Saturday, April 20, 2019

Bound: Forget Me Knot


H.B. Pattskyn
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Jason Kennly needs to get a closer look when he spots a gray leather collar from across the dealers’ room at a science fiction convention, even if there’s no way he can afford it on his college student budget. After all, looking is free. But then he spots something he wants even more than the collar: leather booth owner Henry Durand, who insists Jason try it on. When Henry asks Jason to be his model at a bondage demo, Jason agrees despite his lack of experience as a sub and ends up spending a no-strings-attached weekend exploring his kinky side with a virtual stranger.

Then the con is over, Jason and Henry go their separate ways, and it’s back to real life. Coming to terms with his identity as a submissive and masochist isn’t easy for Jason. Suddenly he has to face fear, doubt, and a best friend who’ll do anything to get him away from “that creep” and back together with the ex-boyfriend who ignored him. All Jason wants is to be with Henry, but what if that means becoming his slave?


My Review



I don’t read a lot of BDSM stories just because I associate them with pain and I really don’t get off on pain.

With the right partner, however, loving dominance and submission, bondage, spanking, and blindfolding can be extremely erotic.

Jason puts a lot of trust in Henry early on and though their sex was blisteringly hot, some of their encounters made me squirm a little. Boundaries were pushed, but I trusted that Henry would respect Jason’s hard and soft limits and at no time did he betray my trust.

Trust works both ways, according to Henry:

“I only just met you too, Jason. Trust is a two-way street. You have to trust that I’m not a psycho, and I have to trust that you’re not gonna go telling all your friends ‘bout how some creepy old dude raped you. I have to trust that you’re not gonna have second thoughts in the morning and call the cops.”

Henry may be an experienced Dom, but he also has a vulnerable and tender side that is not sufficiently explored in this story. Jason lacks confidence, has difficulty communicating his needs, and desperately needs acceptance. His on-off relationship with his boyfriend, Terry, is frustrating. Terry has been rather inconsiderate on numerous occasions and Jason is unable to let Terry know what he wants and needs. His best friend, Kendra, borders on being too meddlesome, but she genuinely cares for Jason and has a very good reason to be concerned about his relationship with Henry. Jason does not have a good relationship with his father, who was unexpectedly saddled with him after his mother’s death. Despite Jason’s flaws and his inability to effectively deal with the difficulties in his life, I found his character genuine and difficult to dislike. I enjoyed being a part of Jason’s thoughts while coming to terms with his submissive nature and enjoyed his conversations with Henry.

Though the time they spent together was rather short, Henry is eager to teach Jason while at the same time forming a gradual connection.

I hope in time they will fall in love and have a more balanced relationship. As things are now, Jason’s precarious situation has me very worried and he still has so much growing up to do. 

I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Following the Shimmer

Following the Shimmer (Seven Forges, #3.1)Following the Shimmer by James A. Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read here for free

Desh Krohan discovered the people of Louron have no fear of the Sa'ba Taalor and he sent Tataya to discover why.

Following the Shimmer reveals Louron's biggest secret and their reason they are so unafraid. It's explained in a simple easy manner. My only real complaint is it's so short that it doesn't have an opportunity to truly get into the Shimmer.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

THE KREWE BY SETH PEVEY

The Krewe (Herbert and Melancon #1)The Krewe by Seth Pevey


”When you run over a human being with a train, there isn’t so much as a bump for those people riding or conducting inside the cars themselves. People are just too soft, and trains too hard and inestimably heavy. It might as well be mud under the flanged steel.”

When Felix Herbert, the frequently stoned underachiever, finds out his older brother Robert, the always overachieving doctor, has committed suicide, he doesn’t believe it for even one millisecond. When he discovers that his brother was wearing an angel corkscrew mask before he stepped out in front of that train, there is no doubt in his mind that his brother was trying to leave a clue to lead him to the truth.

Who and what drove Robert beneath the wheels of a train?

Fortunately, Detective Melancon is on the case. ”Detective Melancon was old and thin. His clothes fitted poorly and were of a forgotten color. But his eyes were bright, pale blue, piercing, and his mouth seemed far from tired. He cleared his throat and sat down.” His sixty-two year old body might remind him all too often that his best years are a distant memory, but his mind, honed by experience, is still as sharp as a butcher’s blade.

The Herbert legacy was made in pork, and as Felix begins to wield the power of his family to open those doors, closed to most of New Orleans society, he will need the steady hand of the honor-fixated Herbert family butler, Tomas De Valencia to help guide him. Felix, in his obsessive search for the truth, can quickly become mired in trouble so deep that even the Herbert fortune won’t be able to distract him.

Everyone Felix knows has been wanting him to grow up and accept the responsibility his family position has made possible for him, but now, with needing justice for his brother, he will have to finally become the man that everyone has been waiting for him to become.

And who is driving the black Plymouth that keeps following him all over town?

Felix may not have trained in the medical field, but with spending several years trying various illicit and prescription drugs to keep a hazy barrier between him and real life, he has a working knowledge of the effectiveness of most drugs. When he finds a drug called Scopodol is part of the swirling mists surrounding his brother’s death, he knows this is the clue that could lead him to the killer.

How does all this tie into a carnivale organization called The Krewe?

If his brother’s death is a suicide, who exactly keeps chasing him all over New Orleans? Felix has to discover skills he never knew he had. ”How to Survive a Foot Chase in 1000 Quick Steps.” He can tell he is getting closer to the truth by the level of interest that is being paid to his actions.

Tomas, Melancon, and Felix might not be Hollywood casting for the three musketeers, but together they prove to be a relentless trio against the diabolical schemes of the most ambitious and fiendishly driven villain I’ve met in a long time. It will take the combined efforts of all of them to have a chance to bring Robert’s killers to justice.

I caught up with the author, Seth Pevey, lounging in his hammock, under a Spanish moss draped Bald Cypress tree, sipping a Hurricane with... fortunately... no storm clouds on the horizon.

Jeffrey D. Keeten: Tell me a bit about where the inspiration to write The Krewe came from?

Seth Pevey:New Orleans Mardi Gras is a big deal, to put it lightly. The entire city shuts down for days, and most of the elite, old-money families are deeply tied in with its machinations, one way or the other. Local nabobs wear masks, drink out of flasks, ride horses down the main thoroughfare of the city while being hailed by the crowds. I always thought, watching those parades growing up, that the situation was just so ripe for mystery and intrigue. Who are those people behind the masks? What is going on behind the scenes of this incredibly expensive, excruciatingly planned party? Therein were the seeds of "The Krewe.”

JDK:I found the characters of Tomas and Melancon to be much more interesting than your main protagonist. That could be because I am older and love to see wisdom being appreciated over, say, youthful enthusiasm. What are your plans for those two characters going forward?

SP:Melancon is the main focus of book #2, Roots of Misfortune, and really kind of the main character of the series, despite how things open in the first book. Tomas, as you've hinted at, is meant to be the sort of moral bedrock of the crazy, chaotic NOLA of the novels. I can't say much more than that without spoiling what I have planned, but know that both older characters will be dispensing their wisdom in more adventures to come.

JDK:With the voracious, Kindle loving readers chewing through books like a beaver on amphetamines, do you have any plans to write some short pieces, say a 1.5 or a 2.5, to keep your series in front of them while you write the third novel?

SP:At least the beaver would eventually burn out! I see the Kindle market only getting bigger and more voracious as time goes by. I do have some plans for short, free (or .99c) novellas, which may be prequels or dive more deeply into particular characters. But, I'm not one of these writers who can churn out a book every eight weeks, unfortunately. So, I may end up just taking the hit to sales in order to produce the quality that I need to satisfy myself. I do seem to be getting faster as momentum and experience build and have some pretty ambitious plans for the future.


JDK:Lena Troxclair is a great villainous character. You've combined beauty and the beast into one person, which is frequently confusing to people who meet her. Is she beautiful, or is she horribly disfigured? Tell me about how that character evolved in your mind?

SP:The villain is always secretly my favorite character in a thriller/mystery, particularly if they are done well. For me, the best villains were always coming out of left field-- those that made you drop your guard and then stabbed you in the back. Lena has a beautiful face, but a disfigured body with a bit of a hunchback. That beauty is only a mask. It's nothing but a weapon in itself. The idea of "face" played largely into my construction of her: a person who places all their energy on controlling what you see when you look at them, while secretly hiding something toxic on the inside.

JDK:If you were working in a bookstore, what section would you shelve The Krewe? The young adult market is exploding right now. I came away thinking this could work well as a YA book, given the morality, good versus evil, no steamy sex scenes, or gory violence parameters of the plot.

SP:I don't like gore for gore sake, or sex for sex sake, in books or film. At the same time, I think some of the themes in my work (drug addiction, the darkness of humanity, the futility of resisting death and decay) might not lend "The Krewe" to a kid's summer reading list. I still hope they'd read it (and other dark, disturbing books) because all those things do exist and are going to have to be dealt with at some point in a kid's life. I sure read the darkest stuff I could get my hands on when I was a kid and relished every second of it. To answer your question more directly though, the book is written to be in the thriller/mystery section, and hopefully one day to sit in it's place in the "local fiction" section that's in every independent NOLA bookshop. That's the dream.

JDK:Speaking of no steamy sex scenes, there were no romantic entanglements in the book. I haven't read the second book yet, but do you have plans to bring romantic interests into the plots of the series?

SP:Absolutely-- Roots of Misfortune will definitely satisfy if you enjoy a little romance with your mysterious deaths and disappearances. I tend not to like romantic subplots all that much, but the characters led me there, and I couldn't say no to them.

JDK:What other interests besides writing do you have? I've heard rumors that you are a Cleaner for the mob, which must be exciting. By denying it, you are confirming it.

SP:I talk far too much to work for the mob. I bought an old house in the country and have been fixing it up, learning all that's involved with that, and really enjoying it. I also read a lot, obviously. I have a nice treadmill parked in front of Netflix as well, and that is something I'd recommend to anyone who loves story but feels guilty about binging. Besides that, I work in the family business (real estate) and make frequent trips down the road to New Orleans with my wife for the food, music, and festivals.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

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Book Expo is returning to Jacob Javits in New York City -- May 29-May 31 This is the Book Trade Show you need to attend


Book Expo America is returning to the Jacob Javits Center in New York City on May 29 to May 31.  This is a huge trade show by the publishing industry -- with tons of book professionals for book professionals.  Besides the publishers, librarians, book sellers, bloggers, reviewers, authors and celebrities roam the halls of the Javits Center. And, there will be brand new books, both recently published, about to be published and advanced reading copies of books. Its a madcap way to see and obtain a ton of books. While the event is not free, there are a lot of free books to be had.

Books are what makes this event so special.  The publishing industry pulls out all stops to bring in authors who sign their soon to be published books, both fiction and non-fiction, young adult and children, mysteries, popular and expected best sellers.

The industry provides a huge amount of free books over the three day event, which authors sign.  Its a great way to get your hands on the newest books that the industry is highlighting.  I find that many books are in the young adult, teen and children area, which makes the event very good for librarians looking for new books for up and coming readers.

A good strategy is to get the Book Expo guide to the author signings and plot out which books based on the synopsis and what can be gleaned on line to determine the best books to wait on line for (or go with a whole passel of co-workers) as there are too many free books available at the same time to score (I mean obtain) the books that you want.

The event typically has some big draws. Sonia Sotomayor, the United States Supreme Court Justice is giving a speech on Thursday May 29 from 6:15 to 7:15 pm about her life and what made her write a children's book.   All you need is  your pass.

In addition, the Book Expo typically has Author breakfasts. On May 30, the Adult Book and Author Breakfast will include Rachel Maddow, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Malcolm Gladwell among others.  On Friday, May 31, the Children's Book and Author Breakfast (a 1000 attendee event) will be co-hosted by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, daughters of President George W. Bush and  they will be joined by actress Lupita Nyong'o to discuss her new children's book along with Tomi Adeyemi and Eoin Colfer, the author of the Artemis Fowl books.

Typically at Book Expo there are some authors that the show ranks as so illustrious that the show only allows select people into get their books.  There typically is a line prior to the show to nab red tickets to get into the lines for these books and these tickets are on a first come first serve basis. This year the Book Expo is also selling an Avid Reader Pass which will allow you access to certain authors online before the Book Expo and you will get a "front of the line pass" so you get to skip to the head of a line.

Another technicality is that there are two areas to obtain books.  The Book Expo typically has 10-15 separate lines in an author signing area where people stand in line for books.  In addition, the major publishing houses also offer free books, but typically give out tickets to their book signings at their stands prior to the book signing.  No ticket, no book, so it pays to go to the Publishing houses prior to obtain your ticket. 

Finally, its a good idea to get to Book Expo early because the publishing houses also give out free books especially on Thursday and Friday morning before the events get started.  Surf their areas to get free books.

Friday, April 12, 2019

New York: Portrait of a City


Reuel Golden
Taschen Books
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars



Summary



Trace the epic story of New York through hundreds of atmospheric photographs, from the mid-19th century to the present day. This remarkable collection, now available in a popular edition, pays tribute to the extraordinary architecture, civic, social, and photographic heritage of the Big Apple.

From the building of the Brooklyn Bridge to the immigrants arriving at Ellis Island; from the slums of the Lower East Side to the magnificent Art Deco skyscrapers, the city is laid out block by block, in all its chaos, complexity, energy, diversity, and style. Featured photographers include such feted talents as Berenice Abbott, Weegee, Margaret Bourke-White, William Claxton, Marvin E. Newman, Ralph Gibson, Steve Schapiro, Peter Lindbergh, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, and Ryan McGinley. With cover art by Robert Nippoldt, the collection is complemented by an extensive appendix showcasing some 100 books, movies, and records inspired by the city that never sleeps.



My Review



Even though I left New York in 1976 and have no desire to live there again, it still holds a special place in my heart.

So you can imagine how happy I was when I found this large picture book in the library.

The book has five sections:

City of Reinvention 1850-1913
Reach for the Sky 1914-1945
The World’s Capital 1946-1965
Mean Streets 1966-1987
Tragedy to Triumph 1988-today

Each section starts with a brief and interesting overview that had me going off in tangents reading about the city’s history, significant and little-known events, and the backgrounds of the photographers who shot this collection of gorgeous color and black and white images.

There were photos by Jacob Riis, Berenice Abbott, Alfred EisenstaedtWalker Evans, Weegee, Esther Bubley, Jamel Shabazz, and others.

There was a brief mention of the 1904 steamboat fire that caused more than 1,000 people, mainly women and children, to perish in the East River. This was the city’s worst disaster in lives lost until September 11, 2001.

I learned about Ninalee Craig's death in 2008. She was the subject of Ruth Orkin's controversial photo, American Girl in Italy.

I’m sad that most of my years in New York were during the Mean Streets era. During the 70’s there were cuts to the police force and a significant increase in crime. Many friends moved to other parts of the city or the suburbs. The subways were a mess. Graffiti, garbage and the stink of urine were everywhere.

The city cleans up well and even my old neighborhood in the Bronx looked fresh and felt a lot safer than the place I left.

Still, I’m afraid all this gentrification has leached the character from New York and other cities and made them unaffordable for many.

If you’re interested in New York, you will not want to pass this up.

At the end are recommendations for viewing, listening, and reading.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

City of Wonders

City of Wonders (Seven Forges, #3)City of Wonders by James A. Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sa'ba Taalor and their Gods have declared war on the Fellein Empire. People are retreating to Canhoon, also known as the City of Wonders, as the Taalor annihilate everything in their path. Desh Krohan's peers and apprentice search for a way to stop them while a mysterious individual is gathering people and heading for Canhoon.

City of Wonders is truly brutal. The Sa'ba Taalor aren't like normal Invaders who wish to take everything for themselves. They are butchers and the entire Fellein Empire is the fattened calf. The book feels largely hopeless as the Taalor have been forged for battle since birth while those of the Fellein have never experienced anything that could truly be called a war.

No character except perhaps the mysterious Pilgrim stands out in this book. Everyone largely stays the same except perhaps Nachia who appears to have learned fear by the book's end.

There are a few moments that are massively unexpected and I truly appreciated each of those moments. One of which had me whispering no as it was revealed. I'm glad the book didn't stop providing surprises as the fighting began in earnest.

City of Wonders was a devastating book that has me eager to see the conclusion.


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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

NORSE MYTHOLOGY BY NEIL GAIMAN

Norse MythologyNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place, with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them. As best we can tell, the gods of Asgard came from Germany, spread into Scandinavia, and then out into the parts of the world dominated by the Vikings…. In English, the gods have left their names in our days of the week. You can find Tyr the one-handed (Odin’s son), Odin, Thor and Frig, the queen of the gods, in respectively, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.”

Christianity very nearly drove the old gods of the Northmen from the face of the Earth. There was something so tangible about the pagan gods. They had personalities, fallacies, and a sense of humor that didn’t always bode well for their human worshippers. If we learned that Loki, in particular, had taken an interest in our troubles, we felt more trepidation than relief. His cunning intelligence was more often used for creating mayhem than it was providing solutions to dire problems. He was the gasoline that turned a smoldering, warm, ash heap into a raging forest fire.

Loki made enemies of everyone, which was why he had to live in a house with four doors facing each direction. He was the instigator of much of the troubles the gods found themselves facing, but he was also the one who always brilliantly conceived a plan that saved them from those troubles. Was Loki more of an asset or a liability? You will have to decide that for yourself. I do know that finding out he was not on the side of the gods in the final battle, Ragnarok, made me tremble with concern for the gods.

Who didn’t want Thor on their side? He wasn’t the brightness bulb in a chandelier, but once he entered a fight, one side breathed a sigh of relief, and the other side started fleeing for their lives. His magic belt, Megingjord, doubled his strength, but it was his hammer, Mjollnir, that made Giants, Trolls, and other gods tremble. The great, recently departed, Stan Lee mined the Old Norse tales heavily for his writing. These Norse gods were superheroes long before the term ever existed.

What would we give up to have all the wisdom of the world? Odin gave up an eye. He even plucked it from his head with his own fingers. He was the god of the gods and, according to legend, the father of us all. ”Because he was the father of the gods, and because he breathed the breath of life into our grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents. Whether we are gods or mortals, Odin is the father of us all.”

How about this for creepy? The Death Ship, Naglfar, was made from the untrimmed fingernails of the dead. A friend of mine was once moved into a different office where he worked. He kept finding fingernail clippings in drawers, in between stacks of paper, under the desk legs, wedged behind the computer speakers, snagged in the carpet fibers. Every time he would clean a new section of his office, he would find piles of fingernail clippings to sweep up. This was all very creepy for him, but when I told him that the man those clippings belonged to had recently died, he nearly came out of his skin. Suddenly, those annoying nail clippings became eerie reminders of mortality.

Speaking of mortality: ”When the gods felt age beginning to touch them, to frost their hair or ache their joints, then they would go to Idunn. She would open her box and allow the god or goddess to eat a single apple. As they ate it, their youth and power would return to them. Without Idunn’s apples, the gods would scarcely be gods…” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could use a bite of those Golden Apples. I’m not even greedy; just a nibble would be great.

Even the mighty Thor could be temporarily flummoxed. ”There was a giantess in the kitchen, cutting up onions as big as boulders and cabbages the size of boats. Thor could not help staring: the old woman had nine hundred heads, each head uglier and more terrifying than the last. He took a step backward.” If you were fighting a monster like this, where would you start and where would you end?

The stories that Neil Gaiman gathered together here were based on what little was left of the pagan stories of the Norse gods. Fortunately, a 13th century Icelandic saga writer named Snorri Sturluson recorded these tales in his book Prose Edda. Neil Gaiman retold them with his entertaining and illuminating prose. Check out the life of Snorri Sturluson when you get the chance. He might have written about heroes of old, but his life was equally fascinating to read about.

What stories we have were the tip of the iceberg of the stories that were originally told. Wouldn’t it be great if more of them were found? The Norse gods were mere shadows of what they were in the past.

This was a wonderful introduction to Norse Mythology. If you know very little about the old gods, this would be a great place to start. If you have some idea of the Norse legends, you would certainly benefit from reading them in Gaiman’s engaging style. I even found myself chuckling at several points...that Loki kills me every time.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten


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Saturday, April 6, 2019

Armed and Dangerous


Abigail Roux
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
2 out of 5 stars



Summary



Left alone in Baltimore after his unpredictable lover bails, Special Agent Zane Garrett takes his frustration out on everything in his path until he is ordered to Chicago to back up an undercover operative. When he gets there, though, he finds himself face to face with his wayward partner, Special Agent Ty Grady. They have to deal with the uncertainty lingering between them while they work to retrieve their intended mark, a retired hit man and CIA wet-works operative named Julian Cross.

Ty, once a marine and now an FBI hotshot, has a penchant for being unpredictable, a trait Zane can vouch for. Zane is a man who once lived for his job but has come to realize his heartbreaking past doesn’t have to overshadow his future. They're partners, friends, lovers, and the go-to team for unusual cases. With Cross and his innocuous boyfriend, Cameron Jacobs, in tow, Ty and Zane must navigate the obstacles of a cross-country trek, including TSA pat-downs, blizzards, their uncooperative prisoners, CIA kill teams, a desperate lack of sleep or caffeine, and each other. Ty and Zane are determined to get Julian Cross to DC in one piece, but it’s starting to look like it might be the last thing they do.



My Review



I think I’m done with Ty and Zane.

In this fifth book of the Cut & Run series, it seems that one half of the author duo is now going it alone. And the other half has absconded with the Ty and Zane I loved in the earlier books.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that Ty and Zane are now at the stage of their relationship where they have found a happy equilibrium. The problem is, their behavior is so out of character, especially after Ty’s sudden departure in the last book. Forgiveness happened a little too quickly for my liking, and the excessive declarations of love, the “oh, baby’s” and humming by most of the male characters made me want to stick a fork in my eye.

Number of hums
Ty Grady – 10
Zane Garrett – 6
Julian Cross – 5
Cameron Jacobs – 2
Nick O’Flaherty – 1
Richard Burns – 1

These guys are supposed to be badass. Instead, they are sitting around talking about feelings! I miss the verbal sparring and the snarky humor of the earlier books. The action scenes, though, are as ridiculous and unrealistic as always. While I was able to overlook that before, I am unable to do so now.

“Julian struck out at him so quickly it was easy to think it was imagined. He grabbed the gun and pulled the slide, his free hand moving in a flash, and the gun fell apart in Leatherface’s hand. Julian swung at him with the slide, hitting him in the temple and dropping him in a heap.”


This scene confuses me. No matter how scrappy Julian may be, I seriously doubt he would be able to disarm a rogue CIA agent, strip the slide off his pistol and knock him unconscious. If Julian grabbed the gun to pull the slide, wouldn’t the gun be in Julian’s hand? And while many guns may be designed to be quick and easy to disassemble, they don’t just “fall apart” in someone’s hand.

Unlike earlier books where the focus was on the main couple, we are introduced to two new characters, Julian Cross (the only witness to a contract killing) who Ty and Zane must bring to DC in one piece, and his milquetoast boyfriend, Cameron Jacobs.

The lengthy road trip undertaken by these four guys while Julian and Cameron were often restrained was excruciatingly slow. I quickly tired of their banter. I skimmed through the sex scenes, which were drawn out and repetitive. Julian’s cats, Smith and Wesson, were a nice touch. I hope Ty and Zane get permanent custody.

Since I have the next book on my Kindle, I’ll probably read it. But I don’t have high expectations.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Blasted Lands

The Blasted Lands (Seven Forges, #2)The Blasted Lands by James A. Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Emperor is dead. Murdered in his own palace by someone he welcomed as a guest. Desh Krohan, Merros Dulver, and the soon to be named Empress Nachia Krous are preparing for war against the most dangerous force they've ever imagined.

The Blasted Lands is a slow burn of a book. I was expecting war to break out immediately, but instead this book was another build up book. Many secrets are revealed before the book ends and the conclusion is jaw dropping. I wish that conclusion came much sooner as I'm left to imagine the next book will be incredibly intense.

The characters largely remained the same in the book despite many of the main ones being given new roles. The one exception is Andover Lashk. He's been transformed from the beginning of Seven Forges. He was a victim and now he's becoming a predator. His personality itself is changing slower, but the lessons provided by the Sa'ba Taalor and the Daxar Taalor change him.

The Blasted Lands was good, the ending made it intriguing, and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

BLACKBIRDS BY CHUCK WENDIG

Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”Miriam’s been out here for twenty minutes, and she wonders why this isn’t easier. Here she is, tight white T-shirt--a tight, white, wet T-shirt with no bra in sight--and her thumb out for a ride. Prime, Grade-A Road Trash, she thinks. And yet, nobody stops.

A Lexus speeds past.

‘You’re a dick,’ she says.

A white SUV rumbles by.

“You’re a superdick.”

A rust-fucked pickup approaches, and she thinks, this is it. Whoever’s driving this junk-bucket is sure to think he can score with this thin slip of road pussy.”


To say that Miriam Black is living on the edge is almost a laughable understatement. Here she is, standing out by the side of the road, a living breathing woman, in dire circumstances, sporting a she-must-like-it-rough black eye, and she can’t get anyone to even slow down to take a lingering, leering look at the dark smudges of her cold induced erect nipples.

What’s a girl got to do?

The white elephant of a question is, how does a woman find herself in so much trouble that even a potential rapist, stopping to spirit her away, is a relief?

As she will tell you, her body is no temple. There is no vestal virgin lurking behind the zipper of her jeans. The laws of the universe are clear: ass, grass, or gas, no one rides for free.

Her life has always been a kaleidoscope of varying degrees of trouble, but recently somebody turned the fan on high and shit started flying at her faster than she could flutter her eyelashes.

She needs some ”zen and the art of repression.”

Her boyfriend, Ashley Gaynes, who is not her boyfriend, is carrying a suitcase full of stolen meth. He is a real asshole, too.

”’I figured you might be able to push it.’

‘Me? Are you kidding?’

‘You look...like you maybe do meth. Or did.’

‘No,’ she seethes, ‘I look like I do heroin--and I don’t do that either. I have all my teeth and I don’t smell like cat piss, so don’t think I’m some basehead tweaker fuckface.’”


Yeah, he is a gem.

There is also Ingersoll, whom we will just call the Hairless Fucker, well, because he is hairless, and his two hench people, Frankie and Hannah, want and need to hurt Ashley because they want the meth back.

Miriam turns out to be a pleasant surprise. She has something that is much, much more valuable to Hairless Fucker than a suitcase full of meth, even if that meth was blue and made by Walter White. It isn’t, but if it was, it still wouldn’t be more valuable than what Miriam can do.

She can tell you when you are going to die.

Now if you are a unmitigated, unequivocal asshole like the Hairless Fucker, you know your demise is probably going to be heinous, gory, and probably have something to do with fucking somebody over.

If you can know when you are supposed to die, maybe you can avoid the whole damn thing and live to a ripe old age in the Cayman Islands.

In Miriam’s experience, ”Fate is an immovable object.” There is no changing your destiny. Your life has already been woven, and the fates are plucking the strings. ”All of our lives are just a series of events carefully orchestrated to culminate in whatever death fate has planned for us. Every moment. Every act. Every loving whisper and hateful gesture--all just another tiny cog in the clockwork ready to ring the alarm for our ultimate hour.”

There is the possibility that Miriam is wrong. What if we could change our fate by making different decisions? On the day we are supposed to be splattered all over the front of a Greyhound bus, what if we stay home, locked in the bathroom, curled up in the tub, waiting for a new day to dawn? Does the bus crash through our house and splatter us anyway? Or does the Grim Reaper find us, snickering at our feeble attempts to trick him, and we are found in the tub split from head to toe by a weapon that the coroner can’t identify because it hasn’t been used to cut wheat in a hundred years?

*Sigh*

Would you want to know?

Me, you’re asking me?

No way, no how. I want to be the most surprised person on the planet when my heart explodes in my chest, or a burst vessel sprays hard pumping blood all over my brain pan, or a meteorite blows through my head at a thousand miles an hour. Knowing the ending would certainly screw up the middle pages of my autobiography.

Miriam needs to get away, as far as she can, from the Hairless Fucker and from Ashley Gaynes. The only problem is, she can’t ever run far enough or fast enough to outrun herself. The same old face will still be staring her in the face in Milwaukee as it was in Phoenix.

You will cringe. You will laugh. Your sphincter will pucker. Your stomach will churn. Your head will ache. You will emerge from the pages of this book a different person, tasting tarnished pennies in your mouth and needing to spend the rest of the day with the shades drawn, Tom Waits on the turntable, and slowly working your way through a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Wait! Miriam?!?! Is this how I croak? Shit! No, no, for the love of Odin, don’t tell me.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Friday, March 29, 2019

A Policy of Lies


Astrid Amara
Horns Press
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 4 stars



Summary



Twenty years ago, Levi Kaszeri survived a brutal rebellion on the mining colony of Tarus 9. Now as an aspiring reporter, Levi has a mission: to expose the massacre to the public, and bring the men responsible to justice.

But after a violent attack, he is rescued—then seduced—by Tiergan Seoras, a young doctor with a dangerous past and a slave tattoo.

Soon Levi finds all of his investigations leading him back to Tiergan. And he begins to fear that the best lover he's ever had may also be his worst enemy.


My Review



I bought this title because I so thoroughly enjoyed Astrid Amara’s fun, sweet, humorous and romantic stories in Tangle.

The fun begins when investigative reporter Levi Kaszeri is walking through the worst district in the city to collect a piece of evidence, a memory implant he needs to complete his story of a massacre that took place on Tarus 9, a mining colony where Levi spent his childhood and where his family was brutally murdered. He is attacked by a mugger and promptly rescued by Tiergen Seoras, a gorgeous doctor with many secrets, who runs a free clinic nearby. Their attraction is instant, and Levi finds his growing relationship with the doctor is complicated by what his investigations reveal.

There is much to like about this story. I loved the future setting and independent space colonies with domed biospheres and simulated seasons. I loved the exploration of corporate crime and abuse. I loved the fast pace and suspenseful scenes and the well-drawn secondary characters.

What frustrated me most was the character of Levi. I expected a bit more “street sense” from someone who managed to survive a brutal massacre as a child and is now working as a reporter which requires a certain amount of discretion and common sense. I was able to figure out who the bad guys were long before Levi did and I really wanted to strangle him for his stupidity. He was so obsessed with revenge for his family’s murder and his sex life that he failed to see there was another side to the story at Tiergan’s peril.

Despite its flaws, I found this story difficult to put down and look forward to more of Astrid Amara’s work.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

From the Mounds

From the MoundsFrom the Mounds by James A. Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the Mounds can be downloaded from here for free.

Tusk is a fierce warrior and a king. This is the story of how he became king.

This story was intense. Learning more detail of Tusk's story just shows how insane life is for the people of the Seven Forges and how dedicated they are to their gods. Tusk is terrifying to say it nicely.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

AMERICAN GODS BY NEIL GAIMAN

American GodsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***Now a celebrated TV series on Starz.***

“‘I read some book about brains,’ she said. ‘My roommate had it and she kept waving it around. It was like, how five thousand years ago the lobes of the brain fused and before that people thought when the right lobe of the brain said anything it was the voice of some god telling them what to do. It’s just brains.’

‘I like my theory better,’ said Shadow.

‘What’s your theory?’

‘That back then people used to run into the gods from time to time.’”


 photo Shadow American Gods_zpsynhfzja0.png
Shadow Moon is played by Ricky Whittle. Excellent casting.

There are few experiences that will teach someone more about himself better than going to prison. It is a microcosm. It is like shoving the world into a shoebox. There are rules, not prison rules, but prisoner rules, and you better get them figured out in a hurry. It is one of the few places remaining where people really have to interact and deal with other people. Inmates learn how to cooperate, or really bad things happen.

Plenty of bad things happen anyway.

Time keeps traveling at a normal rate outside, but inside the box, this minute is the same as the last minute, and when a person emerges from prison, it is like being dropped into a different world because his brain is still shackled in place, in whatever decade he first went into prison. A person spends a lot of time with himself in lockup. They become either a better version of themselves or a horrible twisted version of who they were supposed to be.

Shadow lost his temper and lost three years. He came out of prison probably a better person than who he was going to be. He learned to ignore the bullshit and focus on what was most important...living.

The universe is not done fucking with Shadow, not by a long shot. Prison is just the beginning, the burnishing of his character. He barely has made footprints in the dusty highway of his new life when he meets a god. Like it would with any of us, it takes a while for him to really believe he has met a god. This supposed god doesn’t glow or have a thunderous voice. He is abnormal, but in a kooky uncle sort of way, who besides being weird also happens to be a con man. He is frankly...kind...of...annoying.

Gods have fallen on hard times in America.

This god needs Shadow to work for him.

“The land is vast. Soon enough, our people abandoned us, remembered us only as creatures of the old land, as things that had not come with them to the new. Our true believers passed on, or stopped believing, and we were left, lost and scared and dispossessed, to get by on what little smidgens of worship or belief we could find. And to get by as best we could.”

Christianity commits deicide. The whole convert or die thing sort of makes pagans and what would be considered alternative religion types to quickly reevaluate their level of faith in the old gods. It is easier, after all, to focus on one god than figuring out the pantheon of gods they were trying to please before the first bedraggled priest washed up on the shores of their community. Christianity simplified faith. This left all the old gods, used to receiving tasty animal sacrifices, fresh fruits, virgins, bereft of not only sustenance but also...love.

We brought these gods to America with us and then abandoned them.

The new gods who are putting the final nail in their celestial coffins are the new deities, such as internet, media, and cell phones. They hurl insults like these: “You-you’re a fucking illuminated gothic black-letter manuscript. You couldn’t be hypertext if you tried. I’m…I’m synaptic, while, while you’re synoptic…” It is hard to be insulted by a compliment, isn’t it? These new gods are even starting to chip away at the strong foothold that Christianity has on the minds of the American people. If he doesn’t watch out, JC is going to be bumming rides from truckers on the interstate and hoping for the kindness of his former people, eyes focused like zombies on the screens before them, for a handout.

Not to mention the fact that Shadow has televisions asking him, ”Do you want to see Lucy’s tits?”

I’d explain that, but it is more fun for you to find out for yourself.

Needless to say, things are dire.

 photo Mr. Wednesday American Gods_zpszvgemaki.jpg
Ian McShane plays Mr. Wednesday, brilliantly of course.

Shadow’s boss, Mr. Wednesday, you can probably figure out who he is, decides it is time to wipe the new kids off the block (a version of Titan vs Olympian) and seize the power the old gods so passively let slide through their fingers. Shadow is caught right in the damn middle of it. He is Odysseus in the midst of the Trojan War.

Shadow naturally asks himself, why me?

When Neil Gaiman first submitted this book for publication, his editor/publisher suggested that he cut 12,000 words out of the manuscript. If you are having deja vu feelings of The Stand by Stephen King, you are on the right fright frequency. Gaiman won a plethora of awards for American Gods, so how can you argue that the cuts weren’t a good idea? The thing is, those orphaned 12,000 words were still whispering to Gaiman, and when the decision was made to put out a tenth anniversary edition, he decided it was time to put the kids back with their parents. I would highly suggest reading the 10th anniversary edition. I do not feel the book is bloated. All the scenes are relevant to the larger arc of the plot. I would be nervous to lose the experience of reading any part of this book.

I was skeptical when I began reading this book. Gaiman introduces these gods from different cultures and does not exactly explain who any of them are, or at times he is even being cagey with their names. He is expecting a certain sophistication from his readers that is not only refreshing, but startlingly bold. I thought, in the beginning, that he has the Stephen King magic figured out with the easy accessibility of the writing and enough interesting factoids to make people feel like they are learning something as they work their way through the plot. He has those things, but he doesn’t just let us dog paddle on the surface of the water. He snags our ankles and thrusts us deeper beneath the waves to where things get dark, and we have no choice but to examine ourselves in the context of this story.

And what a pleasant surprise it has been.

”Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.”

With books like this, we resume a richer life.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Friday, March 22, 2019

Futureshocks


Edited by Lou Anders
Roc Books
Reviewed by Nancy
3 out of 5 stars



Summary


In this stunning collection of short fiction, 16 of today's masters of speculative fiction reveal the terrors, triumphs, and seeming impossibilities awaiting humanity in the years to come. Featuring never-before-published stories by Kevin J. Anderson, Paul Di Filippo, Alan Dean Foster, CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan, Louise Marley, Sean McMullen, John Meaney, Paul Melko, Robert A. Metzger, Chris Roberson, Adam Roberts,Mike Resnick & Harry Turtledove, Robert J. Sawyer, and Robert Charles Wilson.


My Review



Overall, an enjoyable collection of stories that offers diverse visions of the future.

★★★★★ Shuteye for the Timebroker by Paul DiFilippo – One of my favorites in this collection. An exploration of the effects of anti-somnolence drugs on a near-future society. Sure, people can increase their effectiveness and accomplish more, but there is always a price to pay.

★★ Looking Through Mother’s Eyes by John Meaney – Told from the perspective of a newborn who is aware of its own birth and the effects on both parents. Nicely written, but kind of icky. I don’t enjoy stories about pregnancy.

★★★★ The Man Who Knew Too Much by Alan Dean Foster – In the future, acquiring knowledge is as simple as downloading data directly to your brain. There is a limit, however, to how much information one’s brain can process at once. In the hands of specialists, knowledge is disseminated gradually without danger to the recipient. Some people, however, are just not satisfied and crave all the world’s knowledge much as an addict craves drugs.

★★★ The Engines of Arcadia by Sean McMullen – A man builds a time machine to escape his dull, safe life only to find that millions of years later, some things never change.

★★★★ The Pearl Diver by Caitlin R. Kiernan – Recurring dreams, the consequences of deleting unread company correspondence, and transformation. A sad and lovely story.

★★★ Before the Beginning by Mike Resnick & Harry Turtledove – A humorous story that shows why God’s chosen people have lasted so long.

★★★★ Man You Gotta Go by Adam Roberts – An AI is enlisted to help solve the problem of FTL travel. Human consciousness becomes obsolete. A little long and drawn out, but interesting and thought provoking.

★★ Homosexuals Damned, Film at Eleven by Alex Irvine – A bleak and sad story that portrays the downside of living in a theocracy. A geneticist who attempted to save the life of his son fears he may have caused his death. I may have liked this story better if it was longer and the characters more developed.

★★★★Contagion by Chris Roberson – Jaidev Hark is a Vector employed to carry data-encoded retroviruses in his blood. He lives in a society divided by castes; the higher the caste, the more they can afford protection from disease. Pursued by data-thieves, he reveals to his employer that they are looking for Panacea, the mythical (or is it?) cure of every human infirmity. In order to survive, he goes to work for the other side. This is a thought-provoking story that makes me wonder about the dreadful state of our health care system and if we will ever achieve affordability and equity.

★★★★Absalom’s Mother by Louise Marley – This hard-hitting and powerful story moved me to tears. In a society where children as young as 11 are drafted for service, a group of mothers hides their children and volunteers to go in their place. The characters are strong, rich, and vibrant.

★★★Job Qualifications by Kevin J. Anderson – Politicians have to work hard to be all things to all people. In the distant future, Berthold Ossequin’s clones help to make him a more suitable candidate for grand chancellor of the United Cultures of Earth.

★★★★The Teosinte War by Paul Melko – After reading Melko’s novel, The Walls of the Universe, I knew I could count on him to write a fun and thought-provoking story about the bad things that could happen when an ambitious professor uses an MWD to mess around in other universes and involves his TA, Ryan Greene. Though Ryan is kind of a jerk, he is ultimately a sympathetic character as he witnesses one disaster after another and learns that one can’t play God.

★★Slip by Robert A. Metzger – Getting what you ask for doesn’t always result in a positive outcome.

★★All’s Well at World’s End by Howard V. Hendrix – Memory erasure, annihilation. It would have been more interesting if too many scientific terms hadn’t made my eyes glaze over.

★★★★Flashes by Robert J. Sawyer – Unlimited information from a technically advanced alien planet renders human knowledge and theories obsolete. This gripping and sad little story explores the dire consequences of information overload.

★★★★The Cartesian Theater by Robert Charles Wilson – A performance artist uses advanced technology to duplicate living creatures. This chilling story explores life, death, and the question of the soul’s existence.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Scars

Scars (Seven Forges, #1.3)Scars by James A. Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read Scars here for free

While Wollis March escorted the people of the Seven Forges to the Empire, they discussed their scars. I wish I could write more, but that's basically all that happened.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

THE PRONE GUNMAN BY JEAN-PATRICK MANCHETTE

The Prone GunmanThe Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”’Basically,’ said Maubert, ‘anyone could do your job. I bet they pay you well, but anyone could do it. You’re paid for running the risk. For the responsibility. I mean, if you’re nabbed one day, you’re nabbed as a killer--that’s what I mean when I say risk. They don’t pay you for your skills.’”

Martin Terrier is a hired killer who decides it is time to retire. He had, before venturing out in his chosen profession, elicited a promise from his childhood sweetheart, Anne, to wait for him. He will return in ten years.

Now unless you are going off to fight the Trojan Wars and your sweetheart is Penelope, the chances of any person waiting for anyone to reappear after ten years is somewhere south of zero. If you have seen the movie Before Sunrise, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have trouble hooking back up after a year apart. Even if Anne is a woman of immense fortitude and stoically waited for ten years,...Martin is a bit late.

Things in his life do not go as planned.

Killing for hire doesn’t come with a retirement plan. In fact, “The Company” he works for is reluctant to let him go. He is, after all, a ticking time bomb of knowledge. He has the type of information knocking around in his brain that a government would pay large sums for or they may just toss him in a dank hole in some undisclosed location in some third world country willing to look the other way as they explore his ability to be reticent.

First problem is that The Company is not going to just let him walk off into the sunset. The second problem is that Anne is married. She will not go down in literary history as the woman who waited. She didn’t wait years, nor months, barely a matter of weeks. Out of sight, out of mind, and I’m not sure that Martin deserved any more consideration than what she gave him.

The reunion is...interesting.

”Terrier gave her an ironic smile and poured her a stiff shot of J&B. Anne sighed and sat down on the bed. She took a sip. Terrier sat down next to her, took her by the head, and kissed her. She let him do it. Her mouth was passive, studious, plump, and tasted like scotch.

‘Stop,’ she whispered after Terrier released her.

‘Undress.’

She took off almost all her clothes.

‘The panties, too,’ said Terrier.”


Jean-Patrick Manchette is a student of hardboiled noir, and as you can see from this example, he must have had grit in his teeth at the end of each day of writing. I love the description of her mouth. When I look at synonyms of the word studious, which seems like an odd descriptive term to put with passive, there are several interesting interpretations of what he could mean with the use of that word.

I also find it interesting that Martin’s favorite drink is J&B Scotch, which also happens to be the drink of choice of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Is there some correlation between drinking J&B and having murderous impulses? I’ve never drank J&B, but I may have to snag a bottle the next time my wife is safely out of town for the weekend and see if I start to develop fiendish ideas in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of way.

If you love the hardboiled genre, you can not ignore Manchette. He pares down all the excess baggage in every sentence he writes. His books are short, clean, and laced with the right amount of cynicism. He is the French response to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. So grab a bottle of J&B (well, you might wait until we see how my experiment goes first. :-)), and look through the crosshairs with Martin Terrier for a few hours.

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Dan Stout's "Titanshade" is a winning combo of cop investigating murder on an alien planet with magical elements





What do you get when you mix alien murder, dark world building, a retro 70’s aesthetic and elements of magic and science fiction?  If you are lucky, you will be reading “Titanshade”, Dan Stout’s entertaining debut novel which combines politics, murder, aliens, magic and a charging plot in a boomtown city on the edge of catastrophe. It’s a mix of cop cars and dying magic, disco music and necromancy.  And a great portrait of a cop who lives for the hunt and solving crimes.  Stout’s gritty hero is Carter, a homicide cop, who is always in trouble with the brass, but finds the investigation of the murder of a Squib diplomat has far reaching consequences for his city and the people who live there.  Stout’s writing is spot on and the noir detective story with magic and modern technology works really well.

The Squibs are an alien amphibian race who live and work in Titanshade, a boomtown, which has been awash in a sea of greenbacks from the discovery and oil drilling.  But what happens when the oil runs out.  Cities try to get a new investment and reinvent themselves. Titanshade is deep in negotiations with a Squib delegation, who are interested in making a new investment in Titanshade by turning the oil fields into wind farms, when one of the members turns up dead in a sleazy hotel. This is not a novel for the squeamish, as the victim seems to have been involved heavily with human and other alien prostitutes.

Carter has been joined on the case by Ajax, a young Mollenkampi, another alien race that made its home in Titanshade.  As part of the investigation, Carter calls on the services of DO Guyer, a magic user, who can, with the use of manna, examine the entrails of a dead person or even call up the dead through a type of necromancy.  Manna, a magical substance used to power spells, that once was abundant in Titanshade, is also disappearing from the city, making all magical spells much more expensive. As a reader, unless you are in a world of total magic, the less magic that is used in a world the more believable the world becomes. Magic is like having a superhero run rampant through your story. So Stout’s limited use of magic in the story increases the velocity of the cop elements of the story by focusing it on investigation and not miraculous cures.

The Titanshade elites want the investigation wrapped up quickly, but Carter will not be pushed into arresting the wrong perp.  And there are a lot of crimes going on. An entire family is murdered. Is it connected?  The elites want it to be.  And there are a lot of power players.  Ambassador Paulus, a leader, and prime magic user in the government and her assistant, the diplomatic envoy Gellica, who has her own secrets, soon reveal themselves to be involved in some way.  Harlan Cedrow, the current head of one of the old oil families, who has the most to lose from the oil field devastation,  and there is Flanagan, a disgraced ex-cop, who has fallen in with a religious cult.  Carter takes a flame thrower approach, everyone who touches the investigation is burned.

Stout mixes all of the elements well and sets his bulldog investigator to follow the clues to the killer. It’s a complex investigation, but Carter is not going to walk away. 

This is what we as readers want in a cop story set in an alien landscape peopled with interesting characters and situations.

It is a find. Go discover it.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Blind Blondie



Scarlet Blackwell
eXtasy Books
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Artist and playboy beach bum Sam's life is turned around when he meets blind Kieran and falls hard for him. Kieran is fiercely independent and doesn't need a man like Sam in his life. But Sam needs a man like Kieran and it's up to him to persuade Kieran he's worth a shot.




My Review



This story is told by Sam, who happens to be cruising down Main Street in the summer, catching glimpses of the gorgeous male bodies strolling around. Right away he spots Blondie, carrying a walking stick and using a sign to hail a taxi.

Sam pulls over and learns Blondie is on his way to the animal hospital. Blondie is gorgeous, but Sam doesn’t need the hassle of dealing with a blind guy or his dog, so he drops him off, never expecting to see him again.

Blondie knows Sam is no cab driver and calls the cops to prevent him from picking up other vulnerable people. After the cops pay him a visit, Sam is furious with Blondie and knows he should forget about him, but it’s just not happening.

Sam continues to pursue Blondie and is rejected at every turn. It takes a lot more than bribing a prickly concierge, a dog toy, flowers, and gifts to warm Kieran’s heart and melt his resistance. Kieran is perfectly capable of taking care of himself and knows that very few men are interested in dating a disabled guy. Sam is persistent, however, and won’t give up until Kieran relents.

Sam is a fun-loving, slutty guy with a big ego. He’s also a very talented artist who lacks ambition. He is starting to fall for Kieran and must prove to him that he can be the kind of man Kieran deserves. It’s a tough challenge for Sam, but he gradually changes and matures. Kieran is a tough nut to crack and it takes a tragedy to finally make him see that Sam is perfect for him in every way.

I loved Sam’s inner thoughts, his artistic expression, Kieran’s dog, and the kinky sex.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable, funny, sweet and heartwarming romance. Blind guys need love too.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

When Korwa Fell

When Korwa Fell (Seven Forges, #1.2)When Korwa Fell by James A. Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read for free here

Korwa was the capital of the old empire and it's remains are within the blasted lands. The is a story from the people of the Seven Forges about the fall of Korwa.

On its own When Korwa Fell seems largely unimportant. Perhaps after finishing the series the details of this short story will take on greater importance. As it stands the short story seems to simply be a story shared between the people of the forges.

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Saturday, March 9, 2019

"Crisis" by Felix Francis is a good murder mystery in the vein of Dick Francis, just not as good








What if Dick Francis never wrote novels and what you started with was a Felix Francis novel. When do we stop comparing the son to the father. Their styles are completely different. Dick Francis wrote in your face, mano a mano novels where the hero set out to defeat a evil plot in the horse racing world, typically taking the evildoers to the cleaners himself, but not before he faced extreme pressure to give up. As I have said before, a Felix Francis books lacks the early Dick Francis's pacing, wording and ties to horse racing, but he does know how to paint the numbers. He has overcome the stylistic differences between his writing in some instances. I felt, however, that this was not one of them.

"Crisis", Felix Francis latest murder mystery set tangentially in the English horse racing world, has a good little murder mystery at its heart and a decent hero sort, who shows some spine and lust. But this is just a good book, nothing spectacular and maybe that is what we should continue to look forward to.

There is a lot of good horse racing information. From a brief walk through of an auctioneer area, to morning gallops of the trainers and information about signing horses up for runs. But the information is dropped (info dump style) in as if we are observing from afar or reading something written just to be inserted therein. It lacks punch and vitality. In one instance, the info dump does not even advance the story at all.

Harrison Foster, the nattily dressed hero is a "crisis manager", who is investigating the death of seven horses trained by Ryan Chadwick at a training yard that used to be owned by his father Oliver Chadwick. Tony Chadwick is a jockey who rides for the family. The horses are owned by Foster's client Sheikh Karim. He soon learns that human remains were found at the scene of the fire, and picks up another client, Declan Chadwick, Ryan's brother who is suspected of killing the victim, who turns out to be a relative of the Chadwick men.

While the early going of the book establishes Foster's bona fides and that he knows nothing about the horse racing world, it takes a little time to do so, but reads okay.

But Francis's book bogs down in the middle because he telegraphs "Why" the victim of the crime was suffering psychotic episodes way too early and the "Who" is limited to just a small coterie  of the Chadwick men Also, the novel feels a little too soap opera like. Feuding brothers, dominating father, cowed mothers, women in their cups way too early in the morning, the tropes are standard mystery fare.

Its been said many times that Dick Francis mostly failed to have female love interests in his novels. But Felix Francis has never been shy to include some love interest, so this book also has Foster finding true love.

Foster will be stuck in a barn with a violent horse, and has all the spine of previous Francis heroes and will have to use some wit to figure out the killer but it takes a long time coming.

Not my favorite read.

But if you never read a Dick Francis novel, maybe you will be satisfied with this work.

But for the rest of us, its a good mystery, but not a "Dick Francis Novel"

With This Ring


J.M. Snyder
JMS Books
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Matt diLorenzo’s ex, Jordan, confesses all to a tabloid, telling the world Matt’s secret—something in his semen gives his sexual partners super powers. After the article appears, Matt expects all sorts of weirdos to try to track him down, but the only call he receives is from a research scientist at a local condom factory who claims to have a solution to his little “problem.”

The offer is tempting, since the powers Vic Braunson receives from Matt during their lovemaking sessions are unpredictable and scary. Matt wants to keep his lover safe, and is eager to hear what the scientist has to suggest. And Vic is willing to try the cure and lose his superhero abilities for his lover’s peace of mind...even if it means losing the special mental connection they share, a bond formed by the powers, a bond that has become such a part of their lives that neither is quite prepared when it suddenly disappears.

Then Vic discovers that the scientist has an agenda of his own. Can he protect Matt, even without his super strength or their mental bond?


My Review



After 5 years together, Vic grew accustomed to the superpowers bestowed on him every time he and Matt made love. Matt worried that his powers would eventually harm Vic. When an Indian researcher reads about Matt’s superpowers in a tabloid magazine, he contacts him and offers a cure. Matt wants to get rid of the powers and live a normal life, so he willingly accepts the offer.

The cure works, but neither man is prepared to deal with the fact that they can no longer communicate telepathically. Doubt and insecurity creep in until Matt decides to visit the doctor so he can make an adjustment to the “ring” that would allow Matt and Vic to keep the telepathic powers, while ridding themselves of the other undesirable ones.

As Matt will soon learn, the “doctor” is not what he appears to be. Vic will have to use every means at his disposal, minus his superpowers, to save Matt from a potentially dangerous situation.

I really enjoyed this fourth installment in the Powers of Love series. Vic's and Matt’s growing love for each other is always very sweet and satisfying. It was nice to see Vic’s boss has a softer and more compassionate side, and I loved how Matt fought off the security guards roughing up Vic.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Wounded

The Wounded (Seven Forges, #1.1)The Wounded by James A. Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read The Wounded here for free.

Kallir Lundt was mortally wounded on the expedition to the Seven Forges. One of the king's of the forge promises Merros Dulver that he will save Kallir's life. This is Kallir's story.

The Wounded was a quick and decent read. I imagine that at one point the author may have wanted to feature Kallir Lundt as a point of view character, but instead changed his mind. This reads like a chapter or two of the story. Anyone who read Seven Forges can easily imagine what happens to Kallir. Unfortunately the story doesn't extend past what can easily be predicted.

The Wounded is a nice free short story that expands the Seven Forges world a small bit more.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

AMERICAN PSYCHO BY BRET EASTON ELLIS

American PsychoAmerican Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”...there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there. It is hard for me to make sense on any given level. Myself is fabricated, an aberration. I am a noncontingent human being. My personality is sketchy and unformed, my heartlessness goes deep and is persistent. My conscience, my pity, my hopes disappeared a long time ago (probably at Harvard) if they ever did exist. There are no barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it I have now surpassed. I still, though, hold onto one single bleak truth: no one is safe, nothing is redeemed. Yet I am blameless. Each model of human behavior must be assumed to have some validity. Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do?”

I let Keeten finish putting in that quote before I popped him in the head with his own tire thumper. Oblivious fucking bastard, so caught up in words that he didn’t even hear the soft tread of the boogeyman.

You want to talk to him? Well, fuck you. You’ve got me.

Anyway, he’s a little tied up right now. Hardy har har har!

If you are worried about him, you should be.

For now, I feel under control. I washed down a handful of Valium with a couple of J&Bs to create a euphoria of calm before I popped the lock on his sliding glass door.

I’m looking at this bum. Is this how normal people dress? He’s wearing black Timberland boots, faded Land’s End jeans, a crimson red Out of Print T-shirt of the Odyssey, and a purple, wrinkled Territory Ahead button-down shirt. Homeless people in New York dress with better class than this guy.

Fashion is everything, well, and great hair products.

Here’s an example of a guy who knows how to dress. I must confess I killed him. I mean, just having great taste in clothing is never going to be enough to save anyone...from...me.

”Paul Owen walks in wearing a cashmere one-button sports jacket, tropical wool flannel slacks, a button-down tab-collared shirt by Ronaldus Shamask, but it’s really the tie--blue and black and red and yellow bold strips from Andrew Fezz by Zanzarra--that impresses me.”

Or how about this fine description of a hardbody who has a fine eye for great clothes. You have to love those sculpted bodies of these rich bitches, who have all the time in the world to turn their figures into works of art.

”She’s wearing a red, purple and black hand-knitted mohair and wool sweater from Koos Van Den Akker Couture and slacks from Anne Klein, with suede open-toe pumps.”

For this visitation to the land of cows, I still dressed nice, even though I’m running the risk of getting blood on some very, very fine cloth.

“I’m wearing a six-button double-breasted chalk-striped wool suit and a patterned silk tie, both by Louis, Boston, and a cotton oxford cloth shirt by Luciano Barbera.”

I smell good, too. I just checked in the mirror, and my hair looks fucking amazing. I should buy this guy a nice suit. I’ll put it on my platinum American Express card. The rubes will pogo stick around the store when I bring that out of my. . . . Jesus, he needs a real haircut, too. I ask him, jokingly, if he cuts his own hair. He nods his head.

Unfuckingbelievable.

So why am I here in Kansas, you might ask? I’m choosing to make that a bigger question because I’m holding the tire thumper. Haha! Well my friends, I am drawn this way. I come out of the sickest depths of Bret Easton Ellis’s demented mind. In other words, I’m created in the image of God.

Who am I?
Who am I?
I’m you!


We are marginally different, but the rage that is in me is in you. Maybe you haven’t tapped into it yet, but you may when you least expect it. I do understand that we may see different things in clouds, for instance. ”When we look up at the clouds she sees an island, a puppy dog, Alaska, a tulip. I see, but don’t tell her, a Gucci money clip, an ax, a woman cut in two, a large puffy white puddle of blood that spreads across the sky, dripping over the city, onto Manhattan.”

I understand I’m a bit more depraved than you are, but I’m wealthy. I’m incredibly handsome. I’m a fashion intelligencia. I’m way smarter than you. I have a larger responsibility to approach the world with a greater degree of honesty.

”This is no time for the innocent.”

Everyone deserves to die, especially this moron reviewer who thought he was going to write a fucking review of my fucking book today.

WRONG!

Look at this passage he noted.

”If she likes me only for my muscles, the heft of my cock, then she’s a shallow bitch. But a physically superior, near-perfect-looking shallow bitch, and that can override anything…”

I don’t like him making notes about Courtney. I rip aside the duct tape on his mouth, which had to fucking hurt, and asked him, WTF?

“I was going to make a point about you complaining about the shallowness of what Courtney liked best about you, but you are a hypocrite because what you like about her is just as shallow as what she likes about you. Plus, you would need more depth for her to appreciate something else about you.”

Can you believe that? I’m writing it just like he said it; then I bash him with the club a couple of times. I think I heard something snap. Fuck! I’m really trying not to lose control here. I have to put the tape back on his mouth because he is hollering with too much volume. Whimpering is fine, even encouraged, but there is no sound proofing all the walls, so we can’t be screaming. I really much prefer the way women scream. The tenor of their voices trips the light fantastic in my head.

How many people have I killed? Well, too many to count. It is amazing what you can get away with when you have as much money as I do and look like I do. People are begging to spend time with me. It seems to me like they are begging to be dismembered, burned with acid, eviscerated.

We do have a few things that we need to get straight, and then I need to head back to New York. I’ve got some video tapes that need to be returned, and the late fees are fucking outrageous.

Huey Lewis and the News is the greatest American rock band...ever. Indisputable. I notice that Keeten has the greatest hits, which earns him a painful bash to the knee. You have to buy the complete albums. The rest of their songs are as important and fantastic as their hits.

Second, Donald J. Trump is a genius. I admire him more than anyone else on the planet. It takes a psycho to recognize a psycho. As far as I know, he is keeping it together, but I feel a kinship with him, a calling in the blood. Haha! did he ever pull the Art of the Deal on all of you.

Okay, so you see that I am fair. I let Keeten participate in the writing of this review, but I just can’t let him do it alone. I was sitting in my apartment, gazing with fascination at my favorite vagina, the one with the Hermes blue ribbon tied around it, and thinking, I’m not going to let this hayseed from Kansas write a review about me. I caught a plane, and here I am.

I’m thinking about taking one of his fingers to nibble on during the flight back, so... maybe... I can get to New York without murdering anyone.

You’d give up a finger if it meant saving some other poor innocent life, wouldn’t you Keeten?

So you think you want to read this book? HA! Ellis, the sick bastard, did not spare the grotesque descriptions of my activities. In fact, I read the damn book, and even I was starting to yawn a bit through all the blood and mayhem. I think he made his point about what kind of depraved monster, a true creature of God, I am WAY before he quit relating yet another senseless death. And yes, I know they are senseless because not one of my victims has quelled the beast. Blood only begets more blood.

Don’t hate me. I’m just a product of the entitlement system. I appreciate it that you all let me be me. Your ability to live with letting my madness run rampant means you are actually more insane than I am.

Something for all of you to keep in mind...Patrick Bateman is still out here. Yes, I’m alive and frankly very fit looking. The tanning bed is a wonderful investment. I bought the same one as Donald. If you have a hardbody, come to New York. Look me up. I’ll take you out on the town and show you something you’ve never seen before.

I see from the notes here on the desk that Keeten is going to call this a Masterpiece.

He isn’t looking so sure anymore. He’s looking a bit gray, and some blood has trickled out from beneath the duct tape. I used the tape from his garage. It obviously isn’t as good as the brand I normally like to use. *Sigh*

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Friday, March 1, 2019

Plan B


S.J.D. Peterson
Dreamspinner Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars



Summary



Danny Marshal has always lived his life out loud, but his androgynous appearance is only a small part of who he is. One night at a frat party, Danny meets Lance Lenard, football jock and apparent straight guy. Lance is shocked when he's immediately attracted to Danny's feminine side. Danny is happy to be the subject of Lance's first man-on-man experiment—until Lance begins to struggle with the fact that despite his appearance, Danny is indeed a man.

Lance's whole life has been focused on his goal of playing in the NFL, and he knows those dreams will be smashed if anyone finds out about his little secret. Although Lance has come to hunger for Danny's touch, he's not willing to give Danny what he's grown to crave: a boyfriend who's proud to love him for every flamboyant and snarky cell in his body.

Life sends Danny and Lance in different directions, each of them focused on his respective Plan A. But the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.



My Review



Danny is such a girl:

“I grabbed my new white, waist-length coat with black fur trim around the hood and slipped it on. Yes, I’d bought it in the junior girls’ section and I fucking loved it. All soft and snuggly. Loved the way the fur felt around my face when I put up the hood. I’m a very tactile, as well as visual, guy.”


But there’s no question he’s all man:

“Sure, I took some ribbing for it, a few nasty insults tossed my way here and there when I walked by, even had some old guy ask me if I was a boy or girl. I answered by cupping the bulge in my pink skinny jeans and asking, “Would you like me to show you?””


After my disappointing experience with The Girl For Me, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t enjoy this story. There were lots of similarities in the plot, even in the main character’s name. It turns out my worries were unfounded. This story was told beautifully, with lots of humor and heart. Right from the beginning, I fell in love with Danny.

Danny is a busy theater major who doesn’t do relationships. He has big plans for the future, and no time for anything more than casual encounters. That all changes when he attends a frat party with his best friend, Bo, and is captivated by the rugged and muscular Lance, whose goal is to be a big football star.

Though Lance is very attracted to Danny, he sure has a funny way of showing it. He behaved terribly at the party and I’ll admit I didn’t like the way he treated Danny in the beginning. But Danny’s no pushover and he gave as good as he got. I love their relationship buildup and Lance’s conflicting feelings. He’s deep in the closet and not yet ready to take the next step in their relationship. It’s too late for Danny, as his heart is now involved.

Both men are young, selfish, and wildly immature at times. They make decisions hastily which creates a lot of unnecessary turmoil in their relationship, but what can you expect from 21-year-old college students? Since this story was told from Danny’s perspective, I could feel his emotions keenly, reminding me of the confusion and chaos of my own young life. I loved Danny and Lance, Bo and his girlfriend, Katie, and all the fully developed colorful supporting characters. The tense, heartbreaking and sad moments made the ending so sweet and satisfying. This story was a joy to read.