Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Two-Bear Mambo

The Two-Bear Mambo (Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, #3)The Two-Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hap's ex-girlfirend Florida disappears while investigating the murder of blues musician's son. Hap and Leonard, on behalf of Marvin Hanson, go Grovetown, a racist hive of scum and villainy, to investigate. Will they find Florida and bring her back?

2016 Reread:
My quest to reread all of the Hap and Leonard books before the TV series drops so I can lord it over everyone else continues. In this, the third Hap and Leonard book, the boys go looking for Florida, Hap's ex and the current girlfriend of Marvin Hanson, their detective friend. Florida went to the most racist town in Texas investigating a jailhouse suicide that may have been murder and wound up missing.

The boys don't actually do a whole lot of detective work in this one. They mostly crack wise and get their asses handed to them. I'd forgotten the beatings Hap and Leonard take in earlier books.

Grovetown seems like a horrible place, backward and racist, but all too plausible. Lansdale peoples it with interesting characters, most of them with hidden depths. Since it's been at least a decade since I read this the first time, I'd forgotten most of the wrinkles of the plot and was pretty surprised by the ending.

The Lansdale wit is in full effect in this one. Even after reading mostly Lansdale in recent days, I still find myself surprised at his skill with colorful similes, like Raymond Chandler drenched in Miller High Life.

While it wasn't my favorite Lansdale book, The Two-Bear Mambo was still a very solid read, even the second time. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 29, 2016

Dirty Old Boston

Jim Botticelli
Union Park Press
4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Nancy


When Jim Botticelli launched the Dirty Old Boston Facebook page as a salute to the gritty city he once knew, he discovered that thousands of people were equally nostalgic and curious about Boston s recent past. And for good reason; after World War II, Boston changed rapidly, without apology, for better and worse, and in many ways forever. Dirty Old Boston chronicles the people, streets, and buildings from the postwar years to 1987. From ball games to dive bars, Dirty Old Boston also covers some of the city's most tumultuous events including the razing of neighborhoods, Boston s busing crisis, and the continual fight for affordable housing. Photographs assembled from family albums, student projects, institutional archives, and professional collections reveal Boston as seen from the streets. Illuminating Boston's tenacity and spirit, Dirty Old Boston presents proud moments and growing pains. Raw and beautiful, this book is an evocative tribute to the city and its people.

My Review

I saw this book on display in the Kenmore Square Barnes & Noble while walking to work in the morning. Once I got to the office, I requested a copy from the library.

I was unaware the author created the Dirty Old Boston Facebook page. I’m not on Facebook, but if you are, it’s definitely worth a visit.

This is a gorgeous collection of color and black and white photos from the 1940s through the 1980s that vividly portrays the transformation of the city of Boston. I didn’t grow up in the city, but have visited quite a bit in the mid-1980s through the 1990s. Now that I work in Boston, it was fun looking at the dramatic changes that occurred in many of the city’s neighborhoods and suburbs. Some of those neighborhoods, like Scollay Square, are no longer there, while others are almost unrecognizable. I also enjoyed the changes in cars, clothing and hairstyles over the years.

In many ways, I like Boston now much better than I did in past years. It’s cleaner, safer, and more diverse. The downside of course, is that the city lost a lot of its grittiness and character. All those grungy nightclubs and music venues with the sticky floors were replaced with hotels, upscale restaurants and bars, and overpriced shops. It made me sad seeing all those photos of neighborhoods demolished to make room for roads, buildings, and businesses. It must have been a terrible time for the families who were displaced.

I’d love to live in one of those luxury high-rises overlooking the Charles River and within walking distance from public transportation, or one of the quaint neighborhoods in the South End, but, sadly, the city is way out of my price range.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Uncanny X-Men: Superior Vol. 1: Survival of the Fittest

Uncanny X-Men: Superior Vol. 1: Survival of the FittestUncanny X-Men: Superior Vol. 1: Survival of the Fittest by Cullen Bunn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just as life appeared to be turning back to normal for mutants, the terrigen mist cloud was released. The terrigen mist cloud transforms Inhuman descendants, but it makes mutants sick.
Subsequently many mutants have gone to great lengths to hide from the cloud.
Making matters worse the Dark Riders are seeking mutant healers for execution.
The mutant healers and all mutant kind have an unlikely defender, Magneto and his mutant team.

I picked up Uncanny X-Men out of curiosity. The lineup of Magento, Psylocke, Archangel, Sabertooth, and Monet seemed an odd group, but sometimes odd is good. This is definitely one of those cases. Seeing Magneto and Sabertooth actually doing the right thing was a fun change. This more brutal team of mutants are quite the interesting bunch. This team is one that prefers dealing with an enemy once.

I can't fully explain why I've enjoyed the Uncanny X-Men so much, but this title is my favorite X-Men title of the three current titles (Extraordinary X-Men and All-New X-Men being the other too). I look forward to seeing what Magneto's mutants will do next to defend mutantkind.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


The CeremoniesThe Ceremonies by T.E.D. Klein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

”The tree was dead. But crouched amid its branches, hidden by a web of smoke still rising from the earth, something lived: something older far than humankind, and darker than some vast and sunless cavern on a world beyond the farthest depths of space. Something that breathed, schemed, felt itself dying and dying, lived on.

It was outside nature, and alone. It had no name. High above the smoking ground it waited, black against the blackness of the tree.

It’s time would come.”

It is always so helpful when evil is ugly, dark, demented, scarred, or deformed. If we feel revulsion, we can side step our way to the other side of the street until we have safely passed it by. If we hear grotesque evil of some such knocking at our door, we can look through the peephole and go, “Hell no, I’m not opening that portal.” But of course, evil knows that presenting itself with horns, forked tail, and cloven hooves is not going to seduce many souls to the dark side. Wouldn’t it be better if it had the face of a child, or was a beautiful woman, or a charming, handsome gentleman, or maybe….

”It has long been my conviction that, were an absolute and unremitting Evil to find embodiment in human form, it would manifest itself not as some hideous ogre or black-caped apparition with glowing eyes, but rather as an ordinary-looking mortal of harmless, even kindly mien---a middle-aged matron, perhaps, or a schoolboy...or a little old man.”
---Nicolas Keize, Beneath the Moss (1892)

Rosie is the man behind the scenes, shuffling the cards, pulling the strings, and manipulating events. He is about as harmless looking as a human being can be. ”For all his paunch and double chin he looked surprisingly frail up close, and a good deal older than she’d at first supposed, perhaps well along in his seventies. He was no taller than she was, with plump little hands, plump little lips, and soft pink skin with little trace of hair. He reminded her of a freshly powdered baby.”

Although I will say that whenever I have shaken hands with someone with plump little hands, their flesh always seems to pillow around my hand leaving it sticky and slightly damp. *Shudder* Okay, maybe not the best tip off that I’m dealing with an evil entity, but it is still an unsettling experience.

T.E.D. Klein wrote an ode to gothic mysteries, which I can fully appreciate because I have a soft spot for those haunted mansion, rattling chains, demonic evil kind of plots. In this case, he abandons all the normal locations for a good skeleton rattling tale and takes us out to the country among a religious farming cult. I can tell you that evil seems to follow around Bible thumpers like flies to a corpse. I say, if you want to avoid tangling with a diabolical fiend, you should surround yourself with Bacchus loving atheists.

Jeremy Freirs decides that country air would be good for him and that maybe abandoning the city will allow him to focus on his dissertation regarding gothic novels. He brings bags full of books with him of all the usual suspects, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Ann Radcliffe, and one of my favorite gothic novels…The Monk. Now on the Poroth farm, he stands out like a sore thumb. He is chubby in a community of people who stay rail thin working hard for a living. They don’t believe in modern conveniences, not even electricity, so farming is about as hard as it can be made to be. The great thing about candles and lanterns is they create WAY better creepy shadows. Jeremy stumbles around trying to convince himself that he is having a good time, but really he is about as happy with nature as a werewolf is with a veggie platter.

Back in NYC, Jeremy’s almost girlfriend Carol is under the guidance of the harmless little old man Rosie, who, of course, is manipulating her into going to the country to see Jeremy, as the Poroth farm is exactly the place where the diabolical reawakening of an ancient evil is going to happen.

Holy S**t, right?

Now Carol has another problem which makes her a perfect candidate for this nefarious manifestation of evil. She is a virgin. Being a virgin in a horror novel of this type is like wearing a red shirt on an away team on Star Trek. Carol has a flowing white dress, some BDSM, and some pain in her near future.

On the farm, things are getting wiggy. In a letter (for the Millenniums out there, that is how we communicated in the past...think of it as long hand texting) to Carol, Jeremy sums it up nicely. ”I tell you, Carol, this summer started off like Currier & Ives, but it’s ending up like Edward Gorey.”

And he don’t know the half of it.

Klein also creates an interesting dynamic between the two couples once Carol arrives at the farm. Jeremy has been having rather elaborate fantasies about Sarr Poroth’s lush wife, Deborah. Sarr is also showing more than a casual interest in the lithe and pretty Carol. Jeremy is more than a little jealous at Sarr’s interest in Carol, and Sarr is well aware that Jeremy has been making lustful eyes at his wife. It is almost comical the amount of time the characters are moving around the board worried about who might sleep with whom when this incredibly horrible, vile, monstrous thing is about to crash the party.

The book, unfortunately, feels bloated. I felt a bit bogged down in the swamps from time to time with sweat trickling down my back and tall weeds in all directions. Klein does bring everything together into one explosive climax and does a great job tipping his cap to those gothic horror writers who have come before him. He certainly understood the gothic elements. ”Suddenly a flash of lightning lit the sky. Freirs shouted and drew back. A humped grey shape was pressed against his screen, outlined in the light. The eyes were wide, unblinking, cold as a snake’s. The mouth hung partly open. There appeared to be something crouched inside it….

Yabba Dabba do!

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:
You can also find terrific reviews at:

View all my reviews

Monday, July 25, 2016

Not Very Much Despereaux

The Tale of DespereauxThe Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I remember reading books like this or having them read to me as a kid. It was always a frustrating experience, because I never liked when the author would stop the story in order to go back over something. "Yeah, I got it the first time," I would think to myself. Learning, teaching and making sure the kids get it is important, but so is keeping them engaged.

The story itself is only okay. It's nothing terribly exciting and honestly not a lot happens. There's an unusual mouse and he wishes to save the day. Scenes are small in scope and the action is minimal. Midway through another issue cropped up. Where did Despereaux go? He just disappears for nearly half the book! And right in the middle! You can't title a book The Tale of Despereaux and not have a Despereaux in it for half the bloody thing!

I read this to see if it would be good to read to my niece. I will not be reading this to her. If I don't have patience for it, there's no way in hell she will!

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 24, 2016

FF, Vol. 2: Family Freakout

FF, Vol. 2: Family FreakoutFF, Vol. 2: Family Freakout by Matt Fraction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The FF plan to bring the Fanastic Four back to earth in time to stop Doctor Doom, Kang, and Annihilus from becoming Doom the Annhilating Conqueror. Things don't go as planned...

Matt Fraction and Michael Allred's run on FF ends with a bang. The FF take in Impossible Man's son Adolph, try to bring back the Fantastic Four, and go to war with Doctor Doom. Fraction does a lot to elevate Scott Lang in this volume and goes a long way toward dragging him out of Hank Pym's size-changing shadow.

The battle with Doom was very well done and Doom was true to his scene-chewing self. Fraction's portrayal of The Watcher was also pretty great and I loved the stuff on the blue area of the moon. Ahura stepping up for the war was also a nice touch.

Much like the last volume, this book reads like a modern day love letter to the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby days of the Fantastic Four. It's a damn shame this is the last of Matt Fraction and Mike Allred on FF. It's been a lot of fun. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Time to Rise

Tal Bauer
NineStar Press
4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Nancy


History says the Knights Templar were destroyed in 1307.

History is wrong.

Vampires haunt the sewers beneath Rome, revenants desecrate graveyards, ghouls devour helpless passersby, and incubi stalk dark alleys and seedy nightclubs in Italy’s capital. Deep in the Vatican, a brotherhood exists, sworn protectors of the earth, and they stand firm against monsters from the dark depths. Operating in secret and silence, they protect our world from the sinister, the etheric, and from the evils that exist beyond the Veil.

But it’s a lonely life, and Alain Autenberg knows that more than most. His lover was ripped from him years ago and he vowed never to get close to another soul again. Even when the loneliness presses down on him, and his empty heart cries out for something more.

Something more comes in Cristoph Hasse, a new soldier arriving in Rome to serve in the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Young, brash, and fitting in at right angles everywhere he goes, Cris struggles in the murky, deceptive labyrinth of the Vatican. Propelled forward by a past he can’t understand, Cris collides with Alain, and both men crash headfirst into the darkest secret of the Vatican… and of the world.

My Review

Alain Autenburg is an elite soldier in the Pontifical Swiss Guard that protects and defends the Vatican, but his obscure task of fighting dangerous supernatural elements along with his blunt and chain-smoking sidekick, Father Lotario, causes him to be aloof and secretive, which keeps him from fitting in with his peers.

Cristoph Hasse is the newest member of the Guard and is assigned by his commander to mentor under Alain. Like Alain, Cristoph is a man with secrets along with an attitude. Alain’s attraction to Cris is immediate, but the only time he acts on it is in his dreams. His heart is still wounded from the loss of his previous love 12 years before. Their mentorship starts off awkwardly until Cris and Alain gradually start to open up and develop a friendship. Unfortunately, the nature of Alain’s duties and his vow not to fall in love again force him to keep his distance, much to Cris’ annoyance and peril.

As a paranormal story, this was a lot of fun. The revenants, vampires, ghouls, wraiths, and incubi were so lovingly and meticulously described, that they invaded my nightly dreams. I loved the partnership and easy friendship between Lotario and Alain, the details of their investigations, the charms, the spells, and the special weapons. Abundant descriptions, historical and geographical details that felt accurate were very effective in conveying a sense of atmosphere. The action scenes and the near-death scenes were tense and heart stopping, and the mystery was very satisfying. The secondary characters, human and supernatural, were well developed and memorable.

As a romance, this was a little disappointing. Even though I love a slow-burn romance and sexual tension, there was so much push and pull between Alain and Cris that I was starting to get annoyed. For crissakes, it took an incubus to get these two together! Their sex, when they finally had it, was sweet and well worth the wait. The surprise ending was done well, but left me feeling somewhat bereft. I’m looking forward to a sequel that will answer some questions and show how Cris and Alain cope with the significant change in their relationship.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Superman: Secret Identity

Superman: Secret IdentitySuperman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

David and Laura Kent are a couple from Kansas with a poor sense of humor. The proof of that poor sense of humor is the fact that they named their son Clark. He's Clark Kent from a small Kansas town and the Superman jokes never end. One night he stopped caring as the impossible happened, he flew. Not in a plane or a hang glider instead he flew into the air in a sleeping bag.
It turns out this Clark Kent is a Superman and he has all of Superman's powers as well. Welcome to the life of a Kansas boy with a comic book heroes name and powers.

The basic premise of Secret Identity is along the same lines as the recent vampire movies. Everyone knows vampire's aren't real in these movies until the fangs pop out and the human characters start freaking out. This Clark Kent has been gifted with Superman presents his entire life and he understandably hates it until he turns into Superman one night in his teens. He starts off just flying and then decides to help people.
He encounters problems because people want to profit from his power, but he handles that well overall. For the exception of supervillains Clark gets the full Superman experience, he even gets his own Lois.

I'd have to say this isn't truly a Superman story. This isn't Clark from Smallville who battles Lex Luthor and has superhero friends. He's the real life equivalent of a nice quiet kid who happened to get Superman's powers. It was refreshing in the sense that this Clark has real fears and concerns. He doesn't have a special ship with a recording of his alien father telling him who he truly is. He's just got his parents with their bad sense of humor. If not for his name and the other Superman specific tie-ins this could easily be a story of an average teen becoming something super.

Secret Identity was a well written down to earth tale of super powers appearing out of nowhere. This story wouldn't make me like Superman, but I certainly enjoyed the poor Clark Kent who was named after a comic book superhero.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


”What if all the pieces of belief and memory that comprise who I am--my profession, Daniela, my son--are nothing but a tragic misfiring in that gray matter between my ears? Will I keep fighting to be the man I think I am? Or will I disown him and everything he loves, and step into the skin of the person this world would like for me to be?

And if I have lost my mind, what then?

What if everything I know is wrong?

No. Stop.

I am not losing my mind.”

There is nothing more frustrating to a reviewer than reading a book that can’t be written about. Almost every piece of information I could give you about this book is a ***spoiler***. Now, my definition of a spoiler and other people’s definition of a spoiler are not always the same, but in the case of this book the less said, the better.

I was very fortunate to watch the movie The Sixth Sense without having a clue about the plot, which is a minor miracle since I’m highly exposed to plots of movies and books, but I was... over the moon... to watch that particular movie without knowing the twist of the plot. So with The Sixth Sense (That plot has nothing to do with this plot, just to be clear.) in mind, I am going to resist the urge to write and write and write about how cool this book is.

The first order of business is to convince your friends to read it with you because you are going to want to discuss this book over numerous bottles of wine and a platter of cheese and pretzels. The cheese and pretzels only so you can drink more wine. It would be cruel and unusual punishment to have a designated driver, so my thought is that you should have this book discussion at someone’s house and bring your PJs. Stay over and maybe, if you have the right reasonably attractive friends, you can have….

”...fumbling, groping, backset-of-the-car, unprotected because who-gives-a-fuck, protons-smashing-together sex.”

So keep that in mind, so that you don’t get TOO DRUNK while discussing this book.

Now, anyone familiar with Blake Crouch should know he is a twisty, a twizzler, a zigzagger, a trickster. He bamboozled me in Wayward Pines, and now he has gone even further with Dark Matter. The great thing about this TWIST is that it isn’t just a one off twist...oh no...this is a twist that keeps wrapping itself around other twists until you start to feel little explosions in your head of all those overloaded brain cells.

It’s okay, you have plenty to spare.

By the end of the book and certainly after the protons-smashing-together sex, you will be fully convinced that “...we’re a part of a much larger and stranger reality than we can possibly imagine.” You will also be convinced that you need to read more Blake Crouch books, so you might as well go ahead and factor that into your book budget and *erhhh* food budget right now.

”What might have been and what
has been
Point to one end, which is always
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we do
not take
Towards the door we never
--T. S. Eliot, ‘Burnt Norton’”

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and Crown Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:

View all my reviews


The Summer That Melted EverythingThe Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”It was a heat that didn’t just melt tangible things like ice, chocolate, Popsicles. It melted all the intangibles too. Fear, faith, anger, and those long-trusted templates of common sense. It melted lives as well, leaving futures to be slung with the dirt of the gravedigger’s shovel.”

 photo Slipping Away_zpshbzonjfa.jpg
Slipping Away by Tiffany McDaniel. If you preorder the book you can sign up here Tiffany McDaniel's Preorder Contest to win some cool stuff including a signed print of this watercolor.

The heat wave that hit Breathed, Ohio, in 1984 was no ordinary hot spell. It was oppressive and inescapable. It was as if the cellar door to hell had been laid open beneath their feet. Sweat dripped from their pores like the tears of the damned. Tempers flared under the constant, ruthless lash of unbearable high temperatures. Reason floated away into the atmosphere and was replaced by superstition and irrationality.

And it was all Autopsy Bliss’s fault.

He did write the letter, after all.

”Dear Mr. Devil, Sir Satan, Lord Lucifer, and all other crosses you bear,
I cordially invite you to Breathed, Ohio. Land of hills and hay bales, of sinners and forgivers.
May you come in peace.
With great faith,
Autopsy Bliss”

The Devil accepted.

Now Autopsy Bliss is an educated man, a lawyer in fact, but he got bit by the fire and brimstone of religion. When he issued this letter to the newspaper, did he really expect the Devil to appear before him? Did he think he could wrestle Lucifer or spar with Satan, and The Cross would assure him a fair fight?

I don’t think that Autopsy Bliss expected a creature with cloven hooves, forked tail, and horns to appear on his doorstep. Lucifer is a fallen angel, not a demon, and certainly not the creature of fairytale, or the fiendish incarnation he has been depicted in films, or the lurid spectacle he has become on the covers of pulp novels.

It turns out he is a thirteen year old black boy with green eyes. He was, in fact, the same age as Fielding Bliss. He calls himself Sal.

”If looks were to be believed, he still was just a boy. Something of my age, though from his solemn quietude, I knew he was old in the soul. A boy whose black crayon would be the shortest in his box.”

Autopsy might have had a more realistic vision of Satan in his mind than the cartoon version, but it still took some mental gymnastics to even begin to believe that Sal was the Devil. The heat has eroded minds. Logic is a bonfire. Familiar perceptions are a blaze. When things start to go wrong for people, they start to believe that the implausible is suddenly the only possible explanation.

Fielding’s mother Stella hasn’t left the house in twelve years. When she withdrew from the world, she decided to bring the world to her by turning each room of her house into a different country. Grand is Fielding’s older brother, a young man on the cusp of the rest of his life. He is a God of the ballfield, but also a man of character and sensitivity that makes him so much more than just the sum of his parts. Fielding worships him, as he should. Grand is someone we can all aspire to be more like.

He is a worthy sacrifice.

”A summer’s day, and with the setting sun
Dropt from the zenith, like a falling star”
---Milton, Paradise Lost

It is one thing to never find paradise, but of course it is quite another thing to have found it and lost it. For a family named Bliss, they have watched the gates of Eden shimmer behind them and disappear.

Sal becomes the third son.

I think what the people of Breathed forgot about was that the concept of the Devil is manifested in all of us. You might not see him when you look in the mirror dead on, but turn your head to the side and look out of the corner of your eye, and you might catch a glimpse of him. He is reflected in your fingernails when the light is just right. Sometimes, if you close your eyes down to slits, you can see him in the swirls of your pancake. He stares at us from the darkness, from the bowel of a tree, or through the eyes of an owl. You can’t kill him. You can’t kill the light that has fallen to darkness.

Why would God let you?

”People always ask, Why does God allow suffering? Why does He allow a child to be beaten? A woman to cry? A holocaust to happen? A good dog to die painfully? Simple truth is, He wants to see for Himself what we’ll do. He’s stood up the candle, put the devil at the wick, and now He wants to see if we blow it out or let it burn down. God is suffering’s biggest spectator.”

The town begins to suffer from mass insanity. Call it the heat, but there is this dark desire in too many of us that rises to the surface, unchecked, when we are challenged.

Tiffany McDaniel might be a young writer, but this is no raw first novel. She is wise with bone deep perceptions of who we are and who we become when we allow hysteria or religious fervor to dictate our actions. She writes with conviction and complexity that forced this reader to reread sentences and paragraphs to better appreciate the uniquely, creative ways she composes her thoughts. The setting is in the North, but some of the Southern Gothic of the deep South leaped over the Mason-Dixon line into Ohio. I also could swear I witnessed the ghost of Douglas Spaulding running through the woods with Fielding Bliss and saw the flash of his bare feet as he dived back into the pages of Dandelion Wine. I thought I saw Shirley Jackson lost in the loose limbs of the mob...her eyes as big as dinner plates and her mouth opened in a.... ”That was when the screaming started. They were screaming cheers, we were screaming tears, and Sal was screaming fear. A rhyme of the ages.”

Who among us can stop them? Who can wiggle a screwdriver between the door and the jam and let the cooling balm of reason flood the hallways of a fevered mind?

The author and NetGalley provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tiffany McDaniel was gracious enough to agree to answer a few of my questions about the novel. Below is a short interview I conducted with her.

 photo Tiffany McDaniel_zpslnhldvc2.jpg
Tiffany McDaniel

Jeffrey Keeten:As I was reading your book I couldn't help thinking about Dandelion Wine. Have I been out in the heat too long or am I right about this book being somewhat of a homage to the Ray Bradbury book?

Tiffany McDaniel:I love Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, so I’m beyond thrilled that you’ve brought it up. I always say I want to be buried with the novel, have it in the clutches of my ghost to carry forth in to the great beyond. Having read it many times, I’ve always wanted to write a story about boys coming-of-age in the summertime. Those two events seem to parallel one another as if summer exists in childhood itself. On the surface Dandelion Wine is about boys coming-of-age, but what Bradbury does so well is threading that melancholic undertone through his verse, his own bittersweet brand that makes his stories and his story-telling the mark of a true master. Life and death, happiness and sadness, these are the things that permeate both Bradbury’s novel and my own. No one can ever surpass Bradbury’s beautiful writing and story, but perhaps my story is a way of recognizing the beautiful force that has been Dandelion Wine in my life.

Jeffrey Keeten:Paradise Lost obviously had a heavy influence on the writing of this book. You certainly have left me thinking I need to schedule a reread of PL. You also mentioned Orwell's 1984 in the book. In thinking about the scope of this book what other books would you say had a heavy influence in the creation of this book?

Tiffany McDaniel:I first read Milton’s epic poem when I was in my early twenties. I was immediately drawn to it because it’s about that which has always fascinated me. The fall from grace. The very thing that is said to have cast all the curses upon us as human beings, and put the sins within reach. I always title my chapters in my novels, and when I was thinking of the chapter titles for The Summer that Melted Everything, “Paradise Lost” immediately came to mind. How could it not be the perfect partner for this summer? Though I do hope I have made Milton proud by including his beautiful quotes, quotes which do outshine my own words by a billion, sparkling miles.

As far as Orwell’s 1984, it’s one of those required readings that most everybody has in school. I was so fascinated by it, if only because the year 1984 has passed already, but also because it was a novel predicting a certain state of affairs where citizens are manipulated and all independent thought is a crime. It’s hard to talk about 1984 the novel and its reason for being in The Summer that Melted Everything without giving any spoilers away, but I’ll just say that both Orwell’s novel and my novel speak of that herd mentality. How easy it is to come about and how threatening it is to individual choice.

As far as other influencers on The Summer that Melted Everything, I can’t think of another book in particular, but reading in general just adds layer after layer to one’s soul. And with a book like The Summer that Melted Everything where we’re looking at the balance between good and evil, well those are things we see every day on the nightly news. Look no further than our daily life, and we are surrounded by the fuel to write about chaos and peace, good and bad. If anything, the book of life itself is the spinning wheel to a story like this.

Jeffrey:The book is set in Ohio, but it has such a Southern Gothic feeling to it that I kept thinking the geography could have easily been set in the Deep South such as Donna Tartt's home state of Mississippi or Flannery O'Connor's Georgia or Harper Lee's Alabama. You must have encountered some of that Gothic magical realism in Ohio?

Tiffany: Breathed, Ohio, the fictional town in the novel is based on my childhood summers and school-year weekends spent in southern Ohio on the hilly acreage and in the cinderblock house my father was left to him by his parents. Southern Ohio, while in a northern state, does very much have that southern United State twang to it. “Ain’t” is as abundant as the wildflowers in the fields, and bullfrogs are the music of the night. It’s a very front porch type of place. It’s a place that has shaped me as an author. I’ve said before, cut me open and there will be a release of fireflies and moon-shine. In many ways, southern Ohio was a magical place to me because it was so different from the more northern part of Ohio where I lived and went to school. That southern portion, the foothills of the Appalachians, is a part of Ohio that has its own magical myths. I was told the hills were full of tigers, released there by a zoo gone belly-up. I would stand on the creek edge and see a gar go swimming by, thinking it was an alligator. Added to this, I’ve always had a gothic mind. Wishing I could live in a derelict mansion with velvet curtains and Shirley Jackson spires. Wolves howling, spiders webbing, magic churning night after night…

Jeffrey: Autopsy Bliss goes on my list of greatest character names in literary history. As I was reading the book I started jotting down the character names because I was struck by the unusual nature of most of the names. Do you start with a name or do they sometimes remain nebulous personalities in search of the right name for a while as you write?

Tiffany: First off, thank you for the incredibly wonderful compliment of Autopsy’s name. I’m sure Autopsy himself would be quite pleased. When I start writing the characters, I do have to have their name from the beginning. Having their name really helps to create and flush out the character. I can’t write them without a name. It’s like walking in dark woods by myself, calling for the characters to come out from the trees. But if I don’t have a name to call, who is there to come out?

Jeffrey: I jotted down this question while I was still in the early stages of reading the book. Would you want to live with the Bliss Family? They are ethereally wonderful, but of course the tragedies that find them as the plot unfolds probably answers that question. This is truly a book about bad things happening to good people. Are they still walking around in your head or have you managed to lock them in a back room of your mind so you can move onto your next novel?

Tiffany: To answer your first question, I would want to live with the Bliss family, if only because I love them all so much. Even with the tragedies that reshape them as a family, I would live with them. Be their daughter, their sister, their best friend, the one crying with them, laughing with them. As the author, I’ve already done all these things. I’ve already felt like I’ve lived in the house with them. What is home, if not with the people we love? I will always share a life with the Bliss Family, as I do my real family. To me there is no difference, because while fictional, the Bliss family exists for me.

I always say my characters feel real to me. Maybe I won’t get to physically interact with them in this world, but I feel as if in another plane of the universe, or even the afterlife, I’ll be able to speak to them, to recognize them as people who have lived full lives from womb to coffin. I always say my characters do not begin with the first page I’ve written. They do not end with the last. They existed before and they exist after the book. There are moments and experiences they have that none of will ever know as author and reader. In every way, they are as fully human as any of us. And they are always with me. Even when I write another novel. They are there. They just politely sit down, so new characters can stand up.

Jeffrey: Speaking of next novel, where does Tiffany McDaniel go from here?

Tiffany: I have eight completed novels. I’m working on my ninth right now. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. I wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine. I spent eleven years struggling to get published. Rejection after rejection made me fear I never would be published. So much heart-ache and pain on the journey to publication, I can’t believe I’m about to be a published novelist. Publishing does move at a snail’s pace, and even with the contract I’ve waited two years for the book to move through the publishing house to the shelf. I’m thirty-one now, having waited in total thirteen years to see one of my novels on the shelf. So where I go from here is to just keep writing. Hoping The Summer that Melted Everything does well enough for me to have the other books published as well. The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is When Lions Stood as Men. It’s about a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, flee across the Atlantic, and end up in my land of Ohio of all places. While here they create their own camp of judgment where they serve as both the guards and the prisoners. It’s a story of surviving the guilt that threatens to undo us all. More so, it’s about surviving love and the time when lions once stood as men.

Book Trailer

Tiffany McDaniel's Website

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Devourers by Indra Das

The DevourersThe Devourers by Indra Das
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was younger, I had a huge interest in vampires, mummies, and werewolves. I loved all the classic monsters, but in media today, I seriously dislike the changes and "sexing" up of these monsters. Monsters are by definition, monsters...they are not human, the feelings and thoughts and patterns of our mundane, short lives DO NOT apply to them.

The Devourers is a fever dream of beautiful, brutal and bloody language, a look into the inhuman lives of shapeshifters or "werewolves." I read this book in one day and I am very glad I did. The characters in this story, even though strive in some cases to reach out and touch various aspects of humanity, are as far away from any basic concept of a human being as any other animal in the wild.

Stunning writing set in a vivid world of characters that are totally fluid things. This book will grab ahold of you with gorgeous depictions of some very brutal things.

I give this book 10 out 5 stars, it is totally worth your time.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Never Ending Story

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Holy crap, I was starting to think I was never going to finish!

So here we mostly get the continuation of the Jon Snow, Tyrion and Daenerys stories. Oh yeah, and fucking Bran the Boring, too. Aside from him, all the others are favorites, so A Dance with Dragons was a pleasure to read.

That doesn't mean it's a great book though. It drags a good deal. It lacks the surprise and epicness of the first three books. A lot of this one and A Feast For Crows felt like housekeeping.

I shouldn't differentiate between those two books. They were both meant to be one, and it's obvious when you read them and see that half the GoT characters are dealt with in book #4 and the others get their due in #5. Tipping the wide-load scales at over a thousand pages a piece, it's readily apparent why the books were split in two. Even so, the reader can't help but feel like something's missing while going through each separately. That's a looong time to put characters on hold in your mind. I feel bad for fans who read Feast back when it came out, what 10 years ago?

But what's here for us in Dance is some good, solid reading. There are slight surprises and unexpected turns here and there. It's a slow-burn page turner, not an up-all-night-cuz-you-can't-stop scorcher.

Before I finish I should like to clarify one thing after bagging on the poor boy earlier. For many a book I've suffered through the insufferable Bran story. Not since the beginning of the first book have I found him remotely interesting. But finally something intriguing does develop in this storyline, eventually. It ties up a loose end elsewhere while adding color to the crippled boy's tale. For that, I'm glad I read A Dance with Dragons.

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Silver Surfer, Vol. 3: Last Days

Silver Surfer, Vol. 3: Last DaysSilver Surfer, Vol. 3: Last Days by Dan Slott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Silver Surfer and Dawn get trapped in a time loop, get stuck on a paradise planet, and try to rebuild the universe.

Here we are, the final volume, as of now, of Dan Slott and Michael Allred's run on The Silver Surfer. Honestly, it's kind of a mixed bag, though I can't lay the blame solely on the Surfer's gleaming shoulders.

The first story is a time loop that's depicted in a creative way, the panels forming a Moebius strip. First off, I thought this was very clever and pertinent to the story, not as gimmicky as I originally thought. I loved that the story featured Space French-speaking aliens and the area the Surfer and Dawn traveled through was called The Giraud expanse, a nice reference to noted French comic artist Moebius, aka Jean Giraud.

The second story was also pretty good. It turns out Surfer and Dawn never left the paradise planet they found in the first story. Paradise wasn't what it was cracked up to be.

The third story featured Dawn and Surfer taking the long way back to Earth, visiting everyone they met in the previous two volumes. It reminded me of the 10th Doctor's swan song before his regeneration and made me think I wouldn't be pleased with the final story in the collection.

The fourth story is what sucked half a star of enjoyment out of the book. It's a shame that this title's revolutionary run was derailed by Secret Wars. Still, it was cool seeing The Silver Surfer and Dawn attempting to rebuild the universe.

While I didn't like the abrupt ending to the series due to Secret Wars, Slott and Allred did a good job making chicken salad with the chicken parts they were given. I hear the series is coming back and I'll be ready when it does. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 15, 2016

Zombie Dash

Mark Matthews
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


Are you fast enough to survive the Zombie apocalypse?

Well, now you can find out. It's the new trend in running races; run through miles and miles of zombie infested trails, but instead of biting you, they grab a flag off of your belt, flag-football style.

See what happens when Big Pharm meets Big Horror, as three Pharmaceutical Representatives take part in a Zombie Run, and get much more horror than they planned for.

My Review

This was just the right story to jump-start my workout on the stationary bike. Even though it was about 90 degrees outside and the chugging air-conditioner didn’t seem to be cool enough, my legs were pumping in record time in solidarity with the unnamed narrator, and her friend, Becca, trying to escape the volunteer zombies at the company-sponsored Zombie Dash 10K.

It’s all fun and games, with the volunteers using little flags to represent their kills and the runners giggling and screaming in mock horror. It all changes when an evil clown zombie gets in on the action.

I don’t want to say any more and spoil the fun for anyone. This story is fast-paced, suspenseful and terrifying. Never trust zombies, even if they look like Bill Clinton or are dressed like cute babies.

Though this story was well-written, it is rife with awkward sentences and misspellings, which sometimes pulled me out of the story. In a self-published work, this is something I can tolerate, but I do hope the author will consider finding a good editor for future stories.

Free right now on Amazon

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Forgotten Goddess

The Forgotten Goddess (Sebasten of Atlantis, #1)The Forgotten Goddess by Olivier Delaye
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The people of Atlantis all have divine gifts. These gifts are viewed as natural and good, all except one gift. Those with gift of prophecy are killed and Sebasten Oryas just happens to have this gift. He and his mother simply say he has no gift which leaves him an outcast with only one friend, Sage. When Sebasten's Great Aunt who he has never met invites him for the summer, he along with Sage go for a visit. Unfortunately Sebasten has a vision of his own death before he travels to see her.

The Forgotten Goddess is a solid story that's 100 percent Young Adult. The standard elements are all present. A big plus is the writing is quite polished. I don't believe I noticed a single typo in the entire story which is remarkable for a what appears to be a self-published novel. The scenery is vivid and really comes to life.

The world of Atlantis has some interesting aspects to it in the divine gifts. Every human resident of Atlantis has their own gift that range significantly. A few of these gifts are prophecy, illusion, transformation, breathing under water, and speaking to various animals. It also appeared that all living things have the ability to use magic. Most seem only to use low magic, but some like Sebasten's Great Aunt Elma use high magic. The difference is largely lost on me, but multiple characters activated things using their low magic.

The characters themselves varied in the story. Certain characters like Aunt Elma just had a load of idiosyncrasies and personality that made her feel very much like the kind yet peculiar Aunt. Cinder also had more than enough personality to pop off the page and seem realistic. Unfortunately the main character Sebasten didn't come alive for me. Despite spending most of the book in his head and considering his visions, little of Sebasten's personality was put on display. In the end I didn't like or dislike him which for me isn't particularly ideal. I look for characters to invoke feelings in me and unfortunately that didn't happen with Sebasten.

In the end I have to say The Forgotten Goddess was a nice start from a new author, Olivier Delaye.

View all my reviews

All-New X-Men: Inevitable, Vol. 1: Ghost of the Cyclops

All-New X-Men: Inevitable, Vol. 1: Ghost of the CyclopsAll-New X-Men: Inevitable, Vol. 1: Ghost of the Cyclops by Dennis Hopeless
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The All-New X-Men have formed up a new team. Jean Grey has left to live a normal life. Evan aka Kid Apocalypse and Oya have joined Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel, and the former X-23 current Wolverine Laura Kinney. Cyclops has set off on his own quest going after The Ghosts of Cyclops a group that revere the recently deceased present day Cyclops.
Meanwhile this group of young adults has their share of challenges.

I'm not a fan of Cyclops in general. He always seemed a pompous brown-noser and one of the best things I had seen was him doing his revolution business prior to his passing. He was still pompous, but he was at least honest. Despite my general feelings I feel terrible for past Cyclops. Traveling to the future and learning you turn into just about everything you hate has to be devastating.
He's handling things surprisingly well. The first three issues are primarily centered around him dealing with The Ghosts of Cyclops.

The next three issues shift into emotion-ville. All the young team members are forced to deal with their issues. Hank intelligence isn't cutting edge because of his jump to the future, Cyclops has to deal with what he becomes, Evan is an Apocalypse clone, Oya is religious and believed mutants were demons so she hates herself, Iceman is gay yet is uncomfortable with that fact, and Laura and Angel are having problems in their relationship.
This was really off-putting because the X-Men were literally all whining about their problems in these three issues. Perhaps for a young adult audience this would have been more appreciated, but I felt like I was being overwhelmed with teenage emotions even though they aren't all teenagers. I hope the author got that out of his system or at least is willing to take turns because it was just too much.

Ghost of Cyclops was an OK story, but their is still some potential. As always I still wonder when the time traveling X-Men will go home, but I'm trying to enjoy their story in the moment.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Good Morning, MidnightGood Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”I heave myself out of the darkness slowly, painfully.

And there I am, and there he is…”

----Jean Rhys

It is interesting that Lily Brooks-Dalton named this book after the Jean Rhys’s novel of the same name. I’ve never read the Rhys’s book, but it is a notoriously depressing novel. The premise of this novel could certainly lead readers to believe that this book, too, is destined to be depressing, but for me it proved to be strikingly uplifting. Jean Rhys takes her title from an Emily Dickinson poem.

Good morning, Midnight!
I'm coming home,
Day got tired of me –
How could I of him?

Sunshine was a sweet place,
I liked to stay –
But Morn didn't want me – now –
So good night, Day!

Dickinson---Rhys---Brooks-Dalton are writers who are connected through strings of written words that are like strands of DNA passed from page to mind to pen from one generation of writer to the next. One writer lives in the next one who then influences the next one.

The Earth goes silent.

There is no bang, no debris cloud, no chaos.

Augustine, who elected not to be on the last plane out of the Arctic Circle, is strangely contented. He has never really cared for the rest of humanity. He has always been lost in his own brilliance and focused on his astronomy career, which took off like a meteorite, but now at 78 years old, he isn’t really sure if he has achieved all he was meant to achieve. ”His work ethic was strong, his ego engorged, his results groundbreaking, but he wasn’t satisfied. He had never been satisfied and never would be. It wasn’t success he craved, or even fame, it was history: he wanted to crack the universe open like a ripe watermelon, to arrange the mess of pulpy seeds before his dumbfounded colleagues. He wanted to take the dripping red fruit in his hands and quantify the guts of infinity, to look back into the dawn of time and glimpse the very beginning. He wanted to be remembered.”

He seduced women. He made women fall in love with him. It became a game for him. He played hot and cold and felt even more empowered over their desperate efforts to get him back. ”It was a thrill just to exist. There were control rooms full of humming equipment, enormous telescopes, endless arrays. There were beautiful women, college girls and townies and visiting scholars, and he would’ve slept with them all if he could have.”

There is, after all, only so much time in a day.

For most of us, if we were at the Arctic Circle or floating along in space and suddenly lost all contact with the rest of humanity, we would probably have a moment of panic or maybe even a complete meltdown. Augustine’s reaction was more along the lines of... huh, interesting. Of course, after being too high in the stratosphere his whole life to have relationships, beyond his physical needs, this isn’t that much different from his normal life, except things are quieter. He can focus.

Well, except some moron left their eight year old daughter behind.

How could this happen? Just at the moment he thought he was completely free, a cable snakes out from the ground snagging him, keeping him tethered to the Earth. He is angry. He was so close.

The other story we are allowed to follow is of Sully and her fellow astronauts on their way back from an exploration of Jupiter. ”The receivers were picking up the murmurs of space all around them, from celestial bodies millions of light years away---it was only Earth that wasn’t saying anything.”

The silence is deafening.

They are professionals who are trained not to panic. They will have been gone two years by the time they touch down on Earth. They put their minds to work on the possibilities. We are noisy creatures, now silent, which makes them believe that whatever is wrong with Earth is catastrophic.

Augustine would have never bothered to go fire up the radio, but now that he is responsible for Iris, he feels he needs to make some attempt to find another human being. He reaches Sully. Neither have the answers the other needs. They are both lost in their own desolations.

The calmness of this novel reminds me of On the Beach where the people who are left alive are resigned to their fate and are trying to enjoy the last few days of their lives. There is no pell-mell race for safety, because there is no safety. The publisher is also making connections to the recent post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven even to the extent of using very similar cover art. This is a mature work with tight prose and elegant observations. Brooks-Dalton even manages to make me like Augustine by finding the spark of humanity in him that was always smothered by his brilliance.

This is the most tranquil end of the world book you will ever read. Highly Recommended!

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Perdition Score (Sandman Slim #8) By: Richard Kadrey

The Perdition Score (Sandman Slim, #8)The Perdition Score by Richard Kadrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this series, I ainttttttttt going to lie, I put things down to read a new Sandman Slim book. It's like old school noir books crossed with Dresden files tossed into a bag with Iron Maiden albums and old Thrasher magazines and shook up till everybody smells like old beer, apple fritters and sweat.

That glowing review aside, this isn't my favorite of the series...even not being the fav still beats the brakes off most urban fantasy out today. It's fun from front to back and I want posters made out of the covers (whomever decided on making the recent installment covers like old movie posters deserves a raise)

GO buy this, and Mr Kadrey, you are gonna make me mad in book nine aren't You? (hate cliffhangers and sense a disturbance in the force)

View all my reviews

The Interminables By: Paige Orwin

The InterminablesThe Interminables by Paige Orwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note for review readers, I have a crashed computer so I am reviewing from a phone and tablet, so I may be more disjointed than usual, if that's possible.

I really enjoyed this story, it had most of the things I dig, interesting world, I really liked the main characters, it was a humorous story, and they had great interaction. My cons are very few, although I could tell where Ms Orwin was going with her tale, her writing style is a bit disjointed and might throw some people off. That being said, great fun read and I recommend it, (thanks to the overlords at Angry Robot for the ARC)

View all my reviews

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Perfunctory History of France

A Brief History of FranceA Brief History of France by Cecil Jenkins
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm too damn familiar with British history, I told myself recently. Time to branch out!...My branch didn't stretch too far.

The histories of France and England are deeply entwined (which always seemed odd to me considering how very different are their people, language, food, etc), so reading about France's history wasn't exactly like taking a trip to another galaxy. Since declaring nationhood, their almost constant warring would always insure some old familiar atrocity to ground my sense of time and place.

With that kind of background knowledge in place, I wasn't looking for any especially thorough or comprehensive history on France and that's just what I got in A Brief History of France. Very brief. Not particularly thorough. That's all right! There's a place, time and person for this kind of history-quickie and I'm it!

The real problem with this book revealed itself fairly early. It's uneven. In chapter one, within a few slim pages, we get the entirety of human civilization in the French region summed up in the quick mention of some cave paintings recently discovered. There ya go, a nice tidy summation of a couple million years. Then it jumps directly into Roman Gaul with a page or so on Julius Caesar and Vercingetorix. With the whole Roman Empire and its rule over Gaul taken care of, we now move into Medieval France, where Charlemagne and the early chivalric knights roamed. And all those hundreds and thousands of years are, not only lumped in with all of prehistory, but it's all jammed together in one twenty page chapter. I was a little miffed, so I flipped ahead and discovered that the period after the second world war up to the present, approximately 70 years worth, takes up 100 pages and an entire third of the whole book! So yeah, as I said, this is uneven.

Another issue, and it's minor, is the casual tone. I don't think I've ever read a history text before that referred to a historical figure in terms of their "bitchiness".

War, huh yeah, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, you say Edwin Starr? Wrong! War is good for history books. That shit really fills the pages! It's all over this mother. I suppose that's not Cecil Jenkins' fault. I blame the French.

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 10, 2016

FF, Vol. 1: Fantastic Faux

FF, Vol. 1: Fantastic FauxFF, Vol. 1: Fantastic Faux by Matt Fraction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The new FF are struggling to hold down the fort. Bentley gets up to some mischief. The future Human Torch awakens and the future he's predicted draws nearer.

Ant-Man and company continue trying to fill the shoes of the Fantastic Four and go up against a leviathan, The Wizard, Blastaar, and The Inhumans but their biggest enemies seem to be themselves.

That might be stretching it a little but Matt Fraction and Mike Allred have created a throwback to the Fantastic Four of the 1960's, a bickering team that still feels like a family.

I dig Matt Fraction's writing. Maybe not as much as Dan Slott's on the Silver Surfer but he does a good job of writing something that works to Mike Allred's strengths and fits his art style. He also gets some mileage out of The Wizard and the Inhumans, something I don't think many writers do a good job of. I also like how he's planting seeds for the next volume while doing some good character development within the FF cast.

I really like what Matt Fraction is doing here and I'm keen to start the next volume. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 8, 2016

Conversation Hearts

Avon Gale
Dreamspinner Press
4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Nancy


It’s Valentine’s Day, and grad student—and male escort—Levi Barron expects to spend his evening with a client who’s paying him for his services in bed… not an assassin who needs to borrow the view from his hotel room in the morning.

With nothing to do but endure the company of his unwanted guest, Levi and the assassin, Sinjin, spend some time bonding over HGTV, minibar beverages, Flannery O’Connor short stories, terrible Valentine’s candy, and the necessity of lying about their jobs.

Their evening takes an unexpected turn when they decide to indulge in their mutual attraction, and in the morning Levi doesn’t know if he’s spent the night with a hired killer or a hydraulic engineer with a very specific fantasy. Either way, the two have enough chemistry—in and out of bed—that Levi isn’t sure one night with Sinjin will be enough.

And a message left in candy suggests the feeling is mutual.

My Review

I’m old and haven’t done a good job keeping up with pop culture, so had to look up the following:

- RedTube
- Pete Wentz
- Jason Statham
- Hot Topic
- Property Brothers
- Surface texture paste

That said, my lack of knowledge didn’t at all detract from my enjoyment of this story.

Levi Barron is poor graduate student working for an escort service. While waiting for a client who doesn’t show, Sinjin arrives. Sinjin is as surprised as Levi, because according to the hotel database he hacked into, the room was supposed to be empty. Having Levi around seriously puts a crimp in his assassination plans. Sinjin wasn’t planning to kill Levi, but he can’t very well let him leave, can he?

This is a fun, fast-paced and clever story that is hilarious and also ridiculously hot.

I loved the banter between the guys, the tension, the red boxer briefs with little hearts, and the chalky heart candies with words on them.

I’m thinking I might like to borrow Levi’s Surface texture paste. It may be less goopy than what I’m currently using.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hope and Red

Hope & RedHope & Red by Jon Skovron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bleak Hope is named after her village that was annihilated because of the Empire's biomancers. A legendary Vinchen warrior trains Hope in the Vinchen ways despite it being illegal to do so because she is a female. Rixdenteron is the son of a painter from a rich family and a male whore. He finds himself homeless when his parents die. He's taken in by a dangerous woman and renamed Red. Hope and Red come together to get vengeance on a ganglord and biomancers, but most specifically the biomancer who slaughtered Hope's village.

First I want to say I love warrior women. Perhaps it was because I watched a lot of Xena Warrior Princess as a child and she was the embodiment of a warrior. She battled gods and men alike and beat them down. That was absolutely what drew me to this book because who doesn't love a good warrior woman.

Hope and Red feels very much like a young adult novel. All the standard tropes apply. Special orphans and chance meetings with great people who almost inexplicably care for and train these youths. The YA fantasy mold is not broken or even bent here. So imagine the standard YA fantasy heroes and you have Hope and Red.

The chapters with Red were challenging for me from the beginning because of the massive amounts of slang used. Leaky, tom, mollie, slice, old pot, leeward, wag, and many other slang terms are squished into the lines in Red's chapters. There is a glossary, but after a little while it's unnecessary. That being said I wasn't overly fond of their slang.

The biomancers did present themselves as something unique from the rest of the story. These people use a mixture of magic and science to create living things from living things. Unfortunately rather than using criminals to further their research they use towns and villages for their experiments which is the crux of Hope's revenge tale. The biomancers are basically mad scientists that feel as if nothing is more important than their research. They seem to have the Emperor's permission to use seemingly whoever they wish to make new weapons to protect the Empire.

All in all Hope and Red was just an average YA fantasy book.

3 out of 5 stars

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

View all my reviews

All-New Wolverine Vol. 1: The Four Sisters

All-New Wolverine, Vol. 1: The Four SistersAll-New Wolverine, Vol. 1: The Four Sisters by Tom Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Laura Kinney X-23 was cloned from Wolverine in order to make the perfect army of killers. With Logan's help she escaped that life. After Logan's death, Laura has decided to take on his mantle as Wolverine.
Something devious is happening now. Laura learns that a science team has cloned her in hopes to fulfill the dream of an invincible army.
The sisters, as they are referred to, have escaped a facility and the head of the facility wants them back.

Four Sisters was a good but unspectacular first arc of The All-New Wolverine. I thought the first issue was outstanding, but I quickly found myself bogged down by the cloning story. It seemed insane that the science team that created clones from Laura's DNA would be dumb enough to involve her, but they did.

The character interactions are absolutely what helped me hold on to hope when the cloning story dragged. The sisters themselves were an odd bunch as they each developed varying personalities although they were raised in the same fashion.
Their interactions were interesting although I wasn't overly interested in them as characters. The next major interaction was between Angel and Laura. Their continuing relationship is intriguing to witness.
Angel doesn't want Laura to get hurt, but she is recklessly using her healing power to it's fullest.
The best relationship may have been Laura and her clone Gabby. Despite being trained to kill, Gabby has retained her innocence and she speaks to Laura like she's her pesky little sister.

In the end I'd say I love Laura Kinney and she is a remarkable Wolverine. I didn't love the story, but I imagine her arcs will be exciting in the future.

3.5 out of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Man DrowningMan Drowning by Henry Kuttner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”Everything around was bleached dun, the color of a cow skull I’d seen stuck on a pole that morning on the road in, but there were shadings, from blinding, scalding, dry white to tawny earth, that had all the vigor sucked out of it ages ago by the Arizona sun. Everything was the color of something burned, even the black rope, which had the color of oily cinders. It moved itself from left to right across the woman’s throat with a slow disgusting motion. She put up a claw of a hand and rubbed its head with a finger that had skin coarser than the snake’s. I heard a dry scratching. The snake quieted. It hung there. Once its tongue flickered out. It was still.”

 photo IMG_0281_zpsympj6qyz.jpg
I’m very fortunate to have a 1st edition squirreled away in my library.

Nick Banning hits Phoenix with maybe two red hot dimes to rub together in his pocket. He can say he is just passing through, but what he is really in town for is to see his ex-wife, Sherry. She is making time with the owner of the club she sings in. When he hears the news, it is like someone jammed a railroad spike deep into his brain and impaled every good memory he ever had.

She was supposed to wait for him to get his shit together.

The problem is Sherry has done her time. The violence that is coiled like bands of barb wire around Nick’s muscles is always on the verge of unleashing. His razor lashed soul is leaking drops of insanity into his bloodstream. His anger is always so close to the surface it is amazing that he doesn’t glow like a lightning bug.

”’What are you really doing in Phoenix, Nick?’ She asked, without looking up.

‘Is that the way you want to play it?’

‘Stop it, Nick.’

‘I thought I was stopped. Till I saw you again.’

‘Then you’d better stop seeing me.’

I didn’t move. I watched the shiny black table and Sherry’s face, upside down.

She pushed the ash tray forward so that it covered the reflection.”

Nick takes a job with the De Anza’s, the Count and Countess. The Countess is like something long dead that has crawled out of a mummy’s tomb, with her bony skull and her red rimmed eyes. She is bored, bored, bored, and needs a constant source of entertainment. She plays the roulette wheel like she is playing with house money. She likes to hang a Kingsnake around her neck, snake scales slithering over human scales. *Shudder* She is loose with money in a way that people are who didn’t have to earn it. Her husband, the Count, can’t decide if he is sick of life or just already dead inside. He lays in bed with white paste on his face and dark sunglasses over his eyes. They deserve each other, but each is scheming to get away from the other.

Sherry doesn’t want Nick, but she needs $3,000.

Nick watches the Countess put $7,000 in cash in the floor safe.

7 will get you a lot further than 3.

The puzzling thing for Nick is always... did I do it or did I just dream it?

”Something made me look down. There on the seat beside me was the gun. Two of us together, the gun and I.

The car roared past the highway sign and the side road and kept on straight ahead. I knew where we are going. We were going to Sherry.”

This is hardboiled with a capital H. This is such a great example of the genre. I’m simply shocked that I am the first person on Goodreads to write a full review of this book. I won’t be the last. Centipede Press is putting out a limited edition of this book in the near future, which will hopefully create more interest in this lost classic of the genre. The De Anza’s are so bleeping creepy and crazy. Banning is a homemade bomb with a lit fuse and no timer. By putting these three people together, there is no chance that something horrible isn’t going to happen. The question is how high is the body count going to be?

 photo moore_kuttner_zpsrwvrsves.jpg
The husband and wife team of Kuttner and Moore.

Interestingly enough, there are rumors in the trade that Cleve Cartmill actually ghost wrote this book to be published under Henry Kuttner’s name. I’m not an expert on Kuttner, but from what I’ve read about this book, it has Kuttner’s fingerprints all over it. Maybe Cartmill wrote the bulk of it, and Kuttner put the polish on it. Kuttner had a John Lennon/Paul McCartney type relationship with his wife, C. L. Moore. They collaborated on nearly every story they wrote, regardless of whose name it was published under. One would write and leave the typewriter, sometimes in the middle of a sentence, and then the other would step in and continue the story. It was a borg alliance of married writers.

Unfortunately the relationship was short lived; Henry Kuttner died from a heart attack at age 42.

If you like hardboiled noir, you have to read this one.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:

View all my reviews

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Collection of Jeeves' Work

Jeeves Takes Charge and Other Stories Jeeves Takes Charge and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's deja vu and there are actual repeats. I started reading Jeeves Takes Charge and Other Stories and it felt very familiar. That happens almost every time I read a Wodehouse, so I didn't think much of it. But by the second or third stories I realized I actually had read most, if not all, of what this collection has to offer.

And what does this collection have to offer? Well, for starters it includes one of my favorite Wodehouse lines: "She fitted into my biggest armchair as if it had been built around her by someone who knew they were wearing armchairs tight about the hips that season." There are plenty such gems. Here are the contents in summary with my two cents:

"Jeeves Takes Charge" was first published magazines in the United States in 1916 and in the UK in 1923. Odd that. After all, Wodehouse was English. Its first book publication was in 1925 in Carry on, Jeeves, a good solid starter in the Jeeves/Wooster line. Anywhoodle, this particular story is the one that introduces us to the amazing Jeeves, who swoops in, revives Wooster with one of his restorative pick-me-ups and is immediately hired as Wooster's gentleman's personal gentleman. It's a great mini version of nearly all the best stories that were to come involving this dynamic duo.

"Without the Option" is the story of how Wooster and a friend get done for misdemeanors, and Wooster feels bad enough for the position he's put his friend in that he goes to great lengths and personal embarrassment to right the situation...sort of. This is an excellent example of Wodehouse's oft used masquerade plots in which a character poses as someone else with the innocent intention of doing some good. Little good ever comes of it for the character. However, it usually comes with plenty of laughs for us readers.

"The Artistic Career of Corky" is one of Wodehouse's New York-based stories in which Wooster's struggling artist friend is in love with a chorus girl and at odds with his uncle. Never a fan of the NY stories and having read and seen a tv version this one numerous times, I skipped it this time.

"The Aunt and the Sluggard" is similar to the above story, in which an artistic friend (poet this time) named Rocky, who wishes nothing more than to live a lazy life, is forced into an unpleasant labor (unpleasant to him) and Wooster takes the burden upon himself. Everything seems shipshape until.... Another NY based story I really didn't enjoy as much as Wodehouse's England-based stories.

"Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest" is about a blighted manchild being dropped into Wooster's life. It contains some excellent descriptives, especially at the start, which showcases the reason Wodehouse is much better read than seen. You don't want to miss out on Wooster's narration. This story makes me want to enter rooms with the greeting, "Hel-lo, allo-allo-allo-ALLO! What?"

"Jeeves and the Hard Boiled Egg" tells of the predicament one of Wooster's NY chums finds himself in and the clever scheme Jeeves cooks up to settle the matter. Knowing this one all too well, I skipped through it, but I can recommend it well enough. Short as it is, it packs some good punches, especially the jabs at Americans.

Once I figured out these were stories taken from another source I was ready to give it up. However, this was an audiobook (very well narrated by Alexander Spencer) and I was doing a longish drive, so why not speed down memory lane once more with some good old friends?

View all my reviews