Friday, March 31, 2017

En Memoriam

Tami Veldura
OldeWolff Alternascents
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Paul has seen Victor before, he just can’t remember where. The rush of fear in his stomach when Victor glances his way is familiar. Paul knows the slant of his smile. There’s nothing safe here, but when Victor offers to meet over coffee, Paul is swayed by this sense of knowing. Victor’s touch feels like an old lover. His hands have been here before.

Paul is sure he once learned something Victor is trying to hide. His hair stands on end whenever Victor gives him attention, like his body reacting to danger that his mind can’t recall. He’s not sure uncovering more is a good idea but he craves what Victor might give him.

Paul wants to know why he longs for Victor’s voice. He dreams about conversations they’ve never had. He desires a darkness he’s never seen before. They met only once, but this longing is too intense. Victor is keeping secrets, Paul just can’t remember them.

My Review

Sexy, dark, and dangerous.

Having read and enjoyed Tami Veldura’s Stealing Serenity, I was very confident that I would enjoy her take on vampires and their use of glamour, even if they often feel tired and overdone. Fear not, dear reader! En Memoriam is a fresh and unusual short story, with strong, memorable characters and a ferocious sexual intensity that had me fanning myself.

Each time Paul encounters Victor, there is an element of fear, and also a feeling of familiarity. He knows he’s done this before. Many times, perhaps, but he just can’t remember.

With one swipe of Paul’s temple, Victor deprives Paul of his memories of their encounters. The problem is that Paul is unable to move on with his life. Alcohol, work, and other men can’t fulfill him or erase that feeling he’s lost something. He has desires that only Victor can satisfy, and he keeps coming back. Victor is not accustomed to staying with one person, yet there’s something in Paul.

So curl up under a warm blanket and spend some quality time with two incredibly sexy and determined men who are not afraid of taking what they need. You won’t regret it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Battle Scars

Battle ScarsBattle Scars by Christopher Yost
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sergeant Marcus Johnson was an army ranger fighting in Afghanistan with his best friend Cheese.
Things were crazy, but just regular crazy. Marcus then learned his mother died and he headed home to the funeral.
Unfortunately he learned she didn't simply die, she was murdered. That wasn't all, whoever had killed his mother was after him too for some reason.

Battle Scars was an interesting story. I knew the gist of what was happening when I started reading it, but it was still really strong anyway. Marcus is a war hero that could've been a pro football player making millions of dollars, but instead of doing that he joined the army at 18. He's just a likeable guy who reacted in a completely understandable way when he discovered his mother was murdered, he wanted revenge. I for one wanted to see him get his revenge because this guy was handed a raw deal to say it nicely. Battle Scars also handled some delicate matters in a really effective way.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017


The Drowned WorldThe Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”The solar disc was no longer a well-defined sphere, but a wide expanding ellipse that fanned out across the eastern horizon like a colossal fire-ball, its reflection turned the dead leaden surface of the lagoon into a brilliant copper shield. By noon, less than four hours away, the water would seem to burn.”

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Solar radiation has melted the polar ice caps, and the oceans have risen to engulf most of the major cities of Europe and America. These cities have become tropical lagoons with only the upper floors of the tallest building sticking up out of the water and silt. Flora and fauna baked by radiation have grown to enormous sizes reminiscent of the Triassic era.

A team of scientists have come to investigate and analyze the changes that have occurred in London since humans were forced to flee North. Some of the members of the team start to have strange, primordial dreams.

”’What are these nightmares you’ve having?’

Beatrice shrugged. ‘Jungle dreams, Robert,’ she murmured ambiguously. ‘I’m learning my ABC again. Last night was the delta jungles.’ She gave him a bleak smile, then added with a touch of malicious humour: ‘Don’t look so stern, you’ll be dreaming them too, soon.’”

Ballard explains what is happening to the scientists with a bit more detail beyond just calling them jungle dreams.

”Just as psychoanalysis reconstructs the original traumatic situation in order to release the repressed material, so we are now being plunged back into the archaeopsychic past, uncovering the ancient taboos and drives that have been dormant for epochs… Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom, and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory.”

Beatrice Dahl is a beautiful woman made more lovely by the fact that she is the only female on the expedition. She has found an exquisite apartment that with the help of a generator still has air conditioning and ice. She has a sexual relationship with Dr. Robert Kerans, but she seems rather apathetic about her lover. Of course, it could be the heat.

Temperatures climb to 140 degrees by midday.

There is a Max Ernst painting on the wall of Beatrice’s apartment, and the longer they are there, the more the painting reminds Kerans of the real world.

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I wonder if the Max Ernst painting was something like this.

As the day approaches that they will have to leave, Robert and Beatrice become more convinced that they are going to stay. It doesn’t make any logical sense. Within a matter of months they would be out of fuel to drive the air conditioning and food would begin to be a problem, but the desire to stay and become part of their jungle dreams clutters their thoughts.

This novel has a Conradian feel, specifically one of my favorite books Heart of Darkness, so Ballard had my attention from the very first page.

I’m a fan of post-apocalyptic books, and J.G. Ballard was obsessed with the worlds that are created by the chaos of destruction. The characters in this novel go against the norm for post-apocalyptic novels. They aren’t resisting the apocalypse. They are intent on joining it. The novel becomes even stranger when some scavengers show up led by the pale, thin man aptly named Strangman.

Ballard explores the urges that are normally repressed by civilized human beings. The call of the wild is in our DNA. When we are dipped in the primordial soup of a tropical lagoon, we feel the need to escape the bondages of civilization. Something on a cellular level is telling us that we are missing the fundamental purposes of life. Kerans is intent on escaping the clutches of all that is trying to bind him and head South into the uncertainty of a new world.

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”His commitment to the future, so far one of choice and plagued by so many doubts and hesitations, was now absolute.”

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Making Reading History!

Uneasy MoneyUneasy Money by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Uneasy Money is easily my least favorite P.G. Wodehouse book in the history of me reading P.G. Wodehouse books!

The characters are flat. The writer's trademark humor is almost completely absent. The story is boring.

This rags-to-riches, boy-meets-girl tale unnecessarily drags on at a languid pace. The premise is ridiculous, yet not ridiculous enough to be funny. Unlikely romances in which the rich guy falls for the poor girl were all the rage in the early 1900s, so I'm led to understand, and this is another one of them. More's the pity.

However, for what it is, it's still written with an apt hand. Again, I'm led to believe this dime-a-dozen genre of romance often had less than a nickel's worth of quality imbued within its prose. So, the best I can say for Uneasy Money is that the words are all there, in the right order with a proper beginning, middle and end. It's just, the end couldn't come fast enough for me.

I did a little research, checked out his bibliography and such, and I feel confident in saying that in future I should steer clear of any pre-1920s Wodehouse. That's all right, since the man wrote steadily into the 1970s. I once saw an interview with him in which the interviewer asked how many books he'd written. He said something to the effect that he'd written a book a year all his life, and since he was 84 he guessed he'd written 84 books. It was like something out of the mouth of Bertie Wooster.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

United States of Japan

United States of JapanUnited States of Japan by Peter Tieryas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a world where the Axis won World War II and Japan controls the western United States, a censor named Ben Ishimura and a secret police agent named Akiko Tsukino are trying to find the source of a video game called USA, which allows players to play in a world where America never fell...

I initially passed on this when I saw it on Netgalley but Peter Tieryas seems like a pretty cool guy on Goodreads and on Twitter so I gave it a shot when it went on sale for $1.99.

United States of Japan is a spiritual successor to The Man in the High Castle, which I really need to read one of these days. The USJ is a paranoid dystopia where the Emperor is everything and to speak against him means death. Skyscraper-sized mecha patrol the cities and everyone carries a portable computer called a portcal.

Ben Ishimura is a censor whose attitude prevents him from going anywhere in his career. Akikio Tsukino is a cop whose career means everything. What happens when these two get forced to work together? A fun tale full of action and gore, that's what!

United States of Japan was a fun read, full of gruesome deaths, gore, cyberpunk awesomeness, and some giant robots roaming around the periphery. The paranoid feel made it pretty gripping at times. I had a feeling who was responsible for the USA game but I was off by a degree or two.

I didn't actually care for Ben that much. He's pretty passive for a lead character and his attitude got on my nerves. Akiko, on the other hand, ran the gauntlet over the course of the book and wound up being my favorite character, far from the mindless duty-bound cop she started the book as.

Aside from Ben, the only complaint I can think of would be that there weren't enough mecha battles. As a child of the 80's, I loved getting home from school in time to watch Voltron or Robotech and as such, can't get enough of giant robots duking it out.

United States of Japan makes dystopian alternate history fun! 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Tame a Wild Human

Kari Gregg
Riptide Publishing
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Drugged, bound, and left as bait on the cusp of the lunar cycle, Wyatt Redding is faced with a terrifying set of no-win scenarios. Best case: he survives the coming days as a werewolf pack’s plaything and returns to the city as a second-class citizen with the mark—and protection—of the pack. Worst case: the wolves sate their lusts with Wyatt’s body, then send him home without their protection, condemning him to live out the rest of his short life as a slave to the worst of humanity’s scorn and abuse.

Wyatt’s only chance is to swallow every ounce of pride, bury his fear, and meekly comply with every wicked desire and carnal demand the wolf pack makes of him. He expects three days of sex and humiliation. What he doesn’t expect is to start enjoying it. Or to grow attached to his captor and pack Alpha, Cole.

As the lunar cycle ends, Wyatt begins to realize that the only thing to fear more than being sent home without the pack’s protection is being sent home at all.

My Review

After reading a few reviews that piqued my curiosity, I ultimately decided this short story about wolf packs and their insatiable lust just wasn’t my thing. But now, thanks to the Lendle gods, I now have a copy in my hot little hands!

Which I’ve read in one sitting and enjoyed way more than I expected to. I feel dirty enough as it is. Don’t judge me.

Wyatt Redding is an up-and-coming lawyer who drives a Mustang, owns fancy Italian shoes, and is dating Sandra. He also has a brother who’s a scumbag.

Andrew kidnapped, drugged and blindfolded Wyatt, leaving him at the mercy of a ravenous wolf pack during a full moon. In Wyatt’s world, people stay indoors and secure their homes to avoid becoming human sex toys. Poor Wyatt doesn’t stand a chance. In order to survive, he must submit to the depraved wolves for three whole days.

As other reviewers have mentioned, the world building is scanty. That didn’t bother me so much, as I didn’t choose to read this story for rich atmosphere or plot, just the rough and dirty sex and D/s elements.

There is a relationship, unconventional that it is, but there is no romance. This is erotica, with non/dubious-consensual sexual situations and explicit violence which involves torture of a minor character.

Heed all the warnings, folks!

While there is a smattering of beauty here, including the successful taming of Wyatt and mating with his alpha, Cole, this will likely trip all your triggers.

“While hothouse blooms and cultivated flowers splashed bits of color on the city landscape of steel and concrete, the unspoiled forest was a banquet of hues in riotous greenery. The gorgeous plumage of flitting birds mesmerized him, as did clusters of wild grapes twined among vines draping trees, and lush blossoms in reds, purples, and vivid blues. Every breath he sucked in was clean and pure, scented with pine instead of a car exhaust.”

There was a surprising little twist and the satisfaction of knowing Wyatt’s brother will likely pay for his actions.

I’m happy.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Star Wars: Darth Maul - Death Sentence

Star Wars: Darth Maul - Death SentenceStar Wars: Darth Maul - Death Sentence by Tom Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being cut in half wasn't enough to stop Darth Maul. He's returned with metal legs and his brother Savage Opress.
Their first target is a foolish business man who put a price on their heads.

There are so many stories the prequel trilogy could have told them would have improved it. Among my favorite is the idea that Darth Maul survived being cut in half and obtains metal legs. The fearsomeness of Maul along with massive cyborg legs would have at the least added to the cool factor of the prequel series. This story touches on an expanded universe where Maul survived, takes his brother as an apprentice, and seeks to destroy Obi-Wan Kenobi.
It's a much better story than Attack of the Clones and there is no whiny teenager Anakin Skywalker with his unbelievable love interest to bog the story down.

Death Sentence shows Darth Maul is a sith through and through while demonstrating just how dangerous he truly could be.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Agent 110: An American Spymaster and the German Resistance in WWIIAgent 110: An American Spymaster and the German Resistance in WWII by Scott Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”My husband doesn’t converse with me, not that he doesn’t talk to me about his business, but that he doesn’t talk about anything.... It took me a long time to realize that when he talks it is only for the purpose of obtaining something…. He has either to be making someone admire him, or to be receiving some information worth his while; otherwise he gives one the impression that he doesn’t talk because the person isn’t worth talking to.” Clover Dulles, wife of Allen Dulles

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The dashing and enigmatic Allen Dulles. Mary Bancroft said for many decades after she’d last had contact with him the memory of his laugh would always bring a smile to her lips.

I get the impression that Allen Dulles always felt an inordinate amount of pressure to compete with his older brother John Foster Dulles. This can lead to reckless, unprincipled behavior in a younger sibling, but in Allen it seems to have fostered (I couldn’t help it) a focused need to succeed. This book primarily covers the WW2 years of Dulles while he was working for the OSS (Office of Strategic Service) in Bern, Switzerland. I first learned about the OSS from a retired judge who used to come into the bookstore I worked at in Phoenix. The guy was nuts about books, maybe even more nuts than I am. He told me stories about his work in the OSS. He was one of the guys in on the capture of Hermann Goering. As he said to me, “I had the privilege of laying hands on that evil man.”

The OSS is the precursor of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). Receiving this Bern assignment was a perfect fit for Dulles. He was on his own. Any bosses he may have had were generally thousands of miles away. He loved the freedom and, as Scott Miller alludes to, he chafed under the strictures of a normal, hierarchical, office situation later in his career. I’m sure he didn’t want to have to consult with others. He wanted the ability to say, let’s do this or not, without having to get approval from a committee of people.

He was effective, and especially during wartime, if a person proves themselves to be competent, they are generally given the latitude to what they feel they need to do with very little interference. Dulles hired a secretary, a saucy, married, American woman by the name of Mary Bancroft. He needed someone who would make his spies feel more at ease. Miller never actually states that Bancroft may have also worked her feminine wiles on the series of spies she helped Dulles manage, but she certainly, briskly warmed Dulles’ bed for a while. As we learn more about Dulles, we realize that he flipped an hourglass over on every sexual relationship the moment it began. ”Such an affair was not unusual for men of Dulles’s generation, who considered such relationships an entitlement for the wealthy and powerful.”

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I’ve looked at several pictures of Mary Bancroft and do not see the beauty that was attributed to her, but we all know how deceptive the lens is. I have a feeling her mannerisms and personality added to her attractiveness.

And women, married or otherwise, seemed to find Allen Dulles irresistible, despite knowing or maybe because they knew the relationship was doomed to be a fleeting one. There is speculation that his affairs may have numbered in the hundreds. Normally, I would think this would make him vulnerable to blackmail or to inappropriate pillow talk, but my impression is that he never really trusted anyone, and women were really just a source of pleasure, not confidants.

From Bern, Dulles did manage to make contact with several, important or certainly dedicated Germans intent on helping bring down Hitler’s Germany. They wanted their Germany back. It was through this network that he learned about Operation Valkyrie, which was the July 20th, 1944, plot to assassinate Hitler. His network was also how Dulles came into contact with Waffen-SS General Karl Wolff, who under the Operation name Sunrise was trying to peacefully surrender the German troops in Northern Italy. Beyond all the spy work that was going on within Germany, there was a growing understanding that the Soviet Union was going to be a problem after the war. As Germany grew weaker, the Russians became more emboldened, and soon the war focus was more about what the Russians were up to than concerns about Hitler and his remaining, beaten German forces.

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The July 20th bomb should have killed Adolf Hitler, but by a quirk of fate he survived unscathed.

The Cold War began, a game that Dulles was particularly perfectly suited for.

Scott Miller provided me with a several insights about Dulles in Bern that I didn’t know before. There was a prominent psychologist, which I will leave as a surprise for the readers, who provided him with in-depth analysis about Hitler and other prominent Nazis. Hitler’s inner circle was a perverted and broken bunch of human beings, whose loyalty to him was their need to belong to something for the first time in their life. They finally had a place in society where they could judge others as they felt like they had always been judged. Dulles lost people, some were apprehended and some just disappeared. Tension of this magnitude requires a special person. I sense that there was a distance between Dulles and every person he ever became “friends” with, and in the spy business this may have been a real source of strength.

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President Kennedy and Allen Dulles, a duel of contrasting personalities.

This book is a great way to meet Allen Dulles before he became the icon and face of American Intelligence, which lasted even beyond his summary dismissal as Director (officially a resignation) by President Kennedy in 1961. With the revolving door of CIA directors, his tenure stands as a testament to the value of his service. If you like spy novels, in particular John le Carré, you will enjoy experiencing the real life adventures and tribulations of the men and women who were trying to defeat German from within.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New York 2140 By: Kim Stanley Robinson

New York 2140New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read alot of Mr. Robinson's work, and no usually don't read him for the story but for the massive ideas that he puts forth. HOWEVER, I am proud to say with this new novel not only is it a vast step up in storytelling in my opinion, it is filled with the big ideas that you love with Mr. Robinson's work.

Stunning world, information coming from all directions, characters I actually liked, (major step up) if this is an evolution in his work, then I look forward to the future, (unless it's as the story predicts)

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Americans in Paris During WWII

Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-1944Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-1944 by Charles Glass
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the story of Americans and part-Americans in Paris, as well as in Europe in general, during WWII, not to mention leading up to the war, and in some cases well before the war.

Was that a clunky sentence? I'm afraid it mirrors my reading experience of Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-1944 by Charles Glass.

It's a compilation of biographies of the more well-known or at least well to do Americans who decided to stay in France after the German occupation. Their individual sympathies run the gamut from Nazi sympathizers to fighters alongside La RĂ©sistance. Reading of their histories or hearing from their own words what it was like was the book's strong point for me. Unfortunately, most of the stories are about the upper class, the rich, and at best the intellectuals. Not much is heard the lower classes. I would've liked to have caught a glimpse of their diaries. But as with nearly all histories, this one too sticks with the big names, if you will.

That's all right. There's plenty of intrigue herein to keep most people with an ingrained interest glued to the page. Those of a political mind will get something out of Glass' sections on the Vichy government, the German-collaborate interim French government.

Consummate journalist Glass does a good job of giving the reader a chance to empathize with those who were on the fence with the German occupation, those who worked with the Germans in order to keep important French institutions operational until the liberation. It could not have been easy. The book has also been well-crafted so that readers are left wondering, as the world was, regarding the allegiance of a few of the notable fence-sitters.

Charles Glass earned his stripes as a war correspondent:

One of Glass's best known stories was his 1986 interview on the tarmac of Beirut Airport of the crew of TWA Flight 847 after the flight was hijacked. He broke the news that the hijackers had removed the hostages and had hidden them in the suburbs of Beirut, which caused the Reagan administration to abort a rescue attempt that would have failed and led to loss of life at the airport. Glass made headlines in 1987, when he was taken hostage for 62 days in Lebanon by Shi'a militants. He describes the kidnapping and escape in his book, Tribes with Flags. - Wikipedia

So I bow to his knowledge and ability. My low-ish rating of Americans in Paris has little to with him and a good deal to do with the subject. I was hoping for more detail on the Resistance fighting. We get only a light smattering: a mention of rooftop fighting or a young French man shooting a German soldier in the streets. But this is not that book. So take my rating with a grain of salt. This quite good book just wasn't the book for me.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Great Forgetting

The Great ForgettingThe Great Forgetting by James Renner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Jack Felter returns to his home town to help care for his dementia-stricken father, he winds up looking for his missing childhood friend, Tony, the friend that stole his high school girlfriend. Jack meets Tony's last patient, a kid named Cole with a very compelling delusion, that everything we think we know about history is wrong...

After reading The Man from Primrose Lane and True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray, I just had to read more James Renner. The Great Forgetting made him rise even higher in my esteem.

The Great Forgetting is a mind-bender of Phillip K. Dickian proportions. How much do we trust the history books? How much do we trust our own memories? What if the conspiracy theories are true? This book raises those questions and more.

It's best to go into this book unprepared so I'm not going to spoil the particulars. Once the truth behind Cole, Tony, and the rest of what was actually going on was revealed, I had a hard time doing anything but finishing it.

If I had to complain about something, which I won't, is that the characters were a little thin. However, I loved Jack and his father, The Captain. Cole grew on me as well, but I hated Tony and didn't trust Sam. Hell, even Scopes and the Maestro turned out to have hidden depths.

The tension toward the end was almost maddening. I haven't felt this engrossed with a book since the Dark Tower series. That's as great a compliment as I can give any book. Five out of five stars.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Heir of Novron

Heir of Novron (The Riyria Revelations, #3)Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The New Empire has the true Heir of Novron and Princess Arista. They are ready to execute them at Wintertide. The conclusion of the war seems inevitable as Prince Alric has been forced to flee to Drondil Fields. The New Empire still has one problem, Royce and Hadrian haven't given up yet.

Wintertide was quite the exciting tale. For perhaps the first time in the series I was surprised at many of the outcomes. The use of obvious tropes clearly lessened which led to some exemplary storytelling. The characters continue to grow in their complexity and I'm absolutely excited to see how everything ends.

4.5 out of 5 stars


The elves are coming. They've crossed the Nidwalden River and without The Horn of Glyindora, mankind will be eradicated. The only hope is to enter the ancient city of Percepliquis and find the horn. Arista leads an expedition to Percepliquis, but the group quickly learned that the ancient city holds more perils than simply reaching it.

Percepliquis was a long, but strong ending to the Riyria Revelations. The trek to Percepliquis was vivid, exciting, and horrifying all at the same time. By the end all is revealed and there were a few completely unexpected twists and turns.

The characters were top notch throughout the entire series and the final novel is no exception. Arista and Royce show the most growth while Hadrian remains the character I wanted to see succeed the most. Myron also is hard not to love as a character. He's a completely caring and selfless character who is impossible to dislike.

One odd thing I noticed throughout the series is that for being so capable, Royce and Hadrian get captured a lot. The two share a story that was even worse than the many times they were shown being imprisoned.

Although I enjoyed the story, I felt that a few things wrapped up too neatly and too quickly. I also felt that some ideas weren't focused upon significantly enough for the final reveal to be fully appreciated.

Percepliquis is an excellent finishing touch on a great story.

4 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017


West with the NightWest with the Night by Beryl Markham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”Being alone in an aeroplane for even a short a time as a night and a day, irrevocably alone, with nothing to observe but your instruments and your own hands in semi-darkness, nothing to contemplate but the size of your small courage, nothing to wonder about but the beliefs, the faces, and the hopes rooted in your mind---such an experience can be as startling as the first awareness of a stranger walking by your side at night. You are the stranger.”

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Beryl Markham was the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic, going East to West. She made it to the coast of Nova Scotia by the skin of her teeth. Ice had clogged the air intake to her last fuel tank, greatly reducing the amount of fuel getting to the carburetor. The Vega Gull’s engine kept dying. She kept nursing it back to life until finally the coast appears. She crash landed without killing herself and put herself in the record books.

She grew up in Kenya and always wanted to do what the boys were doing. She had a native boy who was a close friend. This association allowed her to learn the ways of the tribe. She has to be one of the few white girls from that period of time or any period of time who was allowed to go on hunts with the men.

”So there are many Africas. There are as many Africas as there are books about Africa--and as many books about it as you could read in a leisurely lifetime. Whoever writes a new one can afford a certain complacency in the knowledge that his is a new picture agreeing with no one else’s, but likely to be haughtily disagreed with by all those who believe in some other Africa.”

There are a lot of factors in how people experience a place. As travellers, it might rain the whole time you are somewhere, or you might have one rude experience with a waiter (Paris and I should have knocked the bastard on his doughy fat ass), or you might be experiencing the final days of a doomed love affair. On the other hand, the weather might be sunny and breezy, or you might have an amazing hour with a knowledgeable art curator, or you might find new love. All of those factors can certainly color our perceptions of a place. When you live anywhere for an extended period of time, like Beryl did in Kenya, you have a better chance of experiencing a true Kenya.

But then there is a difference growing up an English privileged rose who has horses and all that her heart desires compared to say a young black Kenyan woman who might have a completely different experience growing up in Africa. Beryl made one generalization about a local tribe that smacked of the imperial colonial view of a local population.

"But physically the Kikuyu are the least impressive of all. It may be because they are primarily agriculturists and generations of looking to the earth for the livelihood have dulled what fire there might once have been in their eyes and what will to excel might have been in their hearts. They have lost inspiration for beauty. They are a hardworking people from the viewpoint of Empire, a docile and therefore a useful people. Their character is constant, even strong, but it is lustreless. "

I have a friend who happens to be a Kenyan from the Kikuyu tribe. I shared this quote with her, and she had a few opinions about the description

”The wench!! (that was my favorite) yet another ignorant white-privileged bourgeois colonial story which paints a pretty picture of the land but knows next to jack shit about the locals. Only what they saw in passing. I would gladly tell the dead colonial to stick to horses and planes. But really? We lost our spark because of the earth? We killed for that land. We shed blood and tears for it. Most of it white... And we continue to struggle for it. To buy our own to raise our children on. And what did she mean lost our spark? We don't have diamond eyes. Or wear contacts. Or have eyes that shine like the ocean blue eyes of a Victorian damsel who wouldn’t know dust if it drowned them... See? And my thoughts are a lot less polite.” Mwanamali Mari

Yes, I know I’m a pot stirrer. I probably missed my calling as a journalist. Of course, all of us know that, when we make a generalized statement about a culture or a people, we leave ourselves susceptible to criticism. The point is during this period of time, in the pre-world war two era especially, books are rife with irritatingly simplistic, condescending statements about native population. This was the only one I caught. Mwanamali, reading this book, might catch even more than the one that I did, but in her defense, Beryl did love many native Kenyans that she met and worked with over the decades of her life.

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Her father experienced some financial difficulties due to a lack of rain...something, being the son of a farmer, that I’m very familiar with. Beryl, as a teenager, became a horse trainer and did well. It was a boy’s club, of course, so it took longer than it should for her to get the business she deserved, but then Beryl was not unfamiliar with being at a disadvantage from the moment she came out of the womb...a girl. There was this great moment in the book where a filly called Wise Child, that Beryl had resurrected from the dead, races against the top stallion in the racing world at the time. She did such a great job setting the scene and then describing the race that I felt like I was as invested in the outcome of that race as Beryl. I had tears in my eyes.

Markham is a lyrical writer whether she is describing horses, planes, landscape or even the process of writing. ”Silence is never so impenetrable as when the whisper of steel on paper strives to pierce it. I sit in a labyrinth of solitude jabbing at its bulwarks with the point of a pen--jabbing, jabbing.”

I did have a moment of real doubt when Beryl took a job flying big game hunters into the wilds of Kenya to shoot elephants. The money was really good, but there is something soulless about shooting elephants. She even said, ”It is absurd for a man to kill an elephant. It is not brutal, it is not heroic, and certainly it is not easy; it is just one of the preposterous things that men do.” You may not pull the trigger, but if you are helping these hunters find their prey via an airplane, you are as responsible for the death of the elephant as the men who fire the bullet. She had some wonderful, inspiring descriptions of how smart the elephants were and how many times they would fool the hunters. Those stories confirmed me in my belief that elephants are intelligent sacred animals and should be left in peace. So why do some people feel so driven to hunt these beautiful animals or put themselves in other death defying situations? One of the Kenyan guides remarked to Markham: ”White men pay for danger--we poor cannot afford it.”

It kind of makes it all sound fake. Men trying to prove themselves in manufactured situations.

I did have some issues with Beryl, but I also found her to be a groundbreaker and certainly a woman whom other women can look up to. She took on men toe to toe and proved she could compete with them whether it be on the horse track, in the air, or in the bedroom. She was friends with Karen Blixen, better known by her pen name of Isak Dinesen. She was such good friends with her that she even shared a man with her by the name of Denys Finch Hatton, an adventurer and hunter. The interesting thing about this book is that her love life has been carefully kept off screen. Markham was notorious for her marriages and her affairs. She was attractive to men, and she was attracted to men. Her love life fits with the way she lived her whole life as free as any man and more so than most.

 photo Beryl20Markham20goggles_zps2zawqs77.jpg
Straight on till morning

”No map I have flown by has ever been lost or thrown away; I have a trunk containing continents.” The world was hers.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Erstwhile By: Brian Catling

The ErstwhileThe Erstwhile by Brian Catling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, this is sort of a review for the first two books of this series, The Voorh and The Erstwhile. I am a lifelong scifi and fantasy fan, I mean...39 of my 44 years. But I have a weird relationship with "weird" fiction, it's like you meet a girl at the grocery store, she's got blue hair..sorta cute then bam, before you know it, you wake up a month later and wonder why you have a half elf in your bed.

Bad analogy, but its like beautiful language, well written and grabs you in spots. Then, it trails off, the turn to the strange that pulled you in to start with goes TOO strange and loses you. I have faith that maybe Mr. Catling has a endgame in mine and I will stick with it, but that's the OCD in me to see it through. Good? worth your time? I say yes.. it might however be a bit too out there to be amazing.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Natural Eating

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four MealsThe Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading books like these, I'm not sure what to eat anymore.

Michael Pollan, a sort of food journalist, doesn't always give you the kind of clear-cut answers you'd like if you're reading books like this in order to learn what's healthy for your body and what's not. However, here are two important things I did learn:

#1 - Eating only one thing is not good for you in the long run.

#2 - Corn is in nearly everything we eat these days.

America grows corn. The American government pays for its farmers to grow corn. Corn syrup goes into an alarmingly high percentage of our daily foods. Our farmed-fish and cows subsist on corn. Hell, some of our cars run on corn!


Another issue is the nitrates used to grow all this corn. Because it's less physically demanding, farmers spread chemical nitrates over their fields. To ensure a good crop, they overcompensate. All this excess washes into our water system, contaminating our drinking water and destroying fish habitats. The Gulf of Mexico spreading outward from the Mississippi Delta is fucked.

The Omnivore's Dilemma is one of those books I've been hearing about for years. In the past, I've read other Pollan books and they were good, but for some reason I held off on this one. Maybe it was like that character in Lost holding on to a copy of Our Mutual Friend, the only Dickens book he hasn't read. I knew this book would be special. I wanted to wait and savor it. I also knew it would be slightly depressing. I wanted to be ready for it.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Pollan is hopeful and allows for the light at the end of the tunnel. He's also willing to try new things like hunting and vegetarianism. He gets his hands dirty and that's what I like to see in my journalists.

Fantastic book! Recommended to all!

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Mirage

The MirageThe Mirage by Matt Ruff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Christian fundamentalists destroy the Tigris and Euphrates towers on 11/9, the United Arab States declare a war on terror on the nations of North America. Eight years later, Homeland security officers Mustafa, Amal, and Samir stumble upon relics from another world, a world where America is a super power and the Middle East is a fractured region...

On the heels of Lovecraft Country, I knew I had to read more Matt Ruff. This one sounded intriguing and it was definitely that.

The Mirage is an alternate history tale, one where the roles in the War on Terror are reversed, with the Arabians as the super power and the former United States as rogue territories. If I'd ever read The Man in the High Castle instead of only knowing it by reputation, I'd say they were in a similar vein.

The Mirage is essentially a detective story with Mustafa, Amal, and Samir trying to get to the bottom of things, like the relics and who was really behind the 11/9 attack, before falling victim to the machinations of Al Qaeda, the UAS secret police in this tale. Interspersed are entries from the Library of Alexandria, an online Wikipedia type of resource in this world, giving us tantalizing glimpses at the world's history without infodumping them in the text.

While the detective aspect was pretty cool, the fun of the story was seeing where everyone ended up in this reality. Saddam Hussein is an underworld kingpin, Osama bin Laden is a senator, and Dick Cheney is head of the Texas CIA and known for eliminating his rivals in hunting accidents.

I wolfed this book down in three sittings. It was quite readable and I couldn't wait to see how things panned out. By showing the war on terror in the mirror universe, Ruff shows what a shit show the whole thing was.

This is my favorite quote from the book:
"So in the other reality, Osama bin Laden is an Iraqi?"
"No, he's still from Jeddah," Amal said. "A 'Saudi' Arabian."
"Then why the hell would America invade Iraq?"
"Because God put a Texan in charge!"

I don't have many bad things to say about this book. I almost gave it a 5 but I thought the characters were a little skimpy and the ending could have been better. Overall, The Mirage was a great read and an interesting look at how things might have went another way. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Friday, March 10, 2017


Eli Easton
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


It’s not easy for a young gay artist like Jordan Carson to grow up in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where all anyone seems to care about in middle school and high school are the sports teams. But Jordan was lucky. He met Owen Nelson in the second grade, and they’ve been BFFs ever since. Owen is a big, beautiful blond and their school’s champion wrestler. No one messes with Owen, or with anyone close to him, and he bucks popular opinion by keeping Jordan as his wingman even after Jordan comes out at school.

Their friendship survives, but Jordan’s worst enemy may be himself: he can’t seem to help the fact that he is head-over-heels in love with a hopeless case—his straight friend, Owen. Owen won’t let anything take Jordan’s friendship away, but he never counted on Jordan running off to find a life of his own. Owen will have to face the nature of their relationship if he’s to win Jordan back.

My Review

I absolutely adored Jordan Carson and Owen Nelson, best friends since second grade. Jordan has only two dreams for his life. One is to become a comic book artist, and the other is to be Owen’s boyfriend.

Their story begins in the second grade and concludes in their sophomore year of college. Though told mostly from Jordan’s perspective, we also get Owen’s impressions, feelings, and observations of high school life, family, friends, sports, and their joint comic project, Pin Man and Pencil Boy.

Typical teenage issues and problems, like academic pressure, family conflicts, relationships, and bullying were gently explored without overwhelming the story and burdening the main characters.

I loved spending time with Jordan and Owen as they grew older and discovered things about themselves and each other. Even though I found them both a lot more mature and self-aware than I was at their age, their youth and innocence was very much apparent. Jordan and Owen were different in so many ways, yet so perfect together. I appreciated Owen’s smart and supportive girlfriend, Emily, so unlike the shrewish women commonly found in gay romances. I very much enjoyed the way fluid sexuality was handled, allowing the characters time for exploration, experimentation and acceptance without erasing or denying past experiences. My bisexual heart is bursting with joy!

This story is sweet, sensual, and oh so satisfying. I still can’t wipe the silly smile off my face.

Very highly recommended.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Vasilisa is the eldest daughter of Russian Nobles who live in the frozen north. The land is so cold that it's said the winter lasts 8 months there. Vasya's mother died giving birth to her so she grows up with her family and her nurse until her father decides to remarry. The real trouble starts afterward.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a story that centers around a Russian Family and the time period is long ago. The storytelling is clear yet slow. Quite often I found myself hoping things would pick up or that something more interesting would happen. I struggled to care about what was happening with the family and I didn't particularly take to any character.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a solid story for those who love folklore tales.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Istanbul PassageIstanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”You’re so sure somebody’s watching.”

“It’s Istanbul.”

The curtains twitch.
The doorways have eyes.

Nothing happens in Istanbul without someone seeing it. Anything clandestine has to be hidden behind layers of misdirection. There are eyes everywhere in a city of people who know the value of information. World War II has recently ended, but the next war, the Cold War, is already beginning in Istanbul. The Americans, the British, the Israelis, and the Russians are all vying for the last remaining valuable targets out of Germany. Some of them are brought through Istanbul’s harbor.

Leon Bauer is an American civilian who occasionally does jobs for the American government. It is supposed to be a simple job, a pickup and delivery of a person of interest. It turns out to be anything but simple. Shots are fired the moment Bauer makes contact with his person for extraction. He returns fire and hits the person shooting. Later, he finds out that person had been the very person who asked him to go on this job.

Trying to make sense of that forms a Gordian Knot in his mind.

Now what.

Nobody is supposed to know he has this guy, and yet it seems it is fairly common knowledge. The Russians are very interested and are willing to offer a reward for this person to fall into their hands. The Americans want to know why their guy is dead. The Israelis, if they knew about this particular German, would want him wearing a toe tag. Needless to say, Leon is in way over his head, and as he finds out more about the guy he is protecting, he starts to question why he should continue to protect such a man capable of such atrocities.

And yet he does for reasons even he can’t fully understand.

There is a background story about his wife, Anna, who had a psychotic break and has been institutionalized. She is unresponsive, but he continues to go see her as often as he can, except on Thursday afternoons when he goes to see Marina.

”’I haven’t been with anyone today. All right?’ She put her hand on his crotch, rubbing him. ‘I always save today for you. You know that.’ Stroking him, the lie like another hand on him, so that he was hard instantly, excited by both, unable to separate them.”

It is the business of whores to lie and for men to believe them. Leon feels guilty that he visits Marina, but as he climbs the stairs to her place, he starts to feel his knees go weak and the butterflies begin to circle in his stomach. It doesn’t matter if he needs it, if he desires it. He has to accept the guilt. He feels even worse when he meets Kay, the wife of one of his colleagues, and sparks fly as if Vulcan started shaping a new sword on his anvil.

Joseph Kanon takes us into the twisting back alleys of Istanbul and into the plush dinner parties of the ex-pats. Leon finds himself playing hide and seek with the most powerful people in Istanbul with no way to know who to trust or even who is on which side from moment to moment. Now that the war is over, the tenuous alliances formed during the war are starting to erode, and a new kind of conflict is just beginning to blossom. On the surface, things are calm in Istanbul, but just like the Bosphorus, beneath the surface things are seething with activity.

It has been a while since I’ve read Kanon, but I have to say I really enjoyed this mature, intelligent tale of spies and counterspies. It turned out to be a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Idle Ingredients (Sin de Jour #4) by Matt Wallace

Idle Ingredients (Sin du Jour, #4)Idle Ingredients by Matt Wallace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Sin de Jour series should be on TV, PERIOD. Massively fun series, great characters, tons of action and wild situations, it is tailor frigging made for a netflix series.

Perfect stories, in a semi perfect package(I do have

So, if you haven't read these, why are you still reading my review? hit your method of book purchase and spend that cash, I mean...what are you gonna use it for? Food? rent? come on already.

Oh minor gripe, too short, stories are very episodic, while that's not a problem per say, I read stupidly fast...So when I buy a book, it's done before dinner.

then I get to wait..................................and wait..........

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Chandler's Bucketload of Red Herrings

Farewell, My Lovely (Philip Marlowe, #2)Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not as complicated as it seems or as Chandler would like you to believe. And that's a-okay! I love a little private dick action and this is perfectly satisfying!

This story of a thug getting out of prison and trying to find his girl is fairly straightforward, but Raymond Chandler throws a bucketload of red herrings into Farewell, My Lovely in an attempt to throw you, dear reader, off the trail. Stick to the yellow brick road, Dorothy, and you'll figure it all out in short order.

Fresh off The Big Sleep detective Philip Marlowe is at it again in this sequel to that highly popular and well-written mystery. Farewell, My Lovely is an admirable followup, but it would be tough to meet or top one of the best detective novels of all time.

Book two in the Marlowe series marches forward, doing its best to recreate the original with a bevy of interesting characters that are relatively well-drawn for the crime noir genre. All that good, whip-smart, wise-crackin' dialogue you know and love is in place. It's just the plot that's a little out of whack. Chandler attempts to confuse the situation, and generally succeeds, but not in a particularly clever way. It's like a muddied up pond, but a pond nonetheless, so you can swim fairly easily through the murky waters to the other side.

Don't get me wrong, Farewell, My Lovely is still really good reading and any fan of the genre will enjoy it. Just don't expect a masterpiece.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Get Carter

Get CarterGet Carter by Ted Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When his brother dies in a drunk driving accident, Jack Carter comes back to his home town for the funeral. Since his brother never drank, Jack is suspicious and digs into his brother's final days to figure out what happened.

Get Carter is a dark murder mystery. Set in 1960s England, it features a bad man in a world of other bad men, looking for his brother's murderers. It was adapted into a classic movie in 1971 starring Michael Caine and a lackluster movie starring Sylvester Stallone in 2000.

Jack Carter walks through a spider's web of shifty English gangsters, each one dirtier than the last, trying to figure out what exactly happened to his brother. What he finds isn't pretty. Jack's conflicted feelings about his brother give the book an added dimension, keeping it from feeling like a simple revenge book.

The novel is heavy on atmosphere and dialogue but short on action for most of the book. When the action finally does come, it's as brutal as a head-on collision. Pretty much everyone Jack encounters is a filthy, smegging, lying, smegging liar and it's pretty satisfying when the parties responsible for Frank's murder get their comeuppance.

As I said before, the book is high on atmosphere. I kept picturing Ewan MacGregor or Jason Statham circa 2000 in the title role. I'd be surprised if a remake wasn't at least considered as a Jason Statham vehicle at some point. It could easily be dumbed down for the crap he usually stars in and it would have to be better than the Sylvester Stallone version of the film.

It's easy to see why Get Carter was a big deal in Britain when it was released. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Truth in the Dark

Amy Lane
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
2 out of 5 stars


"I am not beautiful..."

Knife's entire existence has been as twisted as his flesh and his face. The only thing beautiful in his life is his sister. When Gwennie is obliged to turn a suitor down because she fears to leave her brother to the brutality of their village, Knife is desperate for anything to ensure her happiness.

Her suitor's cousin offers him a way out, but it won't be easy. Aerie-Smith has been cursed to walk upright in the form of a beast, and his beloved village suffers from the same spell. Aerie-Smith offers Gwen a trousseau and some hope, if only Knife will keep him company on his island for the span of a year and perform one "regrettable task" at year's end.

Knife is unprepared for the form the island's curse takes on his own misshapen body. In one moment of magic, he is given the body of his dreams—and he discovers that where flesh meets spirit and appearance meet reality, sometimes the only place to find truth is in the darkness of a lover's arms.

My Review

“If anyone had learned that love was all the beauty the world needed, it was my lion-hearted beloved and his imperfect lover.”

I usually like Amy Lane’s blend of sweetness and angst and was keen to read a re-worked version of Beauty and the Beast, but this story just didn’t work for me on so many levels.

- The pace was excruciatingly slow, so slow that I feared not finishing it up in time to complete my reading challenge this month. Many times I was tempted to skim or abandon it. I was glad I held out, though, for the ending was realistic and satisfying.

- Naef’s physical and emotional pain was exquisitely rendered. I hated being in his head, however. His bitterness, self-loathing, swearing, and constant correction of his name (“my name is Knife”) became annoying.

- The relationship between Naef and Aerie-Smith happened way too fast and lacked spark. Their sex was frequent, but unerotic. Maybe it’s just the thought of doing it with a lion, even if he stands on two legs and wears a high-quality waistcoat, that was a complete turnoff for me.

- While I felt Naef’s character grew significantly, I wanted to feel that growth in his and Aerie-Smith’s relationship as well. As a couple, they left me feeling unconvinced.

- Aerie-Smith was a rather flat character who was too perfect.

- I really enjoyed Naef’s passion for carving and how he used it to express himself.

- Kudos for including interesting and likable female characters.

I wanted to like this story a lot more. There were some powerful turns of phrase, and sentences that had me scratching my head.

Sadly, it failed to move me.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


HuskHusk by J. Kent Messum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rhodes is the type of man that even other men would begrudgingly admit is good looking. He seemingly has it all with money, friends, and a girl he wants to make his own. He even has a lucrative yet abnormal job, Rhodes is a Husk. Husk's for an expensive fee provide their bodies to be used by very special clients. These clients are the wealthy dead who've had their brains digitized. They wear Rhodes like a tux to the prom and everyone is happy until the visions and nightmares start. Rhodes can't let the images go and insists on learning if these nightmares are actually memories.

Husk was one unexpected ride from the very beginning. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but the prologue quickly disabused me of that notion. Getting a glimpse of what life looks like for Husk's after their rental time has ended was shocking. It's a crazy notion looking into the eyes of a person you've been intimate with and having no recollection of them. Because while your body was there, your mind was not. This would be well and good if the rich treated this individual well, but it can be a horror if they did not.

The writing was excellent and kept me compelled from start to finish. The world was similar, but had enough nuance to make it into something uniquely intriguing. The characters were strong enough to provide a real sense of them as individuals, especially Rhodes as the story is told from his perspective. Rhodes isn't a great man by any extent, he's a jaded man doing his best to take care of himself. Despite his flaws I found myself caring about what would happen to Rhodes as the story went on.

Though I enjoyed the story immensely, it did have one weak spot. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the way the story ended. The reason being was the ending opened up an additional nagging question that's unlikely to be answered, but one in which seems particularly valid in my mind because of the lead up events. I can't give any other information without giving too much away, but the story was still a good one.

Husk is a strong story perfectly suited for anyone who enjoys horror with a science fiction twist.

4 out of 5 stars

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

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All-New Inhumans, Volume 2: Skyspears

All-New Inhumans, Volume 2: SkyspearsAll-New Inhumans, Volume 2: Skyspears by James Asmus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The RIV travels to China to assist with the mysterious Skyspears.
After some extensive searching, the Inhumans have found Flint's home.

All-New Inhumans Skyspears was a really good volume. It had two storylines going on. The first focused around the Skyspears and the second was about Flint's birthplace.

The Skyspears storyline while informative was quite bland. The team heads to China to examine the Skyspears and Parker Industries along with Spider-Man assist in the research. A Chinese supergroup comes to chase away the Inhumans and all kinds of problems break loose. First off I have to say I hated the artwork. I'm sure it works for certain characters but I found it incredibly frustrating after Stefano Caselli's realistic depictions. Everyone just looked frumpy and oddly shaped to me. Second the story was simply too abrupt. Now this may have been due to the fact the series was cancelled. Perhaps the Skyspears would have been revisited and this story was meant to be an introduction, but it felt like a short awkward look at a much larger idea.

Flint's story about his birthplace was excellent. I absolutely loved every bit of it. Finding another pocket civilization of Inhumans was an exciting idea that was really well done. The civilization, Utolan, had its own unique aspects while it continued to practice and worship the process of terrigenesis. I was initially unsure of the addition of Anna Kravinoff to the cast for this story, but she was quite interesting. I didn't like the fact that her story didn't get an ending, but I blame that on the cancellation as well.

So as I mentioned All-New Inhumans got cancelled which really sucks because it was just beginning to come into it's own under James Asus. The fortunate part is with a number of Inhuman centered stories like Death of X and Inhumans vs X-Men the crew of the RIV haven't vanished yet.

Skyspears was the best volume of the short lived All-New Inhumans.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Tiger PeltTiger Pelt by Annabelle Kim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”In the middle of the night, you hear a goddamn bugle. Then a bunch of commie chinks come swarming over the mountain like an exploded nest of fire ants. I’m not ashamed to say it. The sight of a million chinks coming at you with one purpose in mind, to kill you, is enough to make any man shit his pants. Every time a flare goes up, you see more of them crawling over the crest of the hill. They’re covering the earth like a goddamn plague of Egypt. You shoot till your ammunition is all gone, which don’t take long. You can see a bunch of them scattered dead all over the place. Bur more and more chinks just keep on coming and coming. There’s a freaking endless supply of little killer chinks coming at you with their goddamn rice pots strapped to their backs just running right over the dead ones. When your ammo’s gone, and you’ve thrown out your last grenade, all you can do is to dig into your foxhole. You just dig and pray, dig and pray.”

My uncle was drafted for Korea. What he remembers of Korea or what he chooses to tell about his time over there is about mud, frostbite, and blood. He told me about shooting at hoards of Chinese “soldiers” until he ran out of ammo or his gun barrel overheated and melted, becoming useless. So when I read this passage, it put me right back into my uncle’s living room with a glass of ice tea, dripping condensation on my fingers as I listened to him tell stories about the craziness of war... excuse me, policing action.

One story that he told me was about capturing some Chinese “soldiers.” They had no shoes, and their clothes were rags, so the Americans outfitted them with combat boots, clothes, and jackets. As the truck hauling them away moved down the road, the American soldiers watched as clothes and boots came flying out of the truck. The Chinese refused to wear the clothes, believing the Americans had poisoned/infected them.

That was the Korean War, but this story starts during WW2 in occupied Japan.

What many people may not realize is that the Japanese invaded Korea during WW2. Long before the Korean War conflict began, conditions in Korea were horrible. The Japanese were using a large percentage of the population as slave labor. They ”died like flies, and, like flies, they were not counted.” Young Korean girls were conscripted to be comfort women for the Japanese army. They led short, brutal, violent lives. The girls were expected to work 15 hours a day with a new “customer,” better described as the next rapist, every twenty minutes during peak times. No time for hygiene, no time for even wearing pants.

It boggles the mind that anyone could survive these conditions. These were beaten, stabbed, and abused by the Japanese soldiers in ways that would be considered inhuman. Lee Hana survived these conditions. Her chances were stacked against her; many girls committed suicide or gave up and slowly slipped away. She was also only 12 years old but big for her age and, fortunately, never lost her looks, or she would have been reassigned to the physical labor detail and would have perished quickly under those demands.

Not that dying didn’t seem like the best option.

She survived only because a soldier reached out a hand when she was mired in her deepest despair. Sometimes all it takes is one person telling us that our life is worth living. When she finally met up with her mother and told her of her trials and tribulations, her mother said: ”You should have killed yourself.”

Anger? Yes, anger. Sadness? Yes, sadness. I wanted to slap her mom so hard that she woke up in a different century, but the truth of the matter is that her mom’s response was a result of decades of cultural conditioning and brainwashing. All of us who don’t want to be dictated to by old rules, old beliefs, and old prejudices must fight our way through them and think about why we believe what we believe.

Truth is so elusive.

Lee Hana’s story was twisted and twined with the story of Kim Young Nam. He was an ambitious farm boy who wanted nothing more than to educate himself and be successful. His family, like most every family in Korea, was torn apart by both wars. His studies were interrupted as one superpower after the other made Korea their sandbox for war. ”When whales fight, shrimps’ backs are broken.” After the Japanese leave Korea, Kim Young Nam is salivating over books left in a farmhouse near his own home. His father finds his desires misplaced. ”Foolish boy. Can you eat a book? Can you wear a book?”

To those who don’t read, books have no value, even today. Maybe this is even more evident today because there is no excuse like illiteracy to stand in the way of someone being able to read. Everyone should be in the middle of a book every day for the rest of their lives. I can guarantee, people like Kim Young Nam never quit reading and never stopped valuing their ability to read. Through the wars, he made himself useful. He learned how to survive in the midst of chaos. The Korean War destabilized thousands, if not millions, of people. The fighting went back and forth as China and the United States fought a political war over the corpses of the Korean civilian population.

Fate brought Lee Hana and Kim Young Nam together at a critical point. They didn’t meet again until fate insured they intersected many thousands of miles away in America.

This is a novel.
It is a novel about life.
Novels are about real life.
My life is a novel I’m still writing.

Don’t tell me that Lee Hana and Kim Young Nam don’t exist. They do exist. They are buried in graveyards that stretch from Korea to the United States. If you start this novel, you will have to finish because the story is about resilience, about luck, about terror, about impossible conditions, but it is ultimately about triumph. Do their lives turn out the way the expected them to? No. Our stories are fluid, and the tracks we lay for our future are torn up and laid down again in a new direction, time and time again. Our prime directive is to stay alive, persevere, and never, ever give up on ourselves. Inspiration isn’t about throwing the pass that wins the Super Bowl or scoring a deal that makes you rich, but reading about two people who find a way to survive a war that is turning the rivers red, redefining the landscape of a nation, and leaving tears on the cheeks of every mother.

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