Eric Hendrixson, Bucket of Face (Eraserhead Press, 2010)
Charles is in a bind. Not just because he's a multiple murderer carrying a briefcase full of (Eric Hendrixson, Bucket of Face (Eraserhead Press, 2010)
Charles is in a bind. Not just because he's a multiple murderer carrying a briefcase full of (worthless, but still) Zimbabwean currency in his trunk who despite all this is still holding down a crappy minimum wage job working nights at a doughnut shop, which means that pretty much by default, his guilty conscience is going to flaunt itself in front of the cops. No, Charles has bigger problems indeed. Welcome to the world of bizarro fiction.
(I'm starting the review off like this because while I have little doubt many of you reading this are already well aware of the bizarro movement, Bucket of Face is another of those little gems that would be fantastic as an intro to the movement, so basically I'm trolling for new fish. If you haven't had the chance to experience bizarro, here's an excellent jumping-off point, pick it up.)
In Charles' world, a biological experiment gone wrong was leaked into the atmosphere, causing fruit to become sentient. Aside from leading to such annoyances as squirrels chasing around acorns who have just fallen from trees, this has also led to the human populace being shocked, as they usually are, about mixed-race relationships (Charles himself is living with a kiwi), and prejudice against the fruit population, who are of course oppressed, leading them to do things like organize their own crime rings. Which, aside from the “what if?” possibilities of sentient fruit, doesn't actually do much to distract from the fact that Hendrixson has written a short, but well-plotted, noir that gleefully pays homage to everything from Raymond Chandler to Michael Jackson's Bad album to (if I'm not reading too much into the cops here) Anthony Burgess.
I find myself beating the same dead horses when it comes to summarizing the weak points of a given bizarro novel, and I've got the same complaints here. As I said above, it's a short book, and it easily could have gone three times its length just in fleshing out some of its subplots (there's a conspiracy against meter maids, NASA has discovered a clear wall in space and have sent satellites to determine its properties, etc.) and doing as good a job drawing some of its minor characters as it does Charles, Anakin (the day-shift doughnut-shop worker), Roma (the crime boss), and Sarah (Charles' girlfriend). In specific, our two policemen. We get just enough about each of them to know that we desperately want to know more. Hell, Mayflower could star in his own book, he's that compelling a character. And they're not the only ones who could do with more backstory; almost all of the characters here, at least those who don't get offed within a few pages, are interesting and funny, and more info on them would have been welcome indeed.
This is not to say that what IS here is not well worth your time. I probably shouldn't be complaining about character development here; after all, it's the rare noir that devoted as much time to its characters as it should have (this is one of the reasons Hammett is such a great read—he actually did without sacrificing pace). I would contend that it's those “what if”s of sentient fruit that demand such, and really, calling out Hendrixson for making his characters too interesting seems to be a case of praising with faint damn. Which is all a very roundabout way of saying that as far as straight-up plot-based noir goes, this is a very good example of the genre. As far as bizarro fiction goes, it's a sterling example of the genre. This is a book that demands your time and attention; it is the early work of an author with incredible promise. Remember his name. You will be hearing it again. **** ...more
Jason Emsley, The Laptop DJ Handbook: Setups and Techniques for the Modern Performer (Course Technology, 2010)
Full disclosure: this book was providedJason Emsley, The Laptop DJ Handbook: Setups and Techniques for the Modern Performer (Course Technology, 2010)
Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.
I'll admit from the outset that I had no intention of reading this book in the spirit in which it was designed and written. I have little, if any, interest in DJ culture, since “DJ culture” stopped meaning “Allen Freed” and started meaning “Moby”. But there can be no doubt that there is a great deal of overlap between my preferred genre of music-making (harsh noise) and turntablism (pretty much every other noise kid I know is a huge fan of dubstep); I figured there would be all sorts of tips, tricks, and techniques I could pervert and adapt into the world of noise.
Such is not the case. This is not my problem with the book, but my problem with the book—its structure—is the reason that is true. Emsley starts us off with some pithy history, and I am willing to forgive its shallowness given that a history of DJ culture is not the focus of the books (this is the first of a projected two), but that bit turned out to be the most interesting here. After a quick survey of possible gear choices, we get into the bulk of the book, which is “the basics of how to use Traktor Pro, Scratch Live, and Ableton Live”. Which is great, as long as (a) you're already using one or more of the above or (b) you're willing to shell out the scratch for one of the proggies and, if necessary, the appropriate extra-computorial hardware. This is not a trivial expense. (It varies, but you can assume that in two of the three cases, you'll be putting out four figures, and in the third, which is by far the least flexible, you're still looking at $500 plus accessories. And for the record, my not identifying which is which in this parenthetical is a conscious choice; this is not a review of Traktor/Scratch/Ableton, after all.) It's possible that traditional DJs have that kind of cash lying around to experiment with. We noise kids don't, as a rule.
So here I am writing a vertical-market reviewof a vertical-market book; you might as well just click the “no” vote and move on. But if you happen to be a noise kid looking for ideas to pervert, I'll tell you that this is worth getting out of the library for the Ableton chapters, which describe a piece of software that does, in fact, have limitless potential for perversion (though Emsley tells us a number of times that he's going to get to the really good stuff about Ableton in vol. 2), but it's not necessarily something you'll want to add to your permanent library. ** ½ ...more
Matt Mogk, That's Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale (Ulysses Press, 2011)
Not terribly sure I have anything to say about this charming-yet-nasty liMatt Mogk, That's Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale (Ulysses Press, 2011)
Not terribly sure I have anything to say about this charming-yet-nasty little volume that hasn't already been said, but by cracky, it's a bundle of fun. I'm not too sure it's going to get read to the kid any time soon (and I say this as someone with a kid who at the impressionable age of five months is already riveted by movies like La Horde and The Call of Cthulhu), because some of the (wonderful) illustrations have details that are perhaps a bit on the disturbing side for younger eyes, but as a zombie-loving adult, I found it irresistible, in the tradition of “this looks a lot like kidlit, but it really isn't” (think Goodnight Keith Moon here, but without riffing on an existing classic). Whether you do or do not have little ones running around, if you're a zombie fan, I can't recommend this one highly enough. ****...more
Chris Bohjalian, The Night Strangers (Crown, 2011)
Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.
I've been hearing ChrisChris Bohjalian, The Night Strangers (Crown, 2011)
Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.
I've been hearing Chris Bohjalian's name bounced around for years now; you can't be a book nerd and have not heard it, I don't think, especially since Midwives was devoured by a horde of Oprah zombies a few years back. But I'd never got round to reading one of his books until The Night Strangers, a ghost story set in a remote village in northern New Hampshire that seemed more up my alley than something like Midwives. And to sum this review up early for the tl;dr crowd, for the most part, it was right up my alley, and I do recommend it, though with some reservations that you'd have to read the rest of the review to find out about.
Plot: Chip Linton is, as we begin this novel, an airline pilot, and like most of America he is inspired by the story of Sully Sullenberger. (If I have to remind you who Sully Sullenberger is, bone up on your recent history.) So when, as is inevitable in ghost stories, Linton's plane plaws into a flock of geese moments after takeoff and becomes non-viable, Linton's immediate thought is “hey, let's ditch in Lake Champlain.” And to be fair, it's a good idea, but fate is not always enamored of good ideas. The end result is nine survivors, thirty-nine casualties, and a pilot who, thanks to the ravages of PTSD and a bevy of phanton pains, is no longer a pilot. His capable wife, an estate lawyer, uproots Chip and their twin daughters and relocates them in New Hampshire, in a house that is both spectacular and seriously creepy, in a town that answers to the same description. In the basement of the house, Chip finds a wooden door, presumably to a coal chute—but why would a door to a coal chute be secured with so many bolts? And why, specifically, are there thirty-nine of them?
A lot of the more critical reviews I'm reading of the book say the good stops in the middle. I would disagree with that, but as more than enough of my recent reviews (and the older ones too) will tell you, I'm a big, big fan of crappy genre horror, and so when the plot segues into its focus on the herbalist cult, I was right there along for the ride, and I was kind of tickled by some subtle references to late sixties-early seventies psychedelic ghost tales (can't you just see a young Karen Black playing Reseda?). In fact, I was with him right up until the epilogue—in which those same movie references are, let's say, not so subtle (I'm reminded of the title of a recent Scenic Railroads album: “When we say re-mix, we mean rip-off”). Of course, I can't tell you which movies it's ripping off without giving the game away, but one should spring immediately to mind for at least half of you reading this book who have any exposure to sixties horror films at all. But, well, it's just an epilogue, and I'm kind of willing to forgive him that. What I am less willing to forgive is the fact that at least one subplot that seemed as if it was going to be major—a developing love triangle—disappeared into thin air about a third of the way into the book. I was about half-convinced, in fact, that a writer like Bohjalian was going to, instead of going full-on genre horror, going to use a love triangle as some sort of twisted-yet-awesome allegory for the supernatural activity. And so yeah, I realize I'm bringing my own baggage to the table, but judging by the rash of bad reviews that criticize the full-on genre horror, I'm guessing I'm not the only one who was thinking this.
Not so much a criticism, though it is a possible warning: the one thing I couldn't get behind in this book was Bohjalian's narrative voice. There are a number of authors who have that kind of distinctive narrative voice (Cormac McCarthy is the most obvious, because his is the most consistently stylized) that you either get or you don't. With Bohjalian, I was never quite on the “don't” side of it, but I certainly never made it to the “do”. Part of this has to do with Chip-focused chapters being narrated in second-person singular, which is usually problematic. I applaud authors for thinking this historically disastrous method of telling a tale is a worthy challenge, but pretty much everything I've read that uses it should probably have stayed in the workshop. (That Bohjalian gets as much out of it as he does is a minor miracle, but he proves with the rest of the book he's just as good with third person singular...) But that's only a portion of what didn't quite work for me here; there's a coldness, a disconnectedness that hangs over the prose that seems out of kilter with the subject matter. The building of suspense in a good horror novel is in good part about pace, and the way the author chooses to write a scene has an effect on that. Bohjalian never allows the book, even during its climax, to get near the breakneck pace of most genre horror, and this is in many ways to its detriment.
I think there's enough good about this book to recommend it, though weakly. It knows where it wants to go, but for reasons that seem as if they would have been easily fixable, it never quite gets there. *** ...more
Jason West, Birth Creature (No publisher listed, 2012)
Points off for incomplete information (no publisher listed, no page count listed).
Not a bad ideaJason West, Birth Creature (No publisher listed, 2012)
Points off for incomplete information (no publisher listed, no page count listed).
Not a bad idea, this, and I like the way West brings everything full circle at the end; a bit of thought went into this one, which places it head and shoulders above the usual claptrap. Unfortunately, this is undermined by the wholesale massacre of grammar to be found here (“Her plastic bags lain on the grass, Ella, parted the bushes.”). I wanted to like this a great deal more than I did; if the author employs the services of a professional editor and then re-releases this, he'll have something. * ½ ...more
Kevin Mayhand, Ass So Phat I Need a Lapdance (No publisher listed, no date listed)
Any points I might have been willing to give are gone because of theKevin Mayhand, Ass So Phat I Need a Lapdance (No publisher listed, no date listed)
Any points I might have been willing to give are gone because of the lack of information.
First off: let me tell you you're paying three dollars for a two-and-a-half-page story, since like many purveyors of Kindle shorts, the author didn't bother to list a page count. (Perhaps because you're paying over a dollar a page?)
Next, forget the writing style (which is just ludicrous), this is in need of such basic reworking that anyone who would actually pay for it would be completely justified in demanding a refund. Two simple examples that would have been caught simply by the author re-reading it once before publishing:
“Let me introduce myself, my name is Robert...Crystal entered first, 'What's good Kevo' before I could say anything in return Rhonda entered behind her...”
(I was focusing on the name, though anyone who would call out the grammar, which borders on the illiterate, would not be out of place.)
“I met Rhonda in 2002 through a friend of mine...it was October 2nd of 2001, I remember this specifically because it was Rhonda's birthday...”
Without merit in any way, shape, or form. (zero)...more
Timothous M. Jones, The Aqua Café Cookbook, vol. 1: Breaking Ground: Delicioius Recipes with a Touch of Love (No publisher listed, 2012)
Points off forTimothous M. Jones, The Aqua Café Cookbook, vol. 1: Breaking Ground: Delicioius Recipes with a Touch of Love (No publisher listed, 2012)
Points off for incomplete information (no publisher listed, no page count).
“My recipes are unique,” Timothous M. Jones tells us in the Author's Personal Mesage (which would be like an afterword, if it didn't show up on page 12 of a 42-page book; more on that later), “in that I use natural and organic products to cook with.” Now, before you immediately pass judgment on Ms. Jones' duplicitousness here, I would posit that there are some places in the book where I read a passage and came to the conclusion “she used the word “unique” there because she simply doesn't know the proper definition.” While I am not sure that's better in any way, it may at least stop you from trying to burn this. You don't want to damage your kindle like that.
However, that said, when you read the recipes, you may want to anyway. Grandma (viz. 1Apr2012 review) already pointed out the tuna faux pas—though to be fair, there are a few smaller varieties that top out around ten pounds (which is still a lot more than three cans' worth, but still), so I won't harp on the comedy gold to be found there. Instead I will point you to the Aqua Salad, which is made with “water crisp”*, or note Jones' seeming obsession with the idea that you shouldn't even consider making a dish prepared with alcohol if you have children—even if you're not planning on feeding it to them. (Not that the dish isn't, you know, cooked before serving.)
But the most notable thing about this, from the perspective of someone who will end up paying for it (I got it during a brief free promotion), is that of the book's forty-two pages, just twelve are dedicated to recipes. There's a large section of screenshots of herb and spice bottles after the Author's Personal Message. No, I'm not kidding you.
But you know what? I'd be willing to forgive all this—at least partially, enough to award the thing a full star—if there had been anything new and interesting here. Instead, you're looking at recipes for mozz sticks and potato skins. ½
(*In case it didn't hit you while reading that: she meant “watercress”.) ...more
Quick collection of horror shorts, about half previously published. Some interesting ideas, though mosAdam Cesare, Bone Meal Broth (Adam Cesare, 2012)
Quick collection of horror shorts, about half previously published. Some interesting ideas, though most require fuller fleshing-out to achieve their true potential (e.g., the noir tale “Pink Tissue”, which could stand to be four or five times its current length) and some awkward writing here and there, usually at the end of a story (either it simply cuts off when it seems like there should be more to it, or there's just something vaguely unsatisfactory about the way Cesare ends the tale). These tales could use some work, but Cesare obviously has some talent, and with a bit more work, he'll be doing professional-level stories in the relatively near future. ** ½ ...more
Ms. Eliyzabeth Yanne Strong-Anderson, BIRTH CONTROL IS SINFUL IN THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES and also ROBBING GOD OF PRIESTHOOD CHILDREN!! (AuthorHouse, 2Ms. Eliyzabeth Yanne Strong-Anderson, BIRTH CONTROL IS SINFUL IN THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES and also ROBBING GOD OF PRIESTHOOD CHILDREN!! (AuthorHouse, 2008)
I am doing something I absolutely never do with this book: I am writing the review as I go along, because there are so many precious quotes that I want to use here I'll go through an entire notebook if I wait until I'm finished to kick this off. As I write these opening words, I'm only about thirty pages into this monstrosity, but there's absolutely no chance it's going to get any better, so why not start now?
If you at all follow the foibles of the vanity-publishing world, you are probably aware of Eliyzabeth [sic] Yanne Strong-Anderson's infamous tome BIRTH CONTROL IS SINFUL IN THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES and also ROBBING GOD OF PRIESTHOOD CHILDREN!!. After being published, with an original list price of $150, it went viral almost immediately, with cascades of awful reviews, mentions on blook blogs, and the like. I knew I would eventually have to read this jewel. I even attempted to crowdsource the $150 ($135 with Amazon's generous discount) last year so I could pick a copy up. (For the record, I got $85 in pledges.) I eventually resigned myself to the fact that I'd be using well over half the Amazon gift certificate I get from my parents every year to shell out for a copy of this... and then it found its way into the world of ebooks. Halle-freakin'-lujah. And not only that, but not for the piddling 5%, or even half off, one normally sees in an ebook release. No, you could suddenly buy this previously out-of-reach $150 gem for the princely sum of four bucks. Needless to say, I plunked my money down that very day. (It has since gone down; as I write this in February 2012, the current ebook price is $3.03.) Which leads to the first thing I have to say about this particular ball of crazy: most of the reviews you will read of this stem from first reactions, reading the title and book description, or occasionally from those who have gone through a free preview at Amazon or Google Books. The review you are reading right now comes from someone who has attempted to read the whole damn thing. All 648 pages of extreme nutterdom.
Now, to correct a couple of common misconceptions about this book, and to set a few guidelines: 1. AuthorHouse is a vanity publisher. What this means is that you send them a manuscript and a hefty chunk of change, and they publish it. Period. There is no editorial process with a vanity publisher (though some do offer the service for an extra hefty fee); it is entirely possible that no one but Ms. Eliyzabeth Yanne Strong-Anderson set eyes on this manuscript before it was published. There is no slush pile. Nothing gets rejected unless (for some publishers, not all) it offends the common decency (for example, some vanity publishers would reject Nazi literature out of hand). In other words, no matter what the quality of the work you submit, you will get it published. “Publication” and “quality” can no longer be equated (if they ever could; vanity pubs have been around as long as publishers have). 2. it's not just the title and the product description that are rendered in all caps. In fact, with the exception of some Biblical quotes (which seem to be pulled from the biblestory website [note: link removed for Amazon consumption]), the entire book is written not only in all caps, but with a fascinating series of extraneous punctuation marks that, at present, make absolutely no sense to me. In fact, much of the reason I decided to write this review in diary form is because I'm going to attempt to crack Ms. Strong-Anderson's punctuation use and make sense of it. As to the guidelines, they have to do with personal baggage I bring to the table. I am a media critic, and I am reading the book from the perspective of someone who prizes grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. over content. (Yes, I know I'm being a hypocrite given how badly I proofread my own reviews.) I am not a Christian. I also fundamentally disagree with the book's premise, though I must admit that as a champion [in the sense of “I fervently support and evangelize this” rather than in the sense of “I take up sword and shield to strike down its enemies”] of the Negative Population Growth movement, I must admit that one of Strong-Anderson's Biblical quotes led me to the idea that it's possible to Bibilically justify ZPG or NPG (God tells Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth...”, which is pretty darned hard when the earth is currently supporting at least seven times the number of people that can sustainably exist on it). But that's another review entirely.
One more guideline: all quotes pulled directly from the book are [sic]. It would defeat the purpose to correct spelling, grammar, etc.
Might as well begin at the beginning, right? The very first sentence of the book sets the tone as well as anything:
“YES: GOD KNOWS YOU HEART AND GOD KNOWS YOUR INTENTIONS: BUT>>: THE VERY ACT AND THOUGHT OF BIRTH CONTROLING> IN A CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE: HAS ROBB GOD AND THE CHURCH OF MANY PRIESTHOOD CHILDREN: **CHILDREN RAISED IN THE LOVE OF JESUS HAS ALWAYS BEEN A TRUTH AND A KEY TO FUTURE AND PROSPERITY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HEAVEN. **”
Honestly, I probably could stop right there and be done with this review, because the very first sentence of the book typifies everything I have found to be true of the rest of the manuscript so far. Strong-Anderson comes off here as barely literate. Tense and/or number agreement between subject and verb do not exist in Strong-Anderson's world except by coincidence. What you may at first consider typos turn out to be actual misspellings (e.g., “ROBB” is consistent throughout the ms. when she means “rob”). The punctuation is unfathomable. The run-on sentence is one of the four basic food groups. The language, as a result of all of the above combined with a severe grammatical awkwardness and the simple difficulty of reading all-caps text, is just this side of unintelligible; it's like reading Riddley Walker if the narrator had been a religious zealot who shouted all the time. All of these things are enough for me to stop actually reviewing the book here. You know it's one of the most horrifying texts that will ever cross in front of your eyes, were you to attempt to actually read it. It's one of the most horrifying ever to cross mine, and I seek this sort of thing out like some people go trolling for crack rock. And yet...this is absolute comedy gold. It's the sort of thing I can see being group-read at cons in the way The Eye of Argon is now. Well, it's comedy gold as long as you don't take this raving seriously. For Strong-Anderson not only sees takers of birth control as murderers of countless children, she wants to make sure—like so many religious zealots do—that the earth is populated by so many people who believe like she does that they will be able to crush the rest of the religions (including the “BUDDISH AND HINDU”... do Buddish people only eat flowers or something?) out by sheer force of numbers alone:
“HOW MANY ANOINTED PREACHERS OR WOMEN TEACHING THE WORD OF GOD: DO YOU SEE HAVING YEARLY BABIES: UNDER THEIR PREACHING ANOINTING?? **ARE THEY TRUE TO THE ANOINTING OF GOD: OR ARE THEY LOOKING MORE LIKE THE FALSE CHRIST: THE HOLY WORD WARNS US ABOUT??”
In other words, to be a true Bible-believing Christian in the eyes of Strong-Anderson (who, she tells us a number of times, is a pastor who has a show on her local “public television” station [one assumes she means public access: please, for the love of all that's holy, someone tape excerpts and upload them to youtube!]), you must not only not take birth control, but if you're a woman, you have two states of existence: “pregnant” and “giving birth.” (At one point Strong-Anderson specifically equates women “*SEEKING JOBS:” with “[going] THE WAY OF BALAAM!!”.) And if you can't give birth, don't worry, you can still saddle yourself with an insane number of children: “**GOD WILL REQUIRE ADOPTIONS: WHEN A CHRISTIAN IS WEALTHY ENOUGH TO SUPPORT MORE THAN THE KIDS THEY HAVE: BUT CANNOT HAVE ANY MORE: BECAUSE OF BARENNESS!!” One of the reasons I decided to write the review this way was so I wouldn't forget to use this moue of incomprehensibility, from the same page as the last quote: “THE REAL TRUTH OF FAITH HEALING!! **THE REAL REASON WHY GOD HAS MADE US TO PRODUCE AND HAVE YEARLY>CHILDREN: IN OUR CHILD BEARING YEARS!! ** SO THEY HAVE TRUE INTO BALAAM MEDICAL WAYS: >>THEY HAVE TURN INTO>> A BIRTH CONTROL HIDDEN ABORTIONIST CHURCH OF FALSE CHRISTS!!”
[as a side note: there is, of course, an ulterior motive here. All too soon, Strong-Anderson becomes obsessed with another thread. To cut to the chase, I'll just quote the end of one of the sentences that dances around this point: “**SO THEY HAVE ROBBED GOD OF TITHES AND OFFERINGS!!” Yes, of course: it's always all about the banjamins.)
Which brings me to the next bit of this review, which will likely comprise the bulk of it: trying to hack Eliyzabeth Yanne Strong-Anderson's grammatical code. If you look at the first sentence, it seems like a complete mishmash, with the exception of the double-asterisks. They seem to be setting off a clause. I had that in the back of my head as I've been reading this, and I think we may be able to find some other things like that as we go along; The double greater-thans, for example, surrounding “THEY HAVE TURN INTO” seem as if they may have meaning. (I am at present stumped about “YEARLY>CHILDREN”, however.) And of course it goes without saying that while she does not do it with periods, both question marks and exclamation points are doubled at the ends of sentences as what seems to be a matter of course.
One wonders, as an aside, how much formal schooling Strong-Anderson had, and how much of it included instruction in the English language.
Before page fifty, I have already abandoned the idea that Strong-Anderson is using double-asterisks to set things off; there are far too many places where we have an opening double-asterisk without a corresponding closer. Though this is not limited to double-asterisks; once, so far, I've encountered an opening double-parenthesis without a closer. (They are, so far, the only two parentheses to be found in the book.)
The farther we go, the scarier we get. It's not long before the promise given in the product description (“THIS IS A HOLYSPIRIT DIRECTED MANUSCRIPT”) shows up; Strong-Anderson truly believes she is just a channel for this stuff (“*GOD HAS GUIDED ME TO WRITE: EVEN THIS BOOK OF JUDGMENT: TO HELP > BRING THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES AND CHURCHES TO TRUE REPENTANCE OF THEIR FALL AWAY FROM THEIR FIRST LOVE AND FROM THE TRUE WAY AND COMMANDMENTS OF GOD AND JESUS CHRIST!!”), that it is being delivered to her by God himself (and/or Jesus) (“YES!! > THE HOLYSPIRIT SENT: THIS*LETTER AND BOOK: *TO ALL PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN THE ONE FATHER CREATOR GOD...”), that her point of view is the only valid one for the Christian faith (“SEEK:> TRUE REPENTANCE IS FOLLOW ME IN THE HOLYSPIRIT COMFORTER DIRECTION OF GODS VOICE AND WORDS OF EVERLASTING COVENANTS COMMANDMENTS: EVEN THROUGHN AND BY: RESTORATIONS OF HIS TRUE HOLYSPIRIT TITHING CHURCH: ?BECOME A BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN WITH THIS HOLYSPIRIT ANOINTED BOOK OF REPENTANCE AND JUDGEMENT:> CALLING YOU INTO A TRUE LIFE IN GOD AND JESUS CHRIST!!”). She credits her teachings with, for example, the Winans family (for those unfamiliar, a famous gospel dynasty) suddenly starting to have children again (“**CAN WE SAY CHRISTIAN FAMILIES LIKE: THE WINANS: A AFRICAN AMERICAN SINGING FAMILY: **WAS HEADED FOR NON-EXISTENCE: BEFORE I WROTE THIS BOOK??”).
I'm not a psychiatrist by any stretch of the imagination, so it is not for me to be pitching opinions on the state of this woman's mental and emotional health. I'd be very interested to see what a psychiatrsit would say, based on this manuscript. I'm betting a clean bill of health would not be forthcoming. I haven't even started with the persecution complex passages. Nor Strong-Anderson's attitudes on sex, which I'm sorry, but you'll have to read to believe. (Hint, for those who are going to try and do so in free previews: you want to look at chapter eight.)
The last chapter of the book, just to put the icing on the cake, is called “POEMS AND PRAISE TO OUR CREATOR GOD: AND TO OUR LORD AND SAVIOR: EMMANUEL JESUS WHO IS> YOWSHWA MESSIAH CHRIST.” (Yes, the hard carriage return is in the title.)
The first of these is called “*GOD THANK YOU FOR LIVING WATER!!”, and it contains these immortal lines: “GOD I WANT TO THANK YOU TODAY: FOR GIVING ME> HOLYSPIRIT HEALING AND CORRECTIONS!!”
If only those corrections had included spelling, grammar, sentence structure, caps-ism, and the fact that “holy spirit” is two words. (zero)...more
Sandra Boynton, The Going to Bed Book (Little, Brown, 1982)
Sandra Boynton is basically made of cute. Pick up a random Boynton and you're going to be cSandra Boynton, The Going to Bed Book (Little, Brown, 1982)
Sandra Boynton is basically made of cute. Pick up a random Boynton and you're going to be charmed by it. The Going to Bed Book is no exception to this rule; it's silly, it's fun, the kids will love it. There's nothing that really lifts it above the Boynton baseline, but that matters a little less given that the Boynton baseline is a couple of notches higher than the baseline for a lot of other authors. *** ½ ...more
Matthew Ferguson, Sahara (No publisher listed, no date listed)
Sahara, we are told, is a “Borrow Me” short story intended for the Kindle lending librarMatthew Ferguson, Sahara (No publisher listed, no date listed)
Sahara, we are told, is a “Borrow Me” short story intended for the Kindle lending library, rather than a piece to be bought. This is a very good thing indeed, because I'm relatively sure that anyone who paid a price for this would be clamoring for their money back within two minutes, which is about how long it will take the slowest of readers to get through this one-page “story”. I use “story” in quotes because what's here is, at best, the outline of a story, the first extremely rough draft at beginning to shape a piece of conceptual writing that might, someday, become a story. It is absolutely awful, with no characters of note, slapdash writing that wouldn't make it past the dimmest third-grade English teacher, and a plot that manages to get confused despite this “story” being less than a page AND containing over half whitespace. Gets half a star solely because I finished the silly thing; I'm sure that, had it been substantially longer (say, two full pages), I would have probably defenestrated it. ½ ...more
Tom Lichtenberg, Rays and Nights, vol. 2: Death Ray Butterfly (Lulu, 2010)
I have just done something that, to date, I never have before: I abandoned aTom Lichtenberg, Rays and Nights, vol. 2: Death Ray Butterfly (Lulu, 2010)
I have just done something that, to date, I never have before: I abandoned an ebook before its end.
(Note: I ended up doing it again less than a week after this. But where that book was well over six hundred pages in length, this one is just ninety-four.)
In fact, I had difficulty sticking to the fifty-page rule with this one. I did, because at least one Amazon review says that this book starts out with an annoying style and then gets better. If it does, it waits until well into the second half to do so, because after fifty pages, I was still fighting not to claw my eyes out while attempting to read the narrator's insufferable voice, the worst I've cone across since We Need to Talk About Kevin. However, where Kevin's mom is a whining, self-obsessed shrew who would be better off thrown into a blender (feet first, so we can watch her expression), the narrator here is just a stuffy old bag who can't manage to stay on a single subject for more than three sentences at a time. I'd never have made it fifty pages in person, I would have excused myself to the restroom (and then stayed there cowering until he left) after ten minutes tops. It's just plain unbearable. (zero)...more
Lucy V. Morgan, Beautiful Mess (No publisher given, 2011)
First off: okay, self-publishers, I've had it. I'm going to start taking pieces of stars offLucy V. Morgan, Beautiful Mess (No publisher given, 2011)
First off: okay, self-publishers, I've had it. I'm going to start taking pieces of stars off when you don't supply complete information with your releases. I mention this here (since this is one of, oh, ten or fifteen I'll be reviewing in this batch that qualify) because it's my favorite of the Kindle shorts I've read in this batch, and thus points off are going to be most notable here. When a review goes from one star to half a star, who's gonna notice? When you drop from 4 to 3.5, on the other hand...
As far as the story itself goes, like most kindle-short romances, it's nothing necessarily out of the ordinary or away from formula; when you're reading stories like that (which is, when it comes down to it, at least 95% of the contemporary romances I've read), the tipping point is going to be the skill of the writer. Lucy Morgan's got it. Realistic characters in realistic situations, with a good deal of amusement involved, a recent bad breakup on which characters can vent, and a new flame that is, if a little on the predictable side, at least a touch more plausible for a straight romance than the other book I've reviewed recently with this same basic setup (tomboy living with two males), Mari Carr's Tequila Truth. (That said, Carr's romance is not straight at all, it's bent in all sorts of delicious ways.) Good stuff. Now if only the product description included all the stuff it needs to (publisher, page count, blah blah blah). *** ½ ...more
Charlene Costanzo, The Thirteenth Gift (Feverfew, 2011)
I am not a fan of that new-age sort of inspirational novel that seems to go over so well with tCharlene Costanzo, The Thirteenth Gift (Feverfew, 2011)
I am not a fan of that new-age sort of inspirational novel that seems to go over so well with the crowd. In fact, over the past twenty years, I've read a grand total of two of them (James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy and Deepak Chopra's The Return of Merlin). I found both pretty mediocre, but what really horrified me was the way perfect strangers, or co-workers with whom I had never shared a single word, would suddenly come up and start talking to me while I was toting one of them around, as if I were part of the secret club all of a sudden. It's disconcerting, to say the least, so I've tended to avoid books of that type since. When The Thirteenth Gift popped up free for Kindle, I had no idea it was connected to a novel of that stripe. And while it's still pretty solidly in the “average” rating, it's charming enough to rate a recommend despite having all the subtlety of a hammer to the face. Well-written message fiction, but message fiction all the same. ***...more
Seth Blackburn, Circus of the Dead (Seth Blackburn, 2011)
A VERY solid short, this, much better than I was expecting given the usual quality of KindleSeth Blackburn, Circus of the Dead (Seth Blackburn, 2011)
A VERY solid short, this, much better than I was expecting given the usual quality of Kindle shorts that have been cast to the wild in the past few months. Some great characters, a vivid and detailed setting, solid pace, and if the ending is a bit predictable (and shows the wears in the fabric where Blackburn is wearing his Jonathan Maberry-loving heart on his sleeve), so what? The blasted, post-undead landscape is convincing (and pretty new), and Blackburn knows how to make it pop. Would love to see this expanded to novel-length, or expanded to be Part One of a novel, or what have you. Very good stuff. *** ½ ...more
Rachel Boleyn, Confessions of a Sex Addict: 12 Steps Back (Sweet Nothings Press, 2011)
No-strings-attached quickie about a sex addict attending her firRachel Boleyn, Confessions of a Sex Addict: 12 Steps Back (Sweet Nothings Press, 2011)
No-strings-attached quickie about a sex addict attending her first 12-step meeting. Amazed that the author actually took the time to build up a red herring in this one, balanced out by the fact that (SPOILER ALERT) the entire thing turned out to be... well, not a red herring (or a roleplaying session or something else to that effect). If Boleyn fleshes, no pun intended, this out into a full-length piece of adult dysfunction lit rather than a silly throwaway piece of erotica, I think it could actually work; the setup here shows us that she's got some good ideas about how to plot, she builds suspense successfully, and the denouement tells us there's some thinking towards the emotional fallout of her actions (which is rare in porn, but a staple of dysfuction lit—one of the reasons why those two things so rarely cross, even though they seem a perfect match). ***...more
Kelly Haven, Special Delivery (Sweet Nothings Press, 2011)
What possessed me to read another Kelly Haven short story after the monstrosity that was TabKelly Haven, Special Delivery (Sweet Nothings Press, 2011)
What possessed me to read another Kelly Haven short story after the monstrosity that was Taboo: Mommy Knows Best (cf. review 22Dec11)? I can't actually answer that question, other than to say it popped up as a free Kindle short. This one isn't quite (okay, isn't nearly) as bad, though it's still par for the free-Kindle-erotica course as far as things like characterization, mundane description, etc. etc. (all of which are, of course, nonexistent). But here Haven uses a first-person voice, and for some reason, unlike in the other book (perhaps because the author is passing this off as her own diary?), the narrator actually has something that vaguely resembles a personality. Not a fully-formed one, by any means, but it's better than nothing. **...more
Chelsea Chandra (ed.), Hot Wives, vol. 1 (No press given, 2010)
Another of those “we collected these stories off the Internet”-style thrown-together boChelsea Chandra (ed.), Hot Wives, vol. 1 (No press given, 2010)
Another of those “we collected these stories off the Internet”-style thrown-together books of erotica (to use the term loosely), but gets a much higher rating than the awful “Laura Jordan” books because at least the editor here is honest about it, and did at least attempt to mine for something vaguely resembling quality rather than dumping twenty “stories” in a file at random without even checking to see what language they were in and trying to pass them off as a single author's work. As with any collection of short stories, what's here varies in quality, and as is usually the case with erotica (especially erotica that seems to have been collected from the Internet), the quality varies even more widely than usual. Still, as I said, the editor does seem to have had some sort of selection process rather than randomly grabbing stuff, which limits the downside a bit. ** ½ ...more
Selene Coulter, Hide and Seek: An Erotic Interlude (Hooper Publishing, 2011)
First off: can we be done with the whole paranormal-romance thing? EspeciaSelene Coulter, Hide and Seek: An Erotic Interlude (Hooper Publishing, 2011)
First off: can we be done with the whole paranormal-romance thing? Especially the painfully overused vampires and werewolves? Thank you, Laurell K. Hamilton, for creating this booming cottage industry. Sigh. More annoying about this one is that it's pretty intimately tied to the novel from which it is spun off; as someone who hasn't read the novel, I was pretty much lost as far as characters, etc. This is a sketch for a story, rather than a story itself. **...more
**spoiler alert** Gillian Colbert, His Gift (Smashwords, 2011)
NOTE: SPOILER territory ahead (not with details but with the direction of the piece, but**spoiler alert** Gillian Colbert, His Gift (Smashwords, 2011)
NOTE: SPOILER territory ahead (not with details but with the direction of the piece, but still).
A D&S short, so not normally my thing, but it does play up the love angle rather than going for the cheap “do this or suffer the consequences, bitch” angle one normally finds in one-handed fiction, so I definitely give Colbert points for that (and also for not answering the central question posed here—that must have been hard to resist, but not doing so is the right choice). It's a kind of cuddly feel-good D&S short, if that makes any sense, so I'm still kind of trying to wrap my head around it, but it's well written and certainly brings the erotica factor. Not bad, not bad at all. ** ½ ...more
Mara Purnhagen, Raising the Dead (Harlequin, 2011)
Purnhagen follows up Past Midnight with this novella, meant to bridge the gap between that and the sMara Purnhagen, Raising the Dead (Harlequin, 2011)
Purnhagen follows up Past Midnight with this novella, meant to bridge the gap between that and the second full-length in the trilogy, One Hundred Candles (which technically makes this the second entry in the Past Midnight series). I enjoyed Past Midnight a bunch (cf. review 1Nov10), but in some ways I liked this even better; it's shorter, a bit more focused on the actual mystery (who's the stranger hanging around an old family cemetery that was partially washed away during a hurricane?) while still providing backstory and letting us get to know the gang from Past Midnight better. And while the climax feels ambiguous, Purnhagen offers enough clues in the way she words things to let you know what's what. Good stuff, this, and strengthens my resove to read the rest of the series. ****...more
A short set in the same world as DeCotea's full-length Dawn of the LRobert DeCoteau, Zombie Tales: Primrose Court, Apt. 502 (Zombie Tales Press, 2011)
A short set in the same world as DeCotea's full-length Dawn of the Living Dead. I wasn't impressed much with the story; I like what DeCoteau was trying to do—this is basically a character sketch of one pissed-off teenager whose personal life goes to hell right at the time of the zombie uprising—but I'm not sure DeCoteau achieved the parallel he was after, ending up focusing a little too much on the peripheral zombie action in the second half of the story instead of keeping the focus on Tommy, our main character. Still, I finished this about a week ago and some of the scenes are still fresh in my head, which makes me think I should probably give the other Primrose Court short a try and see if I want to read the full-length, so it did its job. ** ½ ...more
David DeLee, Officer Down (Dark Road Publishing, 2011)
Meant to be one of those thrillers where you start off with the scene, and then cut in various fDavid DeLee, Officer Down (Dark Road Publishing, 2011)
Meant to be one of those thrillers where you start off with the scene, and then cut in various flashbacks to see how everything was set up, etc., with the Big Reveal coming right at the end to show how everything fits together. At least, I think that's what it's meant to be. If so, it doesn't work; you'll have it figured out within the first couple of pages. DeLee drops clues that are a little too obvious to where he's going. Which is okay when he does it with the red herring bit, but not when he does it with the Big Reveal. I think running this one through a mystery writer's workshop or something along those lines might have been a good idea; DeLee isn't a bad writer, but the plotting could use some work here. **...more
Straightforward, oddly kinky masturbation tale that suffers from the just-the-facts-ma'am syndrome so mucMary Chi, Shower Sex for One (Mary Chi, 2011)
Straightforward, oddly kinky masturbation tale that suffers from the just-the-facts-ma'am syndrome so much Kindle porn does. Give us a little more about our protagonist, authors, and you will be able to connect with your readers more. Another of those stories where the author has interesting ideas about what to do with the human body, but not much ability vis-a-vis getting those ideas across to a reader. **...more
30 Minute Plan has one of the more interesting, not to mention pragmatic, premises in military zombie fGerald Rice, 30 Minute Plan (Gerald Rice, 2011)
30 Minute Plan has one of the more interesting, not to mention pragmatic, premises in military zombie fiction—if you get infected, you have a half-hour to off yourself, or one of your squadmates will do it for you. (Thus, the 30-minute plan.) That is just one facet of the originality to be found here, which is both a surprise and a pleasure to read; Rice has managed to cook up something that you haven't actually seen before in the horribly oversaturated world of zombie lit, and that is praiseworthy indeed. He's not a great writer, but given time and practice he could get there; the story has some pacing and plotting problems, but nothing that wouldn't be straightened out by some workshops, writing classes, etc., and he's obviously got a headfull of excellent ideas. Gerald Rice has a good deal of potential. Will be looking forward to seeing what he produces down the road. ** ½ ...more
No editor listed, Dips and Spreads (Gooseberry Patch, 2011)
Points off for not listing an editor's name on this little collection. The recipes themselvNo editor listed, Dips and Spreads (Gooseberry Patch, 2011)
Points off for not listing an editor's name on this little collection. The recipes themselves are basic in the extreme, and if you have a number of cookbooks, you probably have slight variations on all of them already. I'm not sure if your area of the country has these, but our public television station, during pledge week sometimes, will host a cooking marathon, complete with compiled cookbook on the going theme for a pledge; the recipes here are about the same level as the recipes in those cookbooks. Good basic stuff, but don't look for anything revelatory. **...more
Brette Sember, A Parchment Paper Thanksgiving (Adams Media, 2011)
Quick collection of Thanksigiving-themed recipes that can be cooked in parchment, preBrette Sember, A Parchment Paper Thanksgiving (Adams Media, 2011)
Quick collection of Thanksigiving-themed recipes that can be cooked in parchment, presumably meant as a teaster for Sember's Parchment Paper Cookbook. Not bad, as far as recipes go, but quite a bit of repetition (and if it's that bad in a 15-page excerpt, how bad is it in a 224-page book?) and not much in the way of color text (in other words, a lot of how, very little why). Just the facts, ma'am. ** ½ ...more
One of Dalal's mini series of cookbooks (assuming the catalog in the back is accurate, there are now 30Tarla Dalal, Curries and Kadhis (Sanjay, 2009)
One of Dalal's mini series of cookbooks (assuming the catalog in the back is accurate, there are now 30 of them), Curries and Kadhis is exactly what it says it is, a collection of curry and kadhi recipes; ~40 of them, nicely illustrated, with basic instructions that make Indian food seem as uncomplicated as opening a can of corned beef hash and throwing it in the skillet. And, really, aside from pretty much every dish in this book having the “you have to toast and grind your spices first” step before you get to “throw [x] in a skillet”, it really IS. That's the best thing about this book; this is Indian for Beginners, but with recipes for stuff you may have never heard of. Not surprising given that the book is published in India. (Every American familiar with Indian food knows what a curry is, but I've never seen a kadhi on a menu at an Indian restaurant; would never have tasted one save for a couple of weddings I've been to over the years.) As you can expect with any cookbook so focused on a single style of dish, there's some repetition to be had here, but I wouldn't let that stop you from picking this up if you have any affinity for Indian food coupled with any ambition of making same at home. Planning on picking up a few more from this series in the future. ***...more
Wynter O'Reilly, Teacher's Pet (Excesssica Publishing, 2008)
When you pick up a piece of Kindle porn (actually, you're kind of assuming it's Kindle porWynter O'Reilly, Teacher's Pet (Excesssica Publishing, 2008)
When you pick up a piece of Kindle porn (actually, you're kind of assuming it's Kindle porn because, after all, it was published by Excessica) with a title like Teacher's Pet, you figure you know what you're getting (especially since, after all, it was published by Excessica). Not so here, and I do not mean that in a bad way at all. This is a surprisingly sweet, if not innocent, romance tale rather than being straight-up porn. In short: kid is bummed that dad is still sad after mom died a while ago, and he really likes his teacher, so invites her over for dinner without dad realizing, hey, that's my ex-girlfriend! Needless to say, O'Reilly has the basis for a full-length romance novel here, if you throw in a few more miscommunications and a big blow-out or two. I like this okay as a short, but would be interested to see what O'Reilly could do with the characters in a full-length (not to mention how she did the “how do you explain THAT fight to the kid?” scene after the big miscommunication blow-out that is a staple of the romance novel). Still, what's here is good dirty fun. ** ½ ...more
Salvador Alva, Hollywood Sicko: “The Relentless Predator” (No publisher given, no date given)
Points off for lack of information, as detailed elsewhereSalvador Alva, Hollywood Sicko: “The Relentless Predator” (No publisher given, no date given)
Points off for lack of information, as detailed elsewhere.
In case the grammatical awkwardness of the subtitle didn't clue you in to the level of mastery the writing in this mercifully short ebook contains, the first sentence will do it nicely: “These days, being an average American twelve year old kid, is pretty easy.” Interesting use of commas; it would seem that the phrase “being an average American twelve year old kid” (let's not forget the lack of hypehnation there) is a nonessential clause, and the actual meat of the sentence is “These days is pretty easy.” I'll skip over the bit about subject-verb agreement there, but you see where I'm coming from. The lack of ability to write by itself makes this a chore at best, but that's sometimes excusable with a compelling story. Do we get that here? Of course not. After a scene that could have served as setup, we descend into a number of quick (a couple of sentences to half a page) episodes that fast-forward over the new few... months? years? Hard to tell. This is at best an outline for a first draft. *...more