Sunday, July 23, 2017

Blister

BlisterBlister by Jeff Strand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After an unfortunate incident, cartoonist Jason Tray goes to his agent's cabin to hide out for a while. In the company of some drunken locals, he spies on local legend Blister, a woman with a disfigured, burn-scarred face. The next morning, he returns to her father's house to apologize and they become friends, which a lot of people are strangely against...

Jeff Strand earned his spot on my 'read everything by' list with such gems as Wolf Hunt and Kumquat. This one has been on my radar for a long time.

Based on the setup, I thought this one would be a lot like Kumquat. While there are some similarities, they're different kinds of books. While this one is also an unlikely love story, it's also about secrets in small towns and what people will do to keep them hidden.

Jason and Rachel, aka Blister, share a lot of witty banter and I thought their relationship developed pretty realistically. Blister's backstory was pretty twisted, as were a lot of the things that followed.
Strand could have phoned in the supporting cast as a bunch of small town rubes but I thought their motivations made a lot of sense in the context of things.

Jeff Strand's writing reminds me of a more serious Christopher Moore, hilarious when it needs to be and pretty horrific when the situation warrants. I was scared for Jason when the shit finally went down. Also, I felt like a rube a couple times since there were a few twists I should have seen coming. I kept looking at how much of the book I had left, wondering how there was so much book left to read. And then Strand would kick me in the gonads.

Blister was everything I hoped it would be and more. It's criminal that Jeff Strand isn't selling crazy numbers of books. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 21, 2017

See Right Through


Sara Winters
Self-Published
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars



Summary



Devin Salvo has always remained three steps ahead: in chess, on the pitch, and in his love life. His every desire is within arm's reach, except the one person Devin has always wished would be his in the end. All it takes is one conversation to open his eyes to a new possibility, one moment to change what Devin believes about friendship and love and one person to change the rules of the game.

Sam Marshall has been fighting his feelings for his friend and roommate for two years. When an opportunity presents itself, he makes his move, only to be faced with the very real fear that what he sees in Devin, the potential waiting to be realized, may be more than their friendship can handle.


My Review


Michael, Sam and Devin are roommates and best friends. Dev wants Michael, but Michael is straight. Michael feels strongly that Dev and Sam would be good together, but Dev vehemently disagrees. Sam quietly likes Devin even though Dev treats him like shit. Dev doesn’t care for their attractive neighbor and rugby teammate, Lee, because even though he doesn’t want Sam and can’t have Michael, he doesn’t want Lee to either.

Oh, the drama!

I knew that Sam would get his man in the end, and it was fun spending time with the guys while they’re playing rugby or chess, and during their long, soul-searching discussions while still managing to evade their feelings for each other.

As much as I enjoyed this story, I’m still not convinced Sam and Dev belong together and I don’t really have a desire to spend more time with these characters, except maybe Lee.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Age of Swords

Age of Swords (The Legends of the First Empire, #2)Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the destruction of Dahl Rhen by the Fhrey, Persephone sets out to call a council of all Rhune Chieftains in order to appoint a keenig to lead them in the inevitable war with the Fhrey. When the council attempts to make Raithe the keenig he refuses. He believes the fight is unwinnable because of the Rhunes pitiful weapons. Persephone makes a pact with three Dwarves that's she's met to help them rid their home of a giant in exchange for Dherg swords and shields. Persephone and her party of women don't know the danger they've volunteered to defeat until they have no choice but to fight.

Age of Swords is the second book in The Legends of the First Empire series. If any fans of Riyria were worried they wouldn't like it, I'd have to say there is no reason for concern. Michael J. Sullivan tells a fresh tale about the heroes of that age while having many subtle tie-ins to the original series. The strength of storytelling along with the excellent characters make this story quite strong. Age of Swords is also much more of an ensemble cast lead by Persephone and Raithe while the original series revolved around Royce, Hadrian, and Arista. The book also utilizes a number of point of views characters.

The story is massive with multiple storylines going on with an overarching goal of trying to defeat the Fhrey in war. The task seems immense, but Persephone would die before she gives up. Persephone really takes charge and felt like the central character in Age of Swords. Her determination is truly remarkable.

There is so much I'd like to say about Age of Swords, but unfortunately there isn't much I can reveal with spoiling the story for others. Suffice to say Age of Swords is a strong sequel to Age of Myth.

4 out of 5 stars

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


View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

BURR BY GORE VIDAL

BurrBurr by Gore Vidal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”In the half-light of the cemetery, Burr did resemble the devil--assuming that the devil is no more than five foot six (an inch shorter than I), slender, with tiny feet (hooves?), high forehead (in the fading light I imagine vestigial horns), bald in front with hair piled high on his head, powdered absently in the old style, and held in place with a shell comb. Behind him is a monument to the man he murdered.”

 photo Aaron20Burr_zpsi4qwwjhl.jpg
Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating figures in American history. He cuts his own swath, leaving a wake behind him that rocks the tender foundations of this newly minted country. He is honorable and dishonorable in equal measure. He is a highly skilled lawyer (he will need those skills to defend himself) and an accomplished politician. Today, he is not as well known as Benedict Arnold, but in a series of events that are more lurid than the plot of a dime novel, he nearly supersedes Arnold as the most loathed man in America.

It is hard to believe that this controversial figure was nearly the third President of the United States. In 1800, one of those pivotal years in politics, Burr makes a deal with Thomas Jefferson to allow him to be president if he insures that Burr will be made vice president. Burr can bring the key New York votes to Jefferson. Interestingly enough, in the first ballot, they tie 73-73. With the way we venerate Jefferson (with a few reservations about his association with Sally Hemings), it is interesting to think about how close he comes to NOT being the third President of the United States. Really only because Burr upheld his promise, one of those times when Burr was maybe too honorable, did Jefferson achieve his ambition (though he insists in true Cincinnatus style that he never desired the Presidency).

The Aaron Burr of this story is really a surrogate for the wicked wit of Gore Vidal. I’d like to think that Burr was exactly how Vidal portrayed, the enigma of charm and enticing, irreverent behavior. His observations on the founding fathers is frankly hilarious. He describes George Washington’s ”womanly hips” and other aspects of his character that are even less flattering. What did he think of Jefferson? ”Meanwhile, I presided over the Senate. I also dined quite frequently with the President who continued to delight and fascinate me with his conversation, not to mention his wonderful malice which was positively Shakespearean in its variety.”

Or how about a description of an older Jefferson after two terms in the presidency.

”The smile was a swift baring of yellow teeth; the lips were gray tending to blue where most men are pink or red. I suppose it was the winter season that made him look like the last ashes of a once-fierce fire---soft, fine, white, no trace remaining of the foxy, red-haired man he had been save for the tarnished bronze of freckles.”

Ahh, yes, Mr. Vidal, you can most definitely write.

This story is told through the eyes of Charles Schuyler (not of the prominent New York Dutch family, unfortunately), a young writer who has been granted access to Burr because Burr has taken a shine to him. We learn in the later chapters exactly why Burr was so forthcoming with the young lad. Charles is there to listen to the Burr stories, write them down, and organize them into some semblance of a biography. Burr cautions the reader, or is that Vidal? ”My side of the story is not, necessarily, the accurate one. But you flatter me. And I like that!” Burr is in his 70s and has weathered more than his share of scandals. He is more interested in not being forgotten than he is in being venerated. Bad press will work as well or better than good press. Even on the social front, he is rather debonair about potential impropriety. ”Whenever a woman does me the honour of saying that I am father to her child, I gracefully acknowledge the compliment and disguise any suspicion that I might have to the contrary.”

A true gentleman, and yet; somehow still a cad!!!

 photo Aaron20Burr20Statue_zpskhfpygkh.jpg
I love this badass statue of Aaron Burr at the Museum of American Finance.

Vidal explores his growing conflict with Alexander Hamilton, which escalates under the spidery web of insinuations that Jefferson glibly whispers in the ears of those around him. Burr is defined by this brief moment in time, involving two pistol shots, leaving one mortally wounded and immortalized and the other disreputed and, in many measures, driven to more desperate acts when he finds himself on the run out West. Those actions lead to the term “treason” being associated with him, but really it is more about making him pay for the death of Hamilton.

Vidal also explores the spurious comments that were made about President Martin Van Buren’s parentage. Politics have certainly reached a new low with our most recent election, but have no delusions; there was mud slinging, eye gouging, malicious slander, ankle biting, and generally unseemly behavior from the very beginning of our country.

 photo Gore20Vidal-1972b_zps1opzgtff.jpg
Gore Vidal looking very dapper in 1972.

Vidal takes us behind the scenes and shows us a more tarnished view of the Founding Fathers. At times this book is irreverent, but under the guise of Burr’s memories, one does wonder if this isn’t closer to the truth than the idealized version of history we are spoon fed with the American flag draped over our shoulders and the Statue of Liberty sitting rather provocatively in our laps.

I chuckled. I giggled. I gasped. The book is serious though. I don’t want to leave people with the impression that it is farcical or a spoof. Vidal does his research. He considered adding the long list of sources that he read and consulted to write this book for he wanted to stay out of the range of the rabid politicos who would not necessarily appreciate his interpretations of history. He elected to let them say what they will in true Aaron Burr fashion. Highly Recommended to those that want to experience an alternative view of our venerated Founders.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten


View all my reviews

Monday, July 17, 2017

George Martin Side Dish

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (The Tales of Dunk and Egg, #1-3)A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is just what I was looking for! Old timey, good-doer knights and squires doin' good in an old timey setting!

I had picked up a fantasy book a few weeks ago that I hoped would satiate my current reading desires, but alas no. So I turned to George R.R. Martin. He's always a good bet. I like his writing style and I'm familiar with the world he's built. Sure, there's such a small amount of fantasy in his work that, aside from mention of dragons in this particular book, it could almost be called historical fiction for its similarity to the York and Tudor War of the Roses back in the 15th century.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a collection of three lengthy short stories that follow the adventures of a hedge knight and his squire. Any fan of the Song of Fire & Ice series will recognize many of the names dropped herein even though these stories are set about a hundred years prior.

So what you get are some fun action/adventure tales with a helping of Seven Kingdoms history. It's a well-balanced combination. Seldom was I inundated with one or bored with the other.

The stakes are high enough to make you care surprisingly deeply about the two main characters by the end of the book. There's good, solid tension through out. And yet, the stakes aren't "Save the World or Bust!!!" high, which is a nice departure from the epic fantasy of the day.

In summary, this is a very enjoyable distraction that will entertain the dickens out of Martin's fans!

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Man Lies Dreaming

A Man Lies DreamingA Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Auschwitz concentration camp, a former pulp writer named Shomer imagines a world where the Nazis never came to power and a certain dictator is a down and out private investigator named Wolf. Wolf is hired to find a woman named Judith Rubinstein, who may have been smuggled out of communist Germany. Can Wolf find Judith and figure out who is pulling the strings of his former allies?

I stumbled upon this book during my brief alternate history binge during what 2.0 called my Summer of Love. Since I dug The Bookman and HebrewPunk, I gave it a shot.

Grown from the same literary roots as The Man in the High Castle, A Man Lies Dreaming is a tale of what might have been, if the communists had risen to power in Germany in the 1930s instead of the Nazis.

Using Shomer as a framing device, Lavie Tidhar shows who Hitler might have become without power, a fearful, hateful, pathetic man with little direction. Parts of the tale are darkly funny, which makes sense since Shomer is dreaming the tale to forget about the horrors of Auschwitz.

I'm not sure why Wolf being a loser private detective in London works so well but it does. Wolf takes a more blows to the head than Lew Archer as he tries to track down Judith Rubinstein, making a lot of enemies in the process. Wolf is a slightly sympathetic lead until you remember how things went in real life. It's pretty satisfying to read the ass-kickings he takes and to see his impotent rage. Not to mention the kinky sex...

The books ends a little differently than I thought it would but it was still satisfying. Tidhar's copius research is apparent in the afterword, which I normally don't read. Thankfully, he doesn't suffer from the "work all research into the book" syndrome a lot of authors suffer from.

Lavie Tidhar has come a long way in the short time I've been aware of his work. A Man Lies Dreaming is both a great alternate history detective tale and a commentary on racism and the way we treat immigrants, something that sadly never goes out of style. Four out of five stars.





View all my reviews

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Salt of Your Tears


M. Caspian
Self-Published
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars



Summary



Three works of m/m erotica from M. Caspian

In His Skin: Harrison offers Dylan the world. All he asks in return is Dylan follow a few simple rules.

Asking For It: Cole was looking for one night of casual sex. Garrett's going to give Cole everything he thought he couldn't have.

A Song in the Blood: Corran MacKenzie signed up to fight a war that wasn't his. In the desert he found Sephtis. And his fate.


My Review



Spare, yet richly evocative.

Dangerous, yet beautifully erotic, seductive and mesmerizing.

These stories may certainly push your limits, but there’s no denying the strength of these characters as they seek fulfillment of their emotional needs and desires.

In His Skin

Dylan is a man of no words. However, his suffering, his devotion and his longing are palpable. I loved this story.

Asking For It

On the outside, Cole is a buttoned-up middle-class kid who aspires to a career in finance. On the inside, he needs what the corporate world can’t provide. Garrett the bartender will take good care of Cole. This kinky and sweet story made my toes curl.

A Song in the Blood

Gorgeous, chilling and intense. Since he was a little boy, Corran has needed it to hurt.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Introducing Boston P.I., Spenser

"The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse."

Thus opens the novel that introduced Robert B. Parker's most famous creation, Boston P.I., Spenser. Spenser was a former cop who'd been fired for insubordination, and he was also a veteran of the Korean War. When The Godwulf Manuscript was published in 1973, he was apparently somewhere in his middle forties, which means that when Parker wrote his last contribution to the series in 2011, Spenser would have been in his early eighties. With the publication this year of the latest book in the series, written by Ace Atkins, Spenser would be pushing ninety.

For a guy that old, he still does amazingly well. More important, for a series this long--now forty-five books--the character and the concept have held up very well. Truth to tell, the series had begun to falter a bit toward the end of Parker's life, but Atkins has put it back on track and restored it to its former glory.

From the beginning, as suggested by the opening sentence above, Spenser was a world-class smart ass. He was also a very tough guy, wise to the ways of the world, and, naturally, hugely attractive to the ladies. He worked by his own rules, and for Spenser, the ends almost always justified the means. He was a very worthy successor to the generation of tough-guy P.I.s who had come before him.

In this case, a very valuable manuscript has been stolen from a Boston University. The manuscriptnappers are asking $100,000 for its safe return, but this is not one of the more stellar universities for which Boston is known. They don't have a hundred grand, and so the university president hires Spenser to get the manuscript back.

Spenser's main lead is to a group of campus radicals. Almost immediately, someone is murdered and the stakes are raised significantly. The murder and the theft are obviously related, and Spenser soon finds himself caught between the university officials, the cops, some local mobsters, a lot of uncooperative students and a particularly nasty faculty wife. Naturally, none of these will pose any significant problem for Spenser, but things will get very dicey along the way.

Rereading the book after a very long time was a lot of fun, and it's held up very well, especially for a book that's now forty-three years old. Mainly that's because the character of Spenser seems somehow almost timeless and the story moves along so well that you don't even stop to think about all the modern technology that Spenser doesn't have at his beck and call.

The character is obviously not fully formed yet. A couple of characters are introduced who will accompany Spenser through the entire run of the series, but Parker is still feeling his way along here, and it was interesting to go back and see the character again as he initially appeared.

This is the book in which Spenser meets Brenda Loring, who will be his first significant love interest. I liked Brenda a lot, and like many another fan of this series, I rue the day when she disappeared from the series only to have Spenser wind up with the insufferable Susan Silverman. Happily, that doesn't happen for a while, which is one of the reasons why so many of the early books in this series are among the best of the lot. All in all, this was a great trip back down Memory Lane.

Sins of Empire

Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder, #1)Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fatrasta is a nation at conflict with itself. It subjugates a people group and their desire for equality. The Lady Chancellor uses not only her secret police the Blackhats, but also employs the Riflejack Mercenary Company led by Lady Vlora Flint. Fatrasta has also buried it's heroes who helped win them freedom, most notably Ben Styke. Styke has spent 10 years rotting in a Fatrastan labor camp. Fatrasta's problems may be worse than they initially feared, as a long silent threat appears to have returned along with an object best left buried.

I have to say before I even begin that I was worried I wouldn't like Sins of Empire or the new series. My reason being is that Field Marshal Tamas was far and away my favorite character in the Powder Mage trilogy. I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy the storytelling with him gone, especially as my other favorites Bo and Ka-poel were no where to be seen. Even worse the only character mentioned returning from the original trilogy was Vlora who I didn't care for.

As Sins of Empire began my worries seemed more reasonable as the story largely resembled Promise of Blood. The story has a mysterious man causing trouble in Gregious Tampo. Tampo seemed largely similar to Vetas from the intital trilogy. It also has a spy investigating in blackhat Michel Bravis who was similar to Inspector Adamat. Around the halfway point in the novel, I have to admit I had no idea what I was in for. Brian McClellan borrowed some familiar elements, but they didnt lead to the same results at all.

Sins of Empire is a massive story with many moving parts and various characters. In many ways it's a mystery as multiple investigations are going on that play massive parts in the story being told. I didn't particularly love any one character, but the book played out as a true ensemble cast.

Any reader who came to enjoy Brian McClellan's Powder Mage trilogy owes it to themselves to read Sins of Empire. It was a strong start to a new trilogy.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

THE KINGDOM OF ICE BY HAMPTON SIDES

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS JeannetteIn the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”About the same time the sun vanished, the ice began to move again. The noise was terrible---first the sounds of the ice warring with itself, then the more dreadful sounds of the ice warring with the ship. The turbulence started early on a cold November morning. De Long was awakened by a ‘grinding and crushing---I know of no sound on shore that can be compared to it,’ he said. ‘A rumble, a shriek, a groan, and a crash of a falling house all combined might convey an idea.’”

 photo USS Jeannette_zpsyxagv5jg.jpg
USS Jeannette

Little was known about the Arctic in 1879, but there were a lot of theories regarding the best way to reach the Arctic and also regarding what the explorers would find once they reached their goal. Though the science of these theories may have been suspect, the enthusiasm that these theorists possessed was infectious and represented the desire that most explorers, amateur and professional, had for discovering the secrets of the Arctic. One such theory, that there was a warm polar sea on the other side of the ice barrier, was used in a story by Edgar Allan Poe called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.

 photo George20Washington20De20Long_zpsdhzoj4ix.jpg
George Washington De Long

George Washington De Long had long been bitten by the pagophilic bug. When the chance came for him to command a vessel to explore a route through the Arctic, he gleefully volunteered. With the financial assistance of the very rich owner of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., they found a ship, refitted it for Arctic travel, and christened it the USS Jeannette, named after Bennett’s sister.

De Long and Bennett were an odd pairing, a matching of the self made and the silver spooned. De Long was very serious, but also determined. He was not afraid to ask for what he needed or go after what he wanted. Bennett was born rich and was quite capable of acting like a self-obsessed ass. ”Bennett had a habit of strolling into one of the finest establishments in Paris or New York and snatching the table linens as he proceeded down the aisle, smashing plates and glassware on the floor, to the horror of the dining patrons, until he reached his reserved table in the back. (He never failed to write a check for the damages.)” I couldn't imagine myself sitting there and allowing a man to walk by and yank my meal out from under my nose without taking exception. (Duel level exception.) He also lost an engagement by arriving at his fiancee’s house roaring drunk and pissed in the fireplace. I’m sure he had some good qualities, but on the most basic human level, he was lacking manners and completely undisciplined.

Bennett was the man who sent Henry Morton Stanley after David Livingstone. He sold piles of newspapers by, in a sense, creating news. As it turned out, Livingstone wasn’t in need of finding, so this idea to explore the Arctic felt like a similar story opportunity to Bennett.

 photo James20Gordon20Bennett20Jr._zpsxpqu8wxs.jpg
James Gordon Bennett, Jr.

The subtitle of the book is ”The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette.” The grand part was the excitement and anticipation of preparing for the trip with the hope of returning as conquering heroes of the frozen North. The whole rest of the trip was the terrible part, tragic really. They become trapped in the ice and spent two years drifting with an ice pack until the day the ice shifted and crushed the Lady Jeannette into pieces.

Then began a desperate bid for survival that took them across the ice with the help of their dogs and three small boats. They fought hunger and frostbite…”...when he pulled off his boots, Leach saw that his toes were turning blue-black, the skin and nails curling backwards, like feathers singed by a flame.” Needless to say, the conditions were abominable with howling winds, storms, and cold temperatures that plunged well below anything most of us will ever experience.

I was enthralled. I could not put this book down. Once the tale sunk it’s icy needles into my bloodstream, I was freezing off important body parts right along with the men of the Jeannette. Hampton Sides benefited from the fact that numerous members of the crew made detailed journal entries. They were well aware that what they were attempting was historic. One of the poignant aspects of the book was the letters that Emma and George De Long wrote to each other while apart. Here is one of my favorites from Emma:

”All this will be forgotten when we meet again; it will seem only as a bad dream---a fearful nightmare that has been successfully passed through. However dangerous your surroundings are at present I can still trust God and hope a little longer. I often dream of you and you seem all right, only sad and not as strong as you used to be. Oh darling! I cannot show you my love, my sympathy, my sorrow for your great sufferings. I pray to God constantly. My own darling husband, struggle, fight, live, come back to me!”

 photo Emma20De20Long_zpskh1oahyd.jpg
Emma De Long

The bravery and resourcefulness that was exhibited by nearly every crew member spoke to the wonderful job that De Long did in finding the right men for this arduous and dangerous trip. A few suffered from melancholy as the months passed, but most of the crew was intent on carrying their own weight and contributing to the well-being of the entire group. George Melville, a distant relative of Herman Melville, was the Macgyver of the group. He could take any pile of junk and turn it into some amazingly useful piece of machinery. He went on to have a long, successful career in the Navy. ”Melville presided over an expansive redesign of the fleet, largely completing its conversion from wood to metal, and from wind to steam power. When he retired, in 1903, the U.S. Navy boasted one of the most powerful modernized fleets in the world.”

Pull on your boots and your thickest parka, and experience the grand and the terrible. You will find, like me, that you will become fond of these men and maybe even more fond of their dogs.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust, #1) By: Anna Smith Spark

The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust, #1)The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't like to put labels on books or anything for that matter, but if you are a fan of the "grimdark" such as Joe Abercrombie, the queen of the genre has arrived.

This is a fucking beautiful book, an immense, sprawling world that every shadowed corner is alive. You know why some people are in love with the dark? its the promise of what may be there, Ms. Spark fulfills that promise and more.

if you are a fantasy fan and you haven't read this.......fucking read it.

hail to the queen

20 out of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Kings of the Wyld (The Band, #1) by: Nicholas Eames

Kings of the Wyld (The Band, #1)Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so glad I found this. There was a time where my brain consisted of heavy metal music and swords and magic. Kings of the Wyld is to me a very fresh take on a fairly common fantasy trope and in the running for my fantasy books of the year. Wild, rowdy and just damn fun, the older I get, the more I want my reads to make me smile and engage me.

If you are of the older generation, it will tug a bit at your feels too, a super read all the way around, I will be hitting the road and following the band, Mr Eames.

200 out of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Kurt Wallander Is Challenged by Two Very Perplexing Cases

As the fifth entry in this series opens, Swedish police detective Kurt Wallander is looking forward to his upcoming vacation, but then he answers a call to a farmer's field where a young girl has been standing all day in what appears to be a catatonic state. Just as Wallander arrives, the girl douses herself in gasoline and burns herself to death. Wallander is naturally horrified and cannot imagine why the girl would have chosen to end her life, especially in such a painful manner. His task now is to identify the young woman and notify her family of her fate. This will prove to be a difficult process.

Shortly after the girl's death a retired Swedish Minister of Justice is murdered by someone who smashes his head with an ax and then takes his scalp. Wallander and his team are on the case, but have no obvious suspects. For the remainder of the book, the P.O.V. switches back and forth between Wallander and the killer who is on a mission that becomes clearer as the book progresses. As it does, a couple more men will be murdered and scalped and it becomes pretty clear that neither Wallander nor anyone else on his team will be going on vacation anytime soon.

This is another very intriguing and entertaining entry in the series and, as always, it allows Mankell to make observations about a number of social issues. There are a number of troubled families in this book, for example, including Wallander's own. His difficult relationship with his daughter, Linda, has significantly improved, but his father is slowly sinking into dementia and Wallander realizes that they will have little time to repair their fragile relationship. 

The plot is compelling and moves along swiftly; as always the characters are very interesting, and all in all, this is a book that should appeal to large numbers of crime fiction fans.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Over Sea, Under Stone

Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising, #1)Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
Reviewed by Jason KOivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Nancy Drew-esque adventure in which some kids with the last name Drew attempt to find the Holy Grail.

"Another book on the Arthur legend?" I groaned before commencing a hearty dismissive snore. I guess I didn't read the description close enough on Goodreads or on the back of the book. I knew it was YA, but expected magic. Even sampling of it. This was not the fantasy novel I was looking for.

These days reading about three English kids romping around the Cornwall seaside in search of King Arthur's grail is just not my cup of tea. Don't get me wrong, it's a damn fine book! I think if I was growing up in the '60s when this was published, I would've been over the moon to get my hands on Over Sea, Under Stone. Now though, there's a plethora of much more fun fantasy to be had.

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Joking Hazard

Joking Hazard
Publisher: the creators of Cyanide and Happiness
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars










Back in the day, my girlfriend at the time turned me on to Cyanide and Happiness, a webcomic that was in alignment with my own twisted sense of humor.  Now, a decade later, the keys to the universe are in the hands of me and 2-4 of my closest friends.

Joking Hazard is a card game for people with a dark and twisted sense of humor.  The box includes 360 cards, each a panel from a Cyanide and Happiness strip, and the instruction sheet.  The game is pretty simple.  Whomever's turn it is flips over a card from the deck, adds one of their own to the strip, and the remaining players try to end the comic strip in the funniest of ways.

For example:

Yeah, it's a hilarious experience.  The replay value is pretty high.  We've played a few times now and it hasn't worn thin yet.  I'm chomping at the bit to get the expansions for even more demented fun.

Joking Hazard is a hilarious game that should appeal to fans of Cards Against Humanity and dark humor in general.  Five out of five stars.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Trouble With Elves


Therese Woodson
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Cal Martin loathes Christmas music, especially the clich├ęd carols pumped through the mall speakers on endless loop. Even worse is the holiday-themed hell of Santa's Village that looms right in front of the sports store he manages. It's yet another hurdle for Cal as he tries to survive the world of retail during the soul-sucking holiday season… until he catches a glimpse of one of Santa's elves and becomes infatuated with the cheery, gorgeous guy dressed in candy-cane tights.

Of course, just walking up to the guy and asking him out isn't easy, and a botched attempt at matchmaking ends up turning a simple courtship into a mess for the gossip page. What can Cal do to overcome his social ineptitude, correct erroneous assumptions, and maybe have a merry little Christmas of his own?



My Review



Cal is a former baseball player with a bad knee now managing a sporting goods store at the local mall.

Though he hates Christmas music and actively avoids the Santa’s Village near his store, a certain elf has captured his interest.

This was adorable, sweet, and funny, with just enough problems and misunderstandings to counteract the sugar.

I adored all the characters, even the annoying ones, and loved the perfect ending.

A holiday treat that can be enjoyed all year long.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Inhuman, Volume 3: Lineage

Inhuman, Volume 3: LineageInhuman, Volume 3: Lineage by Charles Soule
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

New Attilan faces off against Ennilux over Iso and Lineage finally makes his move.

The Nuhumans get put to the test defending New Attilan.
description
description
They get some help from an unexpected place. I really like the Nuhumans along with the new Inhumans created for the series. The new characters are quite a diverse cast. They broke the old mold for Inhumans all being part of Attilan and following Black Bolt and the Royal Family.

Looks aren't everything, but perhaps it's best to be more skeptical of a guy who looks like the devil. Lineage always seemed as though he was up to more than he was saying and in this volume he proved that. description

All the Nuhumans got some attention in this volume and they are an interesting bunch. Mixing them in with the Royal Family has been positive overall.
description
I think Inhuman was a good start, but they need to make a lot more Nuhumans to even come close to being a viable MCU replacement for mutants. The effort put into strengthening the Inhuman brand is already paying off and I'm looking forward to the Inhumans future.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 3, 2017

Dirty Ol' Bryson

Neither Here nor There: Travels in EuropeNeither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Huh. Turns out Bryson is a dirty ol' bugger!

This travel-across-Europe journal is fun, educational and entertaining. I love travel and I like learning about far-off places. Europe has been done and overdone, yet I still find it fascinating.

Bryson's recollections are from when he wrote the book in the '90s as well as from a previous trip he and his friend Katz took. Regardless of when the reminisces come from, details ring true from the experiences I've had of the same places, such Paris and parts of Italy. Apparently some things never change. However, it was cool to get his take on the place.

At times he gets a little grumpy, but overall this is lighthearted and goodnatured. He has a adequate store of patience and his take-it-as-it-comes attitude keeps most of this from sinking into endless gripes.

Fun as this was, it's not my favorite of the six or so of Bryon's works I've read to this point. I haven't found this in his later books, but earlier on his writing seems to show a distracting obsession with sex. That's fine. I mean, I'm a dirty bird too, but I really don't want to know about the fetishes of a mid-aged man. I am one and it's not pretty. Hey, I'm sure that's someone's bag. Somewhere out there some sad sod is thinking, "I wonder what gets boring, bald and wrinkled old Phil from accounting off?" But that's not me...not yet anyhow. Who knows maybe someday my sexuality will warp in an unexpected way.

Oh, who am I kidding...*zip*

View all my reviews

A Little Light On The Funny

Seriously... I'm KiddingSeriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

5 GLORIOUS STARS!!! is what I wanted to give Seriously...I'm Kidding when I first picked it up. The peace and kindness message is great, but this lacks the funny far too much for an autobio from a comedian.

I love Ellen DeGeneres. Wait, let me back up. I love the idea of Ellen DeGeneres. I really like her show. Her stand-up...meh. Unfortunately, this book is more like her stand-up. This very quick read (actually, I listened to her read it and it was only 3 cds) is filled with her silly titter-inducing jokesque things. It's also filled with fluff. There are whole chapters of filler. There are sections of her making nonsensical noises, her eating, and her saying nothing. Literally intentional silence. As if that wasn't bad enough, there's a whole bit about dreams. I would've preferred more silence.

I'd say about halfway through I thought Seriously...I'm Kidding deserved about 3 stars, but the latter half took a complete nose-dive. Very boring, tedious even.

That's sad. I had high hopes. I guess I'll go back to checking out Youtube clips of her show. Those crack me up.

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 2, 2017

White Jazz

White JazzWhite Jazz by James Ellroy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Dave Klein, the dirtiest cop in town, catches a burglary, he quickly becomes entangled in a web of drugs, prostitution, and murder...

James Ellroy's four volume treatise on family values and the integrity of the Los Angeles police department comes to a conclusion in White Jazz. White Jazz ties up some nagging lose ends leftover from the previous three volumes. Gone is the "trinity of sin" structure of The Big Nowhere and L.A. Confidential, replaced by a first person narrator, a throwback to The Black Dahlia.

Ellroy's machine gun style is ratcheted up to an insane degree in this one, the short choppy sentences hitting like the needle of a sewing machine. Honestly, it got a little hard to follow what was happening at times. However, the crazy style added something to the book, giving it a frantic, paranoid feel.

The story itself continued in the vein of the previous two; the corpse of the integrity of the LAPD was exhumed, violated in every orifice, and buried again. What starts as a burglary investigation tears the scab off of the gaping wound of the LAPD's narcotics division and exposes the infection beneath, namely their longtime relationship with the Kafesjian family. Dave Klein, a cop, lawyer, and mob enforcer, finds himself navigating a maze of filth to figure out just what the hell is going on, caught in a power struggle between two of the most powerful men on the force.

After finishing LA Confidential, I mentioned that I thought Dudley Smith was James Ellroy's Randall Flagg. After reading this book, I stand by that. The master manipulator was in fine form in White Jazz, doing his puppeteer act from the sidelines for most of the book. Once all the cards were on the table, the book got so frantic I thought I might have an anxiety attack.

As with the previous books, the dialogue and relationships between the characters threw a lot of gas on the fire. Klein's complicated relationships with his sister and Glenda, as well as Junior and the rest, made him another of Ellroy's shitbird characters that you couldn't help but root for, especially since all the other shitbirds had a lot more blood on their hands.

While I didn't like White Jazz quite as much as the other two books in the LA Quartet, it did a great job wrapping things up. Hell, when the three previous books are of such high caliber, they're hard to follow. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 30, 2017

Happily Ever Before


Jaye Valentine
Self-Published
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars




Summary



Featuring the White Queen and the Red Knight from Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass, And What Alice Found There," this erotic short story by Jaye Valentine incorporates Carrollian elements of nonsensical comparison and White Queen-specific time distortions, all wrapped up in a beautiful gender-bending package.


My Review



This deliciously erotic treat was perfect reading between naps on a long flight and short enough to gobble up in a single bite.

Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classics, this is a cleverly written, humorous, and very steamy story about one of no doubt many passionate flings between the White Queen and his devoted Red Knight.

I thoroughly enjoyed the flowery language, the banter, and the deep affection the lovers had for one another.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Inhuman, Volume 2: Axis

Inhuman, Volume 2: AxisInhuman, Volume 2: Axis by Charles Soule
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Black Bolt has been missing since the events of Infinity, but thanks to Lineage, Medusa now knows he's alive. Medusa tasks her best detective along with her Nuhuman partner to find Black Bolt. Meanwhile Reader had rescued Xiaoyi, but are his intentions as pure as they appeared?
description

So I read this at the start of my Marvel Unlimited month and wasn't impressed, but after rereading it I have no idea why. Maybe I was just in a bad mood. Perhaps the Axis tie in really messed me up, but now I've read it so that could be the difference.

So Maximus has finally found a way to take control of Black Bolt's mind and he's controlling his every action. Auran and Frank McGee (Nur) are on their trail.
description I'm a big fan of Frank McGee though. He's not the standard new hero. He's not young and naive, a scientist, or the result of some freak accident (basically not counting the terrigen cloud). A detective forced into early retirement because of his glowing eyes and forced into New Attilan because his eyes were giving his wife nightmares. He's a good guy and a strong addition.

Reader didn't save Xiaoyi out of the kindness of his heart. He's paid to bring new Inhumans to Ennilux. Unfortunately Xiaoyi isn't his normal job and things get complex.

I really enjoyed this volume of Inhuman and I like the direction they're moving.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

THE SOFT MACHINE BY WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS

The Soft Machine: The Restored TextThe Soft Machine: The Restored Text by William S. Burroughs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

”In order to accomplish the purpose I prostituted myself to one of the priests---(Most distasteful thing I ever stood still for) ---During the sex act he metamorphosed himself into a green crab from the waist up, retaining human legs and genitals that secreted a caustic erogenous slime, while a horrible stench filled the hut---I was able to endure these horrible encounters by promising myself the pleasure of killing this disgusting monster when the time came---And my reputation as an idiot was by now so well established that I escaped all but the most routine control measures---.”

So the paragraph above that I shared with you is strange, but easily understood. Now check out this paragraph.

”Larval people whispering flesh. Eyes ejaculated spine mud. Black gum in member. Old junky coughing limestone in the obsidian morning: the sale mirror to red sky. Manipulated spasms puppets vestigial meat. Pulsing pink shell. Red pagodas and crystal accounts. Wet dream eyes hanging in lust of dead flesh patios. Boy chrysalis in streets of postcard. Eating birds patrol black lichen. Catatonic sports sear lungs of dream clay. Lust of mud bubble coal gas the insect street. Flesh ejaculation. Penis in the broken mirror rocks of Marwan. Serving the crystal dawn photo of sex. On the Brass and Copper Street.”

 photo William20S.20Burroughs_zpsekemibib.jpg

This book was originally composed using the cut-up technique inspired by the artist Brion Gysin. Let me define cut-up for you: ”Cut-up is performed by taking a finished and fully linear text and cutting it in pieces with a few or single words on each piece. The resulting pieces are then rearranged into a new text.” So William S. Burroughs wrote a traditional novel and then cut those sentences up into pieces and rearranged them randomly. Maybe less of a creative process than just a random throw of the dice. Burroughs was not happy with the 1961 edition, and in several editions after the original, he continued to make radical changes. It is the type of novel that possibly, because of the randomness of design, can never be finished.

He added more standard prose to each new edition to make the book more readable. There is this moment when he writes: ”But then who am I to be critical?” I chuckled because it was as if he were talking to the reader. There is a lot of homosexual sex described, but a lot of it is fairly repetitive. He likes the words jissom (jism) and rectum, and the phrase ”ragged pants to the ankles.” Did I say there was a lot of sex description? I meant there is oceans, mountains, oodles, gobs, and, forgive my French, a$$loads, (Yes, I’m being tongue in cheek) of sexual situations.

There is a linear prose chapter titled The Mayan Caper which gives the reader some idea of what they are actually reading about. If you do decide to take on the task of reading this novel, and you become bogged down, frustrated, discombobulated, or start screaming uncontrollably, please skip ahead to this chapter and soothe your ruffled reader’s soul with at least something you can wrap your mind around.

I made notes of some cool passages that I really liked:

”An evil old character with sugary eyes that stuck to you.”

“They were ripe for the plucking forgot way back yonder in the corn hole---Lost in little scraps of delight and burning scrolls.”

“The man opposite me didn’t look like much---A thin grey man in a long coat that flickered like old film.”

“...in these times when practically anybody is subject to wander in from the desert with a quit claim deed and snatch a girl’s snatch right out from under her assets.”

“When the boy peeled off the dry goods he gives off a slow stink like a thawing mummy.”

“Crab men peer out of abandoned quarries and shag heaps some sort of vestigial eye growing cheek bone and a look about them as if they could take root and grow on anybody.”


Even the linear prose is sometimes as confusing as the cut-up technique sections. Most people probably do not need to read this trilogy, but if you are someone who enjoys looking at words used in unusual ways, or if you are someone who wants to write innovative songs or progressive novels, or if you are someone who thinks that you understand what edgy writing is all about, you probably do need to at least dip a toe into the murky waters of Soft Machine.

What will I do? Well, I will read the rest of the series and probably, over time, everything that Burroughs wrote. I save his books for a time when I feel I am becoming stale or too comfortable. Sometimes, I just reach these crustaceous moments when I start to feel like a barnacle attached to the underside of a boat, permanently moored in port.

”Human faces tentative flicker in and out of focus. We waded into the warm mud-water. Hair and ape flesh off in screaming strips. Stood naked human bodies covered with phosphorescent green jelly. Soft tentative flesh cut with ape wounds. Peeling other genitals. Fingers and tongues rubbing off the jelly-cover. Body melting pleasure-sounds in the warm mud. Till the sun went and a blue wind of silence touched human faces and hair. When we came out of the mud we had names.”

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

View all my reviews

Monday, June 26, 2017

Money For (Doing) Nothing

Frozen AssetsFrozen Assets by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Classic Wodehouse. Classic comedy.

Here's the basics. Biff stands to gain an large inheritance if he can only keep himself from getting pinched by the local constabulary. Problem is, Biff likes to drink and when he drinks he gets up to shenanigans, inevitably getting himself pinched. That's where his buddy Jerry, the long-suffering editor of a gossip rag, comes in. He's tasked with keeping Biff's nose clean. Why? Because Jerry wants to marry Biff's sister and she really wants Biff to inherit that money. See what I mean? Classic Wodehouse.

While not hilarious all the way through, Wodehouse spreads a bucketful of laughs liberally throughout Frozen Assets. The opening scene is a prime example of the author's trying-the-main-character's-patience gags. Wodehouse can even squeeze the last ounce of humor out of such an insignificant character as the bad guy's solicitor.

The unintentionally funny thing about this one is that it was written in the 1960s and a contemporary detail or two is dropped, such as Khrushchev's name being spoken in vain, and yet the setting and characters' affectations are clearly late Victorian England. Mannerisms are dated. Butlers and chauffeurs abound. That's not to say these things couldn't have existed in Khrushchev's time, but the times had changed by the 1950s-60s, Wodehouse had not. And that's just as well. He had more Jeeves & Wooster to write before he died and that odd couple needed to remain staunchly of their time.

Good book. Not great. I prefer the J&W, Blandings Castle, or even Ukridge stuff over these stand-alone novels.

View all my reviews

Hello? Hello?...Oh, It's Cthulhu

The Call of CthulhuThe Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What better time to read The Call of Cthulhu than on Halloween?! Probably should've read this one by now, but I've been holding off for a while, waiting for that special occasion.

I do that with some books, usually classics. There's a Steinbeck or two I'm keeping in my proverbial back pocket for when I'm in the right mood or need to get out of a reading funk.

The Call of Cthulhu is pure horror. It's terrifying. If I'd been wearing boots, I'd be quaking in them. Reading this reminded me of reading Poe as a kid. The chills they were palpable. Lovecraft's elevated language is akin to Faulkner. Perhaps this is best described as Poe-stylings layered over Absalom Absalom. The darkness, the despair reaches out of the primeval swamp and sucks you in.

Unlike some classic horror, you actually get physical manifestations of the terror lurking in the shadows. This is no mere ghost story. This is a fucking monster. Yes, it's veiled, it's mysterious, but it's coming for you and it will have you.



View all my reviews

Sunday, June 25, 2017

L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet, #3)L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the aftermath of the Bloody Christmas, the lives of three cops are forever entwined; Ed Exley, the by the book cop who is forever in his father's shadow, glory hound Jack Vincennes, and Bud White, the man forever avenging his dead mother. After six people are killed in the Nite Owl Massacre, can the three men co-exist working the same case or will they all go down in flames?

L.A. Confidential is an epic crime tale spanning nearly a decade, a tale of corruption, greed, drugs, pornography, and murder upon murder upon murder. In many ways, it's The Big Nowhere 2.0. Ellroy once again uses the hell's trinity of three cops with varying degrees of dirtiness to explore Hollywood's filthy and infected underbelly.

The story started simply enough. A bunch of cops got tanked at a Christmas party and beat the shit out of some prisoners. Ed Exley snitched, setting the tone for most of the rest of his role in the book, that of an overgrown kiss ass hall monitor. Well, that's unfair, I guess. He's a pretty good detective for a daddy's boy rat. As with previous Ellroy affairs, two of the cops are pretty dirty. Jack Vincennes sells dirt to tabloids and Bud White's a heavy handed guy with a never ending beef with wifebeaters.

Once the Nite Owl Massacre hits and the smut magazines rear their creepy masked heads, Ellroy shows just how dirty cops can be, with lots of withholding evidence and backstabbing. The three leads prove themselves to be multi-faceted characters, all three with likeable and deplorable traits. Structurally, it's very similar to The Big Nowhere, only richer, more nuanced, and grimier. James Ellroy's Los Angeles is a cesspool with a thousand decaying corpses bobbing just beneath the surface.

I had a feeling who the mastermind was but was in the dark about a lot of the rest of the dirty deed doers until the trinity finally got on the same page just before the pages were torn out for good. For most of the book, I was happy to be on Ellroy's sightseeing tour of Hollywood hell. His punchy use of language was something to behold, a machine gun of poetic yet brutal short sentences.

The ending was pretty hard. I knew the ending would be rough, considering the previous two books in the LA Quartet, but this one was a bloody train wreck. There were some great character moments in the final pages and it's left me ravenous for White Jazz.

I guess I can finally join the nearly 20 year old party and see the movie now. Five out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 23, 2017

Divide & Conquer


Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Baltimore, Maryland, is a city in alarming distress. Rising violence is fanning the flames of public outrage, and all law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are catching blame. Thus the FBI’s latest ideas to improve public relations: a municipal softball league and workshops for community leaders. But the new commitments just mean more time Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett have to spend apart when they’re happily exploring how to be more than by-the-book partners.

Then the latest spate of crime explodes in their faces—literally—throwing the city, the Bureau, and Ty and Zane’s volatile partnership both in and out of the office into chaos. They’re hip-deep in trouble, trying to track down bombers and bank robbers in the dark with very few clues, and the only way to reach the light at the end of the tunnel together requires Ty and Zane to close their eyes and trust each other to the fiery end.


My Review



I’m addicted to this series and officially a fan of Ty and Zane, even if they both need to get slapped upside the head.

The city of Baltimore is out of control. Riots, robberies and explosions are occurring with increasing regularity. Law enforcement is doing the best it can, but their credibility has taken a hit. It’s up to FBI agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett to help gain the public’s trust again.

With their increasing workload, it’s hard for them to find quality time together. Though their sex is electrifying and their intimate moments tender, their communication skills leave a lot to be desired.


“You’re not dessert, Zane. You’re the main course, Ty informed him in a husky drawl. And you have about five seconds to take your pick of flat surface before I do it for you.”


Though Ty has verbally expressed his love, Zane has difficulty saying those three little words.


“Suddenly there were all sorts of words crowding on Zane's tongue, and he couldn't get a single one out, much less three that would prove he knew the best thing to happen to him in his entire life lay right there in his arms.”


I’m glad that more of the focus of this story is on Ty’s and Zane’s relationship, as the bad guys and their motivations didn’t ring true for me. Still, I’m craving a good mystery where the police are not portrayed as incompetent buffoons. Perhaps I should not expect that from this series.

There were lots of entertaining moments with their co-workers, including the funny and punny text messages. There were also tense, gripping moments as a serious injury renders Zane helpless and dependent on Ty.

I loved getting to know Ty’s Marine friends and hope they make another appearance.

The ending slayed me.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tyrant's Throne

Tyrant's Throne (Greatcoats, #4)Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just as Falcio val Mond is about to fulfill his dead King's dream of crowning his daughter Aline, trouble rears its head again. The monstrous Trin has reportedly reappeared in the neighboring country of Avares with a horde of their warriors at her back. Falcio, Kest, and Brasti head North only to find even more trouble than they anticipated. Falcio finds himself torn between upholding the law and following the King's dream.

Tyrant's Throne is the worthy conclusion to the Greatcoats series. There is sorrow, humor, desperation, and slivers of hope scattered throughout the pages. My heart was absolutely breaking at certain points, but the camaraderie between Falcio, Kest, and Brasti helped carry the story through the low moments.

In many ways the Tyrant's Throne is a mystery. The synopsis doesn't give much away so I won't either, but Trin is only part of the iceberg of problems facing the Greatcoats. I can say that nearly every longstanding question that arose in the series is answered in this novel.

As always the greatest strength of the series was the characters and their relationships. The flawed hero Falcio, the incredibly loyal Kest, and the lovable jokester Brasti. While they've all grown and changed in the series their relationship has remained the same. The supporting characters have also helped make the Tyrant's Throne and the series a beautiful tapestry of characterization.

In the end the Tyrant's Throne was not what I expected yet it was an incredibly fitting ending to the tale of Falcio val Mond and his faithful friends Kest and Brasti.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Rise and fall of D.O.D.O. By: Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was very cool, Stephenson in my opinion is an acquired taste, either he floats your literary boat, or he sinks you like an 8 ball in the corner pocket. But, with the help of his partner in this book, Nicole Galland, this was easily the most fun I have had with one of his works, in well....forever.

It has the trademarks of a Stephenson book, tons of cool ideas, massive intakes of information, but there is a fun and playfulness and dare I say, craziness that makes The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. a blast,

go read it.

View all my reviews

Soleri By: Michael Johnston

SoleriSoleri by Michael Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Terrific fantasy that for ONCE is not a typical fantasy setting, many elements of Egyptian and Roman society bring a freshness to this tale that I greatly admire. Interesting world building and characters, it was like a story you had heard before, but every so often things changed and you were like "huh?"

That's a good thing..trust me. Things in the story do go the predictable route once or twice, but the freshness of the setting and the energy in Mr. Johnston's telling makes up for it.

Definite worth your time, check it out.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Hardy Beat Down

Tess of the D'UrbervillesTess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Damn it, Tess! Stand up for yourself! Ugh.... Is there anything more infuriating than seeing dudes get away with being two-faced assholes towards women and the women accepting it as a matter of course?

Certainly Thomas Hardy was writing of a time and place that not only condoned the privilege of condescending white male superiority, it perpetuated it by both sexes accepting it as the standard of the day. More like double standard of the day. What's good for the gander is NOT okay for the goose to even consider! Thank god, or whoever, I wasn't born a woman. I'd have been burned at the stake, stoned to death, etc., because there's no way I would've been able to silently bear the hypocrisy.

But hey, aside from that kerfuffle, Tess of the D'Urbervilles is a damn fine novel! What prose! Has inner turmoil ever been so well described? Definitely not so detailed. Hardy has a hundred and one different ways to tell you about a character's personal conflict, and so he does. Yes, that can be wearying. It can also be quite satisfying. Just sit back and let the words wash over you. It's all quite impressive.

After a few hundred pages, however, a tiny bit of tedium might set in. Enough description is enough! I tried to put myself in the character's place and I've read up enough on Victorian values to understand the constraints, but still...I don't know what it is...maybe it felt like too much handwringing.

This deserves the five-star-because-it's-a-classic treatment, but I dropped it to four mainly for a lack of enjoyment on my part from start to finish. The book devolves into a literary scat film. I mean, has anyone been dumped on more than Tess? It got tiring after awhile. I get it, she's put-upon. The martyrdom dragged on and on, so that with a hundred or so pages to go I was already finished with this.

Still and all, it's a damn fine book! I'll be going back to Hardy again in the future. Probably the distant future though.


View all my reviews

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Big Nowhere

The Big NowhereThe Big Nowhere by James Ellroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the midst of the Red Scare, a violated corpse with its eyes gouged out is found and young deputy detective Danny Upshaw catches the case. Meanwhile, Mal Considine is put in charge of rooting out communists in the UAES. Attached to his team are Dudley Smith, a veteran cop with a mean streak a mile wide, and Buzz Meeks, the dirtiest cop in town and the man whom his first wife had an affair with while he was fighting Germans in WWII...

Here we are, the second book in James Ellroy's multi-volume tale of wholesome family togetherness, the LA Quartet. Sarcasm aside, this was one brutal book.

It's hard to sum up a book with this kind of scope. In some ways, this book is the rise and fall of Danny Upshaw, the rise and fall of Mal Considine, and the redemption of Buzz Meeks, three very driven men. Upshaw will do anything to forget about his dark secret, burning the candle at both ends on two cases. Mal Considine needs a big win on the communist front to get custody of his son from his soon-to-be-ex-wife. Buzz Meeks tries to do the right thing despite a lifetime of doing the wrong ones.

In some ways, this book reads like The Black Dahlia 2.0. Ellroy has a few more balls in the air and more damaged men to put through the meat grinder. I knew the communist plot would dovetail with the death of Marty Goines and the others but I had no idea how.

As with the previous book, the characters make this a powerful read. Upshaw, Considine, and Meeks were all realistic and believable characters, much more nuanced than most crime fiction leads. Watching them go to their fates was like watching a car flying through a red light at an intersection, holding your breath and hoping nothing catastrophic happens. Meeks, who I dismissed as a disposable dirtbag at the beginning of the tale, wound up being my favorite character.

The communist plot didn't do a whole lot for me but the serial killer thread was balls to the wall. As the mystery rocketed toward the finish line, things got pretty tense and I thought about hiding out somewhere to finish it unbeknownst to my coworkers.

Ellroy's writing, the bleak offspring of Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson, makes 1950s Hollywood seem like a shit-smeared labyrinth built on lies and the bodies of the dead. Despair falls like rain and the case played demolition derby with the lives of everyone involved. By the end of the book, I felt like I spent a few days chained to a radiator and beaten with a pipe wrench.

While I feel spent after reading it, The Big Nowhere is one hell of great read, both as a thriller and as a work of literature. Five out of five stars.

After thought: In a parallel universe, I'm sure this is marketed as the inspiration behind season two of True Detective.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 16, 2017

Every Breath You Take


Robert Winter
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



When Zachary Hall leaves Utah for a job in Washington, it’s finally his chance to live as a gay man and maybe find someone special. In a bar he meets Thomas Scarborough, a man who seems perfect in and out of the bedroom. But Thomas never dates. He never even sleeps with the same man twice. Despite their instant connection, he can offer Zachary only his friendship, and Zachary is looking for more.

Thomas is tempted to break his own rules, but years before, he became the victim of a stalker who nearly destroyed his life. Even though his stalker died, Thomas obsessively keeps others at a distance. Despite his fascination with Zachary, he is unable to lower his barriers. Frustrated, Zachary accepts he will never have what he wants with Thomas and soon finds it with another man.

But young gay men in Washington, DC are being murdered, and the victims all have a connection to Thomas. Once again someone is watching Thomas’s every move. Can it be a coincidence? When the depraved killer turns his attention toward Zachary, Thomas must face the demons of his past—or lose his chance to open his heart to Zachary forever.



My Review



Well written, and a whole lot of fun!

Zachary Hall left his oppressive home in Utah and took a job in Washington, DC, where he can thrive in his career and live life on his own terms. The only thing that’s missing in his life is that special someone.

At the Mata Hari, his first gay bar, he meets Thomas Scarborough, a gorgeous, self-confident man who appeals to Zachary. Despite their mutual attraction and connection, Thomas is very skittish about commitment, but wants to remain friends, while Zachary is looking for more than just great sex.

While Thomas’ feelings toward Zachary are strong, he is not forthcoming about the stress and trauma in his past caused by a very persistent stalker who is now dead. Frustrated, Zachary finds comfort in a new relationship with Sam Ryder, a man he meets on a business trip to New Orleans. Zachary and Sam have a lot in common, and while Zachary finds him attractive and appreciates that he wants to take things slowly, there is no real spark like there is with Thomas.

Meanwhile, gay men are getting brutally murdered in DC and someone has his eyes set on Thomas – and on Zachary.

The mystery is predictable. I knew who the villain was as soon as he was introduced. What I enjoyed most about this story is the blazing attraction between Thomas and Zachary, their sexual exploration and experimentation, the suspense and tension, and the insight into a very sick mind.

There is a wonderful cast of secondary characters. I especially loved Randy the bartender, a very close friend of Thomas, and Joe Mulholland, a former monk and teacher who wants to make the world a better place.

I could have used a little more bonding time between Zachary and Thomas to help convince me their love was real, but they had their hands full with working together, trying not to be the next victims of a vicious stalker. That’s probably more than enough to forge a bond.