Sunday, April 30, 2017

Red Right Hand

Red Right HandRed Right Hand by Levi Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Charlie is saved from some skinless dogs by the Man in Black, her savior proves to be worse than the threat, for he is Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos. Nyarlathotep has selected Charlie to be his acolyte and she has no choice in the matter...

As I've said before, I'm more interested in fiction influenced by HP Lovecraft than stories penned by old Howard himself. Red Right Hand fits the bill.

For all intents and purposes, Red Right Hand is some extremely gory urban fantasy. Charlie wins the cosmic horror lottery and winds up enslaved by Nyarlathotep. It seems old Nyarly wants to bump off two other Elder Gods on earth and have humanity all to himself. As Charlie serves the Crawling Chaos, her tortured past comes back to haunt her.

Levi Black's writing has some punch to it and is way more accessible than HP Lovecraft's. He weds cosmic horror, splatterpunk, and urban fantasy into a package that feels natural but nauseating at the same time. I also love that he worked HP Lovecraft into things as a character, much like Jonathan Howard did in Carter & Lovecraft.

Gods living among humans has been done before, as Charlie herself remarks, but I don't think much has been done with the Elder Gods in human form. The Man in Black takes Charlie and her friend Daniel on a tour of the Cthulhu mythos underground as he searches for his prey.

Charlie felt like a passenger in the story for the first fourth of the book but things picked up after that. I had a feeling where things might go but the final battle was still pretty crazy. The Sushi Priest and everything involving him was more than a little sanity blasting. The ending left things open enough for more Charlie Tristan Moore adventures, something I'd definitely be up for in some strange aeons.

While it wasn't the best mythos-influenced fiction I've ever read, Red Right Hand was still pretty bad ass. I'll be on the lookout for more Charlie and more Levi Black in the future. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 29, 2017

BookExpo America and BookCon are a must go for Book Lovers

Book Expo 2017, the premier book publishing event of the year is returning to the Jacob Javits Center in New York City this year. It is held May 31 through June 2, and then on June 3 and June 4, ReedPop, is also holding BookCon, a convention for the public.  Last year, Book Expo was held in Chicago, Illinois, but BookCon was also held during ComicCon  in New York City in October 2016 as an alternative publishing event.   ReedPop was trying to expand programming  during Comic Con.  It must have been successful because ReedPop is again holding BookCon at Comic Con on October 6-9 in New York City this year.

Why go to Book Expo or BookCon.

Its the swag.  If you are a blogger, librarian or book reviewer this is the event to attend. Hundreds of authors are at Book Expo. Authors sign and give away thousands of free books. I have interviewed librarians, who use the free books for summer reading programs or to see what books to get in the future.  Some of the free books are just advanced reading copies but many are the actual book.  In 2015, when we last attended Book Expo in New York City. the third day of the show was devoted to young adult and children books.  Besides getting free books, you can meet authors and talk to them, briefly, about their books and future plans.  There are over 400 exhibitors.

There are also panel discussions by authors and publishers and breakfast events, which sell out early.
The Adult Book and Author Breakfast will start the second day of the event. Whitney Cummings, the comedienne and writer will host and Stephen King, Owen King, Scott Kelly, Kenya Barris, Jesmyn Ward and Claire Messud will be impaneled at this event.

The Children's Book and Author Breakfast on Friday June 2 will kick off the third day of the event. Savannah Guthrie, the co-host of the Today Show on NBC and an author, will host, and Isla Fisher, the actress and first time author, will join Jason Reynolds, Marieko Nijkamp and Jennifer Weiner at a panel during the breakfast. 

 The giant publishing houses are present. Simon & Schuster,  Penguin Random House, Hatchette, Harper Collins, MacMillan have large areas, where their authors sign books and they have meetings. Smaller publishers like Sourcebooks, Chronicle, Doubleday, Scholastic, and Disney are typically present and will give away free books at their booths. Plus there is a huge area solely devoted to autographing free books.  Thirty or so lines, starting once the show opens, for an hour per author all day long, where people can line up to get free signed advanced publishing copies and free books signed by the authors.  

How do you get your free swag. Make sure to bring a suitcase and check it in the coat room, then as you get free swag, load it into your suitcase.  

The exhibitors run the gamut from the major publishing houses to people who will try to get your business.

There is also a section devoted solely to bloggers.

This is not a cheap ticket, but its worth a visit.

 ReedPop, the event organizer, has also instituted BookCon, which is open to the public on Saturday and Sunda.   Adult Tickets  (anyone over 12 years old) prior to May 5 are $35 for Saturday June 3 and $30 for Sunday June 4.  Kids 6-12 are just $10.  Tickets are $45 onsite on Saturday and $40 on Sunday.

BookCon has more limited free swag.  There are still free books but less of them, but there are also pay for books that are signed by authors.  In addition, there are huge halls filled with hundreds of people to see the feature speakers.  There is a lot to see:

On Dan Brown, acclaimed author of The Da Vinci Code will be on the main stage at 11:50 on Saturday.

Jeff Kinney, author of the Wimpy Kids novels, will be on the main stage at 12:45 on Saturday.
Rainbow Rowell, young adult author, will host an hour long panel at 12:15 on Saturday. My daughter has read all of her books.

Holly Black and Leigh Bardugo, YA fantasy authors, will also host an hour long panel on Saturday and delve into the world of fantasy at 12:30.

Young Adult authors Sarah Dessen, Shannon Hale, Morgan Matson and Jenny Han will host a panel  at 1:45 to 2:45.

Tor Science Fiction and Fantasy will hold a panel discussion with John Scalzi, Charlie Jane Anders, Cory Doctorow, Annalee Newitz will discuss science fiction and fantasy.

There is something for everyone.

This year Kevin Hart will be a featured speaker on Sunday. There will be 3 separate meet and greets, at 10:30, 11:30 and 12:45 and one live Q & A where he will be interviewed at 4:00 pm., Each event is $30, but you will  get a free copy of his new book.  At the Meet and Greet, you can get a photo with Kevin Hart.  See for more information.
BookExpo and BookCon , five days of books, authors, free swag, speakers, authors, movie and tv stars.

It's a must go. Hope to see you there.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fish & Chips

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


Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are back on the job, settled into a personal and professional relationship built on fierce protectiveness and blistering passion. Now they're assigned to impersonate two members of an international smuggling ring-an out-and-proud married couple-on a Christmas cruise in the Caribbean. As their boss says, surely they'd rather kiss each other than be shot at, and he has no idea how right he is. Portraying the wealthy criminals requires a particular change in attitude from Ty and Zane while dealing with the frustrating waiting game of their assignment. As it begins to affect how they treat each other in private, Ty and Zane realize there's more to being partners than watching each other's backs, and when the case takes an unexpected turn and threatens Ty's life, Ty and Zane will have to navigate seas of white lies and stormy secrets, including some of their own.

My Review

I’ve read lots of books that are parts of series. Though I’ve enjoyed many of them, I find it difficult to complete an entire series. Sometimes the series is too long, or too much time passes between books that I pick up other books and lose interest. Sometimes the plots and structure are too formulaic and the characters show little development. Sometimes the story and characters are moving in a direction not to my liking.

So far, I’m really enjoying this series featuring FBI agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett. The stories are fun, entertaining, suspenseful, sexy, and full of emotion. I’m tempted to read one book after the other, but feel maximum enjoyment will best be achieved by pacing myself. That way, I won’t tire of the characters, the writing style, or notice little inconsistencies.

One of the things I really enjoy is the slow buildup of Ty’s and Zane’s relationship. As partners, they work effectively together and have a high level of trust. On the personal side, however, both men have secrets and issues best not explored. There is no question the guys are in love. Their actions show it, even if the words are not forthcoming.

“Falling in love or just plain falling: they were both terrifying at any speed.”

An undercover assignment on a luxury Caribbean cruise ship gives Ty and Zane the perfect opportunity to explore their feelings while masquerading as Corbin and Del Porter, a married couple involved in the theft of numerous high-end and rare artworks. It was fun seeing Ty and Zane wear fake wedding bands and change their hairstyle, clothing and mannerisms to create a convincing cover for themselves while gathering information about Corbin and Del’s contacts. It is Corbin (Zane) who is the “brains” of the operation while Del (Ty) is there to soak up the rays and be an attractive companion. Ty and Zane get into their roles so successfully that they have a hard time distinguishing between playacting and their own feelings.

As in the last two books, there is tension, danger, sizzling romance, and relationship growth. While Ty is more open about his feelings in this story, Zane is still reticent. I hope future installments provide more insight into Zane’s past.

I’m officially hooked on Ty and Zane and looking forward to more of their adventures.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

City of Miracles

City of Miracles (The Divine Cities, #3)City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thirteen long years Sigrud je Harkvaldsson has waited. He has waited to hear from his friend Shara Komayd that it is finally ok for him to come home. Sigrud's hopes are snuffed out like a candle when he learns Shara has been assassinated. Sigrud decides to find and make those responsible for her murder does not matter if they are man or divine.

City of Miracles was an excellent conclusion to The Divine Cities trilogy. I have to admit I wasn't sure if I was really interested in reading it as I wasn't overly fond of City of Blades. Once I learned the story centered around Sigrud I had to read it. Sigrud was an excellent protagonist. His dogged determination and surprising cunning make him a man that no sane person would wish to fight.

The storytelling excelled in City of Miracles. The author laid the groundwork for much of what happened in City of Stairs. Many questions I hadn't truly considered asking were answered and new mysteries unfolded smoothly throughout the book.

There is so much I wish I could say about City of Miracles, but I won't because I don't want to remove the slightest part of the mystery for anyone. City of Miracles may be my favorite book in the series.

4 out of 5 stars

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

View all my reviews

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear

Daredevil: The Man Without FearDaredevil: The Man Without Fear by Frank Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The journey that transformed Matt Murdock into Daredevil had many twists and a few key people. His love for fighting came from his father, but he promised to be better than his Dad by not fighting. His life changed when an accident sprayed him with chemicals costing him his sight get giving back more than most people could imagine.

Matt Murdock's origin story is one I'm fairly familiar with even though I have rarely read any Daredevil stories. It was interesting seeing Stick training Matt after he was blinded.
I have to say the stylistic choice for Elektra's look was quite surprising. She's basically looked the same for as long as I can remember, but she really didn't resemble the Elektra I'm familiar with.
I enjoyed the fact that Matt's heightened senses seemed to take a back seat to his training. His senses were still mentioned, but it was done in a way that didn't diminish Matt into being an individual who is helpless without his gift.

I have heard for a long time that Frank Miller did Daredevil right and I must admit after reading The Man Without Fear, I agree.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Killers of the Flower MoonKillers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”Today our hearts are divided between two worlds. We are strong and courageous, learning to walk in these two worlds, hanging on to the threads of our culture and traditions as we live in a predominantly non-Indian society. Our history, our culture, our heart, and our home will always be stretching our legs across the plains, singing songs in the morning light, and placing our feet down with the ever beating heart of the drum. We walk in two worlds.”

The Osage Indians lived in Kansas until the 1870s when the government decided that their land was too valuable for them to own. Laura Ingalls Wilder, writer of Little House on the Prairie, was confused as to why the Osage Indians were being forced off their land. Her father explained: ”That’s why we’re here, Laura. White people are going to settle all this country, and we get the best land because we get here first and take our pick.”

Indians were looked on as a subspecies of human being who didn’t deserve to breath and certainly didn’t deserve to own any useful land. The Osage Indians were moved to Northeastern Oklahoma on a patch of ground that was deemed worthless.

But was it?

When oil was discovered beneath the reservation land in the 1920s, those dirt scratching Indians became extremely wealthy. The federal government, due to the Osages’ inherent racial weakness, deemed them incapable of managing their own affairs and appointed guardians to manage their affairs, white guardians. As an example, if an Osage wanted a car, the guardian would buy a car for $250 and sell it to the Indian for $1,250. The definition of guardian used words such as protector or defender. It didn’t say anything about exploiter.

This is a tale of greed, but unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.

It became murder.

When the suspicious deaths of Osage Indians reached twenty-four, the fledgling director of the Bureau of Investigations ( It would not be called the Federal Bureau of Investigations until 1935.) J. Edgar Hoover decided that he needed Federal agents on the ground. Hoover had already been systematically removing agents from the program that did not meet his criteria for education level and impeccable character. The agents out West, many of them ex-Texas Rangers, did not fit either of those profiles, but Hoover was smart enough to realize that, for a case like this, spit shined shoes and snappy ties were not going to get the job done.

He sent in Tom White, one of those disreputable former Texas Rangers. White brought some people in as undercover agents, and slowly the details of what was going on began to shimmer into view. The problem was witnesses disappeared or clammed up when they were asked to testify at trial. One white man who was trying to help the Osage was mysteriously thrown from a train. Another was kidnapped. Building a case was one thing, but actually prosecuting someone was not easy. It became more and more clear that this was not the act of just one man, but a conspiracy.

”A conspiracy is everything that ordinary life is not. It’s the inside game, cold, sure, undistracted, forever closed off to us. We are the flawed ones, the innocents, trying to make some rough sense of the daily jostle. Conspirators have a logic and a daring beyond our reach. All conspiracies are the same taut story of men who find coherence in some criminal act. “
--Don DeLillo, Libra

Meanwhile, the murders continued unabated. Osages were shot, poisoned, stabbed, and even in one case blown up with dynamite. The ruthlessness with which they were systematically eliminated was actually terrifying. I can’t even imagine the level of fear that the tribe was living under. Death was not a nebulous unknown creature, but was actually embodied by members of their community intent on their destruction.

The other problem was that white people felt the Indians did not deserve the money. The adage the only good Indian is a dead Indian was still in common use, especially if anyone encountered a situation where Indian ownership was in their way.

David Grann has done a wonderful job of investigating these murders. Though some people were incarcerated for the crimes back in the 1920s, the more Grann dug, the more threads he found that led to other guardians who should have been investigated more thoroughly as well. The descendents of those murdered Osage still want closer. They still want justice, even if the killers are moldering in their graves. ”The blood cries out from the ground.”

”During Xtha-cka Zbi-ga Tze-the, the Killer of the Flowers Moon.
I will wade across the river of the blackfish, the otter, the beaver.
I will climb the bank where the willow never dies.”

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Change Agent By:Daniel Suarez

Change AgentChange Agent by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mr. Suarez writes great scifi and now has moved into techo thrillers and it IS AWESOME. Imagine the movie Faceoff written way the hell better and you get the point, this will be short and sweet, but if you love very high scifi and future police style stories, this will make your day.

View all my reviews

American War By:Omar El Akkad

American WarAmerican War by Omar El Akkad
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was powerful and massively frightening, as a Southerner, I can totally see this occuring and it scares me to death. A tale of the second civil war in America that in all honesty feels almost timeless, it could almost have easily been the first civil war.

Horrible times, lawlessness, death and disease at every corner and so tangibly possible it hurts to read it. Powerful storytelling and characters and as a lifelong Mississippian, ripped out my heart in places, but that is a good thing.

Read this book.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 24, 2017

An Easy Company Soldier In His Own Words

Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II's Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II's "Band of Brothers" by Don Malarkey
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What fascinating insight to an incredible, horrible time in recent history. Don Malarkey, a regular guy from Oregon, has written quite an impressive autobiography about his extraordinary WWII experiences.


And believe it or not, as of this day Sept 26, 2016, he's still alive.

His service is well documented here, but you may also know him from the engrossing Spielberg/Hank tv series Band of Brothers. If you've seen the series, you know much of Malarkey's wartime story. If you're intrigued enough to learn more, Easy Company Soldier is an excellent way to discover the backstory of one of the men on the frontline.

Consider all that this man has done: his heroism and courage in the face of death; his youth devoted to a career in soldiering; and yet, he is also able to write a better bio than a few professional writers I've read. Amazing. Simply amazing.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In “The Prisoner”, his eleventh John Wells novel, Alex Berenson continues his intelligent espionage/ thrillers that probe the possible threat of Islamic terrorists obtaining weapons of mass destruction while showing how human intelligence gathering can thwart these threats. Berenson continues to exhibit a keen eye for threats that are possibly in the reach of terrorists. Here it is an agent that has been used by terrorists in Japan and Syria against its own citizens. The threat is real. At the same time, Berenson’s main characters remain real, their abilities, in line with real people and not overdone.

At the center of why Berenson remains a must read in this category is the great is John Wells, a character who embodies the best characteristics of intelligence agents.<br /><br />John Wells is humanized by a home life. His ex girlfriend Anne has had a baby girl and Wells is learning to be a father. So there is for the first time a little balance to his life. But these are not books where we are going to probe the dichotomy of his life as a father and a killer. The home life is a sidelight. These are intelligence / espionage / thrillers. And despite his home life, Wells still has the itch to return to the spy business.

While at the same time that we witness an American mission in the contested Mideast go sideways, Wells learns of a possible mole in the CIA, who is feeding intelligence to Islamic terrorists, who are using it thwart American missions in the Middle East. The source of the intelligence is a Bulgarian spy, who runs a prison holding terrorists overseas for the United States. Wells and Shafer team up again. Wells wants to assume a Islamic terrorist persona and infiltrate the prison, while Shafer will run a probe against 4 top level CIA executives to see if he can figure out who is the mole.

The novel unwinds a little slowly, Wells, a man in top shape, must lean himself out so he has the look of an itinerant terrorist, who has been on the run in the Middle East. His program to get in shape could be captured in a few short paragraphs, and Shafer’s investigation seems in some respects to be a non-starter as “Wayne” the mole is firmly entrenched in his plotting. Berenson drops clues early on revealing some facts about the mole that the reader can use to figure out his identity.

But Berenson takes the opportunity to escalate the novel, by setting up a terrorist plot to use nerve gas against Americans. And the mole is deeply involved in the plan. Berenson does show how hard it would be for a Non State actor to produce a nerve gas, but that it can be accomplished. It’s an eye opening discussion.

Once Wells gets himself into shape, the plan is for him to be captured by US agents in the Middle East, but of course, nothing goes according to plan. The Mole makes moves against Wells and Wells also has to take steps to protect himself from kidnappers, who obviously were unprepared for Wells training and fighting prowess.

Once Wells finally makes it to the prison in Bulgaria, the action really starts to heat up. There are murderous Bulgarian gangs to thwart while at the same time gaining the trust of the Arab prisoners. Intelligence is learned, and Wells takes his knowledge of an unknown plot to France, where while nursing wounds from the prison, he must find a well concealed terrorist, who with the Mole is planning a vigorous attack on the West.

The last half of “The Prisoner” showcases John Wells unique trademark skills, the ability to blend into the Arab world, gain intelligence, pick up just a few words, a sneaker brand even, and put the pieces together to ferret out the terrorist plot. I motored through this part of this novel. And again, Berenson’s story is not about drone warfare or teams of super soldiers fighting the terrorists. Maybe that is because John Wells is a lone wolf agent, but I find it more realistic.<

It’s a good read, slowly building to a tight confrontation with lives on the line, exhibiting all the trademarks of the Berenson John Wells novels.

You Will Know Me

You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Katie and Eric Knox will do anything for their gymnast prodigy Devon. When the boyfriend of one of her gymnastic instructors die, will Katie be able to keep their idyllic life from disintegrating around them?

Here we are, another Megan Abbott book and another series of cold knives in my heart. At first glance, I thought this might be similar to Dare Me, Megan's book about cheerleaders. You Will Know Me is about the parents of star gymnasts and the crazy shit they do for their kids.

From the first page, I knew I'd wolf this down like it was a brisket sandwich. All the dark hints of the coming train wreck were like a fishhook through my eyelids. I was powerless to look away as the lives of the Knox family and the rest of the gymnastic families were torn asunder.

The Knox family were as realistic a depiction of the alien world of elite gymnasts that I can fathom. Eric was the charming dad, Katie the doting mother, and Drew the little brother that wound up getting pushed into the background a lot of the time. Devon was the star, the thoroughbred the Knox family and most of the families at the gym pinned their hopes on. I hated that damn Gwen Weaver!

You Will Know me raises a lot of questions about families. How well can you really know someone, even if you've been with them for the better part of a decade? How far would you go for your kids?

Ryan's death scrapes open a lot of wounds and unearths a lot of dark secrets. I gasped aloud like a 1950s housewife when one of the twists was revealed but, even then, the Megster had a couple more twists to throw at me. Once again, she was the matador and I was the bull.

The writing was fantastic. It's been fascinating to watch Megan develop as a writer as I've devoured her books over the last few years. I lost track of lines I wanted to read out loud, bent on finishing it before bedtime.

I will share this gem:
the things you want, you never get them. And if you do, they're not what you thought they'd be. But you'd still do anything to keep them. Because you'd wanted them for so long.

There are other suspense writers that get more press but Megan Abbott's girl-noir tales are the best things going today. Five out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 21, 2017

Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror

Mark Matthews et al.
Wicked Run Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


The intoxication from a pint of vodka, the electric buzz from snorting cocaine, the warm embrace from shooting heroin--drinking and drugging provide the height of human experience. It's the promise of heaven on earth, but the hell that follows is a constant hunger, a cold emptiness. The craving to get high is an intense yearning not unlike that of any other blood-thirsty monster.

The best way to tell the truths of addiction is through a story, and dark truths such as these need a piece of horror to do them justice.

The stories inside feature the insidious nature of addiction told with compassion yet searing honesty. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental deaths, and some of the most incredible names in horror fiction have tackled this modern day epidemic.

My Review

As a person who has dabbled in illicit drugs and gone through periods of excessive alcohol use, I feel fortunate not to have succumbed to addiction like some of my friends and family members have. Even though I now drink little and haven’t touched drugs in years, I understand the allure of drugs and alcohol and how difficult it can be for the addict to stop using. While the decision to use drugs is mostly voluntary, for many people it takes a lot more than willpower to stop. That is why effective education about the dangers of drugs, prevention measures, and treatment for addicts and their family members is crucial. I feel for those who are coping with an addicted friend or family member. I’ve been there. It can wear you out emotionally and physically. A little empathy, however, goes a long way.

Thanks to Mark Matthews for providing me with this compelling, moving, and devastating collection of stories that compassionately portrays the effects of addiction on users and those who love them. It deeply unsettled me, invaded my dreams, and brought back some painful memories. Addiction is indeed a human tragedy. I agree with Mark when he says in the introduction, “The best way to tell the truths of addiction is through a story, and dark truths such as these need a piece of horror to do them justice.”

The stories:

★★★★★ A Wicked Thirst by Kealan Patrick Burke. I have a number of KPB’s books on my Kindle, but haven’t read them yet. There is no better time than now! Told from the alcoholic’s perspective, this reader felt his keen thirst and slow destruction. This story was so deeply affecting and powerful that I set aside my half-finished glass of wine.

★★★★★ The One in the Middle by Jessica McHugh. After finishing this amazing story, I learned it is an excerpt from The Green Kangaroos, which I promptly purchased and eagerly look forward to. In a near-future world, where Atlys is a popular street drug most effective when injected into the testicles and the rich have developed a taste for unusual dishes, we learn about Perry Samson and journey on his path toward ruination. This story left me feeling sad and horrified, yet needing to know the characters more and spending time in their world. Is it wrong for me to want to hug Perry? One of my favorite stories in this collection.

★★★ Everywhere You’ve Bled and Everywhere You Will by Max Booth III – Jeremy is a recovering heroin addict, but the people in his life and a series of bizarre events lead him to relapse. Blood I can handle, but spiders? Eek! I liked the energetic pace of this story and the dash of humor. Towards the end, it got a little too weird for me and failed to make a real impact.

★★★★ First, Just Bite a Finger by Johann Thorsson – When we think of addiction, we mostly think of drugs and alcohol. In this potent little flash fiction, we get to see how difficult it is to quit.

★★★★ Last Call by John F.D. Taff – Though Ted attends meetings, he is having a hard time staying sober. His well-meaning sponsor provides him with a quick cure. Ted learns the hard way that there are no shortcuts to sobriety. This story packed a punch and brought a tear to my eye.

★★★ Torment of the Fallen by Glen Krisch – Only Maggie’s online acquaintances on the paranormal boards know she can see demons. When a homeless man posts on a forum she visits regularly, Maggie travels hundreds of miles to see the father who abandoned her and help take away his demons. But demons always lie and never welsh on their deals.

★★★★★ Garden of Fiends by Mark Matthews – This story is told in alternating perspectives, by Tara Snyder, a heroin addict and Gregory Snyder, the father who tries desperately to protect her. There is an interesting cast of characters that help add depth to the story and magnify difficulties faced by the characters. There is Tara’s addict boyfriend, Brett, Gregory’s wife, Heather, who lovingly tends the urban garden that feeds her soul and all the neighbors, and the homeless man, Lorenzo. Gregory’s good intentions go awry. Addiction affects everyone who cares about the addict. A heartbreaking story and one of my favorites in this collection.

★★★★ Returns by Jack Ketchum – I love ghost stories and this one is so poignant and humane, not at all the gorefest I would expect from Jack Ketchum. Jill’s alcoholism starts gradually and worsens when her husband of six years dies after getting hit by a cab. Dying is far less painful than the ghostly visit to his wife and seven-year-old cat.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Doctor Strange: Season One

Doctor Strange: Season OneDoctor Strange: Season One by Greg Pak
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Doctor Stephen Strange seeks out the Ancient One for the magic to heal his hands.
After speaking to the Ancient One and an encounter with Baron Mordo, Stephen decides to stay and train. After learning of magical rings Stephen and Wong head out to secure them with the help of a young woman.

Dr. Strange Season One seems like a different Dr. Strange story. Clearly the story is being reinvisioned, but I'm not familiar enough with his original story to know how much is different or the same. The biggest surprise for me is that Wong is not only a student of the ancient one, but that he's so antagonistic towards Stephen.
This story read like an extra magic version of the Lord of the Rings, enough that the author jokingly calls their female companion their hobbit on multiple occasions.

Dr. Strange Season One is an OK story, but I'm not sure it provides the most accurate portrayal of Dr. Strange and Wong.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Phantom Pains (The Arcadia Project 2) By: Mishell Baker

Phantom Pains (The Arcadia Project, #2)Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the first book of this series and honestly, this one is stronger, BUT I gave it slightly lower rating...why you ask? (no, you didn't ask..but I'm writing this )

I'll tell you later, The Arcadia Project is a fresh, inventive and deeply human. As a person who has suffered from depression (no spoilers) I really identify with the premise and throughly enjoy that the characters are flawed and not perfect.

That being said, I think the main character and the illness she deals with and it an important part of her being, in this got to me. It hit a bit close to home, so I dock it a star for making me think about the past, STILL..a great read go get book one and this and get with it

View all my reviews

Monday, April 17, 2017

Aesop's Fables

Aesop's FablesAesop's Fables by Aesop
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These moral lessons were my bible.

...when I wasn't made to learn my bible as a kid.

The other day I realized I didn't know all of Aesop's Fables. Certainly I've read a few and heard many more, but I'd never sat down and read the whole thing. So I rectified that.

Now I can see why some of the lesser known fables are lesser known. Not every one of these often-anthropomorphic tales of animals wise and woeful is a winner. None are terrible, but every once in a while one of them doesn't quite resinate.

A Cock is walking around the farm and sees a pearl. He excitedly picks it up. The other cocks laugh. "You may have a treasure," one says, "but I'd rather have corn any day."

Moral: The ignorant despise what is precious only because they cannot understand it.

However, most of them knock the moral lesson right out of the park and make for a solid basis of wisdom with which to live a decent life by.

The Tortoise and the Hare - Slow and steady wins the race.
The Crow and the Pitcher - Use your wits.
Belling the Cat - Saying you'll do something is one thing, doing it is quite another.
The Ants and the Grasshopper - Work before play.
The Young Crab and His Mother - Lead by example.

There's others about humility and being a good person to your fellow man, but I'm not awake right now and can't seem to find them online. Trust me, they're there.

View all my reviews

Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire 2) By: Yoon Ha Lee

Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire #2)Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you have not read Ninefox Gambit, DO IT. This is how hard scifi should be done, wild ideas, vivid worldscapes and the limits of science and space and physics stretched out to the max.

Raven Stratagem continues that trend, A world that reminds me of the brutality of warhammer and the strangeness of the Iain Banks Culture series. Jedeo, one of the leads, I totally love. He is a total weapon, smarter than everyone (in this world that says something) and 41433984 steps beyond everyone else, and APE CRAP crazy, made my day.

IF you are a scifi person, give Mr Lee your money and read this series, it will make your week.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lion's Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling

Lion's Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro WrestlingLion's Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling by Chris Charlton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lion's Pride is the story of New Japan Pro Wrestling.

As with a lot of guys my age who were wrestling fans during the 1980s and 1990s, Japanese wrestling always held some mystique. I didn't see a single Japanese wrestling match until the dawn of the internet made it much easier to get tapes and such. Lion's Pride lifts the veil and reveals the inner workings of one of Japan's biggest wrestling organizations.

As with all talk of Japanese wrestling, the book starts with Rikidozan and the Japanese Wrestling Association. From there, it follows the career of Antonio Inoki and his formation of New Japan. The many exoduses of talent are covered and New Japans ups and downs are many. Antonio Inoki, like many owner-wrestlers, booked himself over the rest of the talent time and time again. It's a wonder New Japan survived long enough for him to retire.

The book talked a lot of the creation of stars like Tatsumi Fujinami and Riki Choshu in the 1980s, Keiji Muto, Masa Chono, and Shinya Hashimoto in the 1990s, and Tanahashi and others for the new millennium. The book concludes in 2015, with the rise of Bullet Club and the launch of New Japan's streaming service.

Lion's Pride was really informative, highlighting some backstage stuff I wasn't privy to and expanding on a lot of things I'd only read about on Wikipedia. The writing was pretty good for a book of this type. I did think the organization was a little weird, deviating from the main narrative to talk about completely unrelated things. For the most part, however, the book did what it set out to do. Three out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sticks & Stones

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


Six months after nearly losing their lives to a serial killer in New York City, FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are suffering through something almost as frightening: the monotony of desk duty. When they're ordered to take a vacation for the good of everyone's sanity, Ty bites the bullet and takes Zane home with him to West Virginia, hoping the peace and quiet of the mountains will give them the chance to explore the explosive attraction they've so far been unable to reconcile with their professional partnership. Ty and Zane, along with Ty's father and brother, head up into the Appalachian mountains for a nice, relaxing hike deep into the woods... where no one will hear them scream. They find themselves facing danger from all directions: unpredictable weather, the unrelenting mountains, wild animals, fellow hikers with nothing to lose, and the most terrifying challenge of all. Each other.

My Review

It’s just as well FBI agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are required to take a mandatory vacation after failing their psychological evaluations. Six months later, they are still haunted by the Tri-State murders. A relaxing hike, a chance for the guys to explore their simmering attraction, and spending time with Ty’s family is just what they need.

“If Zane could survive a trip to West Virginia to meet the Gradys, he could live through anything. Like a cockroach.”

It’s not that easy, though, as both guys are great at keeping a lid on their emotions. On top of that, they are each dealing with issues from their pasts. Zane is hurting from the death of his wife and recovering from an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Ty is a former Marine who is suffering from PTSD, troubled by nightmares and flashbacks.

While this story is not as action-packed as the first, there are very gripping moments that had this reader flipping pages well into the evening. It began with the mysterious ATV tracks and ended with Ty’s sorry encounter with a cougar. Though they have to deal with bad guys on the trail, the focus of this story was on Ty’s and Zane’s deepening relationship and the interaction with Ty’s family.

I especially liked Ty’s brother, Deacon, who is a psychiatrist and more aware of how Ty and Zane feel about each other than they are themselves. His mother, Mara, is warm, loving, protective, and bakes amazing pies. Ty’s father, Earl, has a gruff, military bearing. The complicated relationship he has with his sons made it difficult for me to warm up to him, but there was no question his love was strong, especially when Ty’s life was in danger.

Just like in the first book, there were unbelievable scenes and stupid mistakes made. The writing style seems a bit more controlled, or maybe I’m just getting used to it. I love the slow-burning romance, the humorous banter, and the tension in Ty’s and Zane’s relationship.

“What he was afraid of, he’d come to realize, was not dark spaces or falling from great heights or being buried alive. His greatest fears, in the end, were letting down those he loved and saying the words “I love you” without any hope of hearing them in return.”

I’m enjoying this series so far and look forward to more danger and thrills, as well as seeing Ty and Zane overcoming their fears and insecurities.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir

Darth Maul - Son of DathomirDarth Maul - Son of Dathomir by Jeremy Barlow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Darth Maul and his Shadow Collective are in disarray from Darth Sidious's actions.
Maul's Mandalorians have a plan to save him.
Maul's mother intends to help him eradicate Darth Sidious.

Son of Danthomir wasn't as good as the previous comics because it got prequel gunk all over it. It has the disappointing General Grevious (who never received a decent introduction to the film series), Count Dooku, and the Droid armies. It just is less fun thinking about what Maul might have been when I have to see all that garbage. I now realize this comics and it's predecessor directly tie into the Clone Wars TV show. I imagine the creators didn't want the two series storylines to go to waste so it was utilized in comic form.

2.5 out of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Cannery RowCannery Row by John Steinbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Doc would listen to any kind of nonsense and turn it into wisdom. His mind had no horizon and his sympathy had no warp. He could talk to children, telling them very profound things so that they understood. He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement. He was concupiscent as a rabbit and gentle as hell. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him. And everyone who thought of him thought next, 'I really must do something nice for Doc.’”

 photo Cannery20Row_zpsuqwq6fdw.jpg
Cannery Row

Doc is one of those fictional characters that never leaves a reader’s memory. This book is dedicated to a man by the name of Ed Ricketts who was a marine biologist with a lab, like Doc, on Cannery Row in Monterey, California. Whenever I discover that a fictional character is based on a real person, it seems to lend extra life to that fictional person. It puts bones under the skin and blood in the veins.

It becomes evident, very quickly, how much John Steinbeck admired Ricketts. The biologist has a profound impact on his writing and also on the writing of Joseph Campbell, who, like Steinbeck, lived in Monterey and spent as much time in Ricketts’s lab as possible. The influence of Ricketts on Steinbeck is palpable in The Pearl, Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, The Log of the Sea of Cortez, The Moon is Down, and The Grapes of Wrath. Ricketts’ death, killed tragically young when his car is hit by a Del Monte Express Train just up the hill from Cannery Row, has a profound impact on many people. Steinbeck’s writing suffers after the death of his friend, and in the opinion of many critics, his writing after 1948 is diminished, except for his final epic East of Eden.

 photo Edward20Ricketts_zps7jbedciu.jpg
Edward Ricketts

It makes me wonder, would we know John Steinbeck’s name if he’d never met Ed Ricketts? Or what if he had never been influenced by what he experienced while living in Cannery Row?

It is a place at the right time tailor made to inspire a writer.

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, "whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches," by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen’ and he would have meant the same thing.”

Lee Chong runs the grocery store which is really a general store because you can find just about anything that you need and most things you never knew you wanted. Lee never discounts. Everything is the price it was when it was first carried in the door. He “rents out” a building he acquired as trade for an overdue grocery bill to a group of layabout guys who work when they have to, but choose not to work when they absolutely don’t need any money. It was interesting to see a bit into the mind of Lee as he ponders the universe and weighs the benefits and risks of any investment. He has an ongoing financial battles with the boys from The Palace Flophouse and Grill, which is the rather creative name the guys decided to use to refer to the Lee Chong storage shed, as they try to tempt him into their many doomed enterprises.

There is also Dora Flood who manages the Bear Flag Restaurant, but she is more accurately described as Madam Flood as the Bear Flag Restaurant isn’t a restaurant, but a whorehouse. She gives twice as much to charitable organizations as anyone else. She bends over backwards (Not so much over a bed anymore) to help people in need. She never turns a whore out when they get too old to be productive. "Some of them don't turn three tricks a month, but they go right on eating three meals a day." She is a whore with the heart of gold, but with an astute head for trying to not agitate the more conservative wives of the community.

 photo Ed20Rickettss20lab_zpsv5cs5le6.jpg
Ed Ricketts’s lab on Cannery Row.

Doc is lonely, but he isn’t alone. He doesn’t have a John Steinbeck living next door or a Joseph Campbell living down the street, but he never seems to lack for female companionship. Whenever the Sistine Choir or Gregorian Chants can be heard coming from Doc’s laboratory everyone knows he is in the midst of wooing well on his way to fornicating.

Doc takes a road trip down the coast of California to collect some specimens for his laboratory. We travel along with him and as the towns are listed off...Salinas, Gonzales, King City, Paso Robles, Santa Maria, and Santa Barbara I had a distinct heart pain of longing for the Golden State. He stops off frequently to sample the local cuisine and also manages to cross a very unusual concoction off his bucket list. “If a man ordered a beer milkshake he'd better do it in a town where he wasn't known.” He orders more than once while on this trip a healthy slice of pineapple and blue cheese pie. It sounds so weird that I have to try it.

Steinbeck sprinkles in some poetry from Black Marigolds by E. Powys Mathers. It is sensual and evocative poetry.

Even now
Death sends me the flickering of powdery lids
Over wild eyes and the pity of her slim body
All broken up with the weariness of joy;
The little red flowers of her breasts to be my comfort
Moving above scarves, and for my sorrow
Wet crimson lips that once I marked as mine.

Steinbeck includes several stanzas and with each one I read my appreciation for Mathers continued to grow.

 photo Cannery_row_poster_small_zpsjb2tcquu.jpg

This book is an ode to a friend, an ode to a period of time when I can tell Steinbeck may have felt most alive, and it is an ode to Cannery Row. A perfect storm of diverse elements that contributed to making Steinbeck one of the Great American Writers. There is a film version of the book starring Nick Nolte and Debra Winger which I have queued up to watch sometime this week. It looks like they muck up the film version with a love story, but I will reserve judgment until I’ve actually watched it.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder, #1) By: Brian McClellan

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

Yet another in my series of digging into my stack :) Weirdly enough, I didn't finish the first trilogy, not because I didn't like it, (it was amazing) I just got sidetracked, soooooooooooo I went looking into the files and found this.

THIS is terrific, easily the best thing I have read from Mr McClellan, and I WILL go back and finish the first trilogy now. If you want a fresh take on fantasy and a slightly different view, read this stuff todayyyyyyyy.

View all my reviews

Miserere: An Autumn Tale by: Teresa Frohock

Miserere: An Autumn TaleMiserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally had hit the bottom of my reading stack and was looking around for things to read, I saw that a few goodread folks I trust had read this, and being the hoarder I am...I HAD it, but never cracked it.

Yay for boredom, and for once I took reviewers advice, This is an amazing world and a great tale, I loved the twist on the religious aspects and I felt for the characters and you could FEEL the good and evil in this story.

Step out if you haven't read this, and do.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 10, 2017

Rip Van Magoo

Rip Van WinkleRip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh Magoo, you've done it again! I read Rip Van Winkle when I was a kid at some point in time, and yet I remembered it best from the Mr. Magoo animated version.

I couldn't find that old nearsighted thespian's take on the Irving classic, but here's his rendition on Frankenstein. Bloody masterpiece!

Perhaps basing your knowledge of literature on a super-condensed, 20 minute version of a novel hundreds of pages long isn't a sound idea, but in the case of the quite short Rip Van Winkle it actually was just fine. Having reread it and matching it up with my recollection of the cartoon, which admittedly I haven't seen in about 30 years, I think it holds up well.

Hahaha...wouldn't Washington Irving be proud to be reading this review if he could? To have his enduring work reduced to its questioned quality in condensed cartoon form; "My god," I imagine him saying, "what an honor!"

This story of a wastrel (quite familiar to me in the form of folks I've known) gone off the reservation only to return bewildered to an unfamiliar home is a great piece of European folklore carried over to America. Bewitching beings beyond the fringe (yes, I'm stealing the phrase from Cook & Dudley) played a big role in the faerie stories of "the old country". It's nice to see them transplant so well to the wooded reaches of colonial (on the cusp of post) America.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Night of the Living Trekkies

Night of the Living TrekkiesNight of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a zombie outbreak hits a Star Trek convention, it's up to Jim Pike, hotel manager, to get his sister and her friends out alive...

This showed up in my ebook deals a couple days ago. I'm a Star Trek fan and I liked zombies before the concept was run into the ground so this promised to be some brain-chomping good fun.

And it was. There are plenty of Star Trek references for the Trekkers and lots of zombie goodness for the fans of the reanimated. When you've got Klingons, a woman dressed like Princess Leia in the bikini from Return of the Jedi, and a red shirt named Willy Makit, you can't help but have a good time. While the Star Trek piece supplies the humor of the book, it doesn't go to a ridiculous level and the zombies still feel like a viable threat.

Jim Pike, a veteran of Afghanistan, denies the depths of his Star Trek fandom until it counts, and he steps into his Captain's tunic admirably. The book wound up feeling like Die Hard with zombies more than anything else.

Night of the Living Trekkies is a fun diversionary read. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 7, 2017

Cut & Run

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


A series of murders in New York City has stymied the police and FBI alike, and they suspect the culprit is a single killer sending an indecipherable message. But when the two federal agents assigned to the investigation are taken out, the FBI takes a more personal interest in the case.

Special Agent Ty Grady is pulled out of undercover work after his case blows up in his face. He's cocky, abrasive, and indisputably the best at what he does. But when he's paired with Special Agent Zane Garrett, it's hate at first sight. Garrett is the perfect image of an agent: serious, sober, and focused, which makes their partnership a classic cliche: total opposites, good cop-bad cop, the odd couple. They both know immediately that their partnership will pose more of an obstacle than the lack of evidence left by the murderer.

Practically before their special assignment starts, the murderer strikes again this time at them. Now on the run, trying to track down a man who has focused on killing his pursuers, Grady and Garrett will have to figure out how to work together before they become two more notches in the murderer's knife.

My Review

There was so much wrong with this book: the writing style (switching POVs within the same chapter), the dialogues that felt off, the feats of strength performed with serious injuries, the unbelievable scenarios that had me shaking my head at times. The sole purpose for women in this story were to be killed or to be used as a sperm receptacle.

If poor writing drives you nuts, give this one a pass. Do not read this if you enjoy clever mysteries, efficient police work and effective investigations. Sloppy detective work abounds, and the FBI are made to look like a bunch of bumbling incompetents. I figured out the villain in no time at all, and you will too. The villian’s methods and twisted mind, however, captured my interest and I enjoyed the incorporation of classic stories.

Despite these egregious flaws, I gobbled up this story like it was the last meal before execution. It was funny, sexy and suspenseful. I loved the prickly Ty and Zane, their anger, fights, their inability to communicate, and their swoon-worthy sharing of feelings.

““You said I wouldn’t miss you.” He drew in a long breath, and his voice was even quieter when he spoke again. “You were wrong.””
“I can’t concentrate on anything, not when all I can think about is you.”

On to the next book!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers

Lockjaw and the Pet AvengersLockjaw and the Pet Avengers by Chris Eliopoulos
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reed Richards approaches the Inhuman Royal Family to obtain their help locating the infinity gems and keeping them from Thanos. Lockjaw just happens to locate the mind gem
and after trying to alert the humans,
he teleports off to find some animal assistance.
Lockjaw's Pet Avengers are born.

I read Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers because of the number one Inhuman canine Lockjaw. It's a shame that every other character could talk, but he couldn't. He had some sort of telepathic link with Throg, the frog of Thunder, but no words left the big dog's month. The story isn't bad as long as you enjoy an intelligent animal story where they know what's best and the humans are clueless.

I have to say this story would have probably been better if Lockjaw was solo. The other Pet Avengers didn't add much and I had never heard of Hairball or Ms. Lion. The others helped out, but Lockjaw did the heavy lifting, most of the time.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made EnglandThe Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”A king who fights to defend his right has a better claim on his inheritance. Struggle and largesse allow a king to gain glory and territory.” --Bertran de Born

 photo 93a83671-a140-4230-864d-fa871fe436fe_zpsis9y9rce.png
Empress Matilda

It all begins with a shipwreck.

200 of the most beautiful and powerful men and women of England and Normandy board The White Ship to travel from Normandy to England. They are exuberantly drunk, and the crew of the ship is also three sheets to the wind. Out of all of these important people, there is one who is head and shoulders more important than the rest...William the Aetheling, named for his grandfather William the Conqueror. He is the heir apparent to the throne of England.

The 17 year old drowns along with everyone else.

Henry I is not only devastated by the loss of his son, but also knows that the death of William has put his kingdom in jeopardy, for he has no other legitimate sons.

Call it fate or luck or insight, but Stephen of Blois, cousin of William, is also a member of that party, but he elects not to join the others on that ship. He books passage on a different boat with a crew maybe not completely sober, but less intoxicated. He survives the passage to England.

When Henry dies, he tries to leave his kingdom to his daughter Matilda. He brings all the important, most powerful men of England to his death bed and makes them swear allegiance to his daughter. They do, but they must have had the fingers of their left hand, as they held the hand of the King with their right hand, crossed behind their backs.

The crown has barely settled on the head of Matilda before it is violently knocked off. Stephen of Blois, who is also a grandchild of William the Conqueror, becomes King. England descends into a costly, bloody civil war. Matilda is supported by her half brother Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester, who is by all accounts an honorable and capable leader and probably, if he had been legitimate, would have made a very good king.

 photo Geoffrey_of_Anjou_Monument_zpskek1uhlm.jpg
Geoffrey of Anjou, the donor of sperm.

Matilda married Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, and starts having babies, almost in a mercenary sense because her goal is to see a son of hers on the throne of England. Plantagenet is from the latin planta genista, meaning sprig of broom. Geoffrey adorns himself with the yellow flower of this shrub, and the nickname sticks. He is a warm, expansive man whom people adore. Now by all accounts I’ve read, Matilda is condescending, cold, and a manipulating woman, not well liked by those of high breeding or low breeding. Geoffrey, luckily, is a man among men because he braves the frigid landscape of her bed and produces three healthy sons, though I have visions of Empress Matilda being one of the first dominatrixes in history with a whip and a commanding voice instructing Geoffrey to mount up or bear the consequences.

I have a particular interest in the Plantagenets due to a marriage between James Ives and Anna Ashley in 1799, which happens to also be the year that George Washington dies. Now, James and Anna are my 4th great grandparents. My mother was an Ives, and I am directly descended from James. Anna was of a bluestocking family of Vermont. Her father, Elisha Ashley, served with the Green Mountain Boys in the Revolutionary War and also is the patriot who allowed me to join the Sons of the American Revolution. I’m not really sure how James landed such a catch because little is known about him. I like to think that he was a charmer. Anna is not only of a good American family, but she is also descended from the Kings and Queens of England.

Previously, I had believed that my connection with the throne of England ended with Henry III, who ascended the throne as a 9 year old after the death of his odious father, King John. When Henry’s son Edward took the throne, I was the victim of primogeniture as I am descended from the second son, Edmund Crouchback.

 photo Edmund20Crouchback_zpsgyh4vq8p.jpg
Edmund Crouchback depicted with St. George.

Great name, eh? The Crouchback refers to the crossed back and his service in the 9th Crusade. Well as it turns out, Edmund might be off the throne but, when his great granddaughter Blanche of Lancaster marries her cousin Henry IV, his descendents do reach the throne once again.

One needs a scorecard and vast wall spaces for family trees to keep track of the genealogy of the Plantagenet family. Dan Jones does provide some very nice maps and family trees that are a constant source of references to me.

Henry II, the first son conceived in that frigid marriage bed of Matilda and Geoffrey, now King of England after some more bloody fighting with King Stephen, marries the amazing Eleanor of Aquitaine. I believe she is the only woman to marry the King of France and the King of England in history. She is intelligent, educated, and powerful in her own right. She is a catch for any man, even a king. ”Eleanor had been a magnificent queen whose influence had straddled three important reigns and who had loved and guided her sons even when they behaved unwisely.”

Their third son, Richard Ist the Lionheart, becomes King of England. He spends so much time out of England that his brother John, the fifth son and baby of the family, tries to take over England. Doesn’t really work because, once Richard returns, John’s support folds up like tent in a gale force wind. John does reach the throne when Richard dies from a crossbow arrow after exposing himself needlessly to danger.

Now there is an interesting fly in the ointment of absolute power for John. His brother Geoffrey, who is the brother between Richard and John, has a son named Arthur of Brittany, who by the rules of primogeniture should have been King of England after Richard. Richard, in fact, had named Arthur as his heir whenever he left England.

The problem for John goes away when Arthur mysteriously disappears. Dan Jones offers an explanation, but I will let you read the book and see what you think. John is half the man that his brother Richard is, illustrated best by his contemporaries who refer to him as John Softsword.

 photo King20John20Magna20Carta_zpsz3y6reft.jpg
King John signing the Magna Carta

John mismanages the affairs of the kingdom and alienates almost everyone. He raises money by kidnapping the mistresses and children of priests and extorting the priests for money for their safe return. He makes widows pay huge fines to remarry. He tries to seduce wives and daughters of his supporters. The affairs of the kingdom are in disarray, and he keeps ceding more and more of the kingdom that his father and brother built to the French. All of these weaknesses of John’s eventually lead to one of the most famous documents in English and world history. The Magna Carta is signed on the 15th of June 1215. Basically, the lords of the land are tired of his shit and want to share more of the power. For the first time in history, controls and rules are imposed on a king.

John’s son Henry III becomes king of England at age 9. His main contribution to history is that he renounces his claims to empire and becomes a peer of the King of France. Henry II is rolling around in his crypt.

Fortunately for England, his son Edward I is made of sterner stuff and is a strikingly tall and virile man. The nickname the Scots give him is Longshanks. He is a good tactician and builds the English army into a fearsome fighting force that conquers the Scots and the Welsh at every turn.

His son Edward II is a weak, ineffectual ruler who surrounds himself with his young peers who prove to be unsuccessful in guiding Edward or the affairs of England. He prefers the company of his friends, such as Piers Gaveston, rather than his Queen Isabella, daughter of the King of France. She is not amused with his behavior nor in the way he treats her. She feels more like a maidservant who is getting bent over a chaise lounge from time to time rather than a daughter of a king. When the time is ripe, with the help of her husband’s numerous enemies, she overthrows him and installs her son as king. Rumor has it that she had her husband killed by having a hot poker inserted up his rectum as a commentary on his preference for his male friends, but Dan Jones believes this is just a story to further discredit her husband and strengthen her son’s hold on power.

 photo Edward20III_zpsc7nwloxa.jpg
Edward III

Edward III has a problem. He is underage, and it takes him years to wrest power from his mother and her lover. He does grow into a very good king, more like his grandfather, and wins numerous battles against the French, reclaiming much of the territory that was once held by Henry II and Richard I. The famous English longbow becomes the deadliest weapon on the field of battle under his reign. Everything is going well, but then his very capable son Edward the Black Prince, weakened by diseases acquired on his numerous journeys to fight in the Middle East, dies before he can become king. This is a devastating loss for Edward and for England. When Edward dies, Richard II comes to power at the age of 14.

Rewind the era of Edward II. Richard II puts his friends into positions of power they are hardly qualified for. He annoys the royal families. Numerous heads are lopped off when the lords have power, and then when Richard reasserts himself, more heads are parted from bodies.

There are so many points in the Plantagenet era when they should have lost power. John, Henry III, Edward II, and Richard II are all legitimately bad kings who could have ended the reign of the Plantagenet family. Fortunately, there are strong kings, such as Henry II, Richard I, Edward I, and Edward III, who prove to be powerful, capable rulers who, especially in the case of the two Edwards, overcome the incompetencies of their immediate predecessors.

Citizens of a realm will put up with a lot as long as their king is strong. They don’t mind dying for an effective king who shows leadership and ability, but they do mind dying for a weak king who is much more worried about his pleasures than the safety and concerns of his kingdom. Fortunately, there are men and women willing to stand up to those Plantagenet kings who prove unworthy, and thankfully, there are more capable members of the family available when they need them the most.

I know the Tudors have received more attention in recent years than their predecessors, the Plantagenets, mainly due to a strange fascination with Henry VIII and his numerous wives, but I think that most people will find this overview of the Plantagenets equally fascinating and might even discover themselves believing, as I do, that the Tudors are merely a ragtag band of usurpers to the true kings and queens who built England. Wonderful overview. Highly Recommended!

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Witchy Eye By: D.J. Butler

Witchy EyeWitchy Eye by D.J. Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very interesting and entertaining alt history/fantasy book I picked up on a whim. Solid, fun story, great characters and I really enjoyed the author's different take on our world.

I railed last year about "young adult" books and although I am not totally sure that this falls under that genre, I seem to be changing my mind slowly but surely about them.

This is totally worth your time to read, and I personally look forward to any future trips into this world.

View all my reviews