Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Flight of Broken Wings

A Flight of Broken Wings (The Aeriel Chronicles, #1)A Flight of Broken Wings by Nupur Chowdhury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Angel like Aeriels ruled earth until humanity revolted against them. Hundreds of years later Aeriels still present a threat to humanity. When a new Aeriel threat is revealed by a foreign dignitary, hunter Ruban Kinoh will do anything to end the threat.

A Flight of Broken Wings was truly an enjoyable story. It started slowly and I did wonder what I was getting myself into, but I came to like Ruban, Ashwin, and the world building.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the Aeriels themselves. Aeriels are immortal creatures that physically resemble angels. They also pack an extra punch as they can blast energy. They are far more physically power than humans and with the ability of flight it's amazing humanity ever overthrew them. They are only vulnerable to a substance known as sif which humanity formed into blades called sifblades. The story revolves around the fact that the ancient Queen of the Aeriels wants to steal a new formula to reinforce sifblades.

I appreciate an author who can poke fun at her character. "How was it that he never had more than one sifblade on him whenever he was being attacked by some of the most powerful Aeriels in creation? What use was a whole arsenal full of top-of-the-line ammunition when all he ever actually had to work with was an old standard-issue sifblade..." I've repeatedly wondered why Ruban isn't armed to teeth with sifblades especially since he throws his sifblade in seemingly every fight.

I was a little disappointed in the mystery aspect of the story. I figured out the biggest mystery in the story the first moment it was introduced. There was just a significant lack of potential suspects so the guilty party felt obvious to me.

A Flight of Broken Wings was a good story and a pleasant surprise.

3.5 out of 5 stars

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

GILGAMESH BY JOHN GARDNER AND JOHN MAIER

GilgameshGilgamesh by Anonymous
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”The one who saw the abyss I will make the land know;
Of him who knew all, let me tell the whole story
...in the same way...

Is there a king like him anywhere?
Who like Gilgamesh can boast, ‘I am the king!’

From the day of his birth Gilgamesh was called by name.”


 photo Gilgamesh_zpsk70l5ptp.jpg

An exorcist priest named Sin-Leqi-Unninni is famous for being the scribe who recorded the best preserved version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. He lived in Mesopotamia between 1300-11oo BC. His name translates roughly as The Moon God is One Who Accepts my Prayers. The poem is thought to have existed as much as a 1000 years before Sin-Leqi-Unninni transcribed this version, which would make this story over 4000 years old.

It is remarkable that we have these clay tablets at all. We have pieces of the story in other forms, and any translator who takes on the task of looking with fresh eyes at these cuneiform shapes relies heavily on the other scattered pieces to fill in the gaps of the missing sections of clay or the parts that have been rubbed into obscurity.

 photo Gilgamesh clay tablet_zpsjezdrp7n.jpg

Here is an example of what is readable out of the severely damaged tablet V column VI:

”...
...road…
...a second time…
...threw down…
...Enkidu
They cut off the head of Humbaba.”


It makes me think of when I was a kid watching a show, and the TV signal would start going on the fritz. The picture would start flipping and turning to static (probably a passing low flying UFO). I would be banging on the set (because that always helps) and frantically wiggling the ears until the rabbit is squawking. I’d get pieces of sound with distorted dialogue. Finally, the signal would be reacquired just in time for me to hear,

“That was amazing, Magnum.”

Fortunately, John Gardner and John Maier were able to resurrect the missing pieces from other sources, and they share that with us so we can see what we probably missed. It would have been wonderful to read how Sin-Leqi-Unninni would have interpreted that particular dynamic scene of Gilgamesh and Enkidu subduing Humbaba. One can only hope that more Gilgamesh pieces are still out there to be discovered and maybe, even possibly, another copy of this particular translation.

When I think of Gilgamesh, I also think of Beowulf. Both are epic, larger than life heroes whom I frequently, in my youth, mixed up. It wasn’t until I was at college, taking literature courses, that I managed to pry the two apart into two separate beings.

Gilgamesh VS Beowulf

Who would win? Well, Gilgamesh is two thirds celestial being and only one third human. When Enkidu is created as a counter balance to him by the Gods, it really isn’t a contest. Despite Enkidu being a powerful and great warrior, he is no match for Gilgamesh, so I’d have to say my head proclaims Gilgamesh would win against Beowulf, but my heart is always going to be with Beowulf.

Enkidu is raised by wolves, well basically the whole wildlife kingdom, and when it is time for him to give Gilgamesh his comeuppance, they decide the best way to bring Enkidu into the arms of civilization is to tempt him with the charms of a woman.

Here he is, courtesan; get ready to embrace him.
Open your legs, show him your beauty.
Do not hold back, take his wind away.
Seeing you, he will come near.
Strip off your clothes so he can mount you.
Make him know, this-man-as-he-was, what a woman is.
His beasts who grew up in his wilderness will turn from him.
He will press his body over your wildness.”


And man, did it ever work. It is like mainlining the poor bastard with some pure China White. He is hooked. ”Six days and seven nights Enkidu attacked, fucked the priestess.” Though this might resemble a honeymoon, never leave the hotel type situation, I doubt it was quite the same.

Enkido and Gilgamesh, after their property destroying epic battle, became best friends. Inseparable until death parts them. They kill the Bull of Heaven after the beast is sent for by the scorned goddess Ishtar.

You see, Gilgamesh turns her down.

”Which of your lovers have you loved forever?
Which of your little shepherds has continued to please you?
Come, let me name your lovers for you,”


which is actually very astute of Gilgamesh, who is really better known as a love them and leave them type. There is, in fact, a lot of grumbling about his Middle Ages type insistence that he has firsties with any new bride in the kingdom. I guess the rat bastard aristocracy of the Medieval period had read a copy of Gilgamesh, or maybe we can assume that men with absolute power have always been the same.

 photo Gilgamesh and Enkidu_zpssumputua.jpg
Enkidu and Gilgamesh

There must be a price paid for killing the Bull of Heaven, and the Gods are not going to strike down their golden boy, Gilgamesh, so that leaves his best friend, Enkido, to be the fall guy. When you are on an away mission with Gilgamesh, you always wear the red shirt.

The grief that Gilgamesh feels is actually poignant.

”Six days and seven nights I wept over him.
until a worm fell out of his nose.
Then I was afraid.”


I really think that maybe Gilgamesh hopes the gods will take pity on him and listen to his lamentations and restore life to Enkidu, but my rule has always been, when a worm falls out of a loved one’s nose, it is time to bury him or run like hell because Uncle Ted has just joined the Walking Dead.

Gilgamesh travels to the underworld looking for his friend. I love this line: ”His face was like that of one who travels a long road.” I can see his mental and physical pain etched into the lines of his face.

There is a long digression in the story while Sin-Leqi-Unninni relates THE FLOOD story, starring Utnapishtim as Noah. The rest of the starring characters, that would be us sinners, are drowned. We are merely bobbing nuisances in the water, as a backdrop to Utnapishtim’s celebratory high 5s with the giraffes, gorillas, and gazelles.

Though nonsensical for Sin-Leqi-Unninni to shove Gilgamesh off center stage, it is actually very interesting to read.

”When he orders bread at night, he (Shamash) will rain down wheat,
enter the boat and close the gate.”


My family raises a lot of wheat, so the whole image of raining down wheat to feed Utnapishtim and his family is something I have never heard of in connection with the Noah version, but I really like the visual of wheat cascading from heaven to fill up the deck of the boat.

On his journey, Gilgamesh finds a weed that will restore his vigor and youthfulness. He wants to take it back to Uruk and share it with others. I’m already thinking to myself, gobble it down man, save some for others, but gobble yours now.

Well, then a snake shows up, and …

This is a blast to read. The notes that Gardner and Maier provide are invaluable to help me better understand the story, so don’t just read Gilgamesh, allow yourself to be immersed in the whole experience. I would read the text from the tablet and then read the notes to find some, not so subtle, changes occurring to my own interpretation of the meaning. Use these experts to heighten not only your knowledge but also your overall enjoyment of reading one of the oldest known stories in existence.

 photo John Gardner_zpsdfilddmg.jpg
John Gardner

I keep pondering the unexpected death of John Gardner in 1982. He died in a tragic motorcycle accident at the tender age of 49, before this book was published. I couldn’t help thinking of him because the notes are infused with his charismatic personality and his boyish enthusiasm. He had been drinking but was below the legal limit at the time. John Maier feels that he was overworked from too many projects and too little sleep. I first encountered Gardner when I read his wonderful, slender volume Grendel (1971), which I really need to reread so I can write a review for it. I didn’t know that he was already dead at the time that I read Grendel, but when I did find it out later, I felt that temporary displacement of learning bad news as if it had just happened. RIP John Gardner. May you be able to complete your tasks in the next life.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy, #1) By: Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy, #1)Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a hard read, probably the first epic fantasy in my knowledge that treats epic as everyday. Marlon James has written a beautiful, raw, physical book that to take another reviews words doesn't really care if you understand it or not. You will want to understand, you will want to gnaw the meat from the bone. The layers upon layers built in this world with language, storytelling and the mysticism of the world will draw you in.

This book will make you work for it, and if you cut through it all, you will be glad you did.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jim Hines space opera "Terminal Uprising" keeps the action fun and humerous

In “Terminal Alliance”https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N0232CC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1, Jim Hines sensational space opera, a motley crew of bio-engineered janitors is forced to step up and save the universe. After a bio-weapon decimates the alien Krakau command crew on the space cruiser EMCS Pufferfish, Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos, the senior, and very smart, janitor, and her small crew of cleanup specialists thwarts the savage alien Prodryan’s plan for universal conquest, while learning the truth about what caused humanity's descent into feral cannibalistic behavior on Earth (hint it was not because of something humans did, there was an outside agency involved) and simultaneously having to figure out how to pilot and defend the ship in space battles. While Hines milks the entire janitor motif to the hilt, he combines a sharp wit and sly humor as he skewers a lot of sf tropes in this super fun read.   We need more books like Terminal Alliance in science fiction.

“Terminal Uprising”, Hines humorous follow-up to the terrific “Terminal Alliance” continues Mops and her crew’s adventures. Now free from Krakuan dominance, Mops and her crew are piloting their stolen space cruiser, the Pufferfish, but running into issues with supplies.  Admiral Pachelbel, a Krakuan, who wants to do the right thing has provided information to Mops, which requires them to  pick up Cate, a Prodryan lawyer, with all the nasty lawyer tricks, with a secret agenda (and everyone has a secret agenda).  Pachelbel wants Mops to go back to Earth, which is guarded by the Krakua space force, because there have been sightings on Earth of non-feral humans. During her trip to get Cate, Mops slyly defeats an Krakua armada trying to capture her ship with another awesome display of alien anatomy and janitorial knowledge.

 Continuing their journey to Earth, Mops continues her talent for milking all of the alien races fear of human warrior talents.  One of the story elements of Terminal Alliance is that the Krakuan's bio-engineered most humans into ferocious unstoppable space warriors, who they have been using to dominate the universe.  While they breach the Krakuan space barrier surrounding on Earth, Mops, Cate, Monroe and Wolf, one of her crewmates, and a woman who really wants to be a warrior, if she only could shoot straight, get to the surface, but lose their shuttle, while the rest of the crew hide in space.

On Earth, Mops and her cohort find the non-feral survivors living in fortified underground towns.  Its not that people have found a cure.  Some people were just immune from the bio- weapon that decimated Earth's populous.  But Mops and her crew and the earthlings come under attack from Krakuan forces illegally on Earth.  It seems like there is another secret plot afoot to keep the Krakuans in power.  Since Mops crew defeated the Procydans, the Krakuans think they need help to stop the surging Procydans from destroying the universe.  In the ensuing confrontation, the human survivors of Earth and Mops ragtag group of janitors will have to use all of their wits and strategically placed cleaning supplies to defeat the Krakuan traitors.There are some very good scenes here.  Confrontations between Mops and the evil Krakuans and between Wolf and the earthlings.  Wolf does a lot of growing up.


Besides Hines' witty prose and humor, what made Terminal Alliance such a fun read was three things - the juxtaposition of Mops lowly janitor position with the saving the universe plot, the likability of the characters and a fast moving adventure story set in different alien locations. In Terminal Uprising, Hines shifts the setting to Earth, and away from space battles, and the action involves a whole new group of characters. There is less journeying around the universe meeting new aliens and more stationary settings. I think this detracted a bit from the freshness of the first book.  Maybe it’s just hard to still milk the same jokes as is the first novel. But I think it’s also hard to strike lightning in a bottle. This is a really good novel, a fun read that will keep you fully engaged, and for a second book in a trilogy it more than holds its own against other books out there. Its just not as fun a read as Terminal Alliance.


But it’s definitely worth a read. I would follow Mops anywhere.

In the crowded field of fantasy, paranormal superheroes and fantasy mystery mashups, it’s good to pick up a fun witty sf space opera novel filled with likable characters and humorous situations. Snap up the pair.

Nick Petrie's "Tear it Down" is a A + thriller

Nick Petrie's fourth Peter Ash novel "Tear it Down" cements his "go to" status for that certain type of strong warrior action adventure thrillers—that is the a good guy fighting against the bad guys. His novels are non-stop action. Occupying some of the same territory as the oft compared, but little duplicated "Jack Reacher" novels, Peter Ash uses his unique skill set and friends to help people who are facing troubles and to right wrongs. There is an innate moral code underlying these novels.
Good people beating back bad. And in Peter Ash, Petrie is not afraid to break laws so that the "right" people – that is good people- win out against murderous thugs, racist killers or gangs who are threatening them. And in “Tear it Down”, the multi-racial setting is an ideal location because Petrie gets to show another part of our multi cultural country to good effect.

If you are new to the Peter Ash canon, he is an ex-soldier who returned from war overseas with some unique warrior skill set and a problem with enclosed places. When he spends too much time in buildings, the “White Noise” builds up and causes him problems. But he can also harness the White Noise to reveal the skills of a warrior. Hyper fit and blessed with some great fighting techniques, Ash likes to build and repair buildings and people's lives. Currently living with his girlfriend June Cassidy, he has gotten his bruised and battered body back in shape from his last escapade, and has rebuilt all of Cassidy's homestead. She easily recognizes that he needs a new cause. She sends him to multi-racial Memphis to help her friend Wanda, a black combat photographer, who has been getting threatening calls.

When Ash gets to Wanda's house, he finds that someone has escalated the threats and driven a stolen dump truck into her living room. But Wanda has escaped harm and is not ready to leave. Ash tells her he will help fix up her place and also help protect her from the outside threats. Wanda is also suffering some unknown war related problem and is consuming multiple drugs to combat it.

While gathering supplies, Ash is waylaid in his truck at a gas station by a Eli Bell, a guitar playing teenager. It seems the Bell, who has a talent for music and planning, was involved in a 4 person jewelry store robbery at a local mall that went south, and while he escaped with the loot, others were not so lucky. Although Ash could stop him, he feels for Bell and lets him take his truck, but regrets it immediately. On the way back from the hijacking, Ash is grabbed up by King Robbie, Memphis’s reining drug kingpin, who puts Ash in his fortified Mercedes and questions him about Bell. With King are Charlene Scott, King’s shooter and Adrien Brody, his man mountain muscle.

On the way back to Wanda’s, Ash sees some murderous thugs using a machine gun to shoot up her house. With nary a delay, he grabs a forcibly grabs a gun from Charlene, and runs out to stop the thugs. The thugs are Judah Lee, a white supremacist killer who just got out of jail and his hog killing brother Albert. The brothers are hell bent on getting the house from Wanda because there is an old family story of buried loot in the house.

The stage now set, the action picks up even more. There a confrontation with another drug dealer which ends with Ash with a gun. Ash almost catches Eli Bell. King Robbie is not done with Ash and Judah Lee, is a crazed homicidal killer. Ash has to call for reinforcements, and his friend, Lewis, comes south. Lewis is handy with a shotgun and is game for business. Locked and loaded, Ash and Lewis will have to protect Eli Bell and Wanda and put a stop to the killing.

There will be a confrontation with King Robbie’s crew who Lewis and Ash brace in their hideout and a highway battle with Albert and Judah Lee which culminates in a hand to hand battle.

It’s a tough world, but a good man and his friends can make all the difference.

The Other Man: 21 Writers Speak Candidly about Sex, Love, Infidelity, & Moving On


Edited by Paul Alan Fahey
JMS Books LLC
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars



Summary



Who is the other man?

He’s an accident waiting to happen: the skateboarder round the bend, the smiling barista with the extra hot mocha, the computer geek eager to retool your mate’s hard drive. He’s a relationship gatecrasher bound by no rules and with no sense of fair play. Like Caesar, he comes, he sees, he conquers. On the flip side, you or I can be the other man, charging in and breaking the bonds of a committed relationship without a thought to the pain and misery inflicted upon the injured parties. Face it: We’re not all innocent bystanders in other-man scenarios.

The Other Man is an artistic collaboration by and about gay men and their relationships. If you’ve ever been the other man, had him invade your life, or are just plain curious about this beguiling, unpredictable and dangerous creature, then this anthology of personal essays is for you. Twenty-one of our most acclaimed authors, many Lambda Award winners and finalists, write candidly about either being the other man, suffering the other man or having their relationships tested by infidelity. What they tell us is we must take heart, it does get better and one day our luck is bound to change. We’ll survive the bumps and detours in our relationships and weather the storms, or resolve to move on. Along the way, we’ll hope to meet someone new and simpatico, maybe even our long-awaited soul mate. Life will be good again. Or will it?

Contributors include: Perry Brass, Austin Bunn, Rob Byrnes, Mark Canavera, R.W. Clinger, Lewis DeSimone, Paul Alan Fahey, Wes Hartley, William Henderson, Allen Mack, Jeff Mann, Tom Mendicino, Erik Orrantia, Felice Picano, David Pratt, Glen Retief, Jeffrey Ricker, Rodney Ross, Jason Schneiderman, Philip Dean Walker, and Chuck Willman. Edited by: Paul Alan Fahey.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this anthology will go to the It Gets Better Project.


My Review



I was ecstatic to get the opportunity to read this collection of stories, especially since Rodney Ross, author of The Cool Part of His Pillow, is one of the contributors, and I really loved his first book.

Each of the stories in this collection is deeply personal and candid and offers different perspectives on infidelity. Human emotions are very complex and relationships are hard work, requiring commitment from both partners. Life is full of unexpected changes and I really enjoyed reading these struggles to adapt and grow in spite of relationship difficulties.

Even though this collection focuses on gay relationships, there is something in here for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Jeffrey Ricker explores online dating after he had his heart broken in What If?. The relationships with men looking for something on the side were fun, but he wants more.

In The Rival With a Thousand Faces, Glen Retief is living with the love of his life in Spain, but learns that living with a deeply closeted man who is away from home a lot and has secrets of his own can be as difficult as coping with the difficulties of living in a foreign country. I loved the literature references and need to read Graham Greene.

Stung and humiliated by his last cheating boyfriend, Jason Schneiderman now plays hard to get in The Hat Prize. He learns his new date, Michael, has a boyfriend, but they enjoy each other’s company. Since Jason didn’t have to worry about falling in love, his relationship with Michael proceeded naturally without having to deal with all the pressure and awkwardness of a first date. Very sweet story.

In Husbands, Austin Bunn left his boyfriend when their education and careers took them separate ways. He discusses his affairs with married men, the advantages and disadvantages, at the same time exploring their motives and discovering more about his inner self and his own needs.

R.W. Clinger's In the Brokenness of Summertime explores the effects of infidelity on a long-married couple. The anger, hurt and guilt pouring from the pages was just heartbreaking. This is an intense and unsettling story, but the ending made me giggle.

In Any Resemblance to Actual Persons, Living or Dead, Is Entirely Coincidental, Tom Mendicino describes his own experience with Hal, a married man looking for discreet sex with men on the side and how he was the inspiration for a character in his first novel.

Mark Canavera learns that his lover, Ousmane, is having a virtual relationship in Complicity. He remembers his own affair that occurred just a few months before and even though Mark’s transgression was worse, the impact is the same. Will they be able to forgive each other? I liked the glimpse of life and troubles in West Africa.

In Turbulence, Chuck Willman shows how lies and deception impact everyone involved.

Some people think that it’s perfectly acceptable to “fuck around” during periods of extended absence. Of course, for such relationships to work there has to be openness, honesty and a set of ground rules. Allen Mack’s Just Wally and Me was a lighthearted, warm and funny story that made me smile.

Rob believes he’s an actor, even though he hasn’t worked in many years. Infidelity can break hearts…so can unfulfilled dreams. David Pratt’s Way Off explores the challenges of professional acting and a relationship in turmoil. This was a very sad story.

Morris Hartman is a lawyer…and a huge fan of author Perry Brass. He’s also straight, married and in the process of coming out. Perry is intrigued by this man, even though he has had disappointing experiences with fans in the past. They meet and have an affair. It’s not so simple. A Pitiless Love uncovers the emotional pain that can be suffered by the one who cheats.

Paul Alan Fahey’s Where Are You Going To? shows how the music you listen to can define special moments in your life.

I loved Jeff Mann’s Thomas. This is a really sad and lovely story that explores a man’s overwhelming pain and emotions from loving someone who doesn’t love him back. Time does not always heal wounds.

In Erik Orrantia’s Ballad Echoes, Erik feels responsible for taking care of his HIV+ lover even though their love has died. He falls for another man who is not so perfect either, but he manages to learn from his mistakes and move on. Relationships can never be perfect, because people are not. I hope Erik is happy.

In Philip Dean Walker’s The Other Side of the Game, Phil has had his eyes on a buff dude at the gym for over two years. He has a vibrant online life and a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop Phil from making a date with him. The two men have an affair while Drew’s boyfriend is studying abroad. The boyfriend returns, but Phil is unable to let go.

In the sexy Three’s A Charm, Wes Hartley talks about how he met his 16-year-old boyfriend, Riley, while he was in a relationship with the boy’s uncle, Ronny. Riley is not out yet, and is looking for a sexual mentor. This consists of no more than friendly head and sleepovers. Once Riley gains his confidence and skill, he comes out to his uncle and meets Tanner, a hot number close to his own age. The sleepovers continue…

Lewis DeSimone conveys the intense passion and overwhelming emotions of first love in Last Tango in Cambridge. This is a beautiful and heartfelt story.

William Henderson’s You Without Me is a very intriguing story told in the second-person point of view about an unhappily married man who does not reveal this fact to his new lover. His lover slips back into old ways. I liked the intimate feel of this story.

Rodney Ross and his partner have been together 30 years. In And Then There Was One, he tells amusing tales about the couples they know whose relationships failed. Wisely, they have chosen not to take sides.

Felice Picano’s The Child, is not about a child at all, but about a man who was the author’s partner’s “other man.” In the 70’s, gay relationships were open until HIV began to change things. This story deals with illness, death, grief and the messiness associated with it.

In A Brief History of the Divorce Party, the party was originally a holiday party until Rob Byrnes’ partner announced he was in love with someone else. It doesn’t have to end up badly. Time passes and life changes. Couples who have had history together can still be good friends and learn from their mistakes.

I enjoyed every single one of these personal stories and loved how they explored the complexities of relationships with humor, warmth and sensitivity.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

THE STAND BY STEPHEN KING THE GRANDDADDY OF POST-APOCALYPTIC FICTION

The StandThe Stand by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“None of us want to see portents and omens, no matter how much we like our ghost stories and the spooky films. None of us want to really see a Star in the East or a pillar of fire by night. We want peace and rationality and routine. If we have to see God in the black face of an old woman, it’s bound to remind us that there’s a devil for every god—and our devil may be closer than we like to think.”

A plague has escaped a lab killing most of the population, only a few, a mere fraction of the whole, has immunity or manages to survive being infected.

It is over in a matter of weeks. Civilization grinds to a halt, then collapses, and then falls into chaos.

A Mad Max world is born.

A virus that kills 99.4% of the people it infects is a very stupid virus. Even the Black Plague had a 20% survival rate, so for a virus to act this stupidly, it would have to be man made. The last thing any virus should do is kill the host. Death of the host leads to death of the virus.

”Now most of the young folks and old folks were gone, and most of those in between. God had brought down a harsh judgment on the human race.”

Invariably, we can’t help bringing God into any situation where we think a judgment has been handed down on humanity, but he/she doesn’t have anything to do with this. This is man destroying himself. Some would make the case that God could have interceded, could have saved us if we had been worthy, but then when have we ever been ‘worthy’? Since we are made in his image I do think sometimes what God, if he exists, likes least in us is what he likes least about himself. The whole theory of God is built on good and evil. If evil exists, then oddly God exists. The Vatican has been working relentlessly to prove for centuries that pure evil exists to justify the whole need for their continued existence.

The proof might be rising out of the ashes of this virulent plague. ”He was coming, Flagg was coming like some terrible horror monster out of the scariest picture ever made. The dark man’s cheeks were flushed with jolly color, his eyes were twinkling with happy good fellowship, and a great hungry voracious grin stretched his lips over huge tombstone teeth, shark teeth, and his hands were held out in front of him, and there were shiny black crow feathers fluttering from his hair.”

The survivors are dreaming about the Dark Man, and they are dreaming about the old black woman in the cornfields of Nebraska. These dreams are as vivid as they are confusing. There is a battle for their souls going on. They must choose. Do they go to Randall Flagg, or do they flock to Abagail Freemantle?

You would think it would be an easy decision. Don’t most of us think of ourselves as good people? Of course, we would join Abagail, the self-anointed prophet of God. Except, maybe it isn’t so clearly cut; as the two groups grow, it is starting to look like an even split. Abagail brings her flock to Boulder, Colorado, wanting to use the natural barrier of the Rockies to be the dividing line between her “good people” and the evil people following the Dark Man.

Not to mention that she knows there has to be a reckoning.

But are they evil? When people from the Boulder Free Zone mingle with those from the Dark Side, they find them to be normal people, just like the people they left back in Boulder. The biggest difference is that they are afraid, and fear, as we know, is the most insidious and easiest way to control people. It becomes very clear that Abagail’s army is really only fighting one man, one man with supernatural powers. ”Nevermore. Tap, tap, tap. The crow, looking in at him, seeming to grin. And it came to him with a dreamy, testicle-shriveling certainty that this was the dark man, his soul, his ka somehow projected into this rain-drenched, grinning crow that was looking in at him, checking up on him.”

So it is sort of interesting to speculate about whether there are truly evil beings like Randall Flagg in the world, waiting for their opportunity, waiting for people to need someone larger than themselves to lead. Their power grows as people choose to believe in them. As long as civilization exists and people are reasonably content, a person like Flagg is never given an opportunity to thrive.

We through our own discontent empower evil.

This novel is one of the King epics. A fan poll on Goodreads, The Best of Stephen King Poll, shows that his fans still believe this is his best book. My favorite book, and the one that I feel will be considered his masterpiece, is IT , a book that I feel really brings together all of his best skills in building characters and shows off his gift for creating twisty, scary plots . IT is #2 on the Goodreads poll. Pennywise, in my opinion, might have had as large an impact on reading/watching audiences as Norman Bates in Psycho. Once you have been introduced to Pennywise try walking past a storm drain without giving it a wide berth.

The Stand has a large cast, and most readers will have a favorite character. I liked several characters, actually, and wondered if I was going to find myself in a George R.R. Martin universe where identifying with a character was tantamount to self-inflicted grief. I was fortunate to stick with Stu Redman. He is a hick from Texas who continues to show hidden depths as circumstances shape and reveal his character. He made me smile with the following response, when it looks like dire circumstances may lead to a slow death: “Ralph came over to Stu and knelt down. ‘Can we get you anything, Stu?’ Stu smiled. ‘Yeah. Everything Gore Vidal ever wrote—those books about Lincoln and Aaron Burr and those guys. I always meant to read the suckers. Now it looks like I got the time.’”

Gotta love the thought of a redneck from Texas reading the unabashed New York homosexual.

In the forward, Stephen King talks about the meeting he had with the publishing group about the size of The Stand. It was originally published at about 800 pages, but then when they decided to reissue the uncut version, he was able to put back in about 400 pages that he had been forced to excise. ”I reluctantly agreed to do the surgery myself. I think I did a fairly good job, for a writer who has been accused over and over again of having diarrhea of the word processor.” He agreed to the cuts because the publishing team made a compelling case. They were able to show him the sales from his previous four books, the profit margin, and if he sold the same number of books of The Stand, how much slimmer the profit margin would be, because of the cost to produce the 400 extra pages. So the cuts were not made for editorial reasons, but for common sense accounting reasons. King was very happy to have the orphaned material reunited with the rest of the book.

The book does bog down at times for me. I think that is inevitable with a book this size. King is taking on some larger themes here and for the most part keeps all the plates spinning in the air. I read a lot of post-apocalyptic books, and I’m sure if I ever let myself be put on a couch, a psychologist will explore those reasons thoroughly, but one thing I notice, while I am immersing myself in The Stand, is that I have a greater appreciation for my life and the cocoon that civilization wraps around me to keep me safe and provide me with the necessities so that I can have the time I want to read, putter, and write. Maybe I’m not as obsessed with the END OF THE WORLD as much as I am finding new ways to appreciate the wonderful life I do have.

I have to admit, though, that I had to agree with lifestyle philosophy of the sociologist Glen Bateman. ”But Bateman himself hadn’t wanted to get in on the ground floor of society’s reappearance. He seemed perfectly content—at least for the time being—to go for his walks with Kojak, paint his pictures, putter around his garden, and think about the sociological ramifications of nearly total decimation.”

I would hope I could ignore the siren calls of the ancient, wise woman in Nebraska and the seductive pull of The Dark Man and just enjoy the peace and quiet of a more tranquil world without the constant noise of people talking on their cell phones, music blaring from cars, planes taking off from airports, and millions of electrical lines humming.

It is truly amazing any of us can think.

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Friday, February 8, 2019

The Bonds of Love


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



Summary



Vic Braunson has a special kind of problem -- his lover, Matt diLorenzo, somehow imbues him with enhanced superpowers every time they have sex. It's something Vic has learned to live with in the years they've been together, and something he won't let stand in the way of their relationship. Matt hates the powers, particularly when they put Vic in danger, but what can they do?

When Vic stops an armed robbery at a local convenience store, his picture appears in the morning paper. Later that day, Matt gets a phone call at work from Jordan Dubrowski, a guy he knew in high school. Jordan was his first, in every way -- it was through him that Matt discovered his ability to transfer superpowers to his lovers. Jordan had a taste of those powers, and after reading about Vic's role in the hold up, he's decided he wants them back.

But Matt is in love, and Vic won't let him go without a fight. Still, Jordan will stop at nothing to get what he thinks rightly belongs to him.


My Review


In this third story of the Powers of Love series, Vic and Matt have been together for three years. Vic has become more accustomed to and is better able to control the superpowers that Matt gives him every time they make love.

Vic puts them to good use during an armed robbery at a convenience store. He takes three bullets to the chest at point black range, the robber runs, Vic gets up, and both he and Matt are the topic of the morning news.

Vic’s pesky co-worker, Kyle, who was Matt’s ex, has a new boyfriend and invites Vic and Matt to a cookout at his house. Vic wants nothing to do with it, but Matt wants to go, just to prove to Kyle that “Mr. Right” does exist and there is such a thing as true love. The last thing Matt needs is a blast from the past in the form of his first lover in high school, Jordan Dubrowski, who is now Kyle’s new boyfriend.

Jordan had a taste of Matt’s sexually transmitted superpowers when he found the ability to run like the wind and decided to join the high school track team.




I adore the main characters, Vic and Matthew. Their emotions are intense and their love and devotion to each other is beautiful and heartwarming. Plus, the superpowers Vic gets from making love are fun, creative and imaginative, and sometimes troublesome to both men. The secondary characters are well developed. This is a really well written story that had my pulse pounding, made me happy, and broke my heart. I like the long length of the story that really gave me an opportunity to know Vic and Matt even better.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Perfect Assassin

The Perfect Assassin (Chronicles of Ghadid #1)The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amastan has trained to be an assassin. After completing his final test, he learns there are no contracts and he feels relieved. His relief is short lived when he discovers the body of one of Ghadid's leaders, a drum chief. Amastan finds himself ordered to solve the murder of the drum chief soon or he and his assassin family will pay the consequences. On top of all that the spirit of the deceased is roaming free seeking a new body.

The Perfect Assassin is a murder mystery with slightly different surroundings. Rather than a straight forward detective, a novice assassin is tasked to find out who done it. The book also features very active souls called jaani's that must be quieted or else they will go wild driving people mad and possibly even worse.

I personally was expecting much more assassin action and much less detective investigation. That would have been fine if the investigation aspects were better. The hard part of the investigation for me is the world wasn't developed enough to make it clear who the killer could be. Amastan is chasing a nameless faceless individual with little more than the standard family, employees, and enemies as suspects. Even that doesn't really get developed and there was only one flimsily attached potential suspect. After not introducing strong suspects the book practically tells you who the killer is in an unsatisfying way.

All that being said I did come to like Amastan. He's methodical and careful. Probably too careful. He wants to help everyone and doesn't seem much like an assassin throughout.

The Perfect Assassin was a decent mystery even though the mystery was underdeveloped.

3 out of 5 stars

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

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

FICCIONES BY JORGE LUIS BORGES

FiccionesFicciones by Jorge Luis Borges
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”The truth is I grew up in a garden, behind lanceolate railings, and in a library of unlimited, English books.”

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Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges, possibly one of the greatest readers of all time, lost his eyesight later in life. I believe the most terrible thing to have happen to a reader is to lose their ability to see. Yes, with Audible now making thousands of books available to be read to people, a blind reader has not completely lost the way to their magical escape tunnels to other worlds. Maybe, if I were blind, I could convince myself that I’ve returned to the age of Homer, where an oral tradition is the only means to pass on stories to others, but that will be a difficult transition for me. I am a reader. I process words much differently by reading them than by having them read to me, so I do think that if I did lose my eyesight, I would be, frankly, finished as a reader.

The question would be, which is very much a Borges type question, is who then would I be?

The blind Borges became Homer, a lecturer who travelled the world, sharing brilliant suppositions by pairing bits of knowledge from here and there that were only made possible by his prodigious reading. These wonderful suppositions, new revelations of what makes us tick as thinking human beings, were only made possible because of all the information he had stored in his brain from...books. So when someone says to me, why do I need to know anything when everything is on the internet? I always say, having the information available doesn’t mean that you have the capacity to make the connections to fully comprehend and use that knowledge, or for that matter even know what to google in the first place.

Borges had the internet in his head.

I never really know how to review collections of short stories without the reviews becoming ponderously long. I decided to share a few quotes from the stories that I find to be interesting. My notes from reading this book are vast and easily could have led to a dissertation many times longer than the original source material. I desisted.

For those readers who struggle with Borges’s text, don’t worry. I struggled as well. I had to read and reread sections of the story to make sure that I captured more of what Borges meant. I am positive, many times, that I failed to completely comprehend all that he intended for me to glean from his writing. My advice is to forge ahead, keep swimming from island to island of wonderfully written passages. Do not become overly anxious. I do not want you to get a cramp and drown in the Borges Sea.

”From the far end of the corridor, the mirror was watching us; and we discovered, with the inevitability of discoveries made late at night, that mirrors have something grotesque about them. Then Bioy Casares recalled that one of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had stated that mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of man”--Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. I’d never really thought of mirrors as abominations before. Though mirrors have been associated with sex probably from the moment the inventor of mirrors first hung a shard on the ceiling over his bed (fanciful supposition).

”One of the schools in Tlon has reached the point of denying time. It reasons that the present is undefined, that the future has no other reality than as present hope, that the past is no more than present memory. Another school declares that the whole of time has already happened and that our life is a vague memory or dim reflection, doubless false and fragmented, of an irrevocable process” --Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. I can remember pondering the concept of time as a child and wondering why we are so obsessed with it when it constantly reminds us of the quick passage of our lives. If we don’t know what time it is or what day it is or what year it is, we can’t possibly be crippled by the knowing our own age. We would be perpetually as young as we think ourselves to be.

”I cannot imagine the universe without the interjection of Edgar Allan Poe“--Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote. Poe, so ignored by his own country for most of his life. Thank goodness the Europeans (and one Argentinian European in particular) saw his merit.

”Every man should be capable of all ideas, and I believe that in the future he will be”--Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote. Ideas used to travel so slowly. It is almost as if Borges is anticipating the internet. Of course, as I stated earlier in this review, people must still have a wide base of knowledge in their own head to fully appreciate or apply the brilliant ideas of others.

”With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he also was an illusion, that someone else was dreaming him”--The Circular Ruins. This would explain a lot. Whoever is dreaming me needs to drink less alcohol or shoot less heroin because I could really use a more coherent path forward.

”I deeply lament having lent, irretrievably, the first book he published, to a female acquaintance”--The Work of Herbert Quain. Ahh yes, who hasn’t lent a book to a saucy literary woman or a handsome poetic man with the hopes of words shared easing the assault on their virtue. The problem, of course, is that rarely do lent volumes return to us. The rule, clearly, for readers and especially collectors is to never lend a book that you expect to get back.

”Quain was in the habit of arguing that readers were an already extinct species”--The Work of Herbert Quain. If they were really serious about saving readers as a species, they would have us behind bars in book filled zoos, encouraging us to reproduce with one another.

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Library of Babel

”I suspect that the human species--the unique human species--is on the road to extinction, while the Library will last on forever: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly immovable, filled with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret”--The Library of Babel. There was a time I would have agreed with Borges. It is a nice thought that our libraries would exist beyond us, but with the current rate of libraries going extinct, especially in the United States, I would have to say that our species, or some devolved illiterate form of it, may outlive our libraries. Of course, when the internet goes black and the electrical grid goes dark, guess who will still have books to read….me! Candlelight was good enough for Honest Abe. It is certainly good enough for me.

”Whosoever would undertake some atrocious enterprise should act as if it were already accomplished, should impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past”--The Garden of the Forking Paths. I could have used this advice several times over the course of my business career, when I sold pieces of my soul. To imagine that the act is already done would have eased the moment when the loss is weighed, measured, and excised.

”In all fiction, when a man is faced with alternatives he chooses one at the expense of the others. In the most unfathomable Ts’ui Pen, he chooses--simultaneously--all of them”— The Garden of Forking Paths. I was thinking as I read this how useful it would be to run simulations of several choices that could show me the outcomes, not only of the first decision but the rippling effects of that decision over the next ten years. The interesting thing in watching how people make decisions is that, even if they have the percentages before them of potential success, they will still go with those fabled gut instincts, even though the simulation shows a much lower potential for success. We are a baffling species, naturally distrustful of knowledge.

”What one man does is something done, in some measure, by all men”--The Form of the Sword. The capacity for greatness or horror exists in all of us. To celebrate one is to celebrate all. To condemn one for an act is really, in many ways, condemning us all.

”’The next time I kill you,’ said Scharlach, ‘I promise you the labyrinth made of the single straight line which is invisible and everlasting’”--Death and the Compass. This has got to be one of the most unique death threats I’ve ever heard uttered. If only Clint Eastwood was still making Dirty Harry movies.

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”The time for your work has been granted”--The Secret Miracle. We can only hope, right? I hope Borges accomplished most of what he wanted before the final swing of the glittering scythe. I do want to encourage everyone that, if there is something you know you should be doing, you should get to it. If you have been putting off asking the libidinous (hope springs eternal) librarian out on a date, do it. If you are supposed to be painting, writing, or starting your own business, move the time table up. The sand in the hour glass is flowing faster than you think, and there will be times when it inexplicably speeds up. Carpe Diem!

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Friday, February 1, 2019

Matching Tats



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



Summary



Vic Braunson's latest tattoo makes his lover, Matt diLorenzo, decide that he might want to get inked, too. He'd like a heart with his lover's initials in it. Vic likes the idea, and agrees to get the same tattoo, with Matt's initials inside. They have fun deciding where to put the tattoos -- a spot Vic hasn't already covered turns out to be pretty hard to find.

Once they decide where to get inked, Matt fears he may not be able to go through with it. He's more than a little skittish when it comes to needles, and watching the tattoo artist at work is frightening. With the powers love gives him, however, Vic finds a way to help Matt overcome his fears ...



My Review



Vic and Matt have been together a year and a half. Matt is no longer worried that Vic wants him just for his powers. They still share the ability to communicate telepathically, while Vic’s other powers change depending on their positions during sex. On Vic’s day off from work, he decides to get a facial tattoo. Even though Vic has more tattoos than bare skin, it was the first time Matt got to see one while it’s healing. Matt decides he’d like to get one, even though he’s a wimp when it comes to needles and pain, and both guys agree they’d like to get matching hearts with their initials inside.

When they get to the tattoo parlor and Vic has his done, poor Matt is so frightened he is nearly unable to go through with it. Vic’s soothing thoughts, good loving, and a new power he recently acquired help Matt get through his ordeal.

This story was hot, short, sweet, and a lot of fun!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

THE FOURTH COURIER BY TIMOTHY JAY SMITH

The Fourth CourierThe Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”He’d walked enough of Warsaw’s gray streets and grim underground passages, glancing at the faces of passersby--each a map of a wounded country--and wondered if what he considered his rebelliousness, bred in America’s suburban comfort, could have survived what they had endured. Or would he have resigned himself to the half-empty glass of their existence?”

FBI Agent James ‘Jay’ Porter has been dispatched to Warsaw, Poland, to find out why dead men keep appearing on the river bank, each with the knob of a sixth finger and hands that light up a geiger counter like the fireworks celebrating Wianki.

This is 1992, and the Soviet Union has very recently imploded. The major concern that the US and their allies have after this collapse is, how secure is the massive stockpiles of nuclear material the Russians developed during the Cold War? The rush to embrace capitalism in Russia has consolidated the economy into the hands of the few who are strong enough to control it. In other words, Russia has become a Mafia state where everything is for sale. What better way to make a few million dollars quick than to smuggle some of this nuclear material to somebody with the ambition to use it, or threaten to use it, to leverage his way to power?

That person turns out to be General Drako Mladic, the head of Yugoslavia Secret Services, who dreams of the power that owning the most dangerous weapon ever created will bring him. He has made contact with a Russian scientist, Dr. Sergej Ustinov, who has developed a portable nuclear bomb. He also has a long term relationship with the Director of Organized Crime, Basia Husarska, in his pocket and, when he requires it, in his bed. He feels Poland is the perfect place to make the exchange for what he wants. He just needs to get Ustinov and Husarska together.

Husarska is a classic femme fatale. ”Her fur coat hung open to reveal long legs sheathed by black stockings. She looked as glossy and sexy as if she’d stepped off the page of one of his girlie magazines. Dravko had sent that black-clad angel of seduction for him. Sergej raised a hand and feebly waved.” She knows there is no better time to score big than when a country is in flux while it is struggling to discover a new identity. She is willing to do anything to escape Poland, as long as she can figure out a way to leave with enough money to live in the style she wishes to become accustomed to. Time is short, and her desperation is forcing her to take more and more chances that will either land her in prison for the rest of her life, get her dead, or fly her away to an island escape.

Mladic is a complicated, conflicted man, who wants to be with men but loathes his own desires.“He could masquerade for others, but Basia had known him for too long. When the stunts he wanted her to perform turned demeaning, she recognized it for what it was: degradation of women as permission to desire men.” CIA agent Kurt Crawford knows perfectly how to handle Mladic. Crawford is black, gay, lethal, and built like a Greek God. He is willing to do anything it takes to keep Mladic from acquiring what he wants.

This is a tale of double-crosses within double-crosses, seasoned with a healthy mix of murder. There are dead couriers, with slashed faces, and more to join them, as a diabolic plan starts to unravel. Porter and Crawford may be one step ahead of the game, but with each new revelation, the board flips from Monopoly to Clue to Risk. Will they lose on one of the last major moves of the Cold War, leaving the world in a permanent state of jeopardy at the hands of an ambitious, ruthless man?

Timothy Jay Smith perfectly captures the gloomy, atmospheric uncertainty of Poland in the upheaval of the 1990s. Opportunities, unique possibilities, and even dreams are opening up for the Polish people for the first time in more than a generation. Smith’s depiction of his amoral characters are fully developed, fully fleshed creatures, who force people of principle to change the rules of engagement if they have any hopes of stopping them. While reading this book, I was able to relive my own anxieties from the 1990s, when I, too, was worried about the dissolution of the Soviet Union and what that meant to the security of their nuclear arsenal. I was in particular reminded of the nightmare events of the 1997 movie The Peacemaker, starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman.

Just before Timothy Jay Smith got in touch with me about reading his book, I’d just watched the strange, ambiguous, very unsettling movie Dark Crimes (2018 release in the US), starring Jim Carrey, which is based off a true story by David Grann. This movie depicts a Poland still suspended in a distant past, with many people worried about an uncertain future, and the effects the “perversities of freedom,” sex, drugs, and outside culture, would have on the emerging, new Poland.

Need a great thriller? Look no further. Smith delivers.

I want to thank Timothy Jay Smith and Arcade Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, January 25, 2019

The Powers of Love


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



Summary



With his shaved head, piercings, and tattoos, the muscular Vic Braunson isn’t one who falls hopelessly in love at first sight. But when he meets swim instructor Matt diLorenzo at the gym, sparks fly ... despite the fact that Matt is dating Vic’s co-worker.

Then a chance encounter months later brings them together. When they finally consummate their relationship, there’s no denying the energy between them. But the next morning, Vic awakens to find his mind crowded with a myriad of thoughts, none of them his own. After their second night of making love, Vic is filled with unparalleled strength. Oh, and now he can fly.

Suddenly Vic is filled with questions he doesn’t know how to answer. First, just what exactly is going on here? And how does he tell Matt without alienating his new lover or ruining their budding relationship? Or does Matt know something he, himself, is only now discovering?



My Review



What a fun story! Vic Braunson is a city bus driver who feels Matt diLorenzo’s eyes on him while he’s lifting weights at the gym. To Vic’s great disappointment, it turns out Matt is his co-worker Kyle’s main squeeze. A few months later, Matt boards Vic’s bus towards the end of his shift and invites him out for a drink. Matt wants to start off their relationship slowly. Four months later, on New Year’s Eve, they make love for the first time. Vic’s shaved head, tattoos and muscular build cannot belie his romantic nature. He’s in love with Matt and wants him to be “the one”.

As Matt and Vic become closer, Vic discovers new and unusual abilities that he can’t understand and is having a difficult time coping with. He wants to talk to Matt about what’s happening, but he’s afraid of losing him. Vic finally opens up to Matt, and realizes that he'll have to put up with his super powers if they are to stay together.

I really enjoyed this humorous, sexy and sweet story. Vic and Matt have an amazing connection, the sex is hot, and the emotions intense. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Sentry

The SentryThe Sentry by Paul Jenkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bob Reynolds wakes up one morning knowing something is wrong.

He can't immediately put his finger on what it is, but he thinks he's a superhero.

After some time he's sure he's a hero, but he can't understand why he and everyone else has forgotten him. The one thing he knows for sure is that his enemy, The Void, is returning and he's the only one who can stop him.


The Sentry was an interesting tale of a forgotten hero that the world was made to forget. Even his wife forgot who he was.

The Sentry was best friends with Mr. Fantastic and the ally of all the major superheroes. He's determined to help them remember and to figure out why everyone forgot.

I unfortunately already knew the main points of this story as I'm reading it over a decade after it was released. I can't help but believe it effected my enjoyment level of the story. To me the story felt far too long considering the amount of story that was unveiled. Five issues were spent with Bob Reynolds remembering who he was and trying to get the others to remember. That felt as though it could have been accomplished in an issue or two instead. I was surprised at the ultimate conclusion because it seemed simplistic and ineffective.

The Sentry was an interesting way to install a new character while making he seem like an old one. It was a creative idea to say the least.



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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

TEDDY ROOSEVELT: AMERICA'S FIRST SUPERHERO?

The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His TimesThe Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times by Jerome Charyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”I stepped into the roaring crowd of greeters--that was the Roosevelt way.

‘Mr. President, Mr. President.’

Babies were thrust at me. I wanted to rock them in my arms, reassure a mother or two, but I didn’t dare in a field of bayonets that reminded me of monstrous porcupine quills. I could feel my freedom slip away with a sudden pull, like the silent shrug of a straitjacket. I didn’t require bayonets, not at all. Deep within my throat, I let out the Rough Rider rip.

‘YA-HA-HAWWW’”


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Theodore Roosevelt, always rough and ready.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd President, was not the first Roosevelt to be accused of being a traitor to his class. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, was accused of that long before Franklin entered the fray. Theodore was a true son to his father, who also waged his own battles against inequality. He called his father Brave Heart, and for the rest of his life, he did his best to live up to the high ideals his father embraced. Being called a traitor to your class when you belong to the wealthiest elites was about the largest compliment that could be paid to any man.

Teddy was a driven man. One could say he was reckless and almost desperate to push the limits of the definition of what a man is supposed to be. He was living LARGE a century and some change before the concept became a slang term for a lifestyle of extravagance. He did spend money, and it went through his fingers like sand because of his many interests. His version of extravagance was in how he devoted his time and energy to large and small endeavors. He was a New Yorker who bought into the concept of the West representing the place where a man could truly find the person he was meant to be. The West was JUST big enough to contain the expansiveness of Theodore’s vibrant personality.

Theodore would have been perfectly happy making a life for himself out West, but the East Coast would be the arena in which he would have to wage a war for the soul of America. The corruption was there; inequality was embraced there, and he wanted the power and influence to change it.

Jerome Charyn brought the legend charmingly to life by telling the story of his life with wit, style, and humor. His descriptions were so vivid and written with such verve that I felt almost as if, from the kaleidoscope of images in my mind, that I was reading a graphic novel. If it were a graphic novel, it would be a weighty volume because there was simply no way to contain Roosevelt to a small panel on a page. Each illustrated panel would have to be a full sized page to accommodate his large teeth, his bullish body, and his booming voice.

Theodore took on men with names like Jay Gould and Pierpont Morgan who saw him as a threat to their profits. For men like these, there was never enough money in their possession. The concept of giving men a living wage was as foreign an idea to these rich robber barons as shaking hands with the man in the moon. The contentious Roosevelt transformed the NY police department and found that the cancer of corruption had almost consumed the whole body of the police force. He had to cut out more than he kept. The famous newspaper man Joseph Pulitzer knew where his bread was buttered with men like Gould and Morgan, but he also knew that Roosevelt always made good copy.

”Mr. Joseph Pulitzer was relentless in his attacks on my presidency of the Police Board. He called me ‘that little runt of a man with the red moustache’ who had failed as a Civil Service Commissioner and was now making a mess of 300 Mulberry Street. The World swore I was a despot, the czar of czars. Pulitzer couldn’t stop talking about my teeth. ‘Roosevelt’s satanic grin,’ the World said. ‘The Commissioner looks like a crazed colt.’

Considered that a compliment.”


The American people loved Roosevelt. The Republican Party, to which he belonged, was less enamored with the young firebrand. He was too popular to destroy, but he was too unpredictable to trust. He couldn’t be bribed. He couldn’t be reasoned with if he knew his cause was just. He would not fall in line with a party platform.

What to do with him?

They buried him as Undersecretary of the Navy, but he emerged from there, somehow, the hero of San Juan Hill in Cuba. The crafty Republican bosses, with much chuckling I’m sure, decided that the best place to tuck Roosevelt out of the way was as President William McKinley’s Vice President.

Let’s just say, Theodore Roosevelt was impossible to contain. The universe by a series of quirks of fate always seemed to make way for him.

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The author Jerome Charyn, looking rough and ready as well.

This book will be so enjoyable for anyone who has an interest in history. Though this is a novel, it is based upon the true events of his life. People are a product of the times they live in, and a man like Theodore Roosevelt was always knee deep in whatever was going on. For people who know nothing about Theodore Roosevelt, this book will be a great introduction to the man. For those who know a little, they will be given a wonderful back bone of knowledge to help them pursue more in-depth studies of his life. For those, like myself, who know quite a bit about the man, they will be entertained by the way Charyn deftly brought the man and the people around him to life. He was so alive I felt like I could reach into the pages of the book and shake the man’s hand.

If you want to meet the man who actually lived up to the myths surrounding him, then there is no better place than in The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King. (@CowboyKingTR)

I want to thank Rachel Gul, Liveright Publishing (@LiverightPub), and Jerome Charyn (@jeromecharyn) for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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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Friday, January 18, 2019

Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Sci-fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World


Sloan De Forest
Running Press Adult
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars



Summary



Spanning nine decades and branded by the most trusted authority on film, Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Sci-Fi showcases 50 of the most shocking, weird, wonderful, and mind-bending movies ever made.

From A Trip to the Moon (1902) to Arrival (2016), science fiction cinema has produced a body of classics with a broader range of styles, stories, and subject matter than perhaps any other film genre. They are movies that embed themselves in the depths of the mind, coloring our view of day-to-day reality and probably fueling a few dreams (and nightmares) along the way.

In Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Sci-Fi, fifty unforgettable films are profiled, including beloved favorites like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Fantastic Voyage (1966), groundbreaking shockers like Planet of the Apes (1968) and Alien (1979), and lesser-known landmarks like Things to Come (1936) and Solaris (1972). Illustrated by astounding color and black-and-white images, the book presents the best of this mind-bending genre, detailing through insightful commentary and behind-the-scenes stories why each film remains essential viewing. A perfect gift for any film buff or sci-fi fanatic!



My Review



This was a fun book and a basic introduction to a wide range of classic science fiction films from as early as 1902 to as recently as 2016. I’m thrilled that three of my all-time favorites, Star Wars, Logan’s Run and Woody Allen’s Sleeper, made this list. Since I’ve already seen them multiple times, I will spend some time catching up on those movies I haven’t seen yet, those I viewed only once as a child, and those I enjoyed enough to see again. I’m also thrilled that there is a solid representation of foreign films.

Here is the list of movies to watch before I die:

A Trip to the Moon (1902) France
Metropolis (1927) Germany
Island of Lost Souls (1932) US
Things to Come (1936) UK
The Thing From Another World (1951) US
The Thing (1982) US
It Came From Outer Space (1953) US
Them! (1954) US
Forbidden Planet (1956) US
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) US
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) US
The Fly (1958) US
The Fly (1986) US
The Blob (1958) US
The Time Machine (1960) US
La jetée (1962) France
These are the Damned (1962) US/UK
Alphaville (1965) France
Fantastic Voyage (1966) US
Barbarella (1968) US
THX 1138 (1971) US
Silent Running (1972) US
Solaris (1972) Russia
Sleeper (1973) US
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) UK
Blade Runner (1982) US
The Brother From Another Planet (1984) US
Brazil (1985) US
RoboCop (1987) US
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) US
District 9 (2009) US

This book is sturdy, well written, and the photos are outstanding. I especially enjoyed the “Far-Out Facts” and “Mind-Blowing Moment” sections. During one of the most intense scenes in The Fly, Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall kept laughing during the filming. A few years after the release of A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell was introduced to Gene Kelly at a party. Kelly looked at him and quickly walked away. As if that wasn’t enough, McDowell also suffered an eye injury from the metal eyelid clamps he had to wear.

This is just a minor complaint, but I would have liked a little more in-depth analysis of the films. As it is, the book is perfect as a short introduction to the films within.

Recommended for classic movie and science fiction fans.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha!

Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha!Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha! by Dragongarow Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Japanese High Schooler, who happens to be a Dragon Ball fan, dies trying to check out a girl.

When he wakes up he finds out that he's Yamcha early in the Dragon Ball saga.

After being momentarily freaked out he gets excited. Yamcha is in a relationship with Bulma and he's never had a girlfriend so he's psyched. Until he remembers that Yamcha is going to die.

Then he vows to get stronger so he can save himself.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha is basically fan fiction. An ultimate Dragon Ball can being reincarnated as a character in the series is hardly a groundbreaking concept. It was good that instead of him being Goku, Gohan, or Vegeta he became Yamcha. He knows at best he's screwed so he trains his behind off to try to buy himself some time, but he has no hope of keeping up with the Saiyans and Piccolo long term. He was pretty ingenuous. I enjoyed it overall even though the ending was silly and the story felt short.


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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

FALLEN MOUNTAINS BY KIMI CUNNINGHAM GRANT

Fallen MountainsFallen Mountains by Kimi Cunningham Grant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

”You really never know people, not fully. People are strange. They hold onto things, they have secrets. And trust me we do things we didn’t think we were capable of, good and bad. All of us. People can commit all sorts of atrocities, even normal people, good people. Think of wars. How else could such barbarities occur, if the deep capacity to do evil didn’t exist in every one of us?”

Secrets.

There are all kinds of different secrets. Some of them are merely embarrassing; some of them are compromising to other people, and some of them are secrets that, if revealed, would tear down our lives, timber by timber, brick by brick.

Everyone in Fallen Mountains has a secret, and some harbor whole card decks of secrets. I grew up in a town even smaller than Fallen Mountains, and one of the things I learned very quickly was that secrets are hard to keep in small towns. Everyone is aware of what everyone else is doing. They all have the prodigious memory of elephants, and they remember everything everyone has ever done. It is hard for someone to grow into a new person in a small town with no way to escape any part of his or her past. ”The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” --William Faulkner Secrets in small towns are handled as carefully as a crate of nitroglycerin. Once a secret is revealed, the blast tends to ripple through a community, flattening lives like a category five tornado.

Some people like the suffocating coziness of a small town, and others can’t leave fast enough. Possum, Red, Chase, Jack, Maggie, and Laney are people who have stayed in Fallen Mountains. It is home and will be home until the day people use the words “rest in peace” when they mention their names.

Now Transom Shultz, best friend of Chase Hardy, left Fallen Mountains, but he has come back. He is a polarizing figure. A man who can make people love him or hate him in equal measure. He takes what he wants and leaves behind what he is done with. Chase has a lifetime of memories shared with Transom, not that he isn’t aware of some of his fallacies, but he forgives him because he loves him like a brother.

He trusts him.

With the death of his Grandfather Jack, Chase has inherited the farm that has been in his family for over two hundred years. The Keeten family farm in Kansas has only been in our possession for 138 years, so I have to tip my hat to a family that can own a piece of land that long. It isn’t easy, as Chase is finding out. The farm is struggling. It was in trouble even before Chase inherited, and now things have become dire. Chase doesn’t want to be the one, in an unbroken string of ancestors, to lose the farm.

When Transom offers to buy the farm, it is like a rumble of thunder in the middle of a drought. Unfortunately, it isn’t until after the paperwork is signed that Chase discovers that their view of the land is different

”’It’s just land, Boss,’ Transom called.

Chase slipped into his boots and turned and looked back. ‘It was never just land to me.’”


Transom starts raping everything that can be sold off the land. Oil is pumped out of the ground by a fracking company. Old growth timber is chainsawed down and hauled off the hillsides with heavy machinery that leaves deep wounds in the earth. It would take up to three generations to regrow that timber that took mere days to destroy. By trying to save the land, Chase has destroyed it.

Transom disappears.

He has run off before. Things have gotten a little too real in the past, and he has vamoosed to somewhere far away from the trouble he is trying to duck. As Sheriff John “Red” Redifer begins to investigate, he starts to realize that this time might be different, and as much as he would like Transom’s disappearance to be connected to the oil or timber people, he has a suspicion that it might have something to do with one of his Fallen Mountains people.

It could all come back to some of those secrets. Red has his own secret, and this one particular secret is starting to eat him alive. Laney, best friends with Chase and Transom, has a secret that makes her as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof anytime someone mentions Transom. Possum has a secret that is “tied up” somehow with Red and Transom.

Red doesn’t want to know anymore secrets. The more secrets he discovers, the more exposed his own secret becomes.

Where is Transom Shultz?

I was nervous for everyone in this novel. I did not want anyone’s secrets revealed, and as the investigation proceeds, the pressure on everyone to tell what they know increases exponentially. I believe in carrying your own water, and these people have toted it through rivers and over dales. Everyone has motive, and everyone knows something that might have bearing on the case. The thing of it is, at the end of the day, does anyone in Fallen Mountains really want to know what happened to Transom Shultz? What will be the cost?

If I were to put my finger on one thing that Kimi Cunningham Grant is really good at, I’d say it has to be the psychological perceptions she brings to each of her characters. Their motivations, their decisions, their thought processes all ring true. If we cast Transom as the villain, I still can’t completely despise him because Grant gives me insight into the shards of his past that shaped him as a human being. The vulnerability of her characters is revealed to us, piece by piece until the mosaic of their individual puzzles start to resemble the soul of Fallen Mountains. By the end of the book, we know these people better than we know some of our friends, and we can’t help but root for every one of them to find some way to be happy.

I asked Kimi Cunningham Grant if she would answer a few questions, and she graciously said yes!

Jeffrey D. Keeten:I grew up in a small farming town in Kansas, so the small town feel of Fallen Mountains, Pennsylvania, felt very familiar to me. What motivated you to set your first novel in a small town?

Kimi Cunningham Grant:When the idea for this book first came to me, I was walking on public land, and I came across a sign stating that it was going to be developed. Chase was the first character that came to me. I knew I wanted to explore the issue of feeling deeply connected to land, and a small town farmer felt like the right place to start.

 photo Kimi Cunningham Grant_zpsvopv83yt.jpg
Kimi Cunningham Grant

JDK:It felt to me like there were bits of Kimi Grant in most of the characters of this novel. Who did you identify with the most as you were writing this novel?

KCG:This is something I love thinking about! How our lives—who we know, what we read, where we go—shape a text. I think there are always parts of the author in everything she writes; it’s impossible to separate who I am from what I write. Related to that, of course, is my belief that readers shape the text, too. For instance, you’ll most likely have a different reading of this novel than say, a twenty-three year old British woman. You’ve read different things; you’ve experienced different things; you likely “read” the world (and texts) differently. (See T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” and Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” if you want to tumble deeper into the rabbit hole of questions of writing, reading, and meaning!)

But I digress. None of the characters in this novel are autobiographical. As a parent, I identified with Red’s desire to protect his family. As someone who loves the natural world, I identified with Chase. I sympathized with Possum and really enjoyed developing him. The bits of Kimi Grant in these characters are more things like… my husband is a biologist who has spent years researching the effects of fracking on Pennsylvania streams, and my sons have a red wagon, and I’ve always been curious about trapping.

JDK:The book is divided into Before and After chapters. Did you write the book following the linear time and then mix the chapters, or did you write the book in the way it is published, with the two timelines intermixed by writing a chapter on one time line and then the other?

KCG:Early drafts were written linearly, but I realized that if I wanted the central mystery to be “What happened to Transom Shultz?” I couldn’t have him disappear on page 200! It needed to happen much earlier. I eventually settled on the Before and After structure, but honestly, the structure was hands-down the hardest part of writing this novel. I kept reading books in this genre to learn how successful authors handled mysteries, but it took me a long time to get it right.

JDK:I read somewhere that you write before your family wakes up in the morning. The challenge for most writers is actually finding uninterrupted time to focus entirely on what they are writing. I frequently find myself suddenly struck by a brilliant little nugget when I'm trapped in a social circumstance and unable to break away to flush out the idea. Would you share how you have structured your time for writing and how you deal with inspiration at the most “inconvenient" times?

KCG:You’re right. I do write mostly in the morning, before my family wakes up. I’m a homeschooling mom, so my kids are with me all day, every day. They like to talk to me A LOT, which is great, but it also makes it almost impossible to concentrate during the twelve hours that I’m with them each day. As far as actual writing, early morning is what works for me. I do get quiet windows here and there, and I try to make the most of them. I think about my writing a lot when I’m in the woods, and as a family, we try to be there a lot. So, sometimes I’m envisioning a scene or tweaking aspects of a character while the kids are bouldering or running down the trail. I also drive in silence if I’m alone, and I get some good mental work done then, too.

JDK:This is a novel of secrets and their impacts on those that hold those secrets and those who would have benefited from or been adversely affected by them. I enjoyed the fact that, in the course of the novel, you showed all the various ways secrets impact those who hold them and those who reveal them. How do you personally feel about secrets? The saying is that honesty is always the best policy, but is it really?

KCG:The novel IS about secrets, isn’t it? I never intended for it to be so much about secrets as it is about the simple premise that people are complicated. “Good” people can do bad things, and “bad” people can do good things. When I first began writing this, I mostly wanted to explore whether even very “good” people can, under certain tensions and in certain situations, do things they swore they’d never do. The secrets tumbled in and ended up becoming central to the book.

JDK:Fallen Mountains is slated to be published in March 2019, but what else do you have in the hopper? Another novel, I hope? I once read that Stephen King always has three completed manuscripts in his vault, so when the publisher needs the next one, he just fetches one to send them. So how full is your vault? :-)

KCG:I DO have another novel in the hopper! I’ve sent it off to my agent, Amy Cloughley, who is wonderful, and who will help me iron out any lingering problems. I have two other ideas for novels that aren’t fully fleshed out yet. One is started; one isn’t.

I want to thank Kimi Cunningham Grant and Amberjack Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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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