Friday, September 30, 2016

Brook Street: Thief

Ava March
Carina Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


London, 1822 ... It was only supposed to be one night. One night to determine once and for all if he truly preferred men. But the last thing Lord Benjamin Parker expected to find in a questionable gambling hell is a gorgeous young man who steals his heart.

It was only supposed to be a job. Cavin Fox has done it many times — select a prime mark, distract him with lust, and leave his pockets empty. Yet when Cavin slips away under the cover of darkness, the only part of Benjamin he leaves untouched is his pockets.

With a taste of his fantasies fulfilled, Benjamin wants more than one night with Cavin. But convincing the elusive young man to give them a chance proves difficult. Living with a band of thieves in the worst area of London, Cavin knows there's no place for him in a gentleman's life. Yet Benjamin isn't about to let Cavin—and love—continue to slip away from him.

My Review

Lord Benjamin Parker is tired of well-meaning family members trying to hook him up with a nice lady, especially when he thinks his preference might be for a nice man. Not such an easy undertaking in the homophobic climate of 19th century London, but Ben does manage to find a gambling hell that caters to men of “unnatural persuasion”. It is there where he meets Cavin Fox, a handsome young man and petty thief in search of a well-heeled gentleman to lure to bed and leave him penniless.

After a fun night of gambling, conversation, and sexual discovery, both men get a lot more than they expected. Cavin is aware that he and Ben come from completely different social classes and realizes that even though they enjoyed each other’s company, nothing good could come from a relationship between them. So he waits until Ben is asleep, steals out quietly, leaving Ben’s valuables behind but accidentally takes his coat. When Cavin gets to his seedy home in the rookery of St. Giles, his landlord and employer inquires about the missing coat, so Cavin needs to see Ben again in order to get it back.

Though circumstances continue to force these two men together, Cavin is very secretive about his life and refuses to spend the night with Ben. Ben is frustrated by Cavin’s lack of trust and refusal to accept help of any kind even after he agreed to employ Cavin’s younger brother Sam as a servant. Things come to a head and Cavin finds himself in a position where he can no longer refuse Ben’s offer of assistance. Gradually, Ben learns more about Cavin’s grim life and Cavin learns that his past makes absolutely no difference to Ben.

I liked how the story was written from the perspectives of both men and found them both to be very likable, though not entirely believable at times. Ben has a lot more money than he knows what to do with, but his heart is always in the right place. The difficult life and poverty Cavin endures has not crushed his soul. He is a considerate lover, he cares deeply for Sam, and he wants to mend his thieving ways.

This is a light, sweet, sexy, fairy-tale romance that brought a smile to my face. Though I generally prefer more drama and hardship in my historical novels, I enjoyed Ben’s patience, his calm demeanor, and his non-judgmental acceptance of Cavin. I also enjoyed Cavin’s ability to adapt to a variety of situations, his sense of modesty, and his growth. Both men have a lot to learn from each other and deserve a chance at happiness.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Saga, Volume 1

Saga, Volume 1Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are moments in life when you can't help but realize that what you want to say was already said better by someone else. I present Grandpa Simpson on being with it.

I've been told Saga is the cool thing right now so it makes me think, I must not be cool. That actually just means I've returned to my status quo of most of my life. I've rarely been accused of being cool or with it. I'm not a trendsetter, I know nothing about fashion, and my daughter is old enough to tell me I'm annoying from time to time. So my cool card isn't suspended it's revoked and my file is labeled do not renew.

So a couple whose people are at war got married and are having a child. No one likes that and everyone wants them dead.
Including people with old TV sets for heads.
Why they have TV heads I have no idea. I guess they don't need to eat, but I wonder if they need to plug in from time to time. This is weird and vulgar. Vulgarity doesn't particularly bother me, but the characters use the f word like middle school kids who just learned the word. Use some SYMONYMS! Even other curse words would be welcome, but the author dug deep with the f bomb.

Will all that being said I didn't hate Saga volume 1, but this really isn't my kind of story.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Robert Louis Stevenson:: A BiographyRobert Louis Stevenson:: A Biography by Frank McLynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”He had long spidery limbs, was narrow-chested, walked with a slight stoop and was so thin that his joints made sharp corners under his cloths. 5’10” tall, he had fine bones, long sensitive hands, well-shaped feet about which he was vain, an oval face with high cheekbones, ruddy colouring, and aquiline nose like his mother’s and a large and expressive mouth that was described as a little tricksy and mocking. Yet his dark brown eyes were easily his most striking feature….”

 photo Robert_Louis_Stevenson_c_zpsbhjr2sxf.jpg
A portrait painting by John Singer Sargent. He really captures the spirit of RLS with the casual way he is sitting and the way his eyes peer out at those peering at him.

Not much of specimen, this Scottish Edinburgh man, but striking in appearance. Not someone anyone easily forgot. His father, Thomas, a burly, able bodied man who designed and built lighthouses as his father did, had to wonder how this spindly creature emerged from his loins. Despite their many disagreements, most around his father’s Calvinistic beliefs and the ever pressing concern the young Stevenson had for money, they loved each other. If Robert Louis Stevenson had been born in the mold of his father, there might have been a soldier named RLS or another in a long string of Stevenson engineers, but there never would have been the writer RLS.

Writing was something he could do to some degree while sick, recovering from being sick, or preparing to be sick again. His body was his enemy. He fought it constantly and was always trying to spring beyond its fragile borders to see the world with clear eyes instead of the fever shrouded ones he was given.

The fevers brought visions, apocalyptic dreams, pool of urine inducing spectres, and lurid images that had him screaming his way back to consciousness, clutching his hair in trembling hands, and feeling his heart pounding against his ribcage. ”But Stevenson never wanted to block the receptor to the unconsciousness entirely, for he recognized it as the true hidden spring of creativity.”

These night terrors brought him Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

He wrote the first draft in a matter of days, like a man possessed. He brought it downstairs to read to Fanny, his wife; she hated it. ”This brought to a head the conflict between Louis’s desire to tell the truth as he saw it and Fanny’s wish for commercial success.” He was definitely a man of passion, of fiery Scottish temper, and also quick to tears. The argument became so heated that

I want that manuscript!.

After he stormed from the room, did Fanny salvage it from the fire? No, I can almost see her shoving any partial pages that escaped the flames deeper into the fire, and I loathe her for it. I’m going to come back to Fanny.

So he went back up to his writing room and completed another draft of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which took into consideration his wife’s suggestions and was done in ten weeks. The story burned it’s way out of him, or it would have exploded his brain many years before the fatal aneurism that does eventually kills him in the South Pacific. The truthful version of DJMR was much more explicit with violence and sex. It was hard to say who was right, given the success that story has had and the influence the book has had on movies, television, film, and even art, but, of course, I can’t help but wonder about what was lost in the ashes.

There have been many biographies written about RLS, and all have differing opinions about the positive and negative aspects of Fanny Osbourne on the life of RLS. Frank McLynn takes a very hard line in regards to her behavior, and frankly, I agree with his assessments. RLS met her in France and became enamored with her darkened skin, pretty feet, and American sensibilities. He was coming off a rejection from another woman named Fanny Sitwell, who also had many of the same characteristics of Fanny Osbourne. It is easy to see that this Fanny was really a surrogate for the other Fanny. Both had husbands, which was also rather inconvenient. I don’t really believe, despite the natural attraction that women felt for him, that Stevenson had much experience with women beyond a few dalliances in the bordello and a few boyish crushes. He liked older women and may have been searching for someone to nurture him. He also had a strong morality, more of Thomas in him than either would believe, about taking advantage of women in any way, shape, or form.

When Fanny went back to her husband in America, several years later RLS was still thinking about her. He had finally amassed enough money to make the long trip from Scotland to California.


No one in their right mind would ever tell Stevenson to go West young man, unless it was with a team of doctors. He barely survived the journey, and he found a woman less than receptive to his presence. Some biographers have done some heavy sighing over how romantic this harebrained scheme of his of crossing an ocean and a continent to find his true love was, but the reality did not live up to the dream. It was a testy negotiation, with Fanny calculating his inheritance and the potential money he could make writing and wondering if she was exchanging a philandering husband for a walking corpse.

RLS won! Lost. Won. Well, I don’t know. Whatever that something something was that Fanny had, he was determined to have it. She did push him towards fiction more than the essay/ travel writing he was doing at the time, so I can’t really take the chance of unleashing my time machine from the stable and going back to 1879 and pushing her down the longest flight of stairs I can find.

Besides that would be wrong. It would, right?

I have several issues with Fanny: one is that she slowly poisoned him against all of his old friends, some of whom were instrumental in his development as a writer. She couldn’t stand him spending too much time with anyone other than herself. Two, she spent his money like a drunken sailor on shore leave in Singapore, and what she didn’t spend, her ambitionless kids Belle and Lloyd spent. Three, she resented his writing ability. She was a frustrated writer and frequently was too critical and not nurturing enough of his writing. Four, when he would get sick, she would develop some psychosomatic illness of her own that sometimes required a very sick Stevenson to try and tend to her. Five, she despised Treasure Island; she tried to block it ever being more than a serialized story, but fortunately, despite her efforts, it was published as a book. After his death, she discovered that the book was giving her the largest revenue, and with that knowledge, her opinion of the book changed as well.

I can feel my blood pressure rising, so enough about Fanny.

 photo RLS20Sargent_zpsmw9srd11.jpg
This is a portrait by John Singer Sargent of RLS and Fanny. I think it is utterly brilliant. Fanny of course didn’t like it probably because she was shrouded. I have a copy of this painting hanging in my home office.

Stevenson left a lot of unfinished works, some of them brimming with promise. He had too many ideas bouncing around in his head all the time. A new idea would light up his brain with new avenues to explore and in the process it would flounder another that he had started to write. His frequent illnesses often got him off track as well. He would often have to think of himself as someone else to escape his ailing body and let his mind be free. The climate of Scotland, and most of Europe, was too hard on his health. He finally settled on the island of Samoa for the last years of his life. Did he find rest and peace? Unfortunately, not very much. Finances were always a concern, and the large house and estate he bought were constantly draining away his royalties and his inheritance. His ready made family was not providing the comfort he deserved. Fanny had frequent bouts of depression that kept him in constant turmoil.

He died uncorking a bottle of wine. What a grand way to go if you are 84, but at 44, like the wine left in that bottle, there were a lot of wonderful stories left trapped in his mind, forever lost to all of us.

I have always had a special fondness for RLS. As a young lad of ten, I found a copy of Treasure Island at the library. It was the light that lit the flame of a lifetime reader. I read it three times before returning it to the library and then checked it out numerous times over the next few years. I owe him a debt that I can never repay for opening up a world of wonders to me. Books have been my constant companion. My moral compass. They tantalize me. They inspire me. They sooth me. They’ve chased the blues away and insured that I never felt totally alone in the world. They have made me who I am. Every book I pick up, I wonder is this another... Treasure Island.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Religion and Art: World Builders

Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our WorldHeretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World by Thomas Cahill
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thomas Cahill's Heretics and Heroes is a great look at the interwoven connection between the Reformation and the Renaissance, taking in a large swath of the primary leaders in religion, politics and the artists during that time period.

To be honest, history buffs won't find much new here as Cahill runs over the basics on the various kings, queens, popes, bishops, painters and sculptors of the 14th through 17th centuries. Take this as a good intro to that period, covering what any history course or book would touch upon.

However, beyond that, it delves deeper into the specifics of religion's grip upon Europe at the time, never wholly with or against the grand edicts of the day. Balance and clear thought are struck through out.

A few relatively minor personages come in for a sort of Wikipedia treatment and add nuance to the history. These were some of my favorite passages in the book, perhaps because they were the least known stories to me. The world is a strange...mainly because of the nonsense us kookie humans have gotten up to.

This is my second Thomas Cahill and I enjoyed it a good deal more than the first, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter. It made me feel more confident about this writer, enough that perhaps now I'll overcome move my fear of overhype and move on to his most popular book, How the Irish Saved Civilization.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ballad of Black Tom

The Ballad of Black TomThe Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tommy Tester is a hustler, doing what he has to to make ends meet and support his ailing father. When he meets Robert Suydam, things will never be the same...

I've always been a bigger fan of things inspired by H.P. Lovecraft than the man's actual work. It's certainly been a good few months for H.P. Lovecraft-inspired fiction for me. First, there was Carter & Lovecraft, then Lovecraft Country, and now this novella, the Ballad of Black Tom.

Victor LaValle has taken The Horror at Red Hook, called Lovecraft's most racist book by some, and turned it inside out.

Tommy Tester delivers a magical tome to an old woman, runs afoul of two detectives, and meets up with an old man bent on waking The Sleeping King from his dead and dreaming slumber. Needless to say, a lot happens in this slim book.

There was a viewpoint shift about halfway through. While I didn't think Malone was as interesting as Black Tom, the story couldn't have been told without him. LaValle does a fantastic job of capturing the Lovecraftian flavor of The Horror at Red Hook and makes it his own. I loved the ending of this book. Hell, I devoured the whole thing in one sitting.

4.5 out of 5 stars. I'll be watching Victor LaValle with great interest.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Joy of Hate

Greg Gutfeld
Crown Publishing
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


From the irreverent star of Fox News’s Red Eye and The Five, hilarious observations on the manufactured outrage of an oversensitive, wussified culture.

Greg Gutfeld hates artificial tolerance. At the root of every single major political conflict is the annoying coddling Americans must endure of these harebrained liberal hypocrisies. In fact, most of the time liberals uses the mantle of tolerance as a guise for their pathetic intolerance. And what we really need is smart intolerance, or as Gutfeld reminds us, what we used to call common sense.

The Joy of Hate tackles this conundrum head on--replacing the idiocy of open-mindness with a shrewd judgmentalism that rejects stupid ideas, notions, and people. With countless examples grabbed from the headlines, Gutfeld provides readers with the enormous tally of what pisses us all off. For example:
- The double standard: You can make fun of Christians, but God forbid Muslims. It's okay to call a woman any name imaginable, as long as she's a Republican. And no problem if you're a bigot, as long as you're politically correct about it.
- The demonizing of the Tea Party and romanticizing of the Occupy Wall Streeters.
- The media who are always offended (see MSNBC lineup)
- How critics of Obamacare or illegal immigration are somehow immediately labeled racists.
- The endless debate over the Ground Zero Mosque (which Gutfeld planned to open a Muslim gay bar next to).
- As well as pretentious music criticism, slow-moving ceiling fans, and snotty restaurant hostesses.

Funny and sarcastic to the point of being mean (but in a nice way), The Joy of Hate points out the true jerks in this society and tells them all off.

My Review

I don’t watch much TV, unless it’s a series that I can get hooked on or a movie. I generally stay away from talk shows, reality shows, comedies, and news/opinion shows. So I’ve never heard of Greg Gutfeld.

I’m so glad I came across Mike's review and gave him a chance.

His essays are proof positive that the left does not have a monopoly on intelligence, humor, or sarcasm.

Just last week, I was going to pull into a parking spot at Market Basket when this woman comes flying out from in between cars and beats me to the spot while fixing me with a nasty glare. Her shabby car was festooned with bumper stickers. After her appalling behavior, this was the one that stood out the most:

If she were truly tolerant, she would have let the old woman with the bad foot (and better car) take the spot closer to the entrance.

I’m sure Greg Gutfeld would have a good laugh over that one. I know I did. This is the kind of artificial tolerance that he talks about.

Though I tend to think these essays would be more appealing to those who lean to the right on the political spectrum, independent thinkers who don’t blindly accept one worldview and those who tolerate others with different views may get something out of it too.

I laughed even while he was dissing one of my favorite bands:

“The idea of tolerance – a seemingly innocuous concept – has now become something else entirely: a way to bludgeon people into shutting up, piping down, and apologizing, when the attacked are often the ones who hold the key to common sense. They speak an unspeakable truth, and they get clobbered by the Truncheon of Tolerance. Tolerance has turned normal people into sheep/parrot hybrids, followers in word and deed – bloating and squawking at everyone in a psychological torment not experienced since Dave Matthews picked up a guitar.”

He covers immigration, climate change, birth control, religion, feminism, media bias, Occupy Wall Street, celebrities, second-hand smoke, parades, etc.

Some of my favorites were:

- My Big Fat Gay Muslim Bar
- A Really Bad Day at the Office
- To Obama, Borders Was Nothing But a Bookstore
- A Pack of Lies
- Stalin Grads

While I don’t agree with everything he says, reading these essays was fun, refreshing, thought-provoking, and a perfect way to spend time on the beach.

One of these days I’ll check out his show.

Friday, September 23, 2016


The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My LifeThe Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life by John le Carré
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”These are true stories told from memory--to which you are entitled to ask, what is truth, and what is memory to a creative writer in what we may delicately call the evening of his life? To the lawyer, truth is facets unadorned. Whether such facts are ever findable is another matter. To the creative writer, fact is raw material, not his taskmaster but his instrument, and his job is to make it sing. Real truth lies, if anywhere, not in facts, but in nuance.”

 photo John20le20Carre_zps4hjkv0an.jpg

I’ve had many discussions over the years about the blurred, wiggly lines that separate truth from fiction. People who only read nonfiction and look down their noses at novels because “they are made up” don’t seem to grasp just how perilous it is to call anything nonfiction. Memory is threaded with lies. The victors write the histories, and without the other perspective, the truth is like dough. It can be molded, flattened, and turned into any shape the writer wishes it to be. Even with many perspectives, the truth morphs and changes as each tells the other what they saw. We can make people remember things differently. I, for one, do not trust any of my memories completely. I know how good I am at selling myself the best version or even a much worse version of any event.

Sometimes it is imperative to forget details, to blur what happened into more palatable memories.

Fiction is as true as fact. The uncertainty of memory plagues every writer trying to assemble the “facts” of his life.

In the case of John le Carre, that might be even more so. As we read these vignettes, he introduces us to some of the real people he has met who have inspired the characters in his books. His father looms large across the pages of his books, but like le Carre did in this memoir, I’m going to boot Ronnie to the end of this review. It is almost impossible for a writer not to write himself into books. We see versions of David Cornwell (John le Carre’s real name) in his fiction, sometimes striding boldly and sometimes much more subtly contained to the shadows. Each version must be, for him, like looking in a warped mirror made of words.

I didn’t expect le Carre ever to write an autobiography. He is 84 years old, so if he had always expected to write one, he certainly kicked that can down the road a long ways. He has continued to be remarkably productive in his twilight years. When I read his later works, I still marvel at his command of his characters and his fascination and interest in telling stories. He has not lost the ability to hold me enthralled.

It would be impossible for John le Carre to write a memoir without addressing his relationship with Graham Greene. The Tailor of Panama is an ode to Greene’s Our Man in Havana. Greene’s books were a springboard for le Carre’s creativity. In this book, he tells a story about Greene during the war wanting to use the code word for EUNUCH in a dispatch back to headquarters. He was invited to attend a conference, and he wrote back: ”Like the eunuch I can’t come.” That is vintage Greene. David Cornwell is probably a bit too straight laced to have done something like that, but for Greene it was just the thing to keep that smirky grin on his face.

I found the introduction so inspiring. As a guy who dabbles with writing, I thought he made several intuitive statements about writing. They are all still tumbling around in my head. ”I love writing on the hoof, in notebooks on walks, in trains and cafes, then scurrying home to pick over my booty. When I am in Hampstead there is a bench I favour on the Heath, tucked under a spreading tree and set apart from its companions, and that’s where I like to scribble. I have only ever written by hand. Arrogantly perhaps. I prefer to remain with the centuries-old tradition of unmechanized writing. The lapsed graphic artist in me actually enjoys drawing the words.”

Drawing the words... like sketching blueprints for a building or bridge or putting flesh on the bones of characters. It feels so hands on, like a mechanic up to his elbows in an engine with grease wedged under his fingernails. When a writer can bring words closer to himself, he can command them and build kingdoms that stretch the imagination to new boundaries. What can be discovered in the hallways of an inspired mind with just a #2 pencil and a pad of paper?

Richard Thomas Archibald (Ronnie) Cornwell was the father of the author. He was a conman. He knew the famous Kray Twins and was always chasing after the big score. He spent more than one jolt in jail, each time, of course, because of a misunderstanding. Women loved him, and men adored him. He was a charmer, a dreamer, a Lothario, and probably one of the strangest most enigmatic fathers a boy could have.

It was not unusual for David Cornwell to be pulled aside as he travelled from country to country promoting his books or researching the next one and be asked if he happened to know the whereabouts of his father. He would get calls asking for bail money from such far flung places a Zurich or Singapore. He had to be constantly pulled between loathing and loving his father with a healthy dose of embarrassment wrapped around both emotions. When The Spy Who Came in From the Cold hit big, Ronnie referred to the book as OUR BOOK and even ordered up a couple of hundred copies to sign and hand out as business cards. He, of course, charged the books to his son’s account.

At 84, Cornwell is still trying to come to terms with his father. He would love to know more about Ronnie and the sometimes diabolical schemes he tried to create out of air, much like a novelist realizing the twist he needs for his plot, but the truth, as David stated himself, lies in the nuances. If his father had been someone else, I have a sneaking suspicion we might never have had John le Carre.

I’ve read many of John le Carre’s books and will eventually read all of his books. Like a squirrel, I tuck his books like walnuts and save them for when I desperately need to be fed a perfect thriller. I wish him many more years of health and, along with that, the ability to keep putting pencil to paper. Interesting enough, I’ve noticed that some reviewers read this book and loved it without ever reading a John le Carre novel. Baffling, but at the same time, what a tribute to the writing. Highly recommended for John le Carre Fans or anyone.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Avengers: Standoff

Avengers: StandoffAvengers: Standoff by Nick Spencer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What is the biggest problem facing law enforcement in the Marvel Universe?
It's certainly not capturing villains because that seems to happen every issue. It's not having a place to put them, because Marvel has all kinds of prisons with cool names like The Raft. The biggest problem is keeping villains in prison. Marvel's jails are pretty much a turnstile as offending villains are back on the streets in an instant. My solution would be super hero prison guards or even anti-hero prison guards. Knowing The Punisher is sitting at a crazy vantage point with a sniper rifle and a missile launcher might dissuade people from escaping. Maria Hill had another thought altogether.

SHIELD Director Hill's plan was to use a cosmic cube to change unwanted circumstances. These plans were leaked to the public
and the Kobik project was shut down...It was supposed to be at least. Bucky Barnes the current man on the wall,
a role inherited from Nick Fury Sr., is shocked to learn there's a cosmic threat to Earth on Earth. He investigates and learns SHIELD has a sentient cosmic cube.
He alerts Commander Steve Rogers while The Whisperer is alerting current Captain America Sam Wilson. Let's say all is not as was expected as Maria Hill used Kobik to transform supervillains into ordinary people and housed them in a SHIELD operated town called Pleasant Hill. Of course nothing could ever go wrong with that plan...

Avengers Standoff is a strange mixture for a volume. The premise makes sense as supervillains always break out of jail so transforming them into non violent members of a small town makes a lot of sense...assuming they won't execute anyone. The oddest part to me was the weak attempt at humor. The author pushed hard for some laughs, but it fell short. Another strange part is that the sentient cosmic cube assumed the form of a four year old girl which should of been an immediate flag. I have a daughter who is past the age of four and relying on her to handle all the battle guys would be a mistake. Four can be an emotionally volatile least for my daughter. Anyway things have to go wrong which they spectacularly do.

On a positive I did eventually enjoy seeing all the Avengers teams cooperating. I was surprised seeing that Iron Man remained basically silent throughout since he's become a major figure head largely due to his prominence in the MCU.

Avengers Standoff was solid, but far from being overly memorable. I'm glad I read, but I'm sure I won't read it again.

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Guardians of the Galaxy: New Order, Vol. 1: Emperor Quill

Guardians of the Galaxy: New Order, Vol. 1: Emperor QuillGuardians of the Galaxy: New Order, Vol. 1: Emperor Quill by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Guardians of the Galaxy head to Spartax to see their old friend and new Emperor of Spartax Peter Quill. Trouble has come for them though
in the form of a Kree Accuser who blames the Guardians for the destruction of Hala.
If that wasn't bad enough, the Guardians made a new enemy in Peter's absence that's coming to fight them on Spartax.

First off I have to say it's absurd that Peter Quill allowed himself to be made the Emperor of Spartax. He clearly doesn't want the job, but he accepted it out of some strange sense of obligation.

New Order Vol. 1 Emperor Quill shows the Guardians at their best, scrapping there way through fights they had no reason to be in. The Kree Accuser calling herself Hala was just out for blood period and she's massively powerful. Gamora's cosmic strength falls short. I've read a few of the Guardians solo comics and they all fall a bit short because they are best together. Even new comer Ben Grimm aka The Thing fits in with his rocky exterior and single catch phrase.

I'm excited to see what the Guardians do next because they are one memorable bunch.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016


The Automatic DetectiveThe Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”Self-preservation was a basic directive, but there wasn’t a robot functioning that prioritized it at the top of the list. Like biologicals all robots were seeking a purpose. Autos and drones were lucky enough to have that built into them. A bot had to find his own way and I’d figured out that functioning for function’s sake was pointless. The real question was finding a directive worth getting scrapped for.”

Mack Megaton was at the bottom of the sludge heap of Empire City, a city where weird science and toxic chemicals were turning biologicals into all kinds of interesting mutants. His best friend is a talking, book reading addicted Gorilla. The guy that keeps him out of trouble is a rodent biological by the name of Detective Sanchez. Mack is driving a cab and damn lucky to have that job instead of being in pieces at the spare part boneyard.

You see, he tried to take over the world.

It wasn’t his fault; he was programmed for world domination. He was supposed to bring biologicals to their knees.

His creator was obviously brilliant, but something went wrong.

”That defective electronic brain of yours is too prone to sentimentality, concerned with certain illogical motivations. They assumed you were the next step in their evolution, yet they can’t reconcile the apparently randomization of your behavior.”

He is still a cold calculating machine, but he is developing really bad habits that are traits only biologicals have. ”Of course they’d known I was lying. That was okay. It was one of the marks of sentience, the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy and still indulge in fantasy. In other words: I lied, therefore I thought.”

When in Rome, right? He is on his way to full citizenship if he can just stay out of trouble.

He can’t do it.

Mack decides to try and find a missing family of biologicals and soon finds himself up to his neck screws in trouble. Sam Spade with a spade for a face. Even before he pulls on the pin stripe suit of a private detective, he has Dame with a capital D problems, a four armed mutant trying to ”Burn him a new exhaust port,” and a telekinesic arsehole putting a virus into his software. He ”had him by the directives.”

As if it isn’t hard enough just being a bot.

I absolutely blew through this book. I was looking for something breezy with a zing, and this fit the bill perfectly. The action is non stop. The robot hardboiled dialogue was fresh and at times had me laughing out loud. I was hoping that A. Lee Martinez had written a follow up book, but as far as I can tell, this is it folks. Irresistible, great fun!

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Jerusalem by Alan Moore

JerusalemJerusalem by Alan Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I might have finally hit something thats over my head. I picked this up with a long background in reading comics, and KNEW what I was getting into, and got into it anyway.

There is beauty in this story, there are mad flashes of pure brilliant story telling and maybe modern life and the world has gotten to me, but there is a overwhelming sense in my case of "GET TO THE FUCKING POINT"

In all of the dirt, grime and love, Mr. Moore has for his tale, there is a hell of a load of circular writing, whether intentional or not, I don't presume to know. It detracts from enjoyment of the story to me, if you want to dig and work for your nuggets of awesome, go for it. Be prepared for a lot of what the fucking and beating your head against a wall.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

A Steady Decline

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and NightfallNocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow! That first short story was fantastic! Too bad the rest of this story-cycle collection of five didn't maintain that same high standard in my first foray in reading Kazuo Ishiguro's work.

In case you're interested, here is Wikipedia's synopsis of each story:

"Crooner" - Set in Venice, a fading American singer co-opts a Polish cafe musician into accompanying him while he serenades his wife (whose relationship is disintegrating) from a gondola.

"Come Rain or Come Shine" - In London, an expatriate EFL teacher is invited to the home of a couple whom he knew whilst at university. However the couple's tensions affect the visitor, leading to a rather awkward situation.

"Malvern Hills" - A young guitarist flees London and lack of success in the rock world to the Malvern countryside cafe owned by his sister and brother-in-law. Whilst there he encounters Swiss tourists whose behavior causes him to reflect on his own situation.

"Nocturne" - A saxophonist recuperating after plastic surgery at a Beverly Hills hotel becomes involved with a wealthy American woman (the now ex-wife of the crooner in the first story) and ends up in a rather bizarre confrontation on stage of the hotel (involving an award statuette and a cooked turkey).

"Cellists" - A Hungarian cellist falls under the spell of a fellow cellist, an apparently virtuosic American older woman, who tutors him. He later realizes that she cannot play the cello as she was so convinced of her own musical genius, no teacher ever seemed equal to it, and so rather than tarnish her gift with imperfection, she chose never to realize it at all.

I LOVED "Crooner"! It was clear from the start that Ishiguro excels at setting a scene and quickly building fairly full-formed characters, at least as full as is needed for a short. He handles mood like it's putty in the hands of an accomplished sculptor.

Some reviewer for a UK paper, I think it was The Guardian or something, said "Nocturne" was the funniest story. What the heck was this person thinking? "Nocturne" had a brief moment of humor, but it was otherwise long and lame. "Come Rain or Come Shine" was the one I found funniest. Its main character is like someone Ricky Gervias would've created and is almost as put-upon as Bertie Wooster. In fact, this particular story is very Wodehousian and quintessentially British in its dry humor.

"Malvern Hills" and "Cellists" are pretty enough in their imagery and sadness, but they don't quite come up to the mark of "Crooner".

All in all, this wasn't the best introduction to a new writer for this particular reader, but its quantity of quality was enough for me to seek out another book by Kazuo Ishiguro for a second chance.

Starting out as great as it did, after the story story I was ready to give Nocturnes 5 stars. Reading a couple more, I felt like this was a solid 4 stars. Struggling through the forth story dropped the overall score down to 3. Finishing off the book with a story that struggled to keep my attention didn't improve my opinion enough to raise it up to 4, so I'll call it 3.5 stars.

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Entry Island

Entry IslandEntry Island by Peter May
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Detective Sime Mackenzie finds himself on a murder case on Entry Island, a tiny isle in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The suspect, a newly-widowed woman named Kirsty, seems oddly familiar to Sime. What is their connection? And can Sime survive in the same unit as his ex-wife long enough to find out?

I got this from Netgalley.

Entry Island was my first Peter May book and won't be the last. The book started a little slow for me at first but several things gripped me. I really liked Sime as a lead character. An insomniac cop whose life is falling apart? Sign me up! I also really liked the Entry Island setting. The thing that really grabbed me, however, was the book's structure. I loved the way things in Sime's ancestor's journal paralleled events in the main story.

The mystery wasn't all that mysterious but it wasn't the main focus anyway. Entry Island is very much a character driven book rather than a straight up mystery. The setting does a lot to set the tone, as does Sime's slowly disintegrating mental state.

It was nearly orgasmic when the connections starting coming together at the end. The last 30% was very hard to put down. Peter May has some serious writing chops. Even though I need another series to follow like I need a hole in my head, I'd read more stories about Sime Mackenzie.

So which Peter May book should I try next? Four out of five stars.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Off Campus

Amy Jo Cousins
Samhain Publishing
4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Nancy


Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide.

With his father’s ponzi scheme assets frozen, Tom Worthington believes finishing college is impossible unless he can pay his own way. After months sleeping in his car and gypsy-cabbing for cash, he’s ready to do just that.

But his new, older-student housing comes with an unapologetically gay roommate. Tom doesn’t ask why Reese Anders has been separated from the rest of the student population. He’s just happy to be sleeping in a bed.

Reese isn’t about to share his brutal story with his gruff new roommate. You’ve seen one homophobic jock, you’ve seen ’em all. He plans to drag every twink on campus into his bed until Tom moves out. But soon it becomes clear Tom isn’t budging.

Tom isn’t going to let some late-night sex noise scare him off, especially when it’s turning him on. But he doesn’t want any drama either. He’ll keep his hands, if not his eyes, to himself. Boundaries have a way of blurring when you start sharing truths, though. And if Tom and Reese cross too many lines, they may need to find out just how far they can bend…before they break.

My Review

As an older college graduate, dorm life was one of those experiences I missed. I know people who enjoyed that time of their life, and others who hated it. To an introvert like me, living with a randomly selected roommate in a cramped room, communal bathrooms, noise, and lack of privacy sounds like hell on earth.

While I have no regrets about missing the dorm experience, I periodically enjoy reading about college life and the confusion, emotional turmoil and insecurity that plagues young adults.

Tom Worthington uses his car as a cab to help pay for his tuition costs. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much else in the way of money or possessions, as his dad’s fraudulent scheming left victims penniless, resulting in frozen assets and a jail sentence. Tom is deeply affected by his father’s actions and tries hard to keep a low profile around campus. He has difficulty trusting others, is unable to ask for help, and fears people are gossiping about him.

Tom didn't get the single room he was promised, so he is forced to bunk with Reese Anders, a 20-year-old gay man who has his own reasons for wanting to be alone.

In spite of the men’s unwillingness to share a room, Tom and Reese develop a tentative friendship that eventually gives way to mutual attraction. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though, because Tom and Reese are very private people with unresolved issues.

I nearly set the book aside, because I quickly tired of the random sex scenes and wasn’t warming up to either Reese or Tom. Thankfully, I was patient, for I was rewarded with a moving, powerful story that felt so real. Tom’s and Reese’s problems were dealt with very sensitively without resorting to clichés and pounding the reader over the head with “important life lessons.” I especially enjoyed that friendship, trust and love took time to develop. Reese and Tom know they each have difficult hurdles to overcome and need more than love to make their relationship work. Significant secondary characters like Tom’s best friend, Cash, Reese’s friend, Steph, and Reese’s dad kept Tom and Reese from being too isolated and helped infuse this story with lightness, humor and love.

This is my first book by Amy Cousins, but it certainly won’t be my last. I’m looking forward to spending more time with Reese and Tom’s friends and getting a glimpse of their future.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide Vol. 1

Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide Vol. 1 (2015-)Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide Vol. 1 by Dan Slott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a short time, and with some help from the body swapped Doctor Octopus, Peter Parker became a Doctor and started his own now international company.
Parker Industries has become an amazing ground breaking company
so much so that it has it's own enemies Zodiac.
It's not clear what they're after, but what is clear is Parker Industries success has caused Spider-Man to go global.

Worldwide Vol. 1 is somewhat odd for me because I hadn't kept up with Peter Parker's exploits. It's hard to believe that even with a headstart thanks to Dr. Octopus that Peter could be such a success. The man couldn't protect his neighborhood, see his Aunt May, have a job, and a girlfriend/wife successfully so it's hard to envision him being able to be a CEO of his own company or any company while being Spider-Man. Regardless Peter is doing his best impression of early Iron Man. He's his own super hero body guard and even has a black friend/employee the Prowler to dress up as Spidey when it's needed.

This vastly different Spider-Man and Peter Parker combo could become more interesting with some better adversaries. Zodiac isn't particularly concerning or interesting. They did wreak havoc, but in a bland fashion. I do appreciate that a bigger threat is being woven into the stories. It's ambiguous what the threat is exactly, but it's clear this new adversary has considerable abilities.

Worldwide Vol. 1 shows Peter Parker as a shining star on the world's stage, I just hope the villains get more interesting.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016


A Wizard of EarthseaA Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”The hunger of a dragon is slow to wake, but hard to sate.”

 photo Earthsea20Dragon_zps6ietclom.jpg
The Folio Society edition is superbly illustrated by David Lupton.

The boy is born on the island of Gont in the archipelago of Earthsea. This is a world infused with magic. Not everyone can control this magic, but those who know the right words and have a wizard soul can learn to utilize the power of the Earth to manipulate objects and events. The boy’s name is Duny; I can tell you that name because the name has no power over him. His true name is something he can only reveal to those he trusts absolutely beyond question.

I know his true name, but fair reader, I’m not sure yet that I can share it with you.

His aunt knows a few things, a handful of words, that can be used to bind things or call animals to her. Duny is particularly adept at calling falcons and other birds of prey. His agile mind soon surpasses what his aunt can teach him. He burns to know more. He is assigned to a mage, Ogion, who tries to teach him about the balance of magic with the Earth. There is always a cost for using magic. Understanding the levy for sorcery is the difference between being just impulsively talented and being wise about what you know.

”You must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard’s power of Changing and of Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow….”

If the flap of a butterfly wing in the Amazon can cause a hurricane in Florida, imagine what a wizard can do with power over the weather.

It is kind of funny, but there is this one scene where wizards on different islands use spells to keep the clouds from raining on them. This storm bounces between them like a boiling stew pot. Now, a wizard like Ogion finds shelter under a tree and waits for the rain to stop. To Sparrowhawk, this type of restraint is ridiculous. If you have the power, why not use it?

Duny is Sparrowhawk, and you might think that is his real name, but just because you’ve read a few paragraphs of this review doesn’t mean you’ve endeared yourself to me enough to tell you his real name. Sparrowhawk will suffice for now.

Sparrowhawk becomes impatient with the restrained magic that Ogion teaches, so he is sent to magic school on the Island of Roke. There was a magic school in literature before Hogwarts?

Indeed there was.

The first time he goes to the dining hall to eat, there is only one table. The table, in a very Hogwarts’ fashion, expands to fit as many people who enter to eat. Sparrowhawk is soon recognized as one of the most gifted students. Spells and the names of things flow into his mind like lava, changing the landscape of his brain into something completely different.

He becomes powerful.

He becomes arrogant.

He becomes vengeful on those who don’t appreciate his power.

In a moment of hubris, he summons a dead woman from the distant past and, in the process, opens a rift that nearly kills him. It does kill the old mage who helps him close it.

Something came through.

Sparrowhawk is burned in mind, body, and spirit. He is guilty of a death. The shame and self-condemnation weigh heavily on him. He may become the great wizard he was intended to be, but the road will be much longer now.

The shadow from another world that pursues him becomes the devil on his heels for the rest of the novel. This chase from island to island reminded me of Frankenstein and his pursuit of his monster to the North Pole.

The interesting thing about this novel is that Ursula K. Le Guin’s publisher came to her and asked her to write a book for older kids. Young Adult wasn’t even a term yet in the late 1960s. She wasn’t sure she wanted to write such a book, but she was nagged by the idea of where do great wizards come from? We normally meet them when they are old sages in the vein of a Merlin or a Gandalf. She wanted G__ erhhh Sparrowhawk to be seen as more human, more fallible than how most wizards had been presented before. I liked the emphasis she puts on the importance of words in this novel and the power and magic that resides in knowing the names of things.

I had trepidations about reading this book. I was reassured that I was in the capable hands of a writer I’ve enjoyed before. I have a bit of a knee jerk reaction to the term Young Adult because I’m not a Young Adult. I’m an old fuddy duddy who has a hard time watching commercials on TV geared towards youth. I certainly wince at the idea of spending hours trapped in a book intended for a younger audience. I’m somewhat alarmed at the number of ADULTS who read nothing but Young Adult. The evolution of a reader is for that person to move from picture books, then ride the escalator to Young Adult, and eventually find the elevator that will take them onwards and upwards to adult literature.

I’m still pondering this. Is it an extended childhood? Why would someone always want to read about children or teenagers? Am I generationally challenged on this issue? I am happy that people are reading, and ultimately it is better that they read anything rather than nothing at all, but I do think that the more you read there should be some evolution in what you choose to read. I’m such an eclectic reader that it is difficult for me to understood people being so genre specific with their reading choices. Young Adult now dominates the publishing world. Writers are being encouraged to make changes to their novels so they can be marketed as YA. If I weren’t worried about this trend it would be fascinating.

 photo Wizard20of20Earthsea_zpsrdax4ssf.jpg

There are dragon battles, alluring women who try to seduce G_d to their own uses. There are friendships made and lost; there are painful realizations, and there is growth and acceptance of our own limitations. Most importantly, there is a wizard as wise and as powerful as Gandolf or Merlin, who emerges like a Phoenix from the flames of his own childish conceit. His name is Ged, but you must only whisper it, or better yet refer to him as Sparrowhawk, and keep in the locked box at the center of your heart who he really is. ”He hunted, he followed, and fear ran before him.”

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Jeeves Gets Medieval

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (Jeeves, #11)Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another deeelightful romp in the Wodehouse world! Romp-tiddly-romp, I say, what?! What, what?!

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, aka What Ho, Jeeves, is a bit different from others in the Wooster/Jeeves line in that it reads like a play. In my case, it listens like a play, because I ingested this audiobook-style. So, in place of Wodehouse's wonderful narration via Bertie's inner monologue, we get awkward exposition and strange soliloquy. Instead of a witty description of Jeeves' discontent over Bertie's ghastly upper-lip appendage, we hear the actor groaning and moaning in a most peevish manner, in a word: whinging.

All the above sounds odd and irritating, and would be off-putting enough to make most listeners give it up. I'm not most readers when it comes to a Wooster and Jeeves novel, so I stuck it out, and boy am I glad I did! Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit turned out to be a cracking good read!

It's no different than any of the other 101 books (or however many there are) on the dynamic duo in this series. Bertie's having a typically rough morning after a raucous night out when hell breaks out and rings his doorbell. One of his torturous aunts is in need, a former fiancee may or may not wish to marry him again, the significant other of this former fiancee wishes to wring Bertie's neck (or in this case, break his spine in upwards of a half dozen different locations), a minor heist is required of Bertie by his aunt, and Jeeves will save the day 9 times out of 10.

It's a tried and true formula from which Wodehouse seldom varies. So why bother to keep coming back? One likes the well-known rerun and is grateful for the old trusty laugh when so needed. I often pick up a Wodehouse when I'm down or blue or in some other variation on the state of sadness. A dose from a reliable rib-tickler can get one out of a funk as well as an aspirin relieves a headache, and this book is an even more potent remedy for what ails you.

NOTE: I'd like to make a further note, a sidebar if you will, regarding the audiobook. The performances were mostly top-notch. I attribute this to the use of about three actors who've voiced the Bertie character in other Wodehouse books. One played the main role, while the others supported. Fantastic casting!

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Captains Outrageous

Captains OutrageousCaptains Outrageous by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Hap comes into some money, he and Leonard go on a vacation and wind up stranded in Mexico. True to form, they end up helping a fisherman and his daughter with a problem they're having...

This is my third read of Captains Outrageous but the first time in over a decade so it was like a completely new book.

Captains Outrageous sees Hap and Leonard going up against a Mexican loanshark and his goons. It also brings the crew back together with Jim Bob Luke, Marvin Hanson, Charlie Blank, and Veil. Unlike a lot of series mysteries, Lansdale isn't afraid to upset the apple cart in a big way.

Hap and Leonard go through quite a bit in this one and we all needed a break after it, even Lansdale, for this was the last Hap and Leonard book for something like eight years. While hilarious, crude, and full of violence, it's also really bleak.

There's a lot of interesting stuff going on but it's easily my least favorite of the Hap and Leonard books up to this point. It felt unfocused at times and might have worked better as two linked novellas.

All things considered, though, it was a pretty good read. Hap and Leonard had some good character moments and things ended with the pair in a good place for once, a place they'd stay in until Lansdale brought our boys back in Vanilla Ride. Three out of five stars.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Junk Mage

Elliot Cooper
NineStar Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


When technomancer Quillian Defote crash-lands on remote planet Marutuk, he has limited time to repair his ship and get off world. If he fails, he’ll forfeit his position as professor of mechanical transmutation at the prestigious Ivy Arcanarium and ruin his employment prospects in yet another sector.

Hunter, a cyborg guarding a junkyard that holds what Quill needs, is charmed by the wayward mage and wants to help him. But Hunter is bound by honor to dutifully guard his mistress and her possessions, no matter how cruelly she treats him.

Together Quill and Hunter stand a chance of starting a new life together if carnivorous wildlife, a violent necromancer, and stubborn pride don’t keep them apart.

My Review

I will start out by saying that I love short stories. Whereas a novel can take its time fleshing out characters and developing a compelling plot, a short story leaves the writer with little wiggle room for going off on tangents. A good short story should feel complete, and not like an outline of a novel.

The author did a superb job setting up the world and creating an interesting cast of characters. I liked that it was told from the quirky technomancer Quill’s perspective. He is funny, thoughtful, and easygoing and I was comfortable spending time in his head. Hunter, the cyborg guarding the parts that Quill needs to repair his broken ship, was a bit more introverted. It was fun watching Quill’s and Hunter’s friendship develop into something deeper.

Even though Quill’s attitude kept me smiling much of the time, there was a touch of sadness involving Hunter’s past that I would have loved to see explored further.

This was a well-written, cleanly edited, and fast-paced story. Its format was too short to adequately contain everything explored here, so it felt slight at times.

While this was not the perfect short story, it was still a heck of a lot of fun.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Uncanny Avengers, Vol. 1: Unity: Lost Future

Uncanny Avengers, Vol. 1: Unity: Lost FutureUncanny Avengers, Vol. 1: Unity: Lost Future by Gerry Duggan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Steve Rogers continues to promote unity between humans and mutants. Thanks to the terrigen cloud he now has to promote unity with the Inhumans as well. Steve was fortunate enough to convince a new Inhuman to join the cause. Unfortunately the terrigen cloud doesn't simply bestow powers on the good.
A new Inhuman has unleashed a biological attack on the planet that's so devastating that Cable returned to the past to help save everything.
Meanwhile the Avengers Unity Squad is searching for the Red Skull to retrieve Professor X's brain.

Lost Future wasn't great. The combination for the team is an odd mashup of lost toys so to speak. The team has elderly Captain America from the Avengers, Rogue from the X-Men, and Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four. It also features Quicksilver, Doctor Voodoo, Deadpool, Cable, and new Inhuman Synapse. It's hard to come up with a less interesting and more mismatched bunch. It almost feels like someone is trying to convince Steve Rogers to retire by giving him the dregs of heroes.

As many may know I've taken to the Inhumans movement and have read as many titles as I'm aware of/can get my hands on. Sometimes I enjoy actual new things in comics over new scenarios for characters twice my age. Anyway I enjoyed the initiative of adding Inhumans as new antagonists and protagonists in stories. Unfortunately the Inhuman adversary the Shredded Man wasn't all that interesting. Perhaps the build up was too quick, but I imagine it was mainly his need to eliminate people so plants could survive. That's not a message that I'm interested in hearing.

Uncanny Avengers proves that Marvel comics loves to use the title Uncanny even though there are many other options they haven't made use of yet. Lost Future was an OK volume that would be more appreciated by anyone who liked more than one of the Avengers Unity Squad members.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016


The Drowned DetectiveThe Drowned Detective by Neil Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”’What is it about this place?’ I asked him. ‘They do things the old-fashioned way. They fall in love, they kiss in metros, they hire detectives to follow errant spouses and psychics to find lost children.’

‘You could call it retro,’ he said.”

 photo Neil20Jordans20city_zpsieuvftu8.jpg

The city was built in an era of stone. The passage of centuries and the climatic weather are slowly crumbling the edges, eroding the foundations. There are cell phones and computers, but they don’t dominate people’s lives. Music is a bigger part of their lives, either listening and/or playing, not mindless notes, but the ethereal tones of Bach and other masters. We know it is a European city, but it remains nameless. It is a place suspended in time, as if the city is caught in a 1940s black and white noir film with cracks in the celluloid which allow color from the present to bleed into the edges of the frames.

Jonathan owns a small private investigation firm. Most of their cases involve following adulterous spouses, but when a couple brings him a picture of their missing daughter, who was the same age as his daughter is now when she disappeared, he decides to do what he can to find out what happened to her. The case is stone cold, so when the mother suggests using a psychic, Jonathan is leary but at the same time wants any help he can get to find a string that he can start tugging on.

Jonathan’s first impression of the psychic is of grandness in the waning days of her elegance.

”She looked like an ageing Marlene Dietrich and she knew it. All she was missing was the eye-patch, the one Dietrich wore as she gazed through a wisp of curling smoke at the sagging hulk that was Orson Welles. They were both old then, and almost past it, and they knew it, too.”

In the moonlight, she is still glamorous, but in the harsh truth of daylight, there are breaches in her beauty revealing more of what she has lost than what she has retained.

To add flavor to the plot, Jonathan finds a man’s cufflinks in his wife’s purse. He doesn’t have to be a good detective to figure out who they belong to. Enhancing his own problems, the city is in chaos with people in Balaclavas racing around the streets and metros clashing with the police and leaving shattered glass in their wake.

Jonathan meets a woman on a bridge adorned with eyeless gargoyles. It bothers him, these protectors without sight. He chats with her and, sensing the pain,






She jumps.

He jumps in after her.

If you save a life, you are responsible for him/her for the rest of your life. Or so the proverb says, but for Jonathan, this act is going to have bigger ramifications than he can ever comprehend.

We always try to understand what motivates people to do rash things, or maybe their actions just look rash to us. Maybe they are acting on thoughts they have rolled around their minds until the rough edges are worn off, and now those brooding notions move smoothly from side to side, and the only way to get it to stop is to….

What do investigators do? They investigate, and sometimes they discover things that are baffling and nonsensical, but sometimes they discover things that allow all the pieces to fall into place. Jonathan meets a predator who is very candid about what he does.

”She had the extraordinary need, you see, for contact, that only comes from the damaged ones. And they can be exquisite, the damaged ones.”

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These sparsely written, elegant prose are a perfect example of how less can create more. This city might be crumbling, but the dignified, atmospheric beauty of the streets and buildings make me love this place as if it is a fantasyland built for my pleasure. Neil Jordan is best known as a director, but lucky for us, he also writes books. He shocked the world with his film The Crying Game, but he has also proven to me that his cinematic vision or his gift of expression is not narrowed to just a lense in a camera. If you like enthralling, moody, ethereal noir with a dash of supernatural, then this is the perfect book for you.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A City Dreaming By: Daniel Polansky

A City DreamingA City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful, strange jumble of a story, I loved every page. It seems to me that almost everytime someone creates a character, such as a somewhat antihero/rogue magician get a certain image in your head.

That being said, Mr. Polansky has spun an amazing weird world full of interesting things, the story is kind of like a collection of short tales loosely spun together. This a great read, if you dig Gaiman, Mieville, or have read Mr. Polansky's other works, (and you should have) get this book!

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Monday, September 5, 2016

The Life of Brahms

Brahms (Life and Works (Naxos))Brahms (Life and Works by Jeremy Siepmann
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great way to get to know a composer! Jeremy Siepmann's Brahms was exactly what I was looking for!

Jumping right into things, this audiobook takes you directly into the life, times and music of Johannes Brahms, the famous German composer from the mid-to-late 19th century.

Brahms has been a quiet favorite of mine. "Quiet" in that the music of his which I've heard so far has been on the softer, more relaxed side. And also "quiet" in that I have been a passive fan of his, not actively seeking out his work, but always enjoying it when I catch it on the radio. Occasionally I've intentionally tuned in to an internet station that only plays his stuff and I'll put that on in the background while I'm writing. Instrumental music is key when writing, because you don't want extraneous words drilling into your thoughts. Another positive is that Brahms' music doesn't tend towards the extremes, at least not the loud or excitable extremes, not from what I've heard. You don't get the agitated aggression you get from Beethoven now and then. With Brahms you can be sure you'll hear ear-satisfyingly good melodies.

The above might make one think Brahms was, well, boring, dependable and dull. I held that opinion before listening to this book, but Siepmann opened my eyes and ears to Brahms' subtle genius.

In Brahms sections of text are smartly interspersed with chunky passages from symphonies and smaller pieces. Siepmann explains the wheres, hows, and whys of Brahms' music and then we get to immediately hear examples. Brilliant! I'll certainly be seeking out other audiobooks he's done in this series!

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Hap and Leonard Ride Again

Hap and Leonard Ride AgainHap and Leonard Ride Again by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The guys at Tachyon sent me this as well as Hap and Leonard. There's a significant amount of overlap so some of this will be a clip job.

Introduction by Michael Kortya: I'm always interested in what one writer writes about another. Kortya echoes my feelings on Hap and Leonard and Joe Lansdale in general. He also refrains from spoiling the shit out of stories, which is growing increasingly rare in introductions.

Joe R. Lansdale, Hap and Leonard, and Me by Bill Crider: Bill Crider details his decades-long friendship with Joe Lansdale and gives an outsider's point of view on Joe working on the series.

Veil’s Visit: Leonard gets arrested for burning down the crack house next door again and Hap's friend Veil takes the case.

In this tale. Lansdale introduces Veil, a lawyer friend of Hap's that later makes an appearance in Captains Outrageous. Veil's backstory and defense of Leonard make for a memorable tale.

Death By Chili: Hap and Leonard tackle the mystery of a dead champion chili cook. Was it suicide or... murder?

This tale is mostly conjecture, peppered with Lansdale wit, and followed by Lansdale's own chili recipe.

A Bone Dead Sadness: Marvin Hanson takes on a case 25 years cold so a dying widow can find out what happened to her son.

A Bone Dead Sadness is kind of a locked room mystery featuring Marvin Hanson. Hap and Leonard are absent but mentioned a few times.

Not Our Kind: This tale chronicled an early encounter featuring a teenage Hap and Leonard and some bullies. The guys were cracking wise but things didn't go as they usually do.

The Oak and the Pond: Hap tells the story of what happened to the Robin Hood Tree, a tree mentioned in several of the early Hap and Leonard books.

The Boy Who Became Invisible: Hap recounts a tale of his youth, the tale of the boy everyone picked on.

The Boy Who Became Invisible is a powerful tale because it's all too believable and very relatable. I remembered the ending but it still hit pretty hard. This particular version of The Boy Who Became Invisible is in screenplay format.

Joe R. Lansdale Interviews Hap Collins and Leonard Pine: Lansdale interviews the dynamic duo. It's short, funny, and has the all too true line "It's the family you choose that counts."

An Interview with Joe R. Lansdale, His Own Self: Rick Klaw interviews Joe, asking his thoughts on such topics as racism, genres, Texas, violence, and other subjects.

The Care and Feeding and Raising Up of Hap and Leonard: Lansdale talks about the genesis of Hap and Leonard and writing the books, confirming that Hap is something of a stand-in for Lansdale himself.

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Soy Sauce Face

Sedonia Guillone
Ai Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Sometimes the best kept secret is the one you keep from yourself…

“I’m an ordinary man with an ordinary life in every way. Except for Jun. That’s what I think to myself every night when I watch Jun getting ready for his work as a bar host in Kabukicho. He’s everything I’m not. He’s the beautiful, graceful, sociable and ambitious counterpart to me—a hulking, reclusive, completely unambitious guy who’d rather fix car and motorcycle engines all day than interact with people… I’d be happy if Jun just stayed here with me the rest of our lives, in this little apartment we’d once shared with Dad. But Jun has other plans.”

Or so Jun thinks. One night he gets ready and goes to work. But a tragic occurrence derails his career and all his plans for the future.

Through the eyes of his best friend, Tomo, the man who loves him above all others, Jun will be forced to confront himself, his deepest fears, hates, desires. And his deepest love.

My Review

This is a lovely story about Tomo and Jun, two Japanese men who have been close friends since childhood. Abandoned by his mother at a very young age, Jun is raised by Tomo’s father and the boys lived together as brothers.

Jun is now 27, working late hours as a bar host while Tomo has a secure job as a mechanic. The two remain very close, but their different schedules prevent them from spending a lot of time together.

A brutal assault in a dark alley leaves Jun hospitalized and worried about his future.

Told from Tomo’s point of view, we get glimpses of his strength, vulnerability, and insecurity. Though his body is muscular and calloused from physical labor, he is a gentle soul who is deeply in love with and protective of Jun.

Jun is Tomo’s physical opposite, and the more sociable one of the two. His unresolved abandonment issues, however, keep his pain and feelings for Tomo from surfacing. Eventually, the friendship, love and trust they have for each other enables them to heal their emotional wounds and expose their hearts.

I really enjoyed this beautiful and moving story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a thoughtful and touching romance.

Have some tissues handy.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Squadron Supreme Vol. 1 By Any Means Necessary

Squadron Supreme Vol. 1: By Any Means Necessary!Squadron Supreme Vol. 1: By Any Means Necessary! by James Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Many alternate Earth's were destroyed coming up to the events of Secret Wars, but there were some survivors. Those survivors formed a new Squadron Supreme, each member was the sole survivor from an alternate Earth.
They've claimed this Earth as their home and intend to do whatever is necessary to protect their new home from all threads including ones from Earth destroyers like Namor.
Their actions draw some unwanted attention.

By Any Means Necessary started off with some shocking events and then meandered it's way to Weirdworld. I don't know what Marvel is hoping to accomplish with Weirdworld, but it has recently appeared in a few new titles. Anyway this Squadron Supreme is interesting because it pulled characters from all over the multiverse. It seems like Marvel's way to continue acknowledging their summer event while giving a makeover to their version of the Justice League. Overall this volume was OK. In some ways teams like the Squadron are more challenging especially in the beginning as they attempt to establish back stories on each of their characters. While the existence of prior Squadron's allow less attention to be paid on back stories the fact they are from alternate Earth's necessitate more explanation. The only character whose back story happened in a previous comic is Nighthawk as he is from the Supreme Power titles around 2005.

In the end By Any Means Necessary isn't bad, but it's far from spectacular.

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