Friday, March 30, 2018

Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction

Grady Hendrix
Quirk Books
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare. Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate! Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles. You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.

My Review

This book was fantastic!

It covers horror fiction from the 70’s through the 80’s, with a little glimpse of the early 90’s.

Eight easy-to-read chapters with clever titles like “Hail, Satan,” “When Animals Attack,” “Creepy Kids,” and “Real Estate Nightmares,” explore different themes within the horror genre and the cultural anxieties prevalent at the time these books were written.

The writing was light, humorous, informative and imbued with a deep love for the horror genre.

“Sometimes a firm spanking is enough to drive the Devil out of a teenager, but usually they have to be shot in the face. Dogs are good and often form armies to assist humans fighting Satan, whereas cats can go either way.”

Back in the 70’s and early 80’s, I was still attending church regularly, so you can imagine how conflicted I felt reading books about the Devil. They were fun and addictive and I had to be resourceful about finding good hiding places for them so the evil eyes on the covers wouldn’t terrify my grandmother. I got bored with them quickly, though, and later on had more fun reading about creepy kids and nature going wild.

Some of the covers in “Real Estate Nightmares” look very familiar. I’m sure those books graced my shelves at one time, yet I have no memory of reading them. Which is surprising, really, since high crime and good friends leaving for the safer suburbs was a huge concern of mine. Then Bernard Goetz expressed the rage felt by New Yorkers tired of crime by shooting four thugs who wanted to rob him. My dad and I proclaimed him a hero, while my mom and brother felt he may have overreacted. By the time the crime rate plummeted in the city, I was already gone.

I appreciate the high quality of this book and plan to buy a copy to keep on the coffee table. It has a durable cover, thick pages and eye-catching, colorful images. This brought back a lot of pleasant memories for me and makes me want to seek out the titles I haven’t read and reread the ones I enjoyed.

Here’s the list I’m aiming to read before I die:

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Storymaster

The Storymaster (The Dragon Masters)The Storymaster by Vincent Trigili
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Storymaster is the keeper of tales of old which he primarily shares with his great grandchildren now. When they ask for a story he tells them of David's Last Ride, a tale of the last of the dragons and their riders.

The Storymaster is somewhat underwhelming. It tells a story within a story that neatly ties back in hopes to appeal to readers. Unfortunately the last of the dragons and whatever secrets they may hold truly weren't all that interesting to me. It seems likely the main series stories will be different, but this short story doesn't seem to add anything overly important.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fabius Bile: Clonelord By: Joshua Reynolds

Fabius Bile: Clonelord (Warhammer 40,000)Fabius Bile: Clonelord by Joshua Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think Fabius might be my favorite character in this universe. I am pretty convinced he is House M.D. in space. Good and bad is relative to him and THE ONLY THING..that means a thing is his goals.

I really like his crew of characters and honestly most of the Emperor's Children are kinda hard to like. But this story is great and I loved it more than the first book. Also it had a bit of a twist that I really didn't see coming but it cemented my like of the character.

good stuff (I am slowly working my way back up to longer reviews, be patient with me)

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Carcharodons: Red Tithe By: Robbie MacNiven

Carcharodons: Red TitheCarcharodons: Red Tithe by Robbie MacNiven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yeah, I am still on my Warhammer kick..

THIS is awesome, I love the fact that the Carchardons are a "different" chapter, they really have taken on the characteristics of their namesakes (sharks). These soldiers are really as alien as you would expect and their conflict with the Night Lords is a brutal affair.

I like the author's method of showing them at war, they aren't supermen blowing through enemies, they are a blood wave force of death, silent destruction.

Even if I stop my WH40K trip, I will continue diving into the tales of this chapter, Highly recommended.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

A Short Reacher

Not a Drill (Jack Reacher, #18.5)Not a Drill by Lee Child
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think Lee Child wanted to write about virginal Canadian woodlands, so he penned this quickie. More on that later.

You're probably familiar with Jack Reacher the character by now, if not via the books, then probably through Tom Cruise's movie version. My wife would watch an in-house tech-vid on widget production if it starred Cruise, so I've seen the 2012 Jack Reacher movie a few times by proxy. It just plays in the background as part of an all-disaster-and/or-zombie-flick marathon looped forever while she sits on the couch -her command center- getting the editing done and admin work caught up on her wedding photography business. Brain candy movies are the best background noise for the work environment! And, as far as I can tell, that's what this Reacher stuff is, brain candy. That ain't a bad thing!

Having heard all about these books and skimmed a few, I thought I'd test the waters by dipping my big toe in the shallow section. So far, not bad! I didn't expect much, after all, Not A Drill is essentially a long short story and there's not much time to get a time to get much done in a mere 50 pages.

As mentioned before, in this one Child spends much of his time describing a primeval Canadian forest. The descriptions are so lush you can almost smell the clean, verdant air. I love a good hike in the forest, so I was all right with the very little action that takes place in Not A Drill. Almost nothing happens. There's a mysterious lock-down on the woods as the military moves in and tries to move everyone else out. Reacher can't help himself. He just has to stick his nose in there and find out what's up.

This was a nice baby step into the series. I'll gladly take another.

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Spade Tells a More Than Almost Interesting Story

Almost InterestingAlmost Interesting by David Spade
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a sucker for a comedian's autobiography. I figure, even if their life turns out to be uninteresting, at least there's a good chance I'll get a laugh or two out of the book. David Spade hasn't lived the most exciting life and he may not be the funniest dude in the world, but that didn't stop him from making this a fairly enjoyable book.

I read this on the tails of Tobias Wolff's excellent This Boy's Life and they're both similar in that each memoir contains estranged fathers and strange stepfather's. But that's pretty much where the similarities end. David Spade is funny, imo, but he's no writer. He lacks Wolff's eloquence, but hey, so do most people!

With that being said, I listened to him read his own book and can tell you, the man can perform. He outshined Amy Schumer's disappointing autobio, which I listened to a few months back. It wasn't so much that the content was necessarily better, rather it was the delivery. He's able to sell his stories and enliven his bits with a punch of inflection and energy in just the right place. That's important, because otherwise his snarky attitude and slacker's voice could've sunk this book.

Almost Interesting breaks no new ground in the memoir genre. It starts at the beginning. however, Spade is smart to quickly rush through his early years, picking out only the most poignant episodes of his childhood. Then he dwells on his formative adolescence for a bit longer. But this is the thing that kills me...Almost immediately he starts in about "chicks" and "getting laid". While he is quite self-aware and not a total creeper, this becomes a recurring topic from the pages regarding childhood right up to the end of the book.

I'm not surprised by the above. I happen to have first-hand knowledge of Spade's attempts with "the ladies". Late one night at a Taco Bell in Beverly Hills round about '97 or '98, my buddy and I were getting our taco fix on when in walked David Spade. He had a baseball cap pulled way down over his eyes in an attempt not to be celebrities do, and thus get noticed. The huge bodyguard shadowing him didn't help his covert operation. I noticed him right off, but didn't bother him. In fact, nobody did even though a few were pointing and nodding, so he probably would've got in and out with no fuss like he seemed to wish to, except that decided to make a play on this gorgeous, 6 foot, all dolled up woman over at the hot sauce island. She barely looked at him before taking off. The bodyguard's demeanor never changed through out, so either he was a true professional or he'd seen this scene played out a few times already. Ah, poor sinner. (Yes, that's a light Tommy Boy reference.)

Speaking of Tommy Boy. It's one of my guilty-pleasure favorites. Joe Dirt, too! Yes, they're "stupid" brain candy, but man, there some genuinely funny moments in both. So, part of my desire to read this bio was to hear a little backstory on both movies, not to mention his time on SNL. Spade delivers with some solid anecdotes here. I thought he might dwell on Chris Farley's tragic death and its affect on him, but Spade proves to be above playing for sympathy on that account. The book makes clear the deep impact Farley's friendship had on him, but he draws the line at revealing too much emotionally personal info.

If you're not a fan of Spade's personae, this won't change your opinion and you might as well steer clear. For all other's, I can recommend Almost Interesting and suggest listening to this surprisingly fun audiobook.

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Ground Zero

Andrew Holleran
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Angry, frightened, sorrowful, yet filled with caring and compassion, this collection of deeply personal and powerful essays ponders how the AIDS epidemic has changed life for gay men, especially those in New York City.

My Review

“Life’s a movie people leave at different times; the ones who remain get to see a little more of what happens next.”

I thought that 23 years after my friend Mark’s death from AIDS I would finally be able to read a book about the disease and those who perished without shedding a tear. It turns out I was wrong. As Anthony Rapp says in his brilliant memoir, Without You, “Grief does not expire like a candle or the beacon on a lighthouse. It simply changes temperature.” My tears didn’t flow like they did in those late days of Mark’s illness and subsequent stay in a hospice. The place was so homey and comforting, decorated with artwork and handcrafts, each room private, the staff and volunteers warm and caring, that for just a moment I was able to forget it was a place where men went to die. They just hung there in the corners of my eyelids, refusing to drop.

This is a collection 23 essays written during the height of the AIDS epidemic, also referred to as a plague.

“It is easy to be angry with God, or the virus, or the general arrangement of the universe in which a microbe takes man from the summit, the apex, of mammalian life to the nadir of bacterial existence, which changes him from a paragon a little lower than the angels to the doormat of every germ that comes through the door; nature’s punching bag.”

Holleran did a superb job portraying the fear and anxiety of the times and I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of New York and its colorful, gay inhabitants. He writes of the importance of friendships, the joy and freedom that comes with loving who you chose, the destruction of lives, the desperate search for cures, the grief of survivors, and the changes within the gay community.

“Nothing is so difficult for the human mind to accept as the fact that much suffering in life is random, meaningless, and in a sense completely trivial: the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Though Holleran is eminently quotable, I found his writing style lush and rambly at times. The long sentences and descriptive passages definitely suited these stories, however. They felt intimate, personal, poignant, and suffused with love for what was and hope for a brighter future.

“And because, most curious of all, most odd, most marvelous, the truth is none of them is really chilled by the assertion – each of them thinks he will escape, I suspect. As Freud also said, “No one really believes in his own death.”"

There were two essays about literary authors I have not read that felt out of place in this book (Henry James and Santayana), and were quite frankly, a little long and boring. The other essays are a treasure and grim reminder that we must carry on and enjoy what life has to offer.

“The fact that people die does not mean we stop talking to them. It may mean we start talking to them. Especially when the people who have been left behind feel guilty about the fact; baffled by the accident of their own survival.”


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Ranger's Folly

Ranger's Folly (Lost Tales of the Realms, #1)Ranger's Folly by J.T. Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Northern Ranger Fadis is heading home from war. The war has ended, but the King's men haunt his steps insisting he is a deserter and a thief. Fadis just wants to live in peace, see his wife, and meet his son. Unfortunately the King will not allow any of it.

Ranger's Folly is aptly named. Fadis was sent to war before his wife gave birth and he hasn't met his son. She stopped writing while he was away and now he fears the worst. He was one of the few rangers to survive the war and he only has an elven bow to show for his trouble and years away. It wasn't explicitly stated, but it appears that the King is unnecessarily cruel as he has sent ravens placing a bounty on Fadis's head. It seems for the exception of being alive everything has gone wrong for Fadis.

Ranger's Folly was a good short story. While most people have never gone away for war many can relate to being treating unfairly for no particularly good reason and that's what has happened to Fadis. I'm interested in seeing what's next for Fadis.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018


The Hypnotist (Joona Linna, #1)The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”They’d thought he was dead when they found him among the other bodies in the terraced house. He’d lost a great deal of blood, gone into a state of shock, and hadn’t regained consciousness until seven hours later.

He was the only surviving witness.

Detective Joona Linna was certain that the boy would be able to provide valuable information, possibly even identify the killer

But if the other circumstances had not been so exceptional, it would never even have occurred to anyone to turn to a hypnotist.”

 photo hypnotist_zpsz53jw1og.jpg

Erik Maria Bark has seen his career go up in flames. His relationship with his son is changing and not for the better. His relationship with his wife is on life support. To cope with all of this, he is taking too many “legally prescribed” drugs.

When Detective Joona Linna calls him and wants him to hypnotize the one remaining witness in the bloody carnage that happened at the Ek home, his first response is to say no, not just no, but an emphatic no. Josef is suffering from more cuts than can be counted and is floating in a coma. Linna needs to know two things: where is the older sister Evelyn, and who was the perpetrator? Bark made a promise that he would never hypnotise anyone ever again after one of his patients went berserk, blamed him for everything, and turned public opinion against him.

Hypnotists are seen in the same light as charlatans, clowns, illusionists,and parlor tricksters, so when something goes wrong, people are just confirmed in their natural suspicions of them in the first place.

The circumstances are dire, and as Joona Linna always says, he is a stubborn man. He convinces Erik to use his gifts to find out the truth.

But the truth is so insidious that even these hardened professionals are shaken.

”Josef had a particular smell about him, a smell of burning rage, of burning chemicals.”

What the hell is going on?

To add to the already freakish circumstances Benjamin, Erik and Simone’s son, is taken from their home. Simone enlists the aid of her retired police officer father, Kennet Strang, to help try and find him. Is this connected to the Josef Ek case or does this have something to do with a crazy patient from Erik’s past? ”The past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.”---William Faulkner

I’m not going to tell you anymore because this is such a plot based book, but I will say, when I was down to the last 100 pages, I didn’t stop until I turned the last page moments before the grandfather clock chimed twelve times.

I think the biggest issue that readers have with this book is that it was so overhyped before it was released. There were all the comparisons to Stieg Larsson and how Lars Kepler was going to be the next biggest thing since the invention of Swedish meatballs. For certain readers, this backfires big time. By the time they read the book, they almost resent having to read it, and their reactions to the book are colored by those resentments. The worst thing you can do is tell someone, emphatically, that they must read a book. The blitz of ads was doing just that. It is the equivalent of assigning a book to be read in school.

The second thing is all the subterfuge over who Lars Kepler is. People were first pointing the finger at Henning Mankell, which in itself is quite the flattering comparison, but Mankell denied that it was he. Lars is in fact these people.

 photo Lars-Kepler_zpsirnafgua.jpg

Aren’t they just adorable?

Lars Kepler is the pseudonym of Swedish husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril. The two Alex’s. Some readers start to get Milli Vanilli vibes. Ah yes, we remember those two front men who were faker than Facebook News. The Alex’s were both writers before they decided to team up to write mysteries, so I think we can safely set that speculation aside.

You might be curious about the origins of the pseudonym. Wikipedia kindly gave me that information. ”Lars is a homage to the Swedish crime fiction author Stieg Larsson as he inspired the duo to start writing crime fiction. The name Kepler comes from the German scientist Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), who solved one of his time’s greatest mysteries: it was his calculations of the planets’ orbits that paved the way for Newton’s theses about gravity.”

Oh no, not Stieg Larsson again! Being compared to Larsson is almost as big a curse as having your book compared to Harry Potter or the The Hunger Games.

*Sigh!* Don’t be manipulated by your own manipulating mind.

The staccato short chapters drove me bonkers until I adjusted, though other reviewers have said how much they like that writing style. It probably does pick up the pace of the reading, but I’m more of a Victorian reader who doesn’t mind nestling down into a chapter for twenty or forty pages or so. I do adore Nordic Noir, and this plot ticks all the boxes for hardboiled and grit. Detective Joona Linna kind of takes a backseat in this one, but I’m looking forward to seeing him move up to the front seat for the next book. He is annoyingly good at his job, which to me is also a nice nod to Kurt Wallander.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

A Gripping Tale of Escape

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the WestEscape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of a man escaping a prison camp would pique my interest at any time, but add the detail that it's a North Korean camp and I'm definitely interested. After all, North Korea's been in the news lately. Perhaps you've noticed.

Shin Dong-hyuk was born into a prison labor camp. It's totalitarian rules and draconian punishment was life to him. He barely knew his father and viewed his mother as competition for food. He was raised to snitch out his fellow prisoners to the guards. This included family. Spying and reporting on others was the only way to receive kind treatment at the prison. Working hard and never screwing up merely kept one from being beaten.

Thousands have fled the destitute country, but few have escaped from one of these prisons and successfully navigated their way into China and then South Korea, an especially difficult undertaking for a young man who knew next to nothing about the world beyond his prison walls. This is what made me hesitant to read Blaine Harden's Escape from Camp 14. How could this seemingly impossible tale be true? Then I heard that Shin had lied about certain details regarding his story and I thought, oh boy, here we go...

However, Harden did a good job in allaying my fears. It turns out Shin's lies did not change the details of his escape or the horror stories of his confinement. No, his lies were for self-preservation. He lied out of shame for the deaths he had caused as a boy who knew nothing of compassion.

This is a truly remarkable story and a nicely constructed book. It is compact and sticks mostly to the prison camp aspect of the situation in North Korea. Some pertinent recent history and political information is relayed in order to frame Shin's story, but this is not the book you are looking for if you seek out a well-rounded and deeply detailed account the hell North Korea got so fucked up. I did come away with a better understanding, however, and it made me want to find out more.

One last thing before I finish up. This is a tough read. It's brutal. "Heart-wrenching" ain't the half of it. To put it into perspective, these camps are akin to the Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet gulags, and they have been in operation since the 1950s. The prisoners within them are now mostly the children and grandchildren of those who fought for the South during the Korean War, because political prisoners of this nature are doomed to this life for three generations before the family is deemed to have paid the price of their transgressions. Only humans could create such a Hell.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Zombie Boyz

T.J. Klune et al.
Wilde City Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Board up the windows, push an old dresser against the door and load your shotgun. A zombie apocalypse is about to hit Wilde City, and if you want the best survival tips, six of Wilde City’s boys are here to help.

You’ll never want to exercise again as Eric Arvin and TJ Klune turn a gym full of hunks into a smorgasbord of terror in GHOUL’S GYM.

Gather your friends and fight for the man you love, as Ethan Stone and Daniel A Kaine turn Vegas into a zombie nightmare in SURVIVING SIN CITY.

And bring a date to dinner to celebrate Grumpy Grampy’s 90th birthday and introduce your family to your new zombie boyfriend in Geoffrey Knight and Ethan Day’s GUESS WHO’S COMING AT DINNER.

You’ll scream with terror and howl with laughter as Wilde City’s boys bring you our first undead anthology ZOMBIE BOYZ.

My Review

I was a huge fan of The Walking Dead. I’m not sure what happened in the last few seasons. While I am happy that Rick’s gang is no longer a passive victim of Negan’s menacing Saviors, I’ve become unhappy with the show’s direction. The episodes feel long and drawn out, with no surprises or forward momentum. There are far too many secondary characters that I’ve lost track of them, plot threads left dangling, and weak dialogues. Yet, I will continue to watch until the end. Despite their predictability, I enjoy zombie stories for their exploration of human behavior when society falls apart, the challenges of survival when vital supplies diminish and zombies multiply, and the violence and mindless action that allows one to escape from the world’s problems for a little while.

Zombie Boyz is a collection of three very different zombie tales:

Who’s Coming at Dinner ★★★★

Told from the perspective of geeky teenager, Chandler Cox, we get to meet his hunky jock boyfriend, Zane Addison, celebrate his grandma’s 90th birthday, and learn why eating hamburgers is bad for you. I love how this starts with a birthday party and ends with a birthday party. This is a lighthearted and very humorous zombie romance that focuses less on gore and more on family relationships, falling in love, coming out, and...coming. Chandler’s family was priceless.

Surviving Sin City ★★★

Though this was more of a classic zombie tale, strong characterization and blistering action scenes made it shine. Told in alternating perspectives by Kaleb and Cooper, we get to see how both their worlds gradually fall apart. They were so peevish and Cooper so fiercely independent that it took some time for them to grow on me. There was hot sex too. Fear not, dear readers, no zombies were involved.

Ghoul’s Gym ★★★★★

Uly and Jake are going through a little rough patch. Despite that, there is no question that after a year they are still deeply in love and have an agreement not to go to bed angry. While this is by far the most romantic story in this collection, there is plenty of gore, erotica and despair to go around. After meeting the Alphabet Twinks, you will never look at zombies the same way again. This exquisitely written story was a balm for my horror-loving and romantic soul and definitely a unique take on zombies!

Thursday, March 15, 2018


NighthawkNighthawk by David F. Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A serial killer is targeting Chicago's worst and most racist high profile citizens. Nighthawk contemplates if he should intervene.
Meanwhile Nighthawk protects Chicago from itself and those who intend to arm the people to murder one another.

First I want to say I'm absolutely amazed Marvel comics published this volume of Nighthawk at all and I'm not surprised it only lasted 6 issues. David F. Walker pulled no punches and stepped deeply into the problems facing Chicago. He covers police brutality,
illegal weapons,
gun violence,
gangs, and the possibility that perhaps it's simply best to let Chicago burn.
The undertaking of discussing these massive issues in a comic book is immense yet all sides are shown. The issue shows good and bad people in all walks of life along with those with questionable actions like Nighthawk himself.

This version of Nighthawk as always reminds me of a deadly version of Batman. In this comic I felt as though he was clearly a mixture of Batman and the Punisher. Nighthawk like Batman has a command center, someone to assist him from afar, and a slew of expensive high tech gadgets. He's like Punisher in that when he has the opportunity to end a problem he ends it instantly rather than providing it an opportunity to strike again.

It was interesting to see Nighthawk deliberate over how to handle the serial killer taking out Chicago's worst. Nighthawk seemed a wee bit hypocritical in that he went after the serial killer even though he himself killed similar people for similar reasons. I guess the difference is that Nighthawk never went out of his way to kill someone, he only killed those trying to kill him first.

Nighthawk is not for the faint of heart, but it's a good volume for those who enjoy real life political problems in a comic book world.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Gunpowder MoonGunpowder Moon by David Pedreira
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”Life is so tenuous on Luna’s desiccated expanse that staying alive is an endeavor practiced with almost religious fervor. No one ever deserts another man on the Moon. Race, creed, religion, flag---none of that crap matters. Dechert would risk his life for any Chinese digger in distress, as long as they were within range. And he knew they would do the same for him.

At least until what happened to Cole.”

 photo earth-moon-system_zpswvfmtzi5.jpg
The Moon---”Earth’s naked shadow.”

When survival is paramount, we are drawn together in the interest of mutual survival. We forget all the things that divide us. It is only when we have the luxury of existing at a certain level of comfort that we start to figure out ways to separate ourselves. There are plenty of natural resources for everyone on the moon. There are several countries participating in mining the moon, but the two elephants are the Chinese and the Americans; all the nations of the world have a stake in extracting enough Helium-3 to keep the lights on back on Earth.

And the Earth is still in recovery from an apocalyptic event.

”Asteroid collisions you can prepare for, carbon emissions you can legislate against, but who expected a subsea methane eruption would plunge us back into the Dark Ages for more than a decade?”

As if I don’t have enough things to worry about, now I have to add methane eruption to the list?

Caden Dechert is the chief of the U.S. mining operation on the edge of the Sea of Serenity. He is a veteran of wars in the Middle East and is reminded of his tour of duty with every breath he takes. ”The gunpowder smell of moondust filled his nostrils.”

Dechert has a good relationship with his counterpart over on the Chinese side of the moon. They have similar military backgrounds and both have no illusions about the simmering politics on Earth that could spill out into the universe, even to the moon. They have enough to worry about keeping some catastrophic event from wiping out their stations, such as solar flares or something as seemingly mundane as moondust crippling their power supply.

They don’t have time for murder.

But murder is what they got.

When that hatch explodes and kills the first surfer dude on the moon, the ramifications go well beyond just the extinguishing of a life. Dechert has dealt with death his entire adult life, but never has he had a death mean so much. ”The dead settle in our mind like cooling embers. After a time they diminish, snuffed out by the immediate, and then a puff of memory rekindles them and for a moment they are hot and near once again.”

 photo Moon20Boot20Print_zpsnehrptwa.jpg
A boot print is one of the few clues.

That explosion that blew that hatch on the moon is the equivalent of the bullet that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. The tinder is so dry that it only takes a spark to light a conflagration that could burn up not only all the progress Earth has made recovering from the methane eruption, but could level us back to the Stone Age.

Dechert has experienced being in the middle of a war, but he has never been at the flashpoint of the beginning of a war.

Was it the Chinese?

Doesn’t make sense.

Then who was it?

Before everyone dies on the moon, maybe we should take a moment to look at the sky.”How to explain the Moon’s thunderous star field to the uninitiated? It would be like describing the yellows and reds of Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows to a blind man.” Maybe we all need to look at the sky more often and clear our minds of the deluge of testosterone driven patriotism. Dechert’s loyalties, never in question before, are wavering as he tries to sift through the evidence and find a solution before there is no turning back.

The American marines arrive. The Chinese equivalent of super troopers arrive. Weapons that have never been allowed on the moon are now bristling on every person’s body. Who killed Cold Benson is becoming irrelevant to everyone, except Dechert. How many times does a war start and, within a short amount of time, everyone forgets how it ever started? Why are we fighting? Ask the Hatfields and the McCoys why they hate each other. It is like we are all just waiting for a reason to give in to our most primordial instincts.

The smell of fear on the moon is mingling with the acrid stench of gunpowder, like lovers reunited over the expanse of history.

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The Sea of Serenity is not so serene after murder comes to visit.

What I really enjoy about this book is how real it feels. This isn’t some science-fiction universe that exists in some future that is beyond our own scope. This future is tomorrow or next year or certainly within our life spans. President John F. Kennedy asked us to go to the moon; now all someone has to do is ask us to go to the moon and stay. I was very aware of the constant danger of eminent death. One mistake and not only will you kill yourself, but you might kill your whole team. It is a fragile and invigorating way to live. Where David Pedreira really shines is in his descriptions of pulse pounding, moon blasting action. I was so involved in what was happening that I needed my own space suit to monitor my vitals. ”Mayday, mayday, mayday”was a metronome that blasted through the comms in my dreams for several nights after finishing this book.

Buckle up, squeeze your cheeks together, pour a pitcher of Tang, and put your cell phone on silent. You won’t have time for Earthly concerns once you land on the moon.

I want to thank Harper Voyager for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Magos By: Dan Abnett

The MagosThe Magos by Dan Abnett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last Warhammer for a bit, I (kinda) promise.

Eisenhorn is a bad man, an inquistor (for those not familiar with the universe) basically a cop. This is a collection of short stories and a new one that shows the world that most of Warhammer books don't cover, the dirty underside of an already dirty world, (yup..that bad)

This is great stuff, if you are a scifi fan and crime noir type fan..this is a good read for you and it is spring need something to read.

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Fulgrim By: Graham McNeill

FulgrimFulgrim by Graham McNeill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

yes, I am still in my Warhammer deep dive, and WOW. I got into the Emperor's Children legion mostly due to the Fabius Bile book I read, I found him very interesting. At first glance, you can totally see why the legion falls into the clutches of chaos. They for the most part, are TOTALLY the over achievers, pretty boys that succeed in everything they touch. You kind of want them to fall, but then when it happens............boy does it happen.

I give Graham McNeill credit for making me cringe at the change of the Emperor's Children, while not overly graphic, the end game of this book make me very uncomfortable. Still a very good read and hopefully I will surface from this deep dive soon

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Travel to Boston's Sleazy Side with Lehane

The DropThe Drop by Dennis Lehane
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just love this guy! Dennis Lehane writes the stuff I want to read. He could write my obituary and I'd be like, "Man, that was great!"

Even when his material isn't top shelf, his prose and characterization still knocks it over the green monstah....Uh-oh, I've started to slip back into my roots. Hell, it can't be helped. Lehane's Boston-based books mesh sublimely with my Masshole upbringing. I love his settings because they remind me of home.

With The Drop we enter a typical Boston dive bar and hang out with typical Southies. Like pretty much everybody else in the fuckin' place, the bartender is a hopeless nobody. But hey, this is a frickin' fairytale, so the guy finds a little ray of sunshine in the form of an emaciated dog. Yeah, that's blue collar Boston for ya, a fucking half-dead dog is enough to add some hope in this schmuck's life.

But this is a Lehane book. It ain't gonna be as simple as all that. Mobsters, petty pricks, and psychopaths gotta wave their dicks around and people are gonna die for it. Let's hope it's the douchebags, but who knows. You never know with this fucking guy. And that's why I love him!

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The Gifts of O. Henry

The Gift of the Magi and Other Short StoriesThe Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I spent a month in Austin in 2016. It was good. Thanks for asking. While there my wife and I visited the William Sidney Porter House museum in the downtown area just one block south of the super busy party-central 6th St.

(Kind of odd to come across this little, old house in the middle of bustling downtown Austin)

William Sidney Porter is the real name of O. Henry, who lived only briefly in Austin before moving on to Houston. Nonetheless, it was cool to go into the house and see the old place, as well as his special writing nook.

Porter was a clever guy. His short stories often end with a surprising little twist, a little more subtle than your typical M. Night Shammalammadingdong movie. This collection is...well, it's not the actual collection I read, but it's close enough. There are tons of O. Henry collections listed on GR and I can't find the one I read. But the length is about the same and I believe the stories mostly match up.

Once upon a time when I was a young man, I read "The Gift of the Magi" and really enjoyed it. I promised myself I'd read more of his stuff. Then I let about three decades slip by until deciding I'd let the notion marinate long enough. I'm glad I finally got around to reading more. Although, I was a little confused at the start.

The first story was "The Voice of the City" and I was not prepared for it. His style, language, and pure-and-simple smarts had me befuddled and jogging to catch up. However, after that it was smooth sailing. I believe "The Gift..." was up next, and it was nice to revisit that one. Then the book slides into delight tales like "The Ransom of Red Chief", "The Romance of a Busy Broker", "The Green Door", "The Hiding of Black Bill", and "The Cop and the Anthem".

Not every story is a winner. Sometimes I got a bit bored. But overall this is a good collection and a nice primer for a prolific short story writer.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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Friday, March 9, 2018

If It Flies

Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it’s cheaper to rent it.

Spencer is in a rut. Long hours at the law firm are sucking the life out of him, and he doesn’t have time or energy for a relationship. He’s lonely, horny, and itching for something new, so he tries the Market Garden, an exclusive—and expensive—brothel. Spencer isn’t in the door five minutes before a cocky rentboy makes his move.

Nick isn’t just any rentboy, though. He’s a Dom, he’s a sadist, and he’s everything Spencer didn’t know he was missing. One night turns into more, and before long, Spencer is one of Nick’s regular clients.

Both men think they’re just scratching each other’s backs: Spencer’s exploring a submissive, masochistic side he never knew he had, and Nick is getting off and getting paid. But as time goes on, it’s clear their strictly professional arrangement . . . isn’t, and if Nick has one hard limit, it’s that he doesn’t get romantically entangled with his johns. The problem is, while Nick doesn't want to be owned, Spencer’s no longer content with just renting.

My Review

“If the two of them could get through a scene like this without that word being spoken again, then maybe…maybe this ran deeper than sex and cash, deep enough to go all the way.”

As much as I love Tristan and Jared and wanted their story to continue, it was very easy for me to set them aside once I met and fell in love with Nick and Spencer.

Spencer is a busy, tired and stressed-out lawyer with no time for relationships. His co-worker, Percy, with a failed marriage behind him and confident in his belief that it’s always cheaper to rent than buy, introduces him to the Market Garden, where he meets Nick.

Nick’s cockiness, his leather pants, and his sexy strut are a complete turn-on to Spencer, even if their negotiation ends up being funny and a little awkward. Nick is an experienced Dom, which Spencer discovers early on is exactly what he needs.

Spencer is not sexually inexperienced, but what he explores with Nick is new for him. I loved the easy connection between client and prostitute after their initial awkwardness. Always the professional, Nick has a businesslike demeanor and the self-control that prevents him from ever getting involved with his clients. When Spencer becomes Nick’s regular client, their lovemaking takes on a new intensity as Spencer begins to accept his submissive/masochistic tendencies and his trust in Nick deepens. The BDSM scenes were riveting and passionate and took my breath away. It is quite obvious that deeper feelings are now involved, but Nick loses his fragile self-control and crosses a line, causing problems in their relationship. I loved how Nick and Spencer solved their difficulties and found Nick’s exploration of his own feelings and heart’s desire as intense and emotionally charged as their sex scenes.

I loved both characters and can’t wait to read their next story.

Thursday, March 8, 2018


King Harald's SagaKing Harald's Saga by Snorri Sturluson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”The year 1066 was a convulsive and fateful year for the destiny of England and western Europe. It was the year that brought together in violent and mortal conflict the three greatest military leaders in Europe of their day---Harald of Norway, Harold of England, and William of Normandy; three powerful and ambitious men who had fought their way to authority in their respective countries and who now, in three weeks of terrible bloodshed in the autumn of 1066, were to fight to the death for the greatest prize of all: the throne of England.”

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Harold II, a detail from the Bayeux Tapestry.

As fascinating as those men of destiny are, the Icelandic writer of this tale, Snorri Sturluson, proves almost as fascinating.

”He was a man of astonishing contradictions: a man who fought and schemed all his life to become the most powerful chieftain in Iceland, yet who still found time to write some of the greatest masterpieces in Icelandic literature; a greedy, covetous man who was nonetheless capable of great generosity; a patriot so fascinated by the royal court of Norway that he could harbour secret thoughts of treason; a farmer who wanted to be an aristocrat, a prose-writer who wanted to be a poet, a scholar who cared more about owning property; a worldly, cultivated man who loved all the good things of life---wealth, women, wine, good company---yet who died a squalid, tragic death in the cellar of his own home.”

Those he had opposed send men with swords to his house, and five of them trap him in his cellar and run him through and through again. A loss to literature for sure, but in some ways a fitting end for a man who wrote about so many other great men of Norwegian history meeting a similar end at the point of sword or by the swoop of a battle axe. Snorri might have become so ensnared in his stories that he fell right in the middle of them.

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Snorri Sturluson

This saga is of Harald Sigurdsson and his quest for power. He fights the Danes on numerous occasions. He thinks he has as much right to the Danish throne as he does to the one in Norway.

"Svein and Harald battled
The two great war-leaders,
Shieldless, shunning armour,
Called for thrust and parry;
Armies were locked in battle,
Stones and arrows were flying,
Sword-blades were dyed crimson;
All around, doomed warriors
Fell before the onslaught.”

He fights his own people.

”Einer of the flailing sword
Will drive me from this country
Unless I first persuade him
To kiss my thin-lipped axe.”

He battles omens and creatures insidious.

”The ogress flaunts her crimson
Shield as battle approaches;
The troll-woman sees clearly
The doom awaiting Harald.
With greedy mouth she rends
The flesh of fallen warriors;
WIth frenzied hand she stains
The wolf’s jaws crimson---
Wolf’s jaws red with blood.”

I’m a modern man, and I’ve got to say reading about this hideous creature raises the hair on the back of my neck and sends shivers down my spine, enough to curl my toes.

 photo aec689ae-ac48-4748-91d2-37bf1d58d05a_zpsv2ddgwem.png
The Battle of Stamford Bridge

This of course all leads up to the famous battle at Stamford Bridge in England. Sensing an opportunity to take the throne of England, Harald of Norway decides to invade in that year of English invasions, 1066. Harald Godwinsson, or Harold II if you are English, has barely warmed the seat of his newly acquired throne when he has to lead an army into battle against those burly, bloodthirsty Northmen.”The closer the army came, the greater it grew, and their glittering weapons sparkled like a field of broken ice.”

The interesting thing about all of this is that most of us don’t know who Harald Sigurdsson is, but one could speculate if he had decided to delay his invasion by a few weeks, we may have known him as Harold the Conqueror, King of England. As it is, Harold II dispatches Harald and his army in a bloody battle that weakens the forces of Harold II. The English army then has to turn around in 19 days and fight William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings.

 photo William20of20Normandy_zps3pygxv8o.jpg
William of Normandy raising his helmet to show his troops he is still alive. Bayeux Tapestry.

What are the chances that King Harald of Norway and William of Normandy would decide to invade England in the same month?

I can remember, when I was about 12 years old, riding in the pickup with my Grandpa Harold Ives and mentioning to him that he was named after an English King. He looked at me like I had rocks rattling around in my head instead of little gray cells. Even if I couldn’t convince him, I knew it was true.

Needless to say, I will be reading and reviewing more Icelandic sagas in the very near future. In a time when few were educated, the Icelandic people considered knowledge essential to life. If they had not believed so, many of these sagas would have never made the transition from oral history to written history. ”The Icelanders...take great pleasure in learning and recording the history of all peoples, and they consider it just as meritorious to describe the exploits of others as to perform them themselves.”

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Captain America, Vol. 1: The New Deal

Captain America, Vol. 1: The New DealCaptain America, Vol. 1: The New Deal by John Ney Rieber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the wake of 9/11, Captain America is forced into action as terrorists strike at an American town.
Cap is once more reminded of the tragedy of war.

The New Deal is quite the introspective piece looking at the cause of 9/11 and whether America is as innocent as Americans believe. The world has monsters and killers, but is the US the cause of them?
A few of the quotes in this volume are the type that keep me up at night when I think about them too long.

"Are we only hated because we're free -- Free and prosperous and good? Or does the light we see cast shadows we don't -- Where monsters...can plant the seeds of hate?"

"History repeats itself. Like a machine gun. A madman lights the spark -- And the people pay the price."

To me The New Deal is what Captain America is all about. He's the heart, the fight, the idealism, and the aspiration of America and Americans. It's funny when I was younger I didn't appreciate Captain America, but ever since his films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe I have a totally different perspective on him. Cap is simply an incredible character and this volume is a good reminder as well as a palate cleanser from the horrible Hydra Cap crap Marvel recently put out.

The New Deal is a strong beginning to a powerfully thoughtful Captain America series.

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Steinbeck's Socialism on Display

In Dubious BattleIn Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At a time when the divide in this country between rich and poor is as great as it's ever been, a book like In Dubious Battle becomes quite pertinent once more.

It's the Great Depression and the Red Scare has the nation suspicious of anyone who might organize a strike for better wages, for something higher than the starvation-level pay the bosses are handing out to hard-up fieldworkers.

Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle follows Jim, a newcomer to the Communist Party. Mac, a strike agitator takes him under his wing and off they go to a California apple valley, where the bosses have cut wages. Here they meet a number of different individuals who represent the various sides of the conflict.

Steinbeck's character development is quite impressive here, considering he constructed an ensemble cast and breathed life into each of them, so that they all appear almost real and not just two dimensional caricatures. And while the author originally set out to write a non-fiction account of a workers' strike, he has succeeded in portraying this as an utterly believable fiction that does not drag due to political agenda proselytizing.

While Steinbeck is for the working man, his sympathies do not make him entirely blind to the failings of the "radical left". He does question why, when man rules the Earth, would man subject man to a sub-subsistence existence? Why not share the wealth? Well, Steinbeck points to the lazy, shiftless who prefer to shirk duty and steal to get by rather than do their fair share. And then there's the greedy need in some men to rule, to gather up all the wealth and power they can for their own selfish desire. There it is again, those extremists who go screwing it up again for the rest of stuck in the middle.


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Another Great Spy Novel

The Spy Who Came In from the ColdThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, I'm fully ready to dive into a non-stop Le Carré bender!

These are great spy novels. And these are quality books, period. The man can write. Plus, his experiences in intelligence work paid off HUGE. The intricacies of spy networks and secret government agencies are spread over these pages like caviar and go down like a perfectly aged wine. Shit damn, this is sweet stuff!

Now, before you get all amped up, John le Carré does not write James Bond stuff. There are no car chases and inventive gadgetry. No femme fatales succumb to his heroes. Sure, love is involved, but it's generally more realistic. It's all more realistic, when it comes down to it.

In The Spy Who Came In from the Cold a pissed off agent, who lost his network of spies to a crafty and conniving bastard of a super agent, is sent out into the field again as a plant to ferret out the bad guy. The agent is a pawn without knowledge of the whole affair and he knows it. But hell, he's willing to do anything to get revenge. This emotional attachment to the job puts him at yet another disadvantage. But he's good, so he should be able to handle himself...right?

Read and find out! Another highly recommended novel from John le Carré!

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Night Ocean

The Night OceanThe Night Ocean by Paul La Farge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Charlie Willet disappears, apparently commits suicide, his wife Marina explores the last couple years of his life, looking for reasons to believe he's still alive. Did Charlie's obsession with the Erotonomicon, the purported story of HP Lovecraft's affair with Robert Barlow, and the web of lies and hoaxes surrounding it lead to his doom?

Even though I rarely take on ARCs anymore, I jumped at the chance to read this one when Penguin offered it to me.

The Night Ocean is a tough book to classify. It's a Russian nesting doll, a Matryoshka, of hoaxes and lies surrounding one man's quest to learn the truth about the Erotonomicon, a book chronicling HP Lovecraft's love life. In some ways, it reminds me of Night Film. In others, of I Am Providence. I was hooked by the brain stem when Lovecraft referred to masturbation as Yog Sothoth.

The tale is part historical novel, part mystery. Marina tries to piece together what Charlie pieced together when he was trying to figure out if the Erotonomicon was a hoax or not. Needless to say, there are a lot of shifting viewpoints.

The Erotonomicon chapters were touching, and sometimes heartbreaking, with young Robert Barlow being in love with H.P. Lovecraft from afar and Lovecraft being unwilling to reciprocate. Well, for the most part...

Marina was playing catch-up for most of the book, much like I was, through a maze of hoaxes and lies, populated by legendary authors like William S. Burroughs, Frederick Pohl, C.M. Kornbluth, and many others. She follows Charlie's quest from Mexico to Canada, from Barlow to L.C. Spinks, the Erotonomicon's publisher.

I guess the Night Ocean is about multiple peoples' search for the truth. In this age of "alternative facts", the truth can be hard to come by. By the end of the book, I was almost as in the dark as I was in the beginning. I liked that the ending was ambiguous, however.

While I can't find a nice box to shoe-horn The Night Ocean into, it was a great read, even beautiful at times, surprising considering H.P. Lovecraft's usual subject matter. Four out of five stars.

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The Last Place You Look

The Last Place You Look (Roxane Weary, #1)The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Roxane Weary takes on a case to find a woman that's supposedly been dead for fifteen years to clear her incarcerated boyfriend's name before he's executed, she's in way over her head. Can Roxane put her alcohol problem and her pain over her father's death aside long enough to crack the case?

Every time I try to quit accepting ARCs, something like this falls into my lap. Thanks again, karen!

I've been out of the detective fiction game for the past few months for the most part. Once you read a couple hundred crime books, everything starts seeming the same. Then a gem like this comes along.

The Last Place You Look stars Roxane Weary, a woman reeling from her cop father's death, coping by drinking a small ocean of whiskey. Between an ex-lover named Catherine that continuously toys with her to her current companion, her deceased father's partner, Roxane's life is a train wreck. She's just the type of girl you can count on to keep a man from getting executed, right?

Roxane reminds me of some unholy offspring of George Pelecanos's Nick Stefanos and Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt. If only she spent as much time detecting as she did throwing back slugs of whiskey... I kid. I loved Roxane, from her complex relationships with her family members to her questionable taste in sex partners.

In between black out drunks, she finds time to get wrapped up in quite a case. What seems like one murder ages ago winds up being quite a bit more. Roxane goes through both physical and emotional wringers multiple times on the way to one of the better crime fiction endings I've read in a long time.

One of the hallmarks of a great crime book, for me, anyway, is when the author makes me feel like a rube when the big reveal comes. I thought I had the killer pegged really early but that turned out to be a read herring. I pondered the title while cooking dinner and still didn't tip to who the killer was. Well done, Kristen. Well done.

I don't have a single bad things to say about this book. I'm greatly looking forward to reading more of Roxane's drunken escapades in the future. Five out of five stars.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Take It Off

L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Turnabout is foreplay.

High-end Market Garden rentboys Tristan and Jared have found their niche. Men are willing to pay good money to watch Tristan tease Jared, and the two of them seduce London’s elite with sex and power games.

Except Tristan is less and less interested in getting money out of the johns these days. He wants his partner in crime, and he wants the seduction to be real. But is Jared just in this for the pay?

When Rolex, the john who started it all, returns to Market Garden, the boys jump on the opportunity to service him—and each other—for a fresh pile of cash. Rolex isn’t the only one itching for a rematch, though. Jared’s been waiting for a chance to get back at Tristan for teasing him so mercilessly the first time.

And for a former stripper, revenge is a dish best served extra hot.

My Review

Jared is no longer an uncertain newbie at Market Garden, London’s high-end sex club that caters to the wealthy.

He and Tristan are rolling in dough now that they are partners, and clients want them especially for their sexy, seductive power games. Tristan wants Jared for himself, but Jared’s newfound confidence has him a little worried.

Their favorite client, Rolex, makes another appearance and the evening rapidly heats up.

It was fun seeing Jared in the driver’s seat for a change – negotiating for more cash, swaying his hips to music and seducing Tristan, whose self-possession finally deserts him.

This was sweet, scorching hot, and a lot of fun!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Darkside Earther

Darkside Earther  (Darkside Earther #1)Darkside Earther by Bradley Horner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Axel Stahl is a normal young man. He has school he's not overly interested in, parents who are often too busy to spend time with him, and a crush on a girl he doesn't think has ever even noticed him. The things that set Axel apart are that he's the failed hope of mankind and he lives aboard a giant space station called the Ring. One day everything is looking up for Axel and the young woman he's been dreaming about, Helen, has been watching him watching her and she likes him. All seems grand until war brakes out on many fronts.

Darksider Earther is at it's core a young adult book about love. Axel loves Helen and Helen loves Axel, they're ready to fight for it against anyone who stands in their way. There was a time in my life that I found scenarios like these engaging and sweet, but now as a parent I fear the pairs naivete and question their feelings. Undoubtedly my next time facing such love in real life, I'll be the bad guy poking holes in the undying love of the young. I'm getting off topic. For me the love fest between Helen and Axel is one I can relate to in the past, but I react in a much more cynical fashion to now. The first two thirds or so of the story revolved around the kids love for one another.

When the true war struck I was engaged even if I found myself not totally understanding how most of the weapons and tools worked. The last third of the book was filled with heart pounding fear as it's far from certain what will happen.

I found myself feeling as though the teen love and war aspect felt smashed together like a car accident. The two parts of the story didn't feel as though they belonged together. The teen love was largely light and airy with defiance and devotion. I didn't feel as though it was evident war would break out at any point. There were some brief mentions of the tensions between Space Ops and the Earthers, but that was largely glossed over in the wave of love. As for the other war, there was little indication to expect it at all.

To be fair to Darkside Earther I have to admit that young adult and space based science fiction are far from my preferred genres. I tend to avoid young adult at any cost. That being said I feel as though a good bit of the stories strong points just don't particularly appeal to me personally.

Darkside Earther is a space based science fiction young adult love story that shows some creativity and promise.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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

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Red Sister

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #1)Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nona has lived a hard life that was about to end with a noose around her neck when Abbess Glass rescued her and took her to her convent. Nona's crimes earned her enemies yet the convent offers Nona things she never really had before. Now Nona trains to hone her skills to become a Red Sister.

I've come to believe all writing has risks and no matter how good a book is to some others will dislike it. One risk is the choice of point of view characters. Using a single point of view character is akin to going all in when gambling. If the gambler wins with a single point of view character they win big, but if they lose they lose it all. Multiple point of view characters hedge the bet and allows readers to like some and not others while still enjoying the story, the same can't be said for a single point of view character. For me Mark Lawrence lost the bet by using Nona as the single point of view character. Nona feels like she would make a fine support character, but nothing about her truly drew me in. The point of view of a young girl in a warrior convent was frankly dull and subsequently made the story dull for me.

Red Sister never really caught my interest. The warrior convent, the coming of age tropes, and endless classes just weren't something I wanted to read about. I can't say why it didn't work for me. I started avoiding the book shorty after I started reading it, which is always a bad sign. Perhaps I'm just not really a fan of Mark Lawrence's writing.

Red Sister, in the end, just wasn't a story for me.

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