Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Moment with Kameron Hurley

What was your inspiration for The Stars are Legion?
After I finished writing Rapture, the third book in my God’s War trilogy, in 2012, I came up with this idea for a legion of organic worldships. I wanted to write a book with an epic family intrigue/war/betrayal plot with weird creatures and gooey ickiness, a lot like Melvin Burgess’s book Bloodtide. Bloodtide was based on an old Nordic saga, and I used that as the framework for the first couple of outlines I did. But over time, as with all of my projects, The Stars are Legion became its own thing.

I love world building in books, and your novels have amazing characters and some stunning worlds,  what is your process for world building? Is it organic, you have a story idea and the world fills in around it, or do you have specific things lined out when you start.
I’ll do broad sketches for what I want in my worlds, like magic systems or the underlying conceit of the world. In this one, that’s the idea that these are organic starship systems. The trick is to take that basic premise and extrapolate. So, if your society runs on bug magic, how does that effect everything else? You’d see wasp swarms in the streets. House spider nests welcomed into the kitchens. Cars that spit dead beetles out the back end. Then you look at how these changes affect the people themselves, and their societies. In The Stars are Legion, I took this idea of a starship that was an entire organic world, decaying, where different societies built up their own cultural mores. What happens when your world starts to die and this legion of starships is all you know of the universe?

Where I see a lot of people fall down when they do worldbuilding is to forget that the places and societies we grow up in affect us profoundly. I shouldn’t be able to just drop someone from that world into this one and have them act the same way. Their assumptions and actions are going to be different
based on what they know or believe to be true, and how they are used to interacting with the world.

What are you reading right now? Whats in your stack to read?
Oh, everything. I recently preordered a bunch of books: Spoonbenders, Amberlough, American War, City of Miracles, Borne, All Systems Red, and The Prey of Gods. I also just received just got Atlas, The Fortress at the End of Time and Six Wakes.

I’ve been on a big 80’s murder mystery kick recently as well, and I’ve read 18 of Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series books since Thanksgiving. Also just ordered Indemnity, the first in the VI Warshowski series. I have some plans to dabble in the near future or Weird mystery/thriller genre here at some point, so this type of reading helps. I’m also spending way less time on social media these days, and focused all of that time on reading. It’s been a way better time investment!

Are you a gamer? casual or hardcore? If so, what are you playing when you have time.
I’m a casual gamer by necessity. I have a full-time day job on top of a short story a month and book-a-year novel career. My treat to myself whenever I finish a novel is 30 days of World of Warcraft. I play a lot of Civilization because it’s easy to pick up and put down. I am also playing Obduction right now. I’m a huge fan of the Mass Effect games, and the first Dragon Age game, and I can’t wait for Andromeda (though I don’t get to play until I turn in my next novel, The Broken Heavens, in April).

finally what if anything are you watching? 
Recently finished watching Shut Eye on Hulu, which is about a fortune telling con artist who ends up getting real psychic powers. Lots of blood and Lady Macbeth backstabbing, which was fabulous. Really enjoyed The Detectorists, about metal detectorists in England, and I’m an ongoing fan of Midsomer Murders, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and Leverage (still 2 seasons to get through on that one. I’m savoring them). I’ve also been watching reruns of The A-Team, which is a show that should probably get rebooted here, considering the current political climate. Netflix provides a lot of shows now that help me de-stress including, of all things, Bob Ross’s painting videos, which will soothe even the most anxious soul.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Pfunny Stuff from Wodehouse

Leave It to Psmith (Psmith, #4 ; Blandings Castle, #2)Leave It to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why oh why did I wait to read one of Wodehouse's Psmiths?

Psmith is a character that resides somewhere between Wooster and Jeeves in temperament and intellect. He's overly confident, but he's got a bit of the old grey matter to back it up. Sometimes he's a little too sure of himself and takes one step too far, too fast. However, Psmith is clever enough to extract himself from the soup before he sinks in too deep.

The setting is good old Blandings Castle. So, while Psmith was an unfamiliar character, I was quite familiar with Blandings and its inmates from numerous other Wodehouse books.

I'd try to explain the plot, but it would only confuse me further. Basically, we have the usual misunderstandings and deception. Thievery, love, thievery in the name of love, it's all there. The various characters have their desires and foibles, all of which are bouncing off one another throughout, creating havoc and mayhem in often humorous ways.

While not my favorite of Wodehouse's books, Leave It To Psmith ranks right up there!

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Time Machine

The Time MachineThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Victorian-era scientist calls together a group of men and tells them of his recent adventure, a trip through time...

I had intended to participate in a reading of this with the Distinguished Society of Pantless Readers but once I had a taste, I wolfed the whole tale down in one sitting.

The Time Machine is probably the first time travel story and definitely a spiritual ancestor of every time travel story since. The nameless time traveler whips up a time machine and travels through time. What could be simpler?

The Traveler goes to the year 802,000 and encounters the descendants of man, the Eloi and the Morlocks. Wells uses the Eloi and the Morlocks to illustrate the class differences in his own time but the Traveler's speculation on the haves and have-nots sounded very familiar, a nice bit of timeless social satire. After some misadventures, he returns home and no one believes him. To show those assholes, he goes on another jaunt and was never head from again. At least at the time of the Time Machine's publication.

The Time Machine broke a lot of new ground. It was probably the first time travel story and it could be argued that it was both the first dystopian sf story and the first Dying Earth tale. It's also not much of a stretch to call it an ancestor of the planetary romance genre as well. There's not a lot separating The Traveler from John Carter of Mars, if you think about it.

While there's a lot of fun timey-wimey stuff going on, Wells' prose isn't easy to digest. Part of it is the writing style of the time and another part is that science fiction was still in diapers at the time this was written.

Wells' depiction of future Earth was a very memorable one, one that influenced countless authors that came after. Adjusting for the time period, The Time Machine is a fun yet somewhat difficult read. Four out of five Sonic Screwdrivers.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

After Ben

Con Riley
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


A year after the sudden death of his longtime partner, Ben, Theo Anderson is still grieving. The last thing he's looking for is a new lover. But as Theo soon discovers, sometimes life has other plans.

While Theo experiences a powerful physical attraction to fellow gym member Peter, it's his new online friend, Morgan, who provides the intellectual challenge to make him come alive. Morgan is witty, brave, and irreverent, and Theo is ready to take the plunge... until he discovers Morgan might be half his age.

Theo's late partner was significantly older-enough to strain Theo's relationship with his family-and the potential of another relationship being cut short leaves him gun shy. Theo needs to lay Ben's memory to rest, reconcile with his family, and rekindle neglected friendships if he's to start afresh with a new lover. But Theo isn't the only one with a past.

His biggest challenge, in living after Ben, might not be his to face.

My Review

“'Cause I'd rather feel bad than not feel anything at all…”
Warren Zevon

A clinical study of grief.

A story about a man who lost his partner of 15 years to a massive heart attack should have turned me into a weeping mess. Instead, I found my concentration wavering while reading long passages about Theo’s pain, his online chats with a local stranger, and glimpses of his life with Ben, none of which really engaged my emotions.

I’m wondering if my failure to be moved was caused by the fact that I couldn’t really like, admire, or empathize with Theo enough. I was told many times about his grief, but it made as much impact as if a family member told me about the death of a distant relative I saw maybe five times during my childhood. I wanted to bond with Theo and feel his pain as if it were my own. At times, I found him more immature and unprofessional than the young interns he employed. I felt too much of the story was focused on secondary characters and side plots that never got resolved, as if the author was just preparing to launch a new series rather than seriously exploring the stages of Theo’s bereavement.

While I’m aware that age differences in a relationship can sometimes be a challenge, particularly in later years, I felt that Theo was too hung up on the numbers. Even though Ben was the older one in their relationship, this does not always mean that the older person will die first. Ben was Italian, a spontaneous, live-for-the-moment kind of guy. He eschewed exercise, but enjoyed dancing. He enjoyed his red wine, cigars, and ate whatever he wanted. I couldn’t help but feel that his death was a punishment for the way he lived his life and a subtle warning about the dangers of drinking and smoking. I don’t like to be lectured to.

I’m glad that Theo reconnected with Ben’s family and his friends and found love again. I would have liked more pages devoted to his new relationship rather than just showing the physical aspect of it. The sex scenes were mechanical, repetitive, and far too long. I skimmed through much of these, anxious for more glimpses of Theo and Morgan’s relationship growing and developing.

It’s not a bad story, but I’d much rather revisit Barry Grooms in The Cool Part of His Pillow. His story had the heart this one was lacking.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ultimates: Omniversal Vol. 1: Start With The Impossible

Ultimates: Omniversal Vol. 1: Start With The Impossible (Ultimates (2015-))Ultimates: Omniversal Vol. 1: Start With The Impossible (Ultimates by Al Ewing
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Ultimates have come together to fix the impossible problems in the universe.

This comic takes itself too seriously. It's attempting to delve into the mysteries of the Marvel Universe, most notably Galactus himself. It comes across as dull and somewhat pompous to me. They have a solid roster featuring The Black Panther and Captain Marvel, but it doesn't work for me. Little to know actual fighting occurs it's literally talking and some science fiction science throughout the volume.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Beowulf: A New Verse TranslationBeowulf: A New Verse Translation by Unknown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”One of these things, as far as anyone ever can discern, looks like a woman; the other, warped in the shape of a man, moves beyond the pale bigger than any man, an unnatural birth called Grendel by country people in former days. They are fatherless creatures, and their whole ancestry is hidden in a past of demons and ghosts. They dwell apart among wolves on the hills, on windswept crags and treacherous keshes, where cold streams pour down the mountain and disappear under mist and moorland.”

 photo Beowulf20Heaney_zpsamhndnds.jpg

It rained, but it was colder than what it should be to be raining. A combination of warmer atmosphere and colder temperatures on the ground produced an ice storm. It hit over the weekend so I could sit quite comfortably by my fireplace and watch out the window as the rain formed into sheets of ice on the streets and sidewalks. Power lines thickened as they became cubed in ice. Foot long and longer icicles dangled and swayed from the power lines, from the eaves of houses, from signs, from fence lines. The most affected though were the trees. The bigger the tree with the thicker branches, the more affected they would be. The ice accumulated on their branches bending and twisting them down to the ground. They became monsters, slumbering beneath an armour of ice.

I’d been thinking about rereading Beowulf for some time. This story has been a part of me for almost as long as I can remember. I read a child’s version when I was young, several times before moving on to other more adult translations. The idea of a man taking on a monster, much stronger than most men, and finding a way to defeat him was compelling mythology for my young mind. The terror of it, the monster that comes into your home and kills in the dead of the night and takes heads as trophies, left shivers in the very center of me.

Beowulf hears of a monster who is attacking the Danes. He is one of thirteen men who decide to go to the rescue of Hrothgar, King of the Danes. He goes because he needs to make a name for himself, as Buliwyf in the movie The 13th Warrior says: ” I have only these hands.” Beowulf is poor, renown for his strength, but he has no Hall to call his own and, but for this small band, no men to call him King.

”Their mail-shirts glinted, hard and hand-linked; the high-gloss iron of their armour rang. So they duly arrived in their grim war-graith and gear at the hall, and, weary from the sea, stacked wide shields of the toughest hardwood against the wall, then collapsed on the benches; battle-dress and weapons clashed. They collected their spears in a seafarers’ stook, a stand of greyish tapering ash. And the troops were as good as their weapons.”

I had spent most of the day finishing another book and, thus, had started reading Beowulf late in the evening. The wife and my Scottish Terrier had gone to bed, and I was left in the soft glow of my reading lamp. Most of the city had lost power as lines too heavy with ice had crashed down one by one. I had candles close to hand. It never crossed my mind, power or no power, that I would go to bed. Beowulf was written in Old English between 975-1025. The Seamus Heaney translation that I read had the Old English on one page and Heaney’s translation on the other page. In college, I took a Chaucer class and became a fair hand at deciphering Middle English, but looking and even pronouncing these unfamiliar words did not ring any ancient bells in my English soul. I would have had better luck reading Greek than Old English.

 photo 432a759e-bc88-48bc-b36c-24c3982405f6_zpsisuua0xk.png
1,000 year old manuscript of Beowulf.

As Beowulf grapples with Grendel and then with Grendel’s mother, I was just as enthralled with the story as I was as a wee tot. The carnage, the darkness, the uncertainty that Beowulf had to feel, despite his boasts to the contrary, all lend a fine, sharp edge to the tale. As I read, I also started to hear the sharp cracks and howls of ice heavy tree limbs separating from their trunk in much the same way as Beowulf pulls Grendel’s arm loose from his shoulder. The crash of these ice shrouded branches against the frozen ground sounded to my mind like the steel swords of the Geats banging against their metal wrapped shields.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I walked out of my back door into an alien landscape. Each individual stem of grass had frozen into a nub of ice. With every step, my boots crunched and slipped across this icy topography. Piles of limbs laid at the bottoms of the bigger trees. A small limb detached from the cottonwood tree as I stood there and made discordant music as it hit the limbs below before finally landing among its fallen, dying brethren on the ground. The younger trees, more limber, were probably fine, I told myself. They are bowed over as if in supplication to Mother Nature. Their top branches were frozen to the ground, making arches of their shapes. It was all very beautiful. I remembered reading about a party that was given for Anastasia, the Russian princess, before her life became tangled in the turmoil of revolution. The servants were outside spraying water on the trees so they would glitter with ice as the aristocracy arrived on their horse pulled, bell laden sleighs.

I went back inside and peeled off my boots and my jacket and returned to Beowulf. Another log was required for the fire, so I spent a few moments poking the remaining logs to make room for more wood. I flinched as I heard more crashes from outside. An assembly of Geats preparing for battle. When I finally settled back into my chair, Beowulf has become King of the Geats and fights battles with the greatest champions of the land. He involves himself in disagreements. ”When Eofor cleft the old Swede’s helmet, halved it open, he fell, death-pale: his feud-calloused hand could not stave off the fatal blow.”

I just loved that…feud-calloused hand. I also really liked..”your blade making a mizzle of his blood.” There are lines like that all through the story. Words unfamiliar and evocative of a different age.

Beowulf does age and does need the help of others in the end when he battles a dragon, but few men are made with the courage that he is, and they fail to help him when he needs it most. He does kill the dragon, but at the cost of his own life.

No sword blade sent him to his death,
My bare hands stilled his heartbeats
And wrecked the bone-house. Now blade and hand,
Sword and sword-stroke, will assay the hoard.”

Stormy weather requires the proper book and a proper, hot, Scottish tea laced with a few drops of Scotch whiskey. For me Beowulf, those 3,182 lines, added enchantment and necromancy to a world transforming before my eyes into something magical and unknown.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

With Blood upon the Sand By: Bradley P. Beaulieu

With Blood Upon the Sand (The Song of the Shattered Sands, #2)With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Song of the Shattered Sands is currently one of my favorite series. I have let it be well known that I am a world building junkie and the city of Sharakhai and surrounding area is a living, breathing thing and I revel in it. Beautiful writing, a deep and exciting story and characters you CARE about.

I can't say enough good things about this series or this book, you guys know I don't review things I don't like and I am FAR from an objective reviewer.

Throw this man your money, do yourself a favor and just start from the beginning and read them all, I am not gonna tell you wrong, that I promise.

9389 out of 5 stars

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A moment or two with Bradley Beaulieu

I decided to try something new,  my very first interview with the awesome Bradley Beaulieu.

First of all, I am a what I would call "world building nerd",  your stories have some amazing, very realized worlds, what is your approach to world building and how does it relate to your overall story telling?

My books all start with a major focus on worldbuilding. I do that because so much of the book (the territory, the resources, the magic, the politics) stems from the world itself.

In the case of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, I’d long wanted to scratch the itch to write a desert story. I can attribute this partly to liking the tales of the Arabian Nights (or One Thousand and One Nights), particularly the milieu. In fact, as my last series, The Lays of Anuskaya, progresses, you can see more and more of the Persian-influenced Aramahn coming into the picture, culminating in long stretches of desert scenes in the final book, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh.

So the desert was something I really wanted to explore, and I knew I wanted to steep the history of the city in a nomadic, Bedouin-like culture, but I’d probably (letting my geek flag fly here a bit) give the most credit to the Thieves’ World anthologies for the inspiration for the setting. I loved the city of Sanctuary when I first starting reading the anthologies in high school. I loved that it was the “armpit of the empire,” that it was a meeting point of old and new as the Rankan Empire drove into Ilsigi territory, that there were pantheons of gods vying for power, and in fact commingling even as they fought. Above all, I loved the vastness of Sanctuary and the hidden wonders it contained.

The feel of that is what I wanted to explore with Sharakhai. Sharakhai is in some ways a mere city state. But in effect it controls trade throughout a massive desert bordered by four powerful kingdoms, and because it controls trade, it has amassed incredible wealth and power. It hasn’t done so without making enemies along the way, however. The twelve immortal kings of Sharakhai are hated by many. And the roots of the story are buried deeply in that hatred.

The Song on Shattered Sands series so far has turned into a must read for me, what was the inspiration for writing it?

As mentioned above, I spent a lot of time on worldbuilding before I got too specific about characters. I do this with all my books so that when I get to culture and religion and politics, and eventually character, all the work that went into the world itself can advise me on who the characters are. When I started formulating the main character, Çeda, I already knew about the desert world, the twelve kings, the role that Sharakhai played in local politics as a hub of commerce. I knew to a degree that there were wandering desert tribes and that the people of Sharakhai came from and often identified with those various tribes. It’s in that place—where an older way of life clashes with a newer—that Çeda and her mother, Ahya, really began taking shape.

With those building blocks in place, I started to think more about what Çeda’s past would mean to her as a young woman growing up alone in a big metropolitan city. I thought more about how her mother’s mission in Sharakhai would affect Çeda and those around her. And I slowly started to realize that the heart of the story was about loss of heritage and the desire to regain it. It became a lot about family, in the larger sense of the word, what losing parts of it might mean to a young girl, and how we redefine the very notion of family as we grow older. That grew into a larger question: what does cultural identity mean? In the beginning of the story, Çeda knows very little about her past. She soon begins to learn more. To her growing horror, that knowledge ties into the very history of the kings of Sharakhai. It was a great piece of inspiration, and provided a ton of ideas for where I could take the story.

Since we are a book site, what are you currently reading? what would you recommend to your friends?

I’ve been listening to audio version of The Lord of the Rings as a bit of pleasure reading. I’ve read it many times, but find it fun to listen to books while working in the yard, while in the car, etc. I’m also reading the Harry Potter series to my kids at night. We’re currently on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. And I’m also listening to V. E. Schwab’s A Darkder Shade of Magic, a wonderful book about the four split realities of London—white, grey, red, and black, each of which has particular types of magic and that play upon one another to create a very intriguing plot. It’s been a great read so far.

I am a huge gamer, do you play games? video or physical games?  if so, what are you currently enjoying?

I’ve reduced my video game playing time quite a bit, but I do get in some time on the PS4 and Xbox with my son now and again. We played the hell out of Rayman Legends, a really colorful, inventive adventure game. We also loved Marvel Legos (for any Lego aficionados out there, we made it to 100% in the game and still kept playing). I picked up Witcher III and really like it, but it’s so involved, and I only get little chunks of time to play, its taking me forever to get through it. I also like Need for Speed for a bit of racing fun.

I have a gaming gang I get together with every few weeks. We play a ton of board games and some role playing games. You name the game and we’ve probably played it at least once. 7 Wonders is a recent favorite. We also like The Lords of Waterdeep, X-Wing Miniatures, Star Wars Armada, King of Tokyo, and Starfarers of Catan, and the occasional miniatures game like Warmachine or Warhammer 40k.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write and believes they have a story to tell?

Hmm. If I could pick just one thing, it would be to know your strengths and weaknesses. We all have weaknesses. Learn what yours are. Workshop your stories. Critique others. Pay close attention to the common threads in the feedback you're getting. And once you have those weaknesses identified. Work on them. Get advice. And make active attempts to root out those problems, because simply writing is not enough. Writing blindly can reinforce your bad habits.

By the same token, we all have strengths. Learn what yours are. It's common to get all sorts of advice on your stories, some of which makes no sense whatsoever to listen to. In fact, they may be very detrimental if taken to heart and internalized. While you're paying attention to those common threads I mentioned above, also pay attention to what you're doing right. I say this not so you can rest on your laurels, but so you can accentuate those strengths and make them better. You can even use that knowledge to hone in on your weaknesses. If you're great with dialogue, write a story with no dialogue whatsoever. If you're good with action, write an introspective story. And then do the reverse. Write a story that focuses on your strengths, i.e. make those muscles stronger. Hopefully something interesting comes out of these experiments along the way.

finally, is there anything you are currently watching? film? television? bingeworthy things?

I can’t recommend the movie Sing Street enough, especially those who grew up in the 80’s. It’s a great movie from John Carney, the creator/director of the surprise smash hit, Once.

I enjoyed the first season of Westworld. The series is not without its flaws, but I dig the tone it’s going for and some of the questions it raises about what it means to be human.

I also recently caught Spotlight, which won the Oscar for Best Picture last year. Not an easy film to watch given the subject matter (it’s the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the child abuse scandal within the local Catholic Archdiocese), but it’s powerful and sports a terrific ensemble cast.

And lastly, to end on a light note, Moana was a great, fun, tap-your-toes-to-the-music kind of movie. My whole family loved it, and I’m willing to be a fiver you will too.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Spy Craft in the Middle East

The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIAThe Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA by Joby Warrick
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading this was pretty much like watching Zero Dark Thirty. It's about the man who blew himself up in 2009 at the CIA base Camp Chapman at Khost in eastern Afghanistan.

Seven American CIA officers and contractors, an officer of Jordan's intelligence service, and an Afghan working for the CIA were killed when al-Balawi detonated a bomb sewn into a vest he was wearing. Six other American CIA officers were wounded. The bombing was the most lethal attack against the CIA in more than 25 years. - Wikipedia

"Al-Balawi" refers to Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi a doctor, who spent much of his free time using an alias to write fanatical diatribes for fundamentalist Islamic sites online. Jordanian agents got ahold of him, thought they'd converted him into a mole and sent him off to supposedly infiltrate al-Qaeda leadership. It appeared he had.

Appearances deceived.

Balawi went to al-Qaeda and they turned him into one of their most successful weapons. A video surfaced of Balawi with the radical Islamist group's number three man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. It appeared Balawi was treating the ailing Zawahiri. Balawi's intimate knowledge of these ailments, which were known in detail by the CIA and Jordanian agents, seemed to lend credibility to his claims of infiltration. Relating such details gave the pro-western forces hope that they had themselves a reliable mole.

Not all were convinced. However, U.S. pressure for results rashly hastened a face-to-face meeting with their relatively new supposed double agent. And then the shit hit the fan.

The title, The Triple Agent, might be technically correct, but its validity is tenuous at best. I believe it's used to titillate and entice. When thinking of a "triple" agent, one imagines an intelligence officer of brilliant cunning and possessing the wherewithal to lie convincing while maintaining the appearance of cooperation. Balawi may have been smart, but it seems he had little need to display cunning. After he was sent off to join al-Qaeda as a double agent, the CIA/Jordanians had very little contact with him. It doesn't take a hardened veteran of spycraft to keep up the sort of cover Balawi had to keep. He just didn't make himself available and said next to nothing until the CIA literally opened their gates and gave him free entry into their base without the usual checks and precautions.

The book mostly stays on topic, veering off only to give background to an event, idea or person in order to infuse the whole with a greater understanding. The Triple Agent is only as long as it ought to be and that's a big plus.

Don't let the 3 stars fool you. This was quite good, imo, and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps I'm unfairly docking it a star for its subject matter. I already knew the basics of the story, a story without much depth. Man hates western ideals, man blows self up and takes western agents with him. It's fascinating, emotional, and horrible and it's over quite quick.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Gator Bait

Gator BaitGator Bait by Adam Howe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fresh from an altercation with a woman's husband that left him missing a couple fingers, "John Smith" scores a job playing piano at a redneck bar, the Grinning Gator, named after a monstrous alligator in a pond out back. But the alligator isn't as dangerous to "John Smith" as the owner's wife...

Gator Bait is a fun little morsel of redneck noir. You've got the abusive husband, the long-suffering wife that wants to be rid of him, and the new guy who just can't keep his penis in his pants. Throw in an alligator pit and you've got something special on your hands.

I've never read an Adam Howe story before but I think I'll be reading them all now. His writing reminds me of Joe Lansdale with a taste of Gil Brewer. My favorite line in the book was when Smitty described a stripper as "Being built for beef or dairy."

Gator Bait felt like an old pulp story that was rediscovered, not something written recently. I mean that as a compliment. It's raw, bloody, and has some great twists. Now that I know what Adam Howe can do with a short story, I'll have to give one of his novels a shot. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Settling the Score

Eden Winters
Rocky Ridge Books
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Outed and dumped on national television by his rising star boyfriend, Joey Nichols must face the bigotry of the locals in his small Southern town alone. His dreams of a happy ever after lie crushed at his feet.

Novelist Troy Steele has an axe to grind against Hollywood heartbreaker types. Transforming Joey into a gorgeous, unobtainable hunk would be payback worthy of Troy’s poison pen. It's a brilliant way to get back at Joey’s image-obsessed ex-boyfriend and the movie producer who’s mutilating Troy’s novels.

What begins as simple revenge may tangle them together in something far more complicated. Living well may be the best revenge, but Troy and Joey could rewrite that to loving well.

My Review

After a heartbreaking and intense read, I was ready for lighter fare. Settling the Score contained just the right amount of small-town charm and homey comfort with a dollop of righteous revenge and sweet, slow-burning romance.

In spite of the fact that it took some time for me to warm up to Troy, I was instantly enamored with Joey Nichols, a mechanic in rural Georgia mourning the loss of his boyfriend, Riker Sanderson, a vain (“don’t ever fuck with my hair…”), up and coming star anxious to leave his roots behind and make it big in Hollywood.

As if Riker’s rejection wasn’t enough, Joey is subjected to a cruel and very public outing on television before having a chance to break the news to his family. Though his mom, dad and two sisters are loving and supportive, not all the town’s inhabitants are, making life difficult for Joey and his family. They deal with intrusive reporters, hate mail and hostility from the townsfolk.

Enter Troy Steele, a reclusive novelist, burned by a greedy, ambitious screenwriter who is the subject of his novels, and with life experiences very similar to Joey’s, and Erica Davis, his feisty and clever assistant. Together they plan to hire Joey as a research assistant for his latest novel. Falling in love wasn’t part of the plan.

What I enjoyed most about this story was watching Joey’s gradual transformation from a sad and pathetic character who was mistreated by his ex-boyfriend to a man who is self-assured and independent, while retaining his innocence, his kindness and his respect for others. I loved Troy’s assistant, Erica, who was instrumental in helping bring Troy out of his shell, bringing the best out of Joey and Troy, and being a good friend.

“It’s okay to improve yourself, but don’t let me or anyone else take away who you are.”

I enjoyed the brief flashbacks that provided some insight into Joey and Riker’s relationship, and the time Troy and Joey spent working on the novel while learning about each other at the same time. I also loved Troy’s meeting with Joey’s protective father and Cousin Jake’s homebrew that loosens lips.

This was a warm, humorous, and very satisfying story. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

El Güero

El GüeroEl Güero by Tim Harron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

El Güero is the life story of T- told through the present and flashbacks. T- felt he only had three choices of what he could be growing up. A cop, clergy, or a crook. His grandfather who he adored was a cop and when he told him not to be one, he listened. T- seriously considered clergy until he learned the clergymen he knew were crooks. He then decided to be a crook because at least they were honest about their lives. As T- thinks to himself on numerous occasions, "It's almost as if this lifestyle chose me."

I wasn't sure what to expect from El Güero. It's certainly not my normal genre choice when reading books, but I've watched my fair share of mafia style films. The familiarities are undeniable and it's understandable. T- is Irish and in the Italian mob there are limitations to what he can do and where he can go. He's a company man though and follows every order to the letter.

The best part of the book is T- himself. He's a far more complex man than he may seem. From the Saint Jude's medal he wears, his concern for not harming innocents, and his utter lack of a concern of doing vile things helps him come to life. He's not a hero of any sort, but it's easy to know where T- is coming from.

My biggest problem with the book is it doesn't feel like it's heading anywhere for the majority of the book. It feels like a memoir of events with the author going from one to the next with little connection to the prior events outside of T- himself. I personally like a strong plot that helps keep the story moving for me and unfortunately I was missing that here.

All in all El Güero is a solid book, I imagine those who are fans of Mafia style drama will enjoy this one more than I did.

3 out of 5 stars

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

What's Up With Kids These Days With The Murder And Whathaveyou?!

Hickory Dickory Dock (Hercule Poirot, #30)Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A bunch of boarders, mostly students and young folk, get into a bit of mischief which turns out to be more than just a bit of mischief.

Hickory Dickory Dock was published in the latter half of Agatha Christie's career. It's also one of the later Poirot books. As such, it does feel a bit more mature in the characterization and such. But what the hell do I know? I'm no Christie scholar. I've only read a few of her many books. This is yet another one that has me wanting to read more of her work.

In this tale of love, death and well, I'll just say "more," our usual hero Poirot, that diminutive man from Belgium, plays but a small role. That was a disappointment, a disappointment made up for with a slightly more interesting police detective and a variant cast of crazy landlords, rather one-dimensional students and a couple multilayered individuals that had me bouncing back and forth between who I thought had "dunnit".

Maybe this isn't Christie's most memorable work, but it would be a credit to any mystery writer's oeuvre.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

On Writing

On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stephen King shares some stories of his past and some writing tips.

This was either my fourth or fifth time reading this. I got it for Christmas around the turn of the century and I've buzz-sawed through it a few times before. The first time, I was just cutting my writing teeth. Now, with seven or eight first drafts of novels writing around, I came to the book with a completely different perspective.

Most books about writing, as I've said before, are by people I've never heard of, and are akin to a psychic handing out lottery numbers. If he or she can predict that, why aren't they using the lottery numbers for themselves? Since Stephen King is the big kahuna, I figure he could teach me a few things.

The biography chapters were my favorite the first time around and were still the most fun to read. I had vague recollections of these chapters, such as little Stevie needing fluid drained from his ears, and King's substance abuse. As a man who's skated close to the substance abuse abyss a couple times over the years, his cautionary tale seemed very familiar.

The writing advice was helpful but this was in no way my favorite book on writing. It seems Old Stevie makes a lot more up on the fly than I'm comfortable doing. Still, his advice on omitting needless words and the second draft being the first draft less 10% seemed helpful. Sticking with your first word choice also seems like sound advice.

I'd forgotten there was a section of 1408 included, in first and second draft forms. It was an interesting look behind the curtain and made a lot of sense.

Anyway, if you're looking for writing advice, you could do a lot worse than sitting at the feet of the King for a few hours and absorbing what he has to say. I'll try to apply his lessons the next time I write something. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, January 13, 2017


Kate Aaron
Croft House
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Whatever happened to Brian Scagill?

A year after his dramatic exit from England’s Grand Slam tournament, Brian has all but disappeared from the world of professional tennis, and doesn’t intend to return. He’s made a life for himself with fellow athlete Lexi Horvat, far removed from the dual pressures of fame and family.

A surprise wildcard might be his last chance to play on an international stage, and Brian’s life is thrown into tumult once again. This time, however, he’s not alone. Lexi has secured himself a place in the tournament, as has Jared, a young player the two men have been coaching. With his loved ones accompanying him, Brian agrees to play. Lexi promises they’ll take on the tournament together, as a team, but Brian knows better than anyone that on the grass, it’s every man for himself.

My Review

This lovely sequel to Ace was just as romantic and satisfying. As in the first book, tennis features very prominently. I appreciated the attention and thought that went into the sport details which never felt excessive and which helped make the story come alive for me.

Despite earlier events that conspired to keep the two men apart, Brian’s and Lexi’s love is solid. They are now living in Tampa, Florida, where Lexi is coaching Jared, a promising 15-year-old player, and Brian is taking time off from professional tennis to focus on his relationship.

Thanks to Lexi’s gentle encouragement, Brian agrees to compete professionally again after a year’s hiatus.

Breathtaking athleticism, fierce competition, hot sexy times, and familial love abound.

After Brian’s parents finalize their divorce, much work is needed to mend the relationship with his meddling mom.

While tennis is the major focus here, this is a story that explores love in its many forms, family ties, competition, dedication, self-discipline, finding one’s purpose in life, and leaving a legacy.

Jared has a bright future ahead of him.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 2: The War Machines

Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 2: The War MachinesInvincible Iron Man, Vol. 2: The War Machines by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tony Stark sends his friend James Rhodes to investigate the tech ninjas that accosted him while he chased Madame Masque.
Things turn out to be more dangerous than Tony expected and he's forced to get help for Rhodey.
He also went along to help.

War Machines was a significant let down after the stellar first volume of Brian Michael Bendis's Invincible Iron Man run. Hunting down tech ninjas and the people running them seems like such a pointless story. I know I wasn't interested in learning more about them. I wanted more suit and tie Victor von Doom, but there was little of him. The artwork wasn't to my taste at all after the sharp artwork from the first volume. The whole thing just wasn't what I was hoping for.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017


The Vampire TapestryThe Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The corporeal vampire, if he existed, would be by definition the greatest of all predators, living as he would off the top of the food chain.”

Dr. Edward Weyland, professor of Anthropology, is conducting a sleep study as part of his teaching program. It is very popular with the students, especially those who need the extra cash. They even start wearing t-shirts…Sleep with Weyland. He’s a dream.

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Charnas’s creature Dr. Edward Weyland.

He is irresistible.

”Just look at him, so haggard and preoccupied, so lean and lonely-looking. The man deserved a prize for his solitary-bachelor-hopelessly-hooked-on-the-pursuit-of-knowledge act.”

I love that look. I’ve cultivated it myself a few times. Women love it, and men always feel a sprig of jealousy bloom. They know a well designed script when they see it. Weyland is a bit of a connoisseur. He has plenty of students signing up for his program, but there are certain people whom he wants in his program. A Mrs. de Groot, a widow of a professor, is working as many hours as she can to save up enough money to go back to South Africa. She is one of those people who has proved elusive to his charms.

Mrs. de Groot is a woman who was raised in the wilds of Africa. She understands animals and their urges, and something about Weyland raises the hackles on the back of her neck.

Of course, Weyland isn’t interested in a sleep study. It is a cover for his pursuit for blood. Humans are just cattle, annoying livestock who chatter too much and are so demanding of him for attention and affirmation. The women want to sleep with him more than they want to sleep for him, and he has no desire to mate with his livestock.

Gross, right?

But in some cases, he does. If one proves to be an especially tasty treat, he can perform the deed to keep her sweet blood near and dear.

It has been too easy for him, and he has lost a bit of his edge. His instincts should have told him that de Groot is more trouble than she is worth.

We next see Weyland seeking psychological help from a brilliant psychotherapist named Floria Landauer. He is trying to convince her that everything is fine with him so he can go back to work at the university after...the...erhhh...mishap.

Something about her makes him honest with her. More importantly, she believes him. They explore the concept of his vampirism in a way that he has never considered before. It is a dangerous game she is playing, and she knows she has had a deeper impact on him than even Weyland is willing to admit. ”But think of me sometimes, Weyland, thinking of you.”

It proves way too hot on the East Coast, so Weyland heads West and lands in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with another University gig. He has the role mastered, and he has to admit he loves the lifestyle that comes with it, not to mention the plethora of young people with such tasty unpolluted blood.

Things go sideways again, as they tend to do. Humans are so unpredictable and so caught up in themselves that they have no consideration for how their actions will effect a vampire just trying to take a sip or two of the gallons and gallons of red corpuscles that are such an abundant natural resource.

Through all of this, he has to keep a wary eye over his back shoulder for a cult that is intent on making a religion out of him.

I couldn’t help but like Edward Weyland. He is ruthless, but calculating. He enjoys the finer things in life, which is also why he likes a high profile professor’s gig to something actually safer, like a fry cook or a ticket salesman at a drive-in movie theater. Through his eyes, we also get to look at ourselves and see how ludicrous we must seem to alien creatures. We have been at the top of the food chain for a long time, and certainly most of us have lost our edge, our instincts, even in some cases the ability to listen to our own natural protection grid of senses that are hardwired into us to keep us safe. For most of us, danger is an abstract thought. How different would our lives be if there were a creature who could leapfrog us in the food chain and push us down to number two?

Life would taste different.
Priorities would shift.
Those things taken for granted would become precious once again.

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This is not your ordinary, bared teeth, blood splattering, sexy vampire book. There is a good reason why Centipede Press has recently decided to print a beautiful, limited, signed edition of this 1980 classic of the genre. Weyland will weigh on your mind long after you’ve turned the final page.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Normal By: Warren Ellis

NormalNormal by Warren Ellis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Warren Ellis is a man of great ideas, I have followed his exploits and writing for a LONG DAMN TIME, and to this day, this man is on the bleeding edge of many topics. That being said, do I like this story? yes, tight and controlled works for his writing. However, if you have followed the man's work he isn't doing anything you haven't seen before. THAT is where the problem lies, if your subject matter is the future, show it to us, give us the reason that propels these characters.

If you are new to Mr. Ellis, check it out, you will enjoy this fast read, if you are a fan, you will love it.

If, like me, you dig deeper, its a mixed bag.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Very Little Appreciation From This Reviewer

Wine Appreciation Freeway GuideWine Appreciation Freeway Guide by Robin Stark
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I don't know if all Free Guides are as bad as this, but I'm not planning on finding out, not if I can help it.

Wine Appreciation Freeway Guide is an audiobook meant to wile away the rage-inducing commute by imparting tidbits of wine info. Instead it incites revolt, as in, I am revolted by their hokey attempts at humor and the looow production values.

It's only about an hour long and yet a quarter of it is taken up by the intro and unnecessary explanations. A variety of voice "talent" is used to "liven things up" (are you catching my sarcasm, 'cause I'm laying it on pretty thick), but the actors have naturally annoying voice tics and/or they ham things up too much with the broadest of broad comedy. The wine expert Robin Stark speaks with a sharp, grating tone and plays along with the shenanigans, when she probably should've put her foot down and said, "No, this is shit and you all know it's shit, so cut it out."

What's even more embarrassing for this supposedly professional production is their LIBERAL use of the free sound clips and songs that come with Apple computers. I've used these jingles and sound effects for my home videos when editing with iMovies on my laptop, so I'm quite familiar with them, but for christsake, I'd never slap a price tag on them and try to foist them upon the public!

Okay, so I've beaten the Wine Appreciation Freeway Guide pretty brutally so far. Now let me cut it some slack by saying that it's not all bad. Most of this tells you what many intro-to-wine-for-noobs guides are saying these days: the taste of wine is subjective, so drink what you like.
However, I actually did learn a little bit about wine, more specifically corks, "corked wine" and what it all means: Bacteria grows on the cork and screws the flavor, so they store the bottles on their sides and thus the alcohol stays in contact with the cork and prevents bacteria! Once wine purists/traditionalists get over themselves and give up the cork, my cork knowledge will become obsolete. Until then, bring on the pub quiz!

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Something to Chew On

Food: A Love StoryFood: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If aliens studied Earth, they would come to the conclusion that the United States is somehow consuming food on behalf of other countries.

And so begins Comedian Jim Gaiffigan's Food: A Love Story. Actually, that's not how it begins. I just thought the quote sounded almost philosophical, plus I wanted to use the grandiose "And so begins...." I could have just as well started with...

I’m convinced that anyone who doesn’t like Mexican food is a psychopath.

...because that, my friend, is fact!

Gaffigan loves food. If you've ever watched one of his comedy specials this will soon become apparent. Food usually makes its way into his routine sooner or later, and his skewering of Hot Pockets has become legendary. No doubt the big success of his previous book pushed him into doing a second book, and so why not do one solely about food?

Gaffigan's a casual eater, not a connoisseur. He's not even obese, he's merely overweight. So why should we care what he has to say about food? Because he's funny, that's why. Disagree with me? Then you can just get out! Go on, this review ain't big enough for the two of us!

Food: A Love Story is not knock-you-over-the-head funny from start to finish. It's got a conversational tone, especially if you listen to the audiobook, which I always suggest when reading a comedian's book. Yeah, you may know their voice, but inflection is of paramount importance and you're not as clever in that regard as you think you are. But anyway, my point was, if you came purely for the punchlines you will be disappointed. The book isn't joke after joke, it's more like this:

It would be embarrassing trying to explain what an appetizer is to someone from a starving country. “Yeah, the appetizer—that’s the food we eat before we have our food. No, no, you’re thinking of dessert—that’s food we have after we have our food. We eat tons of food. Sometimes there’s so much we just stick it in a bag and bring it home. Then we throw it out the next day. Maybe give it to the dog."

Of course this book isn't as funny as his stand-up. Comedians work really hard to come up with an hour's worth of material, which they tour with for often a year. Here we have six hours of material written for this book. I doubt he wrote it with the idea that he'd do a six year tour with it.

Gaffigan isn't a particularly healthy eater. Junk food fills these pages like it fills our guts and the deepest, darkest places of our empty souls...

You ever talk to an old person? I mean a really, really old person. They always have this exhausted look on their face that says, I can’t believe I’m still here! I would’ve eaten so much more ice cream. Why did I ever consume kale?

His road-touring life has forced him given him the golden opportunity to pretend he has no choice but to eat poorly, thus bringing him into close and constant contact with what passes for restaurant food here in America. Fast food joints come in for a good, solid de-pantsing as he does a virtual tour around the States listing his "favorite" chains, and then breaking it down to the regional chains like WaffleHouse and Whataburger. Regional foods (I almost said cuisine, ha!) are reminisced, such as Chicago's deep-dish pizza, Seattle's coffee, NY bagels and the South's maternal love for bbq.

After reading this, I had to clear my head of Gaffigan's intentional food nonsense by reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. You're just not going to find deep, scientific insight in Food. This is for the laughs. Although, there are some borderline poignant passages:

Nobody believes in racial profiling until they get a red-haired sushi chef with a southern accent.

I think everyone is aware how disgusting snails are, and that’s why they are served in a bowl of wine and butter and called “escargots,” which is a French word loosely translated as “denial.”

Often on the menu, oysters will be listed as “oysters on the half shell.” As opposed to what? “In a Kleenex?” Even the way you are supposed to eat an oyster indicates something counterintuitive. “Squeeze some lemon on it, a dab of hot sauce, throw the oyster down the back of your throat, take a shot of vodka, and try to forget you just ate snot from a rock.” That is not how you eat something. That is how you overdose on sleeping pills.

Okay, so those weren't poignant at all, but they did give me a chuckle and that's all I truly expected from this book.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017


MiseryMisery by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To celebrate completing a novel, writer Paul Sheldon goes on a champagne-fueled drive in the Rocky mountains. He winds up in a near fatal car crash, but never fear. He's rescued by Annie Wilkes, his #1 fan...

I watched the film version of Misery in those antediluvian days before Goodreads, hell, before the Internet, and decided to finally read the novel when it showed up on my BookGorilla email one day. It was $2.99 very well spent.

Misery is a tale of obsession, addiction, and obsession. I wrote "obsession" twice but it's a such a big theme I thought it was justified. Annie Wilkes is obsessed with her favorite series of books starring Misery Chastain, written by that dirty birdie Paul Sheldon. Paul is obsessed with finishing the book Annie has demanded of him and probably addicted to writing. Also to codeine.

I've said it before but I'll say it again. If Stephen King wasn't addicted to scaring the bodily fluids out of people, he'd be a literary writer of some renown. The guy can flat out write. Just because he cranks out a best seller more often than most of us go to the dentist doesn't mean he's the real deal.

The scariest horror stories are the ones that could actually happen and Misery is one of those. Who among us hasn't had visions of being held captive when driving through a remote locale? Annie is so much more than the scene-chewing maniac she could have been. She has dimension and believes she's in the right, which is the mark of a great villain. Her background is very fleshed out and my heart sank as I learned her past along with Paul. How the hell was he going to escape that monster?

Paul's journey is painful, both to him and to the reader, thanks to King's skill. I had to make sure my foot was still attached a couple times. Annie puts him through hell and he finally gives her a taste of her own medicine but the ending is far from happily ever after.

As is usually the case, the book was a notch better than the movie. I've been easy with the 5's this year but I'll give this one a cockadoodie 5 out of 5 stars just the same.

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Saturday, January 7, 2017


Kate Aaron
Croft House
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


At twenty-two years old, World No.6 and England's No.1, Brian Scagill has the tennis world at his feet. Last year's semifinalist, this year Brian enters England's biggest tournament determined to win. A Grand Slam on home turf is calling to him and he's not going to let anything stand in the way of victory - certainly not a cute Croatian who doesn't even play in the same league.

Fooling around with Lexi might be an easy distraction but the last thing Brian needs right now is to be distracted, and there's more than this tournament at stake.

My Review

I like tennis. It’s a graceful, elegant and stylish sport that requires technical, mental and physical skills and an amazing amount of stamina. While I enjoy watching it on TV now and then, it’s also the kind of sport that I can easily switch off and return to at any time without feeling that I’ve missed anything. I’m old enough to remember the meltdowns of Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, and Jimmy Connors and more recently, Serena Williams and David Nalbandian. While their antics were sometimes amusing, they would be far more acceptable in high-action, contact sports like football or soccer, but have no place in a “gentleman’s sport.”

After reading this story, I no longer believe that tennis is a “gentleman’s sport.” 22-year-old Brian Scagill is sixth-seeded in the world and best of the UK. Though he is fiercely competitive and very focused on winning, lower-ranked Croatian player, Lexi Horvat, captures his interest. As they both have busy lives and do a lot of traveling, Brian and Lexi’s relationship has a richness and passion to it that comes from living in the moment without expectations.

Their sex is sweet, tender, and very erotic, involving fruits and whipped cream, rivaling the dripping peach scene in André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name.

There is a vivid cast of secondary characters, including a supportive coach, a prickly manager, a loving father, and a domineering mother who ultimately wants what she thinks is best for Brian, but ends up wrecking his life.

If tennis is not your thing, the sport details may be a bit excessive. I found them interesting, realistic, and sufficient enough to convey the intensity of competition pressures, the physical challenges, and the conflict between fulfilling media and professional obligations while trying to have a personal life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to the sequel.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Wrestle Kingdom 11: Omega vs. Okada

A few days ago, a wrestling match happened that got the whole internet talking.  Kenny Omega took on  IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11.  Here it is in case you haven't got a chance to watch it yet.

People are calling it the greatest match in wrestling history.  Dave Meltzer gave it six stars.  Is it really that great?

No, but it's pretty fucking great just the same.  Omega takes some crazy bumps and puts his body on the line with some daredevil maneuvers but for me, the best part of the match was the suspense.  Who will hit their finisher first?  Each man teased his signature moves multiple times.  By the time Omega got hit with the Rainmaker, it was almost orgasmic, especially after he kicked out.

It's a testament to the quality of the match that I knew the finish going in and I was still in suspense, flinching when either man kicked out.

While I didn't think it was the greatest match of all time, it was the best match I've seen in a long time and had everything I like in a pro wrestling match.  Kenny Omega is the real deal.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Theft of Swords

Theft of Swords (The Riyria Revelations, #1)Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Crown Conspiracy

Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater are a resourceful duo in a questionable profession, they work as thieves and they are impressive. When a last second easy yet highly profitable opportunity comes their way to steal a legendary sword, Hadrian jumps at it. Royce grudgingly agrees to steal the sword for the King's castle. When they arrive there is no sword at all, only a dead King. Now Hadrian and Royce have been framed for murdering a King and it looks like there is nothing they can do.

So this is a retry for me. I attempted The Crown Conspiracy before and while I enjoyed the characters, I didn't get into the story. Well, this attempt was quite different. I found myself deeply connecting with what was happening led by the memorable Royce and Hadrian. While I have a predisposition to disliking thieves these two fall somewhere between cold blooded thieves and Robin Hood. Truly Royce is the colder of the two while Hadrian has a conscious and wants to do the right thing. That desire puts the duo in a bad spot.

The Crown Conspiracy is for readers who enjoy a traditional yet exciting tale of deception and heroism.

3.5 out of 5 stars


A young woman named Thrace is searching for Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater in a distant city. She seeks to hire them on the advice of a Mr. Haddon who told her where to find them. Intrigued Royce agrees if only to find out what Esrahaddon is doing. He wants Royce to break into the tower, Avempartha, near a waterfall that seems impossible to reach. The duo seek to steal the only sword that can kill a magical beast that's destroying a town and murdering it's inhabitants.

Avempartha is a good sequel to The Crown Conspiracy. Royce and Hadrian are as interesting as ever and the world has become more dangerous thanks to a magical beast and the church's plans. The story somewhat departs from the break neck speed of its predecessor because the characters aren't consistently fleeing for their lives, but nighttime is deadly and the villagers are helpless against it's might.

Hadrian Blackwater is an incredibly easy character to like. He has quite the conscious despite his line of work and it occasionally forces him into helping when the wisest course of action would be fleeing.

Avempartha is a good albeit a somewhat familiar story.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Monday, January 2, 2017

The Football Manager's Guide to Football Management by: Iain Mcintosh

The Football Manager's Guide to Football ManagementThe Football Manager's Guide to Football Management by Iain Macintosh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have discussed in other reviews, my tendency to obsess over things, Recently that thing (for the million of you that don't follow my reviews) is the beautiful game, soccer.

Also, this goes into the fact that I am a hardcore gamer, I am one of these people who have strategy guides to games I don't own. I got into soccer, through football manager. Yes, a nerdy guy who never played sports and sucked at math, got HOOKED on a game that is the SPORTS and the NUMBERS. yeah..made no sense to me either.

All this backstory being put out there, this is a fun, quick well written read. Full of trivia and tales of managers in real life. It also (for a newbie like me) broke down some of the details of things that I didn't quite get.

so, yes...if you like soccer, or management games, or just want some fun, check this out..now if you excuse me, we have a game against Liverpool tonight.

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Patton Oswalt's Love of Movies

Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to FilmSilver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bipolar memoir on two of my favorite subjects, comedy and film.

Comedian Patton Oswalt loves film. There was a period in his life when he was on the fence as to which career path to take. Would he become a comedian or perhaps a director? Silver Screen Fiend takes us down his memory lane of movie binge watching and stand-up routine crafting in a sometimes odd and erratic autobio read.

This book probably only deserves three stars, but I'm going with four, because of my love for the topics, but also Patton spends many a page recalling awesome films in Los Angeles movie houses during the mid-90s, the time that I'd just moved to LA. Call it a nostalgia star.

The book starts a bit rough, almost schizophrenic-like. It felt like he was intentionally setting the bar, trying to see who was willing and able to keep up and put up with his esoteric references and the flip-flopping from movies to comedy. This was well within my wheelhouse and even I was somewhat put off.

However, once you get through the beginning, Patton settles down into some solid soliloquy on silver screen gems and personal anecdotes relating to stand-up. He details his early-years struggle and takes the reader through the start of his career in comedy, including some slap-in-the-face moments when he realized he needed to hone his craft or call it quits.

I remember seeing Patton in the '90s on Comedy Central specials and shows like Dr. Katz. He was an "angry comedian" back then in the vein of Sam Kinison or Lewis Black. Time has mellowed him some. Time and a whole lot of work has given him success. It was nice to watch his transformation and I was happy for him. Then in the spring of 2016 (FUCK YOU 2016!!!) he lost his wife. She died in her sleep and left him to care for his daughter without her. I doubt we'll see much comedy or any new books from Patton for a while. So, I'll be going back and reading his old stuff and hoping he can pull himself through these tough times.

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Leaving Bodies About The Place Is Bad Manners!

Whose Body?  (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #1)Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

British Jason #1: Jolly good book, what?
British Jason #2: Oh, rather!
British Jason #1: I say, how much longer do you suppose we can keep this up?
British Jason #2: Not long, old bean. I've run out of stereotypical Brit words and this ridiculous accent is doing me head in!

I almost filed this all up in my PG Wodehouse shelf. The similarities in style, setting and character are striking. There's a somewhat daffy lead in Lord Peter Wimsey, though he's clearly got more on the ball than Bertie Wooster. There's the taciturn Parker, just a little looser and given more freedom than the butler Jeeves. After all, Parker is a police investigator and his own man. Even the time and place, 1920s England, hits the Jeeves/Wooster mark.

The mystery of who dunnit wasn't exactly mind-boggling. I suspected the culprit almost the moment he hit the stage. But this mystery doesn't seem to care for the diabolical plot as much as others in the genre. Dorothy Sayers appears perhaps more interested in developing a deeper character. No, no one between the pages of Whose Body? is coming close to Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov, but Sayers seems more concerned with her whys as opposed to her whos.

For instance, the reasoning behind Lord Peter's desire to catch criminals comes into question more than once through the book. His past reaches into the present to color the proceedings. These are nice touches that you don't tend to get with Agatha Christie.

Does Sayers always succeed in her quest for why? No. Allow me to explain:

The criminal's confession is more than a mystery genre trope. It's a staple. Unnaturally delivered admissions of guilt absolutely abound in these books and it is taken to a RIDICULOUS extreme in Whose Body? Sure, the bad guy is said to be one of those clever chaps who needs to brag, but that doesn't justify the lengths to which the character details his every move. Let's face it, Sayers had come up with something good and she couldn't help blurting it out. Bah, I don't care. It was very interesting after all.

I don't think I could put this review to bed without mentioning this book's racism. It is a product of its time, a time when Jewish intolerance was rising and no one but whites were thought much of by whites. Also, at one point the main character says something like "He's got a touch of the tar-baby in him." Perhaps it's all part of Sayers' attempt to create a well-rounded and representative person from 1920s England. Perhaps it was the casual racism that came naturally to her as it did to so many of her era. If you don't understand and need an example, have a look around. It's the same sort of casual racism happening today.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017


GalápagosGalápagos by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One million years in the future, a man recounts humanity's origins in the Galapagos islands.

This was the third Kurt Vonnegut book I've read and my third favorite. Actually, it reminds me of one of Grandpa Simpson's rambling stories that circles back on itself, only with novel-y bits like themes and messages and such.

Galapagos is part satire, part cautionary tale. There's a shipwreck on Galapagos and it turns out those people are the only ones who can reproduces. I'm pretty sure this is mentioned in the first two pages. Anyway, one million years in the future, humanity is a whole other species.

Galapagos deals in evolution, environmentalism, and anti-war. Also, humanity's "big brains" are blamed for most of their problems. The world of Galapagos is in a global economic crisis. Yeah, a lot has changed since 1986...

The book is actually pretty funny with Vonnegut's dark absurdist humor being the star of the show. I interrupted my girlfriend's Harry Potter reading with this, easily my favorite quote:
“I didn't know then what a sperm was, and so wouldn't understand his answer for several years. "My boy," he said, "you are descended from a long line of determined, resourceful, microscopic tadpoles-- champions every one.”

I enjoyed this fairly well and devoured it in three sittings. I didn't like it as much as Cat's Cradle or Slaughterhouse-Five, however. I think it was the circular nature of the narrative that got me. If Galapagos was a road trip, it would have been thousands of left turns in order to go fifty miles in a straight line. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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