Wednesday, November 30, 2016


The AuctioneerThe Auctioneer by Joan Samson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”Just remember this,” he said in a deep voice that cut neatly through the confusion. “Whatever I’ve done, you’ve let me do.”

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When Perly Dunsmore moves to Harlowe, New Hampshire, with his auctioneering company and starts espousing the natural beauty of the community, he is mostly regarded as a man a few slices short of a full loaf. Most of the people in Harlowe have been on the land for many generations, and for most of the year, they exist at a sustainable level. They are poor and don’t know it. They raise a lot of their own food and trade for what they don’t have. They are salt of the earth people, suspicious of strangers, and content with what they have.

When Perly decides to start having a regular auction every week, there are snorts of laughter and several shaking heads over this fool from out of town thinking he could make money in Harlowe. Perly decides that the first auctions should be held as a benefit to add a deputy to the police force.


They barely needed a sheriff. Well, there was that person hacked up not too long ago, but then that crime must have been committed by a stranger passing through town, right? Because no one around here would kill someone.

The sheriff comes around looking for donations, stuff that people aren’t using anyway. Everybody pitches in because no one wants to be seen as not helping the community, and everyone ends up with a check after the auction. Cash money is as scarce as hen’s teeth. Then there is an auction to help the volunteer firemen. Perly puts advertisements in papers as far away as Boston for people to come to the auction.

And people come.

Perly doesn’t seem to be as crazy as everyone thinks.

John and Mim Moore have a four year old daughter named Hildie. John’s mother lives with them. Several generations of Moore’s are buried up on the hill, resting under poison oak and the dust of many seasons. They clean out the barn of all the stuff they aren’t using anyway for the auctions and then the attic. Every week the Sheriff, sometimes accompanied by the honey worded Perly, stops by to see if there is more to be contributed.

The weekly contribution is becoming something more than voluntary.

”’Does it mean so much to you? I know the pleasures of a dressing table to a good-looking woman. But there are other things--better schools for Hildie, year-round church, more ready cash, more comforts…I know what I want.’

Mim could not move without flailing out at the man and making him back off, and she trembled from the effort of suppressing her need to do so.

‘Comfort,’ he said almost fiercely.’You’ve never known much comfort, have you Mim?’

Mim raised her eyes to Perly’s, blue and defiant.

Perly dropped his gaze to Mim’s hands, pressed flat and angry against the wall behind her. Slowly, he raised his eyes to Mim’s again, his face curling into lines of pleasure, perhaps of triumph.’You and I will have to get together someday, Mim,’ he said. ’I admire a woman with grit.’ Then, with his own glittering stillness, he held Mim motionless against the wall while the clock in the kitchen chimed over and over again. When she dropped her eyes, he moved quietly away.”

I wanted to share this scene because it conveys the simmering, menacing uneasiness that permeates the whole novel. Perly keeps adding more and more deputies who are really just there to keep the contributions coming for the auctions. People give and give and give until all they have left is the land, and Perly has plans for that as well.

There are so many points in the novel where I wanted the Moore’s to make a stand. To push back, but when others in the community push back, unfortunate misadventures happen to them. Everyone has families, and having families makes it natural for strong men to be afraid. It almost seems implausible, the level of control that Perly achieves over this community, but it is so gradual that, by the time people realize how bad it is, it is almost too late.

I kept thinking to myself, where is my line in the sand? Where do I make my stand and say... no more? How do I do that and keep my family safe?

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Joan Samson

There is very little to share about Joan Samson, unfortunately. She passed away shortly after the publication of The Auctioneer from cancer. She was 39 years old and was working on a second novel. If she had lived, there was a good chance that she would have surpassed the work of Shirley Jackson or at least be mentioned in the same sentence as the famous gothic horror writer. This book has fallen into obscurity, but like other novels I’ve reviewed on Goodreads, a perfect example being Mortal Leap by MacDonald Harris, I’m simply not going to let this book stay a lost novel. It is a wonderful example of gothic horror with superb writing that will make you feel the mounting terror as options for these good people shrink to the size of a mustard seed.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel By: James Luceno

Catalyst - A Rogue One NovelCatalyst - A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am of two minds on the expanding Star Wars, I don't dig what you could view as Disney trying to suck up as much money as possible, but two..and two is important, when you expand a cool universe in an exciting way, my nerd bell goes off.

Catalyst does that, I love the idea (with this and the Rogue One movie) of telling "military" style stories. The empire and rebellion are in a war, ever noticed you don't see that much?

Very good set up for Rogue One, and don't kid yourself, it's a set up for the movie. A quick read and tons of fun if you are a fan of the universe.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Champion of Satire

Breakfast of ChampionsBreakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Phew, it has been a LOOONG time since I've read Vonnegut. I mean "classic" Vonnegut. It feels good to be back!

I mean no offense to his most recent work, but it just doesn't compare with what he put out from about the '60s through to the '80s. It's all good stuff. I mean, I've read about a dozen books of his and I don't recall a true stinker in the lot. But if I'm going to recommend "a Vonnegut" to the interested and uninitiated, it's going to be something like Breakfast of Champions from 1973.

This chuckle-full and sometimes hilarious tour de force of satirical wit is a razor-sharp criticism of humanity's worst traits: its greed, its pure and unadulterated avarice, its lack of a moral compass...

Ah, that last one is a tricky one. Vonnegut was no saint and he doesn't expect anyone else to be. However, a little decency and compassion would go a long way. Jesus fucking Christ, Vonnegut seems to say in just about every one of his books, can't we all stop acting like shits for second?!

I won't try to describe the plot of Breakfast of Champions. The plot is seldom the point in a Vonnegut novel. Oh sure, things happen, after a fashion. But it's more about people and ideas, and people with ideas, for better or worse.

I will however say that this book is a good starting point - not a necessary one, but a good one - from which to begin a Vonnegut reading journey. His recurring character, the strange and often estranged author Kilgore Trout is fully explained here, much more so than in other books in which he makes an appearance, at least in the ones I've read. In fact, many of the theories and rules of Vonnegut's world, his parallel universe, if you will, are laid out in this one, so I highly recommend starting here. Then again, you won't go wrong starting elsewhere. Just start.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016


RadianceRadiance by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Documentary filmmaker Severin Unck never returned from her last project on Venus. Thus begins the meta-fictional odyssey into Severin Unck's life and fate.

Radiance is the story of Severin Unck's life (and death?), told by Severin and the people who knew her in the form of articles, journal entries, scripts, and films, most notably Severin's own. I was apprehensive at first, since this sounds like a first class ticket to fancy-pants town, like a lot of books that use meta-fictional devices. However, Catherynne Valente can get into my fancy pants any day.

Told in a non-linear fashion, Radiance tells the story of Severin Unck through interviews and films of the people who knew her, from her father, Percival Unck and his seven ex-wives, to Erasmo St. John, her last lover, to Anchises St. John, the little boy who was the only survivor of the Adonis colony on Venus. Unlike a lot of literature that uses meta-fiction to tell the tale, the techniques are actually relevant to the story.

The setting is an enjoyable one, one where space travel was mastered decades earlier and every planet and moon in the solar system is habitable. Colonization is depended on monstrous Venusian beasts called callowwhales. Because of the tyranny of the Edisons, everyone is still making silent movies, making for a very unique setting indeed.

There's not a whole lot more I want to say about the plot. Catherynne Valente shows her writing chops in this outing, going from sf to screenplay to soap opera to noir, and all points beyond, without missing a beat. I'd read a library of Madame Mortimer mysteries.

4.5 out of 5 stars. This one is not to be missed.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Fight the Tide

Keira Andrews
KA Books
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Adrift in a post-apocalyptic world, they only have each other. Is it enough?

A virus that turns the infected into zombie-like killers spreads through a burning world thrown into lawless chaos. Lovers Parker and Adam have escaped to the open sea when they hear a message over the airwaves from a place called Salvation Island—a supposed safe haven.

Orphaned as a child, werewolf Adam has always longed for a pack. He’s eager to investigate the island, but Parker doesn’t think for a nanosecond that the voice on the radio can be believed. He doesn’t trust anyone but Adam and is determined to keep it that way. They don’t need anyone else complicating their struggle to survive. Or do they?

Danger on the high seas can surface in a heartbeat, and if Parker and Adam aren’t careful, the current will drag them under.

My Review

I complained that Kick at the Darkness, the first book in Keira Andrews’ zombie apocalypse series was lacking in the horror elements and thrilling action scenes that I expect from zombie novels. It is a horror-romance, with the romance front and center, so I should have known better than to expect the gore-fest in Brian Keene's stories. Despite my criticism, I still enjoyed the growing relationship between Parker and Adam along with the difficulty of trying to survive in a changing world.

The second book in the series was even more sedate, yet I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it considerably more. Parker has accepted that Adam is a werewolf. Adam’s keen eyesight and extra strength come in handy when watching for possible threats or fighting off zombies. Adam is sweet, protective, and considerate of Parker. Now that he’s not hiding who he is, he has become a much more open and warmer person. There is some backstory about Adam’s past, the isolation he grew up with, and the untimely death of his family. His wolf craves the warmth and love of a pack.

The opportunity comes when Parker, despite his misgivings, responds to a radio call from a family whose boat is in danger of capsizing during a storm. Earlier on, while Adam is making a supply run and Parker is alone aboard Bella, pirates sneak up on him, conk him on the head with his own pistol and make off with his supplies. The physical assault and humiliation Parker endured has left him deeply suspicious of other people.

Though it takes time for Parker to warm up to the newcomers – Craig and his daughter, Libby, Craig’s girlfriend, Abby, and her teenage son, Jacob – they end up bonding and working well together. The secondary characters were very well developed and memorable, so when bad things start to happen, the tension really ramps up.

Though Parker feels at times that he is not enough for Adam, his character has matured significantly. He’s not the snarky, annoying youth he was in the beginning. He is an adept sailor, his survival skills have improved, and he is developing a relationship with the family in his care, particularly with the pimply and stubborn Jacob. The growth of Adam and Parker was one of the most enjoyable parts of this story for me. Their sex was hot, intense and loving. There was a fisting scene, lovingly written and helping to further develop the trust between Parker and Adam.

When Jacob is injured, they can no longer ignore that seductive voice on the radio beckoning them toward Salvation Island. Finally, there is a chance for security and the pack that Adam needs. Do they continue on their journey, or risk the possibility of entering a trap?

Though the story ends hopefully for our main characters, I’m glad to know their journey is far from over.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

New Avengers: A.I.M. Vol. 2: Standoff

New Avengers: A.I.M. Vol. 2: StandoffNew Avengers: A.I.M. Vol. 2: Standoff by Al Ewing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Avengers Idea Mechanics have no shortage of trouble. The Maker is meddling with them again.
The Whisperer is desperate and is seeking out the New Avengers help against an increasingly corrupt SHIELD.
Doing so means war with SHIELD which Roberto da Costa has no problem with, but he's only taking volunteers. Anyone who isn't sure needs to get off the ship.

Standoff was a good volume. Sunspot's New Avengers AIM is an interesting group that is more concerned with doing good than the personal cost to them. Which was quite substantial in this volume. I'm growing to appreciate a more obscure cast because I don't know everything about them like I do about the classic Avengers roster. This volume is full of unexpected events and betrayal.

I have to mention that Al Ewing may have done the best tie in to an event issues I've ever read. He knew where his story was heading and seemed to make a small tweak or two while continuing his story. It makes for strong mostly seamless writing. Without having read the Standoff event I felt as though I hadn't missed anything of importance which is fairly shocking.

Standoff was a good volume and it was better than its predecessor.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016


The AwakeningThe Awakening by Brett McBean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”The day that was to change Toby’s life forever started out like any typical summer morning.”

We’ve all experienced that ball-peen hammer between the eyes that takes us off our feet and leaves us staring up at a blood red sky. We didn’t see the hammer coming. It comes from the shadows, like Poe’s Pendulum swinging on an arc designed to sweep right through us. Toby is just a kid on the verge of manhood. He has finished 8th grade and is looking forward to a summer of hanging out with his best friend, Frankie, watching horror movies, playing baseball games, and having deep philosophical discussions with a zombi (yes, I spelled it right. Have patience, grasshopper).

Wait? Zombis? Discussions?

Mr. Joseph likes to sit, looking out his front window, watching the kids walk to school. He is old. He is strange. So logically, he is a pervert. Belford, Ohio, is a small town, and we heard all about “small town values” when Sarah Palin was running for Vice-President. Those living in larger cities are considered caretakers of dens of inequity.

Boy, I wish. I always wanted to run a den of inequity.

I grew up in a very small town, so I know of what I speak. There are no higher values maintained in smaller towns. The same things happen in small towns as they do in big cities. Drug use, teen pregnancy, suicide, and murder happen per thousand just as frequently as in the cities. The difference is, with everyone knowing everyone, the crushing judgement for any misstep is almost more than many people can bear. Anyone with differences must conform or be castigated relentlessly. The Norman Rockwell small town probably exists somewhere, but I’ve never experienced it.

So Mr. Joseph freaks the kids out. Some of them throw rocks through his windows, behead chickens in his yard, and spray paint obscenities on his house. It doesn’t help that he is from Haiti, horribly scarred,

Toby and Frankie are just trying to navigate the social, shark infested waters of being a teenager. The transition from being the biggest kids in middle school to the smallest kids in high school is always treacherous. In my school, being caught in the open in front of a group of seniors might mean being thrown in the showers in the middle of the day, or experiencing the joys of a toilet swirl, or if you are lucky, just getting thumped around, emasculated, and embarrassed in some other fashion.

Ahh man... the memories.

There is always that guy, right? That guy with the Neanderthal brow, bloodshot pig eyes, mad at the world attitude, and looking for anyone weaker than himself to take out his frustrations on. In Belford, Ohio, that guy is Dwayne Marcos.

And Toby and Frankie can’t help but do something to inspire his ire.

Which leads to a tragic ass kicking.

Which leads to Toby and Mr. Joseph becoming friends.

Which leads to Toby discovering that Mr. Joseph is nice, but a whole lot more scary than what anyone could possibly comprehend. ”Mr. Joseph is a zombi. Yep, the real-deal, the living dead. Now, I know what you are thinking, but it’s not like in the movies. It’s kinda complex, but basically he’s what is known as a zombi savane, that means he was turned into a zombi, but sort of brought out of it, kind like he was brought out of trance.”

Wrapped around all these events is Toby’s burgeoning, gobsmacking, reciprocated love of glorious Gloria. The most bodacious girl in the whole 8th grade class. He is convinced at any moment she is going to come to her senses and see him for who he really is... the wimpy, insecure guy that he sees in the mirror every morning.

What Toby learns is that he can’t trust anyone. His parents are just as worried about fitting in as anyone else. That doesn’t make them racist like the rest of the town, but instead of standing up to prejudice they’d rather just sidestep the issue. They have real fear of the consequences of trying to stand up for what is right in this small town. Toby is finding out just how hard it is growing up. He discovers how disappointing adults can be, how garden variety meanness can turn into something much more insidious, and how the town monster can be the only true friend you’ve got.

There are certainly Ray Bradbury aspects at work in this story. The coming of age in the midst of terror that Bradbury was so good at. I looked forward to coming home every day and spending some time with Toby. I shared his frustrations, rooted for him, and hoped he’d find a way to continue to be himself and survive the small town prejudicial mentality. The day will come when Toby will lay a black streak of rubber on the highway on his way out of town and hopefully Gloria will be smiling at him from the passenger seat.

Meanwhile he has to figure out how to survive the summer before his freshman year.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Central Station By: Lavie Tidhar

Central StationCentral Station by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't been inspired to write lately, or read, or anything really (except football manager 2017, but that's a different story altogether) But in my long journey to try and put ideas from brain box A to real world B, I read something that either takes me to places I really want to go...ORRRRRRR they show me a glimpse of the future.

Mr. Tidhar did both, a gorgeous vision of what more likely than not will be the world to come and beautifully written to boot.

Do me a favor and yourself, if you haven't read

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Excellent for the Writing Reader!

Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to FinishPlot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best book on how to write I've ever read! Novelist and screenplay writer James Scott Bell has won awards for inspirational fiction. I say he deserves awards for inspirational non-fiction! So many of his books are how-to-write guides and even if only a small portion of them are as helpful as this one, he's a bloody writing guru!

Plot & Structure is part of the Writers' Digest series, Write Great Fiction. Most writers are quite aware of Writers' Digest. Before the internet, WD published the would-be author's bible, Writer's Market, an annual tome of articles with tips and contact information on publishers and agents. I gleaned some helpful lessons from the occasional Writer's Market I'd buy or borrow over the years, about as much as I'd get from reading books about writing from established writers like Stephen King or Ray Bradbury. "Just write" was and still is the most boiled down, golden rule essence of what 99.9% of them will tell you.

Bell's book goes well beyond that. Not only does it give advice like the above, it gives practical assistance, step-by-step instruction on how to put a readable, or even captivating novel together.

Granted, this is best for genre writers, those who pen thrillers, mysteries, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, and what all else where a model has clearly been established over the last century's worth of published work. But that doesn't mean literary writers won't benefit from this. Bell does his best to explain how the different aspects that make up a fine novel are nearly interchangeable. That intriguing character who meanders about in your favorite lit fic would be just as at home and welcome in chick lit. Just as the rigid three act in the countless mysteries that have downed many a tree over the years is often and surprisingly floating about behind the scenes of that supposedly inventive work of genius.

What is plot? How does it work? How do you come up with plot ideas? What is plot up to during the different stages of a book? How does the character arc unfold over a plot? These questions and more are not only answered, but many an example is given...and not only that, but helpful systems for coming up with your own answers are laid out. Recognizable patterns are discussed. Writing and revising techniques are detailed. Tips and tools are readily dispensed like candy to children on a successful Halloween outing.

This is my second time through Plot and Structure and it won't be my last. This is the sort of book that writers should read intermittently until all aspects are down pat. Read this and use the wealth of helpful advice, tips and techniques and you should be able to pump out as good or better a book than much of what's being put out these days.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

JLA: Earth 2

JLA: Earth 2JLA: Earth 2 by Grant Morrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A rocket crashes in the countryside and out climbs... Lex Luthor? Alexander Luthor hails from the anti-matter universe and implores the Justice League to help him overthrow their evil selves. Can the JLA stop their most powerful foes to date?

Remember the mirror universe episode of Star Trek where Spock had the goatee? Earth 2 is the super hero version of that, after a fashion. It reads a little like Squadron Supreme in that the evil versions of the JLA have set themselves up as the rules of the anti-matter Earth.

Superman becomes Ultraman, a tyrant empowered by Kryptonite
Batman becomes Owlman, Thomas Wayne Junior who starts a life of crime after seeing his mother and brother gunned down.
Wonder Woman becomes Superwoman, a sadistic sexy Amazon.
Flash becomes Johnny Quick, who gets his super powers from an addictive drug.
Green Lantern becomes Power Ring, a coward with a ring that controls him.

Aquaman and Martian Manhunter stay behind on Earth so they conveniently don't have counterparts.

The story is pretty standard super hero fare, although Morrison turns the dial up a few notches. While Green Lantern extraordinaire Kyle Rayner holds the Syndicate hostage, the rest of the JLA work to undo the evil the Syndicate has wrought. When the Syndicate escapes and makes its way to the JLA's Earth, the carnage goes off the chart.

For the most part, it's a lot of mindless superhero fun on a grand scale. While I thought the logic went off the rails at times, I loved when the main villain was revealed. The contrast between the Crime Syndicate and the Justice League was nicely done. I'd read an Owlman/Superwoman book.

While the logic of the story falls apart at the end, it was still entertaining for what it was. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Kick at the Darkness

Keira Andrews
KA Books
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


To live through the zombie apocalypse they have to survive each other first.

College freshman Parker Osborne is having the worst day ever. He humiliated himself trying to pick up a cute guy, he hasn’t made any friends at school, and his stupidly hot jerk of a TA gave him a crappy grade on his paper. He’s going to drop Adam Hawkins’ film class and start fresh tomorrow after he’s had a good sulk.

But Parker’s about to find out what a bad day really looks like—if he can survive the night.

A virus is unleashed, transforming infected people into zombie-like killers. After these quick and deadly creepers swarm campus, Parker only escapes thanks to Adam swooping him onto the back of his trusty motorcycle. Now they're on the run—and stuck with each other.

When they’re not bickering, they’re fighting off the infected in a bloody battle for survival. Their only hope is to head east to Parker's family, but orphaned Adam has a secret he’s not sure Parker will accept: he’s a werewolf. Can they trust each other enough to find some light in these dark days?

My Review

I love horror. I love zombies. I love hot romance. I love a combination of all three!

Two out of three ain’t bad.

What was missing for me in this story is the horror element. Even though there were plenty of mean zombies, at no time was I scared, grossed out, tense, deeply disturbed or unsettled. Zombies are supposed to be scary!

I wanted the tension, struggle, danger, recklessness and action that keeps me flipping pages. More thrills, chills, close calls, conflicts, and humans that are even scarier than zombies!

This is a romance novel first, so I was expecting the requisite happy ending. Rather than ruin the story with a sappy HEA, the author chose a perfect ending that leaves the fate of the main characters and their future undetermined. So I’m really hoping for a sequel.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sharp Ends

Sharp EndsSharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sharp Ends revisits stories from the world of the First Law series. It's packed with a variety of tales from ones that have only been mentioned to some that no one knew happened. A slew of characters from The First Law series appear such as Sand dan Glokta, Curnden Craw, Whirrun of Bligh, Temple, Shy, Bremer dan Gorst, Nicomo Cosca, and many others. The book also includes varying stories about new characters Shevedieh the best thief in Styria and Javre the Lioness of Hoskopp.

The stories vary for me in quality. Some I had no interest in like Nicomo Cosca's story. That man drives me nuts. Unfortunately Joe Abercrombie clearly loves him as he's appeared in more of his First Law books than anyone. My personal favorite stories were Glokta's, Bethod's, and Shev and Javre's short story series.

Glokta's tale shows him at his peak from the eyes of Salem Rews. Glokta was very similar to Jezal dan Luthar in The Blade Itself except he had strong personal motivation. Glokta was an unbearable personality, but he was quite capable. This tale depicts the events directly prior to the battle in which Glokta was captured by the Gurkish.

Bethod's tale depicted Bethod and his thought process. I think this was the first point of view from Bethod and he's clearly an intriguing man. It was interesting to witness his absolute fear of Logen Ninefingers and truth be told it makes perfect sense. A man with a murderous split personality that takes over from time to time is a difficult man to deal with.

Shev and Javre's short story adventures were the highlight for me. The two women form an unlikely yet effective team that travels around the circle of the world. Their stories don't merely show different perspectives on events the books described, they are their own separate tales although they come across familiar characters like Shylo Vitari, Whirrun of Bligh, and Monza Murcatto. These two ladies had four of the 13 short stories in the book be completely about them. Javre was easily the more interesting of the two. She's a brute of a woman with big appetites. She seems like she'd be the perfect woman for Logen even when he's the crazy blood thirsty Bloody Nine.

Sharp Ends is a book that's truly meant for people who love the First Law world. I've enjoyed much of the First Law world, but no so much as to reread all of the books written. I imagine if I was more familiar with each book in the series that this book would have greater meaning for me.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016


The Sultan, the Vampyr and the SoothsayerThe Sultan, the Vampyr and the Soothsayer by Lucille Turner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”The bitter smoke of cannon fire poked its fingers through gaping holes the size of ships in the great double wall that enclosed the city of Constantinople--the wall that had withstood the Varchonites, repelled the first of the Mohammedans and tormented the Norsemen. It hung about the turrets and the shattered towers in garlands of honeyed gossamer.”

Murad II, the Ottoman Sultan, has dreamed his whole life that he would conquer Constantinople, but the soothsayer has told him that it won’t be him. It will be his son and heir, Mehmet. He wasn’t supposed to be the one to rule the Ottoman Empire, but when his older brother Aladdin was strangled to death under unusual circumstances, the middle son became the oldest son.

Meanwhile, further North in Wallachia, there is a brooding Rumani named Vlad Dracul, a prince with a throne but also a vassal of the Sultan. He is caught between the Catholics and the Greeks of Constantinople and the Turks in the South. His heart is with the Greeks, and his friendship is with the Catholic Hungarians, but his oath has been made to the Sultan. He is caught in a cauldron of religious disagreement, but the real reason for war will be the age old need for conquest.

Vlad has a bigger problem. He has the family sickness and so does his middle son, Vlad. They have seizures that grip them like death, but once the seizure is over, they are stronger than ever. On St. Andrew's night, which is the equivalent of Halloween for Romanians, the 29th of November, doors and locks are no barriers to strigois. The Night of the Vampires is an evening when all should retire early and lock, bolt, and block all your doors. The father has developed some control, but the restlessness in the middle of the night is something he still shares with his son. When Murad demands his sons as hostages to insure his continued loyalty, Vlad takes the two younger ones, but the oldest, Mircea, is left in Wallachia as regent.

The middle son, Vlad, has a similar problem to the one that Mehmet had. He is not the oldest son. He is a spare, at best, until something happens to his brother. He knows something is wrong with himself, but is unsure what this strange illness is. Both Vlad and Mehmet were born knowing that their destiny is much larger than even what their fathers can comprehend.

If you are looking for battle scenes with lobbed off limbs, spurting blood, and epic ball vibrating, sword clashing, hand to hand combat, this is not your book. Any battles that happen occur off the stage. What Lucille Turner has done is taken us inside the meetings where political alliances, intimidations, and betrayals are happening before our very eyes. She has done her research, and even though I’m not an expert on 15th century history, I have read enough to know that the history she uses is authentic.

I especially enjoyed the infatuation of Murad with his Serbian hostage Mara Brankovic. A young girl so ethereally beautiful that she makes men go weak in the knees, and if they gaze into her gold flecked, blue eyes, they are lost forever. Murad is used to women prostrating themselves at his feet, but Mara is a princess who would have been a king if she’d been born a boy. Murad sends her presents; she sends them back. He sends her poetry and receives a tepid response, as if he left her his laundry list instead of his heart engraved in words. He can take her anytime he wants. It is his right, but he is old enough and philosophical enough to know that taking her against her will is not nearly as satisfying as complete capitulation. He wants her to want him.

A man, even a Sultan, can dream.

Turner also explores the difficult relationships between fathers and sons. Discovering that your son is a brilliant tactician, but a psychopath. Do the ends justify the means? Turner ends this book just as we are seeing Vlad and Mehmet on the way to reaching the pinnacles of their powers. Fast forwarding just a bit, we would see that things do not always go well for either one of them. I do wish that Turner would have had time to explore the world of John Palaiologos, the Greek Emperor, and his brother Constantine further, but she has so many balls in the air that I perfectly understand keeping them as background characters. I wish for more about them because I know so little about them. The interesting thing is the fact that the Catholics and the Orthodox Greeks would have been stronger together. Their religions are even very similar, but there is also a natural rivalry between them that kept them from forming a strong alliance.

Vlad prefered the Greeks, but was close friends with Governor Janos Hunyadi of the Hungarians, who also represented the interests of Rome in this region. The question is, will Vlad betray his truce with the Turks to help the Greeks? If the Catholics rally to the cause of the Greeks, would they save Constantinople? Can Vlad bring them together?

I absolutely could not put this book down. The politics of this region and time are fascinating. The diverse, powerful cultures, each desiring control, are intent on growing their influence. Each wishes to consume the other. The vampire aspects of the story are more about the history of vampirism and the effects of this disease on Vlad Draculi and his son. This is a historical fiction book with mild aspects of mysticism and supernatural. The Draculi family did exist, and for the purposes of this book, she focuses on the historical aspects of the male line and not so much the blood sucking fiend that Bram Stoker wrote about so brilliantly.

This book is so much more serious than I expected, but it is not tedious or bogged down with historical facts. It a well written novel. I’m looking forward to Turner’s next book, which hopefully will be a sequel to this one. Highly recommended!

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Bare-Bones Western

Gun Boss of TumbleweedGun Boss of Tumbleweed by L. Ron Hubbard
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Oh boy was that ever bad! I'm not even Scientology-bashing here, this was just not good.

Gun Boss of Tumbleweed is one of L. Ron Hubbard's MANY adventure stories. Looking at his extensive bibliography makes you think, wow, this guy was one prolific writer! However, if most of his output is of this quality and length, pffft, it ain't no thang.

What we have here is a formulaic western of first draft-quality, speckled with adverbs and the stank of short-cut writing. One of my favorite snort-laugh moments came when Hubbard delivered a line that went something like:

"Well," he said briefly...

Granted, I've written some bad stuff, especially when I'm racing through the first draft, just getting it down on paper. However, the idea is to go back and edit that shit. Sometimes I miss a line here or there, but usually the whole book isn't littered with the stuff.

The over-the-top characters speak equally over-the-top lines. Their names and most of what comes out of their mouths is ridiculous. Also, this was an audiobook (little over an hour's length) and some of the performances were terrible. Poorly acted bad dialogue did not help this book's cause.

To be fair and kind, I was tempted to give this two stars, because as predictable and hackneyed as it was, it still had some fun moments and an occasionally nice "old west" setting descriptive.

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Hondo Don't Take No Guff!...Ma'am.

HondoHondo by Louis L'Amour
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd just finished a terrible western and needed to get the taste out of my mouth. Louis L'Amour to the rescue!

Hondo Lane is a man's man. He's a half-breed drifter. He's a loner who's never alone, because he is at one with the hardscrabble land of the old west.

Is an abandoned and soon-to-be-widowed woman and her young son just the sort of temptation to lure Hondo into a tied-to-the-homestead existence? And what of the restless Apache's in the area? Hondo is nominally attached to the white man's military scouting party, who is suddenly at odds with the indians once again. Can Hondo be the peacemaker or will he just end up another piece in the U.S.'s westward push?

All of these questions and more are answered, some satisfactorily and some are left intentionally vague, gray areas under the impossibly blue skies of the mid-1800s southwest.

Great descriptions, good action and colorful characters abound in Hondo, one of L'Amour's most famous works. There are times when you the reader feel as if you're right there in the middle of the parched landscape, hunkered down between two boulders expecting attack at any moment. At other times, the boredom and languor of such an isolated life takes ahold of you for better or worse.

Not everything between the covers of this book is well-written. Some of it is a bit pulpy. Some of it is a bit misogynistic. Most heinous of all, some of it is just dull. L'Amour could set a western scene with the best of them, but sometimes that didn't translate to good reading. Descriptions of the desert or prairie could go on too long.

Despite its failings, Hondo is a classic tough-guy western that will probably be enjoyed by anyone still reading this review.

Rating: This falls somewhere in the 3.5 to 4 range for me. Figured I'd give it the benefit of the fourth star since the reading experience was mostly enjoyable.

Side Note: My first guitar was made by Hondo, a guitar company named after the John Wayne movie based on this book. My guitar was as big and cantankerous as Wayne, but I was 15, in love with playing the guitar and the unwieldy thing was mine, so of course I loved it!

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Red Dwarf RPG

Red Dwarf RPGRed Dwarf RPG by Todd Downing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Confession Time: There was a point in my life when Red Dwarf was unquestionably my favorite show. I've seen every episodes, some at least ten times. Way back in 2003, I chanced upon this at the Fantasy Shop and snapped it up. After all, there isn't much Red Dwarf merchandise to be found on this side of the pond, especially in those days. However, I never read it from cover to cover until now. My gaming group was strictly Dungeons and Dragons and I couldn't get them interested.

This is a pretty slick little RPG. The system is very simple and I'm fairly confident I could run a game after just skimming the rules. As the book says several times, the system is there to support the setting, not vice versa. Add your skill number and the relevant attribute and roll under that number using 2d6. Easy peasy.

Beyond the streamlined rules, the book contains stats for damn near every character, device, and ship seen on the show, even Talky Toaster. There are Mad-Lib like tables for whipping up adventures and all sorts of random adventure aids. The player options are fairly broad. Besides human, you can play an evolved pet, wax droid, simulant, hologram, Kinatawawi, Pleasure GELF, and various mechanoids.

The writing is really clear, which is awesome since most RPGs read like stereo instructions written in an alien language. It's also peppered with quotes from the show and dry British wit, making it easily the funniest RPG manual ever written.

I still probably won't find a group to play Red Dwarf with but based on the manual, I'm giving it four out of five stars.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

The Courage to Heal

Hunter Frost
JMS Books, LLC
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Former U.S. Army Sergeant Wade Carter returned from Afghanistan a broken man. Permanently injured and weighed down with PTSD, his scars run deeper than flesh and bone. When his regular physical therapist is taken ill, the sexy replacement doctor has Wade wishing he'd touch much more of his body than his busted leg.

Dr. Jesse Okenah isn't a beginner when it comes to working with veterans, but his new patient stirs up feelings that go beyond professional. It's Wade's wounded soul, more than his mangled leg, that needs TLC in order for him to live a healthy, fulfilling life again. Jesse just needs to figure out how to deliver that care to the stubborn vet without crossing a line -- and losing his heart.

My Review

In real life, so many moral, ethical, and legal complications can arise if professional and personal relationships take place simultaneously, particularly when sex becomes involved. I’m sure Dr. Jesse Okenah, a physical therapist, violated all kinds of rules by becoming involved with his client, Wade Carter, a wounded Afghanistan veteran suffering from PTSD. While this type of relationship may be frowned upon in real life, I enjoy reading about them in my romances and get a frisson of excitement when I think about the consequences and possibilities in such a union.

This is the third story I’ve read by Hunter Frost, and I love how she creates fresh, memorable characters, adding warmth and sweetness to their stories without an overload of sugar.

While much of this story is focused on Wade’s and Jesse’s developing relationship, we also get glimpses of Jesse’s devotion to his profession, the physical progress Wade makes while under his care, and the trust that gradually develops. Wade’s PTSD was realistically portrayed and a challenge to his relationship with Jesse, but he has a wonderful supportive mom.

As much as I loved this story, and felt it was the length it needed to be, there is so much more to explore that its short length didn’t allow.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Gil's All Fright DinerGil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

”Loretta outweighed him by at least a hundred pounds. Nonetheless, Sheriff Kopp held his ground with the courage of a man who had seen sheep explode spontaneously and lived to clean himself up later.”

Any apocalypse is about living to tell about it, right? The interesting thing about this small community is that spontaneously exploding sheep aren’t the strangest things that happen.

When Duke and Earl saw the glowing sign of Gil’s All Night Fright Diner appear, they had no idea they were about to stumble into a vortex of hell. They couldn’t have been more in the middle of dark nowhere if they had just driven up the ass end of a giant troll. All Duke wanted was a big greasy meal, but what he got was a full order of zombies with a side order of a horny, lascivious waitress. ”She wore a T-shirt and jean cutoffs that hugged her jiggling behind, but only barely. Cellulite rolled down her legs in flapping waves with each step. A soiled apron stretched across her immense breasts. Her hair, a frazzled bleached-blonde mess, slung to the left of her face and past her shoulders. She smiled, revealing teeth the size and color of corn kernels.”

Duke didn’t know which was more dangerous...the zombies or Loretta.

Now Gil, the owner of the diner, just disappeared. Loretta had taken it upon herself to keep the diner open, despite the infestation of zombies. She had killed well over a hundred already and figured sooner or later the graveyard down the road was going to run out of bodies. Duke was particularly adept at tearing apart zombies. It brought out the wolf in him, or should I say the werewolf in him.


Oh, yeah, Duke had himself an encounter with a lycanthrope, which left him with a predisposition for back hair and the strength of ten men. Rotting corpses were just giant toothpicks. Now, his buddy Earl had a different problem. I’ll give you a couple of hints. He liked to drink blood, and a sunburn was deadly to him.

For $100 and all the beer they could drink, Loretta just hired herself some supernatural help for her supernatural problem.

The problem all originated with a bored seventeen year old named Tammy, who decided the vortex to hell swirling beneath Gil’s Diner was just too interesting to leave alone. She had a Magic 8 ball which was a little different than the one I used to have. Mine didn’t have a trapped, malevolent spirit inside who just happened to be addicted to the show Bonanza. Little Miss Tammy was of Japanese descent, exotic in this small town, and pert and curvy in all the right places. She was fully aware of the impact she had on the opposite sex and what better way to recruit male minions to your dark, magic ways than to dangle the black triangle.

To add a bit more stir fry to this sizzling skillet, there was also a pretty, very needy, spirit who proved a distraction for Earl, along with her ghostly Scottish Terrier who played hell with the musty, dusty ankles of zombies. Will all these supernormal phantasmic creatures prove to be an equal match for one pissed off, power hungry, diabolical teenager?

You’ll just have to read it to find out.

I had intended to read this for Halloween, but the best laid plans of ghouls and goblins foiled my time schedule. I also really enjoyed another book by A. Lee Martinez called The Automatic Detective.

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Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The people of Wakanda are restless. They've been stirred up by a group called The People and some of them have become dangerous.
T'Challa has been doubting himself and whether he can do the right thing to protect Wakanda.
Meanwhile one of the Black Panther's Dora Milaje is sentenced to death for doing the right thing because of growing corruption in Wakanda. Her fellow Dora Milaje and lover will not allow her to be killed and steals experiment armor to free her.

I was really excited about a new Black Panther comic especially having such a renowned author as Ta-Nehisi Coates on the project. Unfortunately very little happens in this volume. The thread that Wakanda has problems that need to be solved reoccurs, but the rest of the time is spent lamenting those problems and kindly trying to solve them. T'Challa is scared and frustrated regarding what's happening, but little of his persona is shown. The most compelling and forward moving aspect of the story is the Dora Milaje who escaped from Wakanda with experimental Midnight Angel armor. One of the lovers is sentenced to death for actually doing the right thing and the other can't accept her punishment. They embody the trope of wanted lovers on the run from their problems, but they are far from helpless because they armor they wield is powerful.

The writing in A Nation Under our Feet feels very amature. Those bubbles are packed with words mostly philosophical and political in nature. It's clear the story will eventually go somewhere, but right now it's taking the scenic route filled with speeches. It's been disappointing thus far and I think I'm going to wait to read the next issues and volumes at my library or Marvel Unlimited.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Numbers Game: Why Everything you know about Soccer is Wrong By: Chris Anderson and David Sally

The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is WrongThe Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong by Chris Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I get obsessed about things, I find something I like and delve face first into it till I am full of it, or tire of it or run out of things to know. I never liked sports eventhough I come from a family of sports lovers. A few years ago I jumped off into hockey and last year I fell in love with the beautiful game.

(Yes, that's alot of pointless exposition, but there is a purpose sorta)

Being a book whore, and having a new subject to pore over, I found several books on my new subject. The Numbers Game, being a study on a sport I was just learning and numbers (which I suck at)..common sense says I shouldn't enjoy this, But I did.

This book shows me in no uncertain terms why I enjoy this sport as a new fan. It is truly a beautiful game, there is a magic in the stats and a "beauty" in the skill and the players.

If you are a stat head, or just want to understand a great sport better, this is for you.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Rummy Indeed

The Rum DiaryThe Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is rum, indeed! Very questionable goings on going on here!

I believe this is labeled as fiction, but since Hunter S. Thompson mostly wrote about his experiences, The Rum Diary is probably about as fictional as say Kerouac's On The Road.

Even calling it "semi-autobiographical" is a scary prospect since that means at least some of this horror happened. "Horror" Koivu? ...Well okay, maybe it's lightened by some dark humor, but there are still some pretty awful things that happen herein, take for instance borderline rape.

Having worked for newspapers, I enjoyed living vicariously through the main character Paul Kemp "who, in the 1950s, moves from New York to work for a major newspaper, The Daily News, in San Juan, Puerto Rico." (Wikipedia) The struggle to get the story, the weak pay, oddball co-workers and foreign assignments are all dreams and nightmares of the typical journalist, and so it was easy to slide into a comfort-read with The Rum Diary.

The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, care-free living, drinking and nearly dying flowing through out the narrative is very Beat Generation. There's no real goal, no protagonist with any particular object to obtain or obstacle to hurdle. This is not genre writing. This is what was en vogue in the mid 20th century. It's what most of my crusty old writing professors muddled my brain with. "Get with the times! Genre writing is finish, maaan!" I bought it, hook, line and stinker, and so I struggled to come up with novel ideas. Ah, but I'm grudge-grinding and getting off topic.

The brevity of The Rum Diary is what really sells it for me. This kind of compass-less writing (it's not entirely directionless, just occasionally wayward) only holds my attention for so long. Enough interesting things happen between the covers of this slim book to keep me mostly riveted through out and quite willing to recommend it.

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

Marvel Comics: The Untold StoryMarvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is the story of Marvel Comics, from its beginnings in the late thirties until fairly recently, with all the highs and lows in between.

Confession Time: For most of my life, I've been a comic book fan. I've got around 2000 of them in boxes in my nerd cave and have numerous super hero shirts.

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story was a very gripping read for me. I read the sanitized version of some of the events in Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics but I wasn't completely prepared for some of the things I learned.

The story starts with Martin Goodman cashing in on the comic book craze but really gets interesting when he hires his nephew, a kid named Stan Lee, to do some editing. Once Joe Simon and Jack Kirby create Captain America, things kick into high gear until the 50's, when Seduction of the Innocent nearly kills the industry. Things circle the drain until a fateful golf game with the head of DC comics prompts Goodman to order Lee to create a team of superheroes. The Fantastic Four is created and the Marvel Age of comics kicks into full swing.

The book covers a lot of behind the scenes info, like creators getting fucked out of royalties and original art. Anyone who's into comics has probably heard about that. The things I didn't know about, like a bunch of guys being into drugs, DC and Marvel negotiating for Marvel to license some DC characters, and what a tyrant Jim Shooter was, were much more interesting. It must have been maddening to work with Shooter after Secret Wars.

While it might be boring for some, I found the inner workings of Marvel when it was being bought and sold several times in rapid succession to be fascinating. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of The Death of WCW. How could people be handed the golden ticket only to wipe their asses with it?

Jim Shooter seemed like a dictator but I think Tom DeFalco's throw everything against the wall and see what sticks strategy played a bigger part to the near death experience the comics industry suffered in the 90's. Also, Stan Lee seems even more like a hack and a tool than he did before I read the book.

Speaking of the 1990s, Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefield come of as huge pieces of crap. I think we're all quite lucky Marvel survived the black hole of the 1990's comic market. It's crazy to think how many half-brain dead tyrants Marvel had at the helm before Quesada and Palmiotti finally turned things around.

For a lifelong comic nerd, this book was one hell of a read. 4 out of 5 stars.

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Fallon's Jewel

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


Kenji doesn’t know who he is or where he came from, only that he woke up one day, naked and alone on Terran A, possessing nothing in the world but a golden statue. All he knows is his survival, hosting roughnecks in Spike’s bar for a living. The one bright spot in his life is Jake Fallon, a cop with Interstellar Patrol. Though Fallon is only another customer, Kenji senses something different about him, something that inspires Kenji to trust Fallon with his body and his life. When Kenji is attacked and pursued by a vicious bounty hunter one night, Fallon also becomes his only hope.

Fallon’s passion for Kenji mixes with his desire to rescue the beautiful man from danger. He’s already more than half in love with Kenji and falling deeper as the bounty hunter’s pursuit takes them from galaxy to galaxy. For the first time since his first partner was killed, Fallon dares to surrender his heart again. However, as their race for survival uncovers Kenji’s true origins, Fallon may have to let Kenji go in order for Kenji to fulfill the very purpose of his existence…

My Review

“I’ve got you. You’re safe now.”

When he was just 12 years old, Kenji fell from the sky. Before he hits the ground, a military man saves him. Though Kenji never saw the man’s face, he never forgot his voice or the feel of his arms around him. Years later, while serving the rough patrons drinks at Spike’s Bar, Kenji has no memory of his life before.

Kenji still has vague memories of the man who saved him and often has strong visions and dreams that affect him physically and emotionally. When he meets Jake Fallon, an Intergalactic Space Patrol (ISP) officer, at the bar, he is immediately taken by the man and feels inexplicably safe with him. Jake is equally attracted to Kenji even though he is still grieving the loss of his partner and lover. Though they have sex early on, their emotional connection is deep. Kenji makes Fallon feel alive again and Fallon makes Kenji feel protected.

As Kenji and Fallon gradually unravel Kenji’s past, it is not long before Kenji is in danger with a vicious bounty hunter on his trail. And that is only the beginning of his troubles.

I know amnesia plots are a bit cliché, but I rather liked the way it was done here. Kenji’s amnesia wasn’t caused by a bump on the head; his memory was deliberately erased. When Kenji starts to regain his memories, he retains his kind nature, but reveals another stronger side of his personality and his ability to “see” becomes more pronounced.

I loved this gripping, fast-paced, and very romantic space opera. It was as comforting as a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Beyond Redemption

Beyond RedemptionBeyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Belief defines reality.
What the masses believe, is the truth. The delusional have all the power and the sane are nearly helpless against it. A religious order has decided to make their own god and it appears they are closer than ever to their goal. A violent kleptomaniac, a delusional swordsman, and an old sane warrior have learned of this god to be. They have decided to kidnap him in order to ransom him back to the religion who has made him. This trio aren't the only ones after him, many other powerful delusional people want the god to be and will do anything to get him.

Beyond Redemption is a unique Grimdark novel. Belief defines reality so crazy people are very powerful. Some can have their reflections speak to them in mirrors others have doppelgangers called doppels who represent parts of the persons psyche. Many have the ability to manipulate others. Some people could only manipulate in minor ways. Others have such massive control that they can enslave others just by speaking or looking someone in the eye. The way powers were attained and how these powers worked was without a doubt the most interesting part of the novel.

If you aren't familiar with the German language then Beyond Redemption offers a challenge. There are a significant amount of German words that I for one could not sound out. I treated words like Geisteskranken as a symbol and just remembered what that symbol meant. I have no idea how to say that word.

The downfall of this novel and most Grimdarks for me is that the characters are mostly horrid. When the nicest characters are thieves and murderers it's going to be a challenge to find anyone to like. After finishing the novel I'd say there were some interesting characters, but no one I'd root for overall. Seeing bad people do bad things for no reason, leaves me pretty disconnected from the story quite often.

Beyond Redemption is a creative Grimdark novel. Unfortunately I was left hoping for someone to like and there just wasn't anyone like that in this story.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Die Dog or Eat the HatchetDie Dog or Eat the Hatchet by Adam Howe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”His name was Jameson T. Salisbury: Skunk Ape Hunter.
And hell followed with him.”

Now, Salisbury is going to show up, but first, we need to rewind a bit. Reggie Levine is holding down his favorite place at the bar in the strip club The Henhouse when he hears the rumble of HOGS rolling up to the bar. Anytime a gang of bikers shows up anywhere, the scrotums of every male in the vicinity will tighten up, making their balls grasp each other like lovers going down with the Titantic. Women’s nipples will harden and start vibrating in time to the throb of the Harley Davidson exhaust pipes. Anybody with any sense will just ease out the back door of the bar and flee.

Levine can’t leave, which is what he should have done; nor can he be invisible by lowering his head deeper into his beer mug. He is the bouncer. He is the man who is expected to throw stone fists that knock out teeth and make men go cross-eyed as they find the floor with their face. Reggie is a washed-up prizefighter, and in a straight up fight, none of these morons would stand a chance, but since there is 4 or 5 or maybe 6 of them, he has to be ready to absorb some punish while giving out three times the pain he is receiving.

Things go great. DAMN DIRTY APES are bouncing on the floor, crashing through tables, and skulls are making that oh so beautiful TOINK sound as they bang against whatever is handy.

And then things go wrong.

They get Levine down, and then they start putting their crusty leather boots to him.

Let’s give Levine a moment to tend to himself.

Now The Henhouse is about as far from a classy joint as you can get, made slightly more glamorous by the dancing of one Eliza who has assets that place hasn’t seen in a long time. She was just too enticing for the Damn Dirty Apes and when they start pawing her...well...Levine has to intervene. Unfortunately, the bikers missed the return of one Marlene.

”Marlene was giving Lou her matinee performance. Clutching the dance pole like a Sumo who’s thrown her back, Marlene gyrated her chunky caboose above Lou’s leering face. He waggled a buck beneath her butt like a corner man rousing his boxer with smelling salts. Marlene squatted over the buck, her butt cheeks snatching at the bill in Lou’s hand like a flabby arcade claw groping for a plush toy.”

Now I might be in the bar for a quick cold beer (not to leer at the titties) before returning to my soul crushing job, but there ain’t no way I can pull my eyes away from that.

Levine hasn’t even pulled himself together from the embarrassing ass kicking he received from the Damn Dirty Apes, when Eliza and her pathetic, loser, boyfriend Lester drag him into their supernatural encounter with the mythical Bigelow Skunk Ape.

Within hours of that beast sighting, Jameson T. Salisbury arrives, and things get wiggy.

This tale is just pure fun. If you are a fan of the movie Jaws, there are all kinds of laugh out loud references to the best lines from that movie. There is Boogaloo Baboon porn that can’t be explained but must be read and inhaled, along with the musky tang of sweat, semen, and slobber.

Now the second story, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, is a whole ‘nother barrel of skunky piss beer. I would suggest reading this on an empty stomach, buzzed from a shot of vodka, and with the teddy bear that makes you feel safest clutched in your arms.

Tilly Mulvehill is resting her tired dogs, watching some bad TV, when she gets the call from the greasy diner she works at, asking her to come in for the second header of a double shift. She’s a bit past her prime, but the vestiges of pretty still cling to her like the fuzz on a peach.

If she’d known how the rest of her day was going to go, she’d have muted her phone, laid down on the couch, pulled her favorite comforter over her head, and whimpered the rest of the night away. She most certainly would not have left the house.

She is carjacked by a maniac by the name of Terence Hingle. Not only is her car jacked, but she is jacked along with the car. Hingle is not your run of the mill deadbeat stealing a car and kidnapping a woman for kicks. He is an escaped serial killer, and the one thing he has been dreaming about above all things is watching his knife sink into the tender flesh of a pretty woman...again.

Tilly thinks she’s already experienced the worse few hours of her life, but little does she know that the next few hours are about to get worse, a lot worse. Hingle is a badass, but the thing about being a sick son-of-a-bitch is there is always a sicker, meaner son-of-a-bitch out there. In this case times two. The Ritter twins, Dwayne and Dwight, have their own perverted games they like to play. Bondage, torture, and what the fuck is that hanging up in the bathroom?

Tilly finds that her nightmare has grown spikes, fangs, and putrid breath. To survive, she will have to summon the primordial lizard that has been slumbering in her brain since her caveman ancestor first crushed the skull of her husband over the last bloody piece of reindeer brain.

Needless to say, Adam Howe ratchets up the disgusting, dips it in bloody intestines, and uses it to slap you across the face until you are cowering like a whipped chihuahua, waiting for the final blow that will send you gurgling into the next world. Highest warning possible for upchuck worthy violence.

The third story, Gator Bait, is actually my favorite story of the three. Damn Dirty Apes is a black-comedy; Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet is a gruesome Southern Gothic style tale. Gator Bait is Southern noir with an alligator twist. This is the first story I read of Adam Howe’s. Ahh, those halcyon days before the synapses containing the last of my guileless innocence were filled with hydrogen and lit on fire to burn to a crisp like falling Hindenburgs. I wrote a separate review of this novella that can be found here: My Gator Bait Review

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Certain Dark Things by: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark ThingsCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Silva Moreno-Garcia did something impossible in my world...she made me like, ( a vampire novel.

Stylish, bloody, dark and HARD, not a sparkle in sight, I read this book quick. If you follow me, you know I read a ton, but horror is not my thing, and I REALLY hate young adult-ish type books.

This tale is smart, fast paced and while in my opinion, skirts young adult territory (mostly from a character prospective) it is a awesome October read. A great world and probably did more to make me interested in vampires than anything else did in media in a while.

go read this.

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