getaway. Lisa was looking forward to spending time alone with her husband, and telling him that they were going to have a baby.

Instead, it became a nightmare when her husband was arrested and Lisa was kidnapped. But the kidnappers aren't asking for ransom. They want Lisa herself. They're going to make her a star . . . in a snuff film.

My Review

Survivor is sick, twisted, and very, very disturbing. I briefly considered abandoning it in frustration after Lisa did what she had to do to get out of her situation. Then I realized I had to finish to see if Tim, Animal and the other depraved monsters got their due. I'm relieved it is finally done and the book safely out of my house.

I honestly don't know what possessed me to buy this. I like well written horror stories and don't mind some violence and gore, but Survivor wasn't particularly well written and the excessive violence and brutality made me feel dirty for reading it.

Two stars because I got sucked in and managed to finish it.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Bat Masterson: The Man and the LegendBat Masterson: The Man and the Legend by Robert K. Dearment
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”Josephine Earp recalled Bat’s dropping in on them at their home in San Diego about 1885. He was on his way to Ensenada, Mexico, to pick up an army deserter who was reputed to be a tough hombre. Bat asked Wyatt to accompany him. ‘That made sense to Wyatt,’ wrote Josephine. ‘This careful approach, so characteristic of both these men, may account for their survival to a ripe old age despite years in a dangerous business that claimed the lives of many. Neither of them took unnecessary chances.’”

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The always Dapper Bat Masterson.

Bartholomew Masterson was the name he was born with. His family called him Bart, which eventually evolved into Bat. There are several stories about how he came to be called Bat, but the most pedestrian story is the one that is true. The Penny Dreadfuls liked the idea that he got that nickname by batting desperadoes over the head with his cane. He didn’t like his given name, Bartholomew, and renamed himself William Barclay. This name ended up on his tombstone, but of course, everyone called him Bat.

The West is filled with stories of brothers standing by brothers, but I don’t think there are any more compelling stories about siblings than those about the Earps and the Mastersons. Growing up in Kansas, I enjoyed hearing lurid stories about these famous brothers. I was an avid reader of True West Magazine. The articles regarding the Earps or the Mastersons were the ones I kept to read again and again. I inhaled books about them. I filled my head with all kinds of facts and fictions about them. The truth is not easy to sort out because Tall Tales were as much a part of the West as were whiskey, doxies, and six shooters.

What Robert K. DeArment set out to do was write the definitive biography of Bat Masterson. Of course, to do so is the same as telling the history of the West. He recently wrote a second biography of Bat called Gunfighter in Gotham which I’m so glad he did because the time that Bat spends in New York is certainly worthy of special attention.

Bat was born in Quebec, but his family homesteaded in New York, Illinois, and finally in Wichita, Kansas. It is interesting to think about who Bat Masterson would have been if his father hadn’t moved to the state that gave Bat such a great opportunity to become a legend. Would he have still come West? I’m sure he would have. The West was too alluring for young men in this time period, especially infinitely curious men like the Masterson brothers. Would he have landed in Dodge City? Who can say?

Bat started out as a Buffalo hunter. He did his part, practically government sponsored, to eradicate the main source of food of the American Indian from the face of North America. He also graded the way for railroad tracks and was not paid for that work. This is the first opportunity where we see what kind of man he was before he was even really a man. A friend described him thus: ”He was a chunk of steel and anything that struck him in those days always drew fire.” To illustrate, Raymond Ritter was rumored to be arriving on the train in Dodge City with a roll of cash. He still owed Bat $300. Bat went to meet the train and drew a crowd as he went. He held a pistol on Ritter and demanded his pay. He got his money and came off the train to the cheers of the crowd. He bought a round of drinks for everyone.

Now what is most interesting about this incident is Bat Masterson was 19 years old.

Bat Masterson acquired the reputation for being a killer, but the reality was far removed from what people had been led to believe. One of his friends, who had been drinking, had some fun with a newspaper reporter from back East and spun him a story about the then 27 year old Masterson having killed 26 men. This story stuck, and over the years Masterson did little to dispel that lie, nor did he ever confirm it. It did make men careful around him.

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The Original Long Branch Saloon, unfortunately long gone. Those walls could tell stories.

In actuality, he thought he’d killed three men, but on one of those he was misinformed. The one man we know for sure was killed by Bat was Sergeant Melvin K. King.

It was over a girl.

Mollie Brennan was coveted by King, but at least on the night of January 24th, 1876, she preferred the company of the rather dashing and handsome Bat Masterson. It happened in Sweetwater, Texas, after hours in the dancehall, The Lady Gay. Bat knew the owner and had acquired a key so he could spend some time alone with Miss Brennan.

”When King pounded at the door, Bat, thinking that some friend who knew he was there wanted a nightcap, unlocked the door and stepped back. King sprang inside, cursing and brandishing his six-shooter. Mollie, shrieking at King, jumped in front of Bat, but the sergeant, insane with rage, jealousy, and bad liquor, opened fire. A bullet tore through Mollie’s abdomen, struck Bat, and lodged in his pelvis. The girl sank to the floor with a groan and Bat staggered backward. His legs turning to jelly under him, half-blinded with shock and pain, he managed to draw his gun and fire once. His bullet hit King squarely in the heart, killing him instantly.”

 photo Mollie20Brennan_zps3j1z7tz1.jpg

When his older brother, Edward, was shot down in the streets of Dodge City in 1878 by Jack Wagner and his trail boss Alf Walker, Bat opened fire from across the street and believed that one of his bullets killed Wagner. He even testified to the fact in the hearing, but my feeling is that it was Ed’s bullet that killed Wagner.

The other man that Bat thought he killed was James Kenedy. A posse had been formed to chase Kenedy after he killed the actress Dora Hand, who happened to be in the bed of the man he had intended to kill. Once they caught up with Kenedy, Bat shot him in the shoulder. He was later informed that Kenedy died from the wound, but Kenedy it turns out died from other causes. Mainly from being an idiot.

Masterson might have killed, but he certainly wasn’t a killer. . Considering how much time he spent wearing a badge in more than one state and in numerous cities, I would say that he was judicious in his need to terminate men from breathing.

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Dubbed the Dodge City Peace Commission when they arrived to help Luke Short sort out his difficulties with the powers-that-were in Dodge at the time. These were, without a doubt, the toughest hombres ever assembled.

He loved to gamble and seemed to be pretty good at it. He loved to dress well, and the ladies seemed to like him. He was loyal to his friends. He bailed out Doc Holliday from a very serious extradition order back to Arizona by trumping up some charges to keep him in Colorado because Wyatt asked Bat to help. Bat didn’t even like the acerbic Holliday. He came running whenever his younger brother Jim was in trouble. He dropped everything to come back to Dodge City to help his friend Luke Short with some difficulties. He brought some friends by the name of Wyatt Earp, Charlie Bassett, and several other famous gunfighters, as well. Thank goodness they took a photograph while all of them were together. Needless to say, the difficulties his friends encountered were quickly settled once Bat showed up.

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Still dapper as the Gotham Gunfighter.

As he got older, he exchanged his six-shooters for the power of the pen. He started a political newspaper in Dodge City called Vox Populi to write articles to destroy his political opposition. He only needed to release one scorching issue, and all of his party swept to victory at the polls. This made a lasting impression on Bat, and when he moved to New York, he became a full time newspaper reporter. He loved prize fighting and attended every major fight held in North America while he was alive. He wrote about the sport, and when he spotted something fishy, he called the fighters on the carpet.

He died at his desk at work, writing what turned out to be his last column. ”Things had broken pretty well for him in ‘this old dump of a world of ours,’ and he had departed the same way so many of his friends had died; fast, with his boots on, and with his chosen weapon in his hand.”

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Certainly, there is no one more famous in the West than Wyatt Earp. He was a good self-promoter, and newspapers were always hungry for his stories. Doc Holliday, probably riding on the coattails of his friend Wyatt and helped by some wonderful depictions of his character by the actors Val Kilmer and Dennis Quaid, is probably the second most famous personage from the history of the West. Debates would range after that, but for me there is no doubt that Bat Masterson should be at the top of the rest of the list. There was a lot to admire about him. His loyalty, not only to his brothers, but to his friends as well. His honesty. His toughness and grit. His willingness to be more than just a famous gunfighter and embrace the change of a new century. There are statues in Dodge City to Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, but I’ve heard rumors that Bat Masterson will be the next statue erected to commemorate those days when there wasn’t a rougher, tougher town in the world than Dodge City.

I want to thank Robert K. DeArment for sifting facts from the Tall Tales. It was a difficult task given that Bat and Wyatt, in some cases, did very little to confirm or deny certain stories. I’m sure they both had many chuckles over the whoppers that circulated about them. The great thing is the truth about their lives is just as compelling. I’ve only touched on a few of the points about Masterson that I found most interesting. This book is filled with a multitude of tense scenes, involving gunplay, women, drinking, boxing, and politics. When you reach the end, you will realize that, even though Bat put himself in many dangerous situation, they were always based on careful calculations. He always shaved the odds in his favor, whether it was in a gunfight or at the card table.

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Naruto 72: Uzumaki Naruto!

Naruto, Vol. 72: Uzumaki Naruto!! (Naruto, #72)Naruto, Vol. 72: Uzumaki Naruto!! by Masashi Kishimoto
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series and book spoilers ahead. You've just been warned

So I love Naruto. I love the series, I love the character, and I've loved the video games (I played and owned many of them over the years.) I never wrote reviews for the majority of the series and the idea of writing 72 reviews seems daunting. So instead I wrote a review for book one and now I'm writing a review/ode to the series for book 72.


I've read Naruto from the beginning, the start of Team 7, the fight with Zabuza and Haku, the Chunnin Exams, and the multitude of other amazing moments. I loved it the teams, Konoha, the jutsu I still would've love to see someone call out the wrong jutsu on purpose to surprise the enemy, and the world from the start.

I was there for the rasengans...




...and yes there were a lot.

I loved the techniques like Sage Mode, Tailed Beast Mode, and the Eight Gates. Sage Mode is still my favorite.


I watched Naruto grow from a goofy kid with pervy jutsu to the savior of the shinobi world and I loved every bit of it.


If Kishimoto ever decides to make another full series on the world of Naruto then I'll absolutely read it. So farewell Naruto, it's been a wild ride.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hex by: Thomas Olde Heuvelt

HEXHEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not huge on horror novels or novellas, the former because I just am not a fan of the genre and the later due to me reading really fast and not wanting to spend cash on something that I will read in a day. That being said, this year I have read more horror and more novellas than I have ever since probably high school, and I am an old, old, ancient man.

Hex....freaked me the hell out, I am probably off horror for the rest of this year. It is an exceptionally well written book in my opinion, and it is not a in your face horror tale, but it sneaks around you and scares you from multiple angles and makes you cringe and cry like the little bitch you are. (I'm not scared..honest)

If you like horror, you'll eat this up and I have no problem recommending it, me? I am off horror for a while (I'm notttttttt fucking scared!) whimper..

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Nightglass (Pathfinder Tales) by: Liane Mercel

Nightglass (Pathfinder Tales)Nightglass by Liane Merciel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a weird cat, I am one of these dudes who although I have never played a game of Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, etc and so on, I totally would sit down and read the guides to the games. The worlds interest me to no end, the background, characters and lore I eat with a spoon even if I never touch the games.

A few weeks ago, I got the pathfinder adventure game app for my tablet, and lo and behold, that got me into the game and I stumbled upon at the local thrift store a series of the Pathfinder tales books, this being the first one I read.

I was impressed, it wasn't just a super tale, but it was solid, kind of dark, fun, well told fantasy. The main character I liked, sort of a good guy molded in a bad place. Even though I could tell where the tale was going for the most part, I did NOT mind the ride.

So, I have read three of my stash so far, and if you ever feel the desire to read some solid fantasy, Nightglass and Nightblade (basically the next book with the main character) is a good time.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

No Hearts Warmed Here

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas TerrorThe Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Kitchen sink wackiness and a troop of tropes parade through a book not half as hilarious as I hoped.

In a barely fictional California coastal town - that's about two hours from where I live and, to the writer's credit, I feel pretty sure I've been there - the locals of a sleepy tourist town prepare for Christmas. A handful of middle-aged divorcees, lonesome loners, curmudgeons, and crazies bitch and bumble their way through a hair-(and more)-raising couple days. A celestial visitor scares the bejesus out of the local constable, who's got his hands full sorting out a town's worth of mischief and mayhem.

Do all of Christopher Moore's books include angels and a undercurrent of Christianity? I've only read two Moores so far, but I'm two for two on the jesus and god shit. I should probably look for titles without "gospel" and "angel" in them.

This isn't as funny as I'd hoped. In fact, neither of his books lived up to the hype I built up after reading a few reviews. I got a snort or two out of The Stupidest Angel, but generally I find his humor to be dated and easy, as in, he goes for the easy gag. There were a few insightful satirical jabs, but not enough to make me feel it was worth the read.

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