Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Howling III by Gary Brandner

(pb; 1985: third book in The Howling trilogy)

From the back cover:

"They are man. And they are beast.

"Once again they stalk the night, eyes aflame, teeth flashing in vengeance.

"Malcolm is the young one.

"He must choose between the familiar way of the human and the seductive howling of the wolf.

"Those who share his blood want to make him one of them.

"Those who fear him want him dead.

"Only one woman and one man want to help him.

"Even though they can't believe their ears. Or their eyes."


Review:

Howling III is a loosely linked, solid sequel to the first two Howling books. III centers around Malcolm, one of the survivors of the fire that razed most of Drago in the first Howling novel, and those trying to help or hurt him.

Because of III's indirect affiliation to the Drago-centric storyline, the first part of III concerns itself with establishing the characters' situations -- meaning: not a lot of fast-paced werewolf action is shown. Brandner's writing is still as character sketch- and storyline-effective as they are in previous Howling  books.

The second half of this two-fold-story novel rewards the readers with a slam-the-reader-to-the-wall, breathlessly-paced blast of lycanthropic bloodiness and horror, a great way to end this slow-build tale, as well as a great way to cap the trilogy. Like its predecessor novels, it is worth owning, especially if you purchase the below-mentioned omnibus edition of the books.

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For those interested in the entire book series, all of the The Howling novels have been collected into one omnibus volume, The Howling Trilogy.



Friday, June 10, 2016

Drugula by Michael Faun

(pb; 2016: novella)

Review:

Inspired by Electric Wizard's stoner-doom-guitar-sludge songs "Satanic Rites of Drugula" and "Crypt of Drugula", this atmospheric and super-short story follows the titular character as he deals with angry villagers and plans a briefly splatteriffic get-together. There is not a lot of depth, character development or plot, and the opiate-, sex- and weed-suffused tale is a fun, loose, word-spare and fast-moving read, one worth owning if the above description appeals to you.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Captains Outrageous by Joe R. Lansdale

(hb; 2001: seventh book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the inside flap:

"Hapless chicken-plant guard Hap Collins gets into trouble when he takes his best friend Leonard on a Caribbean cruise. The two find themselves abandoned in Mexico, saved from armed attackers by a geriatric fisherman and his lovely daughter, who's currently having to fend off a Mexican mobster who is also a practicing nudist... Trying for once to stay out of other people's business, Hap returns to East Texas but is overwhelmed when he learns of the senorita's murder. He then persuades Leonard to return with him to Mexico to even the score."


Review:

Captains is another excellent entry in the Hap and Leonard series, full of lively, character-veracious banter, romance and sex, vicious bad guys, action and gore. It brings together many of the characters from earlier books, including Veil (from Veil's Visit: a Taste of Hap and Leonard), Jim Bob and others. As indicated in past reviews, all the Hap and Leonard novels thus far are worth owning.

Followed by Vanilla Ride.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

The Howling II by Gary Brandner

(pb; 1978: second book in The Howling trilogy)

From the back cover:

"For Karyn it was the howling.

"The howling that had heralded the nightmare in Drago... the nightmare that had joined her husband Roy to the she-wolf Marcia and should have ended forever with fire.

"But it hadn't.

"Roy and Marcia were still alive, and deadly, and thirsty for the most horrifying vengeance imaginable."


Review:

Howling II is a waste-no-words, excellent read, a worthwhile and entertaining sequel to its also-superb predecessor. Like the first Howling, it is a character-focused, fast-moving and word-lean story, one that takes place three years after Karyn and Chris torched the town of Drago, and the personal, dark fallout that resulted from the events that led up to it.

Worth owning, this -- followed by The Howling III.

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For those interested in the entire book series, all of the The Howling novels have been collected into one omnibus volume, The Howling Trilogy.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

I Know What I'm Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself by Jen Kirkman

(hb; 2016: nonfiction, humor)

From the inside flap:

"Jen Kirkman wants to be the voice in your head that says, Hey, you’re okay. Even if you sometimes think you aren’t! And especially if other people try to tell you you’re not.

"In
I Know What I’m Doing—and Other Lies I Tell Myself, Jen offers up all the gory details of a life permanently in progress. She reassures you that it’s okay to not have life completely figured out, even when you reach middle age (and find your first gray pubic hair!). She talks about making unusual or unpopular life decisions (such as cultivating a “friend with benefits” or not going home for the holidays) because you don’t necessarily want for yourself what everyone else seems to think you should. It’s about renting when everyone says you should own, dating around when everyone thinks you should settle down, and traveling alone when everyone pities you for going to Paris without a man.

"From marriage to divorce and sex to mental health,
I Know What I’m Doing is about embracing the fact that life is a bit of a sh*t show and it’s definitely more than okay to stay true to yourself."


Review:

I Know What I'm Doing, like her first book (I Can Barely Take Care of Myself), is a wry, dark-humored and excellent read that is worth your time. Unlike her previous book, it feels more personal, more intense, because now she (as she states in the book) was freer to write about closer-to-her-heart, day-to-day subjects. I especially enjoyed her chapter on Joan Rivers, which effectively, nicely encapsulated the book's themes, a great closer for this work. This is worth reading and worth owning, if you are a big Jen Kirkman or looking for a clever, heart-smart take on relationships, society's expectations for women and being an entertainer.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Rumble Tumble by Joe R. Lansdale

(hb; 1998: fifth book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the back cover:

"Hap Collins is hitting the hard edge of a midlife crisis. By night, he's bouncing at a local club. By day, he's living by the grace of his best friend -- black, gay Vietnam vet Leonard Pine -- and his good woman, former Sweet Potato Queen Brett Sawyer. Hap may be down, but he's a long throw from out.

"That's the good news. He'll need it for the bad news.

"Brett's daughter, Tillie, who is turning tricks and taking drugs, stands in need of a quick and merciful rescue. It will be no easy chore, starting with a hard trek from mosquito-ridden but familiar LaBorde, Texas, to the fleshpots and hardasses of Hootie Hoot, Oklahoma.

"On the road the trio picks up new friends, like a hulking Pentecostal preacher and retired hitman, as well as fresh enemies, including a redheaded midget with a giant chip on his shoulder and an army of bikers turned vice profiteers and cold-blooded killers."


Review:

Rumble is one of my favorite Hap and Leonard novels thus far. Like previous books, it is an excellent, entertaining pulp stew of action, cinematic-worthy and humorous dialogue, bigger-than-life characters and bloody action. At the heart of Rumble, as with other Hap and Leonard works, the core of the book is the titular characters' banter-punctuated sense of brotherhood.

This is worth owning, as are the previous novels in this series -- Rumble is followed by Veil's Visit: a Taste of Hap and Leonard (a side-story anthology, an expensive collector's item) and Captains Outrageous.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Black Cats & Four-Leaf Clovers: Origins of Old Wives' Tales and Superstitions in Our Everyday Lives by Harry Oliver

(pb; 2006, 2007: nonfiction. Illustrations by Mike Mosedale. Originally published in Great Britain as Black Cats and April Fools, hence the above cover.)

From the back cover:

". . . Harry Oliver delves into the stories behind the traditions and superstitions that permeate our everyday lives, unearthing the fascinating histories of these weird and wonderful notions. So before you search for any more four-leaf clovers, worry about the next Friday the thirteenth, or avoid walking under any ladders, dip into this amazing tome and discover:

"Why breaking a mirror brings seven years bad luck.

"The best day of the week to ask for a favor.

"Why you should never jump over a child in Turkey."


Review:

Black is a tightly-written, adult- and kid-friendly introduction to the world of superstitions, with its concise, entertaining and sometimes intriguing chronicling of often strange beliefs, as well -- when possible -- the reasons that may have brought about these beliefs. Sporting a touch of light humor, this is a worthwhile purchase if you are new to the subject or looking for something fun to help you pass an hour or two.