Friday, June 30, 2017

Happily Ever Before

Jaye Valentine
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


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

My Review

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

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

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Inhuman, Volume 2: Axis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017


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

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

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

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

 photo William20S.20Burroughs_zpsekemibib.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Money For (Doing) Nothing

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

Classic Wodehouse. Classic comedy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

L.A. Confidential

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Divide & Conquer

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


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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ending slayed me.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tyrant's Throne

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.5 out of 5 stars

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

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

go read it.

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Soleri By: Michael Johnston

SoleriSoleri by Michael Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

Definite worth your time, check it out.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

A Hardy Beat Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Big Nowhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Every Breath You Take

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


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

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

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

My Review

Well written, and a whole lot of fun!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017


They ThirstThey Thirst by Robert McCammon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”Death smiled---a boyish smile---through an old man’s eyes.

‘Welcome,’ he said.”

When you live in those Middle European countries like Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Serbia, you grow up hearing stories of monsters. The very air, the darkness, the looming mountains, and the shrieks... at the very heart of the night... that stirs people from a sound sleep with terror blooming in the midst of their waking nightmares, convinces even the most cynical of minds to believe that evil beings lurk in the shadows of their lives.

Andre Palatazin, a Los Angeles Detective, known in California by the more American name Andy, was born in Hungary. He would have grown up in Hungary except one night his father returned as one of those things he had went hunting for…


”Papa had said, ‘Watch my shadow.’”

Andy and his mother, fortunately, escaped to the city of Angels. They are far, far away from those nefarious creatures that turn a man’s spine to ice and a woman’s heart to glass. Palatazin is searching for a killer nicknamed by the press The Roach because he liked to stuff cockroaches in the mouths of his victims.

Palatazin is frustrated because his leads are just a handful of frayed, broken strings, and The Roach continues to thrive. Los Angeles is a city of victims. ”Most of the girls, hopeful starlets from every state in the country, were very pretty; perhaps they’d modeled once or twice or done bit parts or even starred in a skin flick or two, but now for a variety of reasons their luck had just turned bad. They were the throwaways, the tissues some agent, director, or disco smooth-talker had sneezed into and then tossed out with the trash. All of them potential victims.”

For The ROACH.

He changes his Modus Operandi. Wanna-be starlets keep disappearing, but their corpses are not being found. The stress of trying to catch this serial killer, who is scaring the bejesus out of people, is starting to catch up with Palatazin.

Little does he know that the weeks he has spent trying to catch The Roach will be looked back on with something akin to fondness. The Roach is a monster, but he is a monster we can wrap our heads around. He is about to be a plague of monsters.

Palatazin’s nightmares from Hungary have finally caught up with him.

”A hand and arm, as bone-white as marble and veined with blue, slithered out….”

What the hell is that?

”He pulled the sheet free from their faces...[They were] entwined together. Their faces were as white as carved stone, but what made Silvera almost cry out with terror was the fact that he could see their eyes through the thin, almost clear membranes of their closed eyelids. The eyes seemed to be staring right at him; they filled him with cold dread. He forced himself to reach down and feel the chests for heartbeats.

Their hearts weren’t beating. He felt for a pulse, found nothing.”

I’ve read a reasonable number of vampire books, and there are some good ones. I tend to like the ones that depict vampires the way they would be if they existed, feral, ferocious animals. The debonair, handsome, charming vampire that makes some women’s hearts go pitter patter and makes some men want to upchuck all over the plush leather seats of Stephenie Meyer’s Mercedes Benz is not the type of anemic monster you are going to find in this book.

These monsters...well…They Thirst.

Palatazin doesn’t have to be convinced that the “mythical” creatures from the nightmares of writers is real. He knows they are real, but convincing everyone else before it is too late is like asking for people to believe in the Easter Bunny. A man could be locked up with The Ghostbusters faster than he can say,...but really I’m not crazy. Unfortunately, it isn’t like Andy can laugh maniacally from his prison cell window as humanity is eviscerated and replaced by an army of fanged goons. Palatazin, for the people he loves and even humanity at large, has to find a way to to stop Prince Conrad Vulkan and his plan to subjugate the human race.

Meanwhile he can’t afford to lose his mind.


he won’t be alone.

”There are four who would destroy you. They approach even now, as you lie dreaming of glory. Four pieces---one is a knight, another is a bishop, a third is a rook, and the fourth is a pawn.”

Can they beat the gathering storm that threatens to turn daylight into perpetual night?

This book was published in 1981 and is a perfect example of those epic, somewhat bloated, horror books that are actually hefty enough to bash in the skull of a vampire, or swat the fanny of a recalcitrant werewolf, or put a large hole in the ectoplasm of an annoying ghost. I, for one, enjoyed the ride that Robert McCammon took me on. This was a bit of 1980s nostalgia that actually made me shudder more than once...those entwined, cocooned, hibernating beasts are still haunting my daymares and nightmares. *teeth chattering shiver of impending doom*

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Inhuman, Volume 1: Genesis

Inhuman, Volume 1: GenesisInhuman, Volume 1: Genesis by Charles Soule
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Black Bolt while battling Thanos set off a terrigen bomb. When the bomb went off a terrigen mist cloud spread across the world effecting any person with the Inhuman gene it comes in contact with. Attilan has fallen, Black Bolt is assumed dead, and Medusa is picking up the pieces while ruling the Inhumans.

So I'm on an Inhuman mission to see where Marvel takes them now that they've been chosen as the MCU's alternative to mutants (since they sold off the rights to use mutants in TV and movies and aren't likely to get them back). Inhuman Genesis was a pretty good volume and it's easy to see why they make a viable replacement for mutants.

Inhuman Genesis seems to realize one of the biggest issues with Inhumans is that there characters aren't that great overall. So thanks to the terrigen mist cloud they can create as many different Inhumans as they want. Some look basically the same as ever...
...and some look terrifyingly brutal...

Inhuman Genesis shows the possibilities for Inhumans are endless and I for one am excited to see what they do next.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by: Carol Burnett

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the SandboxIn Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Carol Burnett show was one of my first introduction's to comedy on television. It is to this day, a masterclass in how to do solid entertainment and this book telling the behind the scenes was a pure joy to read. Her love for show business and the sheer passion she put into her work inspires me.

I am a sucker for books like this, I always want to know what happens under the hood so to speak, if you are a child of these times, or if you want to enjoy some wonderful tv, read this book and watch the show where you can find it.

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The Kill Society (Sandman Slim #9) By: Richard Kadrey

The Kill Society (Sandman Slim, #9)The Kill Society by Richard Kadrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I make no bones about being an unabashed fan of this series, it in my opinion is urban fantasy done as it should be, in its best possible form.

The Kill Society starts in a bit of jam after the WTF ending of the last book. But Stark as usual meets all problems as he usually does, with a smart remark and a knife or two to the neck. The action does not fail to impress as usual and it seems that the action pieces in the stories are getting bigger and bigger, maybe to go all out in the next installment.

My only problem with this book is that the storytelling in my opinion seems to be losing a bit of steam, whether or not that is on purpose or not, I don't know...however..its still a ton of fun and kicks major ass.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

This Is How We Do It

This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike.This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike. by Augusten Burroughs
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't know this was going to be so self-helpy. I didn't know what to expect, to be honest. I just knew that a lot of my Goodreads friends were reading and mostly loving Augusten Burroughs' books, so I thought I'd give one a shot.

If I had to pinpoint my notions of what I was about to get into, I guess I was expecting something more akin to David Sedaris, but with a sharper edge and less humor. I read This Is How (let's just skip that ridiculously long subtitle) and, while I'm not sure the edge was much sharper, I did get less humor. It was replaced with a self-help directive.

We are going to fucking fix you, is This Is How's message. Sometimes it's almost shouted, but generally it's spoken in a calm, collected and sensible tone. Direct and to the point. It's not Sedaris-memoir, it's more like autobio-when-necessary-to-make-my-point.

No, not everything herein is going to work for you and your problems. Most of the time I felt like Augusten Burroughs hit the nail on the head. Every once in a while he smacked the board. Hey, he's only human. Hell, if he were perfect and had all the answers I'd call him something like New Jesus and begin collecting members for my cult.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet #1)The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elizabeth Short is found murdered and LAPD detectives Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard catch the case. Can Bleichert and Blanchard bring in her killer before the case destroys them both?

Some time around 2005, my local bookstore owner pushed this on me. At the time, the only detective books I'd read were The Maltese Falcon and a few Hard Case books. It took me a week to get through but it felt like spending a month in jail. The Black Dahlia was a game changer for me, a powerful book that made me see detective fiction in a different light. When it went on sale on the Kindle for $1.99 (and Kemper also started reading it), I figured it was time for a reread.

As I've said many times before, the magic of getting older is that old books become completely new books. I'd forgotten most of what transpired in The Black Dahlia so it was like being tied up and dragged down a gravel road all over again.

The Black Dahlia is the rise and fall of detective Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert, and Elizabeth Short, the dead woman who ultimately did him and his partner, Lee Blanchard, in. Bleichert and Blanchard bond over boxing and wind up being partners in Warrants until Elizabeth Short is found dead and mutilated, cut in half on the sidewalk. Both men wind up entangled with Elizabeth Short for different reasons. Blanchard wants to avenge her to make up for the sister he once lost and Bucky takes up when Lee goes missing.

This book is as noir as it comes, full of obsession, lies, death, sex, murder, pornography, and more lies and obsession. As with most books of this type, the mystery is eventually solved but not without costing everyone involved damn near everything in the process.

In the decade since I last read this, I've become desensitized by reading hundreds of crime books and been made more cynical by life in general but this book still packs one hell of a wallop. Much like Bucky, I was pretty obsessed by Elizabeth Short's murder and couldn't put the book down, as cliche as that sounds. Just like the first time I read it, I felt like I'd spent a few nights in jail when I was done, wrung out and ready for a couple beers.

Something else the passage of time has given me is how much Ellroy writes like a much darker Raymond Chandler. Ellroy's similes kick like an unlicensed .45 a cop carries just for emergencies and Dwight Bleichert is one of the most well-crafted characters in crime fiction. Lee Blanchard is not without his nuances, either. The relationship between Bucky, Kay, and Lee really lent itself to some crazy shit.

Honestly, the only thing I can think of to complain about is that Blanchard and Bleichert's names are too similar. The Black Dahlia is a must-read for all serious crime fiction fans. Five out of five stars.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Lola Dances

Victor J. Banis
MLR Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic and often bawdy, Lola Dances ranges from the 1850 slums of the Bowery to the mining camps of California and Montana, to the Barbary Coast of San Francisco.

Little Terry Murphy, pretty and effeminate, dreams of becoming a dancer. Raped by a drunken profligate and threatened with prison, Terry flees the Bowery and finds himself in the rugged settlement of Alder Gulch, where he stands out like a sore thumb among the camp's macho inhabitants--until the day he puts on a dress and dances for the unsuspecting miners as beautiful Lola Valdez--and wins fame, fortune and, ultimately, love.

My Review

Little Terry Murphy grew up poor in the rough Lower East Side of New York, and wants nothing more than to be a dancer. His small stature and effeminate appearance make him the target of bullies and the unwanted attention of a wealthy stranger who lurks outside his dressing room after practice. In the 19th century, not only was homosexuality considered immoral, it was also illegal. In order to avoid arrest, Terry and his tough, bad-tempered brother, Brian, flee the Bowery and head out west. While looking for work at a local saloon, Terry finally achieves his dream of becoming a dancer with the abrupt departure of the saloon’s main act. With a skilled application of make-up and an assortment of costumes, Terry is transformed into Lola Valdez, who becomes an overnight success in a small mining community. After a murder, Terry is again on the run, this time to San Francisco. Terry continues to be a hit as Lola Valdez. Despite Terry’s wealth and success, he is lonely and wants to be loved.

Terry’s earlier sexual encounters were fraught with guilt, shame and secrecy. Through an unexpected turn of events, and knowledge of his own heart, Terry finally finds the love and happiness he deserves.

Lola Dances is a suspenseful, gripping and heartwrenching story, rich with historical details and believable characters. I enjoyed the growth of Terry's character as he matures from a shy boy living in a harsh and violent environment, to a self-confident performer, to a young man who knows what he wants out of life and love.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Unworthy Thor

The Unworthy ThorThe Unworthy Thor by Jason Aaron
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Odinson learns that another mjornir exists
and he seeks to claim it for his own.

With the Unworthy Thor, I expected too much and got much less than I even dared to fear. Words can't truly express how disappointed I was with this. I unfortunately can't explain either without spoiling it for others. Suffice to say this is only for long term Thor comics fans.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Few Moments with Max Gladstone

I am a MASSIVE fan of the Craft Sequence books, what inspired them and if many do you have planned?
First, thanks for reading! It means a lot to know there are people out there excited by the books.

I've talked a lot about my inspirations for the idea: my experience of the 2008 collapse, and realizing, in the aftermath, how the world we humans think we live in is in fact occupied by enormous, basically ageless beings that build us even as we build them—beings of which we are, at best, pieces. By this I mean corporations, of course, but also gods, angels, organizations, nations, even fandoms. So I wanted to explore that idea.

But there's a personal side, too. I'm friends with a lot of brilliant, passionate, driven people—and when I started writing Three Parts Dead, we were all looking around at the world asking, what can we do with this? There's so much chaos and fear and evil built into modern existence. Even reforming these systems a little would be the task of a lifetime. But we don't have lifetimes. It felt, even in 2008, like we were building to a crisis, and that feeling's only grown. Maybe everyone in history felt like this: we are, after all, always living at the end of our own personal worlds. But the feeling remains.

So, in a moment of impossible conflict: what do you do? How do you fix things, even a little? How do you work? How do you live? Do you seize power, try to reshape things that way? But if you do, what will you become? What horrors will you commit on the way? But if you don't join the system, if you fight it, what will it do to you? You're not the first challenger it's seen.

I wanted to write stories about my friends, basically: stories about smart, weird, passionate and compassionate folks trying their best to save a broken world that's much bigger than them. I write about them winning, because the fact that we're still alive is a testament to the fact that people do—and I write about them winning by joining together in a way that overcomes their differences without crushing them, even though it's hard, because I don't think anything happens any other way.

And, frankly, I write these stories because they're fun to read.

As for the books-planned-in-the-series question: I'm not certain how many novellas I'll write, because I'm still getting used to the form. I will say that we've started a different phase of the Craft Sequence with RUIN OF ANGELS—we're building a new story. And I'm really excited about that.

What are you currently reading? Do you have anything that you would recommend the fans who read this?At the moment I'm finishing up AUTUMN IN THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM, by Stephen R Platt, a great and vividly-written chronicle of the second half of the Taiping Civil War in China, a historical event that really fascinates me. AUTUMN picks up where Jonathan Spence's excellent GOD'S CHINESE SON leaves off, and focuses more on late Taiping military history and on the interplay between the civil war and international relations (including with the American Civil War, which was taking place at the same time). Really good stuff, and cheap in eBook!

If you're looking for a fantasy in this vein, I probably don't need to recommend Seth Dickinson's TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT or Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities books—both approaching similar problems from different angles. Sara Gran's CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE CITY OF THE DEAD isn't (really) fantasy, but it's an amazing skewed, genre-aware detective novel about a grown-up teen detective who uses mysticism and deconstruction to investigate crimes, and I love it dearly.

That said, the best fantasy novel I've read recently was Patricia McKillip's FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, which Tachyon Press is re-releasing soon. It's stunning. I grew up in a boarding school, so I can't say how great it is without using profanity. It's truly, phenomenally great, concentrated, thoughtful, vicious, exalted fantasy, and everyone should read it, and it seems criminal to me that I hadn't until now.

Are you a gamer? If you are, what is currently your game of choice?I am sort of a gamer! More a gamer by identification than by practice, since I'm so busy these days. That said, I recently did start up a new game of infamous bubble wrap simulator Diablo 3; I have a playthrough of Persona 5 simmering on the back burner, for stylistic rainy-day Japan high school joy. I'm probably a bit more of a board gamer than I am a video gamer these days, truth be told. Most recently I've been working through SHERLOCK HOLMES: CONSULTING DETECTIVE, which is a fantastic piece of work.

Finally, what advice would you give new writers?Done is better than perfect. (At least in first draft.)

Finishing is a skill—you get better at it the more you do it.

Slow commitment wins over "when the inspiration strikes" flourishes. (When it comes to producing work and hitting deadlines.)

If you want to write, find some way to make writing your practice—something that centers you, something to which you return, something that alleviates your anxiety. If the act of work comforts you, you'll form good habits more easily.

Advice is like vinegar: a bit of it can help, but too much sours everything.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Murder as a Comfort-Read

Time to Murder and Create (Matthew Scudder, #2)Time to Murder and Create by Lawrence Block
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a criminal "friend" goes belly up in the river with a bump on his head, retired cop Matthew Scudder takes it upon himself to find out whodunnit.

In this, the second of the so-far-enjoyable Scudder series, our hero is tasked with figuring out which of three shitty people with a darkened past was the one who did-in his friend. None of the three are likable, hell, even Matt has some unpleasant skeletons in his closest, so why the hell is this such a good read?!

I've pondered that quite a bit. In fact, I was just saying to Kemper how Lawrence Block's books are fast becoming one of my comfort-reads. I find that strange since you don't usually think of crime, murder, rape, pedophilia, and other shitty things as something you find comfort in. And yet, I do. Obviously, it's not the subject matter. I find comfort in the way the subject is handled, the way Matt Scudder handles the situation, and the way Lawrence Block handles his words. He's got a way with them, that man does!

Also, I've been listening, as opposed to reading, this Scudder series, and I absolutely love the narrator, Alan Sklar's voice, cadence, etc etc. He's done a fantastic job. His somber tone melds with the material meticulously. I believe he is a down-and-out, former cop trying to forget his past in drink.

Somber! Yes, I just called this stuff somber. So, we've got despicable criminals doing shitty things, a detective who's a decent man but not the most likable of people, and a somber narrator. WHY DO I LOVE THIS SERIES SO MUCH?!?!?

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Tense and Explosive

Double IndemnityDouble Indemnity by James M. Cain
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My god, the utter callousness of it all!

It's not too spoilery to give you a summary of the book, however, if you intend to read Double Indemnity, I'd suggest not reading the next two sentences. SUMMARY: A woman consults an insurance agent about taking out a special kind of insurance on her husband, the kind which sends up red flags for the agent, red flags which he ignores. Seduced by the woman and greed, the insurance agent helps her commit murder.

The flippant way in which human life is treated by the narrator reminded me of Humbert Humbert from Lolita. He's a special kind of psycho you don't often see in the papers. In books perhaps he's more common.

This is James M. Cain, so the writing for the genre is fantastic. It's a freaking classic! Sure it doesn't have the name recognition as his famous The Postman Always Rings Twice, but don't sell this one short. I enjoyed it just as much as Postman. There's a similar tone and cadence in them. The emotions are strained, tense, constrained and then explosive.

This isn't cops-n-robbers crime, this is crime straight out of the newspapers...exactly where former journalist Cain got the salacious story. Well worth your time. Give it a read!

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Friday, June 2, 2017


D.V. Patton
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


Being seventeen is never easy, especially for a compulsive and impulsive young gay man. Meet Dylan Doyle, an earnest student of life.

As the embers of summer fade away, Dylan learns that the path to adulthood is a long and treacherous road. The certainties of his life are stripped away by betrayal and plain bad fortune.

Yet his optimism never fades, and Dylan might find, that salvation was watching over his shoulder the whole time. Sometimes, the journey to being a man is as important as the destination.

Dylan is the story of love lost, and found again in the most unexpected place...where it always was.

My Review

Dylan is a lonely teenager living in the town of Eden Glen. Is it in Ireland, Scotland, Wales? Anyway, it was somewhere close to England. The town was so nondescript that it could have been set somewhere in the US as well, though the language used in the story and certain events remind me it is not. The town is a significant part of Dylan’s life. It is where his mother, his closest friends, and his first lover reside. It is where he went to school, and it is where he had his greatest disappointments. I wanted more details to help bring the town and its inhabitants to life.

This story was in two parts. The first took place when Dylan was 17. A typical teenager, he suffered from low self-esteem. He was a good kid, helping his mom out, and working a part-time job at the supermarket while attending classes. When he wasn’t working, he watched films with Kylie and pursued Ronnie. He was a wonderful character, the kind of kid you’d be proud to have as a son, brother, or friend. In spite of his many disappointments, he had a good spirit and never became bitter. There were many interesting secondary characters and significant relationships that needed more development. There was his mom, sick through much of his young life and now suffering from cancer. There was Jessie, a hardworking kid from a poor family saving up for college. There was Kylie, a girl with curly hair, piercing gaze and inner strength. She was the first person Dylan came out to. There was Ronnie, blond, handsome, athletic, and Dylan’s first crush.

The second part of the story takes place after a tragic accident and is more interesting than the first part. Dylan is now three years older and walks with a limp. He learns the truth about his first lover, copes with grief and more disappointments, babysits for Kylie, gets reacquainted with Jessie, and finally finds the happiness he deserves.

This is the type of story that could have benefited from a longer length and a good editor. There were lots of characters, lots happening, but I felt this was more of a describing of events rather than feelings. Though the story was pleasant enough reading, it lacked a soul.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Uncanny Inhumans, Volume 4: IvX

Uncanny Inhumans, Volume 4: IvXUncanny Inhumans, Volume 4: IvX by Charles Soule
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Auran's daughters have a plot to see their mother once more and it revolves around Reader.
Maximus and his escaped Inhuman prisoners The Unspoken and Lineage take a road trip.

Uncanny Inhumans IvX reads like filler material. Nothing of consequence occurs despite Maximus's storyline seeming like something excellent could happen.

The first story about Auran's daughters hoping to see her again to say goodbye was beyond idiotic. Primarily because the fool Reader knows what he reads comes to life. So he should absolutely know better than to read the book, but he does.

The second storyline about Maximus started strong with Maximus's particular brand of crazy. The character interactions were excellent seeing the Inhuman villains pal around was fun. I was really excited to see how it would conclude, but it ended in the most unsatisfying way.

Uncanny Inhumans volume 4 concludes the Uncanny Inhumans series and Charles Soule's run. The Uncanny Inhumans along with the All-New Inhumans spurred me to buy my first comic book in more than a decade. My experience with Uncanny Inhumans was the opposite of my experience with All New Inhumans. Uncanny Inhumans started strong and ended uneventfully while All New Inhumans started in a ho hum fashion and ended with me wanting more.

I learned a few things in the year and a half I started buying comics again. Number 1 is I hate single issues. Who wants to buy a book a chapter at a time? I sure don't and I won't be moving forward. It's the volume or nothing for me now. Second I think Charles Soule may hate Black Bolt because he really did nothing with him from Inhuman to the end of Uncanny Inhumans. He himself stated that Medusa was the main character and that was clear. It also led to many of the series struggles. Overall the experience was positive, I just hope the new Inhumans series have more consistently strong writing.

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