Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Dunfield Terror

The Dunfield TerrorThe Dunfield Terror by William Meikle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a strange glowing fog descends on a Newfoundland town, Frank and the rest of the snow plow crew try to save their neighbors. But what does the fog have to do with a bizarre experiment on the Dunfield in the 1950s?

In the chaos that ensued during the tribulations at DarkFuse, this went on sale and I snapped it up. I passed on it when it showed up on Netgalley, thinking it was a pastiche of HP Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror. I was wrong.

You can see the confusion, though. It doesn't take much to get from Dunwich to Dunfield and William Meikle has written his share of Lovecraftian tales. However, this was more of an homage to The Colour Out of Space by way of the The Philadelphia Experiment.

The story is told in two threads: the present day and the time of the Dunfield experiment and its aftermath. The parallel structure does a lot to enhance the dread. If scientists couldn't contain the fog, how the hell can a crew of snowplow drivers?

Frank and his neighbors have been haunted by "the fucker" for decades, a glowing fog that warps and kills anything it touches. When the fog shows up during a blizzard, things go south in a hurry. The isolated townsfolk drop like flies and Frank knows there is very little any of them can do. The juxtaposition of the blizzard with the fog makes for some tense moments, pitting otherworldly horror and the everyday horror of death by exposure or frostbite.

The experimental thread focused on the horrors of the unknown and things men wasn't meant to know. The weird tech reminded me of Pentacle, making me think it probably takes place in the same universe, and also The Fold and 14. I also thought it was great how Meikle used The Philadelphia Experiment for the basis of a horror novel.

I feel like I've come to the William Meikle party late but I'm here for the duration now. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Before the Darkness

Leslie Lee Sanders
Reviewed by Nancy
2 out of 5 stars


After an asteroid strikes Earth, a series of violent earthquakes destroy secluded Phoenix and leave survivor Elliot struggling to stay focused in the bleak aftermath. And then he meets fellow survivor Adam. Together, the two search for reliable shelter and other survivors while distant murky clouds fast approach. Their hunt for shelter leads them down an alternate path when they find spray painted symbols directing them to a mysterious place: Refuge Inc.

As ominous clouds slowly shut off all light to their devastated world, they are forced to come to terms with their pasts and their growing attraction for each other.

Neither thought their pasts and personal crises would affect their ability to endure the horrors they're forced to live through. Neither thought they would be drawn so close to one another in the aftermath of an unimaginable catastrophe. By working together, can they continue to survive? Or will the mystery of Refuge Inc. cause diverse expectations and lead them to decisions that further threaten their lives?

My Review

I love post-apocalyptic stories and was thrilled to get the opportunity to read this short novel about two survivors drawn together after their city and everything they knew and loved was destroyed by several massive earthquakes resulting from an asteroid that struck somewhere near the west coast.

Elliot had been walking for many hours. Exhausted, hungry and thirsty, he had no idea where he was or if anyone else survived. He eventually meets Adam, and both men are ecstatic that they are not alone. They talk a lot – mostly about the things they need to do to stay safe, about their lives before the asteroid struck, and about how scared they are. Oh, and they find time to have sex too.

I like my end of world stories fraught with danger and desperation. A little crime and violence and real struggles for survival wouldn’t hurt either. The main problem with this story is I never felt the characters were in any real danger despite the fact that the world they knew no longer exists. There was a developing romance, coming out issues, guilt, clinginess, whining and insecurity. The two main characters exhausted me at times and I often wished they would just shut up and get back to their business of surviving.

Two things kept me reading – the search for Refuge, Inc. and the injured dog, Titan. Just when the story started to get interesting and the search was over, it ended. I’m curious about how the men’s lives will change and am planning to dive into the next book.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


BarrenBarren by Peter V. Brett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tibbet's Brook has embraced the arrival of the fighting wards. The Brook has formed a militia and many of the town's elders have reaped the rewards of magic by growing younger once more. Selia Square, the woman known as Barren, is one such woman. The return of her youth has rekindled many parts of her. Selia seeks love in the arms of a young woman while trying to protect the Brook from the coming demon swarm.

Barren was an interesting story that really highlighted the life or Selia. When I first heard that Peter V. Brett was working on this story I didn't imagine it would be as compelling as it was. I hadn't read The Core when I first heard Brett was working on Barren and didn't know what a scandal Selia had been involved in during her youth. Loving a woman in the wrong family in a time and place where such was considered an abomination by many.

The story also reinforced one thought I always had regarding Selia Barren, that she does not play around. Selia from a young age was willing to put herself in harm's way to protect a person regardless of if she had to stand up to the Watches or a coreling. Selia will stand for what she believes in and protect everyone she can. It was good to see her get a chance at love even if she was somewhat uncomfortable with what people would say.

It was interesting to see what happened to Tibbet's Brook since it didn't really get it's own story conclusion in The Core. The Brook took to fighting demons with similar fervor to Cutters Hollow. It didn't have the wardcraft the Hollow possessed thanks to Arlen and Leesha, but it was innovative in lesser ways. Brett did a good job involving characters many people were likely to have forgotten about such as Brine Broadshoulders.

Barren is a good novella that brings closure to the good people of Tibbet's Brook along with a peek into Selia Barren's life.

4.5 out of 5 stars

I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018


The WildlandsThe Wildlands by Abby Geni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”But it was Tucker who worried Darlene the most. Something was happening to him--something she could not identify. He was speeding up, growing more intense by the day. Their great loss had created a mechanism inside his person--buried in his chest or the core of his brain--and it was always humming. She could practically see the vibration of the engine beneath his skin.”

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It all begins with a storm. The swirling finger of a vengeful god spins down out of the sky and destroys Mercy, Oklahoma. The McCloud family has already suffered loss with the death of their mother, but now they find themselves orphans and homeless. They are the unluckiest family in a county of unlucky people. ”I remembered Tucker telling me that luck was no lady; luck was a mean drunk who didn’t know when to stop punching.”

Tucker always sees things differently. After the storm, it is as if something tears loose in him that has been held together by slender tendrils of what we call normal. He was always high strung an emotional whirlwind who was cursed with feelings that ran too deeply. ”My Category Five Brother.”

Darlene is the oldest, and when this storm takes away the McCloud house and their father, it also blows away all of her dreams of what she has planned to become. She sells their story to every news organization that is willing to pay. This creates conflict with Tucker, who sees it as unseemly. All Darlene is trying to do is get enough money to buy a dilapidated trailer and keep the family together.

I grew up in a small town so I understand the inherent jealousies, the prideful assertions about what is right and wrong, the cliquishness of the church going crowd, and a misguided concept that they are the righteous and all those folks in the big cities are fools on a one way express train to Hell. Small town values, my ass. The town of Mercy might be split on whether Darlene is doing the right thing, but the ones that think it is shameful make sure to let her know how they feel.

Pride is a luxury most can’t afford to buy.

Darlene is stuck in the caldron, trying to keep her two sisters, Jane and Cora, fed and having some kind of normal life. Tucker takes off. The McCloud unit, already destabilized by the missing pieces, now has to adjust to yet another smaller orbit. It is as if a moon has disappeared from the sky.

If truth be known, Tucker wants to bring down the Age of Humans. He would have fit in fine with Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang. He tries to team up with like minded individuals who ultimately disappoint him. Their commitment to saving the Earth is more of a hobby than based on a firm set of convictions. Tucker is untethered from the law. I keep thinking of the American-abolitionist John Brown, who was considered bat shit crazy, but who, through his actions, raised the awareness of the plight of slaves in the South. He forced people in the North, who may have been indifferent, to have to reconsider the issue. James McBride in his National Book Award winning book The Good Lord Bird really brought John Brown alive for me.

Maybe we just have to have a Tucker McCloud or a John Brown come along occasionally who will shake us out of our indifference and have us start to wonder, why is this cause so important to these seemingly insane men? Are they insane or are they the only people seeing clearly? Just by forcing people to ask WHY, the needle moves from indifference to an openness to wanting to understand.

When I lived in Arizona, I knew some people who were members of Earth First! This was an environmental awareness group started by Dave Foreman, who was inspired by Abbey’s book The Monkey Wrench Gang to become more involved in the fight to save the environment. They were considered terrorists (before that word took on even more meaning) by the FBI. I guess, if inspiring terror in the greedy capitalist pricks who were clear cutting timber in Arizona is considered terrorism, then yes, they were. It was a doomed organization, just like most environmental efforts have proven to be. The government squashed them.

Tucker, unable to find the properly motivated partner, finally decides that he needs someone who can be taught his vision of the world. He convinces his nine year old sister Cora to come on his quest to save the world. He can say he needs help, but what he really needs is a witness. He needs someone to observe and understand exactly what he is trying to do. ”Studies showed that 80% of people on the lam traveled west.” Well, Tucker is no exception. They are going to create havoc from Oklahoma to California.

This was a solid four star book for me until Abby Geni let me spend some significant time with Tucker McCloud. You can disagree with the young man, but you can not deny that he is committed to what he believes. He sees the end of days, but in some ways, just the fact that he chooses to fight back shows that he still thinks the tide can turn in favor of the Earth. He isn’t spouting rhetoric in some classroom in a university. He is creating the smoke and walking through the center of it, limping and grinning.

I also really enjoyed Abby Geni’s book The Lightkeepers, which is set on a small island off the coast of San Francisco. She is a storyteller who is shining a light on the plight of nature. She isn’t even crazy like John Brown or insane like Tucker McCloud, but maybe there is a part of her that wishes she were.

My thanks to Counterpoint Press and Megan Fishmann who sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Block On Writing

Telling Lies for Fun  ProfitTelling Lies for Fun Profit by Lawrence Block
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crime writer Lawrence Block's book on writing is one of the best I've ever read. By being specific and giving practical advice from long experience, it's much more helpful than many others.

Telling Lies for Fun & Profit is like a 47 chapter course on how to write like a pro...well, hold up! It doesn't propose to turn you into the great American writer. You won't necessarily become a rich and famous novelist because of this book. What I mean is, Block gives you a career's worth of tips on how to hone your craft after you've mastered the basics. Quite literally, you must be able to arrange your nouns and verbs in the right order before a book like this will be of any use to you. Sound simple enough? Well, you'd think so...

Having read a dozen or more how-to-write books from established writers, I found that Telling Lies for Fun & Profit treads on some familiar territory now and then. But even when it did, I still garnered some useful knowledge just from Block's unique take on a subject. Even if it wasn't completely unique, it would at least have a fresh angle to its approach.

One of my favorite parts was when Block admitted that he essentially hates writing. Here's the whole excerpt. I'll underline the specific part, but as a whole it makes more sense:

...writing’s not much fun.

I really wonder why that is...It’s been my observation that painters, both professional and amateur, love to paint. They get genuine enjoyment out of the physical act of smearing paint on canvas. Sometimes they’re blocked, sometimes they’re frustrated, but when they’re painting the very process of creation is a joy to them.

Same thing certainly holds true for musicians. They only seem to feel alive when they’re performing. The jazz musicians I’ve known spend their afternoons practicing scales and such, work all night performing, then jam for free at an after-hours joint until dawn, just for the sheer pleasure of it.

In sharp contrast, almost every writer I know will go to great lengths to avoid being in the same room with his typewriter. Those of us who are driven to produce great quantities of manuscript don’t necessarily get any real pleasure out of the act; it’s just that we feel worse when we don’t write. It’s not the carrot but the stick that gets most of us moving.

I don’t mean to suggest that there’s no positive pleasure connected with writing. I enjoy getting ideas, for example—both the initial plot germs and the ideas that develop in the course of extended work on a novel. And I very much enjoy having written; the satisfaction of having completed a taxing piece of work can be monumental.

This latter pleasure, come to think of it, is a negative one, isn’t it? When I’m delirious with joy over having finished something, my joy stems in large part from the fact that I do not have to work on it any more, that the dratted thing is over and done with. So it’s nice being about to write, and it’s nice to have written. But is there no way to enjoy writing while it’s going on?

One thing that impedes enjoyment, I would think, is that writing’s hard work. Painters and musicians work hard, too, but there’s a difference. You can’t really relax and go with the flow while you’re writing—at least I can’t, and if anyone can show me how, I’ll be delighted to learn. Writing demands all of my attention and focuses me entirely in the present. I can’t let my mind wander, and if my mind wanders in spite of itself I find I can’t write, and when I want to write and can’t write I find myself possessed of murderous rage.

When a painting doesn’t go well the artist can keep on painting and cover it up. When a musician’s not at his best, the notes he plays float off on the air and he can forget about them. When I’m off my form, the garbage I’ve written just sits there on the page and thumbs its nose at me. And when it gets into print that way, it’s there for all the world to see, forever.

Painters and musicians would probably quibble over a few points there, but from a writer's perspective, it was nice to hear this sort of stuff from a seasoned professional.

From the standpoint of a fan of Block's fiction, this was also fun to read, because it was written in the early '80s. By then he'd published countless books and even completed a series or two. At the time though, he was just getting back into the flow of working on his Scudder detective series, the one that most Block fans seem to regard as his best work. To hear him talk about it with uncertainty provided a nice, autobiographical insight.

Highly recommended to writers, as well as to Block's fans!

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A Honeymoon Gone Wrong

Deadly HoneymoonDeadly Honeymoon by Lawrence Block
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After being attacked by some underworld thugs, instead of a rolling over and playing the victim, a couple decides to get revenge on their attackers.

This was originally one of Donald Westlake's (aka Richard Stark) ideas, which his friend Lawrence Block asked to use since Westlake didn't think he would ever have the time to get around to it. As Richard Stark, he was busy pumping out volumes in his Parker series. Block took the idea and ran with it. Without realizing it, his course veered somewhat from Westlake's original idea, so by the time he was done, he had completed his own book, one that would not have existed without his personal touch.

The story itself is solid. The execution is decent. Since Block's career spans from the '50s to today, this late '60s book could be called an early work. As such it suffers somewhat. Block's easy, flowing style wouldn't really click into place until the '70s. So Deadly Honeymoon feels a little stiff in places. Generally it's not bad, but for instance, towards the beginning the narrative skips an emotional beat and that threw me off for a while. I needed the closure of a certain reaction from one of the two main characters that I didn't get and didn't set right with me. It took a while for me to get over it and except that it just wasn't going to happen. Eventually though, the thrilling tale that is this book took over and I could enjoy it to its satisfying conclusion.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Among the Living

Jordan Castillo Price
JCP Books
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Victor Bayne, the psychic half of a PsyCop team, is a gay medium who’s more concerned with flying under the radar than in making waves.

He hooks up with handsome Jacob Marks, a non-psychic (or “Stiff”) from an adjacent precinct at his ex-partner’s retirement party and it seems like his dubious luck has taken a turn for the better. But then a serial killer surfaces who can change his appearance to match any witness’ idea of the world’s hottest guy.

Solving murders is a snap when you can ask the victims whodunit, but this killer’s not leaving any spirits behind.

My Review

Among the Living is told from the perspective of Victor Bayne, a cop in Chicago’s Paranormal Investigation Unit. He is a Class 5 medium, with the ability to communicate with the dead. At the start of the story, Victor is attending a retirement party for his former partner, Maurice. He nearly crashes head first into Detective Jacob Marks, who eventually becomes his lover, and gets called in to investigate a very unusual homicide.

Victor is assisted by his new partner, Lisa Gutierrez, a cop who is not quite what she appears to be, Jacob, and his partner, Carolyn, a psychic investigator who is able to detect lies.

This is a very well-written, fun, fast-paced and suspenseful story that is the first in a series. Victor is not very comfortable conversing with the dead and takes pills to suppress his abilities. He is flawed, lacks self-esteem, hates shopping for clothes and is self-centered. Jacob is gorgeous, sexy, a sharp dresser, and hot for Victor. These two very different guys made a perfect pair, and I enjoyed every moment with them as they successfully solve a series of homicides and develop a relationship.

There are a few well-written sex scenes, but Among the Living is not a traditional romance where the main focus is on the physical and emotional relationship. Jacob and Vic are busy guys...there are crimes to solve and wayward spirits to deal with, but they do make time for love.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings

Inhumans: Once and Future KingsInhumans: Once and Future Kings by Christopher J. Priest
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Black Bolt is the King in waiting as the Living Terrigenesis also known as the Unspoken is the regent King. The Unspoken became King after the death of Black Bolt's parents. All has gone well with the arrangement until the alpha primitives attempt to execute the Unspoken. Black Bolt, Maximus, and Medusa are convinced by a smart alpha primitive that their lives are in danger because they embarrassed the Unspoken by saving him. They flee Attilan seeking help.

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings is a story that just seems off. I've read up on the history of the Unspoken and the story simply made him seem vastly different. It largely reads as though it's the Unspoken's own account of the situation. He views himself as a benevolent regent preparing Black Bolt and Maximus to lead.

The story pins the blame largely on the Seeker

while also depicting Medusa as an angry impulsive young woman.

Outside of the strangeness of the story's continuity it was a solid look at the Inhuman Royals. They all get some page time and outside of Medusa's rage they behave in a consistent manner to other stories I've read about them. The story wasn't groundbreaking in any way.

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings is an average take that doesn't seem to agree with prior Inhuman tales.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018


The Ghost of Captain HinchliffeThe Ghost of Captain Hinchliffe by David Dennington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”’Good evening, my name is Emilie Hinchliffe.’ More applause. ‘I’ve come here tonight to tell you my story,’ she gestured to the relevant subject of artwork as she spoke. ‘It’s about an heiress, an aeroplane, a ghost and the mightiest airship the world has ever seen. I know you’ve read the story of what happened to me, and to my husband and to many of his friends just recently. Tonight, I’m going to tell you the whole story.”

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The Endeavor. The Stinson Detroiter plane used by Captain Hinchliffe and Elise Mackay. Picture provided by David Dennington

On May 20th, 1927, Charles Lindbergh left Roosevelt Field in New York in his custom made, soon to be famous plane The Spirit of St. Louis . He made the crossing in 33.5 hours and became the first man to complete a solo, nonstop flight from New York to a European landmass. He became the most famous man in the world. He also earned $25,000 in prize money.

The race was on to see who could make the trip from East to West.

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Captain Raymond Hinchliffe

Captain Raymond Hinchliffe might have been an unlikely candidate to make the trip, but he was one of the most celebrated pilots of his era. During the Great War, he was shot down. He lost an eye in the resulting crash, and one leg would never be right again, but he was undaunted in his abilities to fly as well as any man. After the war, it wasn’t easy for him to find work as a commercial pilot, and frankly, that type of work was unfulfilling. He felt that he had one more great endeavor in him, and no one had beat him to it yet. He wanted to make that flight from East to West across the Atlantic, and the 10,000 pounds in prize money would give him and his wife Millie some security for the future.

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Elsie Mackay

Elsie Mackay was a rich girl, not content to just be a socialite. She was an actress, which would be more than enough attention for most other young ladies, but for her, she too wanted to define herself by a bold action. There were few pilots in the 1920s, but there were really only a handful of female pilots. Some might say she was recklessly trying to impress her father, Lord Inchcape. Being the first woman to cross the Atlantic was a prize well worth trying for, despite the danger. For a woman as progressive as Elsie, keeping pace with the boys was not only fun and exciting, but also essential.

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Captain Hinchliffe and his wife Millie.

Millie Hinchliffe was the wife of Captain Hinchliffe, a concert level pianist, and an accomplished painter. She had a knack for portrait painting; sometimes she expressed so well the inner life of her subject that it could be an uncomfortable revelation for the portrait sitter. Winston Churchill noticed her particular ability to capture the auras of her subjects. As this novel progressed, her otherworldly abilities became more acute, and she began to see visions that scared her into action to attempt to warn people of impending disaster. Her most terrifying vision of all regarded the mightiest airship ever built, the Cardington R101.

To know something horrifying that no one else knows is frustrating and lonely.

Meanwhile, the race was on for Hinchliffe and Mackay to get their Stinson Detroiter plane modified for the trip across the Atlantic. They knew a German team was nearly ready to attempt the crossing. There were no second place medals. There could only be one first. The tension was revving up with each new chapter.

One of the things I most enjoy about Dennington’s books is his development of female characters. They are not merely furniture or cardboard cutouts. They are women who are multi-talented and not at all compelled to be confined to a traditional role. They want to experience life on the same scale that any man would want. We certainly should not to forget these women of the air who dared to challenge this new frontier. Lauren Notaro, author of Crossing the Horizon, released this short, but poignant, video commemorating those women. Please do give it a quick look. 1:38 video of Crossing the Horizon

This book intersects with Dennington’s other book The Airshipmen, which I have also read and reviewed. Some characters in one book show up in the other. In his first book, he tells the tale of the airship Cardington R101. A special pleasure for me is that he brings the writer and engineer Nevil Shute to life and reminds me how much I enjoy his writing. I now have planes plans to read several of Shute’s books over the coming months.

Let’s return briefly to Millie so you can have some idea of the visions this poor woman was experiencing. The trick was to even interpret what she was seeing with any level of certainty.

”The train jerked forward. It traveled slowly away, she from him, he from her. He became drowned in black smoke. It was then, in the blackness, she saw his aura--usually vibrant multicolors--now predominantly purple and mauve. As she moved away, the black smoke, too, turned into swirling clouds of purple. She didn’t take her eyes from him until he was gone. She had an unbearable sinking feeling as he disappeared. What did it mean? She sank into her seat. As she’d watched him, she’d felt his spirit slipping away, as though this iron monster was pulling them apart, clacking wheels measuring the distance yard by yard. She felt terribly afraid.”

What does it mean?

David Dennington kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

Jeffrey D. Keeten: “The problem, of course, with the art of clairvoyance is that the demand for answers from so many people who lost someone in the Great War created opportunities for charlatans.”

David Dennington: “This was true after WW1 and the R101 disaster. I reckon probably only ten percent were genuine. Money was scarce, too, and it was a good way to pick up a few pounds/dollars.”

Jeffrey D. Keeten: “I've read before about the belief held by Arthur Conan Doyle which you explored in your novel, but I'm curious to know if you believe in clairvoyants?”

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Arthur Conan Doyle spirit photo.

David Dennington: “Conan Doyle was a lovely guy. A bit naïve and was taken for a ride at times, I think. This is why I wanted to sit in circle and develop my own psychic ability. Then I could say, ‘I saw it myself’.”

JDK: “Can we speak with the dead? Have you attended a legitimate seance?”

DD: “Yes, sometimes, and yes, I have. I can only speak for myself. Growing up as a child, I always felt as though something was there. At 10, I distinctly remember being in my little schoolroom and looking round at all the girls. I liked girls. I thought what it might be like to be married. I was told that my wife’s name would begin with the letter ‘J.’ For many years, I went to school with a good friend who said his grandmother was a ‘medium’ and would I like to meet her. I always declined—not courageous enough. But when my father died at 48, when I was 20, he asked me again, and I said ‘yes.’ She was a kindly old soul with smiling eyes who chuckled all the time. Mrs. East is based on her and a composite of my own Nan who sat beside the picture on the wall of her own son ‘Lawrie,’ torpedoed by a Uboat in WW2. His death overshadowed the family all my life. So, the old lady took me to the Spiritualist church where I ‘sat in circle’ for a year or so; it is eerily similar to Mrs East in The Ghost. My own psychic development did occur. I do have some interesting tales to tell of my experiences and some over the years since. In circle, I did encounter mediums who were ‘powerful.’ You could actually feel it coming from their bodies, like electricity (ah, now I’m thinking of Madam Harandah!) There were others who I think were just ‘wannabees’ with no power at all. I attended ‘transfigurations,’ which was interesting, and was invited to ‘materializations,’ which I declined, feeling it was too open to fraud and the ‘darkside.’ But Millie Hinchliffe did go to all those things. I am thinking of writing a memoir of all my experiences in the psychic realm.”

“The thing about being given something, like a sign, is usually very small. But to you personally, when it happens, it’s huge. But when told to someone else, it might sound daft, or that you’ve got a screw loose. I’ll give you a couple of instances. The first one was when I’d returned from Bermuda with my family to London and was pretty depressed after being in such an exotic place, leading the life of Riley. I planned to take a job in Florida, which my friend Mike (we’d been friends from our Bahama days) had arranged for me. But I thought I would go up to London to Belgrave Square to the Spiritualist Alliance and get a reading (yes, the same place Millie went to with Mrs. East). I went there, and the medium, a man, was wary of me, thinking I was a journalist (I had a pencil and a notebook). He said I would go and live in Africa, to which I thought, ‘I will never set foot in Africa.’ As I was going out the door, he said, ‘You will write a book, a very big book, and it will be rather wonderful!’ Then he pointed at me and said, ‘You must pay your taxes!’ I’ve thought about that for years. If you look at the map, South Florida and Africa look similar. I was leaving for South Florida the following week. I wonder if he’d been shown a map and got it wrong. I wrote a ‘big book’ thirty years later. And I later got into massive trouble over my taxes, which hit me like a Mack truck—all unintentional on my part.”

“The second thing happened this year. And could be pure coincidence. My best friend Mike of fifty years (who found me the job in Florida) died of brain cancer in November last year. We are all like family. I was in Bermuda in May and during the night got up and came back to my room in the dark. I sat on the bed and fondly thought of my buddy Mike and imagined him saying to me, ‘I love you man; you are my brother, you know.’ Then I felt something weird in my left ear and put my hand to it. Something was stuck to my ear. I pulled it off and put the light on. I was a heart—a child’s sticky icon left on the bed by my grandchildren. There were others, I discovered, of the alphabet. What struck me was that it was over my ear, and it was the valentine symbol of love. It could have been a letter from the alphabet. Now, to you it probably all sounds silly, but I just wonder. I keep an open mind but am always skeptical. Mike, like Christopher Hitchens, was an atheist, and we had some fights about it. He was almost bitter about the subject. We had a set to about it in Spain, and on leaving, he hugged me goodbye. Somehow I knew that would be the last time I’d see him, though we tried three times to get to Florida to see him but were prevented by hurricanes, etc. In passing, I have to tell you that I love Hitchens and agree with most of what he says (and love to watch him on Youtube). I think to believe in God, the afterlife, and all that, you have to have imagination or, should I say, an imaginative type of mind. Hitchens was a Marxist, but he thought for himself; he did not move with the herd, and that made him fascinating to the media (and of course, he was light years ahead of all of them). Now like Mike, I wonder if he’s changed his views now he’s ‘over there’! Sorry, I digress.”

JDK: “Your two novels intersect. Have you any plans to build on this world with your next novel? There are so many interesting characters associated with this period of history. I could really see you being able to do four or five novels without leaving the confines of your original research too far.”

DD:”I love this idea and often think of doing it. Some people have said they would have liked to know more about the airship crewmen and that I didn’t tell enough about their lives—as if it wasn’t long enough already! Then there’s Martha and Ramsay MacDonald, of course.”

JDK:”You have an affinity for bringing strong female characters, real or imaginary, to life.”

DD: “Thank you.”

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Elsie Mackay. Picture provided by David Dennington.

JDK: “Most memorably for me was Countess Marthe Bibesco from The Airshipmen. In this novel, Millie Hinchliffe and Elsie Mackay are so vividly portrayed one might say they still haunt me.”

DD: “Thank you. No author could ask for more than that.”

JDK “For that reason I would highly recommend your books to men and women without reservations. Male readers and female readers will find people they can identify with and, in some cases, maybe someone from the opposite sex. Was this a conscious part of your writing to achieve this balance?”

DD: “Actually, I don’t consciously do that. I listen. And I write down what they say. It’s like taking dictation. I think I can feel and think what a woman feels and thinks. Maybe it was from being around my mother as an only child with my Dad at work at nights, printing the Daily Mirror. Or, maybe, and this is just a big maybe, it’s from past lives, if you believe in any of that!”

JDK: “You must have a few female beta readers who must say from time to time, ‘Oh David, she wouldn't say that or do that?”

DD: “That has not happened yet. I have had a few Nevil Shute fans say I write like him. Sometimes I think he’s been looking over my shoulder. I kick myself now that I didn’t bring him into The Ghost. He could have been in the pub and met Hinch and Millie. He could have come down and had his portrait painted, and he could have advised her on writing her own book.”

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A posed photo of Elsie Mackay. I love the shoes!

JDK: “What I really like about your female characters is the fact that they are multi-talented women. They aren't just good at one thing. That is certainly why I find them so fascinating.”

DD: “Thank you. I love women. All the women in my life have been wonderful: My Nan, my mother Lena, Aunt Vi (Lawrie’s sister--still alive and more like my sister), my cousin Dawn, my daughter (who is a super intelligent Tufts graduate, my editor, and the best read person I know), and Jennifer, my wife with a 'J.'”

“Thank you again, Jeffrey. As a writer, I must say you are someone who really 'gets it.'”

JDK: My special thanks to David Dennington for graciously agreeing to answer my questions and for providing me with several photos that I used in this review.

The Ghost of Captain Hinchliffe Video.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Salvation (Salvation Sequence #1) By: Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation (Salvation Sequence #1)Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven't read Mr Hamilton in a LONG while, but as always, I remembered very quickly HOW BLEEPING well he does science fiction. Salvation is a super fast paced, tightly interwoven thrill ride. The science is very hard edged and totally plausible which I am totally into and totally dug the fact that I didn't know exactly where the story was going (that happens alot more than I would like)

Great world building, great action, and I look forward to more of this (welcome back to my TBR stack, Mr. Hamilton)

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Port of Shadows (The Chronicles of the Black Company 1.5) By: Glen Cook

Port of Shadows (The Chronicles of the Black Company, #1.5)Port of Shadows by Glen Cook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a deep love affair with the Black Company, it hits all the high marks for a great read that I require. I love the characters, the world, the story and the WHOLE idea, It portrays military fantasy as it should be...from the eyes of the frontline guys and their trials.

This WHOLE series is great, and chances are if you follow my reviews, you have read at least one. GO pick this it in one STUPID DAY. (insert sad I got to wait for more)

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Monday, September 17, 2018

The Civil War As Seen From Slaves' Point of View

The Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former SlavesThe Slaves' War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves by Andrew Ward
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A collection of quotes from former slaves with a focus on the Civil War.

This one's been sitting on my tbr pile for a while now. February seemed a good month to read it. Glad I did. I learned some surprising insights that made it all worth it.

The narrative is a bit disjointed at times since Andrew Ward is acting more as a compiler/editor than an author. It's quote after quote with a statement or two that mostly sets up a section or acts as a bridge of ideas when needed. Still, Ward relies on the former slaves' accounts without embellishment, so occasionally you get what feels like a non sequitur. Aside from that squibble, what you get are some tough-to-hear stories of humans being treated like chattel.

The author's note at the end was one of the most useful and necessary I've ever read. It answered questions I didn't realize I'd been forming while reading.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Fairly Lights

Fairy LightsFairy Lights by Edward Lorn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What evil lurks on Palomar Mountain? Tony, Bobby, and Tony's mother are going to find out the hard way...

Most horror readers on Goodreads are familiar with Edward Lorn. Easy E is a good guy and doesn't come across as a complete asshat like a lot of authors. When DarkFuse hit the skids and dropped the price on a lot of their ebooks, my choice was made for me.

People fear the unknown and the wilderness represents the great unknown to a lot of people. Fairy Lights plays on those fears. A homicidal feral rapist doesn't help matters...

Fairy Lights was originally serialized on the DarkFuse website. While its roots show in places, I think the original format contributes to the horror. You never know who Lorn is going to introduce so he can kill them off in a brutal fashion a couple chapters later.

Bobby and Tony were well-realized characters. I hate when teenagers in books don't talk anything like real teens. I always think Ed does a good job with teenage dialogue and angst. Moss, as far as feral rapists go, was fairly detailed. I wouldn't mind knowing how The Handy trained him, though.

The Handy was hinted at for most of the story but only shown a couple times near the end, which I think was a good move. Once you see a monster enough times, it's not scary anymore. I'm looking in your direction, Predator II.

Fairy Lights was an entertaining read from an entertaining guy. As always, the Lorn delivers. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Cold Front

Ann Somerville
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


Dek tops. Ren bottoms. Neither gives an inch. Kinky, tough, troubled, caring. Cops and lovers, fighting crime and, sometimes, each other, in a vast cold land where the criminals read minds and the cops never know what they'll face next.

My Review

Every once in a while I come across a book that makes me want to go back and re-evaluate some of my 5-star ratings. Cold Front is one of those books. I am already familiar with Ann Somerville’s work, having read the fast-paced and gripping Interstitial and its equally engaging sequel, Impedimenta. My only complaint about these two stories is their short length. Cold Front consists of two novellas, “One Brief Encounter” and “A House is Not a Home” followed by the full-length novel, “Cold Front”. This book satisfied my need for a meaty and lengthy story. It focuses on the relationship between the two main characters, Dek and Ren, but there is also an engrossing mystery, paranormal elements, erotic romance, a lot of conflict and drama, emotional intensity, and a well-drawn cast of secondary characters, some good and some downright evil. I loved these stories like I love a full moon, strawberry sundaes, and walking in the rain. This is definitely a keeper and I look forward to reading anything Ann Somerville writes.

One Brief Encounter

31-year-old Dekan hon Cerimwe den Tsikeni is a Defence Force Officer who is scheduled for police training and looking to spend a quiet night at a bar. The most gorgeous man he’s seen in 10 years just happens to be there. 28-year-old Rensire hon Parmin den Vizinken is also out for a quiet night and happens to be on the Force too. The two men are instantly drawn to each other, and though Dek’s military bearing and discipline demands he behave sensibly, Dek yields to his desires, boards the back of Ren’s two-wheeler and they head to a hotel.

Ren is a Level 2 empath. His ability to share others’ emotions and feelings causes him a great deal of stress at times, so in order to relieve his stress, he likes his sex a little rough and prefers to be controlled. Dek feels perfectly comfortable taking charge, and Ren willingly goes along with it. Their sex is scorching hot – lashings, restraints, and loving domination.

It’s just too bad that Dek and Ren are going back to work and won’t be seeing each other until Dek’s training session the following year. They agree to meet up at that time, but Dek is badly injured while he and his fellow officers are sent in to break up a prostitution ring. Oh, well. Fraternizing with other police officers is against the rules anyway. Still, Dek can’t quite get Ren out of his mind.

When Ren applies for a job in forensics at Ren’s station, both men explore that connection that started two years before, but are now faced with dealing with the stressful demands of their jobs and Dek’s painful past.

A House is Not a Home

Ren is now Dek’s partner at work and is well-liked by the majority of his co-workers. The two men are starting to develop strong feelings for each other, but there are still regulations and Dek’s grief over his dead wife to contend with. Ren patiently uses his empathic ability to lessen the intensity of Dek’s painful emotions while keeping his good feelings and memories intact. Dek’s acute suffering and Ren’s talent put to good use made this a very sweet and emotionally intense story.

Cold Front

Ren and Dek are now regular lovers. They work together to solve a series of gruesome murders of young girls. Their bodies are found mutilated and their bodies dumped in random locations. When an empath is found murdered, Ren believes the cases are connected, but they are ordered to focus on the girls’ murders. This is a very dark and satisfying murder mystery with plenty of twists and turns and lots of gritty forensic details. They are dealing with a deranged and sadistic killer who gets pleasure out of torturing his victims. It’s a tough case for the detectives, and time is running out when Ren goes missing. This is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching story that left me a teary-eyed mess. Though it ends on a hopeful note, and Ren and Dek have a strong relationship, there are still lots of problems to be resolved.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle between Marvel and DC

Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle between Marvel and DCSlugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle between Marvel and DC by Reed Tucker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marvel or DC?

The two companies are the most recognizable names in the comic book industry and the two that have lasted the longest. They have depicted countless imaginary battles throughout their decades long history, but the biggest battle has been the one with each other. Slugfest tells the history of the 50 year battle between Marvel and DC.

Slugfest is exactly what it claims to be, a history book on the battle between Marvel and DC. It gives the facts with some small opinions and countless quotes from experts in the industry.

"DC characters are too perfect and pegged to a different time," said Joan Hilty, a DC editor from 1995 to 2010.

As a kid born in the '80s, DC characters being too perfect would be the perfect way to sum up my feelings about them. I grew up hating Superman and finding the Justice League dull except for Batman. Little did I know that when Marvel came on the scene and challenged the status quo of superheroes that my feelings were shared by the masses. DC was the behemoth before Marvel was even born, but due to their dominance they stopped feeling the need to innovate and Marvel took full advantage.

"...Marvel and DC's heroes are cut from different cloths. They're philosophically different and don't fit easily into the same story. DC's characters are clean, well-mannered boy scouts, and Marvel's heroes are flawed and more human."

Once Marvel over took DC in sales they seemingly never looked back and apparently have largely dominated the competition ever since. There have been titles and certain areas where DC has been more dominate in like TV and animation, but the Slugfest states DC has constantly trying to emulate Marvel to capture more of the market share.

Slugfest is largely a story of business. One company believed it was too big to be challenged by anyone and is flabbergasted to find itself at number two. Marvel and DC found themselves embattled from then on stealing ideas and employees from one another with occasional ceasefires for crossovers over the years. Both companies have had instances where they were driven by artistry, greed, arrogance, and competition. One thing is clear though the two need one another in a strange way. The victories wouldn't be so sweet and it seems neither could have survived this long without each other.

Slugfest is an informative read for comic lovers who enjoy knowing the history of their favorite childhood comic book heroes.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018


A New Hope for Mexico: Saying No to Corruption, Violence, and Trump’s WallA New Hope for Mexico: Saying No to Corruption, Violence, and Trump’s Wall by Andrés Manuel López Obrador
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”As the great novelist Carlos Fuentes wrote, ‘When we exclude, we lose. When we include, we win, and we shall never recognize our own humanity without recognizing that of others.’”

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Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will take office as President of Mexico in December 2018. I can not be more excited for our neighbors to the South. While in college at the University of Arizona, I took a class on Mexican history as a summer course. It was an intense, comprehensive class that left me exhausted and with a swimming head in the desert heat as I walked home to my house just off campus. I was particularly taken with the series of revolutions that happened. The peasants would rise up and throw out a corrupt dictator, and then their leader, for whom they shed blood, sweat, and tears, would become as corrupt as the dictator they had overthrown. Reset: new revolution, more peasant blood, sweat, and tears, and another dictator replaced by yet another corrupt dictator.

It was depressing.

I had heard good things about Lopez Obrador, so when Alex Doherty from OR Books/Counterpoint contacted me about reviewing his book, I said, “FRILLING A!

Lopez Obrador gave a series of speeches while campaigning for the presidency titled Oye! Trump! He was running against the corrupted neoliberalism that had gripped his country for too long, but he was also running against the whole idea of what Trump stood for and the harsh rhetoric about immigrants that Trump used to bring his base to a frothing, Build a Wall chanting, Fake News believing, children separated at the border supporting mob.

Trump called immigrants rapists. All of them. How many immigrants would have to be convicted rapists before you could call them all rapists? 60%, 30%, 10%, 2%?

When I lived in Arizona, I worked for a bookstore chain, and we opened a store in Mesa. I was in charge of the project, and even though the labor was subcontracted to renovate an old grocery store into a bookstore, I spent a lot of time with the mostly Mexican workforce. They called me jefe and were always respectful, even though I was a young, brash, just out of college, white guy in way over his head and stressed to the max. I’ve never seen people work harder. Their work ethic is still the bar I use for myself.

Lopez Obrador does not want that labor leaving Mexico. He wants them staying and helping to rebuild their country. He has a plan on how to do that. He wants to bring agriculture back to the level it was several decades ago. There is no reason for Mexico to be importing food when they have so much rich and fertile land. If he can do this, he will not only save the pueblos but keep young people in their communities instead of fleeing to the overcrowded cities, or worse immigrating to America.

He also wants to replant thousands of acres of rainforest. I am a big lover of trees, and I also understand the importance of the rainforests of the world in maintaining our beautiful climates. Make it so Obrador!

Corruption is the biggest issue that Mexico faces. Overpaid government officials are a disgrace to Mexico. Corruption in government has allowed the rampant crime rate to spiral out of control. To stop violent crime, Lopez Obrador has determined that the best place to start is ending the corruption at the top. Crime can not be fought at the bottom of a social pyramid if the top of the pyramid is corrupt.

“The rise of neoliberalism over the last thirty years (which has entailed privatization, abandonment of our rural areas, economic stagnation, unemployment, neglect of our youth, inequality, and corruption) ushered in the crisis of violence and instability that plagues us today.

This corruption and looting of the Mexican economy by the rich has left the Mexican people with three choices: attempt to survive in the informal economy; migrate to the United States; or survive through criminal activity.”

Carlos Salinas was elected President of Mexico in 1988. At the start of his reign, there was one billionaire in his country, and by the end of his reign in 1994 there were 24 billionaires in Mexico. This was all due to the banks, companies, and mines, that were at one time owned by the government, being allowed to be privatized. The wealth that was taken from Mexico and given to a handful of people is staggering. Lopez Obrador does not want Mexico to be more like the United States. He wants it to be better, and one way to do that is to reclaim what belongs to all of Mexico.

Redistribution of wealth is one of those terms that make Republican-- you know what-- pucker. If the few end up owning everything worth owning, we will be a feudal society. Under Presidents W. Bush and Obama, the gap between the 1%ers and the rest of the country widened astronomically and has continued under President Trump. We are ruled by an oligarchy of rich, white guys. The free market economy, that we all grow up believing we can be a part of, is a myth. Trickle down economics, which has failed every time it has been attempted, including most recently in the state of Kansas where I live, is a term that makes my-- you know what-- pucker. As Lopez Obrador says, money is not water. It does not trickle down. It does seem to be very good at fluttering back up to the top.

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If Lopez Obrador can do what he says he will do in this book, Mexico could very well become a shining beacon. His plan is bold. He will have to rebuild Mexico’s policies along with the infrastructure that will lead them back to economic prosperity. The resources are there; all they have to do is be managed by someone who is wanting to make the lives of millions better, instead of allowing 24 billionaires to continue to get richer at the expense of the people. 24 billionaires only have 24 votes though their money may buy more.

I will keep an eye on President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He is going to make a lot of enemies, but if the people stick with him, he could make it so any wall on the border is more to keep Americans out of Mexico than Mexicans out of America.

***Special thanks to Alex Doherty and OR Books/Counterpoint for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.***

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Getting Real About Mythology

Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and HeroesMythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Edith Hamilton may have written Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes more than a half century ago and she may have been fairly ancient when she did so, but she still put out one seriously readable book!

Hamilton took from the best sources to cobble together slick summaries of all your old time myth favorites. Before giving each mythical story's highlights, she details the different writers who created a version of it and explains the qualities of the best ones. Sometimes she berates the lesser attempts and I appreciated the balance, especially since she explains her critique.

Now having said, I have to note the caveat that this is not a scholarly work. This is a summary, a boiling-down, a sugar-coating of a topic that frankly could have been presented in a much more academic, dry manner. I'm glad it wasn't. These are not cursory run-throughs. They're full of detail and color.

The main issue with a book with that title is that you expect a wide ranging survey of the topic. This, however, is almost entirely about the Greek Myths. The Roman versions are only mentioned, because the Romans stole their myths wholesale from the Greeks. Aside from that, we get a very superficial mention of the Norse myths that takes up maybe the last 5% of the book. Nothing else in all the rest of humanity is even slightly touched upon. Disappointing. But if you want an easy, fun read on the Greek stuff, this is the book for you!

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Zero Lives Remaining

Zero Lives RemainingZero Lives Remaining by Adam Cesare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ghost at the arcade was largely harmless until it had to kill to protect its favorite patron. Now, the soul of a sociopath is melded with its own and the remaining people in the arcade will have to fight for their lives...

As someone who whiled away many Mountain Dew-fueled hours playing video games as a youth, a novella about a murderous video arcade was something I couldn't pass up. Plus, it was on my kindle and I had to read SOMETHING while my tires were getting rotated. What was I going to do, talk to the other patrons?

As I've said before, I think Adam Cesare and I would be best buds if we'd grown up in the same neighborhood. His video game references hit all the right notes for me without feeling patronizing or pandering. The Ghost and Goblins reference was spot on. Fuck, that was one hard game!

Zero Lives Remaining is a survival horror tale set in a haunted arcade. For a b-horror enthusiast like myself, it reminds me of the part of Maximum Overdrive when they're holed up in the gas station. No one can enter, no one can leave, and it's only a matter of time before the next person dies. Some of the characters are surprisingly well crafted for a novella where most of the cast is destined to die horribly. Dan Bowden, in particular, really had me rooting for him.

There's a fair amount of gore but nothing nausea-inducing. I thought I knew who the survivors would be at the beginning and I was way off.

Zero Lives Remaining is a fun horror novella and a perfect way to kill time waiting for your car to get serviced. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, September 7, 2018


P. L. Nunn
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars


The neko are a cat-like race that live separate from humans. When Dharsha, a young neko is captured and enslaved he learns just how cruel humanity can be. Sold to a group of brutal woodsmen, who despise his differences, he becomes less than human, an object for them to sate their frustrations and lust. Only when a passing trapper frees him of their cruel ownership, does he discover that not all humans are evil. And in a new land, he discovers as well, that he can find love and clan with the one man who needs him as much as he is needed.

My Review

I would not have read this book if several of my friends have not already read and enjoyed P.L. Nunn’s work. Since I have read many books that explore the darker side of humanity and the evil things people do to each other, I wasn’t going to let a few warnings like, “bestiality, torture, and exaggerated scenes of humiliation, sadism and bondage” scare me away.

In Chapter 1, a young Neko named Dharsha was captured and sold as a pleasure slave. He went through hell with his first few masters until he was sold to a woman who introduced him to pleasures he knew little of. Though she was mostly kind, she would never let Dharsha forget he was just a slave, and he rebelled. His rebellion earned a brutal beating and his sale to five woodsmen who didn’t waste any time showing Dharsha how to behave like a proper slave.

I read this chapter just before going to bed and had a dream that I had a Neko of my own. Like the Neko in the story, he was a young man with feline characteristics such as tail, claws and tufted ears. He was sitting in my father’s favorite chair drinking a tall glass of Coke while I was sitting on the couch with my grandmother across the way. My father comes home unexpectedly, and my grandmother and I race to the kitchen, leaving the Neko sitting quietly. From the kitchen we can hear glass break, and my father shouting about cat hairs on his chair. Then he proceeded to beat the Neko until he howled. When I came out of the kitchen to beg my dad to leave him alone, my dad started pounding on me for referring to the Neko as a “him” and not as an “it”. I remember waking up and thinking that this author must have some serious issues with men and cats.

Chapters 2 through 7 nauseated me with the relentless torture, physical and sexual humiliation, and deprivations Dharsha endures with the five woodsmen. It took me a couple of days to read these chapters, as they were too much, even for me. I then had a dream that my former boss called me into work (after I was laid off) because he couldn’t find any of the employee files. When I arrived at the office, I saw the file cabinet drawers were open and my former office was a shambles. The files were nowhere to be found. My boss then grabbed me, bent me over the desk, tied my arms over my head, pulled my pants down, and took a switch to my bare ass. By this stage, the Neko’s spirit was so broken and my feelings so numb that nothing that happened next could have shocked me. So I kept reading.

In the next chapter, a trapper comes to the woodsmen’s cabin wishing to spend a night or two in the stable while his horse recovers from injury. Neko reveals the woodsmen’s plans for the trapper and the two make their escape.

Though Dharsha is relieved to be away from his brutal masters, it takes some time for him to adjust to his freedom. Gradually, his feline senses become more attuned, his claws grow back and he demonstrates skill as a hunter. These skills become useful when the trapper’s life becomes endangered.

It was a pleasure watching Dharsha grow and change, though I wish more of the story would have been devoted to his adjustment to his new life and his developing relationship with Caled, the trapper, rather than the brutality he endured.

I suspect this is the most violent of P.L. Nunn’s works and will read another of the author’s stories, just not right away.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Armored Saint

The Armored Saint (The Sacred Throne, #1)The Armored Saint by Myke Cole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Suffer no wizard to live."

The Order ensures no wizards, wizard sympathizers, or wizard harborers are allowed to live lest hell's dark maw opens once again allowing demons to walk among man. When Heloise and the villagers of Lutet are gathered to assist the Order by razing a nearby town and all of it's inhabitants, Heloise and her father defy instructions and bring the Orders' wrath to Lutet.

The Armored Saint was a mixed bag for me. I was immediately drawn into the story based on the Order and their sadistic tendencies. The Order is the supreme power in the land and they do not require any reason for their cruelty. The Writ, the world's holy book written by their Emperor, demands obedience from all towards the Emperor and his Order. These are the type of characters I largely want to see brought low because they abuse their power unabashedly. The world seems to be in a permanent Salem Witch Hunt atmosphere. Any suspected wizardry brings the Order near and no one wants the Order near.

After the strong beginning things go slowly and get less interesting. I won't go into major details, but the story focuses largely on Heloise and her father Samson's lack of judgment. They know the Order is cruel beyond need yet they can't seem to stop themselves from messing with them. Samson tries to lecture Heloise, but she clearly gets her rage filled stupidity from him and he has yet to learn to keep himself in check. The Order undoubtedly makes this difficult, but Samson should have taken his own advice when he said, "When a killer [any member of the Order] dumps your kit in the mud, you smile sweetly and tell him he's done right." If only Samson could listen to himself, then perhaps Heloise could learn to do the same.

The book did have more than a few heartbreaking moments. Witnessing friends slaughtered by the Order was significant, but what was harder was Heloise's love interest. She's in love with her best friend Basina who's betrothed to a man. Heloise has never spoken of her love, but she thinks about Basina constantly and is massively protective of her. Young love is difficult enough for anyone, but the added factor of being in love with someone of the same sex in a world where that's likely considered an executable offense is hard to read.

The Armored Saint got me excited in the beginning, but ended with me wondering if I care to continue the series.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018


The LightkeepersThe Lightkeepers by Abby Geni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”There is a wonderful violence to the act of photography. The camera is a potent thing, slicing an image away from the landscape and pinning it to a sheet of film. When I choose a segment of horizon to capture, I might as well be an elephant seal hunting an octopus. The shutter clicks. Every boulder, wave, and curl of cloud included in the snapshot is severed irrevocably from what is not included. The frame is as sharp as a knife. The image is ripped from the surface of the world.”

 photo Farallon20Islands_zpskhby61jw.jpg

Miranda has pulled every string available, applied for all the grants, and finally receives an invite to join the scientists already ensconced in the sanctuary on the Farallon Islands. These islands are so small and so close to sea level that if the ocean rises half an inch they will disappear forever. The scientists are there to study the birds, the whales, the seals, and the sharks that all use these islands to battle for mates, to feed, to reproduce, and raise their young.

The scientists are there to record and not interfere with the workings of nature. They adhere to a prime directive that reminds me of the same command that was regularly spouted by the crew of the Enterprise. ”Star Trek, the Prime Directive (also known as Starfleet General Order 1 or General Order 1) is a guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets prohibiting the protagonists from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations.” If a baby seal is toddling off to certain death, all you can do is watch it die.

The scientists call her Melissa, Mel, Mouse Girl, really anything but her real name. She doesn’t correct them. Being someone else for a while is just fine with her. She writes letters to her dead mother. She gives her cameras names as if they were children or pets. She has been running from any permanence in her life. Mortgages, relationships, children, picket fences, car payments are foreign concepts to her. She wants to be able to leave anywhere at a moments notice and head for somewhere else that she can capture images she has never seen before with her camera.

”Your death made me into a nature photographer.

I was always going to be an artist. There was never any question about that. I need to take pictures of the world around me the way a whale needs to come up for air. For as long as I can remember, I have been driven by beauty. I am talented; I don’t mind saying it. Photography was a given. Nature was the wild card.”

It is not that Miranda is unfriendly. She just doesn’t put any work into developing friendships. Friends become weights that can potentially keep her anchored to the Earth. The constant presence of her mother’s ghost is, in many ways, all consuming. When one of the scientists tells her about the ghost that lives in her quarters, Miranda is not scared, nor is she skeptical. ”’I believe you,’ I said. ‘I believe in ghosts.’”

The ghost of her dead mother is like an ethereal talisman. Something she doesn’t have to hold anywhere but in her mind.

Everything is going great. She is fitting in well enough with everyone. She knows where she stands in the pecking order. Everyone helps everyone else with their projects. She is capturing some amazing images.

And then a late night assault is committed.

This leads to a suspicious death, which leads to an unravelling of the symbiotic relationships they have achieved. Trust has been breached. ”In truth, there were a hundred ways to die on the islands. It was amazing that we were not all six feet under--lost to the wind, the ocean, and the dreadful, human capacity for misadventure.” The island is trying to kill them, and now no one is sure whom they can trust among the people they must trust to survive.

 photo Seagulls_zpsilip9iwp.jpg
Look at that crazy head pecking bastard!

The most dangerous part of the island are the kamikaze gulls. ”But the gulls are the worst. They kill for food. They kill for pleasure. They kill for no good reason. They are expert assassins. They soar around the islands with bloody beaks and a mad glint in their eyes.” When Miranda is first pecked in the head, I can’t help thinking about the lovely Tippi Hedren, sitting in that small boat on the water being dive bombed by gulls in the Hitchcock film The Birds.

No, thank you. I would not be able to adhere to the Prime Directive. I’d be carrying around a blood crusted bat, waiting for the next dive bombing gull assassin.

One of the things I became aware of while I was reading this book is the powerful thirst I have for nature writing. I read a lot of Edward Abbey, Charles Bowden, and others as I was going to college in Tucson, but I haven’t really pursued the genre of nature or nature fiction much since I left the desert. I recently read Bearskin, which is set in another nature preserve in Virginia, and enjoyed it immensely. Fortunately for me and for you, Abby Geni has a new book coming out September 4th, 2018, called The Wildlands . She also has a collection of short stories called The Last Animal, which I also intend to read. Geni describes nature in vivid detail. I was transported to this wind swept, bird shit splattered, rain battered, gorgeous island. I settled in...well...not with the gulls, *shiver*, but with this dedicated crew of people intent on doing everything they can to advance our knowledge of the mystical world of nature.

”Perhaps there were only two kinds of people in the world--the takers and the watchers--the plunderers and the protectors--the eggers and the lightkeepers.”

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Bloody Rose (The Band #2) By : Nicholas Eames

Bloody Rose (The Band, #2)Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Swagger...that's the word on the tip of my tongue as I BURNED through Bloody Rose in a fit of pure madness and joy. Kings of the Wyld was a joy to read, what I call rock and roll epic fantasy. IF that tale was the journey of the band getting back together, the stomp of a Led Zeppelin, the crunch of a Black Sabbath.. Bloody Rose is a different beast.

Its metal, the shred of Metallica, the live fast die young of early Motley Crue, the flash and crash of punk rock. IT IS BEAUTIFUL. Action, passion, screaming over the top fights, characters you love and a world you want to sink into and the most important thing...massive massive heart.

one of the top fantasies of this year, if you haven't read the Band series, why you wasting time?

99999 stars out of 5

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Another Cornwell Victory In His Sharpe Saga!

Sharpe's Havoc (Sharpe, #7)Sharpe's Havoc by Bernard Cornwell
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's been a while since I've read one of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books. I read most of the series some years back, but there are still one or two left that I haven't gotten around to. The series would make more sense if it were read in chronological order, because Cornwell set these books to run throughout the entirety of the Napoleonic Wars from start to finish.

However, he was also smart enough to make each book a solid stand-alone read. You can pick up any throughout the series and you won't necessarily feel lost. That's not because he loads you down with all the backstory in each book. He doesn't. The fact is, you don't need backstory to enjoy these. They're action/adventure good-time books, like romance novels for those who prefer guns over roses.

And yet, having said that, there is always a romance element. Our hero is forever saving some damsel in distress and then often getting her out of dis dress. I don't know how many ridiculously beautiful, young and ditzy English dames were flouncing about Europe in the middle of that war, but I think Sharpe found them all.

Aside from the well-described action scenes, one of the draws for me has been Cornwell's excellent eye for history. He adds some colorful period details, yes, but I mean adding actual history to his fictional series. It provides the characters and their actions gravitas. Sharpe's Havoc is set in Portugal when Wellington took over and the British were working with the Portuguese to toss the French out of the country. This was the beginning of the turning of the tide in the fight against the little dictator...or the perfectly average-sized dictator, I should say if I'm being historically accurate.

I chalk this one up as another victory for Cornwell. Solid plot, adequately evil baddies, the rough and ready Lt Sharpe's in good form and all is well in the world!

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A Showdown With An Archenemy

Sharpe's Enemy (Sharpe, #15)Sharpe's Enemy by Bernard Cornwell
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It felt good to get back in the saddle with rifleman Richard Sharpe! Sharpe's Enemy was one of author Bernard Cornwell's original books in the series. Written in the mid-80s it has all the rough and raw qualities I've come to know and love about these books!

Number fifteen balances the personal with the professional. We get plenty of fighting, Sharpe's expertise, and we get a bit of his fumbling family affairs, where he doesn't shine. Sharpe's long-standing feud with his personal nemesis comes to a head in a satisfying way. Victory and tragedy strike our tough hero and Cornwell deftly handles both.

Cornwell is great at weaving history into his fiction. Here is beats it like a blacksmith into the shape he desires. While some of the details are true to real life - there were deserters fitting the description described herein - Cornwell fudged some of the other details in order to place his main character at the center of the action. That's a-okay with me. I'm not reading these books for their historical exactitude. I just appreciate all the effort the author did make in getting the historical details correct. If you like reading fiction set during the Napoleonic Wars, you've come to the right place!

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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Corpse Rider

Corpse RiderCorpse Rider by Tim Curran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Christina noticed an untended grave at the cemetery, she felt pity and pulled the weeds. Little did she know what horror would follow her home...

I've been a fan of Tim Curran and his horror novellas for years so I had to snap this up once I whittled the unread pile down a bit.

The Corpse Rider is part psychological suspense, part ghost story, and I'd have to throw body horror into the mix as well. Christina's one act of pity sees her terrorized by a ghost and its even more horrible progeny.

What do you do when a ghost leaves you creepy ass gifts, saying what a good mother you'll make? Freak the shit out, that's what, as Christina understandably does. With her friends Nancy and Office Crews at her side, she tries to get to the bottom of things so she can fight off the thing making her life a living hell or die trying.

I think Curran hit every color in the horror prism in this one. There's a nagging creepiness, suspense, body horror, and some nasty ass shit. Corpse Rider joins Sow as one of the only horror tales to actually make me slightly nauseous.

I really liked the gravedigger and all the background behind the thing stalking Christina. It gave the tale an extra dimension that sent it climbing out of the corpse-haunted grave that spawned it and put it on a pedestal. While not for the squeamish, Corpse Rider isn't one to be missed. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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