Thursday, July 31, 2014

Satan's Mummy vs. Teenage Frankenstein

Satan's Mummy Vs Teenage Frankenstein(Mummy Horror # 2)Satan's Mummy Vs Teenage Frankenstein by Henry Price

Professor Vergerius, aka Satan's Mummy, wants a new body and finds Jake Beaufort, a teenage Frankenstein descendant, to build it for him. However, Kyle, the brain inside the patchwork body, wants only to be reunited with his girlfriend, Sarah. Can he fight off a crocodile, a dwarf, and Beaufort's army of ravenous stitched-up sex salves to find her?

This is the thirteenth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

Satan's Mummy is back and his grindhouse horror-inspired rampage continues. This time, he teams with a teenage made scientist to get a new body. Too bad things don't go as planned for him. There's even more sex in this one than in the last one. Lots of monster on monster action, for the most part.

I didn't quite enjoy this one as much as the first installment. For one thing, it didn't feel like a complete tale, just the first half of something larger. There wasn't much in the way of resolution. Secondly, so much necro-rape. Poor Kyle's junk must have been like raw hamburger by the time he escaped Beaufort's sex dungeon.

Still, it's fun in a nasty, sleazy gorefest kind of way. 2.5 out of 5 stars. When's the next Satan's Mummy come out?

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $67.49.

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Satan's Mummy: Mummy Horror #1

Satan's MummySatan's Mummy by Henry Price

Suzanne Waterman and her buxom friend Angelica are invited by the lecherous Professor Caswell to a retreat at his estate and attend lectures by Professor Vergerius. However, Vergerius is really Thoth Sekhmet, a mummy that eats human hearts to survive and his eyes set on Suzanne and Angelica. Can Suzanne's cop boyfriend Vinnie arrive in time to save them?

This is the twelfth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

Satan's Mummy is an homage to the dirty grindhouse horror movies of the 1970's and it shows. It reads like an Italian horror movie, complete with horror movie cliches, only with more sex. The plot is pretty simple. Some college kids are lured to a mansion and carnage ensues. There's a ton of gore but there's even more sex. Girl on girl, girl on girl on dwarf, dwarf on girl, and mummy on girl. And those are just the encounters that involve the main character.

It's a pretty slim book at only 54 pages but packs in a lot of sex and violence. And there was a nice twist at the end, even though I suspected it was coming since Satan's Mummy vs. Teenage Frankenstein: Mummy Horror 2 is already queued up.

Satan's Mummy is a quick dose of sleazy good fun. 3 out of 5 stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $64.50.

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Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling

Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede WrestlingPain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling by Heath McCoy

Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling is the story of Stampede Wrestling, from it's beginnings in the early days of professional wrestling to its demise, and the Harts, the family that ran it.

This is the eleventh book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

Up until a few years ago, I watched quite a bit of professional wrestling. My favorites for most of that time came from the Stampede territory so I was pretty excited to read this.

The books starts with the Hart family moving to the Canadian prairie to homestead in the 1920's. What a rough way of life? It's like the American midwest, only much much colder. Once Stu Hart is born, things get cracking. Stu meets Toots Mondt and becomes a wrestler and eventually comes back home to start a wrestling promotion.

Stampede sure must have been a rough territory to work back in the day, with a thousand miles between some towns, unreliable transportation, vicious ribs by the other wrestlers, and the colliding egos of the Hart brothers.

In fact, the more I read about the Hart family, the more I wish I hadn't. They're portrayed in the media as the Kennedys of the wrestling world but act more like a bunch of white trash assholes for the most part. Lots of bickering, backstabbing, and money-grubbing.

The road stories and the parts focusing on the British Bulldogs and Bret Hart were my favorites. Keeping the Dynamite Kid out of trouble on the road must have been a full time job. All the tragedy surrounding everyone who came out of Stampede and made it big were hard to read but not as hard to read as the eventual decline of the promotion and the Hart siblings fighting like pigs at a trough for any money coming into the family because of Owen Hart's death.

Heath McCoy has a journalism background so this was much better written than most wrestling books. Even though there's a morsel of fanboyishness creeping through every once in a while, he keeps things pretty objective, showing the good with the bad. As with most wrestling books, I would have traded some of the non-wrestling bits for more road stories.

3.5 out of 5 stars. It wasn't my favorite wrestling book but it's way ahead of most of the rest of the pack.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $61.51.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Death House Doll

Death House Doll (Prologue Crime)Death House Doll by Day Keene
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Mike Duvall promised to look in on his dying brother's wife and son, he had no idea he'd find her on death row. Can he clear Mona's name and find out where the diamonds are she supposedly stole?

This is the tenth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

Daye Keene put out one of my favorite early Hard Case Crime offerings, Home is the Sailor, so when I found this as part of my Kindle Unlimited Experiment, I had to try it. With the covers, Prologue Books looks like the Hard Case Crime of e-books, right?

Not if this book is any indication. This was one of those books where I didn't much care what happened by the halfway mark. The main character and his insta-love for his dead brother's wife didn't wash with me, making the rest of the book have to work hard to redeem that first impression. It didn't. It's like when you've made up your mind to dislike someone and they couldn't redeem themselves if they created a time machine and offered to let you test it out.

The writing itself was good and pulpy, though. Keene knows how to turn a phrase, even when his plot is a cliche-ridden yawnfest. By the end, though, I didn't care about what really happened with Mona and the jeweler.

I'm not giving up on Prologue Books but this was really average. It was about as good as one of the weaker books in the Hard Case Crime series. Two stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $52.12.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Kindle Unlimited - Day 11

So, today is the eleventh day of my Kindle Unlimited trial experiment.  My savings is nearing $50.  However, my enthusiasm for the whole experiment is waning.  The selection is still the issue.  I'm finding that it's more stuff that I'm willing to read rather than stuff I'm dying to read.  It's like going to a buffet and finding nothing you hate but none of your favorite foods either.

I made an oath to do this damn experiment so I'm going to keep pushing forward.  However, also like a buffet, I feel comfortably full and am not sure I want to fill another plate just to maximize the experience.

It doesn't help that I've been suffering from reading burnout the past few months.  Since joining Goodreads, I've read more books per year than I ever have.  Maybe it's time to cut back to one book per week and focus more on writing and other pursuits.

Jack & Mr. Grin

Jack and Mr. GrinJack and Mr. Grin by Andersen Prunty

When Jack Orange's girlfriend Gina goes missing, he soon gets a sinister phone call from a man that sounds like he's constantly smiling, Mr. Grin. Mr. Grin has Gina and Jack has 24 hours to find them. In the mean time, Mr. Grin is going to have some fun...

This is the ninth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

This is my fourth Andersen Prunty novel and my favorite so far. Jack & Mr. Grin is a psychological horror novel about a man racing the clock to find his girlfriend and the psychopath that is holding her hostage. Complicating things is that Mr. Grin seems all-knowing and people who Jack encounters wind up with a brand on them and get possessed with psychotic rage and try to kill him. Not to mention Mr. Grin repeatedly calling him.

Around the halfway mark, the book was so hard to put down it was as if it was stapled to my hands. Jack manages to figure out where Gina might be held and things get pretty bizarre. It reminded me of the story of Orpheus a few times.

I wanted to love this book but I only wound up liking it quite a bit. Jack had a case of the stupids a few times, like wondering if Mr. Grin had supernatural powers late in the book despite all the supernatural things that had already occurred. Also, there were a few too many unanswered questions about Gina and Mr. Grin. Other than that, it was an easy four star read for me.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $49.09.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian HighwayClaire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When her ex-boyfriend is murdered, Claire DeWitt goes on the case. But what does it have to do with the other case she's working on, The Case of the Missing Horses, or one from her past, The Case of the End of the World? And is there enough cocaine in the San Francisco area for Claire to find her ex-boyfriend's murderer?

This is the eighth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

In the second book in the series, Claire DeWitt continues being the world's greatest detective. This time, Claire's mission is a much more personal one. As she digs through Paul Casablancas' past, she also confronts her own, when she and Tracy were looking for a missing girl in Brooklyn when they were teenagers.

As with the previous book, Claire uses unconventional methods like dreams, tarot cards, and copious amounts of cocaine to keep things going after she exhaust conventional methods. Who knew clues like a missing guitar and poker chips could snowball like they did. Once again, Claire proves she's the World's Greatest Detective.

She also proves she's just barely skating along the border of genius and insanity, getting more self-destructive as the case progresses with her cocaine and pain pills. The case from the past in Brooklyn gives us a glimpse of how Claire got to where she is today.

The second book leaves a lot of questions unanswered, paving the way for the third and final book. Who is the one leaving copies of Detection for people to find? How was it Claire and her friends were the only people to read the Cynthia Silverton books when they were kids? And who was it that cliffhangered Claire's ass at the end of this book?

The writing, as with the previous book, is superb. It reminds me of Megan Abbott and George Pelecanos writing a Nancy Drew mystery. I enjoyed this one slightly less than the first Claire DeWitt book but it was still a great read. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $48.10.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kindle Unlimited - 5 Days In

So far, I've enjoyed my Kindle Unlimited experience.  The service appeals to my status as a cheapass when it comes to buying e-books.  So far, I've "saved" $38.11.  That's pretty damn good.  I haven't run into any hiccups yet and I wish they'd revamp the lending library and use the same interface as Kindle Unlimited rather than making you go to the Kindle store using your Kindle.

My only concern is still the selection.  As I've said before, I've found 30-ish books I'm interested in, not counting the back catalogs of Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, and Prologue Books, which I never heard of before starting the KU trial.  Beyond crime books, however, I could see the well running dry for me in a month or two unless they beef up their offerings.

Since I want this post to have a bit more substance, here are some books I've picked out that are available through Kindle Unlimited that I intend on reading.

  1. Clockers by Richard Price
  2. Boy's Life by Robert McCammon
  3. Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran
  4. Shield and Crocus by Michael Underwood
  5. Wolf Hunt by Jeff Strand
  6. Jack and Mr. Grin by Andersen Prunty
Note: My calculations were off.  This should have been Six Days in.


SowSow by Tim Curran

Richard is convinced his pregnant wife Holly is possessed and carrying something unholy within her womb. Does it have something to do the centuries old account of a witch she'd been reading about or is Richard simply going out of his mind?

This is the seventh book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

With the rise of the e-book, the novella is making a comeback as a viable form of writing. Tim Curran is pretty damn good at using that form.

Sow is a revolting tale of a man and his bedridden, pregnant wife. As the pregnancy progresses and she continues changing, it quickly becomes apparent that things aren't exactly kosher. It plays on the fact that men can never know what it's like to be pregnant and runs with it.

I just mentioned the tale is revolting. As far as I knew, it's the only time I've ever felt nauseous from something I've read. Holly's transformation is disgusting, especially during the later stages. The book didn't end quite like I wanted it to but it was pretty apparent early on that it wasn't going to be a joyous pig roast at the end.

The DarkFuse novella series continues to knock them out of the park. I'm really glad this was a novella and not a full length book since I don't think I could have stomached much more. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $38.11.

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Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

Claire DeWitt and the City of the DeadClaire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran

When prosecutor Vic Willing goes missing in post-Katrina New Orleans, Claire DeWitt comes to town to find out who killed him. Can she put her personal demons aside long enough to find out?

This is the sixth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

This is one of those books that's going to be really hard to do justice to in a review.

Claire DeWitt is the greatest detective in the world and a very unconventional one. Her bible is a book called Detection by renowned French detective Jacques Silette, a confusing and contradictory philosophical tome that is either a work of genius or utter insanity.

If George Pelecanos' Nick Stefanos learned his methods from Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently and was female, the result would be a lot like Claire. Rather than relying on conventional methods, Claire supplements them with intuition, dreams, the I-Ching, and a cocktail of alcohol and mind-expanding drugs. City of the Dead reads like a vision quest at times.

The combination of philosophy and the wreckage of post-Katrina New Orleans do a lot to raise this above a lot of similar detective fiction involving missing persons. The setting is a character unto itself.

Claire's background is explored in dreams and flashbacks, revealing how she became the world's greatest detective, starting with solving mysteries with her two friends when she was just a teenager, having found Detection in a forgotten dumbwaiter in her parent's dilapidated mansion. Lots of dark things are only hinted but you get the feeling Claire has been to hell and back several times.

The case was suitably serpentine and while I had an idea what happened to Vic Willing, I was in the dark about the particulars for most of the book, which I love in a mystery. The whole thing reminded me of Twin Peaks a bit in its strangeness.

I've made the book sound really dark but it's not. Claire's sense of humor keeps the book from descending too far into the darkness despite the horrors she uncovers.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is one of the best books I've read all year. Five out of five stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $35.12.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Kick-Ass Writer

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your AudienceThe Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig

This is the fifth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

The Kick-Ass Writer is a collection of 1001 writing tips, broken down into 31 lists of 25 items each. I do realize that doesn't quite add up to 1001 but it's still a lot tips.

Here are the contents:
- 25 things you should know about being a writer
- 25 questions to ask as you write
- 25 things I want to say to so-called "aspiring" writers
- 25 things you should know about writing a novel
- 25 ways to be a better writer
- 25 things writers should stop doing
- 25 things you should know about writing horror
- 25 ways to defeat writer's block
- 25 ways to plot, plan, and prep your story
- 25 things you should know about character
- 25 things you should know about description
- 25 things you should know about writing a goddamn sentence
- 25 things you should know about plot
- 25 things you should know about narrative
- 25 things you should know about protagonists
- 25 things you should know about setting
- 25 things you should know about suspense and tension in storytelling
- 25 things you should know about theme
- 25 things you should know about writing a scene
- 25 things you should know about dialogue
- 25 things you should know about endings
- 25 things you should know about editing, revising, and rewriting
- 25 things you should know about getting published
- 25 things you should know about agents
- 25 things you should know about queries
- 25 things you should know about self-publishing
- 25 things you should know about blogging
- 25 things you should know about social media
- 25 things you should know about crowdfunding
- 25 things ways to earn your audience
- 25 things you should know about hybrid authors

There's a lot of useful tips contained in this book but writing, much like photography, is very much a "learn by doing" kind of activity. Still, Wendig dispenses some useful advice leavened with humor. Quite a bit of it feels recycled from his other writing books, though. Probably 80% of it. Considering how many writing books he has in print, I guess I shouldn't be this surprised. However, there's a lot of repetition between the individual topics as well. The most useful tips were in the writing horror section and the topics related to publishing.

while I'm a tremendous Chuck Wendig fan, I don't think I'll be pickign up any more of his writing books. The humor isn't enough to make me forget I've read most of this before. 2 out of 5 stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $25.73.

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Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man

Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old ManRonald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man by Lawrence Block

In the span of one day, Laurence Clarke is fired from his job as a magazine editor of Ronald Rabbit's Stories for Boys and Girls, has his wife run off with his best friend, and has his ex-wife jack up her alimony. What will he do? Write some letters...

This is the fourth book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

I've been aware of Ronald Rabbit for years after seeing Block mention it a few times in Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. When it showed up on Kindle Unlimited, I was all over it.

Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man is told in the form of letters written by or written to Laurence Clarke, a man beset by troubles on all sides, many of which were of his own making. He responds to his troubles by writing letters and getting into sexual mischief with a carload of teenage girls, a repressed secretary at his former employers, and his acidhead mistress.

Laurence Clarke is a literary ancestor of Seinfeld's George Costanza in some ways. The Ronald Rabbit magazine was cancelled six months before the story begins and he managed to skate by collection a check by making sure he wasn't noticed. He's also a liar and quite bawdy. His antics had me stifling my laughter quite a few times.

The book is also quite dirty, not surprising since Block used to churn out porno books around this same time. In the afterword, he said he cranked out the book in four days. Funny considering some writers can't put out a book in four years. Anyway, Clarke has some sexual adventures in this book, including threesomes with teenage girls and engaging in surprise sodomy with the repressed secretary I mentioned earlier.

Ronald Rabbit is a bit of dirty good fun and an interesting look into the past of my favorite living crime writer. Three out of five stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $15.74.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014


LeviathanLeviathan by Tim Curran
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When tabloid photograph Johnny Horowitz finds gnawed human bones on a remote stretch of beach, he uncovers a decades old secret, a gate to the Cretaceous period. What creatures will come through the gate and will they be Johnny's last chance at the big time?

This is the third book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

It's my opinion that novellas are a great format for ebooks and Tim Curran is the master of the horror novella. Leviathan is a novella about a small town with a tropical storm bearing down on it and a mysteryous beach that's fenced off and avoided. Turns out, a gate to the Cretaceous period opens there on nights before storms. After an accidental discovery and some tense moments, Johnny Horowitz seems to think photos of prehistoric sea reptiles are his ticket to fame and fortune.

Horowitz is a great character, a guy who knows he's not going to live forever and full of regrets, looking for his one last shot at glory. Since this is a horror novel, things don't quite go that way.

Tim Curran's descriptions of prehistoric megafauna are horrifying but still realistic. After all, the creatures he describes really existed. As the tropical storm draws near, the wheels quickly fall off Horowitz' plan and he draws the attention of something orders of magnitude bigger than he ever imagined.

Since this is a novella, that's about all I'm going to give away. Leviathan is a gripping tale best consumed in a sitting or two. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $13.17.

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National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling

National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro WrestlingNational Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling by Tim Hornbaker
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling is the story of the formation, life, and demise of the NWA.

This is the second book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling details the formation of the NWA due to the need for one recognized world champion instead of each promoter recognizing his own title holder and the monetary advantages thereof. I find it fascinating that forty or so promoters tried to do what Vince McMahon Jr. did decades later, only instead of one man having his cake and eating it too, many men were fighting over how big of a slice of cake they should get.

The books starts in the days before the formation of the NWA and describes the early days, like promoters battling non-members and forcing them to join or go out of business. I had no idea St. Louis was such a battleground in the forties and fifties. I also had no idea Lou Thesz was an unpopular champion with the promoters and not a huge box office draw for most of his tenure as champ. Danny Hodge's father getting so mad at the man wrestling and beating his son that he jumped into the ring and stabbed him with a pen knife was crazy! Also, I never heard of Sonny Myers but getting sliced by a fan in the dressing room and requiring over 150 stiches was really interesting. Other parts, I already knew, like Toots Mondt and Strangler Lewis having a lot of power in the old days.

Wrestling is a morality play, a conflict between good and evil. So how did Hornbaker manage to suck all the fun out of it? Well, most of the writing was very dry. Every time the NWA hit a bump in the road, there were pages of quotes from court transcripts, newspaper articles, and legal documents. For me, the most interesting part was the profiles of all the important NWA champions from Orville Brown all the way to the point WCW withdrew from the NWA.

The book had its moments but I'm glad I didn't pay the $8.69 list price. 2.5 out of 5.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $12.18.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014


DeadliftDeadlift by Craig Saunders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When David Lowe thought his wife was cheating on him, he hired a man to kill her. Now, he's holding an elevator cable and is the only one who can save her life. That is, if the man in the mask doesn't kill him first...

This is the first book in my Kindle Unlimited Experiment. For the 30 day trial, I'm only reading books that are part of the program and keeping track what the total cost of the books would have been.

Deadlift is a tale of iron will, of passion, and of not quitting once the shit hits the fan. And there's a lot of shit hitting this particular fan.

David Lowe is a hulking brute of a bodybuilder. His wife is everything and when he thinks she's been cheating on him, he snaps, hiring a bombmaker to killer her. It's unfortunate that it was all a big mistake and David has to do what he can to save her life. Too bad there's a serial killer and a gun thug also in the mix.

The story of a guy holding a severed elevator cable with his wife in the elevator doesn't seem like it should be that long but Craig Saunders uses flashbacks and viewpoint changes to make it go the distance without seeming stretched. Even though Lowe did something terrible to kick things off, he's still a sympathetic figure and goes through hell for most of the story, getting shot, stabbed, blown up, and falling quite a ways. Tension is high for most of the tale and it was almost a relief when it was over.

The addition of the man in the mask was questionable at first but turned out to be what pushed the book from a 3 to a 4 for me. Like holding up an entire elevator wasn't a challenge enough for David.

The DarkFuse novella series continues to be my go-to source for horror fiction. Four out of five stars.

Current Kindle Unlimited Savings Total: $3.49

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Kindle Unlimited - First Impressions

So I've spent the last couple hours doing some research.  At first glance, the Kindle Unlimited program looks like a beefed up version of the Kindle Lending Library.  Only, instead of one book per month, you can check out ten at a time with no expiration date.  They go away once you give them back but, as I understand it, you could hang on to them indefinitely.

The selection was my biggest concern.  After some searching, I've found roughly 30 titles that I'm interested in.  That's more than enough to give the free trial a shot.  I've got horror novellas, some non-fiction, a mystery, and even some sf/fantasy. It's a pretty nice mix.  However, I have noticed that the bulk of it seems awfully similar to the Kindle books I see in my various cheap/free ebook emails every day.  On the flip side, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are both in the Kindle Unlimited program, a boon to me since I've been thinking of re-reading both of them.

The interface is a lot smoother than that of the Kindle Lending Library.  You can send the book to your kindle from the book's page rather than going to the kindle store, a big improvement in my book.  At $9.99 per month, the price sounds more than reasonable, provided I can find enough books that I want to read that are also in the program.  I guess I can do the free trial and then opt out when it's time to plunk down money.

That's all for me.  I have to figure out which Kindle Unlimited book I'm going to read first.


ScavengerScavenger by Timothy C. Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rush was a sand diver until his son died and he sank into a booze-soaked depression. When a stranger wanders into the bar where he works, Rush has a difficult choice to make...

Timothy Ward has been one of my Goodreads friends for a while now. When he mentioned needing a few more reviews of Scavenger before he put out another book, I said I'd give it a shot.

Scavenger takes place in the world of Hugh Howley's Sand but I was able to follow the story without reading it. America covered with Sand, there are sand divers looking for the lost city of Danvar, etc.

The plot is the classic "I have your wife so you have to do this for me" scenario. Ward puts a nice spin on it by putting it in Howley's setting. The character of Rush was by far the most interesting part of the tale. His insurmountable grief for his son and descent into alcoholism were completely believable.

Honestly, Ward didn't need the Sand setting for this. He could have easily tweaked it into a serviceable western or crime short story. However, the setting added some grittiness (get it?) to the tale. There were some claustrophobic moments near the end that reminded me of events in Howley's Wool.

About the only thing I had to complain about was that I wanted more. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Planesrunner (Everness #1)Planesrunner by Ian McDonald

Everett Singh's father is kidnapped right in front of him. Turns out, Papa Singh was working on a project involving parallel universes and has left Everett the Infundibulum, the map of 10 to the 80th power parallel universes. Only other people are after it and Everett leaps through the Heisenberg Gate to another world, a world of airships where electricity was discovered much earlier. Can Everett evade the bad apples in the Plenitude long enough to bring back his father home?

I love wibbly wobbly timey wimey parallel universe stories so this one was an easy sell for me. I'll cover the parts I liked first before I turn into Ebenezer Scrooge and crap all over the rest of it.

The worldbuilding was exquisite. I liked the setup of the ten worlds of the Plenitude and the Panopoly, the multitude of parallel universes and traveling between them using Heisenberg Gates. I have no trouble believing corrupt people would exploit parallel universes for personal gain. The parallel earth Everett visits was also well thought out. A world were electricity is discovered sooner and thus the world doesn't become dependent on oil? Pretty cool. Sen and Captain Anastasia were both interesting supporting characters, more interesting to me than Everett.

And here is the wad of dog hair in the omelet. I'm just going to gloss over the fact that 90% of parallel Londons in sf/fantasy literature feature airships and just get right to it. Everett was such a Gary Stu that I wanted to shake the crap out of him. Not only is he a teenage quantum physics genius, able to solve problems the adult scientists have been working on for years in just hours, he's also a great cook. Really? I know that's a staple of YA but it was still irksome.

I guess my main hang up with this book was that I've read similar books in the past and didn't feel like this one brought anything super awesome to the table. I preferred the two Paul Melko books, Walls of the Universe and Broken Universe, to this one.

Three stars. It was fun and had some good world building but wasn't the five-geared awesome machine that I was hoping for.

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The Kindle Unlimited Experiment

Starting Monday, I'm going to do the 30 day trial of Kindle Unlimited.  For 30 days, I'm going to only read titles I've found in the library, and I will keep a running total of the cost.  At the end of the month, I'll post how much money I would have saved vs. the $9.99 cost and how the experience was overall.  Until then, I'll be creating my hit list, which will primarily be DarkFuse novellas I've missed and Tim Curran's backlist.

For more information on the Kindle Unlimited program, click here.

Edit:  I'll likely be starting tonight instead.  No time like the present, etc.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I've Fallen and there's a Tentacle in my Butt

I've Fallen and there's a Tentacle in my ButtI've Fallen and there's a Tentacle in my Butt by Edward Naughty

A naive 20 year old girl named Jenny encounters a poorly-described tentacle monster who wants to penetrate her orifices.

I'm not a monster porn aficionado by any means. This is only the third or fourth one I've read. However, either I've been fortunate thus far and have only encountered some of the better written monsterotica or this one is just bad, even by monster porn standards. Maybe the fault is mine. Maybe I'm expecting too much from free monster porn. I can't deny that the writing is sub-par and the story is weak, even with my limited monster porn experience.

The writing bothers me even more than the implausible things like a woman wearing a bikini to a lab and people having sex while there's a monster on the loose. It reads like a 14 year old boy whose only exposure to sex has been internet porn and Penthouse Forum wrote it.

It's no wonder people use pseudonyms when they churn these things out. Imagine the conversations with co-workers would go.

"Hey, Bill, I heard you put out a story on the kindle. What's it about?"
"Well, there's some scientists experimenting on this tentacle creature..."
"Cool. Does it escape the lab and go on a rampage?"
"No, mostly it just fucks people."
"Oh. Look at the time! I think I have a meeting to go to..."

1.5 stars. I think my monster porn days are done. Unless someone finds a free one with a robot or some sort of shark creature in it.

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50 Keys to Better Photography!

50 Keys To Better Photography!50 Keys To Better Photography! by Dan Eitreim

50 Keys to Better Photography is a collection of photography tips.

When this popped up in one of my Kindle freebie emails, I decided to take a crack at it, since I take about a hundred photographs a week these days.

I'm glad this was a freebie since I found a lot of the tips to be of questionable value. Part of the problem for me was that the book didn't seem to know who its audience was. Some of the tips were geared toward beginners, like explaining the relationship between shutter speed and aperture size. Others seemed geared toward people with top dollar equipment. Others were for film cameras.

A lot of the keys were of the duh variety, like reading your camera manual and taking it off the automatic setting and using a tripod to prevent shakes. One key, entitled Creativity Can Be Taught, infuriated me. Copying someone else's stuff to figure out how they did it doesn't strike me as being creative.

I find a few of the tips useful, like using your flash to get more vibrant colors. As a fairly experienced shutterbug, I found the book pretty underwhelming.

Since images in reviews are all the rage these days, here are some pictures I've taken.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Magician's Land

The Magician's Land (The Magicians, #3)The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the wake of being cast out of Fillory and a short stint as a teacher at Brakebills, Quentin finds himself recruited to be part of a heist to steal a mysterious briefcase for a talking blackbird. Meanwhile, Eliot and Janet find that the magic sustaining Fillory is failing and its up to them to stop it...

I got this from Netgalley.

Well, Goodreads ate the review I spent 20 minutes writing so you're all getting shorter, probably angrier, version. There will be spoilers.

The Magicians series by Lev Grossman has had a special place in my heart for a few years now. The review I wrote for the first book was the one that put me on the map as a reviewer as far as I was concerned, the first one that got more than a fistful of reviews. When I got approved for it on Netgalley, I pushed everything aside like vegetables at Chris Farley's house and dove in head first.

The Magician's Land is exemplifies what the final book in a trilogy should be. No one is left unchanged. Everyone gets their curtain call. All the questions are answered. We finally get to find out what happened to Alice. Eliot acts like the bad ass king he knows he was born to be. Julia comes back. And Quentin finally becomes a master magician AND an adult instead of a callow complainer.

Much like the previous book, The Magician's Land is told in two threads that eventually converge. Quentin and Plum, the new character who blessedly does not love nor want to sleep with Quentin, take part in the heist and then scour the globe for answers. Eliot and Janet search Fillory for the cause of the breakdown of magic. Things don't converge until around the 70% mark.

One of the things I love about this trilogy is the magic system and Grossman pushes it to its full potential. Is the title a hint? YES! There so much more I want to gush about but I don't want to reveal too many of the nuts and bolts of the story.

I liked this book quite a bit but I wanted to love the shit out of it. I thought the ending was rushed. In fact, I saw I was at the 92% mark and thought "Isn't this the final book? Shouldn't he be wrapping this shit up?" The bit was Asmo at the end felt like Grossman didn't have any ideas for the knife in the briefcase and only remembered it at the end. I also thought Penny and the Order's role in things could have been expanded. Those were pretty minor gripes, though.

Lev Grossman's deconstruction of Harry Potter wrapped in a Narnia tortilla has come a long way since being conceived as an examination of the fantasy genre. Instead, it has become more imaginative than most fantasy books on the racks and gives a glimpse of the genre's potential if more writers will dare leave the confines of the Tolkien-via-Dungeons-&-Dragons box they've been shoehorned into. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cry Father

Cry FatherCry Father by Benjamin Whitmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Patterson Wells is a tree clearer who has never gotten over the death of his son and writes letters to him and lives a life of self destruction. He meets Junior Bascom, a drug runner traveling down a similar path. Will they be one another's salvation or ticket to the grave?

I got this from Netgalley. It took the publisher almost five months to approve my request and the ARC is full of spaces inside words and weird characters at the beginning of some sentences, making some paragraphs hard to read. It was still worth it.

I loved Ben Whitmer's Pike a couple years ago and was foaming at the mouth for his next novel. Cry Father did not disappoint.

Cry Father is a tale of fathers and sons. It's also a tale of brutal violence and drug and alcohol abuse. It reminded me of James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss, only without the mystery element, unless you consider wondering if Patterson and/or Junior are going to OD in it.

There are two threads in this book that periodically intersect. Patterson works as much as he can and drinks and drugs away the time he has left, trying to forget his dead son, all the while trying to avoid his ex-wife, who wants Patterson to take part in a malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who treated her son. Junior runs drugs all over the southwest and has some a young daughter living with his girlfriend. He also hates his father with a cold passion and blames him for all the problems of the world.

There's more drunken misadventures in this book than there is action but the action is brutal when it happens. If I learned one thing from this book, it's don't turn your back on a tweaker. Patterson went through so much alcohol and cocaine in this book that I felt a little nauseous and hungover while reading it. As Patterson's substance abuse gets worse and he hangs out with Junior more, things gradually come completely unglued.

Whitmer's writing is masterful. The letters Patterson writes to his dead son are touching and make the harsh, unblinking depictions of violence and drug abuse that much more powerful. The quality of the writing, coupled with the trainwreck appeal of Patterson and Junior had me reading long into the night to finish it.

That's about all I want to say. Unless you only read shitty books, Cry Father should not be missed. Five out of five stars.

Kids, don't do drugs!

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Bleeding Shadow

Bleeding ShadowsBleeding Shadows by Joe R. Lansdale

Bleeding Shadows is a collection of short stories by Joe R. Lansdale. Don't tell anyone but I skipped most of the poems and a couple of the stories I couldn't get into or had read before.

Torn Away: A small town sheriff brings a suspicious man in for questioning and gets a lot more than he bargained for...

Right out of the gate, Lansdale reminds me just how good he is at writing short stories. This one feels like an episode of the Twilight Zone or something. Short and sweet if you like the idea of a man on the run from supernatural forces.

Bleeding Shadows: A PI is hired to find a hooker's missing brother, who is a blues man playing sounds that no human should hear...

I read this one in a Lovecraft anthology once. It's still creepy as hell the second time through.

A Visit With Friends: In a world gripped by a zombie outbreak, a married couple chats about another couple down the street.

This tale is one of suburban creepiness and sexual deviancy. It's pretty crazy.

Christmas Monkeys: This one is a poem about monkeys attacking on Christmas.

Christmas with the Dead: In a world gripped by a zombie outbreak, a man reminisces as he prepares for Christmas.

This one is gory, violent and somewhat sad.

Quarry: A writer acquires a Zuni fetish doll. Carnage ensues when the doll comes to life and goes on a rampage.

This is a sequel to the Richard Matheson story Prey and quite good.

Six-Fingered Jack: The Big O has put a bounty on Six-Fingered Jack and one man means to collect.

This is a noir tale about murder and betrayal. Good stuff.

Mr. Bear: Jim gets stuck sitting next to Smokey the Bear on a plane. From there, things only get worse, with drinking, drugs, dead hookers, and all sorts of other foulness.

Hilarious, dark, and awesome.

Old Man in the Motorized Chair: A cantankerous old retired detective is watching a TV show about snakes when the sheriff arrives, asking for help on a case. Stubby will help but only during commercials...

Love. Imagine Sherlock Holmes living in West Texas and even more insufferable.

A couple black men head west to join the colored people's army. Inappropriate hilarity ensues.

I could see this story offending the shit out of some people. Still hilarious though.

Hide and Horns: A buffalo soldier encounters a black man with one leg pinned under a dead horse and the white men on his trail. Inappropriate hilarity ensues.

See above, adding Chinese stereotypes to the mix.

The Stars are Falling: A man returns home from the War and finds things have changed.

The Metal Men of Mars: John Carter leaves Helium in search of adventure and encounters a gold dragon. This story was from a John Carter anthology and pretty good. It was even written in a style mimicking ERB's, although easier to read.

Morning, Noon, and Night: A boy meets Lansdale's version of a vampire in the woods. It was pretty good and I'd read a full length Lansdale vampire tale.

Santa at the Cafe: A department store Santa is in a cafe when a robbery happens. This short story had more twists than most novels.

Starlight, Eyes Bright: A man goes for a walk after dinner and finds a glass-like rock from space lying on the sidewalk. It reminds me of a collaboration between Ray Bradbury and HPL and is pretty damn good.

Dread Island: This was the story I actually bought the collection to read. Huckleberry Finn and Jim raft to a sinister island in the Mississippi. Mark Twain + Joe Lansdale = a river of awesome strangeness. How many other stories feature Brer Rabbit and the Necronomicon?

Story Notes: I always find Lansdale's story notes to be nearly as entertaining as the stories themselves.

This wasn't my favorite Lansdale collection but I liked it quite a bit. Most of the stories weren't ones I'd read before and the kindle version was a good deal. 4 out of five stars.

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Stories from the Twilight Zone

Stories from the Twilight ZoneStories from the Twilight Zone by Rod Serling

Picture, if you will, a collection of tales. A robot plays baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers. A man trades his soul for eternal life. A man is able to return to his childhood and try to make a change for the better. A married couple goes to Las Vegas and gets a prize they hadn't counted on. A man wakes up and finds he's the last living thing on Earth. Aliens invade a neighborhood. Tales are not always what they first seem to be at first glance, as you realize when you enter... the Twilight Zone.

Stories from the Twilight Zone is a collection of six Twilight Zone episodes, The Mighty Casey, Escape Clause, Walking Distance, The Fever, Where is Everybody, and The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, adapted into short stories by Rod Serling. If you've seen the episodes, this book probably isn't worth the time. However, I've mainly watched the episodes penned by Richard Matheson so this was a pretty entertaining ebook.

Some of the stories have stood the test of time better than the others but they were all pretty good. My favorites were Escape Clause and Walking Distance. Serling's writing isn't spectacular but it's easy to see how his style influenced later storytellers. I think it's cool that most of the opening and closing narration was included with the stories.

Also included in the book is an introduction by Anne Serling, talking about her father and giving a little history behind each of the episodes. I found it interesting but it wasn't essential and gave away some hints as to the plots of each.

My only gripe with the book is that it only contained six stories. However, it was pretty cheap on the kindle so I can't really complain. If you're looking for a collection of stories with endings that bite you in the ass, you can always look... in the Twilight Zone. Four out of five stars.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Doctor Who: Engines of War

Doctor Who: Engines of WarDoctor Who: Engines of War by George Mann

While leading a flotilla of Battle TARDISes against a Dalek fleet, the Doctor is shot down on the planet Moldox and befriends a human girl named Cinder. The Doctor and Cinder find their way back to Gallifrey and must defy the Time Lords, who plan on using a doomsday weapon to destroy twelve inhabited worlds in order to stop the Daleks. But the Daleks have a super weapon of their own and mean to erase the Time Lords from history. Can The Doctor thwart the Daleks and the Time Lords? Of course he can! He's the Doctor...

I got this from Netgalley.

The Engines of War is the first Doctor Who novel featuring the War Doctor, aka the Doctor played by John Hurt in Name of the Doctor and Day of the Doctor. That may be the reason for the problems I'll be pointing out a little later.

George Mann did a pretty good job with what little information we've been given about the War Doctor during the Time War. The Time Lords and Daleks have been committing untold atrocities upon one another for years, escalating to unbelievable degrees at this point in the Time War. The Doctor is caught between a rock and a hard place and does some good Doctoring with Cinder in tow.

There is a lot of action and a lot of cool concepts, like mutant Time Lords powering the possibility engine, the Dalek's new magic eraser weapon that wipes people from existence completely, to the Time Lords and their super weapon. Mann dips into Who history, touching upon adventures from the fourth and eighth doctors, as well has seeing hints of his own future. While he's wearing a different skin, he's still The Doctor we all know and love...

... And therein lies the rub. There isn't enough in the story to distinguish the War Doctor from any other Doctor. I get a sense of world weariness from him, much like the Eleventh Doctor, but apart from not wanting to be called The Doctor, he's pretty much still The Doctor. When the War Doctor first appeared, I got the feeling that he did a lot more than use The Moment to end the Time War. Apart from punching someone in the jaw in this one, there's nothing particularly edgy about him.

Like I said, Mann did the best he could with what little background he had to work with. I'll be reading future novels featuring the War Doctor. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Digital Book Day

Apparently, July 14th is digital book day.

I see a few books on their list that I'm interested in trying, like Redemption and And They Called Her Spider.  Now I just have to remember to visit the website on Monday.


Blightborn (The Heartland Trilogy #2)Blightborn by Chuck Wendig

Cael, Lane, and Rigo head north through the Heartland, looking for the provisions depot, and stumble upon more than they bargain for in the form of a mysterious hobo and the Sleeping Dogs, raiders fighting against the Empyreans. Meanwhile, Gwennie has found that winning the Lottery isn't all it's cracked up to be and wants to escape the flotilla...

I got this from Netgalley. Thank you, Netgalley!

Chuck Wendig is one of the few authors I've encountered that knows how to make the second book in a trilogy not suck. Blightborn takes what Chuck established in the first book and turns the knob up a few notches.

Blightborn picks up where Under the Empyrean Sky left off. Cael and his pals are on the run. Gwennie is on the flotilla and sees Cael's sister. Rigo's father, Wanda, and Boyland Barnes Jr. are part of a posse looking for Cael and his pals. Things quickly spiral out of control from there.

I don't want to give away too many of the nuts and bolts of the plot or reveal too much of what happened in the last book. I will say that all the threads of the plot advance quite a bit. The new characters of The Sleeping Dogs, the peregrine, Harrington, Eben, and the Maize Witch are all pretty compelling. Not one of the characters emerged unscathed. Who would have thought Cael's father was so interesting back in the day?

I really like what Wendig seems to be building toward in the Heartland Trilogy. The series reminds me of Black Feathers at some times and The Court of the Air at others, with its ecological themes and cities in the clouds. With the full scope of what the Empyrean is planning, I can't wait for the final book!

Four out of five stars. Get crackin' on the sequel, Chuck!

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Wrestlers are like Seagulls

Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls: From McMahon to McMahonWrestlers Are Like Seagulls: From McMahon to McMahon by Scott Teal

Wrestlers are like Seagulls is the biography of former wrestling personality J.J. Dillon.

Wrestlers are like Seagulls covers the career on J.J. Dillon. Unlike many similar books, Dillon knows wrestling is the star of the show and his wrestling career coverage starts at the 2% mark.

Dillon talks about working as a referee until getting his break as a wrestler working for The Sheik in Detroit. His career in Amarillo, the Canadian Maritimes, and working for Crockett promotions is covered, as well as his transition from wrestler to manager to behind the scenes booker.

Dillon's account of the behind the scenes part of the wrestling business is why I bought the book and it did not disappoint. He talks about which wrestlers were hard to deal with as well as the logistics involved with taping TV segments and running shows in adjacent towns. He talks about how cable TV and the internet changed the wrestling business forever.

Once his days as an on-air personality were over and he worked primarily backstage, things really got interesting. Dillon talks about how working for the WWF drove him into bankruptcy after Vince McMahon's steroid scandal, and what working for WCW in the declining years of the company was like.

Lastly, Dillon talks about where he ended up when the wrestling business shat him out, working as a thrice-divorced corrections officer in Delaware.

For a wrestling book, it's really well written and surprisingly free of venom. I felt like he might have been holding back a bit but I don't really have any complaints about this book. Four out of five stars.

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Under the Empyrean Sky

Under the Empyrean SkyUnder the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Heartland, genetically modified corn has overrun everything and people struggle just to survive. Young Cael McAvoy is the leader of a salvage crew, finding scraps of a bygone age to sell to bring in money for his home town, Boxelder. But when Cael and his crew find some forbidden plants growing wild amongst the corn, things quickly spin out of control...

Chuck Wendig's foray into YA dystopia is an interesting tale. It reminds me of Ship Breaker, to an extent. A genetically modified corn species has overrun the United States and probably the rest of the world. The haves called the Empyrean, live in floating city ships and the have-nots live on the ground, processing the corn and just trying to survive.

Like all YA, there's something of a love triangle, or possibly a parallelogram. Cael wants Gwennie but she's Obligated to someone else. Cael is Obligated to Wanda but isn't really interested in her. And Cael's arch-nemesis, Boyland Barnes, is Obligated to Gwennie. The teen love isn't an integral part of the story, blessedly. The crux of the story is what Cael and his friends uncover and the secrets they unravel because of it.

There are a lot of interesting concepts in Under the Empyrean Sky, like a lottery that lets one Heartland family a year be selected to join the Empyreans, the Blight, a disease that gradually turns the victim into some sort of corn-based monster, and the corn itself, invasive corn that happens to be carnivorous to some degree.

Pretty much my only gripe is that I found a few of the twists to be all too predictable. It's the first book in a trilogy but stands pretty well on its own. All things considered, I'm glad I spent this month's free Kindle loan on it. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, July 4, 2014

The Last Outlaw

The Last OutlawThe Last Outlaw by Stan Hansen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Last Outlaw is the biography of professional wrestler Stan Hansen.

All of my exposure to Stan Hansen is from other wrestlers' books or fourth generation VHS compilations featuring him wrestling various people in Japan. He seemed like he had an interesting career so I eventually gave his bio a shot.

Hansen covers his pre-wrestling career fairly quickly. I think he was in the wrestling business with the Funks by the 10% mark. Like most wrestlers, he endured a few years of driving hundreds of miles a day for very little money before he started catching on.

The majority of Hansen's career was spent in Japan so that's the book's focus, which is what I was most interested in. He talks about working for Antonio Inoki in New Japan before jumping to Giant Baba's All Japan. Like everyone from that era, he talks about Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. His friendship with Bruiser Brody is also given a lot of time.

Three incidents Hansen is famous for are covered in honest detail. Hansen accidentally breaking Bruno Sammartino's neck, Vader's eye getting knocked out of its socket, and the AWA title controversy are a covered in honest detail.

I thought the backstage stuff from Japan was really interesting but for the most part, the book is pretty dry. Hansen shares some good road stories but most of the book is just the nuts and bolts behind working in Japan for almost 30 years. I felt like he was afraid to say too much about a lot of the more interesting topics. It got a little repetitive by the end.

While I liked the book, I didn't think it was as interesting and entertaining as it could have been. I would have liked more road stories and less of Hansen protecting the business. Three out of five stars.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Atlas: Too Much, Too Soon

Atlas - Too Much, Too SoonAtlas - Too Much, Too Soon by Tony Atlas

Atlas is the biography of former wrestler Tony Atlas.

Other than his embarrassing stint as Saba Simba in the early 1990s, I don't have many memories of Tony Atlas as a wrestler aside from what I saw in the magazines. I figured the road stories alone would make this a good read, though. After all, I knew he traveled with the Junkyard Dog and Tommy Rich.

The first 20% of the book was Tony Atlas' pre-wrestling life. As with most wrestling books, that part felt about twice as long as it needed to be. From there, Tony went to work with the Crocketts and it was off to the races.

Atlas' book paints a vivid picture of what wrestling life was like in the 1970's. People protected the business and the general public still wasn't sure how real or fake it was. Atlas talks about long trips between towns and tells a lot of hilarious road stories, most of them at his own expense.

The book follows the structure that most episodes of VH1's Behind the Music followed. Tony went from being dirt poor to making $2500 a week, blew his money on cars and drugs, and eventually wound up homeless in Maine. Then his fourth wife help him get his act together and now he's doing fairly well.

My favorite parts of the book were the road stories, of course. Tony talks about hanging with Tommy Rich, Junkyard Dog, Ric Flair, Harley Race, and pretty much all of the greats of the 1970's and 1980's. He talks about seeing Bruiser Brody murdered in Puerto Rico and narrowly missing the Guatemala earthquake of 1976 by mere hours. He also talks about working out with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno back in the day.

It was an enjoyable read overall but there were some rough spots. There are some grammatical errors and his account of the late 70's and early 80's seems really disjointed, although if he was doing as much coke as he said he was during that time, I'm surprised he can recall any of it.

Not the best wrestling biography I've ever read but definitely not the worst. Three out of five stars.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture ShowThe Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sonny, Duane, and Jacy come of age in a dusty Texas town. What will happen to them once they graduate high school?

I snagged this for the princely sum of $1.99 on the Kindle. It was worth every penny.

As I said in the teaser, The Last Picture Show is a coming of age tale, a tale of what happens to people as they get older and drift apart. While I never read it before, it fit like a favorite t-shirt.

Larry McMurty paints a vivid picture of small town life as Sonny and the rest graduate high school and struggle to find their places in the world. Duane wants to marry Jacy. Jacy wants to do something that will get the town talking. And Sonny wants Duane's girl. Nothing really goes the way anyone planned. Just like real life.

I thought the three main characters were very realistic depictions of teenagers, not just some middle age guy's faded memories of what high school was like, and likeable, despite their character flaws. Sonny, in particular, was kind of a walking train wreck but I wound up caring about him anyway. By the end of the book, I was feeling almost as lonesome as he was. While all of the characters did some questionable things, everything rang true.

McMurtry's writing has the same bullshitting on the front porch feel Joe Lansdale's does and I have to think he was an influence on Lansdale on some level. The Last Picture Show feels a lot like the coming of age stories Lansdale has been writing the last twenty years or so, only with less cursing.

There were tons of quotable lines. All three main characters said stupid things that were a lot like things I would have said back in the day.

If you're looking for a book about friendship, love, finding your place in the world, and a bunch of high school seniors trying to have drunken sex with a heifer, look no farther. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Claws of the Cat

Claws of the CatClaws of the Cat by Susan Spann

When a retired samurai is found murdered in a tea house, his son demands his honor be satisfied and he is bent on killing the tea house girl his father was found with. Jesuit priest Matteo stands up for Sayuri and buys her an additional three days of life while Hiro, his shinobi bodyguard, tracks down the real killer. But if Hiro can't, Matteo will be executed along with her...

Claws of the Cat is a historical mystery set in 16th century Japan. I don't remember where I first heard of it but a mystery starring a Jesuit priest and a ninja detective was hard to pass up.

Spann clearly researched the 16th century Japan setting but at no point did I feel like the book suffered from research-itis. There were no infodumps and the introduction to the period customs and culture was fairly painless. The setting was integral to the plot, what with honor, inheritance, and etiquette playing big parts.

Hiro and Matteo were an interesting pair, the Jesuit priest and the shinobi pretending to be a ronin. I thought Hiro would take center stage but they shared the top spot for the most part. Hiro handled all of the sneaking around but Matteo played his parts well.

One thing I really liked is that Spann didn't write Hiro as an unstoppable death machine. He relied on stealth and subterfuge but I got the idea he could handle things if they turned physical. Another thing I liked is that Father Matteo tried to live as a Japanese person rather than surround himself with Western trappings.

The suspects were a diverse mix and I am embarrassed to admit I didn't guess the killer until it was too late. Hideyoshi's family was an interesting bunch, as was the crew at the tea house. Once everything was laid out, I have to say I was very impressed with Susan Spann's debut.

I had a few gripes but they were minor. With all the talk about arquebuses, I was hoping someone would get shot at some point. Also, I wouldn't have minded Hiro getting into a scrape at some time during the proceedings. All in all, I don't have any real complaints, though.

The next book in the series is due out in a couple weeks and I'll have to pick it up. Four out of five stars.

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