Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Sandman: Overture

The Sandman: Overture (The Sandman, #0)The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A star has gone mad and has infected others with its madness, threatening all of creation. Dream of the Endless must put right something he left undone years ago. With him are a girl named Hope and another version of himself in the form of a cat...

Confession time (I've been confessing a lot this week): In my late teens/early twenties, most of the comics I read were Vertigo or Vertigo-esque. The Sandman was at or near the front of the pack. I started in trade paperbacks and read the last ten or so issues as they appeared. For me, they hearken back to my days of wasting time majoring in art and drinking with my friends and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Who was it that said you can't go home again? Thomas Wolfe, maybe? Well, that fucker was wrong, whoever he was. While I didn't know I was getting the first big honkin' Sandman omnibus for Christmas when I bought this, it feels like the perfect way to kickoff the reread.

The Sandman: Overture is the prelude to the entire Sandman saga. Ever wonder why some two-bit magician snared Dream in the 20's? This book takes the long way around but explains things pretty well.

Like most Sandman stories, lots of concepts and ideas are thrown around, and the power of dreams proves to be pretty powerful. A star goes mad and Dream comes a-callin'. Along the way, he encounters a lot of old characters, along with some previously unseen ones. Curious about who spawned The Endless? Wonder no more!

Gaiman successfully captured the feel of his earlier work and this fit pretty seamlessly into the Sandman mythology. His partner in crime for this endeavor, J.H. Williams, more than pulls his share of the weight. I can see why it took two years for this series to be completed. Williams packs unbelievable amounts of detail into every page. I especially loved the artwork when the various aspects of Dream convene to figure out what happened. It ranked right up there with multiple versions of The Doctor or the Eternal Champion meeting himself/herself/itself.

That's pretty much all I want to say for fear of spoiling things. Most prequels suck but, for my time and money, this one succeeds beyond measure. Five out of five stars.

View all my reviews

The Sleeper and the Spindle

The Sleeper and the SpindleThe Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a sleeping curse hits the kingdom, the queen postpones her wedding and sets off with three dwarves to free the sleeping princess and end the curse...

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell team up yet again to present this short fairy tale, a dark combination of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

As dark fairy tales go, it had its moments. I loved the sleepers talking and eventually sleepwalking after the heroes. I've said it many times before but Gaiman's tales for kids are way creepier than the ones for adults. The art by Chris Riddell added to the tale and reminded me of old woodcuts at times.

I liked the ending quite a bit, not nearly as pat as I was expecting. However, at the end of the day, this was pretty average. It was a little too short and not as fleshed out as I would have liked. I guess I expected more from Neil Gaiman this time out. Three out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Writing the Novel From Plot to Print to Pixel

Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel: Expanded and Updated!Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel: Expanded and Updated! by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel is a book about writing by the legendary Lawrence Block.

Lawrence Block sent me this in an email a couple weeks ago, asking me if I was interested in reviewing his upcoming book about writing. Once I changed into pants that weren't as soaked in my urine, I eagerly agreed to read and review it before getting stuck in the holiday quagmire.

I've often said that reading a book about writing is like asking a psychic for lottery numbers. If they can already predict the winning numbers, why are they offering them to me? However, Lawrence Block clearly has had the winning lottery numbers in his pocket for years and his books on writing are the only ones I take seriously.

This particular volume, WTNFPTPTP, is a revised, expanded, and cybernetic version of his writing book from yesteryear, Writing the Novel from Plot to Print. Instead of taking the lazy route and changing references to typewriters and the library to computers and the internet, present day Block tacks his thoughts on the end of his past-self's chapters. After all, the man has learned a thing or two in the decades that have passed since writing the original version of this book.

In addition to old reliable topics like developing plots and characters, rewriting, developing your style, and breaking into the business, Block also addresses the increasingly important topics of self-publishing and all the pros and cons that go with it.

If you're looking for a new book on writing, this is it. The odds are good that none of us are going to be the next Stephen King but Lawrence Block gives you enough tips to at least get a book written, if not published. The man is responsible for the Matthew Scudder series and once wrote a porno novel over a weekend so clearly knows his stuff. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hell's Bounty

Hell's BountyHell's Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A bounty hunter named Smith is given a second chance at life. The only catch is that he has to stop an outlaw named Quill from bringing the Old Ones to our reality...

I got this from Netgalley.

The champion mojo storyteller, Joe Lansdale, is back, this time, with his brother John sharing the writing duties, with Hell's Bounty. Hell's Bounty is a weird western tale about redemption. Also, it's about wise-ass flesh-eating ghouls, a demonic outlaw, and the Old Ones of Lovecraftian infamy.

The characters are vintage Lansdale, complete with colorful remarks. The writing is in the trademark Lansdale front-porch or tailgate style, making it an easy yet gripping read. The deck is stacked against Smith, Payday, and the rest, and the ending is far from happily ever after, unless you consider a colossal orgy of violence happily ever after.

The Lansdale boys wove an entertaining yarn with Hell's Bounty. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tales of Alhazred

Tales of AlhazredTales of Alhazred by Donald Tyson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tales of Alhazred is a collection of short stories about Abdul Alhazred, necromancer and author of the Necronomicon.

Ghoul Bane: Something is feeding on the local ghouls and it's up to the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, to find the culprit.

The first of the tales is a fine introduction to Alhazred, the author of the Necronomicon and one of the early figures in the Cthulhu mythos. The tale itself is pretty straightforward but eases the reader into the collection.

Mountain of Shadows: Alhazred and his two companions climb a mountain in search of a talisman to ward off Nyarlathotep. Will they find it at a strange Christian monastery full of levitating monks?

Now this was more like it, a perfect blend of Cthulhu mythos and sword and sorcery.

Brazen Vessel: A djinn snatches Alhazred from his bed and transports him across the desert. His task: free the seventy-two djinn imprisoned by Solomon inside a brass vessel.

Alhazred continues his growth as a sorcerer, this time contending with a menace straight out of the old testament.

Isle of the Dead: What's worse than an island full of undead? The creatures animating them!

This one was pretty revolting at times. Alhazred and gang sure go through hell on a fairly regular basis.

Dance of Durga: Altrus kills a man for cheating at dice and agrees to take up the sins of the town. However, that's not all he's volunteered for...

Religious fanaticism at its best! And, with huge vermin, at that.

The Caliph's Necromancer: Someone is trying to kill the Caliph using necromancy and Alhazred and company are on the case! Will they find the culprit before the Caliph is murdered?

Not a bad tale by any means but my least favorite so far. It still had some great character moments, however.

Revenge of the Djinn: The son of a djinn kidnaps Martala, forcing Alhazred into a duel. Alhazred's weapon of choice: dice?

Alhazred out-thinks his adversary in this outing. Good stuff!

Hand of Nilus: Alhazred, Altrus, and Martala arrive at a monastery to learn of a bounty placed on a missing relic, the mummified hand of St. Nilus.

Great stuff. Necromancy, a powerful artifact, and the gang pissing off another Christian monastery. I haven't mentioned it before, but the stories frequently have a touch of humor.

Red Claws: A monstrous leopard has stalked and killed all but one member of a caravan. Alhazred and company take in the woman and death follows in their wake...

This one was bloody and while I thought one of the twists was telegraphed, the other hit me like a telegraph pole.

Ancient Evil: The necromancers of Damascus are facing a shortage of essential salts from Egypt and look to Alhazred to find the culprit.

An ancient evil is raised and runs roughshod over the necromancers until Alhazred pieces together what is going on. Not my favorite story but it felt like a good one to end on.

Conclusion: I loved this book. The stories were a fun mix of Lovecraft and sword and sorcery. The tales were a diverse mix and left enough unanswered questions for me to want another volume. If you like old school pulp fantasy and the Cthulhu mythos, this is a must-buy.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rock N Roll Head Case

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Chaino Durante finds Alice Cooper's head in the bottom of a fryer, wrapped in a trash bag, he has no idea of the turn his life is to come. For Alice Cooper's head becomes fused with his hand and becomes a very strange weapon. And then things start to get strange...

The best thing about the New Bizarro Author series is how different all the books are from one another. Lee Widener's Rock N Roll Head Case takes the weirdness in a whole other direction.

You don't run across a whole lot of books where the talking severed head of a rock and roll legend serves as a weapon and isn't even the strangest part of the story. Rock N Roll Head Case is such a book. It also features Andre the Giant, Charles Manson, and a man with an eyeball for a head. Interested yet?

You should be. This is one fun, crazy, crazy-fun book. Chaino goes on a rampage with Alice Cooper as his spirit guide and an eyeball for a head, and remakes the world. What's not to like?

Rock N Roll Head Case is a very cool short book. Three out of five stars.

The 2015 New Bizarro Authors homepage

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Slasher Camp for Nerd Dorks

Slasher Camp for Nerd DorksSlasher Camp for Nerd Dorks by Christoph Paul
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jason Vorheesberg is a failure at being a slasher, leading to his mother dumping him at the Slasher Camp for Nerd Dorks. Will be become the Slasher he's always wanted to be and win the girl of his dreams?

The New Bizarro Author Series is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get, be it nougat, bacon, or crunchy frog.

Boy, even slashers have it rough in high school. Jason Vorhessberg is an aspiring Slasher with crippling anxiety in a world where Slashers are a form of population control. Dark humor and social satire are the order of business.

The stories has some commonalities with Friday the 13th but is pretty damn original. I didn't expect the love story to go the way it did, nor Jason stepping it up a notch. Slasher Camp for Nerd Dorks is a heart warming coming of age tale for homicidal maniacs. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

King Space Void

King Space VoidKing Space Void by Anthony Trevino
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dane Shipps is one of thousands of workers aboard King Space Void, a starship of unimaginable size in the shape of a colossal human. When a woman named Scarlet shows up, she takes Dane on a journey through the innards of King Space Void that will shatter his world view...

Okay, the 2015 Bizarro Author series has blown my mind once again. King Space Void is kind of a space opera via Stan Lee. Picture the world devourer Galactus, only with civilizations of people living inside him. What happens when one of the workers realizes his ride is destroying worlds? Yeah, pretty good shit.

I love what Anthony Trevino has done with King Space Void. How can you not like a such a crazy scenario with surprisingly deep characters and exotic locales? Dane goes through the wringer and back and, in the end, makes the only choice possible, as difficult as it may be.

That's about all I want to say about this. It's best experienced for yourself. King Space Void is a great example of why I read Bizarro fiction. It's fiction without boundaries. Four out of five stars.

The 2015 New Bizarro Authors homepage

View all my reviews

Monday, October 26, 2015


TowersTowers by Karl A. Fischer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lured by the promise of Heaven, Alti and Quatra became Towers, tasked with battling giant monsters for a thousand years. Alti wakes after his term to find himself flesh once again. Has Quatra made the same fate and can he find her?

The 2015 New Bizarro Author series sure has a lot of love stories in it, doesn't it? This time, it's between two kids who become sentient battle towers and then regain their fleshy forms, only to become giant monsters. Haven't we all read that story before?

No, actually, we haven't. Towers is a uniquely bizarre tale of a love that lasts for a thousand years. It's not very sappy about it, either. Alti experiences doubts, much like all of us who have served guard duty as a living Tower for a thousand years.

I found a few typos but the only real gripe I have with this one was the shifting time frames were a little unclear at times. Still, the raw emotion pouring off the page made me forget such things pretty quickly. Three out of five stars.

The 2015 New Bizarro Authors homepaget

View all my reviews

Friday, October 23, 2015

Elephant Vice

Elephant ViceElephant Vice by Chris Meekings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Mayor Dumps' son is found dead of an apparent **** overdose, the police turn to ace cops Vincent Van Gogh and Ganesha. Can a post-impressionist painter and a Hindu god find who is behind the **** ring and save the city?

You never know what you're going to get in the New Bizarro Author Series. In this case, you get a one-eared painter and a six-armed, elephant-headed Hindu god in a plot straight out of a Lethal Weapon movie.

Crime fiction is my bread and butter so I was all-in on this book pretty quickly. How could I go wrong with a post-impressionist painter/burned out cop and a Hindu god with a head of an elephant going up against a drug ring consisting of flamingos and the mysterious M?

This was a pretty quick read and there's very little to complain about other than the typos, but I assume the mobi file I have isn't the final version. If you're into detective thrillers, one-eared painters, or Hinduism, this is the Bizarro book for you. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Rainbows Suck

Rainbows SuckRainbows Suck by Madeleine Swann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Deranged rainbows from space turn people into living works of art and force them to compete on television. Tilli's wish is granted when she joins their ranks and meets Felicite, a woman made of diamonds. Will their relationship survive the dark side of fame?

Here we are, another book in the 2015 New Bizarro Author series. Rainbows Suck might be the most bizarre bizarro book I've yet read.

Rainbows Suck, while on the surface is a bizarro love story between two living works of art, is really a book about the dark side of fame. Tilli and Felicite's relationship is under intense scrutiny from the start and Tilli's damaging past doesn't do her any favors either. The book actually reminds me of an episode of VH1's Behind the Music at times.

Madeleine Swann's use of nightmarish imagery and rainbows from space does a phenomenal job of presenting the destructive side of fame. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews


ArachnophileArachnophile by Betty Rocksteady
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alex and his wife are having problems. When Alex falls in love with the woman next door, things escalate. Did I mention the woman next door is a giant spider?

That magical time of year when the New Bizarro Author series launches is upon us and I will soon have all the books in my clutches. While deciding which one to pick first. I noticed this one was about giant spiders living alongside humans. Sold! After all, I take spider photos at every opportunity.

While I expected this to be a cool book, I in no way expected to love it this much. Arachnophile is a unlikely love story between a man and the giant spider that lives across the hall. While it could have been played for laughs, it's actually touching at times and very well thought out.

One of my pet peeves with some bizarro books is that they seemed slapped together and don't have much internal logic. This one is pretty great. The logic of the world is well done. I liked how Alex's racism, or speciesism, I guess, against spiders was portrayed. Also, and this is going to sound creepy, Betty Rocksteady made the spider's embrace seem really sensual.

Arachnophile is a surprisingly sensitive, well written love story. It just happens that one of the characters is a giant spider. Five out of five web-wrapped stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Three Hearts and Three Lions

Three Hearts and Three LionsThree Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Holger Carlsen is transported to another Earth, where he is destined to play a part in the war between Law and Chaos. Assisting him are Hugi, a dwarf, and Alianora, a swan maiden. Can they overcome the forces of Chaos and get Holger home?

I got this from Netgalley.

Since I've been wanting to read this for several ice ages, since I first got into Dungeons and Dragons and, later, Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion craziness, it had a lot to live up to. Yeah, it was kind of a disappointment.

Three Hearts and Three Lions is a mish-mash of a ton of quest stories, combining Arthur, Charlemagne, Shakespeare, and various other sources. I can see the influence it had on many later works, like the aforementioned D&D and Elric. I wonder if Roger Zelazny and Philip Jose Farmer were influenced by it as well for Amber and the World of Tiers. The battle between Law and Chaos has been a staple of RPGs since the beginning and fantasy fiction not long after that.

Three Hearts and Three Lions is very much a product of its time, at least as sexist as the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. While entertaining on some level, the sexism yanked me out of the story a few times. Another thing I didn't care for was the phonetic Scottish accents of some of the characters. For a chapter, it was fine. After that, it got on my nerves.

All things considered, Three Hearts and Three Lions is an enjoyable Chosen One quest story. If you're looking for one of the ancestors of modern fantasy, it's worth a read.

View all my reviews

The Passenger

The PassengerThe Passenger by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When her husband falls down the stairs and dies unexpectedly, Tanya DuBois cuts and runs, for she is actually a fugitive living under an assumed name. She switches identities several times but can she ever run from her past?

I got this from Netgalley.

I love Lisa Lutz's Spellman Files series dearly so I was pretty stoked to pick up her newest. It pains me to say it was a bit of a letdown.

The Passenger feels like a Lifetime movie to me. Tanya DuBuois is a woman on the run from a past that is only hinted at until the end. The marketing teaser makes is sound like she forms a Thelma and Louise partnership with Blue but Blue actually isn't in the book that much.

Eventually, Tanya/Amelia/whatever her name is hears that someone is writing a book about her and suddenly people aren't quite sure she should have been declared legally dead. Lutz achieves the paranoid feeling she's going for a few times. Otherwise, it's pretty unremarkable. I don't even know what genre to shove this in. It's marketed as a thriller but the thrilling bits are scattered pretty widely.

Still, it wasn't all bad. The last 20% kicked ass, once Lutz starting knocking down all the dominos she'd spent the rest of the book setting up. I loved the ending, complete with the unexpected metaphorical kick in the junk in the aftermath.

I'm giving this a three largely because of the ending but I wouldn't mind if Lutz stuck with Spellman novels.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 16, 2015

Carter & Lovecraft

Carter & LovecraftCarter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After his partner killed himself at a crime scene, Dan Carter quit the police force and became a private investigator. When a man he never met leaves him a used bookstore in Providence, Rhode Island, Carter meets Emily Lovecraft, his new employee. A string of impossible deaths plunges them into a web of insanity that might destroy the world...

I got this from Netgalley. Fuckin' A!

First off, I've never thought H.P. Lovecraft was a great writer and I enjoy other writers' takes on his concepts more than his. And now, the meat of the review....

I really enjoyed this book. It's part hard-boiled noir, part Cthulhu mythos, and pressed all my buttons. Dan Carter starts questioning things and the whole world unravels. His relationship with Emily Lovecraft was well done and I'm glad they didn't immediately jump into bed. William Colt was a fitting foe and a nice contrast with Dan Carter.

This is one of those books where I really don't want to give too much away and spoil things. I love how Jonathan L. Howard built on HPL's mythos and put his own spin on it. While the influences are clear, this in no way feels like a pastiche. It's true to the bleak Lovecraftian spirit but has an identity all its own.

Four sanity-blasting stars. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever

The Greatest Zombie Movie EverThe Greatest Zombie Movie Ever by Jeff Strand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After making a few short films that were barely seen, 16 year old Justin and his pals decide to make the Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. When everything that can go wrong does, will the film ever get made?

I got this from Netgalley.

I've been trying to curb my Netgalley addiction but when this popped up, I was on it like a reanimated corpse at a brain convention.

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever is the story of a group of teenagers trying to make a movie. It's a YA novel but without all the tropes that normally make YA novels so damn annoying. Instead, it's about a young director trying to keep his movie from going tits up and possibly win the heart of his leading lady.

Once again, Jeff Strand proves he has the writing chops to do pretty much anything he wants. The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever was hilarious but not ridiculously so. The humor didn't take away from the fact that I wanted Jeff and the others to finish their movie.

If you ever wanted to make a movie as a teenager, The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever will be quite a read for you. Four out of five stars. Now if Strand would just write that Exit Red novel I've been salivating over since Kumquat...

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

October Buddy Read with the Pantsless Ones

When an occult scholar recruits people to help him research the paranormal events at Hill House, will the house let any of them leave unscathed?

I've heard this touted as a classic haunted house story for decades and finally decided to take the plunge when the Pantless Ones picked it for an October read. I was not overly impressed.

I don't know if this was the case of wrong book/wrong time but I was not engaged by this book. All of the characters seemed like caricatures to me rather than real people.

There were some creepy parts, like Eleanor holding a hand in the dark that turned out not to be whose she thought, and Eleanor's descent into madness, but I was pretty bored most of the time. The status bar on my Kindle couldn't creep to the right fast enough.

I'm giving it two stars now but I may re-read it in the future when I'm in the mood for such a story.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 21, 2015


GutmouthGutmouth by Gabino Iglesias
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

David Demon has a second mouth below his navel named Phillipe. How did David and Phillipe end up in the clink and, more importantly, will they be able to escape?

Gutmouth is another rendering of that age old tale of a woman becoming between two men. Only, in this case, it's actually between a man and his mutation, a second mouth with a nine inch tongue and a British accent. Yeah, Gutmouth is a bizarro book.

I periodically dip in and out of the bizarro genre. One of my complaints about the genre is that logic is sometimes tossed to the wind. I can buy into talking penises or people having sex with furniture, as long as it makes some sort of sense. Gutmouth makes a lot of sense to me.

Set in a dystopian future of heartless corporations and genetic engineering, Gutmouth is bizarro noir at its finest. Who wouldn't want to knock off their three breasted amputee girlfriend if she cheated on him with his second mouth?

Gabino Iglesias wears his noir influences on his sleeve. I knew I was devouring it in one sitting when he described the sounds of drops of water sounding like "faraway slaps on a fat woman's ass." There are other clever Chandler-esque similes but that's the one I remember the most.

If you're looking for a quick bizarro fix with a robust noir flavor, look nor further. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

The Summer I Died

The Summer I DiedThe Summer I Died by Ryan C. Thomas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Roger and Tooth are out shooting at tin cans in the mountains, they hear a woman screaming. When they go to investigate, they wind up in a hell on earth. Will either of them survive the ordeal?

The Summer I Died is the story of two friends who wind up captured by a psychopath in the woods and tortured. It reminded me of The Girl Next Door in that it's a bleak, powerful book.

It's a pretty brutal book and horrifying because it isn't that far out of the realm of possibility. The Skinny Man kept inflicted more and more tortures on Tooth while Roger watched helplessly.

The Summer I Died is a pretty powerful book but I can't say I actually enjoyed it. "Survived it" sounds more accurate. I did like the ending way more than The Girl Next Door however, and I never once contemplated not finishing it. I guess I'm going to slap the traditional safety rating of 3 on it. I won't be reading the sequel, however.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mr. Burns, a post-electric play

Mr. Burns, a post-electric playMr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse, can memories of The Simpsons pull people together?

My lady and I saw this play performed last night and now I shall seek out the book so I can better process and pick apart what we witnessed.

The first act of the play takes place just after the apocalypse. There is no electricity and a small group of survivors amuses themselves by reminiscing about the Cape Fear episode of the Simpsons. A stranger shows up and is eventually accepted into their group. This was by far the best act of the play. It was really intense and made me forget I just shelled out $50.

The second act takes place seven years after the first. The effects of the apocalypse are still being felt. Travelling groups of actors perform episodes of the Simpsons in front of live audiences, painstakingly reconstructing the episodes from people's vague memories. This act wasn't as good as the first but I still dug it once I pieced together what was going on.

The third act takes place 75 years after the second. I suspect it is supposed to show how the Cape Fear episode of the Simpsons mutated after being retold for almost a century but I kept thinking about Robert Chambers' The King in Yellow. It was so bizarre I hoped I remembered how to drive when the act was over. I looked at my gf a few times and mouthed "This is so fucked up." Mr. Burns and Itchy and Scratchy terrorize the Simpsons on a houseboat. When a bosomy woman playing Lisa Simpsons gets groped by a demonic Mr. Burns, you don't easily forget it.

So, yeah, if Mr. Burns comes to your town, I recommend seeing it for the WTF factor of the third act alone. It wasn't my favorite play but it's definitely etched into my brain. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Shepherd's Crown - Spoilers!

The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld, #41; Tiffany Aching, #5)The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Upon the death of Granny Weatherwax, the elves seek to invade the realms of man once again. Can Tiffany Aching rally the other witches of Lancre and The Chalk and protect her two steadings (and the rest of the world)?

Here we are, the book Terry Pratchett was refining when Death finally showed up to claim him. PUT THE MANUSCRIPT DOWN, PRATCHETT. YOUR WORK IS DONE, or something to that effect. As a result, it doesn't quite feel finished but it was enjoyable just the same.

The Shepherd's Crown is a tale of acceptance and changing times, much like many of the later Discworld books. A male witch? Humans living alongside goblins? Elves trying to invade a world moving into an age of iron and rails?

Discworld goes out with a bang when Granny Weatherwax dies in the first few pages and the elves seek to take advantage of the power vacuum. Tiffany has to deal with being Granny's successor, herding the other witches, and deal with Geoffrey, who may in fact be the first male witch on the Disc, all the while contending with massing elves and their fallen queen, Nightshade.

Like I mentioned, Pratchett was working on this book when he passed and, as a result, it doesn't feel finished. While the standard wit and wisdom of Discworld is there, it's a little thin and feels unrefined. Still, I found many parts hilarious and others touching, par for the course for a Discworld book.

While I've enjoyed many Discworld books more, the final tale of Tiffany Aching and the Disc was quite satisfying. I'll miss you, Terry. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Creamed by Cave Creatures

Creamed by Cave Creatures (Monster Mayhem #4)Creamed by Cave Creatures by Chelsea Chaynes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some nameless chick goes spelunking by herself and encounters some subhuman monsters. And engages in coitus with them.

I read this because Kelly hinted that I should read more monster porn. Plus it was free and I was pretty sure I could get her to read it with me.

Creamed by Cave Creatures is a lot like that movie The Descent. Only in this case, instead of a group of girls, it's one girl. And instead of fighting for her life against subhuman cave creatures, she has an orgy with them. I call it an orgy instead of gang rape because it sure seemed like she was enjoying it but the line was blurred.

Anyway, free monster porn. Strangely, I felt the writing quality impeded my enjoyment. Maybe I've been spoiled by the works of Emma Steele but the writing was amateurish at best. The sex wasn't appealing, either. I experienced no feelings in my man parts while reading it.

The ending was oddly dark for a story of this type. While I didn't expect the nameless science-y chick to live happily ever after with her troglodyte violators, it was still on the dark side.

In conclusion, Creamed by Cave Creatures was not the best free monster porn experience I've ever had. Good thing it was short. Two out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 28, 2015

Alien vs. Debbie

Alien vs. Debbie: An Erotic Adventure (F*ck All Monsters, Book 2)Alien vs. Debbie: An Erotic Adventure by Emma Steele
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not even a nuclear blast can contain Debbie's insatiable lust! After the events of Debbie Does Monsterland, Debbie finds herself adrift in deep space until the crew of The Pastrami bring her aboard. Will Debbie finally find her release on the Pastrami?

When this came up for free, I decided I'd make it my yearly foray into Monsterotica. In this outing, Debbie is normal sized instead of 50 feet tall but still has a the libido of a giantess. Much like Debbie Does Monsterland, Alien vs. Debbie is a bunch of hilarious naughty fun. It is both a parody of Monsterotica and (probably) some of the best Monsterotica ever written.

Ever wonder about a gang bang featuring Alien, Predator, Jabba the Hutt, ET, and many others? Wonder no more! Debbie does the aforementioned foursome and several others.

Three Monsterotic stars. I'll keep my eyes open for the third volume, the Debbie Centipede.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders (National Audubon Society Field Guides)National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders by National Audubon Society
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders is a guide detailing North American Insects and Spiders.

First, the good points. The photographs in this book are superb and the guide is fairly well organized. It's also small enough to fit into a largish pocket.

Now, the not so good points. There weren't nearly enough entries, specifically regarding the spiders. While the organization was good, there were small parts that seemed illogical.

However, the litmus test for a field guide is its usefulness and fortunately, I've taken quite a few photos of insects and spiders. Here come the bug pictures!


Rabid Wolf Spider:

Robber Fly:

Periodical Cicada:

Question Mark:

Red Admiral:

All photos courtesy of Dantastic Photos

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Is Wrestling Fixed?

Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn't Know It Was Broken: From Photo Shoots and Sensational Stories to the WWE Network, Bill Apter's Incredible Pro Wrestling JourneyIs Wrestling Fixed? I Didn't Know It Was Broken: From Photo Shoots and Sensational Stories to the WWE Network, Bill Apter's Incredible Pro Wrestling Journey by Bill Apter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Is Wrestling Fixed is the autobiography of Bill Apter.

I got this from Netgalley.

When I was a fresh-faced young lad between the ages of 7 and 32, I was a big fan of pro-wrestling. Back in the pre-internet days, when you wanted something more, you bought wrestling magazines. The photographer on most of those magazines was Bill Apter.

Apter covers quite a bit of his life and all of it has to do with wrestling and the wrestling business, from his days wrestling his brother or the neighborhood kids, to taking photographs for wrestling magazines, and various points in between.

Apter tells some hilarious stories, like defending the Championship Office Wrestling belt at work against co-workers, and some not so hilarious, like Randy Savage being mad enough to threaten to kill him.

All in all, it's an above average wrestling book. Apter's writing is engaging and he knows how to tell a story. However, a couple things lessened the experience for me. For one thing, the stories aren't in chronological order so the book winds up feeling like a collection of blog posts. My other main gripe is that it feels like he's barely scratched the surface. 4 decades in the wrestling business should have yielded more material than this.

At the final bell, I'm giving this a 3. What's there is really good but it could have used some organization and more content.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes

The Girl with the Deep Blue EyesThe Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When private eye Doak Miller goes undercover to catch a woman attempting to hire a hitman to murder her husband, he doesn't count on falling in love with her. There's just the little matter of getting her husband out of the way...

When you get home from work to find a mysterious package containing the upcoming Lawrence Block book on your doorstep, you drop what you're doing and get readin'.

The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes is a modern take on the classic noir tale of a man falling for a woman and then bumping off her husband, only to be consumed by madness and guilt. Doak Miller is a former cop and a lady's man who finds himself face to face with his fantasy girl. How will he attempt to bump off her husband?

Block's writing is as crisp as ever and there's a lot of sex in this book. It's like Lawrence Block ripped a page from the James M. Cain playbook and thrust it repeatedly into one of his early smut novels. Not only does The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes read like a sexualized modernization of Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice, the character of Doak adds some additional wrinkles I won't give away here. As more is revealed of Doak's true nature, you have to wonder if anyone will make it out alive.

The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes is a worth addition to the Hard Case Crime Series and everything I've come to know and love about Lawrence Block's Hard Case novels. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Little Men

The Little MenThe Little Men by Megan Abbott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Penny, a Hollywood makeup artist, moves into a low priced bungalow, she gets more than she bargained for. Will she find out what happened to the former tenant before the same thing happens to her?

I got this from Netgalley.

This short story from Megan Abbott is a tale of madness and suicide. Since it's really short, I'm going to skip over the nuts and bolts of the plot. Suffice to say, the Megster ran wild on me yet again, serving up misdirection and possibilities, before kicking me in the groin with the ending. My appetite for more Megan Abbott has been whetted so I really hope she's got another novel simmering.

In this short tale, Megan Abbott proves that she can pack a lot of noir into a short story. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The World of Poo

The World of Poo  (Discworld, #39.5)The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When young Geoffrey goes to Ankh Morpork to stay with his grandmother, he quickly develops a fascination with poo. Hilarity ensues.

The World of Poo started out as a book Sam Vimes was reading his son in Snuff. Smelling an opportunity, Old Pratch squeezed out this nugget before his final days. When it popped up on Netgalley, I had to pinch it.

The World of Poo is the tale of one young man's poo obsession, leading to him visiting various Ankh Morpork locales and collecting fragrant specimens for his poo museum. As well as being amusing, The World of Poo contains many interesting poo facts, the straight shit on feces, as it were.

In addition to real life poo, Geoffrey also collects specimens from gargoyles, dragons, and various other creatures. I think it would be a lot of fun to read to kids or any adult you know with a fixation on feces.

In conclusion, The World of Poo is not the slightest bit crappy. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Fold

The FoldThe Fold by Peter Clines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When DARPA scientists create a wormhole device in the California desert, why is New England schoolteacher Mike Erikson tapped to investigate the installation? Because Mike Erikson has an eidetic memory and is one of the smartest people on the planet! Can Mike find out what's really going on at the installation despite the secretive scientists?

I got this from Netgalley.

On paper, this book sounded right up my alley. What's not to like about Sherlock monkeying about with some kind of wormhole device? Still, I have a mountain of unread books lying around the Dan Cave. However, after having a few fellow reviewers gush over this, I had to take a closer look. Fortunately, it was still up on Netgalley and I was happy to take the plunge.

The Albequerque Door, named after a Bugs Bunny episode, folds space to transport people and objects between two gates in an instant. Or does it? Mike feels a sense of wrongness when he arrives and things get wronger by the moment. I had a pretty good idea what was happening but it was still a delightful ride getting there.

The ride started slow, like pretty much every time I have to ride somewhere with my parents these days. However, Mike Erikson was interesting enough to keep me hooked until the really crazy stuff started happening. I rarely say this about science fiction and fantasy books but I dearly hope this is the first book in a series starring Mike. He's that damned fascinating.

Anyway, I loved the way things unFolded and the truth behind the door was very cool. When will scientists learn that squamous horrors lurk in pretty much every undiscovered reality? The ended was pretty damned sweet and while it wrapped things up, things were open-ended enough for a string of sequels.

That's about all I have to say. If you like Sherlock, parallel universes, and things of that nature, you won't want to miss The Fold. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Library at Mount Char

The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Father goes missing, the Librarians he trained try to solve his murder while his legacy hangs in the balance. But what happened to him and who is responsible? More importantly, what will happen to His Library?

I got this from Netgalley.

I'm not completely sure how I felt about this book. Hell, for most of the book, I wasn't sure who was supposed to be the main character. However, I did enjoy it. Here's how it all went down.

Father, aka Adam Black, aka various other aliases, scooped up twelve orphans and spent three decades training them to be Librarians, the wielders of the knowledge he accumulated in his sixty-thousand year dominion over Earth. When he goes missing and the Librarians are barred from the Library, things go to hell quite quickly.

Each of the twelve orphans has a catalog. Carolyn, whose catalog is languages, is the main character, although supporting characters Erwin and Steve get a lot of screen time. As the story unfolds, the backstory of the Librarians is revealed.

The writing was pretty good and there was a surprising amount of humor. I thought the scheme the mastermind pulled off was very well done.

As I write this review, it occurs to me that this is one of those books that I like the ideas way more than the execution. The magic system reminds me of The Magicians a bit and I love the idea of a nigh-immortal wizard training twelve orphans. However, I didn't really care about any of the characters other than Steve and the lions. I thought the story meandered all over the place and could have been more focused. It's also one of the few books where I wanted a lot more worldbuilding.

All things considered, the Library at Mount Char was a pretty engaging read. I guess my only problem was that it wasn't the book I was expecting. Three out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


SkinnerSkinner by David Bernstein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Six friends run off the road in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. Will they survive long enough to reach civilization with a supernatural menace wanting them dead?

I got this from Netgalley.

Fine literature is all well and good but sometimes you just want some gory good fun. Skinner is just such fun.

Skinner reads like an homage to B-movies, horror movies in particular. Bickering 20-somethings in a remote setting, beset by supernatural forces? What's not to like?

While I had a feeling how the book was going to end, there were a few twists that caught me napping. Bernstein did a good job juxtaposing climbing suspense with brutal violence.

Skinner is not The Old Man and the Sea but it's not meant to be. It's an entertaining way to spend a couple hours. Three out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Harvest

The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy Book 3)The Harvest by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Cael awakens, he finds that a year has passed and the world has plunged deeper into chaos. Can he reconnect with his friends and end the reign of the Empyreans once and for all?

I got this from Netgalley.

Chuck Wendig brings his Heartland trilogy to a close. There's not a lot I can say without giving away plot points, although if you're reading reviews for the third book in a trilogy, you deserve what you get. I will say that Wendig's not afraid to kill off characters but does so with purposes other than shock value, unlike certain authors I will not name with the initials GRRM.

In my experience, third books in trilogies are usually the big confrontation and the cleanup afterwords. Wendig bucks the trend and crams quite a few surprise twists. I didn't see any of them coming and loved the secret weapon. I also like that Wendig didn't take the predictable route in the epilogue.

While I gave the book a three, it's no fault of the book. I enjoyed it but my enjoyment was hampered by my aging brain's inability to remember the nuts and bolts of the previous book. The Harvest was a lot of fun and head and shoulders above most YA fluff. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Time Salvager

Time SalvagerTime Salvager by Wesley Chu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When chronman James Griffin-Mars breaks the first Time Law, he becomes the target of the very agency he's worked with for years. Can he flee across time to escape them and help the woman he loves save the Earth?

I got this from NetGalley.

I was reading an interview with Wesley Chu around the time his second Tao book came out and he mentioned Time Salvager. What's not to like about people from the far future plundering dead timelines for supplies in order to save the Earth?

Things get Timey-wimey pretty quickly in Time Salvager: Time ripples, time lag, preserving the chronostream. I like the way the Chu-man handles time travel. Much like the Tao books, Time Salvager is a thriller wrapped in a nice sci-fi wrapper.

James Griffin-Mars is a complicated lead. Honestly, he's pretty unlikeable at first. On the other hand, I get the feeling that a lot of people would be that way if they were largely above the law and had crazily powerful weaponry at their fingertips. His foil, Levin, is nearly as complicated, a rigid, duty-bound man bent on bringing James in at all costs. Complicating things is Elise, the woman James brought back with him from his last authorized jump, a woman with the knowledge to save the future from the Earth-plague.

There were enough unanswered questions for me to not mind that this is likely the first book in a series. I look forward to more adventures involving the chronmen. Wesley Chu is one smooth Wookie. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Specimen 313

Specimen 313Specimen 313 by Jeff Strand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A flesh-eating plant named Max gets a new neighbor, Specimen 313, aka Jenny. What are these strange feelings Max starts experiencing?

Jeff Strand is one of my favorite self-published authors so I was sure Specimen 313 would be an enjoyable experience. For once, I was right.

Specimen 313 is a love story of sorts, set in a lab of experimental plants. That's pretty much all I should divulge since the story is only 17 pages. Strand hits his usual high notes in the humor and gore departments, delivering a bloody and somewhat touching tale.

This freebie is well worth a read. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Steel Valentine

Steel ValentineSteel Valentine by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you're having an affair with a madman's wife, make sure you don't get caught...

This was a short, brutal tale by Joe R. Lansdale. Getting chained to a maddened Doberman doesn't sound like much fun to me. If you have any fear of getting attacked by dogs, this is not the story for you. However, it's pretty powerful and you won't soon forget it.

Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 8, 2015


HothouseHothouse by Brian W. Aldiss
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Millions of years into the future, the Earth is tidally locked with the sun and the sunny side is dominated by a banyan tree of mind-boggling size. Mile-wide plant spiders crawl from the Earth to the moon on vast webs. As for man, he is now a foot and a half high, green, and running scared all the time...

I got this from Netgalley.

I was pretty conflicted about this book. On one hand, I love the setting. Come on! A far-future earth dominated by colossal plants with giant spiders crawling from the earth to the moon and back! Telepathic mushrooms! Flying plants! Giant insects! What's not to like?

Well, there isn't much of a plot to speak of. The story starts with one band of humans, moves on to the kids they leave behind when they Go Up, and then follows two of them. I think some of this is due to the book being a patchwork of several of Aldiss' stories set on the Hothouse earth.

Still, it's not without its charms. There's a wackiness to it that I enjoyed. It reminded me of Philip Jose Farmer's Dark is the Sun quite a bit. Also, the setting reminded me a bit of Harry Harrison's Deathworld 1.

I guess I should wrap this up somehow. I love the setting but I don't think the story ever came close to doing it justice. Two out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Crime of Our Lives

The Crime of Our LivesThe Crime of Our Lives by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Crime of Our Lives is a collection of Lawrence Block's non-fiction writing, taking from columns, tributes, introductions, and other sources.

Ever wonder what a crime writer thinks of other crime writers? Wonder no more! In the Crime of Our Lives, Block covers a wide variety of writers, starting with himself and running through a great portion of the alphabet, from Anthony Boucher and Frederic Brown, all the way to the great Donald E. Westlake and Charles Willeford.

Along the way, Block touches on such diverse topics as going on a bender with Ross Thomas, working at Scott Meredith's literary agency, writing erotica to cut his teeth and pay the bills, and whether or not it's a good idea to finish another author's work.

Some of the selections are taken from introductions Block wrote to other author's books, and I'm happy to say he doesn't ruin any plot points in them, unlike the intro to Lonesome Dove I read a couple weeks ago that spoiled the last hundred pages of the book for me.

I'd say my favorite parts of the book were the parts focusing on Block himself and also the ones about Donald Westlake, which reminds me that I'm due for a reread of the Parker books.

Lawrence Block's non-fiction is just as enjoyable and accessible as his fiction. Four out of five stars. Go buy it.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Last Town

The Last Town (The Wayward Pines, #3)The Last Town by Blake Crouch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Ethan Burke reveals the truth about Wayward Pines, the ensuing chaos is nothing compared to the hell unleashed when David Pilcher throws open the gates...

I got this from Netgalley.

The Wayward Pines trilogy draws to a close with The Last Town. How does it stack up?

Well, while the books all feature the same characters and share the same setting, they aren't really the same type of books. Pines is a paranoid tale of a man trying to unravel the truth. Wayward is a tale of a man struggling with that truth. And The Last Town is more survival horror than anything else.

The pace is pretty frantic with aberrations swarming the town. Throw in the monkey wrench that is Hassler and it's off to the races. Lots of people die and Wayward Pines is left with an uncertain future.

As with the previous book, much of my dislike of this book has to do with Pines setting the bar way too high. It's a pretty suspenseful tale but doesn't stack up to it's progenitor very well, mostly because, again, Pines set the bar too high.

The Last Town, while not my favorite of the series, wrapped up the tale of Wayward Pines in a very satisfactory way. Three out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 27, 2015


Wayward (Wayward Pines #2)Wayward by Blake Crouch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Ethan Burke, sheriff of Wayward Pines, runs across a body, he's tasked with investigating her murder. But what does the deceased have to do with Burke's ex-partner and former lover? And what will Theresa think about her husband and his old flame spending time together?

I got this from Netgalley.

After the jaw-dropping reveal at the end of Pines, I was pretty sure Wayward would suffer from the sophomore slump. It did not.

Instead of bucking the system, as in the first volume, Wayward sees Ethan trying to keep order in the manufactured reality of Wayward Pines. His investigation leads him to an underground movement of people bent on getting to the bottom of things. It also brings him closer to his wife, Theresa, and son, Ben.

This book had a paranoid tone like the first but the pace wasn't nearly as frantic. I really like how Blake Crouch doesn't maintain the status quo and isn't afraid to shake things up. I also liked that Ethan and Kate didn't get their genitals tangled. Pam and Pilcher both moved a bit higher on the douche bag scale.

I have to say that I didn't quite like this one as much as the first. Trusting Ethan made Pilcher look like an idiot. Mostly, though, I think the first book set the bar a little too high.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Luckily, I have the final volume on deck. Time to poach this pear.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 23, 2015


Pines (Wayward Pines #1)Pines by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke wakes up in the mountain town of Wayward Pines, his memory full of holes aside from that of a horrific car wreck that landed him in the hospital. But where are his belongings? Why can't he contact anyone outside of Wayward Pines over the phone? And why can't he seem to leave?

I got this from Netgalley.

I've been curious about this for quite a while. Since it showed up on Netgalley last week, complete with promises of being a television show soon, I jumped on it.

Pines is quite a wild ride, combining the pace of The Fugitive with the weirdness of Twin Peaks and The Prisoner. Ethan Burke wakes up in the idyllic paradise of Wayward Pines and things quickly go pear-shaped. Just what is Wayward Pines and why does everyone seem to want Ethan Burke dead? Read and find out.

Pines is a gripping page turner. Once the cat is out of the bag, Ethan Burke makes Dr. Richard Kimble look like a couch potato. By the end, he's tired, mangled, and running from pretty much everyone in The Pines.

The Big Reveal at the end was very well done. I had my doubts on the way there but Blake Crouch stuck the landing. I'm really curious how the sequels will play out.

Pines is a rip-roaring thriller, full of twists and turns. Four out of five stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dream Stalkers

Dream Stalkers (Shadow Watch, #2)Dream Stalkers by Tim Waggoner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A new drug called Shuteye is on the streets of both earth and Nod and Audra and Jinx are the Shadow Watch officers assigned to the case. But what, if anything, does that have to do with the First Dreamer and the Wakenists bent on waking him? And why have Audra and Jinx begun spontaneously swapping bodies?

I got this from NetGalley.

The Shadow Watch and the crazy worlds they inhabit are back in a second outing, one that expands upon events from Night Terrors.

The world setup, one of my favorite parts of the first book, is further developed. I'm still pretty intrigued with the idea of a police force preventing things from Nod, the dream world, from intruding on reality. Audra and Jinx's relationship has developed a bit from the first book as well and not in the usual urban fantasy way.

Speaking of urban fantasy, the series this book most reminds me of is Simon Green's Nightside, only better written and not so repetitive. Waggoner's humor with Jinx is very well done, not nearly as ridiculous and over the top as it could have been.

The Shuteye case is fairly interesting as well and I really enjoyed the ideas presented about the First Dreamer and the associated cult. I did wind up guessing who was being everything but not until a few pages before his or her identity was revealed.

The ending wrapped things up nicely but it wasn't all beer and pretzels, nicely leaving some loose ends for a sequel. For what it was, Dream Stalkers was quite an engaging read. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


AlectryomancerAlectryomancer by Christopher Slatsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A field hand named Rey is ready to put his rooster up against Alectryomancer, the champion of the cockfighting ring. But what about the mysterious book Rey doesn't remember acquiring, or the ancient engines beneath the surface of the earth?

I bought this Dynatox Ministries chapbook shortly after reading the blurb on the back. "A Depression-era Weird tale about California laborers, cock-fighting, time travel, UFO abductions, and more..." was a pretty good description. It almost reads like a lost Flannery O'Connor short story that couldn't be published due to excessive weirdness.

It's a really short book so I don't want to give too much away. The story can either be read as the sun-born hallucination of a lonely field hand or a weird tale with hints of a deeper strangeness.

For what it is, a less than 50 page nugget of the purest weirdness, I easily gave it four stars.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Skull Throne

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle, #4)The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Are Arlen Bales and Jardir dead or just missing? Who will step up to fill the power vacuum left in Jardir's absence? And what of Leesha Paper and the child inside her, or Rojer Half-Grip and his ever-growing group of wives? And what of Count Thamos? All of these questions and more will be answered in the penultimate volume of the Demon Cycle, The Skull Throne!

I got this from Netgalley.

After the wreckage that was the Daylight War, I decided nabbing an ARC was the only way I cared to continue the series. Fortunately, I got my wish. Was it worth the time?

That's hard to say. In many ways, I thought this was A Feast for Crows for the series. Why do I say that? Arlen and Jardir are barely in it! Once the cliffhanger from the last installment is resolved, I'd say they barely get 50 pages total. The rest of the book is split between the Krasians, Leesha and Rojer, and what's going on in Angiers.

While it didn't focus on Arlen and Jardir, what we did get was better than the Daylight War. Maybe not having to experience Arlen and Renna's fake-seeming relationship actually perked up the story a bit. I do like where the book seems to be heading for the conclusion of the saga, though. Too bad we get barely a taste of that in this volume, though.

My two main gripes with the series as a whole are that it seems to have been Martinized after the first book in that a lot of extraneous characters have been introduced and some of the existing ones have been detailed to an excruciating degree. Also, when the main character is the least charismatic of the bunch, you have problems. While I like Arlen in a D&D character sort of way, I don't really find him very interesting.

I'm giving this a 3- since I liked it more than the Daylight War but didn't "like" it like it.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of de-Extinction

How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of de-ExtinctionHow to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of de-Extinction by Beth Shapiro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of de-Extinction is a book detailing the trials and tribulations involved in bringing an extinct species back to life.

I got this from Netgalley.

Okay, here's the deal. I found this book very interesting but also very repetitive. After the fourth or fifth description of a possible cloning method, only to have it explained yet again why it wouldn't work for a mammoth, I was ready to commission Bill Bryson to write a cloning book for me.

There were a lot of interesting concepts, like back-breeding, that I'd never heard of. Apparently scientists in Europe have been back-breeding cows to produce something very much like an aurochs for decades. Could the same process be used to create something mammoth-ish from Asian elephants?

The book painstakingly chronicles the trials and tribulations of retrieving intact-ish DNA from frozen mammoth carcasses. Apparently dogs will gnaw bits off of a mammoth carcass once you get it out of the ground.

While de-extincting mammoths was the title feature, other species were covered, like the passenger pigeon, the dodo, and the woolly rhinoceros. I found it really interesting that mammoths survived well into human history and scientists still aren't sure why they went extinct in the first place. There was also some speculation that re-introducing mammoths or mammoth-infused Asian elephants to Siberia could turn the tundra into a grassland in just a few seasons. Interesting things to ponder.

The bottom line is the book covered some interesting topics but could have been more interestingly written. Three out of five stars.

View all my reviews